Check In: The Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah
It all begins with an email from your private butler days before you arrive. With an offer to pre-book dinner and spa reservations, the extended hospitality is really just a taste of what’s to come. After beating the Sharjah traffic and driving past the wondrous Hajjar mountains, you’ll see the Waldorf Astoria looming in the distance and it will somehow feel like you’ve come home. Except that for tonight, home is a massive, white, asymmetrical castle that stands gallantly before the sea shore.
Ras Al Khaimah, the beautiful fishing village North of Dubai, is already home to a handful of holiday resorts. Seen from a distance, the huge hotel stands out from the cluster of small buildings around it. As you get out of your car in front of the lobby, your gaze is drawn upwards across an expansive white reception area, to a champagne gold clock tower, then to a majestic skylight above. Somehow, your bags will have been whisked away by bellboys while you were taking it all in. Bathed in off-white, beige, and bright blue colours, it looks like an elegant underwater castle that could belong to Poseidon.
Your private butler greets you and assists you with check-in before taking you to your room. Here, he confirms dinner reservations and makes suggestions for how to spend the rest of your day. A white cake with strawberries may await you in the room for a romantic start to the holiday. Before indulging in it or jumping up and down on the huge white bed, a brisk knock announces the arrival of a perfumer who is there to test your favourite fragrances to be applied to bathrobes or bed sheets. There’s calming lavender and seductive Moroccan rose to choose from, among many. Decisions, decisions...
When entering the junior suite at the Waldorf, a small corridor gives way to a large bedroom, with a bed blanketed with a white duvet that looks like thick frosting on a cake. There’s a sitting room and desk next to the bed, before a balcony with a stunning pool and sea view. The pool has a swim up bar, wooden bridges, and a play area for children. The beach is sectioned off so that you can choose a busy area or a quiet, secluded area by the shore.
After quickly changing into beach gear, hotel staff will greet you at the entrance to the beach to guide you to sun loungers and place cobalt blue towels on them. After a few minutes, they come round with cold bottles of water and watermelon smoothies to refresh you. The water at the beach is cool and clean. If not for cocktail hour before dinner, it’s possible to stay there all evening.
After getting dolled up for the evening, make your way to Lexington Grill, the New York-style steak house. Here’s where the real connection with the infamous Waldorf Astoria in New York, which is known for hosting celebrities and royalty in a ritzy part of Manhattan, becomes clear. After all, Ras Al Khaimah is very different to Manhattan. But at trendy Lexington Grill, where every kind of steak cut imaginable is on offer and is paired with delicious drops by a sommelier, you will feel every bit the Manhattan socialite.
Begin with pre-dinner cocktails with New York-inspired names, such as the smoky Marilyn Monroe and the breezy Carnegie Cooler. Then move on to dinner, where the gluttony begins.
Delicious appetizers include fresh crab cakes, smoked salmon, and tomato salad with the creamiest buffalo mozzarella possible. Just when you think you can’t eat another bite, the main courses will be served. Lexington Grill has a unique dry-aging meat cabinet with dried beef that is interesting to try. The Wagyu beef is so tender your knife will cut through it like butter. The side dishes of sautéed spinach, roasted potatoes, and mushrooms with caramelized onions are actually so tasty they are not overshadowed by the yummy meat dishes.
If you are too full to try dessert, fear not – the night is still young. Move on to 17Squared, the bar on the highest floor of the hotel, for a nightcap. Decorated in dark colours with orange accents and crystal lighting, the lounge has a very trendy atmosphere and panoramic views of the city and the water.
When you finally retreat back to your room, the scent you had chosen earlier will gently waft through the space to greet you. Take advantage of the hot tub and the Salvatore Ferragamo products if you have the energy before falling into deep sleep.
The next morning, make your way to the Qasr Al Bahar restaurant for a smorgasbord of a breakfast buffet. Fresh juices? Check. Omelettes, made-to-order? Check. Pastries, Arabic dishes, fresh pancakes? Check, check, check.
After breakfast, discover the hotel grounds by taking a walk on the beach or exploring the golf course. Or, like most vacationers, set up by the pool or beach and sip fruity drinks while working on your tan.
Once you need a break from the heat, consider working out at the gym. Yes, that’s right, the gym. The treadmills, which face the pool, are equipped with individual screens that allow you to browse the internet while working out. Check out Facebook or YouTube clips and forget that you’ve been jogging for an hour and are on your 5th kilometre. There’s also a yoga and pilates room next door with a schedule for when the instructor is hosting classes.
For a more relaxing experience during your stay, the spa is simply un-missable. With shimmering walls and decorations in the shape of scales, the impeccable decor carries on the underwater theme throughout the rest of the elegant hotel. For a romantic experience, book the VIP Suite and hold hands with your honey while you are scrubbed, rubbed and lotioned up. Try the peppermint leaf scrub or just go for a signature massage by their trained therapists. The VIP Suite also has a private Jacuzzi that you’re encouraged to relax in before or after your treatment. After a few hours at the spa, you’ll emerge with silky, soft skin and a dream-like feeling.
After working up an appetite at the beach, gym, or spa, it’s time to decide where to lunch. Enjoy pub-style food as you relax on the 350 meter private beach and gaze out over the Arabian Gulf. Azure has a casual atmosphere and Italian food, while UMI is a posh restaurant offering sushi dishes. Or simply opt for salads and sandwiches at the Peacock Alley next to the grand staircase. If you just can’t decide, go for the buffet at Qasar Al Bahar where you can try a bit of everything – from Indian dishes to pizza to grilled hammour.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, so try not to feel the heart break as you pack your bags to leave your luxurious surroundings. Remind yourself that less than an hour away from the heart of Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah is an easy weekend break for city dwellers. The hotel also has big plans for New Year’s Eve parties and major holidays. Book early to feel like a queen for a day!