An urban oasis in Abu Dhabi
We avoided the hustle and bustle of holiday travel by having a short getaway right here at home. Because we live and work off island, a stay in the city was long overdue, so we checked into Grand Millennium Al Wahda for a two day, one night stay from the 18th to 19th December.
About Grand Millennium Al Wahda
Grand Millennium Al Wahda is a five star, urban hotel located in downtown Abu Dhabi. It’s situated adjacent to Al Wahda Mall, a premier shopping destination, with popular brands, family entertainment and a good mix of restaurants all under one roof. Easy access to the mall was particularly useful to us as we celebrated my husband’s birthday during our stay. The kids and I were able to walk over and grab him something special while he enjoyed time on his own at the hotel fitness club which he absolutely loved. (more on that later)
Check-in went smoothly. The lobby was relatively busy but there was ample staff so we didn’t have to wait long. My husband and kids admired the intricately designed gingerbread house and Christmas tree adorning the lobby while I handled everything at the front desk.
We stayed in an apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2 and a half bathrooms on the 19th floor of the hotel. We walked into a small entry way which opened to a full kitchen and living area with a desk and entertainment center. The bedrooms were separated with one on both sides of the common area – a feature we appreciated, as it was good to have space between our quarters and the kids. I joked that the beauty of staying in a two bedroom suite is being able to still yell, “Go to your room!”, but that is truly how it went down. The kid’s room had two full sized double beds and on suite bathroom with a tub, shower, bidet and double sinks. Our room, presumably the master bedroom, had one king size bed and our on suite bathroom was identical to the kid’s.
The fully stocked kitchen was by far my favorite aspect of our temporary living quarters and by fully stocked, I mean FULLY STOCKED. There were appliances – a stove, refrigerator with freezer, combination washer/dryer, toaster – and the cabinets were full of essentials like plates, cups, pots and pans. Everything you’d need in a kitchen from a dish towel to a cutting board was there making it ideal for a family of four to stay overnight or long term. I could’ve cooked a meal if I wanted to but this was a staycation after all so we opted for dining at the hotel restaurant.
Dining and Venues
Al Wahda is a casual all day dining restaurant located inside the hotel where we enjoyed lunch and dinner. The dining room was spacious and well lit with minimal trimmings. We didn’t feel out of place with two kids (ages 5 and 3) in tow. They served an international buffet with Arab favorites like fatoosh and mixed grill and staples like oven roasted chicken and potatoes. The menu wasn’t expansive but my five year old, who’s a very picky eater, was accommodated so I was good with it. By the way, if you plan to dine with kids, bring their cups because the restaurant only serves in glassware. It’s best to show up early, at the start of each meal time, because it tends to get really busy.
We opted to have breakfast in the suite. Room service runs 24 hours and we placed our order the night before. There was a picture of waffles in the menu but the dish had been discontinued. I inquired as to whether there was any way for my kids to have plain waffles and the chef accommodated us. I was very grateful as I don’t think pancakes with orange compote would’ve gone over well. The food was delivered and set up at the time we requested.
My husband squeezed in a little more “me time” at Porter’s English Pub. He enjoyed described it as…
“A classic, nostalgic bar with wood grain that sports a sizable activity area with multi-level seating for comfortable spacing. The service was excellent and the ambience was relaxing with a 2-piece band accompanied by a singer.”
Service and Amenities
When we tell our kids that we’re staying at a hotel their only concern is the pool and Grand Millennium has a nice one. It’s located on the 31st floor with amazing views of the city and a small, kiddie pool for little swimmers. The kids went for a dip but didn’t stay in long because the water was really cold. It was a chilly, windy day in Abu Dhabi which could have had an effect on the temperature as I’m not certain how or if they regulate it.
Zayna Spa was the highlight of our stay. On my husband’s birthday we enjoyed a Swedish Therapeutic Couples Massage. The spa is beautiful and soothing from the moment you walk in. Our room was surprisingly large with a private changing area, shower, tub, pedicure area and two massage tables. They served us delicious ginger tea and chilled water. We were both satisfied with the service and highly recommend it.
Our ability to enjoy a spa visit was made possible by Joy, the staff member who sat with our kids while we were gone. Grand Millennium offers babysitting as a service to its guests; an excellent perk for families who don’t have or travel with domestic help. They have hourly and overnight rates. This service offering will ALWAYS put Grand Mill at the top of our list of places to stay.
The one thing I regret is not having enough time to visit the fitness club. My husband experienced it and described it as, “futuristic, from the wearable access card to the state-of-the-art machinery. The available options spanned free weights to weight machines to tension bands, balancing/stabilizing equipment and even an inverted table”.
Grand Millennium Al Wahda has implemented the use of technology effectively in several areas but the room keys were problematic. The keys are plastic, programmable cards that you use by placing them on a touch pad located outside the room door. Some floors have restricted access so you must also touch your room key to a pad located inside the elevator to select a floor. Apparently, the key cards are sensitive and easily deactivated if stored near smartphones. I had to return to the front desk three times to have my key activated again. The first time, I’d stored the room key and my smartphone in the same bag. The second time, I put the room key in my back pocket and put the smartphone in my bag but carried the bag on the same side of my body where the key was stored. And the third time, I don’t know what happened. We were leaving the pool with wet, cold kids and had to go down to the lobby to have the key activated again. This time, the person at the front desk was preoccupied with a phone call and did not immediately fix the issue. My husband was visibly and audibly upset when a bellman named Ibrahim passed by. He stopped and offered to help us. He scanned his employee access card which also failed to work so he helped us into a new elevator. The card worked in the new elevator and we were able to access the 19th floor. After about five minutes in the room, the phone rang. It was Ibrahim. He called to make sure that the room key continued to work and that we were able to enter the room. We were grateful for his efforts and the remarkable customer service.
To Book or Not to Book
I would definitely recommend staying at Grand Millennium Al Wahda. The hotel is beautiful and has excellent amenities. From the pool to the gym to the spa and the art gallery, there’s lots to experience. The two bedroom apartment suite is perfect for families during short or long term stays and has definitely changed our perspective when it comes to booking lodging accommodations. This was our first time staying at Grand Mill but not our first experience with the hotel. Earlier this year (April 2017), we hosted my son’s 5th birthday party at Sky Lounge and we were very satisfied. The party package was comprehensive and a great value for the money.
*Our stay was complimentary for the purpose of this review. All views and opinions are my own.
December 28, 2017