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Review: The Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort in Ras Al Khaimah

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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.

Max Burgess with a falcon

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.

The Al Wadi Desert website is here.

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

Arrival

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.

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

Accommodation

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.

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

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:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort hotel Ras Al Khaimah

and (toiletries are Asprey):

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort hotel Ras Al Khaimah

Here is the bedroom:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort hotel Ras Al Khaimah

and if you look up:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort hotel Ras Al Khaimah

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:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort hotel Ras Al Khaimah

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:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort hotel Ras Al Khaimah

The tented villa was, easily, one of the top five places I have ever stayed in.  It is 2,700 square feet.

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

The bathroom takes up 50% of the space – it is huge:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

…. with an amazing glassed shower ….

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

….. 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:

Review Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert Ras Al Khaimah

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.

No upgrades

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.

You can find out more about Al Wadi Desert on the website here.


How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (October 2021)

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 usually 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.

American Express Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

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.

Until 2nd November 2021, The Platinum Card comes with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points. This converts into 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (30,000 bonus points – special offer to 9th November 2021), 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).

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy 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.)

Comments (27)

  • Steve S says:

    Ironic that this was featured today.
    My Facebook memories has just reminded me I was “chilling at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel after a Day at Wild Wadi water park”
    Next year it will remind me I was out for a walk freezing in Yorkshire.

  • Kate says:

    Now curious to know the rest of the top 5 places you’ve ever stayed in….

    • Rob says:

      Top 5 room, not necessarily Top 5 place.

      If I’m honest I struggle to think of a more impressive room I’ve had than that tent. It was also, at the time, the first place I’d ever stayed at where we had a private pool which had extra novelty.

      • BP says:

        Still interested whether rooms or places!

        • BP says:

          Mine rooms are:
          2 Bedroom Penthouse @ Aria Sky Suites Vegas
          Garden Pool Villa @ Fusion Phu Quoc
          Terrace Suite @ Intercon Danang
          Beachfront Pool Villa @ Intercon Koh Samui
          Sala Pool Villa @ Sala Koh Samui

  • Jim says:

    How and why did you ignore government advice to stay home and not travel over Christmas? I had to cancel all my plans so wondering how you got around this?

    • Rhys says:

      Rob left in mid-December before any such announcements were made.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Rob clearly tells you he was there before Christmas

      • Harry T says:

        @TG
        How dare Rob legally travel to the desert when he should have been camping out in virus infested London like a Merry virtue signaller? 😂

    • Rob says:

      Assuming you weren’t living in a Tier 3 area, you were perfectly able to hop on a flight to the Middle East in mid December and spend Christmas there as we did. Apart from our 3 nights at the Burj, it was all booked on miles and points.

      • JP-MCO says:

        ‘Holier than thou’ virtue signalling posts which lecture of ignoring Government advice are not motivated by anything other than spiteful jealousy. Yeah, I wish I had gone abroad this Christmas but I’m not going to criticise a stranger because they did. It doesn’t make you feel any better.

        • Yorkieflyer says:

          Yes indeed, we’ve had generally positive comments from friends re our SA trip at Christmas, again perfectly legal when we travelled, though clearly some folk disapprove and a handful have said so

        • Yolo says:

          What’s virtue signalling?

          • JP-MCO says:

            Lifted from Google: “the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.”

            Basically it’s a new, woke form of showing off.

          • Yolo says:

            Oh I see. So another example would be those who without being asked come here to tell us about their volunteering at vaccination centres?

        • Bobbie Bingo says:

          Not really, it can be done to shame selfish behaviour that contributes to dragging out the restrictions on daily life for most. If the borders were closed and community transmission reduced to zero, we might have seen our families at Christmas.

          • yorkieflyer says:

            rubbish, its behaviours that matter, we didn’t get infected abroad yet folk we knew caught covid socialising indoors at home

          • Rob says:

            Ironically our nanny caught it whilst we were away. If we’d stayed in London we’d have caught it off her with 100% certainty, as she was asymptomatic.

          • JP-MCO says:

            I’m more inclined to think that if London and the South East had been treated like northern cities and put into Tier 3 when cases were going up all through Lockdown 2 then you would have been able to see your families at Christmas. But if you want to pin that on someone who was following the rules just because they had a better Christmas than you go right ahead. It makes utterly no sense but go ahead.

      • Paul says:

        There were no restrictions with Tier3 at that time.

  • Ben says:

    Stayed here with my wife, and brother (and his wife) for one night in 2019. Given the size of the room – we asked (and they allowed) for all of us to stay in one villa as the sofa converts into a double bed aswell – doors close between the two rooms. Not sure if this is general policy or not, but a particularly good use of points at the time. Entertainer app 241 also works at some of the restaurants in the hotel.

  • whiskerxx says:

    I had no idea it was a nature reserve until the text between the photos appeared and the mention of animals coming up to you. I’m surprised you didn’t make more of this in the opening paragraph.

    • Rob says:

      It doesn’t have that much wildlife, to be honest. If you sat by your pool for 30 minutes you might have one wild cat wander past.

  • Harry T says:

    Does the “no elite upgrades” policy apply to Titanium and Ambassador members? I know most Ritz-Carltons are stingy to Platinum members but I believe Titanium and Ambassador are usually entitled to suite upgrades.

    • Rob says:

      Not sure. That’s the rule I see on the booking page when I log in as a Platinum.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        It’s that strange all villas exception some properties have so it’s a pleasant surprise if it ever happens rather than expected.

      • Harry T says:

        Me too, as Titanium. I guess if all the rooms are decent, it’s not a big deal, but it’s still never good to see properties able to opt out of elite benefits.

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