Soooo….it’s certainly been a while since you all have heard from me and boy has life been interesting.
As we all know, the world is still in a ruckus over this crazy thing called CORONAVIRUS and the more the news/media reveals- the more confused we all become.
With so much in the air, I am sure that we have all began to look at life in a different lens and things have begun to shift in different ways, including how we live life i.e. social distance style.
This year, my husband and I celebrated 4 years of marriage and typically would be on some exotic vacation somewhere. For instance- year 1 was East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), Year 2 was Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia) and Year 3 was France/Amsterdam.
However, we decided that this year with all things considered, a staycation was the best and let’s be honest- the only way to go especially considering all the current travel restrictions even within the Emirates. It is not lost on us how blessed we are to live on an island (man-made or not) and so we thought let’s make the most of it.
Now we constantly have to remind people we live in Abu Dhabi and not its sister/neighboring city- Dubai, which is considered the land of luxury, but we also thought this was a perfect time to explore our own backyard and we couldn’t be more happy that we did. Besides- the older I get, the more partial I am to Abu Dhabi and its calmer, cooler ways.
So, we opted for a 3 day stay at the Rixos All Inclusive Premium Resort located on the superbly serene Saadiyat Island and only 15 mins away from our home island of Al Maryah and let me just say that it should be renamed to “Ritz”os because it’s absolutely ostentatious.
From the lobby to the its famed “Lobby lounge” to the rooms and even the Orient Bar, where we nestled together over several night caps- this resort is ready for anyone’s staycation/vacation dreams.
So let’s hop into day 1. We arrived early Thursday afternoon as to take full advantage of our 3 day stay. Check in was smooth and as it pertains to proper social distancing measures- the reception desk had a plastic partition behind themselves and all guests.
Additionally, upon check-in they explain how the ALL-INCLUSIVE package works, its offerings, the layout of the property and its available amenities. When we visited, the WaterPark and spa facilities were still closed in observance of government regulations. However the pool, wave pool, beach, gym and all restaurants and bars were available.
The lovely receptionist then provided the QR code in order to download the welcome letter reiterating all of the aforementioned details to our mobile devices. This was complete with open and closing times as well as downloadable menus at each of the available establishments and their extensive health and safety measures.
After downloading and reviewing the welcome letter with the staff, we were whisked away to our room. Additionally- she mentioned that because it was our anniversary, she ensured that we would be on a quiet floor with a gorgeous view and she was correct.
The room was stunning with hints of emerald green and gold throughout, huge his and hers wardrobes, marbleized flooring, and all of your classic UAE luxury amenities such as bidets, a rain shower and lighted makeup mirror. Not to mention a huge tub for two and a double sliding door that allowed entrance from the bath to the actual bed. Uber sexy.
In the bedroom area, there was a small seating area with a chair as well as a chaise lounger. There was also a balcony with a beautiful view of the property and beach/sea.
They even decorated it for our anniversary with tons of red balloons and a single white heart balloon, rose petals and decorative double swans.
As well as champagne and cake!
As I took in the view, husband did his due diligence to properly wipe down the room with disinfecting wipes that we brought along ourselves.
Newsflash- we’ve been cleaning our own hotel rooms wayyyyy before Corona- well because, people can be nasty and in our travels we have witnessed it first hand. We now have a system- after he wipes everything down, I then double back to spray it all with disinfectant aerosol, because you can never be too careful or too clean.
Post cleaning- we decided to take immediate advantage of the international buffet style lunch at Turquoise and took our time strolling through the lobby and taking in all the beauty of these tantalizing teal quarters.
The navy marble against the gold and the mauve shell shaped sofas gave me a vintage 1940’s boudoir feel, while the details of blue velvet were the perfectly placed nuances throughout the property.
Just check out the gorgeous lotus pond at the property entrance
Finally, we arrived at Turquoise and the greeters checked our temperatures with the temp gun and then escorted us to our tables where they took our drink orders. This is when the party really began. We were served unlimited OVERSIZED cocktails.
While Carlos’ opted for his classic Absolut Vodka and Sprite, I was feeling like a Henessey, pineapple and soda. Let me mention that at the Rixos, they only offer the best with premium liquor selections all apart of the all-inclusive package, and so we were very impressed.
This isn’t your wayward watered down plastic cup resort. You know the one from your early 20s/college days in Playa del Carmen or Cancun, Mexico. This is strictly next level grown folks stuff and I like, no scratch that- LOVED it.
Once we placed our drink orders, we then proceeded to the buffet where they had security on standby to ensure that everyone not only wore a mask, but remained 2 meters distance in the queue. All guests were served their food selections by a member of the staff. I opted for a selection of fish (seabream), mussels and potatoes. And of course, couldn’t pass up a personalized creme brulee plated in a beautiful marble encasing. And the food was delicious- there was no disappointment of lack of flavor on my plate.
After lunch, we decided to walk off our food for a bit and explore the property while making our plans for the next couple of days. We started with a walk by the pool, which was filled with fellow vacationers but not overly packed and the pool chairs separated out of observance of social distancing.
We then took an afternoon stroll down to the private beach.
Not only was the beach absolutely perfect and peacefully serene, but it was much needed break from the often dowdiness of the desert.
Special Note- your temperature is checked by security at both the pool and beach entrances and masks are required.
We then walked back through the center of the property and popped into the Lobby Lounge for a snack and a mid-day cocktail to wind down from the day.
Not only were the staff at the Lobby Lounge- Sangita and Sharifah so kind, but they were also very thorough, explaining to us the offerings. And not to mention the lounge was absolutely gorgeous and completely empty, so we had it all to ourselves.
At the Lobby Lounge you can indulge in coffee, tea or craft cocktails. So Carlos’ thought why not try a drink he had been dying to try called a Rusty Nail.
Let me also mention that the man behind the bar was more than a bartender- he was a mixologist named Right and immediately knew what Carlos’ had ordered. Personally, I opted for a whiskey sour- in keeping with my trend of brown liquor from lunch and when I say it was the best whiskey sour I have ever had- I mean it was award winning.
The balance of flavor was the kind worth paying for even though it was apart of the all- inclusive package aka complimentary. You could tell he took pride in not only the presentations of his cocktails but wanted to ensure it was as equally pleasing to the palate.
But as if the deliciously alluring libations were not enough- when seated in the Lobby Lounge, you can also have your pick of delectable and decadent desserts from the lobby patisserie all free of charge as it’s also included.
So, we thought why not? I felt like being adventurous and ordered the dark chocolate and black pepper mousse- yes I said black pepper, while Carlos had the mango mousse and both were outstanding. The hint of black pepper had just enough power to add an element of surprise to the dessert but wasn’t overwhelming, as it was well balanced with the richness of the chocolate. And of course I had to try Carlos’ mango mousse which are what resort flavors should be all about- creamy, light and airy.
As we relaxed and took it all in- Sharifah recommended that we check out the sunset at the Orient Lounge located on the 6th floor of the property.
It was almost 7pm, so we scurried on over, only to learn it was closed until 8pm in preparation for the night rush.
The Orient staff, however was equally as kind as the ladies at Lobby Lounge that they allowed us on the terrace for 15 minutes, just in time to catch the view of the sunset and from the beautifully opulent look of the Orient, we knew we would return later in the evening for a necessary nightcap.
We can honestly say that we did not encounter one rude soul employed by Rixos. Everyone was so welcoming everywhere we went, and this was just the first day.
After our sunset views, we decided to venture back to our room for a shower and nap before a late dinner and boy did we slumber- almost sleeping through dinner.
But not before catching a little FashionTV. It was like deja vu as the same channel was available at our hotel in Nice, France for our 3rd year anniversary.
Pause for the cause and check out the cool QR Code features that the channel offers.
Once you select the QR Code in the corner of the tv from your phone- it downloads the site to shop from. Could this be the new wave of fashion presentations as well- shop virtually from home? With the current status of how things currently are- who knows!
Now back to R&R- I’m pretty sure we overslept because Carlos opted to lounge in the bathtub for over an hour, although he did mention that it was the most relaxing experience thus far considering he could comfortably fit his 6’3 stature.
We slept so good that we didn’t awake until 9:30pm and rushed down to catch dinner at the buffet at Turquoise. By the way- the property is even more gorgeous at night with its glistening chandelier lights.
We made it to Turquoise in the knick of time and it was so quiet, like we wanted.
I had the fish this time it was seabass, but also the salmon, asparagus, sauteed greens and mash and I couldn’t resist, I had to ask for the Tabasco, because let’s be honest everything is better with Tabasco. Even though the food was delicious as is.
For drinks, I decided to try their version of the whiskey sour and it honestly wasn’t as memorable as the Lobby Lounge and so I quickly learned “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
So I then ordered my usual from earlier- the Henny and Pineapple which was spot on while Carlos opted for a glass of white wine.
After dinner, we were wide awake and so we decided to dip over to the Orient Lounge and unfortunately when we arrived the indoor seating was at capacity. Being that this is the only Adults Only Lounge on the property, it was crawling with parents who I knew needed a brief timeout from their beautiful little crumb snatchers, so I couldn’t blame them for wanting to break away.
Security offered outdoor seating with the option to return indoors once a table was available and sat us in an open area complete with a portable coolant system. They took our drink orders and as soon as the first of many drinks arrived, a table inside was ready for us to be seated.
SPECIAL NOTE- I suggest getting there early in the evening, as Orient does not take reservations.
The ambiance of the Orient at night was authentically Asian infused with the vibe a vintage Manhattan speakeasy, complete with a gin cart and selection of craft cocktails.
Before you knew it, my extra happy husband had made friends with the lead mixologist Rodney and he was right on time, serving us with libation after full bodied libation.
We started with another Rusty Nail for Carlos which is a mix of Scotch and Drambuie over an ice ball and a cocktail I always wanted to try called the “Side Car” which consists of Cognac, orange liqueur and fresh lemon. Very fresh and aromatic.
I then a whiskey sour which was superb- not as grand as the Lobby Lounge but I definitely liked it moreso than the sour served at Turquoise for dinner.
Then there was the an especially prepared passion fruit based cocktail made by Rodney as Carlos loves passion fruit.
After those, Rodney brought over a special anniversary drink which I coined the “Love Shot” that we took at the stroke of midnight officially marking the beginning of our 4th year married.
It was made from pomegranate liquor that provided a gorgeous glistening pink hue against the night light.
Then followed by Springbok shots made from Creme de Menthe and Irish creme and as we began to have our fill and close our bill- Rodney insisted that I have one last drink in commemoration of our celebration that he thought I would enjoy.
And boy was spot on as he presented me with the All Dressed Up Martini complete with a shot of prosecco on the side that you pour in to top it off.
I mean come on guys- it doesn’t get any more perfect than a drink that I think was destined to be and at the very least should and could be named after me lol.
We retired to our room for rest and to get ready for Day 2- which was our actual anniversary- August 7th.
But first- get into the look- because it’s not a recap without the rundown of the fashions.
I opted for a lightweight snakeskin print mini dress paired and wine colored heeled sandals both from RESERVED. I paired it with a taupe metallic thin belt from Target, faux croc wine clutch from H&M that I have had since college, and accessorized it with a rose gold Cavalli wristwatch and oversized textured hoops (my signature go to).
On the beat (that’s face or makeup for my unknowing folks) was a blend of MAC including Whirl lipstick and a plum GOSH brand lip liner (not pictured) along with a hint of rose gold MAC pigment on the skin and a spritz of Fendi and Tom Ford White Suede on the body. #itsallinthedetails
Now for Day 2- as we got dressed to head down for breakfast, we broke down our game plan for the day. We decided we would start off at the beach for a couple of hours in the morning and then move over to the pool, catch a little lunch, then a nap before getting ready for dinner that evening. And I must say it was the perfect plan. If you are looking for peace and quiet at a private beach- I definitely suggest going in the morning.
Breakfast included crepes with loads of butter, made to order omelettes, fresh squeezed orange juice and was phenomenal. Everything I love from an international buffet and the same security measures from lunch and dinner apply.
After breakfast, we headed down to the beach around 10:30am and it was incredibly tranquil with little to no people around other than the lifeguard.
Special Note- Again you have to wear a mask on the property as you walk to the beach, but once you are on the beach you can remove it and security checks your temperature at the board walk.
As for towels, they are provided for you in your room to bring down to the pool and beach as well as a fresh bucket of cold ice and bottles of water to keep you cool.
The beach is segregated by sections of lounge beds and umbrellas for singles, couples and then families and this made for a much more intimate and calming experience.
Additionally, the water in the morning is no where near as warm as it is in the afternoon and the temperature of the water turned out to be close to perfect.
Now let’s get into my look- I scored this one piece from Brands For Less for only 28AED/$7USD and paired it with some denim shorts I also found from Brands for Less for 30AED/$8USD, a multi printed lightweight leopard and blue silk sarong that I found in a local shop and some yellow fringe earrings from H&M as well as my blue birthday Gucci sunnies. I feel like clothes that are going to get wet shouldn’t cost a fortune.
We frolicked as the waves came in with a fierceness, taking breaks to lounge in between and soaked up the sun and shade when we could catch it.the
Once we had our fill of the beach, we packed up our bags and headed to the pool around 1:30pm. We grabbed a couple of loungers in the back of the seating area as far away from the crowd as possible.
Although proper social distancing measures were in place, Carlos and I have always loved to have our own space and so often times we prefer beach and pool loungers that aren’t too close to others.
We then ordered cocktails from a lovely pool side bartender named Frank who waited on us hand and foot.
He was incredibly tentative and even offered to take photos of us to commemorate our anniversary and handed me the loveliest handwritten note with well wishes for our special day.
Now the coolness of the pool water was a definite contrast to the warmth of the beach waves and a welcomed change of relaxation.
After around 3 hours in the pool, we decided to dip into our room for a quick shower and then head down into the buffet at Turquoise for light lunch since our dinner wasn’t until late in the evening, again where they checked your temperature upon entry.
This time I opted for a different kind of cocktail called “Be Passionate”- I mean it was our anniversary after all and it was delicious. Made from Campari, a blend of strawberry and passion fruit puree and topped off with champagne and a chocolate covered rim. It tastes like chocolate covered strawberries to be exact.
And they even let me pack the rest for a takeaway to my room!
While Carlos rested, I watched a little American Horror Story until I fell asleep. Because love is allowing your partner to watch AHS anywhere anytime, even on your anniversary.
Before we both knew it- it was time to get ready for our anniversary dinner. To celebrate, we had made 8:30pm reservations at the hotel’s hibachi style grill- Teppanyaki.
Please note that this restaurant is not included in the all-inclusive package and it is an additional 100AED (approximately $28) per person to enjoy which considering the usual prices of high end hibachi experiences elsewhere is a steal.
Another tip about Teppanyaki-we recommend making the reservation for the dinner as soon as you check into the hotel as spots tend to fill up fast and there is only enough space for 4 people.
The chef Marco was spectacular in his presentation. He was so engaging with both Carlos and I as well as the other couple who were equally sweet.
We first started with a sushi appetizer.
Then, the next course was fresh salmon cooked with carrots and shrimp.
Followed by fried rice (Carlos’ favorite) with a special little message.
And then finished off with steak and onions prepared your way and a series of sauces as well as ice cream for dessert.
After dessert we sipped on Arizona Sunsets- a very potent passion fruit rum punch, exchanged gifts and Carlos in true fashion left me speechless.
Now one thing I love about my husband is that he is incredibly thoughtful when it comes to gift giving, both big and small. But this year considering Corona and its effects, I really didn’t expect any physical gift as the Rixos really was more than enough for me.
However in true Carlos fashion, he surprised me with a bottle of Insolence perfume from Guerlain Paris.
This is a scent that my good friend, Bev was wearing one night and I along with other friends just couldn’t get enough of the smell, so the fact he remembered it just from me mentioning it once was so cute.
But the piece de resistance was a precious rose gold and diamond pendant necklace to replace the one from my wedding day that was lost.
Ok so let me give you a little back story on that. The week of our wedding, my friend Tamm and I had gone to several stores trying to find jewelry for me to wear for my wedding. While most people assumed I would wear a tiara, huge earrings and an extra gaudy earrings, I was on the hunt for the complete opposite.
All I wanted was some small diamond studs and a small dainty droplet necklace for my plunging neckline. We searched high and low and I just couldn’t quite find what I was looking for. While I was able to find the earrings, the necklace was a no go and being that it was days before the wedding, I just decided to go without.
Fast forward to our rehearsal dinner, the night before, held at the restaurant were we had our first date- the Park at the Domain. Here we are saying our thank you’s to everyone who attended and Carlos decides to share a surprise. He gets everyone’s attention and then presents me with the most memorable piece of jewelry outside of my ring.
He had found the exact necklace I had been looking for and it was one of the reminders that without a doubt I was marrying the most incredible man. I don’t know how he knew what I wanted or needed- but he just knew. It was simple and rose gold and diamond and again just absolutely perfect. And to top it off he had also gotten me a coordinating rose gold right hand ring and bracelet to match which made my wedding day look complete.
Well when does it get lost you ask? Just one year later- we returned to the States for my Masters graduation and considering how supportive my husband had been to me and how sentimental the necklace was to me- I decided to wear it to graduation. However, while en route to my graduation, a series of unfroutnate events occured and my necklace was lost in the rental car, never to be found again.
Year after year and on occasion, we would be out shopping and I would see a similar necklace. I would remind my husband how important it was for me to replace it and so when he surprised me this year with the necklace- it not only showed me how much he understood that it meant so much to me but also that he had been listening, which in marriage is more important than anything. Additionally, he bought me a diamond rose gold bracelet to match. Oh this man of mines.
After our more than awesome gift exchange, we ended up closing down the restaurant and enjoying cocktails with the other couple that joined us and learning all about each other. She mentioned that she observed me earlier on the beach and how much she loved my look from that afternoon and that it was only topped by my anniversary dress that night. I mean come on- who doesn’t love a compliment from a fellow lady.
Once we settled our bill, we were off to Orient of course for round 2 of cocktails with Rodney and the extra cool staff.
This time- we started off with the Love Shot, followed by Patron Margaritas which are my favorite Summer drink and then ended with All Dresses Up Martinis which I think may soon become my new favorite.
We closed the place down at 2:45 am as we were clearly having way too much fun and talked about how we could not wait to return to Rixos because the level of relaxation and top notch service just couldn’t be matched.
As we were walking back to our room- we ran into mixologist extraordinaire from Lobby Lounge- Right and I just had to let him know how his libation skills are to live and die for. He asked how we were enjoying our experience and we explained how between the Lobby Lounge and Orient, we just couldn’t get enough. He then asked that we stop by tomorrow for a special farewell cocktail and this was around 3am, so I know this man was tired but still made time to be so gracious and hospitable. Needless to say our 4th annivesary day was a huge success but it was time to sleep!
But not before we get into my look. One of my go to brands here is Zara- because unlike the selection of Zara in the States these styles actually fit me. So I opted for this raspberry silkesque mini dress with dolman sleeves, paired with my embellished and embroidered six inch heels from Steve Madden (a 2018 Christmas present). This look was accented with a pair of kelly green fringe earrings from DragonMart- YEP that DRAGONMART, a LOVE brooch from Aldo, a faux snakeskin tangerine clutch from a small boutique in Austin and my MK pewter and rose Lexington watch I received last Christmas. On the body was a spritz of Lancome La Vie Est Belle- a nod to the nostalgia of our nuptials as this was the perfume I wore on our wedding day.
On day 3, we ate and drank so good throughout the day that we decided on our final day we would sleep in and boy we did, until 10:30am because the older you get- the more you value some R&R, especially at a resort.
However, I quickly realized that breakfast ended at 11, so we literally threw on clothes and took off running downstairs for some much needed sobering sustenance at the breakfast buffet. I love a good made to order omelette station and smoked fish.
We then returned to our room to rest for a bit and to enjoy our last afternoon in Rixos, which we spent poolside.
On this afternoon, we met a waiter on rollerskates named Ahmet who ensured that we were well taken care of. Carlos partook in his personal stash of cigars and mojitos, while I opted for Strawberry Patron margaritas and fresh fruit cups.
The weather was actually a bit overcast which was what we needed as the sun made the occasional appearance, making for the perfect summer temperature.
We parked ourselves pool side until 6pm and needless to say we didn’t want to leave.
And did I mention that they played Maxwell by the pool- so needless to say it was becoming more and more difficult for me to leave.
But let’s not forget the look. I scored this black one shoulder swimsuit from SHEIN online for about $12 US and paired it with a kaftan that I cut open from Ross which I have had for over 7 years .
SideNote- I had to check out the wave pool to see if it was worth the return visit and of course the answer is YES.
As we prepared to depart- we made one final stop by the Lobby Lounge for a mango mousse to go, however they were already sold out for the day. But it did present an opportunity to say not farewell but see you later to lots of the staff who made our staff so magical like the ladies- Sangita and Sharifa and men of mixology- Rodney and Right.
Overall- the Rixos gets 7 stars out of 5 from the Samuels as we couldn’t have imagined a staycation would be this relaxing. After all it is Saadiyat Island, a known local luxury safehaven when you need a break from the desert sand.
We are already trying to figure out when we can return for a redo- including visits to the wave pool because I am a big kid at heart, L’Olivio,-the on site Italian restaurant, Aja- for Asian cuisine and of course to experience the spa services once they re-open.
Here’s to celebrating 5 years next year and seeing what my magician of a man- Mr. Carlos can pull out his hat next, however I wouldn’t be mad if Rixos made the cut.
Xoxo- back to the Rixos we go!