This is my review of the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah hotel.
I outlined the booking process for my stay in this article. To save money (this was not an official review trip) I booked via American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts to get a noon check-in and guaranteed 4pm check-out. This got me 28 hours in the hotel.
Let’s be clear upfront. My experiences as a guy on his own on a business trip staying here for 28 hours are not going to be the same as yours if you want to come for a week with two young children. That said, I have stayed in or visited many of the top Dubai hotels with two young children so I know what is out there.
Two years ago I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria resort in Ras Al Khaimah, about an hours drive from Dubai. My review of the Waldorf in Ras in here. The Ras hotel is very similar – arguably slightly better – but costs substantially less. The two key questions are therefore:
Is it worth paying a big premium to stay in Waldorf Astoria Dubai compared to the Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah?
How does the Waldorf – stuck out on the Palm – compare to other family beach resorts in Dubai?
I will answer both of these questions in Part 2.
Arrival and my room
Despite planning to arrive by noon, sleeping in at Hyatt Place and slow traffic meant it was nearer 1pm when I arrived. The hotel had called me in advance of my stay (an impressively low key call with no attempt to sell me anything) and I told them I would arrive as early as I was entitled to, at noon. They would not guarantee a room, of course, but implied I would be OK. And I was.
As I have Hilton Diamond status and had booked via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts I was entitled to multiple benefits. In reality all I got was a free drink voucher for being a Diamond. I already had free breakfast and $100 hotel credit as Amex FHR benefits.
Here is the ‘brand standard’ Waldorf clock in the lobby. In truth, apart from the clock, you could be anywhere. The hotel could rebrand overnight – there is nothing especially ‘Waldorf’ about it.
A look through the building:
In terms of overall design, layout and style, it is not as good as the Ras Al Khaimah hotel. You need to put this in context though – if you dropped this hotel into the UK it would potentially be the most luxurious in the country.
The good news about the rooms here is that they are big, at 55 square metres. The bad news is that the hotel has a bad reputation for respecting Hilton Honors status.
I had deliberately booked the worst room category. Whilst the same size at the rest, there are a handful which don’t face the water – which is front and back of the hotel, as it is on the Palm – but instead face the District Cooling facility (a brown concrete block) next door. Bizarrely the price gap is only around £10 per night and you really don’t want to book this if you have no status.
I thought, as I was Diamond and only there for one night, they might give me a suite of some sort. Instead I got the smallest possible upgrade to a room on the side which has the road, not the beach, between you and the water. My Diamond status was effectively worth nothing, as Amex FHR got me an upgrade anyway. The hotel was nowhere near full, by the way, with all room categories still showing for sale.
(Note that, whilst the hotel has a lounge, even Diamond members do not get automatic access because Waldorf Astoria hotels are specifically excluded from this status perk. I never saw it so there are no pictures.)
Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Dubai
You really can’t complain about the quality of the rooms. A lot of money has been spent here. Unfortunately, due to the design of the hotel – it is shaped like a ‘6’ and I was was in the circular part – it was a long walk back to the beach, reception and restaurants.
It was very classy and I was suitably impressed. There was also a walk-in wardrobe, not pictured. Here is the marble-clad bathroom:
….. which came with Ferragamo toiletries and a TV above the bath.
I was a little disappointed by the spartan balcony:
…. but, given that I was on the ‘wrong’ side of the hotel, the view was still pretty good. I should say that, because the Palm is a dead end road-wise, and the Waldorf is virtually the last property, there is very little traffic on the road.
One thing that annoyed me, perhaps unreasonably, was the card on my desk inviting me to buy an apartment in a new building from the same developer, Habtoor. Other Habtoor promotional material was on display in the public areas. It isn’t what I expect from a luxury hotel.
Restaurant options at Waldorf Astoria Dubai
Part 2 will focus on the outdoor areas so I just want to touch on the restaurants here. Don’t ask me about the spa because I didn’t go in.
The headline restaurant is Social by Heinz Beck, a high profile German chef who once ran the restaurant at The Lanesborough in London.
Pricing, even by Dubai standards, was a little crazy. You are looking at around Dhs 130 for an appetiser and around Dhs 200 for a main (plus another Dhs 47 for each side dish). Dinner for two with a bottle of wine is likely to run to over £300. I’m not sure how many rooms the hotel is selling via package holidays, but the clientele at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai did not look like the crowd to drop £300 on a dinner.
The other eating options are LAO (Vietnamese), Mezzerie (all-day international dining, which is where breakfast is served) and Palm Avenue by the pool. I had two lunches in Palm Avenue and they were totally acceptable. I didn’t go in LAO. I did have breakfast in Mezzerie, see:
….. which was OK. By any normal standards you would class it as very good, but it falls below the OTT breakfast buffets you will get in many Middle East resorts. Remember that breakfast at Waldorf Astoria hotels is now free to Gold and Diamond Hilton Honors members which is one reason why you may want to stay here.
To finish Part 1, let’s talk about location. I have reviewed hotels on the Palm before. The location stinks.
It takes 15 minutes to drive off the Palm from the Waldorf Astoria Dubai. That is just to get onto the mainland – you then need to factor in travel time to where you want to go. If you plan to be out and about in Dubai then you will go mad after a couple of days.
The upside is that hotels on the exterior of the Palm have water on both sides, so there are no duff rooms in terms of view except for a handful on one side which face the windowless wall of the desalination plant next door.
If you simply want to sit in the resort all day, of course, it’s not a problem. However, if that is your plan, why not stay in the cheaper Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah? The properties are identical in many ways.
I recommend relying on Uber if you want to get around Dubai. However, the hotel does run a very restricted free shuttle bus (only 5 trips per day, only 6 days per week) to Mall of the Emirates which takes 45 minutes. It also stops at the Atlantis hotel round the corner which saves you a walk if you want to visit their waterpark. Alternatively, a Bentley Flying Spur is also available …. price unknown.
There are also no waves on the Palm. Stay at any of the beach resorts on the mainland and you get some impressive waves coming in when there is a bit of a breeze. These are great fun to jump around in. The water at the Waldorf is calm 24/7, since your beach is virtually on a lake, but of course that may be a plus for some people.
In Part 2 of our Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah review – click here – I will look at the pool and beach in detail.
There is also a 2-minute video available on our YouTube site which you can watch here.
The Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah website is here if you want to find out more.
How to earn Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards (June 2021)
There are various ways of earning Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
Did you know that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are a great way of earning Hilton Honors points? Two Virgin Points can be converted in three Hilton Honors points. You can apply here.
You can also earn Hilton Honors points indirectly via American Express Gold, the American Express Rewards Credit Card and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold and Business Platinum.
(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.)