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Back in January I booked Al Wadi Desert Resort when it was flagged on another blog. It’s a great value in the desert outside Dubai (in the UAE’s Ras al Khaimah).
Last year I stayed at Al Maha, which features standalone Bedouin villas with private infinity pools looking out at the desert. That was discounted from its 60,000 Starpoints per night price down to 39,000 Starwood points. Of course it’s all-inclusive, and inside its own nature preserve.
Al Wadi, though, is just 40,000 Marriott points per night. And since Starwood points transfer 1 to 3 into Marriott Rewards, that means I was able to use just 13,333 Starwood points per night for my three night stay.
Put another way, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card has a signup bonus that earns more than two nights here. And the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express will generate more than enough points for two nights here once you spend to earn its signup bonus.
That seemed like a great value for a Ritz-Carlton (former Banyan Tree) where every room has its own pool. And it is. Although the experience doesn’t come close to comparing with Al Maha.
We arrived after a two hour drive from the Abu Dhabi airport at around 10:30pm to find our upgraded villa.
When booking the award we had the choice between two of the resort’s four room types:
- Al Rimal Pool Villa: this has a view of the desert
- Al Rimal Enclosed Pool Villa: this has more of an obstructed view, but it also more private
The other two room types are essentially the same except for their positioning at the resort.
- Al Khaimah Tented Pool Villa
- Al Sahari Pool Villa
The base room is 1700 square feet. The two premium room types are 2700 square feet. If you book an Al Rimal room and which to paid to confirm an upgrade to Al Khaimah, it’s 650 AED (US$177) per night. If you want to confirm an upgrade to Al Sahari it’s 750 AED (US$204) per night.
The hotel provides upgrades to Platinums subject to availability although it’s not really required to under program terms.
We received an Al Sahari villa which was large, private, and with incredible views.
Here’s the bathroom and dressing room:
Here’s the bedroom:
And the huge outdoor deck with private pool:
The property is gorgeous, with plenty of walking but it’s easy walking rather than substantial hills. They’ll happily come get you and return you to your villa by golf cart whenever you wish.
One thing that I’m not used to — as a Hyatt and Starwood top tier elite, I can pretty much always have breakfast complimentary — Marriott Rewards doesn’t offer breakfast to Platinums at resorts or at Ritz-Carltons, a double strike. Breakfast in the restaurant was good, and though service was friendly it was forgetful. Coffee took a long time, I would order two coffees at once to compensate. Other requests were often forgotten.
During my stay I took a took of a standard room, if you can call a 1700 square foot room (including outdoor space) with its own pool.
Here’s the bathroom.
And the outdoor spaces:
The spa was excellent but surprisingly expensive for the area, but not for a Ritz-Carlton resort, I had just one treatment during my three night stay.
We enjoyed our stay. It’s an incredible value on points. But looking back had I not already stayed at Starwood’s Al Maha I’d spend the additional points to go there if possible.