Review: the good news and bad news about InterContinental Abu Dhabi hotel

This is my review of the InterContinental Abu Dhabi hotel.

Last time I was in Abu Dhabi I had a very pleasant time at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers which I reviewed here.  This was going to be a little different.

I was unlikely to get to the hotel before 2am and I needed to be back at the airport for around 5pm.  A guarantee late check-out was therefore top of my list and this is a benefit of the InterContinental Ambassador programme which I discuss here.

I could also have got a guaranteed 4pm check-out by using American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (an Amex Platinum benefit) to book at one of their participating properties.  However, since I also wanted to trigger my 80,000 bonus points from IHG’s Accelerate promotion, the InterContinental Abu Dhabi (click here for the hotel home page) seemed the best choice.

InterContinental Abu Dhabi review

Etihad gave me a free chauffeur drive as part of my redemption so that was quickly sorted.

Things started to go wrong on arrival, with no-one on the door.  It clearly wasn’t beyond me to open the hotel doors and find the reception desk but it wasn’t a good start.  (I could make my own bed as well if necessary but, to be frank, I prefer not to in a hotel!)

InterContinental Abu Dhabi review

Check-in was enthusiastic, I couldn’t fault that.

We then got to my ‘guaranteed’ Ambassador upgrade.  I had been upgraded to a room on the Club Lounge Floor.  Except, erm, I wasn’t allowed to use the lounge.

So, erm, what benefits exactly did I get from this?  Tricky one.  To be honest, it wasn’t clear.  Perhaps you don’t get a bathrobe in the standard rooms – that is often the only difference between an executive room and a standard one, bar the lounge access!

In practical terms, it made no difference.  It was 2am and I wasn’t going to be around much.

Here are a couple of shots of my room.  It was perfectly acceptable although it had not been refurbished for a while.

InterContinental Abu Dhabi review


InterContinental Abu Dhabi review

Next morning, however, I DID get annoyed when I headed down to breakfast.  In what is theoretically a major business hotel, you expect certain things.  You expect, for example, to head downstairs and be met with a relatively calm dining room where you can eat, perhaps catch up with a newspaper and – if on business – prepare yourself for the meetings or negotiations ahead.

What I didn’t expect was to find 200 package tourists in the breakfast room, taking every available seat and creating substantial backlogs for food.

It seems, with Abu Dhabi suffering from an over-supply of high end rooms, that the InterCon has plunged downmarket.  I should have seen this coming, to be honest, since a week earlier I had actually spoken to someone who had just returned from a holiday in Abu Dhabi – staying at the InterCon!

The hotel appears to be dumping its rooms in the package holiday market.  What this meant, in reality, is that I was one of only a handful of people in the hotel paying the advertised rate!  And I still got a rubbish upgrade.

I was even more annoyed that they had refused me Club access, since that would have been an easy way to keeping genuine business travellers away from the package tour hoards.

After breakfast, with a couple of hours to spare after catching up with HFP developments, I walked over to the beach.  This was quite impressive.

InterContinental Abu Dhabi review

You need to take a 3-4 minute stroll along the marina to get to the hotel beach club.  Once there – and access is free to guests – you will find a couple of family-friendly pools, two restaurants, a gym and a beach with more than enough sun loungers.  The effect is spoiled by the view from the beach – it is not open sea as there is a man-made spit of land about 200 feet ahead of you which looks like it will soon be developed – but for a city hotel it is not bad.

InterContinental Abu Dhabi review

For a family, it is a better option than Jumeirah – although that is a classier option overall, and their beach is directly outside the hotel.  I should also mention that the InterCon has an additional outdoor pool in the main hotel if you don’t want to walk to the beach club.

I was in the beach club for a couple of hours, which included a painfully slow restaurant lunch despite a very small number of customers.   At 4pm I checked out and headed back to Abu Dhabi airport for my Qatar Airways First Class flight to Doha.

Can I recommend the InterContinental Abu Dhabi?  Not really.  If you want a business hotel, you will be substantially happier at the Jumeirah.  If you want a resort for a family holiday, there are resort hotels on Yas or Saadiyat Island that will serve you better.  It might work for you if you are on business but you know you will have a lot of down time, as the beach club has more options than the Jumeirah beach and pool area.  Apart from that, though, I see no real reason to return.

You can find out more about the hotel, and book, on this page of the InterContinental website.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see  our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. I often think that upgrading status members to Club rooms, but not giving them lounge access, is a bit pointless. As you say, there is often little difference between, say, a Superior Room and a Club one, so the poor impression created by them saying ‘We’ve upgraded you to Club, but you can’t use the Club’ is worse than if they simply left you in the original room. But it happens quite a lot with IHG – another example of them having no clue how to treat status members.

    • Sebastian says:

      I totally agree with this, as a Spire Ambassador you would imagine Club access is a guarantee, not a possibility based on the managers decision whether to give you a club room and also decide to give you access.

      For me personally, lounge access is my number one benefit that I look for in a hotel reward programme before room upgrades and late check-out, since it saves me so much money and it’s a lot more relaxing. This consequently means I stay at Hilton brand a lot, or Sofitel since as a Hilton gold/diamond and Accor Plat, I know when I turn up I am going to get recognised.

      Additionally, are InterCon hotels any better than Waldorf/Conrad/Sofitel? I ask as some have mentioned they are but in my experience the WA in Versailles beats InterCon Paris and the Sofitel Budapest is par with InterCon Budapest. I know I am working off a small sample, so anyother comparisons would be nice.

      • In general, a flagship InterCon will beat a Waldorf-Astoria and should match a Conrad – but all chains have good and bad hotels. The IC Frankfurt struggles to beat a new Holiday Inn.

        • Sebastian says:

          Hi Rob, could you and/or anyone else provide a comparison between IC v WA Rome, IC v Conrad v WA Beijing, and IC Dubai v WA Beach Dubai v Conrad Dubai? I ask as those are places I am defiantly fitting in during 2016, while I am most likely also doing Vegas and San Fran.

          • The location of the IC in Rome is more central…If you’re somebody who likes walking around cities – and you should do just that in Rome – then the IC is a better choice than the WA, I’d say. Though you might also look at the new Indigo, which is possibly in an even better location.

            • in my experience, the only reason to stay at the ic rome is its superb location, at the top of the spanish steps. the reception area is small, our pointbreaks reward night room was tiny, the plumbing dodgy (there was a notice to be careful of the very hot water) and there was a €10 charge if we wanted a kettle.

      • I’ve never received lounge access despite getting “upgraded” since becoming IHG Plat then Spire. I don’t really care about the room since it’s just for sleeping.

        Since becoming Spire the only bonus has been 300 points at an HIEx which I would have gotten as Plat anyway.

        In contrast, matching to Hilton Diamond has already got me 6 free breakfasts and 8 bottles of water that I didn’t need to buy from overpriced tourist shops, as well as 10000 extra HH points on points/cash stays (not sure exactly why but not complaining) – which they didn’t actually need to give me as I had already booked these stays before the status match!

  2. I booked the Club rate so access wan’t an issue and I found the lounge was small but the service standards were high. It’s very disappointing when the upgrade doesn’t allow access. I agree that the main restaurants are overcrowded with budget groups and locals who aren’t staying at the hotel.

    If I had lots of points to spend I would probably return but for me there are better options in that area.

  3. Agree with the comments re: Intercon (and Hilton, Sheraton, Meriden and Rotana are all about the same). More telling is “why stay in Abu Dhabi?!” Can see the place in a day…then go to Dubai where it is more lively! (Understand your trip was just a very short one, so makes sense as a transit to stay….having said this, we are transiting via AUH in March and still prefer to take a 45 min drive to Dubai for the overnight stay!)

    • Try the fairmont. Opposite the grand mosque if you wanted a trip there (free courtesy bus for guests). We had a week there in April stayed in a gold view room giving lounge access. All in all superb hotel excellent staff and unbelievably nice buffet style food.

      Considering I so nearly booked the jumeriah beach Im not all disappointed and would recommend it in a heart beat.

      Funnily enough I looked a the intercontinental yesterday as part of a package deal and thought that’s cheap I wonder why looks a nice hotel. Then lo and behold I looked on trip advisor and today is a review…. I guess you get what you pay for!

  4. Raffles

    Can you recommend a hotel in AUH, for an overnight stay before travelling to Dubai, for 2 adults and 2 children.
    Our flight lands at 1am and it seems a bit silly paying Dubai beach front prices for 7 hours sleep.

    • plastikman says:

      If you are looking for a loyalty-aligned choice – the Hilton Capital Grand is just fine, inexpensive and a short cab ride away – it’s about half way between the main airport and the downtown area. The pool is decent for a morning swim. It’s also very near Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is well worth an hour in the morning before you head off into the desert.

      • Tempted to agree, no need to drive all the way in. The Yas and Saadiyat Island beach hotels are also between the city and airport – although no point paying a beach premium if you won’t have time to use it.

    • Try the Traders, which I found quite nice with a good location nearer the airport than downtown and its own private beach. It was a Lonely Planet recommendation and was not too expensive.

    • Stay at the Premier Inn. Very good hotel – attached to the terminal and only a few minutes walk. No need for the breakfast option – get something in the morning from McDonald’s or Costa or one of the other places in the terminal area. Rooms are comfortable although basic. But for a nights sleep, it’s fine. There is a decent gym and pool as well. If you need to rent a car, the hotel has a deal with a local company that will bring the car to you and it’s much cheaper than the main car rental agencies. For the price, you can get 2 rooms.

  5. Had a great holiday at the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi last December with our 2 young kids. Superb rooms and service, right opposite the Grand Mosque. Yes AD doesn’t have the “atmosphere” of Dubai (TOWIE rejects and fake Rolexes), but if you want guaranteed winter sun and a lazy luxury family holiday it fits the bill perfectly.

  6. Mrs_fussy says:

    Not good news ! We are due to stay there first few days of January. Dividing our stay between this and Al Qasr
    Can guys recommend any good hotel near city centre with access to the beach – looked at Ritz & Fairmont but not sure if there is a beach

    • Wow, that is going to be a massive difference in hotels!

      Emirates Palace is the obvious downtown Abu Dhabi property, or look to Yas or Saadiyat Island. You will get better beach there too.

    • The Ritz Carlton has a beach (all be it looks across at another piece of land, and is more a creek than an ocean). But that is often the case in Dubai/AD. The Yas Viceroy looked great but it overlooks a motor racing circuit, and they have plenty of track days there, so didn’t want to risk the noise issues that will bring.

    • The fairmont has a beach small but perfectly clean daily every morning. It’s weird I would swim in the pool look over the river at the ritz and think wow looks great. Then I’d realise where I was and then think even bigger wow! Can’t recommend the fairmont enough.

  7. It’s Wednesday, and Rob is having a bit of a whine 😉

  8. Do you think there will be a post Xmas ihg sale? Wanting to book some dates for accelerate 2016

  9. Inter continental, is not surprisingly in a different league to jumeirah etihad towers and the substantial price difference reflects this, which is why i am surprised at the authors shock.
    Intercontinetal is in my opinion quite a run down, more budget option and one can stay in a club room for a very cheap price. You will not find any such cheap pricing at etihad towers club floor. It is truly a case of getting what you pay for.

    • Don’t forget that Rob rates Intercontinentals as being worth £250, hence his valuation of IHG points at 0.5p. Whereas a lot of people wouldn’t pay much more than 150 for them, with VERY few exceptions (such as Amsterdam or San Fran Mark Hopkins).

  10. They do this in Crowne Plaza’s too. I had two separate stays booked in the Crowne Plaza Beijing last year. First stay I was upgraded to a club room, but with no club access. The second stay she tried to upgrade me to a club room, but we were checking in early and there were none ready yet. Instead she put us in a standard room, and gave us club access instead. The rooms were identical. Next time I’m offered a club room, I might refuse and ask for a standard with club access instead.

    • Just had this happen to me at the Crowne Plaza in Crawley – upgraded room, but no lounge access, on a paid night. The previous week, at the Crowne Plaza Newcastle I was given an upgraded room with club access, on a points redemption!

      • Lounge access, if you are Spire, seems to be getting quite common at CP’s recently.

        • As I am new to all this top tier hotel status stuff why is lounge access important to people – we tend to be up and out all day when staying in hotels. What does lounge access give you. I have IHG Spire and now Hilton Diamond status for my bookings in 2016.

          • It’s a way of getting the fabled “free” breakfast…and evening drinks.

          • A free light meal and free booze in the evening, a (light) free breakfast in the morning, somewhere to crash out during the day.

            It is a different environment to the restaurant which is more relaxing. You would happily leave your handbag on your table whilst you nipped to the loo, for example, which you would never do in a buffet breakfast.

    • Likewise it happened to me at HI Orchard Road Singapore, room upgrade no club access BUT they did provide the breakfast for free as way as an apology for the room not being ready (had a 5 minute wait!). Throughout the stay the hotel staff provided great service.

  11. OT: I need some help from the Hilton experts out there. I have just made my first Hilton cash booking for one night in Memphis next year. As I just got Diamond in the recent status match I paid for a King bed room with a 2 x points package. I have been given an offer of an estandby upgrade for $8 for a King bed deluxe room on the 20-23rd floor or executive level room for $25 or Regency room for $92. Is it worth paying out for this now or should I hold out and perhaps get a room available upgrade on check in (Aug). Also how do the points go – do I get 10 pts /$ + 5 pts /$ + the 50% Diamond elite bonus? Also I booked a separate 2nd night at the same hotel as I had almost £100 off via I know I won’t get points for the 2nd night but would I get the benefit of breakfast if I email them and get them to link the two bookings together. Thanks.

    • If you’re Diamond, I’d hold out for an upgrade on arrival. You’re likely to get something, unless the hotel is absolutely full. You’ll certainly get free breakfast and lounge access, so there is little point in paying extra for an Exec room if you’ll be getting the Exec benefits anyway!

    • I’ve never bothered with eStandby upgrades and have almost always had an upgrade (often a very nice one!). I’d consider contacting the property in advance.

      Points will be 10 per USD, then 5 per USD (if on points+points, 0 if on points+miles), then 5 per USD for being Diamond, plus 1000 per stay for being Diamond.

      They may extend benefits on an additional third-party night but will be very property-dependent. May also have a tiny risk of the non-earning third-party night being lumped in and making the whole thing non-earning. Shouldn’t happen but I know there can be issue when paid and reward stays are mixed…

      • Thanks Brian/Alan. I have one final night to book elsewhere en-route so I could always change the booking to a 2nd night paid. Was going to use that though to book another Hilton to get the benefit of bonus points in the first year of the credit card. Hope we don’t lose the benefits of the first night though – that would be a bummer!

  12. OT: Slightly OT but IC related. Any news on how long it is taking for the Ambassador welcome pack to come through? I’m just about to join on points and I want the certificate for early March.

    • There are ‘production delays’ at present but you can still book free weekend night stays before the voucher arrives via

      • Cheers Rob. I’ve joined. If the certificate doesn’t turn up by March will I just have to pay? Not the end of the world but not the plan either…..

        • Pretty sure it will be fixed by then, they usually arrive in about 3-4 weeks from joining. Ambassador has a dedicated support line so I reckon they could arrange something with the hotel if the worst came to the worst.

  13. Nick Burch says:

    Drop the IHG customer services team an email with the list of problems. Wait 2 days, then reply to their irrelevant response saying “can you please try reading my email again” (first line responses are always garbage from IHG). Second line support ought to read that and reach out to the hotel to sort you some compensation points. There may be an oversupply of hotels, but that many issues with an IC isn’t on, so complain to them!

  14. We just came back from a 4 night stay at the Al Raha Beach Resrt on Yas Island and thought it was an awesome resort! Managed to get a really good deal on Hotwire ( 5 star with beach on Yas Island – its the only one). There is a small mall connected to the hotel, as well as a really great pool & pool bar, plus a small beach (but like others in AD its more of a creek, but still nice!). It also has a bunch of restaurants and an Irish Bar that does happy hour from 12 – 10pm which was nice for a pre-dinner drink that didnt cost the earth!

    All in all, staff and hotel were excellent and if you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing beach holiday in winter I’d highly recommend this resort!

  15. I’ve been upgraded to Club rooms 4 times, and each time it has not come with lounge access. I have yet to see the inside of an intercon lounge!

    • St Regis is generally seen as a complete joke (see my Doha review from last year) so you’re not setting much of a bar there ….

      The nature of the hotel business is that all chains have stars and stinkers – even Four Seasons. The key is to focus on the former and identify the latter. Park Hyatt is generally the most ‘reliable’ of the chain-owned luxury brands.

  16. So to sum up your complaints were:

    1) You had to open the door yourself
    2) You weren’t given complimentary lounge access
    3) Breakfast was busy with lots of ‘downmarket’ people

    • 1) is not a good sign at a five star luxury hotel

      2) no, my complaint was that I am due a GUARANTEED upgrade by virtue of my Ambassador status (which costs $200 per year) and the hotel weasled out of it despite the fact I was the only person, give or take, paying the ‘proper’ rate in the whole place

      3) my complaint / comment is that business travellers expect certain levels of service and facilities, all of which are meant to make their trip more productive and / or smoother. This sort of breakfast service is not condusive to that sort of environment. At the end of the day, you pay a premium for the IC compared to many other hotels and that is the reason why.

      (Similarly, if you booked into a W hotel for a weekend of partying and found that it had been block-booked by a convention of actuaries with you being the only non-actuary in the building, you may be equally annoyed :-) )

  17. There are a few hotels that advertise a beach (Fairmont, Shangri-La, Ritz-Carlton) that open onto an inland water way as opposed to open sea. This may affect the enjoyment of some guests. Kempinski Emirates Palace has an amazing beach, close to the Corniche but comes with a hefty price tag. The St Regis and Park Hyatt (both on Saadiyat Island) are by far firm favourites of mine for a beach chill & flop in pleasant surroundings and are more realistically priced in my opinion.

    • Park Hyatt probably wins for me because the resort spend made over the course of a week usually allows for a decent wodge of hyatt passport points that can be converted to avios. It’s also not too big a resort in order to be conceived as inpersonal

  18. The lack of lounge access despite Ambassador Spire upgrade was the only negative at IC Hong Kong (not the Stamford). It was a (costly) option.

    It would be nice to think that lounge access in IC on upgrade might be one of the additional benefits of Spire that are supposed to be coming in 2016. I won’t hold my breath…..

  19. You had to open a door all by yourself!? Good heavens.

    Sorry, I know that’s probably a legitimate complaint for the sort of people who stay in these properties but I just can’t take that seriously!

    • If you’d turned up with your family, a buggy and 4 suitcases, you wouldn’t be laughing.

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        I agree with you Rob. It isn’t whether one is capable of opening a door oneself – I presume you are otherwise life would be quite difficult ! – but more that there are a certain set of amenities expected at a 5 star hotel.

        A professional, respectful greeting at the front door is one of those for you – and it is for me too.

  20. I see both sides here rob, i agree with ‘door gate’ it’s not that you refuse to open your own door you just expect a decent 5 star hotel to have this as a basic welcome. I get what your saying but can I just ask as a complete novice why book the IC? I wouldn’t ever consider it a decent business hotel chain, I always find them over priced 80’s chince that sometimes push themselves into the 90’s if you’re lucky.

    I always associate IC with those big throws on the beds etc. I would certainly never pay a premium for it in fact I avoid at all costs!

    I would say there are other decent business class hotels that you could have found more suitable I would suggest Sofitel corniche for starters.

    • My Accelerate target is worth £400 of free stays so it was foolish not to tick off a box for that. I needed a 4pm late check-out (which the Sofitel would not have given me) in order to avoid getting stuck – Ambassador guarantees that.

      I would say that IC is generally regarded as the best of the major chains behind Park Hyatt in terms of hotel quality. It has some exceptionally good hotels (Paris, Hong Kong, Sydney, Amsterdam) and some very good ones. Obviously a few stinkers as well but you can’t have it all! Paris, HK, Sydney and London have all had £50m – £100m spent on refurbishments in the last 5 years or so. New York (The Barclay) re-opens in May after a total gutting and the other NYC hotel is very new.

      Looks at my pics of the IC Bordeaux which has just opened to see what they can do. Also worth noting that Dublin used to be a Four Seasons until last year and was furnished by FS.

      • Totally see why you stayed here, Rob – must say I’ve not been massively impressed with the ICs I’ve stayed at so far (Wellington & SFO) – Conrad (esp Singapore) and WA Rome have been more impressive.

  21. I read this article having just checked out of the Sheraton Furteventura. An acceptable hotel on the surface but dominated by the package tourist.
    Upon trying to check out at the SPG plat counter, I was directed to the back of the main queue at the non SPG counter and instructed to wait my turn!
    In the meantime my wife and child were in the room still waiting for someone to come and collect the bags. After 20 minutes of being told someone is on the way, she had to carry them herself along with a small child.
    Again, in a similar vein to Raffles at IC Abu Dhabi, queuing up is not beyond me nor is carrying my own bags but you expect certain things as an elite member and it ended the stay on a sour note.
    I’m not even sure whether it is worth complaining as the management clearly don’t care for loyalty members. Or maybe I should contact SPG directly?