Review: St. Regis Dubai Polo Club

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I had about 19 hours in Dubai between flights, as I was arriving from Colombo and connecting to Brussels. I’ve been to Dubai at least a couple of dozen times, and for this short stay figured I’d try one of the hotels that has fascinated me the most, since it opened last year.

Dubai is the city with the second most SPG hotels in the world, after New York City. While they’ve long had a big presence there, they’ve opened several new hotels lately, including the W Dubai Al Habtoor, and the St. Regis Dubai Al Habtoor, both of which I’ve reviewed.

Last year they opened a second St. Regis property in Dubai. Specifically, the St. Regis Dubai Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club. A polo club in the middle of the desert? This I’ve gotta see!

What’s confusing about the hotel at first is that you’d assume it’s near the other St. Regis, given that they both have “Al Habtoor” in the name. Al Habtoor City is the name of the development where the the St. Regis, W, and Westin are located.

But nope, this hotel is in a totally different part of Dubai. Actually, it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere. It has the name Al Habtoor because it has the same owner as the other hotel, the Al Habtoor Group. Still, it seems a bit confusing to put Al Habtoor in both of the names, especially when the Al Habtoor Group is developing Al Habtoor City, and this hotel isn’t in it.

Anyway, the rates at the St. Regis Dubai Polo Club are cheap. Even though January is the busy season in Dubai, my rate was only about $180 for the one night stay, and Ford booked this for me through Starwood Luxury Privileges, meaning it came with additional perks. These included complimentary breakfast, a $100 food & beverage credit, a room upgrade, and more (and I could stack this with my SPG Platinum benefits).

Rather than being located along the coast, the St. Regis Polo Club is inland, near Dubai’s Global Village. In other words, it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s actually pretty convenient to go here from Dubai Airport, since it’s just a 25 minute drive, and you get to skip Dubai traffic altogether (it’s about a 30 minute drive from here to the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, etc.

There’s nothing for miles and miles, and then suddenly you see the St. Regis in the distance.


Drive to the St. Regis Dubai Polo Club

The hotel has a striking exterior, and seeing such a perfectly manicured lawn in the desert is quite a sight (and oh-so-Dubai).


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club exterior

There’s a security gate at the entrance to the Polo Resort & Club, as there’s a separate building with villas, stables for the horses, etc. It’s a huge complex.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club exterior

The exterior of the hotel has a cool fountain with some horse statues in it.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club exterior

Not to reveal too much upfront, but let me say that this is the most Dubai hotel ever. I loved it (on one hand), but there was basically no one there, and I don’t really get it. Anyway…

The hotel had a pretty grand lobby, and reception was inside and to the right.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club lobby


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club lobby

I was greeted by the duty manager, and everyone was exceptionally friendly throughout the stay. He explained to me all the privileges included with my rate (he explained my $100 food & beverage credit didn’t include minibar consumption or in-room dining), explained a bit about the hotel, introduced me to the butler, and also told me that I had been upgraded to a Lady Astor suite.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club reception

Past reception and to the left was one set of elevators (there were a couple of sets of elevators throughout the hotel).


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club hallway


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort & Club elevators

I was assigned room 118, located just outside the elevator and to the left.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club hallway

You know you’re getting a nice suite when you have an entrance like this!


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort room exterior

For reference, here’s the hotel’s floorplan (the hotel has about 150 rooms, spread across a few floors):


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort floorplan

The suite was beautiful, and I loved the equestrian-inspired artwork throughout. The room had an entryway with a guest bathroom on the left.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite entryway


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor half bath

That led into the living room, which featured a dining table with four chairs, a living area with a couch and two seats, and a console with a TV.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite living room


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite living room


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite living room

As you can see, the dining table had a lovely welcome amenity consisting of macarons and dates.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite dining table

Near the entrance was the minibar and in-room coffee machine.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite minibar & coffee machine


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite minibar

On the coffee table was a welcome amenity consisting of dozens of pieces of chocolate. Oh my gosh!


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort welcome amenity

The bedroom featured a comfortable king size bed. While I appreciate the thought that went into the balloons on the bed as a “welcome to Dubai,” I did find it a bit odd. I was traveling alone, and at night I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to do with them (just have the whole floor of the bedroom have balloons, or?).


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite bedroom

The bedroom had a chair in the corner and then a wall mounted TV.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite bedroom


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite bedroom

The master bathroom was connected to the bedroom, and featured double sinks, a large tub, a walk-in shower, and a separate room with a toilet and bidet.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite bathroom


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite bathtub


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite toilet & bidet


St. Regis Dubai Polo Resort Lady Astor Suite shower

Toiletries were from Remede, as you’d expect at a St. Regis.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Remede toiletries

The suite had a huge, lovely balcony with seating for about a dozen people. It was a perfect Dubai winter day, so I spent a bit of time sitting out here.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Lady Astor Suite balcony


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Lady Astor Suite balcony

The room had a view of the UAE’s greenest lawn (I’d call it a polo field, but I never actually saw any horses), and you can see the villas in the distance.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Lady Astor Suite views


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Lady Astor Suite views

Overall I thought the room was top notch. In-room wifi was fast, and the room was in pristine condition. My only complaint was that the room had timed lights, which is so annoying. I was in the shower and the lights went off completely because I guess it didn’t sense movement, so in the pitch dark I had to try to find the light switch.

As is standard at St. Regis properties, the hotel offers butler service, so I ordered a complimentary coffee in the morning prior to my flight (unfortunately I left too early to partake in breakfast, which only started at 7:30AM).


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club coffee from butler service

I spent some time in the afternoon exploring the hotel. Probably the hotel’s most beautiful venue is Andalucia Restaurant, which is the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant, located in the atrium.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Andalucia Restaurant


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Andalucia Restaurant

Down the hall from that is Taperia, the hotel’s tapas restaurant. I had considered that for dinner, but it looked a bit too much like a sports bar for my liking.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Taperia Restaurant

There was a beautiful courtyard in the hotel, where I ended up sitting for a bit.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club courtyard

Then the hotel’s lobby bar is the Equestrian Lounge, which also has some outdoor seating.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Equestrian Lounge


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Equestrian Lounge

Then there was the St. Regis Polo Bar, as well as a pool table.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club pool table

The hotel has a Bentley shop, though it was closed.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club Bentley Shop

In terms of the hotel’s other features, it had a large outdoor recreation area, including a main pool with a swim-up bar, a hot tub, and a kids pool.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club pool


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club pool deck


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club hot tub


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club pool

Then there was a ping pong table, chess set, playground for kids, tennis courts, etc.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club table tennis


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club chess


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club kids play area


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club tennis courts

The hotel’s gym is located inside the Remede Spa (guests get 50% off treatments, by the way, so treatments were actually quite reasonably priced). The gym had modern equipment, though was on the small side, and had no natural light.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club gym


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club gym

I ended up meeting a friend for dinner, and we decided to eat at The Grill Pit, which is the hotel’s signature Argentinian restaurant.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club The Grill Pit Restaurant


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club The Grill Pit Restaurant

The food was alright, though to be honest I didn’t think it was great, at least not at the prices they were charging. I try to avoid red meat (which may have been my issue), so I had the fish. It was beautifully presented, though the taste was only alright.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club The Grill Pit Restaurant dinner

Per the server’s recommendation, my friend had the baby goat. It was sort of painful to even watch him eat it, as a former vegetarian of many years.


St. Regis Dubai Polo Club The Grill Pit Restaurant dinner

St. Regis Dubai Polo Club bottom line

Let me start by saying that all the staff I interacted with were exceptionally gracious and accommodating, and the hotel is physically beautiful.

Before I stayed here I asked myself “who stays at a polo club in the UAE?” The answer is no one, I think. The hotel was deserted. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Over the course of my time at the resort, I think I saw maybe a dozen other people. The restaurants were consistently empty. All the public areas were empty. I was excited when I saw two other people at the pool.

The UAE royal family is known to be into polo, though aside from that, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot going on here. I didn’t see horses or polo players the entire time I was here, but maybe rather only five European couples who I assume were there the same reasons I saw (because a St. Regis for under $200 per night seems like a bargain). I could see if the royal family hosted a polo tournament here it could be really popular, but I’m not sure how that will create year-round demand.

Ultimately this hotel isn’t that far from Dubai, but given the great hotel options all over the city, I don’t really get what market they’re going after with this hotel. It seems to me more like a vanity project intended to appeal to the royal family than anything else (then again, that describes quite a bit of the UAE).

What a strange, strange (yet very nice) hotel…

Anyone have a different take on this hotel than I do?

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Comments

  1. The master bathroom was connected to the bedroom,

    *bathroom

    I like your even-handed description of the pomp; there is this annoying, condescending practice of Caucasian men to congratulate themselves if they like (or say they like) Muji hotels or late Aalto design and to dismiss this here as bad taste, rather than recognizing that it’s just different.

    As similar inland Gulf hotels, this one has indeed a multipurpose function as you surmise, but I can easily see that during “free” periods, it will nicely be full. I personally don’t like the horsy design, but well, the Polo name amply warns one of that.)

  2. The Habtoor family, who own the resort, are big polo supporters both as participants and patrons. It’s a pet project of there’s that also provides Dubai with somewhere to host top level polo events. So perhaps not 100% commercially driven but not a white elephant. Will also no doubt ultimately be used as an anchor for much wider residential development, which will recover additional costs.

  3. So 4 important questions:

    1) What did you spend your $100 credit on? You didn’t say.

    2) You implied restaurant prices were expensive, but never said the prices.

    3) Was it warm enough for swimming and sunbathing?

    4) How did you get from the hotel to the airport? Uber? If so, how much?

  4. I stayed here in December, for approx the same reasons, long layover in DXB. I booked the Amex FHR rate which was about the same too… and, I got EXACTLY the same room 118–weird!

    I found the staff great, but a little green. I ate in the arabic restaurant and I thought it was pretty darn good, but dinner for 1 used almost all the $100 credit. (I had a starter, main and 2 beers.)

    I also loved the staff uniforms were polo themed too. But the emptiness was certainly a bit strange, had a one flew over the cuckoo’s nest feel.

    The only annoying part for me was that the fire alarm was mistakenly set off in the middle of the night. I mentioned it at checkout when they asked if anything could be better, and they just shrugged in response which seemed lacking.

    I’d stay here again for similar reasons but not if I wanted to actually visit anything in Dubai.

  5. Royal families, not family. There are seven Emirates which make up the UAE with each of them controlled by a different family. Thanks to nothing more than birth, makes for a who bunch of self important people.

  6. @SullyofDoha – If you want to split hairs, there are actually only 6 ruling families in the UAE, as the Qasimi family are rulers in both Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah (although different branches of the family).

    The Maktoums (Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid) rule in Dubai, the Nahyans (Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed) in Abu Dhabi, the Nuamis in Ajman (Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid), the Sharqis in Fujairah (Sheikh Hamad bin Mohamed), the Al Muallas in UAQ (Sheikh Saud bin Rashid) and the Qasimis in Sharjah (Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad) and RAK (Sheikh Saud bin Saqr).

  7. “The conditions (that the workers in Dubai) find themselves in are very close to slavery, it’s certainly indentured servitude …..and when you look a the deception that’s involved in getting them to the UAE in the first place, the lawyer at Human Rights Watch said it certainly looks like a trafficking network. I think it falls just short of slavery but only just. You know it’s pretty depressing seeing western companies and tourists….flock there and still see it and describe it and see it as this paradise in the middle east ignoring what’s right under their nose ” Journalist Ben Anderson on Dubai https://youtu.be/-MJS1ijshHA?t=18s

  8. So the former vegetarian feels bad seeing kid goat being eaten but is happy to eat caviar. Caviar which is harvested by slashing open sturgeon, while sitting in his leather seats. Hypocrisy much?

  9. @ schar +1 !

    I’m always surprised by the different things people like. For me “Hell is other people”, so the emptiness of this hotel looks completely blissful. Whereas the Swiss W praised elsewhere on this blog sounds ghastly – constant noise of traffic and, for God’s sake, “discos”. Ugh.

    Then again, the lumpen architecture of this hotel is a huge disappointment. I’m not a big fan of bling but, done right, it can be ok or even fun – but those in-room dining chairs look wretchedly uncomfortable, and the horse-y “art” looks like something out of a catalogue. Pity.

  10. I stayed in Crowne Plaza festival city in Dubai. It was certainly busier but I agree that it seemed near deserted by the pool and at breakfast. The food was worse and there was less choice. However, from the view and the room, I would certainly return there given the option.

  11. This is definetely the lucky ‘red carpet’ treatment and not normal.

    The rooms at this place are cramped, dirty and with shoddy workmanship. I have photos of bathroom equipment falling apart and broken tiles caulked together. Read the trip advisor reviews – the Habtoor brand has bungled both St Regis properties in Dubai and the suite above is not representative of a normal stay.

    Hotel has major issues which management are FULLY aware of. Others be warned.

  12. I stayed at this property in Nov (also had rooms 118 and 120). Completely deserted. Obviously the hotel is open way too early (possible vanity project) but there is a ton of development going on along the east/west highway south of the city (think Orlando… they are building multiple amusement parks and attractions). Whenever that stuff is up and running this will be the only 5* hotel remotely close to it. Hopefully, they can drum up their convention business etc at some point also. But if you don’t care about being super close to downtown, this hotel is a steal.

  13. Why isn’t one or more of the major hotel groups developing properties at the airport? There’s only one rather dodgy HIE in close proximity and further to the dreary SPG (Fairview or something). Nothing is adjacent and that strikes me as odd given the huge number of overnighters. I don’t get why it’s not a priority rather than the proliferation of these middle of the desert things.

  14. I have an upcoming stay at this property and the reviews go from terrible to terrific. There seems to be no where in between.

    Also why is everyone getting assigned room 118? That’s bizarre.

  15. I stayed here recently, also in room 118- strange? The hotel too far away from Dubai. They need a shuttle bus to Dubai and back then i would maybe be back, until then i shall no be coming back.

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