Review: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa (part of Marriott Bonvoy) in Dubai – Part 2

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This is Part 2 of our review of the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai.

Part 1 of our Al Maha review can be found here – we had to split it due to length!

Al Maha is one of the most iconic redemptions available via Marriott Bonvoy and exceptional value given the high cash rates.  When Caroline, who wrote our recent piece of the Azuma train launch, spent the night there – using Marriott Bonvoy points – I was keen to run a review.  Back to Caroline:

“At just after 5pm we wandered over to the lobby to meet up with other guests and the rangers ahead of the evening’s activities.   In the bar area was a delicious spread of juices, teas, coffees, treats and cakes that we could help ourselves to while we chatted to the rangers.

Just before 6pm we were led down to the area in front of the main pool where two ‘trains’ of camels were waiting for us.  The camel handlers helped choose guests for each camel – two guests per beast!   It was very well organised, and we were given clear instructions about how to hold on while the camels went from seated to standing and vice versa.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Caroline on Camel

Soon we were on our way, with rangers and handlers on foot, kindly offering to take photos while the camels carried us into the dessert:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai camel trekking

The walk took around twenty minutes and we found ourselves rendezvousing with the 4×4 contingent in a dune at a specially prepared table.  It was set out with sparkling wine, beer, soft drinks, strawberries and snacks for us to enjoy while we watched the sun go down.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai sunset snacks

After sundown, we got back on our camels to make our way back to the resort and headed for the outdoor terrace to enjoy cocktails and the very welcome happy hour which runs from 6-8pm!  By this time, it was pitch black, and we sat up on the Hajar Terrace Bar staring out into the dunes towards the lit-up man-made oasis while we worked our way through the cocktail list.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Al Diwaan restaurant terrace

Our evening meal was once again taken in the Al Diwaan restaurant, dining outdoors – there is also the option to dine on your private terrace.  You are also able to opt to dine out in the desert should you so desire!

The dinner menu included oysters, Wagyu beef, fois gras, scallops and lobster to name a few of the delicious ingredients.  The presentation was once again fantastic and all food was piping hot and clearly very freshly cooked.  At this point I really should complement the amazing staff at the resort.  The waiting service was simply wonderful, and nothing was too much trouble. The staff really do go all out to ensure you have everything you could possibly need, and they genuinely seem to care that you are having the best time possible.

At the end of the meal and following the cheese plate we were surprised by our waiter bringing an absolutely amazing chocolate cream torte with Happy Anniversary written on it!   We thanked him profusely but asked if we might be able to enjoy it the following day, as neither of us could honestly manage another thing!   He fully understood and said they would refrigerate it and we could take it away with us when we left which was very kind.

We retired once to our suite and sat under the night stars to enjoy the dry port as a welcome digestive!   With a 5.30am wake up call for the birds of prey, we sank into the luxurious bed and slept like logs, waking just in time to enjoy the sunrise!

Morning

Sunrise over the desert was wonderful.  Not only were the birds back in full song, we got to enjoy the sight of hot air balloons gently drifting over the dunes as we wandered down to our rendezvous point.   Teas and coffees and breakfast treats were laid out for us to help ourselves to before going down to the ‘demonstration’ area just in front of the restaurant.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai snacks

Once we were all seated, a ranger and bird of prey handler told us all about the history of how the Bedouin hunters used falcons to catch food and how they build up their relationship with and train their falcons to hunt their prey including hares and even small gazelles.

It was absolutely fascinating to hear about how the birds were initially captured, and how they quickly became an important member of the family.

Whilst no longer an integral part of putting food on the table, falconry is still an important and cultural sport in the UAE and it’s wonderful to see the bond between the trainer and his birds.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai falconry

We listened to stories and watched demonstrations with both falcons and an eagle and even got to hold the majestic creatures in turn!

By 10am and after a 5.30am start, we had both developed a good appetite for breakfast, so we headed off once again to the restaurant!

Helping ourselves to freshly squeezed watermelon juice, we explored the amazing buffet spread as well as the kitchen area where a chef was preparing freshly cooked eggs, omelettes, waffles and pancakes to order.  There were a number of different buffet stations where you could help yourself to a huge array of international cuisine including dim sum, Arabic sweet and savoury dishes, cold meats and smoked salmon, as well as the usual pastries, yoghurt, fresh fruit and juices.   As well as this, there was an a la carte offering which included cooked breakfast include fillet steak medallions which I could not resist.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai a la carte filet medallion breakfast

After breakfast, we rolled back to our suite to enjoy our last hour and pack our bags before our car came to pick us up and drive us back to the city.

One point of note. I did not book the return car journey when making the outbound reservation, and on arrival, I was horrified to see the prices had shot up to $160 one way with Blacklane, which was similar to the prices on offer by the resort.  I remembered reading on Flyertalk that someone had recommended a car company Airport Taxi Transfers and I checked them out. Luckily their prices were much more reasonably at just around $50 dollars for a one-way transfer.

All too soon it was time to depart and we were collected from our suite by a golf buggy.

Conclusion

Despite a short visit, we really did pack in some amazing experiences and enjoyed some delicious food.   I would definitely love to visit again and would recommend a 2-3 night break as being ideal.  That said, it is definitely worth considering booking 5 nights on points for the cost of 4 which is Marriot’s ongoing redemption offer.

Next time we would love to have a go at the archery and 4×4 dune driving activities and I would definitely want to do the sundowner camel trek again too.  Ideally, we’d plan two nights to relax at the end of a stay in Dubai, rather than at the beginning as we had done.

All in all, this was one of the nicest hotels stays I have ever enjoyed, with excellent service and attention to detail when it comes to the amenities and the comforts in the room.  It’s definitely one to add to a bucket list of amazing experiences and The Al Maha Desert Resort gets a solid ten out of ten from us!”

Thanks Caroline.  The Al Maha website is here if you want to find out more.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points via UK credit cards

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

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, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade and Melia Rewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Marriott Bonvoy points.

Review: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa (part of Marriott Bonvoy) in Dubai - Part 1
Reviewing Jurys Rewards - is the Jurys Inn reward scheme any good?
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Comments

  1. Great review, thanks
    Can I please ask if the hotel is all inclusive, why is there a happy hour?

    • It said “full board” earlier in the article, so I’m guessing that meals are provided but not alcoholic drinks.

      • Roberto says:

        It did say “full board” in part one, however it also said “the resort is all inclusive” too..

        Looks like somewhere I would like to stay, unlike Dubai itself which came across as pretty chavy to be honest. Its a shopping centre in the desert with no real substance IMO.

      • Caroline says:

        All food is included. Alcoholic drinks are extra. From 6-8pm they operated a happy hour giving 2 drinks for the price of one (same drink) … in your room there is a mini bar with charges, but there is also a decanter of local white port (maybe 250mls) that is complimentary – I presume this is for all guests – not sure if it would be refilled each day as we were only there one night. Bottled water in your room and in the gym/spa is plentiful and complimentary.

    • Bad editing on my part, that’s why! It is full board.

  2. David says:

    Great review – thanks, Caroline!

    Does anyone know when/if Marriott Bonvoy are actually going to implement their peak vs off peak rates?

  3. Great reviews, bring some back good memories of our stay at Al Maha last year.

    One thing I’d recommend instead of all 3 meals in the restaurant, is having breakfast and lunch in the room by your own pool. Much more relaxing, you can still choose from the full menu, and they do an excellent job of setting up, with two waiters coming and laying the table and setting up all the food!

    The occasional Oryx passing by (very harmless) also adds to the character!

  4. Looking at the website. It has rates with and without breakfast and the hotel also shows the rate for breakfast. Has the hotel changed from being all inclusive or is that still the case for Bonvoy redemptions ? Lastly, are the 2 activities per person still valid for Bonvoy redemptions ?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      All rates are full board with 2 activities and 3 meals a day included.

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