In my goal to give my clients the best service possible, I continue always to learn, research and source the best destinations, prices and options I possibly can. To this end, travelling to places I have not yet been is vital, so when an opportunity arises to join an educational trip to a new destination, I grab it.
In April of this year I travelled to Abu Dhabi with a group of 10 other travel agents. We flew business class with Etihad on their relatively new direct Dublin to Abu Dhabi route. From the moment we boarded, the service was exceptional. We had barely sat down in our very comfortable “pod” seats when along came the Buck’s Fizz! Lunch was gourmet standard and a movie and afternoon tea later we had arrived in Abu Dhabi International airport.
First stop was the beautiful 5 star Shangri La Hotel which is situated outside the city in the Qaryat Al Beri area. The entrance to the hotel is very impressive with a huge fountain and more valets and welcome personnel than I have ever seen! Check in was quick and efficient considering there were 10 of us and I was allocated a bedroom/suite decorated in typical Shangri La opulence with marble bathroom, huge bed, beautiful furniture, bathrobe and slippers and a very welcome fruit basket and cold drink.
The private beach although narrow is beautifully kept and the infinity pool is amazing. There is a lovely terrace with pool bar and the service is second to none. Breakfast is buffet style and has to be the best I have ever seen. The freshly made to order omelettes will set you up for the day.
Our city tour of Abu Dhabi included a visit to the new Mosque which is breathtaking. All of the marble tile work has been hand painted and laid and the carpeting cost the equivalent of a small country’s GDP!
Our next accommodation stop was the 7 star Emirates Palace hotel and a Palace is truly what it is! On its own private beach with wonderful gardens and pools this is the place to stay for a couple of nights either as a special celebration stopover or part of a two centre holiday with Dubai which is just an hour’s drive away.
This is the biggest hotel I have ever stayed in with the most amazing décor and service I have ever experienced. Each room comes with a butler and all of the features of the rooms ie television, air conditioning, lights etc. are remote controlled. On check in you are presented with a small bouquet of flowers, a chocolate, a cold towel and a drink – or maybe this was just for me!
While sitting by the pool you don’t ever have to get up to get a drink or towel, you just press a button beside your chair and hey presto a friendly attendant appears! I could have stayed forever!
We also visited some of the hotels on The Corniche – Abu Dhabi’s up market tourist area with wonderful views over the Marina including The Sheraton, The Intercontinental and The Hilton. There is a hotel to suit all tastes in Abu Dhabi, whether you want to be in the middle of the commercial district or away from the crowds.
We finished off our trip with a 4 wheel drive desert safari (not for the feint hearted!). A visit to a camel enclosure, a wonderful feast, belly dancing and good company - what more could one want?
Abu Dhabi is a fantastic gateway to Australia, Thailand and India and the perfect stopover destination.