This is my review of The Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.
We stayed at Al Wadi just before Christmas, leaving on Christmas Eve. I booked the stay using Marriott Bonvoy points and as I wrote here it was the best value Bonvoy redemption I have ever done.
This was my 2nd visit to Al Wadi. I stayed in 2017, just after The Ritz Carlton had taken it over from Banyan Tree. On that stay we had a ‘tent’ which is the top end accommodation. This time we had a villa, which is the only points option.
To save you flicking back and forth, I have included some pictures from my 2017 review here so you can compare the two options. My son is now a lot bigger than the picture above!
I want to say upfront that I was very impressed by what The Ritz Carlton has done to the resort in the last three years. The derelict family pool has been brought back to life and new food and drink options added. We all agreed that it was the best bit of our 17 night holiday, mainly because it is genuinely laid back here with none of the madness of Dubai.
We came from the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai which I reviewed here. With four of us, we took a Mercedes V-Class via Blacklane for just over £100. A cab for a couple would be nearer £40. The trip took 65 minutes.
You don’t enter ‘downtown’ Ral Al Khaimah on the way, so you feel a bit more remote than you actually are.
Check-in was friendly and our two connecting villas were ready. I discussed the amazing Platinum Elite welcome gift we received in this article.
Al Rimal villas at The Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert
The standard ‘room’ at Al Wadi Desert is the 1,700 square foot Al Rimal villa. If you live in London this is likely to be bigger than where you live, although I think the square footage includes the pool. All villas come with a private pool – so we got two.
The Al Rimal villas look like a mini housing estate from the outside but the interiors, fully renovated, are very impressive.
Inside you have a bathroom at the back, then the bedroom, then a sitting area, then an outdoor patio and then your pool. Starting at the back, the bathroom is h-u-g-e:
and (toiletries are Asprey):
Here is the bedroom:
and if you look up:
I don’t seem to have a photo of the sitting area, so let’s move on to the patio, the pool and the open view into the nature reserve:
Before you ask – yes, animals do come up to you. What you can’t see clearly from the picture, however, is that the pool is about six feet off the ground.
If you really aren’t keen on having wildlife coming up to you, some villas have enclosed pools. When you book you will see both options offered.
Al Khaimah tented villas at The Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert
For comparison, let’s jump back to 2017 and compare with a tented pool villa:
The tented villa was, easily, one of the top five places I have ever stayed in. It is 2,700 square feet.
The bathroom takes up 50% of the space – it is huge:
…. with an amazing glassed shower ….
….. and of course a private pool. These are bigger and more open, since there isn’t a wall to one side, than the one you get in the Al Rimal villas:
The tents certainly have more of a ‘wow’ factor, and are fully detached. The villas are semi-detached.
If you pay a little extra, you can book a ‘secluded’ tent which has no immediate neighbours. The ones I saw from the outside also seemed to have better views because they had specifically located to maximise their position.
However, let’s not be picky. Both offer a very high standard of accommodation and you won’t be disappointed whichever you choose.
The resort now has a ‘no upgrades’ policy for Marriott Bonvoy elites, which is allowed as per The Ritz Carlton brand rules. This is clearly flagged when you book so you can’t complain that you didn’t know about it.
This may explain the generous welcome gifts given to elite members, which I covered here. The resort was full when we visited so it wasn’t an option anyway.
You can negotiate an upgrade for cash, I believe, when the resort is not full. If you book for cash instead of points, the difference is usually around £200 per night. This is very modest given that our villa was £1,000 per night in the week before Christmas, although you will pay a lot less off-peak.
This is the end of Part 1. In Part 2 of our Al Wadi Resort review – click here – I look at the wide range of things to do around the resort.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards (April 2021)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
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.
You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).
(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.)