Review: Waldorf RAK
Even a short staycation at the sprawling property is rejuvenating, with all the safety protocols in place
Picturesque beachside views, scrumptious dishes and stunning sunset vistas have started to resurface much more frequently on Instagram as people start to venture out and travel again. But many of these images – especially among residents in the UAE – are now from local staycations. The staycation trend received a tremendous boost this year, as Covid-19 restrictions/apprehensions have stifled international travel plans, and many residents have opted instead to explore the local landscape.
Personally, although I was a bit hesitant about a staycation since the start of the pandemic (thanks in large part to an inquisitive toddler), the summer heat and the allure of ‘getting away’ superseded that angst as we found ourselves driving from Dubai to the shores of Ras Al Khaimah in early July. Driving into the expansive entrance of the luxurious Waldorf Astoria, that familiar (and exhilarating) feeling of a vacation swept over me, and my fears were also allayed by the masked-up and physically distanced ushers.
The check-in process was swift and smooth and after walking along the long and spacious corridors to our suite, the entrance to the room was also a quick, touchless entry with the key card. “The twisting handle is only for decoration purposes,” the attendant smilingly told us. Our home for the night was a plush two-room suite with a sea-view balcony that offered a panoramic vista with colourful hues of the golden horizon, the blue sea and the beautifully landscaped green area within the property.
Jumping gleefully on the bed, my toddler was raring to go to the beach, and so we set out with her sand bucket and toys and headed to the sea early in the evening. Again, despite the hotel enjoying reasonable occupancy (it was the weekend) – the vast area meant we had our own spot at the private beach and felt comfortably spaced from the other guests.
For dinner that night, we headed to the Lexington Grill – not the obvious choice for us, being vegetarians. But the restaurant has refreshed its menu to include several vegan options, so we were keen to try out the new menu. Boasting lavish interiors and an intimate ambience – there was also soothing live music – the venue gradually filled up but also offered exclusivity at each table. Our server was extremely pleasant and helpful and ensured we had a wonderful meal and experience. For starters, his recommendation was the exotic shaved broccoli salad, which includes quinoa, braised onion and macadamia nut (“even as a non-vegetarian, I really enjoy this salad,” he told us). Digging into the dish, it was not hard to understand why – the freshness of the vegetables mingled deliciously well with the various ingredients to create an explosion of flavours. Following the starters, we were even more convinced to follow his recommendation for the mains and went with the grilled cauliflower steak – which comes with charcoal roasted mushrooms, pine nuts and vegan béarnaise sauce as well as the pumpkin agnolotti – both of which were scrumptious. We were too stuffed by this point to try out any dessert, but our server again strongly advocated the fried ice cream, which we relented to (and which turned out to be a delectable decision). What also stood out was the immediacy with which they were able to wheel out an appetising vegetarian pasta for my toddler (who obviously relished the strawberry ice cream much more). In all, it was a wonderful experience and fantastic service, with the new vegan options
certainly worth tasting.
Breakfast at Qasr Al Bahar was probably where we saw the biggest crowd during our entire stay, but thankfully the buffet was well-managed and there were no queues. The good thing was also that the buffet – all kept at a distance – is only served by the staff, so there’s no fear of cross-contamination. Following a hearty breakfast, we headed out to the children’s club, which takes you on a long walk through the property, with manicured lawns, large trees with wild flowers and curious chirping birds. The club was practically empty (one child was watching a movie in a room), so my toddler had a wonderful time playing with the attendant while we went out for a stroll. A visit to the swimming pool was next on the agenda and since the family pool is massive, although there were other guests, we managed to retain our personal space. There is also an exclusive adults-only pool and for those looking for adventure, the hotel also offers adrenaline water sports ranging from jet skiing to banana boating too.
All the pool splashing had our stomachs rumbling soon after, and we sauntered into the Mediterranean-themed Azure, where you can watch the chef prepare steaming hot pizzas. The food is fresh and tasty, and the restaurant has that characteristic vacation vibe around it.
And with that, our short staycation came to an end. Although just a day, the staycation at Waldorf Astoria was relaxing, rejuvenating and an absolute stress buster. It was also particularly safe with the hotel taking all the precautions from a health standpoint. For those looking to get those striking Instagram photos, this is a spot not to miss.