UAE - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 104


Tuesday 24th June

Our trip is nearing its end and we are lapping it up in pure, unadulterated, luxury. Going out with a bang here in the Burg Al Arab will be a memory we will not soon forget.

Actually, even if we weren’t staying in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, I’m still very glad that we left the one we were in. Although the room itself was very nice, the hotel service left much to be desired. Even the driver that came to collect us this morning got tired of waiting for the bellboy to load our luggage and eventually decided to do it himself.

Our seven-star hotel experience started before we even got inside the building. A road bridge that joins the artificial island on which the hotel is built, links it to the mainland. At the entrance to the bridge is a manned guard post that scrutinised any vehicle that wants to get close to the hotel. Since we were guests, we passed through without any problems and travelled the short distance across the bridge and over a few hundred meters of some pristine and extremely well-manicured beaches. We were greeted at the car and welcomed inside before being asked to take a seat. Shortly thereafter, a nice woman approached us with a tray full of rolled up towels and offered us each one. These were apparently to refresh ourselves with. We’ve seen the Discovery channel documentary about the Burg Al Arab and so we were already familiar with the lobby area but it is even more opulent than the TV program does justice to. Gold trimmings are features all over the place. After the check-in procedures were taken care of on our behalf, another woman led us up the escalator and gave us a few facts and figures about the hotel. Everything that looks gold coloured is actually made of real gold. Several tones of the stuff went into the making of this hotel. At the top of the escalators is a corridor that leads to a bank of elevators. We hardly noticed it for all the gawking we were doing, mostly in an upward direction into the main atrium that travels the full height of the odd shaped building. Our suit is on the sixteenth floor. However, since all the suits are duplexes, the sixteenth floor is technically the thirty-second and thirty-third floor.

On the sixteenth floor, then, we proceeded along another corridor to a man sitting at a desk. This was where the floor manager sat and it was explained to us that this is where we needed to be should there be any issues or problems – no need to go all the way down to the lobby. Our floor manager introduced himself and then introduced us to our butler. Yes, we have a butler at beckon call twenty-four hours a day. The butler took us to our room, showed us around inside and explained all the gadgets and features. It’s really a misnomer to call it a room since it is more like a luxury apartment than a room. Downstairs is the main living room, dining room, office and bathroom. The living room comes complete with a huge plasma screen integrated into the wall with a universal remote that controls not only the TV but also the curtains. A particularly nice feature about the TV is that should someone press the doorbell, a screen automatically pops up (regardless of whether the TV is on or off) in which is displayed the image of the person at the door through the hidden video camera mounted inside the doorbell panel. The office has a nice desk and is equipped with a laptop computer (with wireless internet connection) as well as a fax, printer and just about everything else you might need for an office. Everything about the place screams luxury, right down to the furniture, fixtures and trimmings. And, of course, there is gold absolutely everywhere. The downstairs bathroom is the most luxurious bathroom I’ve ever seen and is surpassed only by the even more luxurious bathroom upstairs.

A grand, winding staircase leads to the upstairs level where the master bedroom and master bathroom are separated by a joining area where some built-in cupboards and a dresser are situated. The master bathroom has everything imaginable, including a very large whirlpool tub and huge, round shower with more shower-heads and water jets than we had in all the bathrooms of our previous house combined. All the fixtures in the bathroom are also gold. The master bedroom is about five meters by about fifteen meters, the centre piece of which is an oversized bed which is the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on – including our beloved water bed. The gold-lined mirror on the ceiling above the bed is also a nice touch there is, of course, a TV with mini-bar integrated into its furniture and a lounge area about twice the size of the average front room. As is the case with the downstairs area, the universal remote opens and closes the curtains to reveal a wall-sized set of full-length windows with the most stunning of views out onto the coastline. Touch panels control the climate and lighting and we each have our own phone either side of the bed. When someone presses the doorbell, all the phones in the suite ring and a button on the keypad will open the front door, so that you don’t have to walk all the way to open it yourself.

There’s much more I could write about the suite but suffice it to say that the designers have thought of just about everything and there is nothing that is left wanting.

Our white-gloved and black penguin suited butler left us to enjoy our new surroundings and we spent a little time getting used to everything. It’s the kind of place that I could really get used to. It’s only a pity that the price tag is something that I would never get used to.

After spending some time in our temporary new home, we ventured out into the hotel to familiarise ourselves with its features. Since we are now here, we might as well take advantage of everything. We decided that we would budget at least as much as we paid for the room to accommodate any extras like meals, room-service, spa treatments and so on. What the hell, if we are going to stay here, we might as well do it right.

First stop was a bite to eat. There are several restaurants here in the hotel but, unfortunately, the two main ones require dress codes that we simply can’t adhere to with our meagre selection of travel clothes. Hopefully, we can steal an opportunity to at least take a peek at then. The underground seafood restaurant has been made to look like it is submerged inside an enormous aquarium – as if the whole thing sits at the bottom of the ocean. The other is situated near the top of the hotel inside an enormous horizontal structure that juts out from the rest of the building. The views from up there must be stunning.

Luckily for us, there is a more modest restaurant located on the first floor next to one of the hotel’s two swimming pools. The second swimming pool is in the spa area that occupies the entire flood above us. We had a nice lunch there and the bill was a very modest DR320 ($87). The food was excellent.

Sandy was particularly keen to take advantage of the spa and this is where we headed after lunch to learn all about what they had to offer. There options for various facials and massages was only slightly less staggering that their prices. But since we had given ourselves a generous budget to work with, it didn’t really matter. Our butler had informed us earlier about the package that came with our room. It apparently included a free facial and back and neck massage as well as a 50% discount on everything else. With this in mind, Sandy signed up for a full body massage whilst I planned on spending some time in the sauna, steam room and indoor swimming pool.

Whilst I was getting ready for all of this, the floor manager came to the room and explained that our butler had been misinformed about the room package that we had. Apparently, there was no complimentary facial, back and neck massage nor were there supposed to be any discounts on any of the other spa goodies. He politely informed me that we would have to pay full price for any treatments and apologised most sympathetically. I assured him, also quite politely, that this was quite unacceptable and that he would need to find some way to make good on the promised made earlier by his staff. This was their error and, as far as I was concerned, their responsibility to correct the situation. In actual fact, this would be the acid test to find out just how much importance that a seven-star hotel puts on customer satisfaction. Granted, I’m a difficult customer to satisfy, even at the best of times, and I certainly was not going to accept anything less than their making good on their promises. He tried again to convince me that there was nothing he could do and I kept up the pressure for my part also. Ultimately, I told him that he would need to take the matter up further with someone with more authority. He said he would speak to his manager and get back to me, all the time apologising.

By the time Sandy was well into her treatment, the floor manager came back to the room and explained that he has spoken with his manager but the news was still the same. Our butler had, perhaps, been less than clear about the information that he had given us and that he was, again, extremely sorry for the miscommunication. Not to worry, as I can argue with the best of them and I patiently explained that we were here to relax and that I did not want to spend my time here arguing over miscommunications. This was a problem generated by the hotel and one that the hotel needed to resolve. I explained patiently but also very firmly that this was a problem that he needed to address and that I no longer wanted to devote any time to the issue. This was make or break as I sensed that I had pushed as much as I could and he left again with the assurance that he would once again speak to his manager about the issue. By now, I was ready to buckle. Our budget would cover the difference in question and I didn’t want to spend the rest of the time here fighting this battle. I would have swallowed my pride and just accepted defeat in favour of enjoying the rest of our time here. Ordinarily, this is one of those situations that I would fight to the bitter end, much to Sandy’s annoyance but I was prepared to make an exception here.

I finally made it to the sauna and steam room area to relax and have a bit of a swim. The very nice and accommodating woman behind the spa reception desk gave me a key attached to a gold keychain and pointed me towards the men’s changing area. The key had a number on it that corresponded with one of the several dozen lockers in the changing areas. Inside the locker were a huge bath towel, a pair of slippers and a bottle of mineral water. They really have thought of everything. I spent the next hour or so enjoying all the amenities and left refreshed and relaxed. My good mood was only enhanced after I returned to our floor. As I walked down the corridor past the floor manager’s desk, he stood up and greeted me with a smile. He had spoken again with his duty manager and they had agreed to honour the original promise as ‘Madam was already well into her treatment.’ Another victory for the lad 🙂

Sandy finally finished her pampering at the spa and the two of us, now relaxed and in a good mood, decided to take full advantage of the fact that the Wild Wadi water park was free to guests (shame we didn’t realise this yesterday!) and so we went over there for another couple of hours of aquatic fun in the sun. It got dark whilst we were there and we got some great shots of the hotel all lit up nicely in the dark.

Hunger was by now starting to bite so we gave some consideration to our dining options. Since the lack of any formal dress precluded our eating in the either of the two prestigious restaurants (which would probably also have cost us an arm and a leg each), we decided that room service would be the order of the day. I even had the nerve to ask the kitchen to prepare some chocolate éclairs special. About twenty minutes after we ordered, our butler (this time a new was on shift) popped up on the TV screen and we let him in. He came complete with a trolley full of our food as well as some fresh table linen and cutlery. He laid the table and presented our food for us and then stood in the wings as we ate, all the while keeping watch on our needs and anticipating them as we ate. The meal was nearly $200 but it was a real treat to be served in lavish luxury by our own butler.

We rounded off this evening with a soak in our very own whirlpool. The perfect end to a perfect day in a perfect hotel. Life doesn’t get any better that this.