It wasn’t that long ago that staying in fancy hotels wasn’t even on my radar, and the enjoyment I got out of traveling came primarily from the airline experience to and from my destination – and of course the destination itself. Hotels were always an afterthought.
I just didn’t understand (and place any value) on luxurious accommodations, mostly because I’m not a very fancy person to begin with, and I generally feel out of place in high-end hotels where every interaction with the staff and their over-eagerness to treat me like royalty is completely awkward not something I’m comfortable with. If only they knew that sometimes I wear the same ten-year-old T-shirt for days on end when I’m too lazy to do laundry, and that Cup Noodles and Netflix is my idea quality entertainment. Would they still hold open the door for me and bow if they could see me dribbling cheap seafood-flavored noodles down the front of my favorite (already stained) t-shirt while laughing out loud at a vulgar stand up comedy routine?
My overall hotel strategy started falling into place late last year when I decided to focus on one brand (SPG) in order to build up points and status. And combined with the fact that my new American Express Platinum card comes with first-tier SPG status, I’m starting to get my first taste of some really nice hotel experiences. This three night stay at the Sheraton Grand in Dubai might have been the one that made me slap my forehead (hard enough to leave a mark) upon the realization that staying at really nice properties is something to strive for and that I really have been missing out on some amazing travel experiences in the past.
Unfortunately, my dirty T-shirt and Cup Noodle eating habits haven’t changed a bit. But let’s just keep keep that little secret to ourselves, ok?
The Sheraton Grand here in Dubai is only a 15 minute taxi ride from the airport, and it was a very welcome sight after such a long flight from Los Angeles. These were my first moments in the United Arab Emirates (and the Middle East for that matter) so it was sensory overload as the taxi pulled up to the hotel and spit me out into that oppressively hot and humid Dubai air. I think it actually hurt a little – I wasn’t expecting it to sting as much as it did, but thankfully the taxi driver did an admirable job of getting me as close to the main entrance of the Sheraton as possible, so I didn’t have to deal with the heat for more than a brief moment.
My first impressions? Truthfully, the hotel looked very nice of course, but I was more shocked to see that it was located in a cluster of other hotels and buildings crammed full with westen restaurants and stores. It’s kind of a bummer to fly 8500 miles only to realize that there’s a Burger King within walking distance of your hotel, and it may be your only option since you’ve arrived during Ramadan and there’s nothing else open.
My brain was pretty much a steaming pile of mush from all of that flying, and thankfully there wasn’t anybody else checking in at the time I arrived, so I was able to walk right up to the desk and do what I needed to do. Unfortunately, my mushy brain and lack of focus caused me to completely miss the fact that the guy who checked me in didn’t give me back my passport and I didn’t realize it until the next day. I’m embarrassed to admit that this isn’t the first time that this has ever happened, and I’d rather not go into it.
So what’s the verdict? Well, as you saw in pics, this was a very nice suite and I really enjoyed it. Big, comfortable, and completely overkill for just one person. But the fact that it was overkill and obnoxiously nice is what made me start thinking about how much I enjoy being upgraded and treated to luxurious accommodations.
It’s really hard to imagine myself as the kind of guy who would spend hours doing research to make the perfect hotel choice for any given trip, but the three days that I spent at the Sheraton Grand Dubai might have just turned me into the hotel snob I never thought I’d ever become. And the scary thing? This was just a Sheraton, which in the grand scheme of things, is a mediocre brand low on the chain of fine hotels in this world. It worries me to think about where this is going from here, and I can imagine myself having a strong temptation to outdo my last experience on every trip from here on out. At least it will make for a very good trip reports, right?
And maybe it’s time to throw out that old T-shirt and start eating fancy ramen from that expensive Japanese restaurant that just opened down the street. I’m not sure if could give up Netflix, but if can address the T-shirt and noodle thing, I’d feel a lot better about being qualified to walk into some really posh properties from now on!