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This month I stayed at the St. Regis in Abu Dhabi as part of my free Etihad stopover. This review looks at the hotel itself and what you get as part of the stopover offer.
Summary – 9 / 10
Pros: It’s free if booked as Etihad stopover! Check out time based on hours not nights, beautiful common areas and rooms, private beach, pool with swim-up bar, extensive breakfast included with stopover, friendly staff, free extras such as clothes pressing and coffee service.
Cons: Service not always 100% consistent, really bad Wifi in the rooms, felt a slight pressure to tip, bit of a walk to the beach, pool & beach is open to non-guests who are members, hotel integrated into a public mall.
When: October 2019
What: A 48-hour stay at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi as part of Etihad’s free stopover offer.
Cost: Nothing. Nadda! If booking through normal routes, the St. Regis will set you back around £250 per night during high season.
Technique: Etihad free premium stopover.
Etihad will allow you to add in a free stopover to your itinerary, as long as your final destination with Etihad is not Abu Dhabi. The easiest way to add in a free stopover with Etihad is to build your itinerary as a multi-city flight search. You can then factor in a stay where you have a long layover in Abu Dhabi. The cost of the itinerary will be no different compared to flying straight through to your final destination! (As long as there is no variation in flight costs across the different days.)
For Business Class fights, Etihad will provide you with free premium accommodation for up to 24 hours. For First Class this is extended to 48 hours with free transport. So make sure you do not build in too long a layover if you are not willing to pay for a hotel night yourself. The way check-in / check-out works is that you have 24 / 48 hours at the hotel from the point of checking in. This was especially helpful for me where my flight landed late in Abu Dhabi and was departing late two days later, I didn’t have to check-out early the day of departure.
To book your stopover, you use this form once your itinerary has been confirmed and you have a booking reference. The selection of hotels are (all example prices are as per Expedia for 20-22 Nov):
Arrival & Check-in
On arrival with my Etihad chauffeur, my passenger door was opened and my luggage was collected instantly. The beautiful interior of the lobby and hanging chandeliers struck me. I was shown through to the check-in area, which feels more like a lounge, with a series of desks and chairs where you can sit whilst being checked in.
It was late at night so I was happy to find the check-in process was extremely quick. I was asked when I would like to check out (up to 10pm in two days time) and advised that breakfast was included. A couple of details that would have been helpful, such as about the beach club and when breakfast was available from and till were omitted, but I quickly found these out by ringing down to reception.
I made my way to my room. As a free stopover, unless you have Mariott status, you are not going to get anything beyond their standard (Superior) room. One thing to note, with all rooms starting on the 32nd floor, the lift takes FOREVER. Get ready for some awkward silent lift journeys with your fellow guests!
I was advised my luggage would be brought to my room, which arrived very quickly. Apparently there is a free unpacking service, which I was not offered. I think this may have been down to my lack of tipping. I didn’t have any cash yet, and there was definitely an awkward moment where I was evidently supposed to.
Although I was in the lowest level room (both in terms of standard and floor) it was still beautiful. There is an entrance area, a large bedroom with a king bed, big TV and sofa and a bathroom with two sinks, a bath, electric mirror, shower and closed toilet cubicle. Amenities included high-quality toiletries, hairdryer, minibar, tea and coffee.
The view was pretty great, even though it was just a city view. Other rooms offer sea views and much higher up floors.
There was welcome fruit waiting for me and free water that was refreshed daily.
The room really was perfect for me, with good storage, a lovely bath and a supremely comfortable bed. However, two marks are knocked off for the horrendous Wifi. As a guest, you only get basic Wifi for free, or you have to pay an extortionate amount for premium. I couldn’t even make an audio call on Whatsapp with the basic.
The other point knocked off is for the housekeeping, as my room was only made up once during my 48-hour stay, despite me leaving out a hanger for the room to be made up.
I was pleased and surprised to find out that breakfast was included as part of the free stopover stay. I also liked that it is served all the way through to 11am, which allowed me a lie-in. The buffet selection was HUGE! With pancakes, waffles, omelettes, full cooked breakfast, rice/noodle dishes, healthy options…the list was endless! I also liked that you can have breakfast outside.
There is also a free a la carte menu where you can get egg dishes made to order. One point is taken off for the slightly inconsistent service during breakfast. On the first day it took over half an hour for me eggs to come and on the second day, it took forever to get a coffee. Everything else though was perfect.
The Pool & Beach
The hotel has a small pool area immediately outside of the 3rd floor. This offers a quiet, simple and tranquil area to relax with a small bar (although the extent to which this was staffed appeared a bit ad-hoc).
However, a bit of a further walk and you are at the Beach Club, which is open to guests and also the public who are paying members. You need to go from the hotel pool, down to the basement, cross an underground tunnel and back up again, so it is a bit of a walk.
But it’s worth it! The pool area was really beautiful with a swim-up bar. There is a separate bar and dining area. And of course lots of loungers. I, however, spent most of my time at the beach. The beach is beautiful and very private. The service at the beach was excellent! You even get a little buzzer so you don’t need to leave your bed to get food and drink. Guests were also regularly offered cool flannels, ice lollies and ice water. The beach service really was standout.
8/10 (6/10 for the bar)
The hotel also has a bar, restaurant, fitness centre and spa. I only used the bar during my stay, but the other areas looked well equipped. A slight downside is that the floors of the hotel before the guest rooms are semi-integrated into a public mall. I didn’t realise this and came from the pool into a mall and got some VERY disapproving looks from the public!
The bar is beautiful and just as elegant as the rest of the hotel, I just found the service a bit less consistent than the rest of the hotel. Happy Hour runs select half-price drinks every day 5pm – 8pm. This is a great offer, but no one in the bar told me about it, despite it being Happy Hour! All other guests were served snacks, whereas both times I attended, I was not given any until I had to point out that they had missed me out.
I also asked about whether there is a Happy Hour or Ladies Night at the other St Regis 20 minutes away. The bartender did not know and did not offer to find out.
I liked all the little extras included in the stay that you would not normally get. You have a personal butler who you can call for any help. Your luggage can be unpacked and packed. You can ring down for a tea and coffee service to be brought to your room. You can also get an item of clothing pressed each day free of charge. These little extras make all the difference!
The only thing I’d say was that I was reluctant to use all of them because, well, I’m British. But also there was a general expectation for tipping around the hotel and I was not sure how much would be expected of me for each service utilised.
The St. Regis is a wonderful hotel and stands out for me as one of the best I have ever stayed in. It is consistently professional and beautiful. The showstopper for me was definitely the beach club with its incredible service. I can’t quite believe this was free as part of my £2,300 Etihad ticket. If paying cash it would have cost £500 alone!
If I do another Etihad stopover, I’d be tempted to maybe try one of the other premium hotels for variation, but I’d also be nervous, as I think the St. Regis is going to be pretty hard to beat!