The Hotel Eclat Beijing:  A Chic Luxury Hotel With an Artsy Vibe

The Hotel Eclat Beijing: A Chic Luxury Hotel With an Artsy Vibe

Eccentric luxury sounds like a contradiction in terms and generally not something you want in a hotel. The Hotel Eclat Beijing is the exception though. It’s the brainchild of a Hong Kong tycoon who wants to bring contemporary art out of collector’s confines and put it in public spaces. Nice public spaces though. The Hotel Eclat Beijing is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels brand which has long been a favourite of ours for great luxury hotels that have style and panache. The Eclat Beijing delivers on all of those accounts and with a soupçon of irreverence.

The elegant furnishings of the hotel lobby signal early on that this hotel pays attention to design.

The elegant furnishings of the hotel lobby signal early on that this hotel pays attention to design.

First Impressions

I was a little bemused when we pulled up in front of a giant glass and steel encased mall with modern sculpture strewn across the front garden.  Was this a pit stop? We were supposed to be going to the Hotel Eclat Beijing. When the driver pulled out the bags, we realised we were at the hotel!

The giant glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Parkview Green Mall.

The giant glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Parkview Green Mall.

Once you enter the mall, the entrance to the Eclat Beijing is off to the side. There’s a reception desk and a long lobby filled with more contemporary art. A glass escalator whisks you up to your key-coded floor.

The glass elevator had a red traditional couch. We loved the juxtaposition of old and new.

Style

The Hotel Eclat Beijing is definitely meant for lovers of modern art AND luxury. There are nods to traditional Chinese imagery (such as the red lanterns above the room doors) mixed with modern elan.

Sculpture of a man breaking through a wall.

Sculpture of a man breaking through a wall. What can it mean??

For example, both of our rooms’ terraces had variations of a barfing Buddha as well as giant upholstered leather sofas that would not be out of place in an English  country house library.

What’s the story with the barfing Buddha?

What’s the story with the barfing Buddha? Maybe a bit avant-garde for us.

Ambience

The rooms are spacious, the ambience discreet and the staff attentive. In some views, I felt like I was in a gilded jewellery box.

I actually felt like I was in an episode of the Truman Show where I was living in an enclosed bubble. We were separated from the noise, pollution and OTT-ness of Beijing by the glass dome which covered the mall.

The view of Beijing from the Hotel Eclat.

The view of Beijing from the Hotel Eclat.

I’ve heard people have complained that the glass dome was filmy.. Hello??? This is Beijing. The crazy pollution of the city is just outside that dome and the glass is never going to be clear.

The mall was perfectly temperature controlled so we could sit out in our terraces and enjoy being outside without actually being outside. While inside our little dome, we did not have the itchy eyes and a rasping throat that plagued us when we were out and about in Beijing.

The Good

I never thought I’d enjoy staying at a mall but I did! It also felt totally Chinese – an homage to conspicuous consumption and an artificial reality constructed to make everything seem pleasant.

Parkview Green Mall

Parkview Green Mall in Beijing is one of the best high-end malls in Beijing. It also has modern art scattered throughout.  The stores are a blend of Chinese and Western brands. We saw Gap, Build-A-Bear, Van Cleef and Arpels and Stella McCartney which is a fairly odd combination in my opinion.

Being located in an upscale mall has its advantages in terms of foodie options. It’s got a Starbucks, and a branch of a couple of our favourite Chinese restaurants (Dadong for Crispy Duck and Din Tai Fung for dumplings. There’s a whole slew of options including pizzerias, cafes and Japanese restaurants. Something for everyone, then.

A multi-coloured Buddha is one of the modern art pieces on show.

A multi-coloured Buddha is one of the modern art pieces on show.

The Location

Hotel Eclat Beijing is located in an upscale area of Beijing near the Embassies. It is located bout 20 kilometres away from the Beijing international airport. The hotel is in between the central business district which has the tourist sightseeing places. and the trendy area of Sanlitun. There is a subway nearby should you chose to avail yourself of that mode of transportation.

Family-Friendly

We did see other children around but the hallways and common spaces were quiet. Maybe you wouldn’t want small children around all of the artwork, but my kids got a kick out of it. Besides, its clear that everything at this hotel has a price tag. I’m sure if your kid breaks something, they will be expected to pay for it.

The television had mostly Chinese channels with a few English-channels like HBO and Cinemax. The room though had an Blu Ray player with a disc full of children’s favourites.

A disc with English language movies to keep the kids happy.

A disc with English language movies to keep the kids happy.

There seems to be candy everywhere – from the lobby to the Afternoon tea. It may be a hipster thing but it made my kids very happy.

We had asked for connecting rooms so that our children could be next door. The initial rooms they gave us were not connecting. The hotel did rectify this situation as soon as they had a room free next door to the one in which we were staying.

The George Bar

You get a voucher for a free drink at the George Bar in the lobby when you check in. My husband took my son down to the bar to oversee the math homework he had been assigned from school. In return, he took my free drink voucher which  I thought was a fair trade.

The French colonial glamour of the Georg Bar.

The French colonial glamour of the Georg Bar.

Although the atmosphere was lively, the bar was not too noisy with attentive staff. I loved the vintage French decor – a nod to the glamour and decadence of French colonial rule further south in Asia.

The Great

We thought our rooms with the connecting terraces were fabulous. I could totally see myself having an apartment in New York with a similar set up. It gave us enough privacy but also gave the children assurance we were nearby. We had temperature and pollution-controlled outside space to enjoy as well.

The Rooms

We loved our rooms which had connecting terraces. The bathrooms were large with separate soaking tubs and power showers. My kids were super-impressed with the Japanese style deluxe toilets which was operated with remote controls. In fact, the lid opened and closed with a motion sensor. The beds were comfy and we slept like babies.

We had a comfortable queen bed in our room and twin beds in the children’s room.

This hotel is the first one which had a massage chair in each room. I am a huge fan of massage chairs and kept ours pretty busy sorting out the knots in my back from travelling and carrying bags.

Why don’t more hotels have massage chairs?

Why don’t more hotels have massage chairs? Travelling is the worst thing for my back

My kids absolutely loved the toy-gun activated bedside lamp.

My kids LOVED this lamp which turned on when you pointed the gun at it.

As with everything else in the room, the lamp was for sale. A price list handily appears on the television screen as does the room service menu.

The television handily lists all the things you can buy from the hotel

The television handily lists all the things you can buy from the hotel, including the bath mat. Who buys a bath mat?

The Terraces

The terraces were charming. Plenty of room to sit and relax in your own hideaway. They had couches, lights and giant tables perfectly set up for outdoor living. It reminded me of many New York City apartment terraces.

One of the terraces in our hotel room at the Hotel Eclat Beijing

One of the terraces in our hotel room at the Hotel Eclat Beijing.

If you pay more than we did, you can get one of the 20 rooms with terraces which have individual pools.

Room Service

We were feeling so pampered, we opted to have room service on our terrace at the Hotel Eclat Beijing. It’s all done through the iPad in the room, but ironically the hotel staff had to call you to confirm a few things. For exam, my daughter wanted pasta but they called to confirm the type.

The food was excellent, the service prompt and we had a lovely relaxing time hanging out as a family in the terrace.

The room service dinner menu had a good variety of food options. We were all able to have a variety of items. I was craving something spicy which I got in the form of  Laksa soup. My daughter ordered pasta which is her go-to anywhere. My husband and son got comfort food for themselves, too – steak and ribs. The burgers and steak was Wagyu beef so it was a prime cut with matching prices.

Could Be Better

I felt I was nitpicking when i tried to find things I disliked about the Eclat Beijing. It’s a bit too trendy – so there may be trends you dislike such as for example, the lack of privacy in bathrooms.  The afternoon tea and the gym were a bit lame. And, if you find good WiFi in Beijing that’s considered a bonus. Definitely don’t expect it.

Trends I Dislike

I honestly really dislike bathrooms that allow you to see into them. On the plus side, there are window dimmers so you can have privacy. No matter how much you love someone you don’t want to watch them brush and floss their teeth.

You can dim the window from the bathroom into the bedroom.

You can dim the window from the bathroom into the bedroom.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is served to hotel guests. We were a little surprised to find that this meant a huge assortment of candy and some cakes. Needless to say the kids were thrilled. My husband and I were feeling peckish and expecting an English-style afternoon tea though with those little finger sandwiches.

There was free candy on tap to the delight of my children.

There was free candy on tap to the delight of my children.

Gym

The gym is a small room overlooking the mall which has just enough equipment to be adequate.

The small hotel gym overlooks the mall.

The small hotel gym overlooks the mall.

Wifi

The Wifi was honestly as terrible as in the rest of Beijing. Being in a luxury hotel is no guarantee of having good WiFi. Your best bet is to find the nearest Apple store and hang out fo awhile if you want to catchup on the outside world.

Our Opinion

You can stay in Hotel Eclat Beijing and be in your own little world. Is that a good thing? It depends on your opinion of Beijing.

For the latest rates for Hotel Eclat Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites:

Hotels.com Expedia Booking.com

You can read other reviews of the Hotel Eclat on TripAdvisor which seem to like this boutique hotel in Beijing as much as I do. 

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Where To Stay in Osaka Japan: A Room With A View at the Marriott Miyako Hotel For Modern Luxury

Where To Stay in Osaka Japan: A Room With A View at the Marriott Miyako Hotel For Modern Luxury

When I was in Japan on tour in 2010, I felt like I was 30 years into the future. I love technology and they are so advanced with their phones, computers, everything.

– Soulja Boy

When we were searching for where to stay in Osaka Japan, we were not short on options. We were searching for cool and modern Japan  as well as Osaka accommodation for families with a bit of style and luxury. There would be plenty of traditional places to stay elsewhere on our 2 week trip in Japan. Thanks to being the second biggest city in Japan, you will have your pick of places to stay in Osaka, including many  5 star hotels from the major hotel brands. We specifically wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station because we were using our stay in Osaka as a base to explore other places in Japan. Our choice of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel also made my architecture-obsessed son happy because it is located in the tallest building in Japan. So would we say the Marrott Miyako is a recommended hotels in Osaka including for families? Read on and find out.

First Impressions of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

My first impression of the Marriott Miyako Hotel was that it reminded me of the skyscraper hotel in the 2003 Lost in Translation movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen. It’s striking, glossy and glamourous. The impeccably groomed receptionists are lined behind glossy long white lacquered tables. The lights of Osaka glimmer in the double-height windows. You definitely feel the sense of being small in a big city.

The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako

The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako

The service though added warmth to this glossy white space. Everything was organised and our room keys given to us in a jiffy. A smiling receptionist took us to our room on the 51st floor. My son was delighted – he adores skyscrapers and we had never stayed on a floor this high before. At check-in you get some freebies for staying in the tallest building in Japan, such as a discount coupon to use at the department store in the building and free passes to the observatory in the tower.

The view from the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset

The view from our room at the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset.

Family Accommodation in an Osaka 5 Star Hotel

We had a double bedded room (with queen beds) which was a good size in terms of Osaka accommodation for families.  The fancy toilet was a separate room from the  bathroom sink, bathtub and shower area.  Good thing because my kids were completely fascinated with the toilet controls and spent inordinate amounts of time in there.

Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

I loved the bathroom because it is in a style usually found in high-end Japanese design. The bathtub is in a separate glass enclosure with the walk-in shower. You have all the benefits of a large walk-in shower without the water splashing everywhere.

There is a seating area, a workspace area and the usual amenities of bathrobes, a safe and mini fridge. What was extra and really nice were the Japanese pyjamas. Not only were they super comfortable but it meant that we could save our own pyjamas for later in the trip.

Style at this Osaka 5 Star Hotel

The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is glossy and modern. The lobby on the 38th floor is a cavernous open-plan space with double height ceilings and windows. The area is slightly subdivided with a separate gift shop and restaurant area. The middle of the floor though are bar areas. A musician plays in the evenings which is nice if you want to chill out with a drink.

One of the bar areas in the lobby

One of the bar areas in the lobby

The rooms are comfortable and cozy in feel though. It’s got a minimal of clutter which I appreciate. We bring our own clutter to hotel rooms!

There were definitely elements of Japanese traditional style at this hotel. For example, I loved this piece of pottery which incorporates the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (the idea that imperfect is perfect). My daughter wasn’t buying it though. She thought maybe the potter had broken it and was trying to cover it up. Such cynicism.

Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako

Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako

Ambience of the Tallest Building in Japan

The ambience of the tallest building in Japan is definitely straight out of Lost in Translation. Giant windows overlook Osaka as it sprawls into the horizon. Fifty floors up, the people and trains below don’t seem quite real. Little toys scampering around.

Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline

Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline

By the way, how can this hotel be located in the tallest building in Japan? With a skyscraper geek in our family, he was only happy to educate us.

Well, technically the Tokyo SkyTree is taller but it is deemed the tallest structure in Japan. Most of the Tokyo SkyTree is unoccupied and serves as a broadcasting tower for the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s as famous a Japanese sightseeing destination as the much smaller Eiffel Tower knock-off, the Tokyo Tower.

That leaves the Abeno Harukas building in which the Marriott Miyako Osaka is housed as the tallest building in Japan. It has 6o floors which are separated by function:

  •  the 2nd to the 14th floor is the main branch of the Kintetsu Department Store and the largest department store in Japan;
  • the 15th to the 37t floor is office space
  • the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel occupies the 38th to the 55th floor
  • the top floors have an observation deck and restaurants
No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot

No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot because … Japan.

By the way, we used our free tickets to the observatory in the Abeno Harukas building but can truthfully say the view from our room was just as good!

The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night

The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night

The Good Bits of the Marriott Hotel in Tennoji

What were we looking for when we were choosing where to stay in Osaka? A Convenient Osaka accommodation for families in a 5 star hotel with a bit of style.

There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area

There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area

Convenient Location

In terms of convenience, we really wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station. I love Osaka for its food and fun but we knew we would be using Osaka as a base for a few days to explore other places in the region. This Osaka 5 star hotel is wonderfully located above a major transportation hub. At the end of a long day, we could drag our weary bodies straight upstairs to bed from the train station downstairs.

Amenities on Your Doorstep

Having the Kintetsu department store downstairs meant that we had quite a few options for breakfast and snacks. They have a GREAT food hall which we loved. Did I mention that my children are completely addicted to Japanese candy and sweets?

The giant train station complex meant there was lots of good shopping options, for both food and other supplies we needed..

There  is a separate convenience store which is pretty upscale for the people who work in the offices  from which we got dinner once. Of course you will need to take multiple elevators to get to it from the Marriott Miyako hotel.

The Marriott Branding

The Osaka Marriott Miyako is part of the Marriott brand and so part of the Starwood Group. You know how much I love the Starwood Group for both great hotels, excellent service and a fabulous rewards program.

We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea.

We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea. I did wonder what New York Breakfast tasted like – caffeine, bagels and lox?

The Great Bits of the Marriott Miyako Hotel in Osaka

What would I consider some of the extra add-ons that go above and beyond in terms of staying in an Osaka 5 star hotel?

Exceptional Service in a Medical Crises

We were very grateful to the Marriott Osaka Miyako Hotel manager for finding us an English-speaking doctor in the middle of the night. One night our son felt ill  because his ear hurt. Although he has had ear infections before, they have never occurred while we were away from home.

The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel. I really had the impulse to peel that ‘paper’ off the wall every time I saw it.

My husband and I were in a bit of a panic about finding an A&E in country where we didn’t speak the language. My husband’s first reaction was to suggest that my son was just being dramatic and he could just power through the pain. I was not happy with that decision as the whimpering got progressively worse..

The manager at the hotel sorted everything out for us in an hour after our phone call to him.  He put  my husband and son in a hotel taxi to a hospital together with a note to the hospital explaining the circumstances in Japanese. My son was seen by an English-speaking doctor who prescribed antibiotics for a definite ear infection. My son felt better the next day  and I felt immense superiority in being right.

Excellent Location

I was looking for a good Osaka hotel near a JR station. The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is actually located above the massive JR Tennoji station as well as Osaka Obenabashi station for the private Kintetsu railroad.

This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line (photo credit: JR Rail)

This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line
(photo credit: JR Rail)

Tennoji JR station is one of the main stations in Osaka and is served by several JR and Osaka subway lines.

  • With your JR pass you can go directly from Kansai  International Airport to Tennoji JR station in half hour  on the Haruka Express or 45 minutes by the Kansai Airport Rapid Service.
  • We used the Kintetsu train from Obenabashi directly to Mount Yoshino.
  • You can go directly from Obenabashi to Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Japan’s holiest places.
  • You can take the JR Yamatoji  line from Tennoji Station directly to Nara in less than an hour depending on what type of train you take.

On the JR Osaka loop line, you can use your JR pass to get around large parts of Osaka without paying extra for the Osaka subway. For example, on the loop line you can get to Osaka station and then change for a train to Himeji.

You really are spoiled for choices for transport links around and out of Osaka.

What Left Us Underwhelmed

In such a tall building, the elevator banks are a bit confusing to negotiate. It took us a while to figure them out, such as the floor we needed to get off to go directly to the JR station. The elevators themselves are speedy but different sets of elevators serve different floors.

We ordered room service once. For a simple meal of Onigiri (Japanese rice rolls) and Miso Soup, it took close to 45 minutes to deliver.Maybe they had issues navigating all those elevators too!  It’s the sort of thing you can get in a Japanese convenience store much cheaper and much faster.

On that issue of laundry, the costs are sky high. We thought very briefly about sending some items for cleaning but balked when the cost of laundry for a pair of socks came out to about $10. Instead, we just went out and bought 3 pairs of new socks for $10.

Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.

Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.

Our Opinion of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

I can definitely say the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is our recommended hotel in Osaka, and not just because the manager got us out of a tight spot. We loved the location, the convenience and the uber-cool feel of it. Our other hotels in Japan were more traditional in feel which is what you would want in the historic areas of Kyoto and Kanazawa. In the brash neon glam of Osaka, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel perfectly captures the modern city glamour of Japan.

Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews that the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel received from other guests.

Compare hotel rates for this hotel on your booking engine of choice:

Hotels.com Expedia Booking

 

Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside

Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside

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Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Most people when they think of a Nile cruise immediately also think of Agatha Christie’s famous work, [easyazon_link identifier=”0062073559″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Death on the Nile[/easyazon_link]. I can assure you that while my experience small ship river cruising on the Nile was exciting, it didn’t venture into murder and mayhem. My cruise on board the luxury small cruiser, the Oberoi Philae, was definitely on of the highlights of my time in Egypt.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

A Nile Cruise is a luxurious and relaxing way to sightsee in Egypt.

Confession:  I’ve never been on a cruise before experiencing small ship river cruising on the Nile. The thought of being on a floating city with thousands of other people eating too much and being entertained by shows just does not appeal.  I also get sea sick very easily. Short of having a huge upper cabin with a terrace for fresh air, I would likely spend most of my time just feeling queasy.

Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

On the other hand, I loved my luxury river cruise on the Oberoi Philae.  Let me tell you why.

A Nile River Cruise is the most scenic way to travel between Luxor and Aswan.

For thousands of years, along the Nile River boats have crossed between the banks and people have lived a simple agricultural life (albeit nowadays with access to WiFi, trains, etc.)  Egypt, in the last 2500 years, has been invaded 27 times. Through it all, the Nile River and the life it gives has been the one constant in people’s lives.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

One of the many boats that criss-cross between the banks of the Nile.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The fertile Nile Valley is perfect for agriculture.

A Nile River cruise is the most efficient use of time.

On the Oberoi Philae, you sail mostly in the evenings and arrive at your sightseeing destination in the morning, rested and refreshed. Even when you are travelling during a portion of the day, you see daily life unfold in front of you.  So you are sightseeing without having to lift a finger.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Sunrise over the Nile is a magnificent site.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The monuments are amazing to behold in person.

There is opportunity for luxury and relaxation on board the ship.

My room was enormous thanks to a recent refurbishment of the Oberoi Philae. Originally set up to have 50 cabins, after the renovation there are only 22 cabins and 4 suites on board the Philae.  The rooms spacious enough to hide out in all day if you wish to be anti-social.  You can check out the interiors of the Oberoi Philae and its sister ship the Oberoi Zahra in this article.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The swimming pool is temperature controlled as well.

The swimming pool on the top deck is a perfect place to relax and soak in the scenery and sun. All the common areas are spacious and provide plenty of opportunities for you to mix with other passengers to the extent you want.

All the tours are arranged for you.

The Oberoi staff arrange for all the sightseeing trips to and from the boat. It’s all seamlessly handled. Our Egyptologist, Tarek, was very knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Tarek leading us on a tour of the monuments.

The Oberoi ships have private docking arrangements along the Nile. This ease of access makes this an ideal arrangement for people with mobility issues. On board the Oberoi ships, there is an elevator which can take you to all the levels you need.

It feels the same as staying at one of the Oberoi’s 5 star hotels.

The food and service are just as excellent as you would expect from the Oberoi hotels. The Oberoi Philae had a rooftop dining area near the pool excellent for lunches, an interior dining area for breakfast and dinner and a bar/lounge area for pre and post dinner relaxation.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The outdoor dining area is on the top deck.

In addition to the pool, the Oberoi Philae has its own gym as well as a spa with trained aestheticians. After a day of walking around hot and dusty Ancient Egyptian monuments, I was very glad for the massage I had.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

A gym with a view on board the Oberoi small ship cruiser

I thought the food was excellent. The cuisine was a combination of international flavours. We had European dishes, Middle Eastern dishes and (thanks to the Oberoi’s Indian heritage) Indian dishes.

You can choose different lengths of cruising.

I know what you are thinking – couldn’t I just do the day tour on the Nile from Cairo? No, it’s not the same. We passed some of the day trippers and those boats did not look comfortable. With uncomfortable barely-shaded seats with lots of people packed on board like sardines, your experience will be very different from mine.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

A day trip small ship cruiser on the Nile. There’s no comparison with an Oberoi Nile cruise.

You can check out the itineraries for the Philae on the Oberoi website. Even the shorter 4 day Nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan that I took covers all of the major sights. For example, we visited the Karnak and Luxor temples, the Valley of the Kings, the temple of Horace at Edfu, the house of Howard Carter and the Philae Temple.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

The Oberoi Philae is a large ship for a limited number of people.

The Philae’s sister ship, the Oberoi Zahra has a slightly different itinerary between Luxor and Aswan which accommodates either a 8 days/7  nights tour or a 6 days/5 nights tour.

With all these choices, you should be able to find a Nile cruise that slots easily into your Egypt tour.

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile

Know Before You Go

I’m still not a believer in taking one of those large ocean liners. The Egypt cruise though? I would definitely do that again.

I travelled to Egypt as a guest of Cyplon Holidays. Four or six day cruises of the Nile River on the Oberoi Philae include visits to the temples with an Egyptologist and full board. You can also take a longer cruise on the Oberoi Zahra with the exact same amenities. Flights to Luxor and returning from Aswan can be booked via EgyptAir. For more information on Egypt, visit the Egyptian Tourism Authority’s website.

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Five Reasons You Should Take A Family Holiday to Dubai

Five Reasons You Should Take A Family Holiday to Dubai

Living in England, somewhere over the winter period I feel the need to get away for some much-needed sunshine and warmth. We’ve been to several winter sun destinations over the past few years including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tenerife and Egypt . My main requirement for a winter sun holiday is that it is hassle-free and have guaranteed sunshine. Of these places, my favourite winter sun destination with the children is Dubai. Here are my five reasons you should take a family holiday to Dubai if you are chasing winter sunshine.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

Why you should consider Dubai beach holidays for winter sun

An Easy Destination

First and foremost, the weather is guaranteed sunshine.  In addition, there are many flights to Dubai from all over the world.  Dubai is served by two Emirati airlines, Emirates and Etihad, who are both on a push to increase their range of flights.  Getting around Dubai is easy, too because taxis are plentiful and cheap.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The Dubai marina is full of expensive boats.

Choice of Accommodation

Accommodation in Dubai ranges from the extraordinary 7 star Burj al-Arab to your standard range of hotels on the 1-5 star range.  You also have holiday apartments, suites hotels, Airbnb etc.  It’s easy to find something that suits all sorts of visitors from celebrities who want their every whim satisfied to people looking for cheap holidays in the sun.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab, the world’s only 7 star hotel, is an architectural marvel.

If you are not a planner, this extensive range of accommodation, means that you can leave booking until late and still have a good range of options.  Dubai’s popularity means it is also popular with tour operators. You can get some great deals to Dubai if you look around.

Family-Friendly Activities

You have a choice of water parks to keep you cool, including Atlantis Aquaventure and Wild Wadi Water Park. We stayed at the Atlantis Hotel and so we were able to nip and out of Aquaventure every day.  Staying at the Burj Al-Arab gives you free entry into the Wild Wadi Water Park.

Similar to the Disney concept, Dubai Parks and Resorts has four theme parks and a hotel within it.  Legoland, Motionland and Bollywood Park are already opened and the Legoland Water Park is under construction.

Dubai beach holidays wouldn’t be the same without time spent on the beach. Kite Beach and Jumeirah Beach are very user friendly.  There are nearby food trucks to keep hunger at bay and you can rent water sports equipment like stand up paddle boards at the beach.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

Hanging out on Jumeirah beach.

If you haven’t had your fill of sand, then head out into the desert for camel rides, dune bashing or even camping.

Many Restaurant Options

You can find pretty much any type of food in Dubai thanks to the city’s international population. If you are looking for cheap holiday options, you can eat in the food courts at one of the malls. As you would expect, the malls have an extensive choice of restaurants.

Friday and Saturday mornings are devoted to decadent brunches at the big hotels.  These brunch spreads are extensive buffets heaped with food of all types. They make the famous Las Vegas hotel buffets look like a Denny’s spread. The variety also extends to the types of cuisine served – Indian, Sushi, Rotisserie, Seafood – all in one ginormous hotel buffet.  The dessert buffet is likewise a diabetic’s delight.  My children were big fans of the chocolate fountains where they could dip marshmallows and fruit.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The cheese selection at the Saturday brunch at Grosvenor House Hotel.

You also have lots of big-name chefs from all over the world opening restaurants in Dubai.  On one trip, we stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel which has a great choice of restaurants.  The hotel’s restaurants included an outpost of the Buddha Bar, Indego by Michelin-starred British chef, Vineet Batia and Toro Toro by Latin American chef Richard Sandoval. One of the hotel restaurants at The Atlantis is Nobu. Like in Las Vegas, getting into one of these outposts of famous restaurants is much easier than trying to make a reservation at the main restaurant in London or elsewhere.

5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

The terrace at the Siddhartha Lounge by Buddha Bar provides a relaxing hangout for sundowners.

Experiences Like Nothing Else

Dubai is full of superlatives.  The amount of money in this little city is staggering. Some examples:

  • Where else can you go skiing in the desert? Ski Dubai is an indoor ski park located in the Mall of the Emirates.  Its got assorted ski runs, toboggan runs and sledding and even ski gear you can rent.
  • The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world with so much going on that you may not even find the time to shop.  Other than the 1000+ stores, you also have an indoor amusement park (Sega Republic) and the ever-popular kiddie city play area, KidZania.  Did I mention there is also the Dubai Aquarium and an ice rink?
  • The Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural garden.  Yes, in the desert, it truly is a miracle to have 45 million flowers blooming where plants should don’t occur in nature.
  • The Palm Islands are a Dubai megaproject which just boggles the mind.  The best way to see the scale of this man-made colossus is from the air – perhaps with Skydive Dubai.
  • Check out the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest tower in the world.  Every evening the tower and the surrounding fountains put on a magical light show.
5 reasons to take a family holiday to Dubai for winter sun

Beach holidays to Dubai involve more than the beach!

Dubai does have its share of criticism, for example, that it is soulless and lacking in culture. The opening of the Dubai Opera House near the Burj Khalifa addressed some of the criticism about missing cultural pursuits. I think if you are looking for these things, there are other places in the world that are better suited to you.  On the other hand, if you want an easy sun, fun and beach vacation, a family holiday to Dubai is one of the best options available to you.

If you have been to Dubai, do you have any other reasons you can add to this list?

Practical Info To Know Before You Go

We have stayed at both the Atlantis Resort and Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai.  Although both are 5 star hotels, they are quite different from each other.  If you would like to look at other hotels that members of the Just Go Places community have recommended, you will find them on our Favourite Hotels List.

Atlantis Resort versus Grosvenor House Hotel

Atlantis Resort is obviously  more family friendly.  Grosvenor House does have an arrangement with its sister property Royal Meridien nearby which has pools for the family.  There is a regular shuttle bus that runs between the two hotels.  I would classify the pool at the Royal Meridien as fine.

The Atlantis Resort has more traditional decor and larger. Situated on the Palm Island, you are a bit stuck out at Atlantis.  It does have lots of kids’ facilities and a beach. Grosvenor House is more contemporary in style and is located in Dubai Marina.  You can walk around the Marina in the evening and there are restaurants close to hand as well as a wider array of restaurants in the hotel itself.

I would choose Atlantis with younger children because you really don’t want to drag them on a shuttle bus to get to the pool. If you have kids you will know that invariably someone has forgotten something back in the room!

Grosvenor House does have suite facilities so it’s quite easy to make food in your kitchenette. I can truthfully say that we never did. With the ease of taxis and the plethora of restaurants chances are that cooking in the suite is the last thing on your mind.

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Is Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis the Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?

Is Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis the Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?

Today we have a review from our occasional contributor/expat at large, Dianna, on the Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi that she experienced last month.  Read on and see if you agree with her that it’s the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.

My review in a word:  Amazing. I’ve done a lot of awesome things in my time living in the Middle East, but Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi took the brunch concept to a whole another level. After years of hardcore brunching, I can totally say with complete expertise that Brunch in the Clouds is the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

You could have fed a small army at this brunch.

Where is the Brunch in the Clouds?

Brunch in the Clouds is held in the suspended suite between the two towers that make up the St. Regis Abu Dhabi.  The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is located on the Corniche with fabulous views overlooking the gulf.  The suite is a duplex on the 48th and 49th floors. It’s the highest suspended suite in the world at 220 metres at sea level. With a total capacity for 50 people, it is held on the last Friday of each month.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The view from the Brunch in the Clouds

Why Is It The Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?

The luxe experience starts when your very own butler whisks you up your private elevator up to the suite. You get a quick tour so you know where things are.

The Suite

You can continue to explore the 12,000 s.f. suite during the brunch.  Wow!  The suite is 3 bedrooms and 4 and 1/2 bathrooms and staff quarters. The pace was so big I realised I never got around to seeing the master bedroom. What I didn’t expect?  The cinema, the bar, the spa, the jazz band serenade etc.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The cinema room also doubled as the candy room – multitasking at is best.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

You could stop off for a romantic bath mid-brunch if you so wished.

The table is exquisitely set with fresh flowers, crystal, china and silverware. Delicious food and champagne. And, the views over the city and the Gulf are to die for! The whole thing is a delightful extravagance which can only happen in the Middle East.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

I didn’t even know where to start with all these desserts to pick from.

The Spread

During the brunch, you have chef stations serving up food, a cocktail bar, candy in the cinema room, a cheese and desert room, a caviar bar and an oyster room.  If you are feeling too content to get up and go to the buffet, there is also waiter service that brings around other (different) main courses to you at your table. It’s the best of both worlds – a buffet where no one is judging how  much you take and the lazy person’s beautifully plated dishes.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

Please sir… may I have some more?

Obviously you need great food to make Brunch in the Clouds the best brunch in Abu Dhabi. I felt though the fabulous spread was just an additional bonus to all the extras provided. I mean, of course, the food was great.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

Cocktails anyone?

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The stairs up to the master bedroom suite. Can you believe I didn’t even make it up there?

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

A gin trolley because … why not?

Spa Treatments and Other Extras

In between courses, you can step out for a manicure and a massage in the private spa room. The therapists are from the St. Regis Spa downstairs.

 

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

The brunch massages were conducted by the St. Regis spa staff.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

This room is where we had our manicures during brunch.

Practical Information For Brunch in the Clouds

Brunch in the Clouds started in April 2016 and has been so popular it already has a 6 month waiting list.  I never plan anything that far in advance but I got lucky on the Friday before Christmas.  It’s always worth a try if you are in Abu Dhabi.

Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi at The Brunch in the Clouds St Regis Abu Dhabi

When the setting is this fabulous, even the best brunch spread takes second place.

Unfortunately, no kids are allowed in the Brunch in the Clouds experience.  The prices are pretty reasonable for all that you get – AED 500 (approximately $136) or AED 750 (approximately $200).  The brunch lasts a leisurely 5 hours from noon until 5 pm.  Where else can you take a nap in the middle of your brunch??

I loved the suite so much that I bought a night in the suite at an auction 😂 Yikes. I have 6 months to use it and might throw a party for my birthday. The suite typically costs $30,000 per night. I paid a lot less and the money goes to charity (UNICEF). I consider that a win/win. Besides, I’ve got to get back to see that master suite! I’ve heard the walk-in closet is amazing.

Brunch in the Clouds is available at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi.  Make sure it is the one at the Corniche and not the one at Saadiyat Island because there are 2 St. Regis hotels in Abu Dhabi.

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