Review of Brand New Intercontinental Dubai Festival City

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  • Anonymous


    Great Pool and Bathrooms at New IC Festival City

    I booked a few nights at this hotel over Christmas, getting a rate of 725 AED/night. Note all quoted rates have 20% additional taxes and fees on top. I was not informed during the booking process that this hotel is in soft opening mode until the January 2008, though was aware of this through other industry sources.


    A fortnight before my stay I emailed the address on the website, to ask some questions, but received no reply. Unacceptable from a five star hotel.

    Booked for five nights; was emailed one week before that the hotel is still in soft opening and due to an unscheduled two day power down, was unable to accommodate me on the last two days of my stay, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, offering the Crowne Plaza (CP) on Sheikh Zayed Road as an alternative, for the same price.

    This was an entirely unacceptable offer, especially to an IC Royal Ambassador (RA), the top tier of their loyalty scheme, as that CP is tired,old and has a grotty pool. I declined this offer, luckily having friends in Dubai with whom I could stay, and received a free airport pick up as measly compensation, but this was poorly handled. I am still waiting for the promised refund nearly two weeks later;my two follow up emails remain unanswered.


    I was picked up in the hotel car, a 4×4, meeting the hotel representative at the meet and greet area after customs. Ten minute drive from the airport to Festival City, still a bit of a building site. On the Airport side of the Creek, though no view or noise from the airport from the rooms.

    Situated right next door (and sharing the pool complex with) a brand new Crowne Plaza, which has not yet opened, and opposite the Festival City Mall which features and M&S, IKEA and the usual shop brands, though not especially high end stores. Some cheap open air eating options (eg Chilis) outside this Mall, which was a brief and pleasant promenade along the Marina from the IC.

    As I got out of the car, the assistant greeted me by name, so they are on the button here. The doorman is about seven foot five tall; quite impressive!!

    I was welcomed into a large, impersonal lobby and checked in at the main desk; usually RA’s get in room or in lounge check in, but the lounge is not open until early 2008. RAs will receive upgrade to a Water View Exec Room, no Club Lounge access unless you have booked that category. View of the Creek was impressive, with the SZR and Burj Dubai (world’s tallest building) framing stunning sunsets every evening.


    Entered the room, which had a high degree of finish, but seemed smaller compared to my experiences in other Dubai hotels. The large private entrance wastes about 10% of the floor space.

    Bed had some impressive touch on/off directional reading lights. Air conditioning was superb. A full integral international plug socket is featured in every room, so my US laptop worked fine, though no WiFi in the rooms; broadband wired net access is currently free, but will be chargeable soon.

    I received a nice freebie IC beach bag and washbag as a welcome gift, as well as a fruit plate.

    Large Plasma screen, with great sound (and a speaker in the bathroom which didn’t work) plus a DVD player so bring along some LOST episodes to catch up!

    The bathrooms were the real reason I stayed here, as they looked very impressive on the website form the artist’s impressions.

    Curious modular sliding door arrangement closes off the bathroom from the rest of the room, but no real privacy as there is an open architectural grille which cannot be closed, about eight feet tall by two feet wide which means any sounds in the bathroom/toilet can be heard in the main room, so make sure if you are sharing with a partner that you are comfortable with that.

    Toilet is in its own small room with the bidet, with a thin smoked glass door. Flush is operated by pushing your finger into a hole in the wall behind the toilet; not hugely sanitary…..

    The main reason I chose this hotel was because of the baths, which are free standing tubs, situated in a wet room, overlooking their own windows out onto my terrific view of Dubai. Well, it will be terrific once they finally get round to cleaning off months of construction dirt; I could see them doing this during my stay but sadly they never reached my room. Rather handy electric blind in the bathroom, but annoyingly the three blinds you need to close in the main bedroom before you retire for the evening are not electric. Shame.

    The baths fill from a hole in the ceiling. Yes you heard right. Nice idea, but in practice this means there is a LOT of noise and splashing when you run a bath, so listening to relaxing music as you get ready is not an option, the wet room is very wet even before you start bathing, and if you add bubble bath when you start the tap going, an eruption of Vesuvian proportions ensues. Nice being able to fill the bath to the brim, and not worry about the water sploshing over the sides.

    One powerful rose shower is next to the bath and another more directional one were handy for topping up the hot water mid soak, as launching the ceiling tap again would have been a real hassle.

    I would imagine these bathrooms will be a nightmare to clean as everything gets drenched even if you take a quick post swim shower….obviously the designer never considered this. I pity the housekeeping staff who have to clean up this mess twice a day.

    Towards the end of my stay the hot water was only lukewarm, annoying as I was heading out with friends the last night of my stay. This was fixed after waiting an hour, but was lukewarm again the morning of my departure.

    Lots of shelving for storing toiletries which was good, and plenty of Elemis toiletries regularly replenished, though just the basic soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser, no mouthwash and I didn’t feel they were of high enough quality to want to take a few home with me.


    Only two F&B options were open; I mostly ate by the pool which provided excellent burgers and club sandwiches with extremely attentive staff, though I was constantly approached asking if I needed anything every time I got up from my sunbed to stretch my legs.

    The IC pool is open at the moment with the upper deck where the CP pool is still cordoned off. There is a great play area for kids with a splashy fountain and other interactive water features, which looked fun, though could get noisy once the hotel gets busy, especially with the more family oriented CP clientele.

    Some construction was still ongoing by the IC pool, so a small part of the decking was closed off, but I didn’t really notice this. The pool was very warm, with plenty of different areas to cool off in and a decent lap length pool, with the already mentioned see through glass floor, about 100 feet above ground, which was pretty cool actually, though a shame you only look down onto a pavement below.

    Gym was well provisioned, with free water and high quality machinery, and a decent view.

    I went up to sample the Club Lounge, but it was very much still being constructed with the smell of glue heavy in the air, and lots of construction workers so I was ushered away by security. The Spa was not yet open during my visit.

    I had breakfast at Anise, which features six live cooking stations. The triple height space was huge and impersonal, with stone floors and felt a bit canteenish, though the art work is impressive. Tea/coffee was served in earthenware cups, which I hate.

    My handmade scrambled eggs tasted bland and uninviting; hardly any seasoning. Not good. For double the price of a burger by the pool, I did not think this very good value for money, despite the wide range of choices, especially if you were feeding a whole family. I did not return as I did not feel comfortable in the space, and was sure this would be even more pronounced at night.

    Several new venues are on the cusp of opening, so check those out, particularly the bar which has a great view of the stunning sunsets over Dubai.

    SUMMARY: I am usually very positive in most of my reviews, and maybe my experience was coloured by having my stay involuntarily curtailed. Perhaps I was more willing to find fault. Even though I appreciated being able to try out this hotel for about half the usual price, the cancellation of part of my stay, poor food, and issues with the hot water would have ruined my vacation had I not had alternatives available.

    IMHO a five star hotel should not have a soft opening when such a great deal of construction was still ongoing (and remember my stay was two months after the first guests were welcomed in November 2007, so I figured most of these sorts of issues would be dealt with by now).

    I know this will be a great place for those on business to stay once the construction is over, and there are lots of great features to be recommended, and many will be coming online very shortly.

    However my advice would be to hang back a few months until at least mid 2008 and give it a try when the rough edges have been sorted out; otherwise you are staying in a work in progress, and risk disappointment.

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