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Business Class Flights. Luxury hotels. Travelling to a warm climate in the middle of a cold Melbourne Winter, why would I say no!!
I was lucky enough to be offered a place on an Etihad Airways and Helloworld educational to the Middle Eastern city of Abu Dhabi. Having been to Dubai previously, I was interested to see what the differences were between the two cities considering they are so close to each other…..
Flights – Business Class – Etihad Airways
Etihad offer complimentary chauffeur car services for business class passengers to and from the airport. This is available to certain fares types that are booked in business class, any ‘special’ restricted business class airfares do not apply for this product. In Melbourne, the chauffeur was on time and sent a text message when the car arrived. The vehicle itself was stylish, comfortable and clean with bottled water and mints provided. Upon my return to Melbourne, the driver was waiting in the arrivals hall holding a sign with my name on it to take me home again.
Business class travellers in Melbourne flying Etihad have access to the Air New Zealand lounge (there is no Etihad operated lounge in Melbourne at present). The lounge is clean and comfortable, offering a selection of complimentary food and drinks as well as facilities for the business traveller (Wi-Fi, printers, photocopier etc.). There is even a kids room for the young ones which is easily viewable by parents as they sit and enjoy a light snack or drink before the flight.
Etihad Airways currently offer two daily services from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi, and our flight left late evening at 10.40PM. The aircraft ex-Melbourne is a Boeing 777-300, Etihad have a few different aircraft types operating from different ports in Australia to Abu Dhabi, and as a result the business class product on board can vary.
Upon boarding, the hostess shows you to your seat and once seated you are offered a drink (champagne, wine, soft drink, juice, etc.). You also receive the ‘Dine Anytime’ menu which outlines the food available for your flight. There is a wide variety of snack type meals available or you can choose to have a three course meal and select from the menu. This is a good point when you are departing late at night as not all travellers wish to have a 3 course meal so late and you may wish to only have a light snack or no food at all before going to sleep. The on-board Food & Beverage Manager comes around before take-off to take your order or the ‘Dine Anytime’ feature allows you to order your three course meal or snack anytime during the flight. Your food is serviced on full-sized dining ware just like sitting in a restaurant!
Each seat in business class on the Boeing 777-300 has aisle access so you are not climbing over anyone to get in and out of your seat. For take-off and landing the seat is fully upright, with plenty of room to move and stretch out your legs. There are plenty of storage areas for your hand luggage including the overhead locker and smaller compartments within the seat itself. In seat power supply is also provided for your laptop, etc. Once in the air, your seat can be positioned electronically to a fully flat bed or semi-reclined for comfort. You can raise and lower the rear or front of your seat as you wish to find the best position. Each seat has built in massage and personal lighting for your comfort all at the touch of a button. Amenity kits are provided containing essentials like socks, eyeshades, earplugs and a dental kit. When you wish to go to sleep, the cabin crew can provide a full turn-down service and provide an additional mattress for extra comfort along with pyjamas and slippers.
Each seat has your own on-demand entertainment system, containing some late release and classic movies as well as documentaries, TV shows, music and games. There many options to select from to keep you entertained during the flight.
Overall I found the business class product on Etihad to be of a high standard, with a comfortable seat and bed and great food to select from. If I had to find some minor flaws, I would say the bed when lying flat was a little narrow and for anyone who was over 6 foot tall they would not be able to fully stretch out when lying down. The business class product on the new A380 aircraft ex-Sydney and Dreamliner aircraft ex-Brisbane is wider and longer, so hopefully this product will be offered ex-Melbourne in the near future which will make the overall Etihad Airways business class experience fantastic.
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi Hotel
This amazing luxury hotel is located along the Abu Dhabi Corniche in the downtown area. Containing 283 rooms, including an incredible top floor Presidential Suite which connects the two towers of the hotel building. The property has your typical St. Regis elegance and style with personal touches including complimentary butler service to all guests and providing each guest a staff member for a more personal check-in service with a welcome drink.
The superior room we were staying in was very large with an average size of 45 m2. The bathrooms were also a great size with separate bath/shower room and separate toilet. Both the room and bathrooms were decorated with marble giving that luxury feel. There was plenty of storage, as well as a desk for business travellers and laptop/computer connections available. The hotel also offered complimentary Wi-Fi internet access through the hotel including in your room.
The property offers two swimming pools, one located within the hotel complex and the other as part of the Nation Riviera Beach Club. The beach club us accessible via an underground walkway connected to the hotel, which is fully air-conditioned. There are a few lifts and stairs involved between the hotel and the club, so may not be suitable for everyone. The beach club offers the pool with swim-up pool bar, a restaurant, gym and also access to the private beach area for St. Regis guests only where you can swim in the Arabian Gulf.
The hotel has several onsite restaurant and bar options. ‘The Terrace on the Corniche’ is where we were hosted for a welcome dinner on our first night. The restaurant is buffet-style, with different stations around the restaurant for different options such as salads, hot and cold meats, soups, carvery stations, Arabic options and of course an amazing dessert station! The same restaurant is used for breakfast in the morning, with different stations also available such as cereals, fruits, an egg station, pastries, full English breakfast options as well as Arabic options. The food was amazing – we certainly weren’t left hungry!
Overall this was an amazing hotel, one that I would highly recommend!
Jumeirah At Etihad Towers Hotel
The Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is a modern, luxurious hotel also located in the downtown area along the Abu Dhabi Corniche. This property has 382 rooms and suites and is also home to the Observation Deck, which is the highest viewing point in Abu Dhabi, to take in spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf and city skyline. There is complimentary access for hotel guests while general public can access at a fee.
We were accommodated in a Grand Deluxe room which was extremely large and open. The bathrooms were spacious, containing a separate room for the shower and toilet and bath. A large desk was also available for the business traveller with complimentary Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel as well as in the room. The rooms were slick and modern, offering amazing views of the city and Arabian Gulf.
There are numerous restaurants onsite at the hotel. We only managed to try the buffet breakfast which was on offer at Rosewater Restaurant. We certainly had plenty to choose from, with many different food stations – cereals, hot and cold options, fruit, juices, pastries and Arabic options to name a few.
We managed to have some spare time to enjoy the pool area at this hotel, which contains three separate pools and a private beach. There is a poolside bar and also a swim-up bar in one of the pools that offer refreshments and snacks. The main pool also offers some shade, which is a good option in the scorching temperatures that can happen in the desert, especially for families with young children.
This was another fantastic hotel available for both business and leisure travellers. The hotel and the Etihad Towers complex can also claim fame to being in the latest Fast and Furious movie, which they are very proud of!
Attractions – Things to Do
High Tea at Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace is an iconic location and hotel in Abu Dhabi and although many may not be able to afford to stay there, the option of having High Tea is one to consider. The High Tea itself offers plenty of sweet and savoury options to keep your appetite at bay while you marvel at the extreme luxury of the Palace. Gold lines the walls and pillars of this amazing building, and you may even find the strawberries in your High Tea dessert are covered with gold too!
Abu Dhabi City Tour
Abu Dhabi is a very large, spread-out city made up of 7 main islands. Taking part in a city tour to get an understanding of the history of Abu Dhabi and the different areas and islands of Abu Dhabi is a must. Hala is Etihad Airways ground operator in Abu Dhabi and they offer their half day ‘Story of Abu Dhabi City Tour’ which I highly recommend. This was a great tour, with the highlight for me being the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This is the largest mosque in the UAE, including the world’s largest carpet! The mosque is a definite must do on any trip to Abu Dhabi. The city tour gives a great insight into the culture and history of the city and also looks into to the future of where Abu Dhabi is planning to add many attractions and culture to the city including The Louvre Museum and Guggenheim Museum.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the world’s largest indoor theme park and the only Ferrari-themed park in the world. The park boasts the world’s fastest roller coaster, called Formula Rossa, accelerating from 0 to 240 km/h in 4.8 seconds! The ride is a definite rush with the added extra of 45 degree heat hitting you in the face as you exit the air-conditioned building onto the outdoor part of the ride! For those not so keen on the thrill of this high-speed ride, there are plenty of other more low-key attractions and rides for all ages. The park also has many dining outlets, offers live shows and plenty of car racing themed interactive attractions for the car enthusiast. A great place to visit for the whole family!
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
As the largest Falcon Hospital in the world, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital examines and cares for over 11,000 falcons each year. Since opening in 1999, the hospital has won many awards for care, research and education programs for the falcon and has also begun a specialised avian hospital for all kinds of birds. The hospital has also successfully welcomed the ever growing tourism industry into its doors, becoming one of the major tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi. This was a very interesting tour showing how treasured the falcon is to the people of the Middle East.
Dune Dinner Safari
Many travellers to Dubai or Abu Dhabi take part in a Dune Dinner Safari out into the Arabian Desert. This tour is offered by Hala, Etihad Airways ground operator in Abu Dhabi. The tour began with us being collected from our hotel in an air-conditioned 4WD and driven out of the city into the desert. Upon arrival into the desert we stopped at a camel farm to feed the camels and learnt more about how the camel are used by the local people. Once the vehicles are prepared we began our dune driving experience into the desert, travelling up and over the dunes and stopping along the way for photo opportunities and to watch the sunset. After that we moved on to the camp that had been set up in the desert for our meal which included entertainment (belly dancing, henna painting, dress up costumes, camel rides, etc.). Our incredible experience ended with a drive our hotel. This tour comes highly recommended and is most enjoyable.
Seawings Scenic Flight
A scenic flight over Abu Dhabi is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the continuing construction and development of the city. Seawings offers a 25 minute scenic flight departing from Yas Marina on Yas Island. The aircraft is a 9 seater plus the pilot and being a smaller plane can be quite bumpy in the air even on a calm day. Despite the turbulence, this is definitely a great way to take in the natural surrounds of the city from a unique view.
Yas Marina Racing Experience
Yas Island is home to the Yas Marina Racing Circuit which hosts the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. Drivers take part in a variety of race car experiences and we were lucky enough to be involved. An experienced driver is at the wheel for our drifting experience. We were driven around the track drifting through the corners at high speed….what a thrill, three short laps were not enough! There are many other types of experiences on offer depending on your budget.
After an amazing fun-filled, action packed four days in Abu Dhabi, I can see how this is a popular stop-over destination for many Australians on their way to or from Europe. Abu Dhabi has a more relaxed and laid back feel to it compared to Dubai. The city is also much greener, with trees lining many of its streets. As with most of the Middle Eastern cities, everything keeps changing year to year with more and more attractions and development being added. Hopefully, Abu Dhabi can keep its more relaxed feel, giving travellers a choice when wanting a stop in the UAE.