Posts in the “Video Reviews” category...

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

by Continental Club on July 5, 2014  |  Leave a comment • Tagged as: , , ,

Ritz-CarltonWinter in the UK can be a time of glistening frosts, crisp air, fresh snow and roaring fires. Mostly, though, it’s a season of depressing drizzle, delays and a general feeling that anything that should work, doesn’t.

Little wonder, then, that the prospect of wall-to-wall sunshine, blue skies, sparkling new hotels and some of the best customer service in the world draws ever-increasing numbers to the United Arab Emirates. And, while Dubai is undoubtedly the major draw, it’s next door neighbour and UAE capital – Abu Dhabi – is hot on its heels in ramping up its visitor magnetism. Aided by its rapidly-expanding airline, Etihad, there’s a huge amount of development going-on, turning what was a pearl-fishing town just 50 years ago, into a glittering desert metropolis scattered across the 200 islands that make up the emirate.

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The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal is one of the latest additions to the skyline; a 447 room, 85 villa property principally set in a crescent of ten Italianate buildings overlooking the Grand Canal and in the shadow of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Continental Club visited in December 2013, and stayed for 8 nights in a Deluxe Room on the hotel’s Ritz-Calrton Club Level.

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During our stay, we took the opportunity to film a video tour of the guest room, the Ritz-Carlton Club Level Lounge, the pool and outdoor areas and the hotel’s public spaces, bars, cafes and restaurants. Click below to watch:

Check in takes place in the Club Lounge, which is an expansive glass ‘box’ perched on top of the hotel and looking out over the Grand Canal and neighbouring properties. It’s an all-day facility offering breakfast to eligible guests, and then continuing with continuous food and beverage ‘presentations’ throughout the day. In the evening, complimentary beer and wine are available, along with an expansive array of canapes and desserts which would almost serve as dinner. Of particular note is the impressive French cheese board.

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Guest rooms are spacious and tastefully-decorated, with bathrooms featuring the currently-fashionable ‘open’ aspect to the bedroom. In this case, the aperture is home to fold-back screens so that Miss Modesty’s privacy can be regained.

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The hotel markets itself to both the corporate and leisure markets, and is likely to prove particularly popular with families, thanks especially to the huge pool (a large section of which is shaded under a sail canopy), the private man-made beach and the kids’ club and outdoor water play area.

A good selection of the cafes and restaurants have outdoor areas too, easily accessible from the pool and beach areas.

The lobby is more of a grand statement than a place to linger; soaring pillars and stairways with windows overlooking the Grand Mosque, but just off the space are more intimate tea lounges and the souk-ish bar.

Service is professional throughout, with a large contingent of the staff having apparently been drafted in from other Ritz-Carlton properties. For a new hotel then, there are remarkably few wrinkles and, a few months further on from our visit, they’re probably by now non-existent.

Ritz-Carlton offers a number of ‘packaged’ rates, mostly for multiple night stays. It’s therefore worth checking for offers which include airport transfers, food and beverage credit and room upgrades.

The majority of the rooms overlook the pool and Grand Canal, but some face the rear of the property and, for an arguably more memorable experience, one of these latter rooms with a balcony overlooking the Grand Mosque may be a top choice – especially at sunset when the building glows in the embers of the retreating day.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards scheme offers a further opportunity to maximise the value of a stay at the hotel; members of the partner Marriott Rewards programme can also earn points towards free stays and a range of other awards.

For more details on the hotel and to book, visit ritzcarlton.com/abudhabi.

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Cunard Queen Victoria World Voyage – Fort Lauderdale, Madeira, Southampton – Video Review

by Continental Club on May 12, 2014  |  Leave a comment • Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,

Cunard LogoIf regular readers identify something of a recent pattern, it’s that the lure of the sea has proved irresistible of late; two Transatlantic crossings on the Queen Mary 2 in the past two years have certainly impressed us with their almost unique opportunities to relax in an environment still (almost) completely removed from the frenetic pace of modern life ashore and aloft.

This Easter, we embarked once again to cross the Atlantic, though this time as part of one of Cunard’s three World Voyages. The Queen Victoria had set out from Southampton on 2nd January and had sailed West to the Americas, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to New Zealand and Australia. We boarded for the final ‘sector’ of the grand voyage, her return from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades to Southampton’s Ocean Terminal. En route, we put into the garden island of Madeira.

Cunard Queen Victoria

The Victoria is a smaller vessel than the Queen Mary 2, not only in overall dimensions, but also in scale. She’s just very slightly snugger all-round, not quite as awe-inspiring as Mary, but very much a sister ship. The fixtures and fittings, furniture and decorations are definitively traditional Cunard and, subjectively, they’re perhaps also slightly more luxe than the flagship’s. It’s a marginal difference though, and the appointments do much to disguise the fact that Queen Victoria, like Queen Elizabeth, is a modified Vista-class cruise ship, rather than a unique and bespoke liner like the Queen Mary 2.

Cunard Queen Victoria

There’s a lot to like, not least the famed ‘White Star Service’ which sees crew operating consistently to the very highest standards. We’ve seen it on both previous voyages, but the skills and consistency of detailed conscientiousness from everyone; waiters and bar tenders, stewards and hands is absolutely five star. To tour the ship, here’s our video from on board:

We also took our camera around to capture some of the sights in a little more detail, including Easter Sunday morning.

Cunard Easter

Our Stateroom 6081 balcony:

Cunard Queen Victoria Balcony

Steamer chairs on the Promenade Deck for when you want to mix reading and relaxing with a little al fresco people and wave-watching.

Cunard Queen Victoria

The 6,000 book Library keeps the reading material supply well topped-up.

Cunard Queen Victoria

Even just wandering aimlessly around the ship is a very pleasant pastime, with public areas such as the Grand Lobby to take a seat in.

Cunard Queen Victoria Grand Lobby

Or a pre-dinner promenade to watch the sun sinking over America.

Cunard Queen Victoria

The ship’s wake tracing our progress from the New World back to the Old.

Cunard Queen Victoria

While preparations for the night and lazy new day ahead are made by the tireless crew.

Cunard Queen Victoria Turndown Service

For more information on the Cunard fleet, available voyages and to book, click on the Cunard website at cunard.co.uk.

To read our reviews of 2012 and 2013 crossings on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, visit:

Cunard Queen Mary 2 – New York to Southampton – Video Tour

Cunard Queen Mary 2 – Southampton to New York

 

Continental Club paid £499 per person (twin share) for this Fort Lauderdale to Southampton crossing in April 2014.

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Etihad Airways Diamond First Class – With Video

by Continental Club on December 30, 2013  |  2 comments • Tagged as: , , ,

EtihadIf you thought that ritzy, glitzy Dubai was  the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, then you’d be wrong. And if you thought that the national airline of the UAE was based there too then you’d score ‘nil points’ on that quiz question as well.

In fact, it’s Abu Dhabi that holds the capital city honour, and Etihad Airways that flies the flag as the UAE’s national airline.

Etihad A340

Established by royal decree in 2003, Etihad has become the world’s fastest growing airline serving destinations in 54 countries – including London Heathrow and Manchester in the UK.

It’s a three-class airline, and markets a specific name for each cabin class: Coral Economy; Pearl Business Class and Diamond First Class.

For our first ever flight with the airline, we aimed high – and our journey to Abu Dhabi was booked in Diamond First on the overnight EY4 from Munich’s Franz-Josef Strauss Airport.

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Cunard Queen Mary 2 – New York to Southampton – Video Tour

by Continental Club on August 27, 2013  |  Leave a comment • Tagged as: , , , , ,

Cunard QM2When we sailed from Southampton to New York on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 in 2012, we were prepared for the crossing to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

However, we enjoyed the Transatlantic experience so much that less than 9 months later, we were back on board to sail the reverse journey. This time, we took a video camera to capture some slightly different angles of this one-of-a-kind vessel.

Our Summer 2013 booking was for stateroom grade BD, although we found ourselves upgraded slightly to a BB stateroom once again. Whilst BD are to be found on the 2013 deckplans to the fore and aft of the ship, BBs are more midships.

Having sailed for just a few hours, it was clear (and something of a relief!) that everything onboard was just as it had been on the first crossing last year. Indeed, much about the Cunard ‘White Star’ service has an air of timeless consistency to it. At no time does any part of it suggest that, at anytime in the last 174 years, anyone has suggested trying it ‘a different way’.

Cunard QM2 Queen's Room

During this voyage, as before, our stateroom ice bucket was replenished twice a day; waiters remembered names and drinks orders, seating preferences and even pinkness level for when steak was the order of the day.

Throughout the trip, deckhands worked continuously and discreetly to lubricate lifeboat arms, strip and re-varnish teak and remove rust spots and repaint handrails. Indeed, one afternoon whilst we were out reading on deck, our own balcony was completely repainted. The two crew seen vacuuming the boards of Deck 12 in a  mid-Atlantic Force 4 may possibly have misinterpreted that day’s instructions, however….

For now though, here’s our tour of the ship in full sail.

You can of course read what’s still the completely up-to-date original Westbound review here:

Cunard Queen Mary 2 – Southampton to New York

 

Continental Club paid £899 per person (twin share) for a Westbound crossing in August 2013. For more information and to book, visit cunard.co.uk.

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British Airways Boeing 787 Unveiled At Newcastle Airport

by Continental Club on August 8, 2013  |  One comment • Tagged as: , , , , , , , , ,

British Airways LogoLess than a week after the first passengers boarded the inaugural commercial flight of British Airways’ new Airbus A380 aircraft, Newcastle International Airport welcomed the airline’s other new addition to the fleet – the Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’.

The visit to the North East England regional airport represented the first port-of-call on a round-Britain tour of British Airways’ domestic airports, and the start of a day which would see customer passengers boarding a BA 787 flight for the very first time.

Prior to landing in Newcastle, the aircraft overflew the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby, to mark the contribution made by the company’s workforce to the design, development and construction of the two Trent 1000 engines which power the 787. A Rolls-engined WWII Spitfire joined in the flypast.

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British Airways Airbus A380 First Commercial Flight Video

by Continental Club on August 2, 2013  |  3 comments • Tagged as: , , , ,

British Airways LogoThe majority of passengers who had dragged themselves to Terminal 5 for this morning’s 06:45 BA902 departure to Frankfurt were in for a super-sized surprise, when the aircraft waiting at gate C63 was British Airways’ brand new Airbus A380 aircraft.

Instead of the scheduled Boeing 767, one of the longest-serving types on BA’s current books, there was a definite ‘new-plane smell’ to greet the bleary-eyed travellers as they crossed the air bridge threshold and stepped aboard G-XLEA.

BA Airbus A380 Livery

At the gate, those who had failed to notice the size of their waiting craft beyond the soaring panes of T5’s windows were handed a letter from the airline, welcoming them on board this first commercial flight of an aircraft that marks the most visible beginning of a major fleet renewal.

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