Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal Review

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This article was written by Paul, a good friend of mine. He recently completed a 6 month TDY / deployment to the United Arab Emirates and had the good fortune to stay at the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. This is one of those inspirational properties you can book with the Marriott points you can earn in my Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course.

The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is one of the best luxury hotels in the United Arab Emirates. Conveniently located within close driving distance of downtown Abu Dhabi, while also being mere minute from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Ritz is a massive complex with incredible details throughout the resort, fine dining, activities for kids, and plenty to do. 

ritz carlton abu dhabi entrance


Your first impression of the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is this impressive archway leading into the complex.

sheikh zayed mosque at night


A night view of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, located within a one-minute drive or five minute walk of the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal.

I was able to stay at this hotel for an extended period of time and the combination of being active-duty military while also being a Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Holder resulted in some excellent perks throughout the stay.

Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Free for Military
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card – learn how to apply
  • Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months.
  • Each Card renewal year, get up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide.
  • A Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite member will earn 50% more points on eligible purchases at participating hotels for each U.S. dollar or the currency equivalent that is incurred and paid for by the member.
  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy® points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy(TM) program. 3 points at Worldwide Restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Marriott Brilliant Free Night Award: Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases, Card Members are eligible to select an Earned Choice Award benefit. Benefit options include: Five (5) Suite Night Awards, 85K Free Night Award, and mattress and box spring $750 discount from Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques.
  • $100 Luxury Property Credit: Enjoy your stay. Receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership through any Authorized Enrollment Provider for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85) when you pay the application fee with an eligible Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Each calendar year you can receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status. Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply.
  • Enroll in Priority Pass Select, which offers unlimited access to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying.
  • This allows you to relax before or between flights. You can enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
  • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass(TM) Select membership.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Cell phone protection: You can be reimbursed for your costs to repair or replace your damaged or stolen cell phone up to $800, subject to a $50 deductible, for 2 approved claims per 12-month period when your prior month's wireless bill was paid utilizing an Eligible Card Account. Terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • $650 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Some noted perks that can be used at this property with the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card:

  1. $300 Marriott Bonvoy Statement Credits
  2. $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit at Ritz-Carlton or St Regis hotels
  3. Premium Internet Access
  4. 6x Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar spent
    1. Note that the Ritz Carlton and other Luxury Collection properties increases this to 10x points for each dollar spent!

This is one of a few hotels in Abu Dhabi that has a military liaison (as of November 2021). Call or email the hotel directly and request to work with their military liaison for booking their rooms and you can generally get some additional perks such as free laundry services, club lounge access and even a room upgrade!

Abu Dhabi Airport to the Ritz Carlton

Traveling to the UAE is easily accomplished through the two primary airports – Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Dubai (DXB) International airports. The UAE has varying levels of COVID restrictions as of the time of this writing so be sure to check out the Visit Abu Dhabi website to learn about the latest restrictions.

That being said, the two state-run airlines, Emirates and Etihad, are well known for some of the finest service in the world and you can rest assured you will ensure a quality traveling experience. 

ritz carlton abu dhabi club lounge view


View from the Club Lounge – an automatic perk if you are a Bonvoy Platinum member or higher or available if you call the hotel directly and ask about their military liaison.

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Location and Pools

Put simply, the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is a huge complex with a number of high-quality restaurants, bars and lounges, multiple pools, a walking garden with villas, a Venetian Village featuring extra rooms and restaurants, a full-featured gym, beach and numerous other amenities. You will immediately be put back by the grandeur of the hotel when you walk in as well as the cleanliness of the overall property. 


Solid marble staircase leading to the central area of the campus


Enjoy a morning or evening walk through the Ritz Carlton gardens. Villas are located throughout the gardens as well, lending a Venetian feel amongst the greenery.


A view from the front of the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi complex. You will be immediately greeted by friendly staff that are ready to meet your every need.


An early morning view of one of the many exquisite, marble-laden hallways throughout the Ritz Carlton.

There are two pools located on the campus. One is located in the center of the campus while the other is located in the garden area, surrounded by villas. Both are heated and cooled, resulting in perfect temperatures during the heat of summer as well as cooler periods during the winter. The central, main pool is lit up at night.

The central pool at night.


The secondary pool, located in the garden area. This pool is typically quiet due to being much more secluded.

The Club Lounge is one of the finest lounges I’ve found in the world, and offers a large amount of seating while also providing a full-featured breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings amongst a large assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. All of this is complementary with Marriott Platinum or higher status or if you work with the military liaison at the Ritz Carlton.

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Suites and Villas

The Ritz Carlton offers an assortment of traditional rooms, suites and villas. I was afforded the option of staying in a single bedroom villa (named the Garden Suite on their website), which was more than large enough for a family.

Bedrooms are large with high quality beds. The bathrooms are exquisite with marble from floor to ceiling, double vanities and large, free-standing bathtubs in every room. 

ritz carlton abu dhabi grand canal villa suite

Outside view of one of the standard-sized villas.

Every room and villa have a well-appointed terrace that is regularly cleaned and swept by the careful staff. Enjoy a nice breakfast with the birds chirping in the background, if you so desire. 

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Dining

The UAE has some of the best food I’ve ever tried while traversing the world, but the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi has managed to curate an excellent list of restaurants all in one place. You can try Lebanese, Italian, Indian, Japanese and Asian food all on campus, in addition to one of the best steakhouses in the UAE. You really can’t go wrong with any of the options.

abu dhabi ritz carlton the forge restaurant

An Australian Wagyu Ribeye at The Forge restaurant in The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi.

Enjoy a chef-made breakfast at the Club Lounge or at Giornette restaurant.


There are always different specials being offered at the various restaurants and lounges around the campus. This one is an advertisement for high tea at the elegant coffeehouse within the main building, Alba.

There is also a fantastic bar-lounge on campus named Barfly by Buddha Bar. It features indoor and outdoor seating, wonderful drinks as well as hookah (called Shisha in the Middle East). Perfect for relaxing on the water.

Relax with a cocktail and hookah at the Barfly.

Enjoy a fantastic Japanese meal at the Tokyo Grill, located in the Venetian Village section of the Ritz campus.

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Fitness Center

The Ritz Carlton offers a fully-featured gym with just about anything you could need to get a good workout in, including weight benches, smith machines, free weights, machines, and various cardio equipment. The hotel also offers various classes and one-on-one tutoring sessions with a fitness expert.

Additionally, the trails around the complex are great for a run and can be modified to knock out a solid 1.5 or 3 miles while seeing very little repetition. Finally, the Grand Mosque has a fantastic running trail around it and can be reached in about five minutes by foot. 

Little Details

One item that sets the Ritz Carlton apart are the many little touches that the hotel puts forth for its members. The staff are truly there to provide a 5+ star experience, so if you need something special, they will do their absolute best to accommodate.

Want a basket of fruit? Just ask, and you’ll get one delivered to your room. Need extra water bottles? Call the front desk and you may just find yourself with a case of Ritz-Carlton themed water bottles showing up to your room.

This is what sets the Ritz Carlton apart from some of the other options in Abu Dhabi. 

I was lucky enough to have a birthday while out in the UAE and this showed up!

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Activities

The UAE is a wonderful country to visit during the winter time especially as the temperatures are cool. there is an endless supply of activities to do for individuals as well as the family, the country is safe and easy to get around, and the pricing to visit isn’t terrible. 

Some items I recommend from personal experience that are close to the hotel:

  1. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
  2. Louvre Abu Dhabi
  3. Yas Marina Circuit – home to a Formula 1 race in December
  4. Ferrari World
  5. Dune Riding
  6. Yas Mall
  7. Stargazing at the Al Quaa Milky Way Spot
  8. Watch Camel Racing

You can find more information for many of these activities at https://visitabudhabi.ae/en/things-to-do 

We went stargazing at the Al Quaa Milky Way spot, located about an hour away from Abu Dhabi. This particular location is known for getting very dark on a new moon, making the Milky Way visible from the naked eye.

The dunes surrounding Abu Dhabi are truly something special to visit. They are vast and supremely beautiful at sunrise or sunset.

Go visit a camel racing track, located just outside of Abu Dhabi! 


Book a driving experience at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must-see in Abu Dhabi. Admission is free and it is walking distance from the Ritz Carlton.

Note that the UAE’s offseason is during the summer, when temperatures are at their highest. It can be incredibly hot during the summer in the UAE, but the advantage of visiting during the summer is that you’ll have most activities to yourself with rock-bottom pricing.

Either way the UAE and Abu Dhabi in particular are great places to bring the family. Immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy everything that the region has to offer!

Bottom Line

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal at Night

The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi offers a fantastic experience for military families and couples. Bring your Bonvoy Brilliant credit card to get some nice benefits while enjoying a five-star experience in a city that has a ton to do while being safe, beautiful and centrally located.

I recommend booking a multiple night stay – a week would be about right if you just plan to explore the local Abu Dhabi area. If you plan to see the rest of the Emirates two weeks would be better.

How far is Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi from airport?

The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is a short taxi or car ride from the Abu Dhabi airport. It takes less than 20 minutes to get from the Ritz Carlton to Abu Dhabi International Airport AUH. From Dubai Airport DXB, it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive to the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal.

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