In the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, a modest drive from Dubai, is a luxury tent and villa resort in the desert. Called Al Wadi Desert (home page here) it used to be run by Banyan Tree which gives you an idea of how upmarket it is.
Management of the property recently passed to Ritz-Carlton. It is currently available for redemption at EXTREMELY attractive rates as an introductory offer. So attractive, in fact, that I’ve booked my family in for a few days in October before we head to our usual beach resort in Dubai.
The resort consists of 101 individual pool villas. Yes, every villa has its own private pool. The smallest villas are a modest 1,700 square feet. The larger tented villas, pictured above, are 2,700 square feet.
Each villa sleeps four. Due to a website bug it will tell you that you can’t book for four people but it even has a special (cash) rate for families of four, so ignore that! The hotel confirmed to me that all villas take either two adults and two children or three adults. Not suprising, at 1,700 square feet!
There is a dedicated kids club and a decent range of activities to keep you occupied for a few days of peace and quiet in the desert.
Let’s get to price.
Villas are currently just 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. This is the equivalent of 13,333 Starwood Preferred Guest points if you transfer them over.
The hotel isn’t restricting just the cheapest villas to reward redemptions either. The 2nd room category, ‘Enclosed Pool Villa’, is also available.
In October, an Enclosed Pool Villa is selling for Dhs 3,038 including taxes. This is £660 per night.
40,000 Marriott Rewards points is, not surprisingly, a steal in comparison. You are getting triple my usual valuation of 0.5p per point.
TripAdvisor reviews recently are generally very positive (see here) although it is clear that the transition from Banyan Tree to Ritz-Carlton has been a little bumpy.
I wouldn’t want to spend my entire holiday in a desert resort. They are generally recommended for 2-3 nights before moving on to a beach resort with a bit more bustle. If you want to stay in Ras and save a lot of money over Dubai hotels, take a look at my review of the Waldorf-Astoria on the beach here (hotel website here).
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (August 2022)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.
You can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:
- American Express Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus Amex points)
and for small business owners:
- American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Business Platinum (40,000 bonus Amex points)
The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)