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Review: Burj Al Arab, Dubai – “the world’s most luxurious hotel” (Part 2)

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This is the second part of my review of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.

Part 1 of my Burj Al Arab review is here if you missed it.

Butler service

The hotel promises butler service. It doesn’t exist.

This is the butler desk outside our room. In theory we shared this person with the other seven rooms on the floor:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

In reality, over the three days we were in the hotel, I saw this desk occupied a grand total of once.

Some other random Burj Al Arab shots …..

Before I head outside, here are some more OTT interior shots. This is the restaurant where a terrible a la carte breakfast is served (on our first day we waited an hour for the food, which arrived either cold or in miniscule portions) which also acts as a bar in the evening.

This is a PR photo, which doesn’t show the astonishing view as you are virtually on the top floor here:

Burj Al Arab review Dubai

Here are the lifts on our floor:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

and:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

This is taken from outside our room:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

Facilities

Here is the odd thing about the Burj. Until a couple of years ago, it had no real facilities of its own.

It has no dedicated beach. It shares part of the beach of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel next door, which is reserved for Burj guests and ‘executive level’ guests at Jumeirah Beach. It is quiet but not exactly high class.

On the other side of the approach road is a new beach club called Summersalt. This is accessible to guests of Jumeirah’s Al Naseem hotel, Burj guests plus anyone else willing to pay. This IS classy, but as children are not allowed in for lunch I didn’t get a proper look. If you go as a couple I would stick with this.

Of course, you can also use the other 2km (not a typo) of beach which Jumeirah controls. Cross-charging is allowed across all of their hotels. This also means, of course, that booking the cheapest room at Jumeirah Beach Hotel gets you the same beach and cross-charging privileges as staying at the Burj for many times the price.

The new beach deck

To address this, a couple of years ago the Burj built a large deck in front of the hotel. Since this is built over the sea it was a trickier job than you would think. Here is a PR shot:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

The Burj now has its own beach club, albeit with no beach. This is NOT exclusive to hotel guests as they appear to sell memberships. It is fair to say that, over the weekend, it looked like the sort of crowd you would expect to see on Sir Philip Green’s yacht. Once the weekend was over it became far more pleasant.

The decor of the beach deck is utterly, totally different to the hotel. It is very classy.

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

….. and

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

Along with the pool at Four Seasons Athens (which is a beach resort, despite the name) it is about as close as I have got to being transported back to the jet set age of the 1950’s.

I can’t comment on the hotel restaurants because most were still closed. We ate our evening meals at Madinat Jumeirah next door, being whisked around by golf buggy.

Guests get free access to the Wild Wadi water adjacent. Whilst this saves £200 for a family of four, this is a perk you get at all of the Jumeirah hotels so it is not a reason to specifically stay at the Burj.

Conclusion

A review of the Burj Al Arab cannot have a meaningful conclusion. It operates in its own little world, and you either want to try it or you don’t.

Putting on my Mr Logical hat, it may make financial sense for a family compared to booking two connecting rooms at one of the other five star Jumeirah resorts.

Apart from that, you would stay because you’d done everything else. Because you are bored with hotels where you don’t get a mirror over your bed, or a grand staircase in your room, and you are relatively ambivalent about the cost.

Don’t stay here for a high-service experience. If you are on a special trip with a loved one, get down to the Four Seasons. (EDIT: comments below suggest that recent developments nearby mean the FS is now less pleasant than it was. Perhaps Mandarin Oriental or Bulgari are better choices now.)

Don’t book in if you have to scrimp and save to get the money together because it’s not worth it unless you get a deal like ours and it isn’t ‘special’ enough for that sort of treat.

There is no scenario under which I would have stayed here for more than a couple of days. I also don’t think that I would go back unless it was cheaper than two connecting rooms elsewhere.

I’ve ticked it off the bucket list though, and I don’t regret doing it for what we paid. It was good to do something a bit daft to end 2020. It also means I have a bathroom of Hermes toiletries at home to keep me going until the shops re-open …..

If you are thinking of booking Burj Al Arab, you may be able to get a lower rate than the Jumeirah website by contacting Emyr Thomas, our luxury hotel booking partner, via this page. The rate he obtained for me was almost Dhs 1,000 per night lower than the cheapest online rate.


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Comments (86)

  • Gary says:

    @Rob – You missed out the most important part – How much was a beer?

    • ChrisW says:

      Its a minimum of £10 for a Heineken everywhere in Dubai isn’t it?

      • Rob says:

        Basically. The (mid level) restaurant we went to one night, not in a hotel, wanted £70 for prosecco and £200 for house champagne, with far more for branded bottles. The Government basically says ‘we don’t approve of drinking but if you pay us enough alcohol tax we’ll let you off’.

        • Andrew says:

          Alcohol tax in Qatar is now 100%.

        • ChrisW says:

          Is there anywhere in the Middle East that actually has affordable alcohol? I know they would probably love every single person who visits to be a devout Muslim but money talks and they’ve turned a blind eye to other deviations like unmarried couples sharing hotel beds. For all the ‘partying’ and ‘nightlife’ lifestyle that Dubai promotes the reality is that alcohol is so expensive you are unlikely to ‘party’ very hard unless you have money to burn.

          I remember Egypt a few years ago being very cheap for everything except alcohol which was still very expensive, hard to find, and low quality. Given the Middle East’s ideal climate for a winter getaway from the UK you’d think somewhere would realise this and create cheap and cheerful winter holidays like the Canaries do….

          • Anna says:

            They’ve probably seen what happens when you give Brits access to a lot of cheap alcohol on holiday!

          • paul says:

            Saudi Arabia…LOL….when I lived there we made our own wine and beer and the Filipinos made sidiqui. That was 1983-85!!

          • Genghis says:

            I remember having a great time on the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan in 2007 in the proper “old school” bar; barman with a bow tie etc. Prices v reasonable. Didn’t drink much that holiday, granted.

        • Mike says:

          Just like Turkey.

  • Mo says:

    “sort of crowd you would expect to see on Sir Philip Green’s yacht”

    Can somebody explain what that crowd would be as I have no idea 😂

  • Will says:

    Bar the gold leaf and Rolls Royce limos, I have always failed to understand what is so “7” star about this hotel. I’ve visited the lobby, seen (not stayed) a room and had afternoon tea in the top floor bar. The building feels like a modern day council tower block, yes the rooms are eccentric but the novelty of stairs is over very quickly. The gold leaf…nice but…who really cares?! As for the afternoon tea well it was a shambles. Warm champagne. Stale bread with limp cucumber. Clearly the poor standards of food/services have never changed. This is more a 4.6 star hotel. Plenty of better ones.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It needs a wholesale refurbishment. I’m sure there is a team of interior designers somewhere working out how they can drag it out of the 1970’s somewhere.

    • ChrisW says:

      Didn’t they just start calling themselves a 7 star hotel and nobody questioned it? If there’s no official ranking beyond five star isn’t it therefore also a 6 star and 8 star hotel?

      • The real John says:

        Each country has its own star standards.

        • Rob says:

          The hotel claims that this was something that a journalist cooked up and was picked up by others. The hotel has never used this in its own marketing apparently.

    • US says:

      Only real benefit i got was the Waterpark free access and the beach on the other hotels ran by the Jumeirah Group 🤣.

  • US says:

    Stayed at the Burj Arab over Christmas, got the Presidential suite which contained over 2 floors. Which was amazing as it was my first time here. With the people who I came with, they have been here quite a few times, apparently it wasn’t upto standard and service wasn’t as good as it was before Covid.

    • ChrisW says:

      Dubai is well known for poor service standards. Most of the service staff are transient migrants workers, unlikely to be there for the long-haul so not as invested in the business as someone who might hope to be running the place one day.

      I also think there’s a disconnect where those giving the training have probably never stayed in a luxury property themselves so wouldn’t necessarily know exactly what guests are looking for.

      • mr_jetlag says:

        There’s no incentive for staff to give proper 5* service (as understood by the West) in Dubai, as most of the clientele are used to having servants underfoot and treat hotel staff like garbage / slave labor.

        Having stayed at several Marriots, the Burj, JBH, plus the Sheratons and Rosewood in Abu Dhabi I’ve commiserated with many of the bar staff (mainly South Asian / Filipino / EE) and their abuse stories would chill your blood.

      • PK says:

        Really? I was on business about 5 years ago in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and after London i thought the service was fantastic. Maybe London just has shocking service that anything is better? But I am North American…

        • JP-MCO says:

          Like any major city London has wildly inconsistent service levels. If you want great service try either The Lanesborough or 45 Park Lane. I stay at them for business frequently and both have consistently excellent service levels. North American service is in general excellent, I grant you.

        • US says:

          Agreed, as for someone who lives in London. Unless its Park lane or Mayfair, the service level is very inconsistent. Also i travel to North america/Canada every year, service there is a lot more better and consistent.

          • Nic says:

            It is not just the service, the general quality of hotels and what they charge in the UK is obscene. Many British people are far too accepting of poor service and being ripped off

  • Nigel W says:

    Interesting reading this review, I stayed there in 2004 on a family holiday!

    Memories back then was service was great (and a bit Big Brother-esque). The Burj did use to have their own beach and beach club. I remember one time us leaving our room with a receptionist sitting at the ‘Butler Desk’ (we did have an actual butler for our room, who did other rooms on the floor as well) to head to this beach club and somehow (maybe because we were dressed in beach attire), the beach club knew exactly who we were the moment we got off the hotel buggy.

    • mr_jetlag says:

      I stayed in 2006, this was the same beach club Rob mentioned that was/is shared with JBH and is “off island”. We were golf carted there and back with towels and refreshments. It sounds like there is additional (non beach) space now “on-island”.

  • Nigel W says:

    Also Rob, you could see those Hermes products if they have the Burj branding on them. I did that a year or two ago and made some ££££ from it!

    • Darren says:

      Had a clear out once and sold my Amex Platinum luggage tags once, I was astonished what someone would pay for such tat.

  • Nigel W says:

    Now you mention it. I remember we got along with our Butler so much that he took us on a tour of the Presidental and Royal Suite!

  • elt says:

    We enjoyed dinner in the underwater restaurant ( accessed by “submarine”) maybe some 10 yrs ago. Was not outrageously expensive but entitled us to view hotel.
    We were staying in a real cheapy hotel and travelled there by public bus, cost approx one pence. As my luggage had been lost I was in flipflops. Hotel staff were surprised but had to let us in as i had booked.

    • Pierre says:

      We also enjoyed dinner in the underwater restaurant. But I would say it is rather expensive, we paid north of $200 just for a fish for 2 – the bill itself was quite a bit more.
      Still loved it though – the restaurant itself is gorgeous!

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