Oman travel: St Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi is a ziggurat of relaxation
September 19, 2017 | 8:04 PM
by Scott Armstrong
The St Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi is a very majestic hotel.

In 1904 one of America’s wealthiest men – Colonel John Jacob Astor IV – opened the doors of the first St Regis hotel, the appropriately named St Regis New York. He apparently (so says Wikipedia) chose the name for a lake in the US named after a French Jesuit priest called John Francis Regis who was famed for his hospitality to travellers. A socialite millionaire never far from the headlines he was a man accustomed to, and dedicated to creating, luxury.

Indeed he died in circumstances that aptly reflected his life, as the wealthiest First Class passenger aboard the ill-fated HMS Titanic, the most luxurious ship ever built at that time, on its maiden (and also only) journey in 1912. A demanding man with meticulous standards one could only assume that walking into the lobby of the St Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi today Colonel Astor would give a solemn nod of approval.

For this undoubtedly five-star resort offers an impressive welcome to arriving guests who walk into an ocean of gleaming marble. Acres of polished stone are illuminated further by sunlight streaming through the giant atrium at the far end, in which guests can look into their very immediate future and glimpse the powder white sand of the beach and the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf.

The size, scale and sophistication of the lobby (seems too small a word for that space) are a fitting prelude to your room, especially if you’ve booked the Ocean Suite. This is 105sqm of Mediterranean-themed chic that gazes out across the huge pool complex to the sea beyond. Natural light floods in from the expansive balcony making this already large space feel even bigger.

Your gold brocade-wearing butler (another service I’m sure Colonel Astor would have thoroughly approved of) guides you around your suite, which comprises a luxuriously appointed lounge / dining room, the bedroom (separated by French Doors) which features a dedicated vanity area and the obligatory stunning bathroom. I say obligatory because in every St Regis suite I’ve ever stayed in around the world the bathroom always impresses and this is no exception with white marble hosting a huge freestanding bath and a standalone walk-in Monsoon shower.

This suite can sleep four guests with acres of space in the lounge for a roll-top bed, but it seems a shame to spoil the feel of the room, when you can instead book a connecting room next door and create in effect a two-bedroom, three bathroom suite, ideal for even the most demanding family. Don’t forget to ask about the pillow menu (yes that is a thing) so you can pick the one that suits your style of sleep best (especially as there is nothing worse than beating up your pillow in the middle of the night in a five-star hotel).

It is not long before that spell-binding view beckons you outside where you’ll find a huge outdoor pool complex which features dedicated areas for lap swimming, an adults-only haven, a space for families to splash together and a children’s pool. The family pool has a variety of depths to suit the abilities of younger ones and those with toddlers should head to the lower level next to the beach where it is shallow enough for new walkers to enjoy. However, if you are staying at the St Regis Saadiyat Island with children you would be most amiss not to take advantage of one of the best kids clubs in the Gulf.

The Sandcastle Club plays host to the children’s pool, featuring slides and fun fountains. It is an indoor/outdoor space which your children can zoom in and out of, especially fun if accessed through the ‘mystical cave’. Excellent child minders are on hand to make your little ones feel like princes and princesses, fitting really that they should also enjoy the five-star service after all.

However if its sand castles you (they) want then the stunning pristine white powder natural beach and warm sea beyond the pools should be on your ‘to do’ list of fun. Whether on land or at sea Colonel Astor enjoyed the finest cuisine (including his last meal aboard the Titanic) so again it is appropriate that St Regis Saadiyat Island honours that passion with a selection of superior dining options.

Olea is perhaps where you will spend most time, a cavernous Mediterranean buffet which features international cuisine to suit all tastes with live cooking stations. While this is fine dining you can step it up to another level with either Sontaya or 55&5th The Grill. At 55&5th (the address of the Colonel’s first St Regis in New York) treat yourself to some of the finest cuts of succulent meat paired with delicious beverages which are derived from grapes (as we say out here).

Meanwhile Sontaya looks east to the Orient with Asian fare. Sontaya means sunset in Thai and it is the best spot to watch day give way to night, especially with its uninterrupted views of the beach. Taken altogether, the service and sophistication of St Regis Saadiyat Island is a compelling mix, particularly for those who feel that having children doesn’t mean being locked out of five-star hotels. It is a ziggurat of relaxation that feels upscale without being stuffy and arrogant. All in all I think Colonel John Jacob Astor IV would have been proud to see his legacy live on in Abu Dhabi.

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