This is part two of a five part trip report from my travels to the UAE and Egypt. This report includes my review of the Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa, the business class flight from Dubai – Cairo, the Emirates Business Class lounge in Dubai, and the best of our activities in Dubai.
- Emirates A380 Business Trip Report JFK-Dubai (DXB)
- Dubai Trip Report – Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa, Emirates Business Class DXB to Cairo, Dubai Activities
- Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa
- Sheraton Luxor Resort, EGYPTAIR CAI-LXR
- Sharm El Sheikh Marriott Resort, EGYPTAIR LXR-SSH
Picking up where we left off, upon landing it was off to passport control and customs where Emirates had a special clearance section for both First and Business class passengers. I was the first to arrive and cleared passport control in under five minutes. I did have some trepidation as I had an Israeli entrance stamp in my passport from a year earlier. Most of the reports I had read seemed to indicate that this was fine with a US passport, though a few did reference some difficulties when trying to enter the UAE . I decided to chance it even though it was going to be hard to miss the stamp which was on one of only three blank pages left in my passport. As it turns out, my particular border guard could care less, in my passport there is peace in the Middle East, my UAE and Israeli entrance and exit stamps share the same page!
Our courtesy Emirates chauffeur was waiting for us upon exiting the Dubai terminal in a BMW 528i with two cold waters and a set of cool towels. It was March and it was nice to feel the heat after arriving from New York. We were heading for Dubai Marina where our friend was living after being transferred from the US only a few months earlier. As in New York, the ride included all tolls and gratuities and our driver went above and beyond to ensure our comfort and safety. Our friend lived in a new development within Dubai Marina and there weren’t many clear indications that we were at the right building, no street numbers or zip codes. Our driver insisted on waiting for us until I waved back at him to indicate that it was the right building. Not even five minutes later I received a call from Emirates to ensure that I had arrived safely. The level of service was really impressive and I couldn’t believe that I had only redeemed 150,000 miles for the entire trip (especially with the business class passenger in front of me spending just under $11k for his round-trip business flight).
I had no idea that Dubai was going to have such a tropical vacation feel to it. Prior to the trip I knew of Dubai’s location along the Persian Gulf coast, however I don’t think I realized just how many of the hotels and restaurants would be along the water. Sitting at dinner that first night in Dubai Marina, I almost felt as if I was back on one of our yearly family vacations in the Caribbean. Once dinner was done it was time to decide where to head out for the night. We decided on Boudoir which was located at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It is illegal in Dubai to serve or sell alcohol to Muslims and all others require a license to officially purchase alcohol. As such, alcohol is typically sold at restaurants, bars and nightclubs attached to hotels where you’ll find the tourists.
Boudoir felt like a typical New York club, though with great beach views outside and a large number of Australian based Emirates flight attendants inside. They were a fun crowd and were definitely making the most of their layovers. A vodka soda at the club was priced at $12, though gigantic Belvedere bottles seemed to be the way to go. We saw one table receive five of them at $1000 a piece. The DJs were internationally known and music was a mix of Top 40, R&B, and house music.
The next day we started with lunch at Anar, a Persian restaurant located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. The food was excellent, though the prices made it feel a bit touristy. I still say it’s completely worth it with a view like this…
Next it was off to see Burj Dubai Tower, the tallest building in the World @ 1,670 feet tall – 2 1/2 Empire State Buildings.
We then made our way to the gold and spice souks that weren’t all that impressive. They don’t come close to comparing to any of the souks I’ve been to in Morocco or Turkey and they are a decent taxi ride away from the majority of the other attractions. I thought they would be the “authentic” part of the Dubai trip but unfortunately they were more touristy than the malls! Remember to check the taxi rates before heading out, our driver was using a “special” meter that I picked up on right away.
Speaking of Malls…
Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa
The next day was all about relaxing and we decided we were in need of some beach time. There are some public beaches in Dubai, but as a Platinum SPG member I figured why not check out the Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa on Jumeirah Beach. The front desk staff were extremely gracious but still requested the standard $30 per person rate for use of the facilities for the day, inclusive of the beach, pool, and any non motorized water-sports. I went and spoke to the concierge who “in gratitude of my loyalty” allowed the three of us the same access for $30 total, including unlimited water bottles all day long. Not a bad deal. The property has expansive outdoor space with three pools, tennis courts, and most importantly a huge beach with enough loungers for guests (and visitors). The staff were extremely accommodating and came around constantly with water bottles, drinks, and cold snacks. The water temperature, both in the sea and in the pools was perfect and we were offered complimentary kayaks, banana boats, and snorkel gear.
While the grounds are amazing, we did talk to a few guests who had mixed thoughts on their rooms as well as the indoor common areas. The overall feeling seemed to be that the rooms were comfortable but still needed to be updated and modernized. However, they were all extremely pleased with the expansive and well kept grounds, beach-front access, and service levels. One important thing to note, the hotel does NOT award SPG points for stays, though they do provide a welcome gift and “preferred room allotment”.
Other Sightseeing Highlights
Cocktails at sunset overlooking the sea and the seven star Burj Al Arab Hotel
Medzo Mediterranean open air restaurant – Wafi Mall, reasonable and some of the best food we had in Dubai.
Barasti Beach Bar – Located at the Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort on the Arabian Sea, is a much more laid back scene than Boudoir. Some people were dressed up while others were still in bathing suits, it truly felt like a beach bar on the night we were there. The music was a mix of top 40 and reggae. Again, it seemed like a majority of the people we met were Emirates flight attendants on layovers. They definitely know how to party in between their trips.
Our final activity in Dubai consisted of dune bashing on the Arabian sand dunes with some camel riding, belly dancing, and henna thrown in. We booked our trip with our pseduo hotel, the Le Méridien, who offered a lower price than the tour company’s website. What is dune bashing? As per Wikipedia, “Dune bashing, also known as desert safari, is a form of off-roading, using an off-road vehicle to explore sand dunes. Similar to auto-racing, experience and skill is required to maneuver the car and prevent accidents. Hence, in most cases, a professional driver accompanies the group.” Essentially, you are in a 4×4 vehicle riding up and then sliding down the dunes. Check out a video here.
Emirates Business Dubai – Cairo
Well, our time in Dubai was over but I was excited to get back to the airport to check out the Emirates Business Class Lounge. Check-in was easy as there were at least 15 business class check-in desks. We were checked in and through security in under 10 minutes. Unfortunately for us there was a fire alarm pulled and I was only briefly able to check out the business lounge and snap a few pictures. The hot dishes looked extremely similar to those we had at JFK, but the lounge was probably 5x the size. It was gigantic with plenty of seating for dining or relaxing.
The flight from Dubai to Cairo was about 3 hours and 45 minutes and included dinner service on board the Boeing 777-200. To be honest, it’s sort of hard to not be disappointed after flying on the A380 from JFK to Dubai. The 3 class 777-200 included only recliner seats in business and a relatively small tv. However, the service was still top notch, the food excellent (I had the mezze and mixed grill), and we were still provided with a full amenity kit.
The flight arrived 20 minutes early and the chaos in Egypt was about to begin. Until the next post…