Al Dhabi Lounge, AUH

IMG_0473This is this updated lounge of the Airport Hotel Lounge in AUH, which I have blogged about in 2011.

This lounge went through major revamp and furnishing to reach the true magnificent level of service and recognition that Abu Dhabi is reaching for to represent its image to the world of travelers.

Access to this lounge can be through association of major frequent flyer programs, priority pass and I believe some credit card programs as well. This lounge is still located at Terminal 1 of Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), right after the e-gate and immigration desks.

Shower facilities, Computer access area, kids area and smoking lounges were added in order to provide the best service and accommodation to AUH patrons. The seating, decoration, furnishing have all been renewed and improved to a level that it surprised me in comparison to the previous set-up of its old version.

I have to add that the choices for the buffet need some improvement, yet it still beats any premium lounges in Europe, where hot food and in almost unlimited portions are as rare as water in the Arabian desert!

While traveling to Abu Dhabi, I would suggest visiting this lounge to experience comfort before taking off on your flight!

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Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana, Abu Dhabi

IMG_1002I’ve been only once to this hotel, but I have to admit that it is worth blogging about.

Due to my work commitment, we have decided to conduct a meeting at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan Hotel, a Rotana property in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

This hotel combines three living quarters in one place. I believe that the hotel is one-third of them, while the other buildings are private apartments, if I am correct to assume so.

The location of the hotel is opposite the Abu Dhabi Marina mall and the Emirates Palace hotel on the corniche.

The hotel is reputable for its family friendliness and the provided swimming pools for the kids and families to enjoy. Its nearness to the mall and the corniche is convenient in distance, yet I don’t recommend to cut it through walking since it involves going through traffic and packed streets, which is not safe and the distance is not convenient during summer heat.

As for the hotel, it has to be noted that it is a dry hotel, i.e. no alcohol is provided nor allowed on its premises. So, for all thirsty travelers, I would suggest to look somewhere else.

The lobby and the reception of the hotel is spacious and convenient. The reception and the hotel staff are courteous and available upon need.

I had one major issue with one of the reception desk staff, who provided me with the wrong information regarding using the local line for making an 800 number call within the UAE. I had assumed that it was chargeable by the hotel, but the desk receptionist insisted that it was free. I called twice to inquire about it and on both calls, the reply was that I can go ahead since this call, using the hotel line is free and no charges would be placed on my bill.

I went ahead and place my call on the 800 number to conduct a conference call for an hour with business partners in the states. Upon checking out the next day, I found out that I was charged with almost 75 AED for using the local line to conduct the same call. Upon discussing the same with the reception desk staff and clarifying the issue with the manager, I provided them with the name of the hotel staff who answered me and provided me with the wrong information. The charges were dropped but I think he didn’t get away with his fault!

This hotel is part of the Rotana Rewards program and I would suggest to join the said program to enjoy its rewards. I will review their hotel frequent guest program in an upcoming post!

I would like to emphasize on the size and comfort of this hotel through the following snaps of the deluxe room at this property.

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Gulf Air Falcon Flyer Gold

IMG-20120219-00005For the 2nd year in a row, I’m a Gulf Air Falcon Flyer Gold tier owner. I have been using Gulf Air for the past two years extensively.

This is of course due to traveling for work and also for going from and to Kuwait to see my family and kids. As being a frequent flyer, this post will review the experience of being a Gold tier in Gulf Air frequent flyer program, Falcon Flyer.

It has to be noted that Gulf Air’s program was recently renamed into the Falcon Flyer, where it didn’t have a catchy name like that other airlines before. the reference to the name comes from the Golden Falcon that has been tied to Gulf Air since its early start, when it used to be owned by the GCC countries.

I have climbed my way from blue to silver and to Gold through the past three years and I have to admit that their unique points system is rather strange and no common in the region. For every short-haul trip leg in the region you would take, you would receive 50 “loyalty points”. Reaching a certain number of loyalty points would grant you the next tier. But not that loyalty points expire since they are only valid for a year. So you keep scoring and accumulating points, while the old points keep expiring. It is a race against time to reach the next tier before the expiration of the old points. This system has no relation to the air miles that are being traveled in these legs. Gulf air has decided to divide its regions into zones, where each trip leg would earn you a certain number of points when you travel from/to it.

Let’s talk about the benefits. So far and being a frequent traveler on Gulf Air (a round trip every weekend on short-haul), being on Gold has some advantages but could be labelled as limited when compared to global frequent flyer programs. Being a Gold tier earns you the following:

  • Admission to the exclusive Gulf Air lounge in Bahrain International Airport (BAH), regardless of the class of travel, and a guest provided that he/she is traveling on Gulf Air flight.
  • Admission to associated lounges to Gulf Air globally, when traveling on Gulf Air flights.
  • Excess baggage weight when traveling on Gulf Air.
  • Free change of ticket schedule, up for one time only and depending on the class of ticket and availability.
  • Possibility for upgrade to the next class of travel, upon availability. This has been happening to me only on (KWI-BAH) route and only from KWI side!! this is due to over-selling of tickets for this route! I have never experienced any upgrades at BAH!
  • Possibility for upgrade at business class ticket from C/D to J. The J class ticket is full-fare and the traveler would receive the fully flat seat, which used to be the first class rows in the long-haul trips. Flyers on C and D fares always get the semi-flat business class seats.
  • Priority for services at Gulf Air ticket offices.
  • Priority baggage handling at destination airports.
  • Personal luggage tags for Silver and Gold tiers.

Aside from these benefits, there are margins for improvements for the Gold/Silver tier frequent flyers at Gulf Air. Gulf Air can look into improving their program to be more rewarding such as the following suggestions:

  • Priority for reservations, during blackout and sell-out dates.
  • Redemption of miles for rewards and vouchers.
  • More airlines associations for miles redemption.
  • Modification of their current air miles earning system to be rewarding, rather than depending on class of ticket.

At the end, let me leave you with some snaps at the received package from Gulf Air upon renewal of my Falcon Flyer Golden tier!

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The Blue bird is to fly again!!

Kuwait Airlines (9)As announced yesterday through the local media, Kuwait Airways has announced that it has awarded a contract to Airbus to provide them with 25 new airplanes at the estimated cost of 3 billion dollars.
Such step has been waited for in the last 10 years since the true decline of Kuwait Airways and its services to patrons.

This news has been received positively locally, after the ongoing re-structuring and improvements of the business model for the national carrier of Kuwait, especially after the decree of transforming it into a local airline business, rather than whole governmental asset and business.

Personally, I can’t wait to try the new planes, provided with the high-class level of service to match the other successful gulf carriers such Emirates, Qatar airways and Etihad.

Aside from the fleet renewal, Kuwait Airways has to work harder on gaining the trust of the local traveling patrons, re-gain the air routes which has been lost to local and regional competition, re-evaluate the the ticket prices and revamp its local flyer program, Oasis Club, into a more dynamic and more-rewarding program.

I wish the best of luck for the new Kuwait Airways and hope to see the Blue Bird fly again!!

Crowne Plaza, Muscat

Due to business relations with our clients in Oman, we had to stay a couple of times in Muscat and Crowne Plaza was one of the few selections that would stand out among others. For a fact, hotel rates in Oman are highly exaggerated and don’t reflect the received services for such stay rates nor the quality of the venue.So, why Crowne Plaza? well because I’m a platinum Priority Club member and I would like to receive the benefits of possible upgrade, free amenity kits and extended check out time.  Well, it doesn’t work all the time with hotels operating under the IHG group, since I’ve read stories on frequent flyer forums where their high tier status didn’t earn them a thing and that’s according to local hotel management and discretion.

Well in case of Crowne Plaza Muscat, I was recognized for my tier and I have received a complimentary upgrade for club room, while reserving a standard room. Though there are no provided perks such as club lounge access, internet access or even free breakfast. Actually the hotel doesn’t even have a club floor lounge which is disappointing. Below the picture of the club floor room which is amazingly overlooking the pool and the beach.

As you can see, the room is spacious and has its own balcony, overlooking some beautiful images such as below

As a hotel policy, it is not allowed to smoke in the rooms. For solution to smokers, they have provided an ashtray in the balcony where you would have to smoke outside regardless of humidity and high temperature.

The only provided perks were a plate of fruits, a hot water kettle with instant coffee and tea and some complimentary water aside from the daily local newspapers.

I have to mention that the carpets of the hallways and the rooms need to be replaced as it’s truly worn out and smelly. The interior of the hallways is aged and need renewal. The hotel itself need to give itself a break for a while. As for food, their breakfast buffet is pretty good and packed with all kinds of selections which makes it up for any negative issues.

I would have to recommend that you would try their English pub food and drinks. The food there is good and the atmosphere is jolly, with some bingo/quiz games with lots of Aussies and English people hanging around.

For a change, I would recommend walking a bit from the hotel down the road to see the Qurom Street where the locals call it “the love street” where all youngsters and teens hang around to pick up girls and meet up. There’s a couple of coffee shops and some franchise restaurants. Walking around in a breezy weather at night and enjoying the nightlife scene would be a good choice for alternative if you don’t want to hang out at Crowne Plaza open area dedicated to its restaurants and pubs.

All in all, this is a decent business hotel but I would recommend some major improvements in renovation to be able to stay next time.

First Class Lounge, DOH

This post is about Doha’s International Airport Premium First and Business class lounges in its Premium terminal. I’ve been to this lounge a couple of times and it is worth writing a post about.

Now, this terminal is dedicated only for Business and First class travelers on Qatar Airways. Business Class has it own lounge and thus First Class as well. The camera snaps in this post are from the First Class side.

This lounge is magnificent. You’re talking about a great breakfast/lunch/dinner buffet with a dedicated steak and sushi bar. I’ve heard that there’s an à la carte menu as well, but didn’t have the chance to try it. On the side there’s a dedicated bar for drinks and fresh juices. There are dedicated lounge staff who would service all kinds of hot drinks upon request. For all smokers, there’s a dedicated cigar lounge with nice leather seats and great view of the airport. The seating area is very big and flight update monitors can be found almost everywhere.

The most remarkable feature of this lounge is the spa. There’s a dedicated spa with jacuzzi and massage services. To enjoy it, your stay in the lounge shouldn’t be around one hour only. I’ve gotten used to their massage lazyboys chairs. For a whole hour, I couldn’t get my ass off it.

Outisde of the seating area, there is a business center for those who need to finish their office work. There is a private room for kids with video games consoles and multiple screens. A praying room with abolition is made available as well.

In general, this is one of the best lounges that I have been to in GCC region. I haven’t tried the Emirates First Class lounge in DXB, but in the meantime this stands as the best in my own opinion.

The Gulf Hotel, Bahrain

 

Believed to be the oldest hotel in Bahrain, The Gulf Hotel maintains its colossal shape over Al Adliya area in Bahrain. Arguably it could be labelled the biggest hotel in Bahrain in covered area, Gulf Hotel still maintains attraction to foreign and local visitors through its high variety of restaurants, nightlife, private parties, weddings, conventions and sports-related activities during summer.

I have stayed once before in Gulf Hotel in 2008 and I have stayed in its regular rooms, which are not yet renovated and I had a very negative feedback about it. The carpet was old, the furniture was dreadful and the TV was the old tube type. It was not a pleasant stay for me. I’ve decided to give Gulf Hotel a shot and try it again with my family on August 28th, 2011. I’ve decided to go for the executive rooms which are newly built and made are in the new tower. They cost more than the typical rooms, but are worth the money.

Here are some snaps of the room.

And what’s truly nice about this room is the bathroom and its huge tub.

Still, I have to put some of my personal remarks about Gulf Hotel. For start, their reception desk needs more staff and better training at dealing with patrons. There are usually two to three personnel and they’re always busy with something. The patrons lines do extend to a level that people start losing their patience. Their local staff are not well trained in the sense of respecting the patrons nor providing the most of their skills. I’ve been to hotel where hotel staff went out of their way to provide 110% of services and support. Gulf Hotel reception staff don’t seem to reach 90%.

Another issues is the price of services. The breakfast buffet rate per person is pretty steep. The internet is chargeable and it’s not that cheap either. I’ve seen many people go out and bring food from nearby restaurants due to the high prices of Gulf Hotel establishments.  I think the management should deeply look into this and revise their course of process.

Another issue is the after-sale services. I have stayed in Gulf hotel due to an offer on frequent flyer miles with many airlines. The offer was to get 500 miles per night and I was staying four nights, and this seemed very good offer indeed for me. I have made the reservation for that offer only with all confirmations and such and providing my FFP card. After a couple of weeks, and upon initiating communications from my side to them since they didn’t credit my stay to the FFP, they replied back to me that they’re only offering 500 miles and that’s the normal there. Even sending multiple emails to their management and their customer support with all the supporting documents, they wouldn’t budge down. Then , I had to go to World hotels, which had the original promo and Gulf Hotel is part of it. They were very supportive and credited me all the remaining balance after they took on Gulf hotel management on my behalf. I truly appreciated their gesture and their apologies for the mismanagement of how this issues was dealt with.

In general, this is a fairly good hotel to stay at only if you’re willing to stay in the costly executive rooms. Otherwise, go there for the nightlife and the restaurants.