Review: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

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Travel

After spending a few nights on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, I headed south to The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, which sits opposite the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Nestled along the banks of the Grand Canal, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is a luxurious and sprawling complex serving both leisure and corporate guests.

The hotel is the brand’s ninth property in the Middle East, with two of them situated in Dubai. Moreover, the hotel has been acclaimed as the largest beachfront Ritz-Carlton resort in the world.

I was eager to see more of Marriott’s hotel portfolio in Abu Dhabi, and The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal seemed to be an impressive property that warranted trying first-hand.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Booking

Redeeming points at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal typically falls in the range of 33,000–42,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, with a bit of leeway on either side.

On the other hand, nightly cash rates at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal typically hover around 800 AED ($300 CAD), but can climb to well over 1,400 AED ($520 CAD) during peak times in December and January.

With our valuation of Bonvoy points at 0.9 cents per point (CAD), redeeming points can certainly be advantageous when cash rates are on the higher side. This happened to be the case at the time of my visit when the hotel was teeming with both foreign and domestic tourists.

I booked this stay using a Marriott Free Night Award worth 35,000 points and topped it up with 5,000 points, for a total award cost of 40,000 points. Compared to some of the other properties in the area, I thought it was a decent value on points.

This property participates in Marriott STARS, which is Marriott’s preferred partner program. By booking a Marriott STARS rate with a travel advisor from Prince of Travel, you’ll enjoy extra perks such as free breakfast, upgrades, early check-in, and late check-out (subject to availability) at the same or lower rate than booking online.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Location

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal takes up residence on the eastern border of Zone 1, overlooking the waterfront of the Khor Al Maqta and the Grand Canal.

The hotel is centrally located, directly opposite one of the top attractions in the UAE: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Those who wish to visit the mosque can take the hotel shuttle, which departs every 30 minutes.

A highlight of The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is the Venetian Village, nestled right on the grounds of the hotel, just a five-minute walk from the hotel’s main building. The village has beautiful Renaissance-inspired architecture, a central plaza, and snaking cobblestone streets.

Due to the sprawling nature of the city, nearly all other attractions will require a car or taxi to reach.

The city’s bustling business district and the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre are a short 10-minute drive away, making The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal a popular choice for business travellers.

Emirates Palace and the Corniche waterfront promenade can be reached in 20 minutes by vehicle. If you consider yourself a thrill seeker, Yas Island and its theme parks are only 25 minutes away.

Lastly, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is just under 20 minutes from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, while the Dubai International Airport is just under an hour away.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Check-in

After passing beneath an ornate arched gateway and making my way down a long cobblestone driveway, I arrived at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal’s front entrance. The hotel staff assisted me promptly with my bags and warmly welcomed me to The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Gateway
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Exterior
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Entrance

Upon stepping into the lobby, I was immediately met with a grandiose space with towering ceilings and tall pillars. The Venetian-like lobby also had luxurious chandeliers and sconces, creating an elegant atmosphere for guests upon arrival.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Lobby lounge
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Lobby lounge

As with many Ritz-Carlton properties, the ostentatiousness is readily apparent, especially compared to the more minimalist design of the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi I had stayed at the previous night.

There is a large check-in desk on the right and a comfortable seating area with regal furnishings and armchairs in the centre. The lobby also features a grand staircase leading to the upper floors.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Check-in desks

The check-in associate confirmed my Deluxe King Room on one of the higher floors of the hotel.

The sprawling hotel has three main areas. There are rooms and suites in the main building, connected to the lobby and most dining venues and other amenities.

There are rooms in the Venetian Village, which has public outlets that act as a shopping and lifestyle hub for the public too. Then there are villas, which are located on the grounds on the outer rim of the property.

Unfortunately, there would be no upgrade forthcoming due to the high occupancy rates in town on account of the Formula One race. I had inquired over the chat app about possible upgrades, but alas, my request for an upgrade was directly rejected.

Moreover, Marriott Titanium members don’t get Club Lounge access as a benefit at The Ritz-Carlton, and unfortunately, I was not offered the chance to purchase access to The Ritz-Carlton’s Club Lounge due to the hotel’s high occupancy.

I made my way to Room 2858 via the elevator lobby on the ground floor. The hallways leading to the guest rooms had floor-to-ceiling glass walls with sweeping views of the mosque, but were more muted when compared to the lobby.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Elevators
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Hallway
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Room 2858

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room

Upon entering the Deluxe King Room, a small hallway leads to a spacious bedroom. The room boasts a classic and elegant Ritz-Carlton style with a neutral colour palette, golden accents, and rich fabrics.

The plush king bed, with its lengthy, padded headboard and flanking mirrors, dominates the space. At each side are glossy, rounded bedside tables.

Fronting the bed is a flat-screen TV atop a dark wooden armoire adjoined by an Illy coffee maker.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room overview
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room overview
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room overview

Adjacent to the bed is an upholstered armchair, ottoman, and side table. In the far left-hand corner are a small glass desk and an ergonomic chair.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room armchair, ottoman, & side table
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room ergonomic chair

The bathroom entrance is to the right when you first enter the room. The bathroom is well-appointed, but didn’t quite feel as lavish as one would expect.

There is a deep alcove bathtub, double vanity, and separately enclosed rain shower and toilet/bidet concealed behind frosted glass doors.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room bathroom
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room toilet & bidet
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room shower

Elevating the space is a set of shutters that divide the bathroom from the bedroom. The shutters can be opened or closed, affording views from the bathtub or preserving privacy.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room bathtub

The room also features a private balcony with a cozy seating area for two, offering a stunning panoramic view of the breathtaking resort grounds and Grand Canal.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room balcony
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Deluxe King Room view from balcony

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Executive Suite

I also had a chance to tour the Executive Suite and the Rabdan Villa at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal.

The suite has a larger living room, a separate bedroom, and a private balcony with a view of the canal.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Executive Suite living room
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Executive Suite bedroom
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Executive Suite view

The design is in keeping with the base-level rooms; however, the living area features a comfortable seating area, with a sofa and two armchairs facing the flat-screen TV and access to the private balcony.

To the left of the entrance is a glass desk that doubles as a working and dining area.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Executive Suite foyer & dining table

The balcony can also be accessed from the separate, also spacious bedroom, which features a king bed, a reading chair, and a secondary flat-screen TV.

The bathroom has a freestanding bathtub, as opposed to the alcove bathtub in the Deluxe King Room. Otherwise, the space is essentially the same as the Deluxe King Room, with double vanity, separate shower, toilet/bidet, and shutters that open up to the bathroom.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Executive Suite bathtub

Overall, the Deluxe King Room and the Executive Suite are very adequate but somewhat unassuming rooms. They are very much in keeping with an older-style Ritz-Carlton room, and the remarkable views are certainly the highlight of the rooms as a whole.

I also appreciated the glass walls in the hallways which provided an amazing view of the mosque.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa

The Rabdan Villa is one of the four refurbished Rabdan Villas on the property. The villa is beautiful and modern, reflecting the direction of refurbishment that the property as a whole may take in the coming years.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villas

The living room is incredibly spacious, with matte marble floors and ultra-modern furnishings.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa living room

At the forefront of the living room is a dining table with seating for six, followed by a comfortable seating area.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa dining area

The full kitchen is certainly one of the most remarkable aspects of the villa. Inside, you’ll find a mix of traditional design combined with a modern twist.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa bedroom

The villa has three bedrooms, including one with a king-sized bed, one with two queen beds, and a small room with a single bed. Each bedroom is equipped with its own luxurious ensuite bathroom.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa bedroom
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa bedroom
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa bedroom

Additionally, the bathrooms have a contemporary design with matte stone floors, walls, and countertops.

There is a freestanding bathtub, a double vanity, and a single wet room with a shower and a toilet. Consistent with the other room types, this villa has deployable blinds above the bathroom.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa bathroom

Accessible from the villa is a luxurious patio with lounge chairs and a private, temperature-controlled plunge pool.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa pool
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Rabdan Villa pool

These villas are priced at 8,000 AED ($2,300 CAD) per night. It may seem steep, but when divided between the maximum occupancy of seven, it’s not unreasonable for a larger group.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Breakfast

Breakfast is served at Giornotte daily from 6:30–10:30am Monday to Friday and from 6:30–11am on Saturday and Sunday. The venue is reminiscent of a traditional Italian villa, with a brick patio and wooden deck overlooking the gardens.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Giornotte entrance

The buffet at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is priced at 160 AED ($60 CAD); however, as a Titanium member, I was entitled to a 50% discount, bringing the price down to 80 AED ($30 CAD).

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Breakfast buffet

This makes it a much more reasonable option, and even though the buffet had plenty to offer, I wouldn’t necessarily deem it to be comprehensive enough to be worth 160 AED ($60 CAD).

Furthermore, since Ritz-Carlton hotels aren’t obligated to provide complimentary breakfast to guests with Marriott Bonvoy Elite status, having a 50% discount brought the cost to a much more reasonable level.

The standard Western breakfast items included waffles, pancakes, potatoes, and sausage. Other hot items ranged from grilled tomatoes, mixed vegetables, and mushrooms to numerous types of pizza.

Cold items included a station with cured meats and cheese, as well as a station with yogurt, compote, and muesli with many accompaniments. There was also a selection of pastries to choose from.

You’ll also find a wide range of delicious Arabic and East Asian specialties. There was a station with porridge, millet, stew, and soup, as well as fried rice and fluffy dumplings.

The dessert station was the most impressive, stocked with a wide variety of pastries, donuts, cookies, and other sweets. There was even a pink chocolate fountain at breakfast, which was dangerously tempting.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Pink chocolate fountain & dessert station

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Club Lounge

Although I didn’t have the chance to indulge in the Club Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, I managed to pop in and take a tour. The lounge is located on the 7th floor of the hotel, overlooking the whole resort.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Club Lounge entrance

The space is quite private and intimate, with a beautiful atrium-like setting and ample seating, ranging from more cozy couches and armchairs to two- and four-person dining tables. Indeed, this lounge reflects the design of more recent Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Club Lounge seating
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Club Lounge seating
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Club Lounge view

There are five meal presentations a day, including breakfast, a light lunch, afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Club Lounge buffet area

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Dining

The hotel has quite a few options for dining establishments in addition to those in the adjacent Venetian Village. However, the cafés and restaurants there aren’t affiliated with the hotel.

The main dining venue, Giornotte, serves all-day dining in addition to breakfast, offering a mix of Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian twist.

Li Jiang, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, is a contemporary Southeast Asian eatery with an open kitchen where chefs prepare authentic rice and noodle dishes. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a stunning backdrop to the outdoor terrace.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Li Jiang seating

The hotel’s signature steakhouse, Forge, features a chic ambiance ideal for savouring steaks and pairing wines.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Forge bar
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Forge seating
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Forge seating

Mijana personifies the dramatic side of modern Arabic cooking. The chefs’ silhouettes through the frosted glass can be seen as they prepare the dishes.

The main bar at the hotel is Sorso, a traditional Ritz-Carlton bar experience with a great selection of drinks and bite-sized meals,

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Sorso entrance

Just off the main lobby is the Alba, a classic lobby lounge with semi-private dining areas for traditional Ritz-Carlton afternoon tea.

The hotel also features Al Fresco, a casual pool and beach bar serving light fare and an extensive drinks menu.

Lastly, Dolce offers a healthy menu of keto and vegan options, self-serve poke bowls and smoothies and juices.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Pools & Beach

At the heart of the hotel is a remarkable outdoor swimming pool with ample sun loungers and cabanas. The pool is certainly the highlight of The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal.

The sheer size of the pool was impressive, and it was a wonderful place to take a dip and unwind during my stay.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Pool
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Pool
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Pool

A short distance from the pool area is a small beach next to the Abu Dhabi Grand Canal with additional guest sun loungers.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Lounge chairs on beach

The beach leads into the canal, which is less of an ideal beach experience than facing the ocean at, say, Saadiyat Island.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Beach
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Beach

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is very much child-friendly. The main pool has a separate shallow end for kids, as well as a children’s play area with fountains.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Children’s pool
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Children’s pool play area

There’s also a separate adults-only pool tucked away near the villas.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Adults-only pool
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Adults-only pool

The Ritz–Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Other Facilities

Below the lobby entrance is where you can access the 24-hour fitness centre.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre entrance

The facility is well-equipped with an impressive number of weight machines, free weights, and cardio equipment. Floor-to-ceiling windows afford a good amount of light with beautiful views to enjoy while working out.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre

The facility includes a section operated in partnership with a local fitness company where trainers are available to assist you.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – Fitness centre

The spa, ESPA, resides over a large portion of the beachfront in a stand-alone building. There are 16 luxuriously appointed treatment rooms, separate female and male outdoor areas, and a private plunge pool and waterfall.

Moreover, a private beach is reserved exclusively for spa guests.

The Ritz Kids Club features a dedicated check-in area, tote bags, welcome amenities for children, and babysitting services. Additionally, there are daily activities with both half-day and full-day schedules.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal – The Ritz Kids Club

Lastly, off of the main lobby is a small gift shop and convenience store.

Conclusion

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is a highly desirable property with a prime location adjacent to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and within close proximity to many of Abu Dhabi’s top attractions.

There is a solid breakfast offering, a massive pool, and a multitude of on-site facilities making The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal well worth the visit, especially for those with children.

The guest rooms could use a refresher; however, the Club Lounge and some villas already reflect the brand’s modernization. This could very well be a sign of what’s to come in the future for this Ritz-Carlton.

Even if you don’t have the same elite benefits that you might enjoy at other Marriott properties, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is certainly worth your attention with its numerous facilities and good points redemption value.

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