The gal is a great believer in the value of club floors in luxury hotels. Yes, some hotels say their whole hotel is ‘club level’ but there are many luxury travellers, especially women, who want a cocoon within a larger environment. This does not mean a women-only floor, although some, like Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai, do ladies-only rooms beautifully. Ritz-Carlton’s clubs are legendary, world over. The seventh floor club lounge of The Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi, is sensational. It is, literally, a glass box on a rooftop, looking down to the Grand Canal 200 feet away.
Look straight down from here and you see the central part of what is essentially an arc-shaped hotel, with add-ons. The main building looks like side-by-side ‘old’ Italian houses, each in a subtle colour different from its neighbours. The add-ons are villas, whose occupants can park underground and emerge, right by their villa (clever, as from above the whole area looks like one big garden). There will also be a restaurant row, with big names from the USA who are not, amazingly, already running culinary outposts in the celebrity-chef-mad UAE.
The hotel’s main pool is infinity edged, with a wide-wide shallow ‘lip’ that intentionally is so set so you can lie looking over the edge, so to speak. I personally use any pool for serious laps, albeit for a short time period, but for those on holiday, basking up the beneficial rays to get as brown, or red, as possible, just lying around in the water is what they want. For mums who want to park their kids while so doing, the hotel’s indoor, air-conditioned kids club is literally 50 feet away.
Lots of kids here are enjoying frolicking in the under-awning wet playground, which looks like lots of fun. We had our own fun, in the form of an outstanding buffet lunch back up in the club lounge and then a tour of the hotel’s array of restaurants, the ones inside the building rather than outside in restaurant row. You could spend your whole time here eatin’ and drinkin’, perhaps Lebanese from Mijana, or great steaks in The Forge.
One favourite, for all ages, is Dolce, a white with orange highlights ice cream and gelato parlour. My eye is drawn, indeed captivated, by the array of ice-creams, set as if it were in Milan, or Rome, or Venice. Which one to have? There are crayons and colouring books on nearby tables. Creativity is encouraged. This place is delightfully whimsical – see the giant lollipops that also form part of Dolce’s decoration. I bet people staying across the Grand Canal, say at the Fairmont or Shangri-La, will take the three-minute boat ride across for ice-cream and gelato.
Many of the ideas in this luxury hotel have been put in by the owning company’s boss, Richard Riley – the same creator who posed by the Scott bike at the Abu Dhabi Hilton. Today he has swapped bikes for his steely-turquoise Porsche Carrera which, the gal has to admit, is an ideal way to be chauffeured around town. The only challenge is that there is barely room for the trusty Porsche Rimowa (it has not featured recently but I do assure you it is still constantly on the go, being unpacked on arrival, and packed up again the following morning…).