I stayed at 'the most luxurious hotel in the world,' but the most luxurious thing about it isn't the walls of gold or the Hermes soap
- One of the most decorated luxury hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, was recently named the "best hotel in the world" by the Ultratravel Awards. The Burj has frequently been called "the world's first seven-star hotel" and "the most luxurious hotel in the world" by travel writers and critics.
- I recently stayed at the hotel on a trip to Dubai to see if the Burj Al Arab could possibly live up to the hype.
- While the hotel is full of extravagances, it's the service that puts it over the top.
When someone tells you a place is "the most luxurious hotel in the world," the natural response might be to ask incredulously, "What makes it so luxurious?"
That's how I felt before visiting the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, which was named the Best Hotel in the World by The Telegraph's ULTRA Awards this year and has often been called "the most luxurious hotel in the world" by travel writers and critics.
After spending a night at the Burj this past November, I think I have the answer. While the $1 billion hotel is full of extravagances, like a Rolls-Royce chauffeur, a 14-piece set of Hermès toiletries, and interiors decorated with nearly 20,000 square feet of 24-karat gold, it's the service that puts it over the top.
The Burj Al Arab has a staff-to-suite ratio of 6:1. That means there are 1,300 employees for the hotel's 202 suites, everything from chefs and mixologists to florists, locker room attendants, and hosts.
The ratio leads to a level of attention that I imagine most people have never experienced. Someone is always available to take care of your every whim or answer every question. Look around in the hotel with a puzzled look for more than a few seconds and someone comes over to ask what you need. That's assuming they don't already know what you are looking for.
The service reaches another level when it comes to your actual suite. Every floor has a team of personal butlers (I'm not kidding) who are there waiting to attend to your every desire. Whoever is on duty will stand up as you approach and greet you by name.
If you need anything - a dinner reservation, an Earl Grey tea brewed at 9 p.m. sharp, or, say, a bubble bath - they'll take care of it with gusto.
I stayed at the hotel on Thanksgiving night. Knowing that I was American, my personal butler dropped off a tray of Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches and miniature pies so that I wouldn't completely miss out on the holiday.
Just before going to bed during my stay, I decided to make an impromptu stop to the 27th floor of the hotel for a nightcap at the Burj's lounge, Gold On 27. As I walked up to the host to ask for a table, he greeted me by name.
As I sipped my $31 cocktail, I puzzled over how he knew who I was. I hadn't made any reservation and I was one of hundreds in the hotel that night. I theorized that the butler had tipped him off that I was heading to the bar.
When I asked him later by what magic he knew who I was, he told me that each night he researches all of the guests staying in the hotel and attempts to memorize the name and face of every single one. He confessed with a smile that he doesn't always get it right.
That level of dedication is hard to fake. He was far from the only one among the staff that seemed to take the hotel's reputation as "the most luxurious hotel in the world" very seriously.