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Review: the InterContinental Abu Dhabi hotel – it is good news and bad news

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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 InterContinental.

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.  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 InterContinental 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.

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Comments (61)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • K Garfit says:

    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.

    • Brian says:

      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).

      • Rob says:

        …. which I stay in enough to justify the valuation!

        0.5p easily doable on HI’s in the regions.

  • Gavin says:

    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.

    • Ben_mw says:

      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!

      • Rob says:

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

        • Liz says:

          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.

          • Leo says:

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

          • Rob says:

            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.

    • CV3V says:

      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.

  • Liz says:

    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.

    • Brian says:

      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!

    • Alan says:

      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…

  • Leo says:

    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.

    • Leo says:

      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…..

      • Rob says:

        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.

  • 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!

  • Chris says:

    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!

  • Nick says:

    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!

    • Rob says:

      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.

  • Andrew says:

    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

    • Rob says:

      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 🙂 )

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