Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort

100   Recommended

Executive Suite
April 10, 2018 by
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Executive Suite

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Executive Suite

I recently completed a good 5-night stay at this property.  I usually stay in Dubai when I travel to the UAE but for a change this time I wanted to split my time between Dubai and another area of the country.  I made a points redemption at 10k per night with 5th night free so 40k pts total.  Cash rates at this property seem to vary quite a bit depending on season so while it made sense in April to use points in a period of high occupancy due to the UK school holiday, in other times of the year it might be better to pay cash. 

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Location

Before talking about the location of the hotel and its surroundings, a few words about getting there from Dubai.  We rented a car and I brought some Google Maps printouts with me.  We did not have wifi or a GPS.  How foolish!  While Google Maps instructions in Europe, North America, Australia, and some other parts of the world are great, once you step out of major areas of the UAE then Google Maps instructions are missing steps, occasionally have incorrect instructions, etc.  Let’s just say that I struggled quite a bit to find the way.  Signs on the road in the middle of the desert and at round-abouts are not always clear and sometimes just missing.  So if you will drive to Meridien Al Aqah, don’t be stupid like me, and make sure you have a GPS.  Maybe some will think I am just stating the obvious, LOL.  Once we arrived at the hotel I found out from the welcome information that they actually have a free shuttle bus to and from Dubai a couple of times per week that you can book in advance.  The days of the week would not have worked out for me, but it might be useful for some.  The location of the hotel itself if very nice.  There is a long walkable beach where you can find the Intercontinental hotel, Rotana hotel, and the Miramar hotel next door to the Meridien.  The beach is also quite wide and well maintained with no trash.  In that respect I found the beach nicer than in Dubai, and overall the atmosphere is more holiday and relaxing than beach hotels in Dubai as one might expect.  If you keep walking on the beach beyond hotels, then you reach beach camping grounds.  The beach is not as clean there, but still better than in many parts of Dubai.  The main drawback of this beach is that there is tar washing ashore.  The Meridien provides tar removal supplies but it is not so nice swimming in water that you suspect is not that clean.  There are a few dead fish on the camping part of the beach, which left me wondering if it was because of pollution.  If it was not for the tar issue, it’s a nice beach but I appreciate it can be a deal killer to some.  Make no mistake: there are several people who swim in the sea here so it’s not like the water is black.  I do not want to exaggerate the issue; the truth is that it’s minor and from the pictures you can see it’s not even visible.  But it’s there nonetheless and if you walk on the beach you will have tar spots to remove. 

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Room

We checked in on a Thursday (= beginning of weekend in UAE) and were upgraded to a Club room on a high floor.  Suites were not available since the hotel was full for the weekend.  The Club room is very nice, spacious and has a balcony.  The views of the Gulf of Oman are great and in fact all rooms in this hotel are facing the sea.  The bathroom has a stand-alone shower in addition to a separate bathtub.  The room was in great condition so even though the hotel is not as new as the Intercontinental next door, I had absolutely no complaints and I suspect rooms were renovated recently. 

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For some stays I do not mind the basic room and I do not ask for a suite, but for this stay I checked spg.com after 2 nights and I saw that a suite was available, once locals returned to work after the weekend.  The hotel was clearly less busy starting on Sunday.  Once guests with late check-out left, the hotel let me move to a suite at around 6pm which was a good gesture.  In some hotels, the suite is only marginally more expensive than the base room, but not here - the suite was 3-4x times the price of the base room.  While the base room was already quite nice (or Club room, which is the same size), the suite is considerably better.  You have about 100 square meters of space in the room so everything is roomy.  The living room and bedroom are both large.  There is a small kitchen which unfortunately cannot be used.  They might have allowed guests to cook themselves in the past but not anymore.  At least there is a mini-fridge.  The suite also has two full bathrooms which is great.  One has only a shower, the other has shower and a separate bathtub like in the Club room.  Amenities are also better in the suite: the Club room did not have mouthwash, toothbrush, razor, and face cloths, but the suite did.  The suite also has an enormous balcony over 50 square meters – actually two balconies.  The first is accessed from the bedroom and is similar to the one in the Club room.  The second is accessed from the living room and has an L-shaped and is wrapping around the room.  There is a table with chairs for dining outdoors, and the side of the balcony has two lounge chairs to relax.  The entire experience is quite different in the suite than the base room and getting the upgrade for 3 nights out of 5 was great.  It is clear that that Platinum members are treated well and upgraded if space is available. 

 

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Dining

The hotel has breakfast buffet until 11am in the restaurant every day.  The quality was good but not at the same luxury level than many Dubai hotels.  Also I found it more European-oriented and not as many Asian, Arabic, or Indian options as in Dubai.  Last year in this thread EuropeanPete mentioned having the choice of breakfast anywhere at this hotel, old Hyatt-style.  Perhaps this was discontinued – there was no mention of breakfast other than at the Views restaurant.  There is also no breakfast in the Club Lounge, simply because the Club Lounge does not open until 11am.  Actually the Club Lounge is not a full-fledged lounge as we know it.  First off, there used to be a Lounge reception right outside the elevator doors on the 15th floor, but now the desk is unmanned, therefore there is no Lounge check-in at all so you must check-in downstairs.  You do not need key card access to the 15th floor.  There is one staff there but is occasionally in the kitchen or somewhere else; that person will ask for the room number and whether a guest wants a drink such as coffee or a bottle of water, which are only available in the back kitchen.  The happy hours at this hotel are a bit odd.  While snacks are limited in the lounge during the day, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm they offer 4 types of sandwiches, something which looks like hot chicken pie, and desserts.  It is not enough for dinner and anyway given the timing, it’s clearly an appetizer, although they are quite generous on the desserts front.  Interestingly, they have a chocolate fondue available which I had never seen in a lounge before.  The lounge “closes” at 7pm which is very early, but since it’s an open area then closure simply means is that they remove fruits and self-serve juice at 7pm and there is no more staff on site but you can still walk in and sit down if you would like.  The lounge has fantastic sea view and the ceiling of the lounge is actually the ceiling of the 18th floor so you have 4 floors worth of windows.  The open air space and water views make this lounge one of the most beautiful I have seen in the world. 

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Restaurants on the resort do not open until 7pm for dinner, so while you can have your appetizer in the lounge until 5:30pm, then you need to wait 1.5 hour for something else.  Happy hour begins at the Astros bar on the 20th floor at 7pm and lasts until 9pm.  The platinum benefit in the bar is free wine, sparkling wine, beer, or spirits.  They also serve a small tray of bar food such as samosas, cheese, calamari rings, and nuts.  There are billiards tables in the bar so we enjoyed playing pool while having a drink.  However once again the timing is odd.  You can have your appetizer in the Club Lounge late afternoon then you wait and if you want happy hour in the bar then you won’t have dinner until late because you cannot eat dinner before going to happy hour because it is not the typical 5pm-7pm or 6pm-8pm.  Not a big deal but I felt a bit more constrained by timing at this hotel as a result.  First world problems. 

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We tried the Indian restaurant for dinner twice and the food was great and in fact better than most other Indian restaurants we have been outside of India.  The fish at the beach restaurant was good quality.  In general the food and drink prices at this hotel reflect the fact that guests are captive; there is nothing around walking distance, except a Subway.  On Monday evening they had their weekly guest cocktail on a terrace outside.  I was told they invite selected people (not the entire hotel) but it’s not limited to Platinums.  Some non-Platinum repeat guests were there.  In total we were about 30 people and staff could mingle with customers.

Pool

The swimming pool is a strong point of the resort and while minor pollution in the sea is a drawback, you can easily spend your entire time in the pool here.  Based on the view from above, the pool at the Intercontinental hotel next door seems quite subpar compared to the Meridien.  The Meridien pool has several sections, deep or shallow, a separate children pool, a swim-up bar, another separate bar area with chairs and sofas to relax, and huts on the beach.  There is a bit of everything for all tastes.  On the hotel grounds you can also find other activities such as badminton, table tennis, beach volleyball, chess, darts, etc.  The hotel caters well to families, either with young children, or with teenagers.  There is a teens club inside the hotel, with a movie room, billiards, etc.  While the pool was quite busy during the weekend when hotel was at full capacity, we could still find a couple of good chairs available at 10:30am. 

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Amenities

A few miscellaneous issues.  This hotel participates in the Make a Green Choice program.  After the first night I requested a fresh set of towels and I was informed that if you choose MAGC then you cannot have new towels, but that they would make an exception for this one time.  I was a bit surprised because in other hotels, my experience with MAGC was that there is no housekeeping work done, but that you could still request new towels.  Not here, perhaps for water preservation in this part of the world.  Regarding wifi, I thought a few days before arriving in Fujairah that my internet connection was quite subpar when in Dubai.  Well after staying here I should re-think this.  Meridien Al Aqah was bad, not my hotel in Dubai.  My VPN was barely usable.  The worst I have experienced recently outside China.

Overall

Overall this hotel is an interesting option for people who want to vacation in the UAE but not in Dubai.  The hotel will cost considerably less than beach hotels in Dubai.  In fact, near the entrance of the hotel they have on display some awards that the hotel won in the last few years and I noticed several prizes for “good value” hotel and I would tend to agree.  What you get for your money (or points) is excellent, and even more so for Platinums.  However if you go to the UAE in months where hotels are generally cheaper such as July, then the price difference between Al Aqah and Dubai would be far less and I would personally stick to Dubai for the convenience if you are flying long haul into DXB airport.  For high beach season, then Fujairah is a good option if you want to try something new, if you want to save money, and if you are not completely put off by the tar issue in the sea.  Other international hotel options in the area are the Radisson Blu, the Fairmont, and as mentioned above the Intercontinental.  The latter is ranked immediately ahead of Meridien on TripAdvisor, but given that the hotel is new, it has far fewer ratings.  The rooms at Meridien are fine or more than fine, plus the pool at Meridien seems much better than IC.  The IC is more expensive, and even if you have status at IC you won’t get lounge access.  The lounge at Meridien is not a standard lounge due to its hours, but at least you get snacks and in the evening you get drinks at the bar.  So in my mind, Meridien is better value than IC all around.  The Fairmont is a superior hotel, but also more expensive than Meridien.  I could have used a Fairmont suite upgrade cert but thought I had good chances of getting a suite at Meridien anyway, so I could keep my Fairmont suite upgrade for another stay, plus the Fairmont does not have a lounge (gold floor).  So in the end I picked Meridien on points and did not regret it.  My view is unlikely to change in the future once Fairmont is fully in the hands of Accor and that we no longer have suite upgrade certs.

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This review lives in the Le Meridien Al Aqah, UAE [Master Thread] thread.
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