(A Guest Post by Mona Gulaid)
I never thought I’d ever have the guts to book a stay at a romantic luxury hotel resort all by myself on a last minute whim. Ok, it wasn’t really that spontaneous but it was something I have been wanting to do for a long time and I even put it on my 2014 to do list. Most people that know me would tell you I love to plan, I do my research properly, I compare everything to get best deal (I love a good bargain). This time around, I’d had a very hectic week, I was exhausted and I didn’t have time to plan anything, so I made the decision to do a staycation as I was driving to work on a Thursday morning.
I fell in love with the Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah the first time I saw it online, but I’m always cautious not to ‘believe the pictures till you get there’. I was also weary, because although I would happily book and stay at a hotel on my own in other parts of the world, it’s unusual in the region, and I was uncomfortable with the hotel getting the wrong idea or thinking I was there to solicit men.
So I called the hotel for an explanation of the different rooms, rates, facilities. I spoke to a lovely lady, who listened patiently to my silly questions, explaining everything politely. I asked her every conceivable question, but she remained professional, listened to my indecisiveness (yes I will, no I can’t, oh maybe, I will have king size room, no I will have deluxe queen room with sea view), put me at ease and convinced me to book.
I left work early that Thursday and headed to RAK, which is an easy, hour’s drive, but somehow I missed the sign and got horribly lost. Thankfully a very kind Emirati lady at the gas station took pity on me and twenty minutes later, just before the sun set (yes I was that lost), we drove into a stunning seaside complex with its palm trees and perfectly manicured lawns. When I finally walked into the serene lobby, I was taken by the elegant white, cream, gold and turquoise color scheme.
I booked a Queen Deluxe Room with two queen size beds, a balcony and a sea view and was thrilled to find that in real life the room is actually more impressive. It’s exceptionally spacious, modern and high tech. It has an elegant marble bathroom with tub, separate rain shower and a dressing room with big vanity mirror (exactly what a girl needs). Its neutral tones with splashes of turquoise are very soothing and remind you you’re at the ocean. The bed was heaven, and the sea view, equally amazing.
When the excitement had settled, I ordered a burger and chips from room service. Twenty minutes later my food arrived and I met the funniest and sweetest person. He made me laugh with stories about his experience of do’s and don’ts of the hotel and Ras al Khaimah. It was the best start to my staycation.
My burger was delicious, big enough for two and came with complimentary samosas for starters. (Yip, strange but tasty). Overall, I think the food and drinks on the in-room dining menu are great value compared to other hotels I have stayed at in the UAE. I decided to stay in after dinner and enjoy my beautiful room and after a long bath and quiet time on the balcony staring at the ocean, I fell asleep to a chick-flick.
I slept like a baby so I woke up super early and fresh and set the routine my soul had been craving – pool & book time, followed by the spa and a dinner date with myself. After my chat with my new friend the night before I was slightly more comfortable that Waldorf is ‘single female vacationing’ friendly, so off I went to breakfast at the Qasr al Bahar. There I was greeted warmly by a lady with the big smile, and to show you I wasn’t being completely paranoid, this is how the conversation went:
Waitress: Table for 2?
Me: No, just me
Waitress: Blank face, your husband going to join?
Waitress: Your friend?
Me: Nope, I’m here alone and definitely need only table for one (me), with big smile
Waitress: Oh, that’s fantastic and may I say, you very beautiful.
Me: (Blush) And I forgot about the awkward moment.
The restaurant was packed with families and couples all tucking into an excellent breakfast selection. I kept my breakfast light then headed straight to the pool, where I found more friendly staff, who were eager to help and have a chat. After settling down very close to the pool so I didn’t have to walk far to take a dip, I spent the whole morning reading, people watching and listening to my music. The families from breakfast arrived, but it never felt crowded. Every hour or so the staff would come around with cold towels, water and ice-creams. They even have a lady walking around offering to clean your sunglasses. Funny, but useful.
Hours of poolside reading, tanning and a few cocktails later, it was time for my spa appointment. It was an easy transition, because the spa is opulent and serene. The theme is undersea with turquoise, calming blue and white silk colours setting the mood. The therapist discussed all the treatments on offer, asking me in great detail about my lifestyle, skin type and how I was feeling physically. We finally agreed I should go for the Deep Sea treatment, a deep healing massage to ease joints, muscles and stress. But before the actual treatment, I spent time in the steam room, sauna and hot bath because the facilities are available to all guests using the spa and gym.
Once again, even though there were other guests, I felt like I had the spa to myself, which was perfect because I’m not a big fan of being with strangers in confined spaces, like sweaty saunas. My therapist was a sweet, petite Balinese lady with very strong hands and I had the best massage I’ve had in a long time, so I booked another treatment with her for the following day. By the time I finished at the spa it was early evening and I had lost track of time. I didn’t realise I had been there for four hours, so I went back to my room super relaxed and super happy.
I felt so good I was determined to conquer my fear of dining alone in a fancy restaurant. I decided to eat in the Lexington Grill, a sister restaurant of the famous steak house in New York. I have eaten in the New York one and I remember how strict they were about the dress code (strictly smart) and how it was full of Wall Street businessmen entertaining clients. Fortunately my new in-room dining friend had brought my drink up, and he called the restaurant manager to ensure I had no problem. He reassured me my dress code of jeans and top was fine and he even escorted me to the door. That night, not only did I overcome my fear but I had the most amazing meal (the special air dried beef steaks are fantastic) and the overall experience was the perfect way to end my day.
Up bright and early for a repeat of breakfast and pool time, I discovered there was an adult pool with beautiful cabanas overlooking the sea, so I spent a couple of hours on the oversized day beds, until it was time to visit the spa again.
This time I had the Calm Wave, a total relaxation and detoxification treatment with mineral and organic seaweed oil. (I really recommend this treatment). The spa ladies called the reception for me because I was getting worried about the 2pm checkout time. They extended it for me and when I called them again to say I’m running late, their response was, ‘Miss Mona, we know you’re at the spa, take your time, relax’ and extended the check-out to 5pm. Now that’s good service.
The Waldorf Astoria is a beautiful hotel, with wonderful facilities that makes it feel more like an exclusive private club, with plenty of space for families, couples and singles alike to feel comfortable. But if there’s one thing I believe that sets them apart and creates the welcoming atmosphere, it’s their staff. They are absolutely fantastic. Every person I dealt with from check-in to check-out was warm, professional and genuinely hospitable. That is a rarity in most hotels these days and whatever training programme this hotel has, it works. So if you feel like treating yourself for a weekend, even if you’re a lady on your own, you cannot go wrong with the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah.
Note: This stay was done anonymously and paid for in full. (I just really enjoyed my stay). Pictures all courtesy of Waldorf Astoria.