Dubai, I have found on the whole is a marmite kind of place – you either love it or you hate it! It’s a pretty showy place and every time I have been I have stayed on the palm! So this time we wanted something a little different so we booked ourselves into the Bab al Shams desert resort and spa! Meaning gateway to the sun, we were hoping for something special from our stay at the desert resort – Bab al Shams!
One of the things I like when staying in a luxury hotel is getting a real sense of place. Personal touches and things unique to the place. To be honest, the hotels I’ve stayed in Dubai previously have been lacking in this! There a lot of chains (nothing wrong with that) but on the inside can feel like anywhere else in the world. My favourite hotels always have something unique about them and this was my hope for Bab al Shams and it didn’t disappoint! All the luxury and 5* treatment that you expect f a great middle eastern hotel coupled with a taste of tradition and heritage!
We flew into Dubai maktoum airport which is much closer to the resort than dxb but offers only regional flights at the minute but was perfect for us! From here it was about a 40-50 minute drive. When we arrived we were greeted with a lovely Arabian welcome and some fresh lemon mint and baby e was given a soft camel which she became very attached to!
After a slight confusion over booking details we were shown to our room. The resort is laid out like an Arabian fort – low rise and you walk down winding corridors and alleys with quaint ‘historic’ objects littering the walkways to get to your room! On the way there are many areas to sit and unwind such as reflecting pools and nighttime fire pits!
The room was stunning and had a true sense of place that other Dubai hotels can lack. I was particularly fond of the bathroom.
The only downside to the traditional layout could be that it can seem a little dark but I think the ambience it creates more than make up for it!
As we arrived late in the evening we went straight out to dinner in one of the five onsite restaurants. Night one we tried masala the Indian offer and were very impressed with the quality. There was a nice mix of traditional and more contemporary dishes and a live band which baby e enjoyed dancing the night away too. Of all the restaurants we tried, this was our favourite.
On other nights we tried the Italian, Le Dune and Arabic, Al Forsan, which are nice and have lovely views across the desert especially for sundowners. There is also an Arabic buffet restaurant, Al Hadheerah, that has a live show and has a firework display at weekends. Since wandermust daddy was ill and the baby has an earliesh bedtime I didn’t get to do this but is something I’d love to return and do!
As we went half board we had our breakfast at the buffet restaurant. I am not always a buffet fan but was really impressed with the breakfast, especially the live cooking stations. Due to illness, I mostly experienced the resort on my own, I was concerned about the mix of baby and buffet while solo parenting but the staff were so helpful. I had a great time even if wandermust daddy was shut away in the hotel room for most of the trip! At least we had a nice bed!
The whole resort was perfectly set up for families of any size and age. Baby E enjoyed the heated pool and there was plenty of space around the three pool areas.
Your room rate also includes some desert activities such as camel riding, nature walks, fat bikes and baby E’s favourite falcons! She has now become slightly obsessed with trying to pet birds!
I must admit that even I enjoyed the falconry. The blend of afternoon activities I think makes Bab al shams perfect for the young and he young at heart!
The resort, while well connected by road is set amongst the sand dunes! You could organise trips out through the hotel but we just enjoyed sitting and taking in the scenery! The baby particularly enjoyed the sand between her toes!
We had a fantastic time and would thoroughly recommend anyone who wants to experience a more traditional Dubai scene to try visiting a desert resort.
Top tip – the resort is much busier on a Friday than in the week due to a large brunch and pool day passes so try and stay mid week if you can
Have you ever stayed in a desert resort? I’d love to know what you thought!
When choosing a hotel for business rather than pleasure it is all about location, location, location! Which is why when travelling to Melbourne I chose the Grand Hyatt because of its proximity to my conference venue. On top of this however, the Grand Hyatt is also perfectly located for sightseeing being on Collins Street. Collins Street is one of the main streets in Melbourne and being located there meant you had easy access to Melbourne’s awesome museums, theatres, restaurants and coffee and street art laneways. What more could you want!
Our first cruise with a baby we were lucky enough to be booked into a suite. Despite being seasoned cruisers we had never actually been in a suite before. Most of our previous cruises were done slightly not the cheap – once we went on a week long cruise for less money than we would have spent eating takeaways and at restaurants in our home of London – but that is a story for another day! We keen to have a suite with a baby to have extra space as we knew we wouldn’t be travelling light and thought we would be spending more time in it than usual – so was it worth it?
For us this was a big yes for several reasons
We could store the stroller, car seat, travel cot and luggage without a problem. I believe you can enjoy a cruise with any room size (See my Cruise Cabin Room Guide for Families) but it was certainly nice not to have to look at the baby clutter all the time.
It also meant that we had room to put the baby playmate out to give our little one chance to explore and play safely
It has an amazing balcony with plenty of room for us to sit out while baby played in an inflatable bath as a paddling pool. It also meant we could enjoy the balcony easily while baby was enjoying a nap.
Let me say I hate writing bad reviews, so much so I have been putting off doing this post. You see all we wanted at the end of our travels in the med was to have an indulgent and lazy couple of days. Instead what we got was the sour note at the end of a fantastic trip.
The hotel Miramar is somewhere I’ve wanted to stay since my first trip to Barcelona! Nestled on the Montjuic hilltop, the miramar exudes Art Deco opulence with unrivalled views of Barcelona. My long standing desire to stay there probably made my disappoint greater and it certainly didn’t live up to the 5* expectations! Continue reading The Luxuri-less Hotel Miramar→
I have never really been one to stay in my own country for holidays. Something that I actually regret now we live in a country that is only 11,000km. But when I hit the point of no return mark – aka the airlines will not let you fly anymore, Wandermust Daddy and I decided that we would do a Doha staycation to enjoy one of our last baby-free weekends!
Before being pregnant, I would never have considered staying in the place I live for a stay cation but it was amazing how relaxing it was. No airport queues, no travel tiredness, no worries about hospital or travel discomfort – third trimester stay cations in your hometown i think are a definite winner!
For our staycation we decided to spend the weekend at the Intercontinental Doha Hotel using a buy one get one free Entertainer Qatar Voucher . The first nice surprise when we arrived was that they upgraded us to a suite which was bigger (significantly) than our flat in London.
The Intercon boasts a lovely pool, plenty of shaded seating and a beautiful beach. Being so close to popping, we made use of the pool and covered beds to provide me with some respite from the Middle East sun.
You are not short of food and beverage options at the Intercon. Our favourite place to have lunch being the Greek restaurant Mykonos which overlooks the pool and has a tasteful Santorini inspired décor and a reasonably priced menu. I would thoroughly recommend the calamari and the mousakka! The vast mocktail menu also meant that I had something more interesting than fizzy pop or water to drink.
Despite, being under refurbishment – the spa provided a lovely prenatal massage which provided welcome relief from the aches and pains of pregnancy. I look forward to returning when the new spa is opened.
The benefits of a staycation towards the end of pregnancy mean that you can get away right before the baby is due, without worrying about being away from your hospital of choice and means you can get away really close to your due date.
The Intercon Doha is definitely a family favourite and I can’t wait to return to test the children’s facilities in the Autumn.
I don’t know about you but whenever I’m booking a hotel, especially a luxury one I seek the opinions of others. Travel bloggers have often tried a range of hotels from quirky and one offs to high end chains. The Middle East, in my opinion, has some great hotels to suit every type of traveller. Here I, and some of my favourite bloggers, have picked their favourite Middle Eastern hotels that they have stayed in during 2016! I hope this inspires your travels in 2017!
Magnificent desert oasis Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter is just a couple of hours drive from the capital offering the luxury traveller the epitome of elegance set against a stunning panorama of sand dunes.
This imposing and architecturally impressive retreat blends old-world desert charm honouring Emirati heritage and culture with modern-day hospitality. Beautiful interiors combine traditional furniture, textiles, ceramics and artefacts in a series of low-rise buildings that are accessed via large wooden doors with walkways lined with water features and Arabic lanterns.
The service is impeccable, stylish restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, there is a fantastic spa and a multitude of activities from camel rides, dune bashing and falconry. The perfect sanctuary for a long weekend to relax and enjoy a peaceful little snippet of desert life.
What Catherine has to say:
I was staying with a friend for most of the time I was in Dubai, but I was desperate to really experience a hotel as Dubair are so famous for their luxury hotels. I booked myself into the Four Seasons Resort Jumeirah Beach for a night, and from start to finish the service was just incredible. The hotel itself was beautiful and despite my short stay, it was one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. I think it’s well suited to couples and older families, and it was totally worth the money.
You can read Catherine’s full review here and why not check out her social media channels:
My husband and I visited Anantara on The Palm Jumeirah when our daughter was just two months old. It was our first experience of travel with a baby and we were looking for some peace and tranquility as well as somewhere that was friendly and accommodating to a young couple with a newborn. Luckily, the hotel gave us all of this and more. The South East Asian inspired villas which are spread out over the extensive grounds feature private balconies and steps down to lagoon-like swimming pools where Sophia had her first swim. The friendly staff, beautiful setting and unique features make this hotel ideal for young families and honeymooning couples alike. It has an exclusive feel, and is pricey but in my opinion, totally worth it.
You can read a full review here and follow Polly on Twitter @PolBag
We chose the Taj Dubai mainly because it’s location. It is located in Business Bay within walking distance (if it’s not to hot) to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. Our favourite thing about the hotel was the choice of restaurants and the quality of the food, especially Friday Brunch. If you have a bit of cash to splash then we would recommend this hotel as even by Dubai standards it is quite pricey, but in our opinion well worth it. With swimming pool, spa and gym it has great amenities. Ideal for business travellers, couples and families.
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai – the tallest hotel in the world – wins our top vote with its combination of opulent luxury, fantastic leisure facilities and award-winning restaurants and bars like Weslodge, Rang Mahal and Tong Thai.
Best of all though, it can be amazing value. We’ve managed to get rooms in this five-star hotel for as low as 335 AED/night using the Entertainer Free Night Offer.
Ideal for business and leisure travellers, who need never leave the hotel due to excellent range of leisure venues and facilities, and close to the dazzling new Dubai Canal.
Proving that luxury and family really can go hand and hand we were blown away by Doubletree Marjan Island. Large family-sized villa rooms overlooking the lush gardens with several pools to choose from. For kids there is a giant playground, and all day (and evening!) kids club – but most loved by our little family was the giant pirate ship with 4 amazing slides! With multiple restaurants to choose from this resort makes a perfect weekend getaway.
You can read Keri’s full review here or if you would like to find out more about Keri and the BabyGlobetrotters travels you can follow them at:
The Intercon is a family favourite of the Wandermust Family. With a great pool and lovely beach with views of the city centre skyline to die for. Coupled with the fact, it has amazing service and brilliant restaurants – we particularly love the Greek restaurant Mykonos – The Intercon is the place to go for the ultimate relaxing break.
We went for our final baby moon here and its perfect for couples but would also be great for families. We would love to go back this time with our little one in tow!
You can read the full review here and the Wandermust Family can be followed on the below social media channels:
I am huge lover of Shangri-La hotels after staying in their Singapore hotel regularly as a child, and stay with them whenever I can so it was a no-brainer for my visit to Doha. One of the reasons I love Shangri-La’s so much is that each one feels ‘on-brand’ and familiar, and I always feel safe and at home in them (especially when I’m travelling alone). The staff are always fantasti, and honestly can’t do enough for you. The Doha hotel was stunning: the pool was an oasis in the middle of a very futuristic and high rise city, the spa was super relaxing, and even the standard rooms are huge!
Catherine’s full review is over on her website for you to check out and can be found here
You can follow Catherine on the below social media sites:
We booked into the Grand Hyatt using the entertainer app buy one get one free voucher and were not disappointed. We were upgraded to the Presidential Suite which was spacious as well as beautiful filled with local decorative touches. The bathroom was particularly impressive with a huge bath and a technology fueled shower. The club lounge offers free breakfast and an evening happy hour, a perfect retrace for couples, We enjoyed spending time round the heated pool, perfect for a winter break with kids.
While I live in Qatar, sometimes I need to get away from my normal life, so I opted to do a staycation at the W Doha. Part of the reason I chose the W Doha is that offered a staycation rate that included early check-in and late check-out. It meant I could spend more time at the hotel. I also chose the W Doha because it is one of my favorite places to eat in Doha, so I knew I would be happy with the food choices. My favorite thing about this visit is that I was able to relax and unwind in a peaceful room with a comfortable bed. The service is always something I am impressed with when eating there and this extended into the hotel. This hotel is great because you can relax in your room, but enjoy the restaurants and nightlife the W Doha offers. It was a wonderful getaway in my hometown.
We are not beach bums! Hotels are usually where we rest our weary heads after a long day sightseeing. So the fact we never left the chedi tells you how good it is! Three pools, including the longest in the Middle East, a beach, beautiful architecture and several amazing restaurants mean the Chedi is a must for any couples wanting a romantic weekend in the Middle East!
You can read the full review here and the Wandermust Family can be followed on the below social media channels:
We were recommended the resort (made up of 3 hotels) and specifically the Al Husn as the must stay in Muscat.The pool area is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The horizon infinity pool is stunning and tranquil atmosphere is uber relaxing.
Not a cheap get away (GBP 250+ per night) but worth every penny. They include complimentary afternoon tea, evening drinks reception and full mini bar use daily. With pool, gym, private beach areas, free wifi, use of the full resort, 10 restaurants and 3 bars.
The Al Husn is adults and perfect for that luxury couples get away. However the other 2 hotels on the resort are family friendly. The service, food and luxury finishes are second to none at this hotel and why we come return time and again.
You can read the full review here and follow Jersey Girl on the below Social Media Channels:
We stopped at the Six Senses Zighy Bay on our around-the-world trip for one reason: the paragliding entrance. But we loved everything about the hotel, including the excellent food, our private plunge pool, the warm ocean water, the bicycles we rode all around the resort, the library, the tubing and the kids club activities. It’s a lot less expensive in the (hot) summer, but even at the resort’s high-season prices, there’s a lot of value provided. The service was outstanding. Highly recommended for adventurous, non-budget-minded travellers who want to be pampered in a unique location.
I chose Toledo Hotel because it is located in Abdali, a largely residential area of cream-coloured townhouses and apartments intermixed with government and commercial buildings. There are no heavy traffic and loud noises unlike Downtown Amman. The nearest bakeries and shops are within 15 minutes’ walking distance while the major tourist attractions are a few minutes’ drive away, costing only 2-3 dinar by taxi.
The hassle-free bookings of city tour or day tours outside of Amman. The front desk will make the necessary arrangements, after which, guests can further discuss with the hired drivers for other requests. For example, I hired the same driver for the additional two days to drive me to Madaba and later, an excursion tour to Mount Nebo, Bethany and the Dead Sea – all at a reasonable price.
The rates for a single and double room range from USD68 – USD80 a night including breakfast at their Moorish-designed Andalusia Cafe.
In the room, there is air-conditioning, TV, desk, tea & coffee facilities, bar fridge, closet and a private safe box. I found no faults with the room and the attached bathroom as it was very clean, tastefully decorated, comfortable bed and everything functioned as it should be. The hotel has a gym and an indoor swimming pool. And of course, free Wi-Fi! Perfect for solo, business and family travellers.
We love a staycation. A chance to get away without the hassle of traveling especially now we have a baby. When we noticed that we had a buy one night get a night free at the Grand Hyatt Doha that had to be used by the end of the year we jumped at the chance to get away.
So how was our stay?
The service we received was excellent. From our check in with Maha to staff at the pool, we were made to feel welcome and taken care of. Staff around the pool were always ready to help carry the pram and the staff at majlis were particularly good.
Our room was upgraded so we got to experience the Presidential Suite. The suite was large and beautifully decorated. There was plenty of room for baby e to roll around.
Our bathroom – one of the things I love about top hotels is their bathrooms and gran Hyatt was no exception. It had a lovely big bath for me and baby E to relax in and an amazing shower for Wandermust Daddy. You know the shower will be good when it comes with its own set of instructions.
The pool is excellent for families. It is heated to a beautiful 29 degrees which meant we could take the baby in at any time of day and be guaranteed it would be comfortable for her. Despite what people think about the Middle East, it can get cold so finding a heated pool is a must for winter staycations.
The breakfast in the club lounge is a lovely addition and is available from 7-11am. We also loved the all day drinks and snacks.
The cot – I have stayed at many lovely hotels where design has been at the fore. Then you ask for a cot and everything goes to pot! Now this is only a small thing but I always think that it seems strange that you would spend so much time on design and then plonk a luminous cot into the centre of the room. What I loved about the cot at Grand Hyatt, was it seemed very comfortable – Baby E had a great nights sleep but it also was quite attractive.
We made reservations through the concierge on both nights of our stay and unfortunately both nights we had issues. The first night at Issaan the reservation couldn’t be found and the second our request hadn’t been sent through correctly. Now the staff at each of the restaurants were great and rectified the issue but it’s not what you expect particularly when you are in a suite.
The club lounge wasn’t as friendly as it could have been. On our first fight it took half an hour to get our luggage which unfortunately contained our baby food. When we went to grab a banana my husband wearing tailored shorts was told off because of the evening dress code. It was done in a polite but firm way however could have been approached width a more apologetic manner. It was also unfortunate that due to Qatari law you can’t take children into the lounge between 6-8. This meant that we couldn’t fully use the services of the suite and that groups of children would congregate on the bench outside the lift. It seems like perhaps table services instead of an open bar would make for a more inclusive atmosphere.
I have to say the hotel is particularly beautiful. When you visit a chain hotel you can feel detached from the place you are staying however The Grand hyatt seemed to be embedded with regional touches that we loved.
We all had a lovely relaxing weekend. It was well set up for families and was a truly luxurious weekend.
Keep coming back to the blog to see more about our Doha Staycations
Have you had a staycation at the Grand Hyatt? What did you think? What are your favourite things about staycations?
One of the first holidays we did with baby E was a cruise around the western Mediterranean. As experienced cruisers we knew what to pack for us and for Baby E so thought we’d put together the essential list for others considering taking a baby on cruises. Whether you are new to cruising or perhaps new to cruising with a baby we hope this list will be of use
On embarkation day you leave your main baggage in the cruise terminal which will be delivered to your stateroom later in the day. If you are lucky it will arrive quickly. If you are unlucky it might not arrive until after you have had dinner. So here is what you should bring in your carry on
Enough milk / food to last until the next morning ( longer if the next day is a sea day)
Enough nappies and related paraphernalia to last until the next morning ( longer if the next day is a sea day)
Pram if you want to use to take to dinner or go for a stroll around deck
Outfit for dinner and other clothing changes as required
Swimwear if your cruise allows babies and toddlers in the pool (has a baby pool)
Pjs for all the family
It is mandatory for all cruise guests on the first day to do an emergency evacuation drill. To prepare for this you will need:
Sun-hat, sunscreen or cold weather clothing depending on cruise location i.e Caribbean or Alaskan!
Baby carrier – A baby carrier is an essential. If you decide not wait for the lift and use the stairs you will definitely need the carrrier for safety on the stairs.
Have you cruised with a baby? What do you recommend bringing on in embarkation day?
Located on the edge of the queen Elizabeth national park, the kyambura gorge lodge is in an enviable location. From there it is only a few minutes drive to the gorge itself where you can see a fascinating and unique group of chimps. These chimps are comepletely isolated from other groups, like no other in Uganda. You can read about our experience and find out why here
But the grounds itself are also very interesting. One of my favourite things was walking with Francis in the lodge birdwatching and finding out about local flora and fauna. Our guide was really knowledgeable and I particularly enjoyed finding out about plants relating to treatments and remedies they for malaria. We also got to see some amazing animals on our hike like this blue lizard.
If it wasn’t such an activity filled area I would have been happy to spend make time in the lodge itself. The lodges are separate so you have total tranquility and privacy. My particular favorite spot was the balcony where I enjoyed sitting watching animals on the other side of the gorge.
The lodge also had An amazing pool which given we went in off season was a private pool.
For me when doing such vigorous activities such as chimp trekking you want to come back to complete relaxation. On top of the amazingly comfortable bedrooms, which were all beautifully decorated, the lodge offers daily complementary massages which are amazing after long hikes.
If you want complete relaxation in and around queen Elizabeth national park then kyamabura gorge is the place for you!
I love modern and chic hotels but sometimes I want a hotel with a real sense of place that connects with the history of the city. That’s when I was looking to book a hotel for our couple of night stay in Rome I decided on the Westin Excelsior.
The hotel was purpose-built in 1906. From the outside it screams baroque style opulence. Located on the trendy Via Veneto one wouldn’t expect anything less than luxury and opulence!