Arjun’s 5th holiday was definitely one to remember! It was our most challenging by far and the furthest away from what we’ve known holidays to be pre baby – he was constantly full of beans and wanting to explore! You can read about our previous holidays here:
Here’s the d-low on our trip!
The Travel Village Group: Booking Agent
I used Sangeeta to previously book a surprise birthday trip to Las Vegas and Maui for Preetam’s 30th but unfortunately we had to cancel it as I ended up being 7 months pregnant at the time!
Sangeeta is always so patient with me (you need the patience of a saint with me sometimes!) – this time we weren’t sure if we wanted to try Abu Dhabi or whether we’d try and wing a quick trip to India. Sangeeta provided us with multiple quotes and options to help us make our decision. In the end we decided Abu Dhabi was the more sensible option although my heart was set on India given the 8 day time restriction.
We knew we wanted to give the Emirates Palace hotel a go in Abu Dhabi as we’d heard amazing things about it from friends. Sangeeta was great at communicating with the hotel that it was our anniversary and that we were travelling with a baby and also ensured our chauffeur also came armed with a car seat.
I’d definitely recommend booking your luxury holiday through Sangeeta – she’s armed with lots of knowledge on the most luxurious places to visit around the world and she’s very patient and accommodating to your needs.
As we’d opted for business class, Etihad offer a chauffeur service from home to the airport.
Our driver turned up bright and early and I was really impressed with how friendly he was with Arjun. The car seat provided was easy to use and comfortable for Arjun. The vehicle provided was a Viano which is very spacious and comfortable. He came armed with a car seat as instructed.
I know it was 6am and perhaps not everyone’s a morning person, but I didn’t find the staff particularly helpful or friendly in the business lounge area which was a bit of a let down.
The service was also quite slow and sluggish and the quality of the food wasn’t anything to write home about. I’d still say my favourite lounge is still Virgin by miles.
The aircraft itself was really lovely – it was one of the newer A380s. I loved the décor and space, especially with a fully mobile toddler!
I was armed with snacks and toys and I was going to give the iPad a go again but finding there was an onboard nanny was super exciting. Even if there was someone to entertain Arjun for 5 minutes, I was happy!
Arjun woke just before take off (Sod’s law!) but he was generally in good spirits. After a while, he did become a little agitated as he wanted to run around and explore. Family Guy (I’m so ashamed to say) kept him entertained for a good 20 minutes and he also played Lego with daddy on the floor for a while. He was entertained by the electric barrier between our seats too.
He really enjoyed the bar/lounge area which was definitely the best one I’ve seen onboard yet! You didn’t feel like you were on an aircraft at all and the service was brilliant.
Arjun loved playing with the flying nanny who did face paint on his hands, played with stickers and stamps. We didn’t end up needing to leave him with her as Preetam did a pretty good job by himself! He slept for three hours out of the six which wasn’t too bad and he woke up chirpy.
I was so impressed by the staffs service! The air hostesses were so attentive and the manager came right over and offered to come over as soon as we’ve taken off to play with Arjun. They were also super accommodating to dietary requirements and ensuring Arjun was comfortable and happy.
I was quite worried as initially Google had told me the flight was 8 hours, however it ended up being 6 which was just perfect. That’s the shortest distance we’ve done with Arjun!
You’d think being his 13th flight he’d be used to it and we’d be pros at managing it. Not at all. I always tell people that ask me; each flight is different and their mood will also be different! Just because the last was bad, doesn’t mean the next will be and vice versa. You’ve just got to ride it out. Each minute that passes is a minute closer to reaching your destination. It’s easy to feel guilty on a flight when your child is kicking off but they have as much right to be on that plane as anyone else (as quoted by a lovely air hostess!).
We had an equally fabulous experience on the flight back however the business class lounge was amazing for children. The staff in the kids play room were brilliant. They told us they were happy to take care of Arjun while we relaxed and he really enjoyed his time with them.
On the way out, when we landed, I was mortified at the chauffeur service. We were told by Sangeeta that a chauffeur would be there to collect us from the airport and would also have a baby seat. Unfortunately, as many others experienced, this wasn’t the service we received at all. It really left a bitter taste in my mouth given the amount of money we’d spent and the service we’d expected. Other passengers that were on our flight were also told the same by their travel agents who were told this by Etihad.
Instead, we had to wait in a taxi queue for 45 minutes after a 6 hour flight. There was no baby seat. This is definitely an area of their process that Etihad need to work on – it lets the rest of the experience down. There is a stark difference between the cabin crew and the ground staff.
Emirates Palace Hotel
This hotel has been described by many as 7 star and upon driving up to the hotel, it was clear to see why. The grounds are breath takingly huge and the building itself is stunning – scenes which may be familiar if you’ve seen the latest Fast and Furious movie as parts of it were shot at this hotel.
I was even more “wow’ed” when we walked in. The attention to detail is immense and the elegance and grandness of this hotel was like I’ve never seen before. It really does look like a palace. The detail on the door handles with the jewels, the never ending marble, the splashes of gold, the high ceilings – the place is breath taking! Not surprising given it’s the second most expensive hotel ever built in the world! You can definitely tell.
Check in was smooth and quick and I was greeted by a mini bouquet of roses and Arjun with a camel toy which he was thrilled about. The staff were really friendly.
Our room had been decorated for our anniversary which was a nice gesture although somewhere along the line, they were lost in translation as they thought it was our 15 year anniversary haha (our anniversary is on 15th Feb). We were also upgraded to a sea view room.
The rooms were the nicest rooms we’ve stayed in. Super spacious, clean and oh so luxurious! Having such a gorgeous room meant we didn’t mind spending time relaxing on the afternoons where we didn’t fancy the pool.
Each room comes equipped with a tablet which you can use to navigate through a movie catalogue. We must have watched about 20 movies while there!
The bathrooms were huge with a separate bath tub and shower which was really handy with Arjun. He really enjoyed bath time there.
One super unfortunate thing was, on the day of check in as by the time we reached the hotel, it was almost 9.30pm due to the faffing with getting transport to the hotel, we decided to go for a quick dinner at the buffet restaurant before heading to our room. What we didn’t know at the time was that our butler was waiting for us in our room – no one had communicated that to us.
As a result, we weren’t informed of the butler service until three days of being at the hotel when I requested new pillows. This was pretty disappointing given the kudos and price of the hotel. Upon raising this with the management staff, the subsequent service offered by our butler was brilliant. He took care of all our restaurant reservations – both internally and externally and also ensured we were topped up on daily treats!
Another downside for us was that the dress code was smart casual. I had packed for Preetam and silly enough hadn’t checked the dress code as every other hotel we’ve been to has a relaxed dress code for at least one restaurant on the premises. Unfortunately (first time ever!) I hadn’t packed any jeans or trousers for him and the dress code was smart casual at lunch and dinner across the hotel. This didn’t give us the best start to our trip as if you know Preetam, he’s a big guy and finding bottoms and shoes in his size proved difficult. It was a real shame as we’d hoped to have a totally relaxed and casual break away and to be as comfortable as possible but it didn’t quite turn out that way! We ended up eating outside of the restaurant on several occasions which meant the half board was wasted for the best part of our trip.
Finally, although the chef was very accommodating at the buffet restaurant, we felt that the size of the buffet and the vegetarian selection was quite poor and repetitive. One of the best bits about going on holiday is the food and having a selection to choose from as opposed to thinking of what you could eat and requesting that. The quality of the food was ok. We actually found the poolside food of a higher standard than the buffet. I’d highly recommend the falafel wrap (with a side of halloumi)! The best I’ve ever tasted.
Breakfast was average. The Indian food was always cold and not very flavoursome. The selection was your standard breakfast selection which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and they had Nutella which was consumed daily and I’m still paying the price for it! The best breakfast we’ve ever experienced is definitely the Park Hyatt in Goa. The view at breakfast was beautiful.
We decided to dine at Hakkasan for lunch as on Friday afternoon, babies are welcome. Although Arjun was full of beans and wanting to run around, Preetam and I enjoyed our meal as the staff were absolutely amazing. They took Arjun and entertained him during our whole meal. It didn’t take long for Arjun to settle right in with them to the point where he didn’t want to leave them!
The food at Hakkasan was amazing – we really loved the mooli rolls and the black bean tofu and aubergine pot! It was a nice way to spend Arjun’s 20 month birthday too.
The swimming pools were amazing – there’s a pool at the east wing which also has a baby pool however the west side has an adventure pool with slides and a lazy river as well as a kid’s pool and kid’s club. Arjun absolutely loved the kid’s pool and was super confident in the water and even tried to swim himself! It was particularly handy as it was a quiet time of the year which meant the pool wasn’t flooded with lots of guests. I was so impressed by the children’s facilities – they had poolside toys which meant all the extra bits I took weren’t needed. They also provide beach toys at the beach. Arjun loved the macaroni cheese by the pool. He pretty much lived off that and olives for the whole trip!
In addition, they had a outdoor play area with a climbing frame and slide. Although we only went once, it was great to know that was there as an option to entertain Arjun.
The kid’s club has an indoor play room which we didn’t end up using as Arjun took to the pool too much to want to go anywhere else. Outside the playroom they had giant building blocks and a few other giant outdoor games which Arjun enjoyed playing with.
Arjun loved being in the pool but has become such a daredevil – he refused to wear his armbands most of the time, refused to sit in his float and wanted to jump in to the deep end by himself. You can’t take your eyes off him for even a split second now. I definitely preferred going away with others to make it more manageable!
The beach was nice – again children’s toys were provided and there’s also a camel which you can take pictures on! Arjun was more interested in petting him than sitting on him!
The weather was fantastic for the most part. We only had one day of rain. We even managed to get a Baby Brain Appael photoshoot done out there!
We enjoyed ourselves as a family and got to see Arjun’s personality shine through more than ever with his crazy little antics!
All in all, this was definitely one of the nicest properties we’ve visited in terms of architecture but I’m not sure we’d return here again based on the food and dress code. That’s got me thinking about what a holiday means to us – comfy clothing and good vegetarian food! When we return back to UAE, I think we’ll definitely be going back to Dar Al Masyaf as the service, food and facilities were impeccable, an added bonus is that toddlers and babies under 2 eat for free.
Things to do in Abu Dhabi
We were really after a relaxed holiday and didn’t plan anything much in advance. Compared to Dubai, it felt like there wasn’t much to do. I probably preferred Dubai a lot more to Abu Dhabi based on the hotel we stay at and also the things to do. It may just be that we’re now used to Dubai!
Marina Mall: this was situated a 20 minute walking distance from our hotel. We ended up visiting three times during our stay. As well as your usual high street shops and several restaurants, there is Fun City located on the top floor of the mall. This is like a small indoor amusement park which was great fun for Arjun. He enjoyed going on the toddler rides. It was nice having it so local to the hotel as it meant post dinner he could burn a little energy.
Ferrari World, Yas Island: We’d been told by friends that Ferrari World was a little overrated and over priced for what it was but if we needed a day out then it was nice as something to do. Arjun ended up getting sunburn after a few days in Abu Dhabi, so we thought a day indoors away from the sun would be a good idea. I agree with the sentiments of our friends – it was approx. £50 per person for entry and the food was quite overpriced and poor too.
I’m not a fan of big rides, but Preetam went on a few rollercoasters as Arjun and I spectated. It was quite quiet during the week and there were no queues. Arjun really enjoyed the family ride as he got to “drive” a car. We went on that ride a few times.
He also enjoyed watching his daddy participate in the go karting race (and winning!). He really loved the soft play car wash although it was quite simplistic to what I was expecting based on the description online. We had a nice family day out and it was great that everything was indoors.
The Cheesecake Factory, Yas Island: We couldn’t visit Abu Dhabi and NOT go to the Cheesecake Factory. As always, we weren’t disappointed. The staff at this particular branch were super friendly towards Arjun and I generally find The Cheesecake Factory fab for catering to little ones. We enjoyed the deep fried macaroni cheese balls, the zucchini, mushroom and avocado fries and the nachos! The portions are ginormous – I always find myself in a food coma after!
Rose Water Restaurant, Etihad Towers: We were told by our friends to visit this restaurant as the vegetarian selection was a lot better than at the Emirates Palace. The selection was absolutely huge with a wide range of different cuisines. I was especially wow’ed by the different types of bread on offer and the epic chocolate fountain. I was also impressed with how well they catered to children – they had plastic plates and cutlery for babies which was great. This place is definitely high up in the quantity ranks but not as high in the quality ranks – we found the food average but really enjoyed the overall experience.
All in all, we had a nice time in Abu Dhabi but I’m not sure we’d return to spend a whole holiday there. Perhaps as a day trip from Dubai next time!
Any suggestions on our next holiday destination?
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