Luxury travel: Ritz-Carlton announces first hotel in Abu Dhabi

The Middle East is set to get a little more glitz and lot more glamour. The Ritz-Carlton just announced an agreement with Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) for a waterfront hotel in Abu Dhabi, and Gadling got a sneak peak at some of the hotel designs.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal will have 447 guestrooms and suites, as well as 85 villas. The Venetian-inspired hotel is set in a crescent shape across 54 acres and has its own private beach overlooking the Grand Canal. A highlight for guests of the hotel will be the villas, which range in size from 968 to 1,400 square feet, and come complete with outdoor terraces that overlook the Grand Canal and personalized butler service.

“We are delighted to be bringing The Ritz-Carlton renowned levels of hospitality to the power capital of the United Arab Emirates,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of the Ritz-Carlton, in a statement. “The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal hotel will be a welcome landmark, and together with the owning company Abu Dhabi National Hotels, we will create a prestigious luxury hotel that will be the highlight of the new waterfront development.”

In addition to the spacious rooms, sweeping views and stunning architecture, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal will also include:

  • The Ritz-Carlton Club located on a private floor accessible only by elevator key. As with other Ritz-Carlton Club levels, the Abu Dhabi club will feature five complimentary food and beverage presentations throughout the day and a dedicated concierge service.
  • ESPA, a 21,500-square-foot spa with its own separate entrance.
  • Fitness center and outdoor tennis courts.
  • Three restaurants, including an Italian restaurant, steak and seafood restaurant, Middle East restaurant and an Asian restaurant.
  • A rooftop terrace, which will offer food and beverage service.
  • Two poolside bars.
  • Lobby lounge and bar area, also serving drinks and small bites

The show-stopper of this property, however, lies outside the hotel. The 17,222-square-foot swimming pool provides a stunning backdrop to the Renaissance-era influenced hotel. This clearly calls for a few new swimsuits and some designer hats to help shade the Middle East sun.

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, is expected to open in late 2011.

Fast & furious roller coasters: 6 coolest race car themed rides

After watching the Daytona 500, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at race car themed roller coasters. Although there have been many over the years, for me, these six really stand out. They emphasize speed as they include some of the fastest roller coasters in the World. And, the coasters that I feel deliver the best race car-like experience, also offer intense acceleration and cheek flapping g-forces.

Intimidator at Carowinds (Charlotte, North Carolina – United States)
Built in the heart of NASCAR country, Intimidator at Carowinds, bears the nickname of legendary race car driver Dale Earnhardt. Pictured above, the coaster’s trains are designed to look like his black #3 Chevy Monte Carlo. The attraction also includes a full-sized replica of his car as well as a tribute area that details his enormously successful career. While the ride itself is one of the best of its type and it is well-themed, it doesn’t do the best job of delivering a NASCAR feel with a hilly course and only one banked turn that reminded me of a turn in a race.

Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia – United States)
Like Intimidator at Carowinds, Kings Dominion’s Intimidator 305 has a Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR themed experience. Intimidator 305 starts with an un-race like 305 foot tall lift hill, but the heavily banked turn that follows the first drop and top speeds in the 90 mph range incorporate the racing feel better than the aforementioned Intimidator. Also, the train’s restraints are padded belts that are somewhat similar to what race car drivers use. Still, a roller coaster with a lift hill isn’t the best for simulating a race car.

Speed – The Ride at NASCAR Café (Las Vegas, Nevada – United States)
Speed – The Ride, is a launched shuttle roller coaster at the NASCAR Speed Café in Las Vegas. The ride begins with an exciting 0 to 70 mph launch in 2 seconds thanks to a magnetic propulsion system. After the launch, riders speed through a vertical loop and eventually climb a 224 foot tall pike. Then the train slows and reverses its path. The launch is race-like, but the loop and backwards traveling doesn’t simulate any races that I know of.

Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point – (Sandusky, Ohio – United States)
For years, Cedar Point had a track record of topping everyone in terms of the biggest and fastest roller coasters in the World. In 2003, they continued their trend with Top Thrill Dragster. It not only set a new speed record with a 0 to 120 mph launch in 4 seconds, it also set a height record with an unheard of 42-story tall top hat tower. The ride’s cars are themed like dragsters and the ride begins with the same “Christmas tree” lights used in official drag races. I’ve ridden a very similar and slightly faster coaster in Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure. The launch alone is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had on a roller coaster. The sheer power of these hydraulic launches is quite remarkable.

Ring°Racer at Nürburgring (Nurburg, Rhineland-Palatinate – Germany)
Located at the famous Nürburgring motorsport complex and race track, Ring°Racer might have the best location of any race car-themed roller coaster. The coaster uses a compressed air launch system that delivers a quicker accelaration, and likely a more intense launch, than Top Thrill Dragster. Unfortunately, Ring°Racer has been closed due to defects in its launch system. Hopefully, Nürburgring and the ride’s manufacturer S&S can reopen it this year. It was designed to feature a blistering 0 to 134.8 mph launch in only 2.5 seconds.

Formula Rossa at Ferrari World (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
When Formula Rossa opened last November at the new Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi it became the World’s fastest roller coaster. Designed by Intamin AG, the launch coaster rockets riders from 0 to 149.1 mph in 4 seconds generating an intense 4.8g’s. With trains resembling red Ferrari Formula One race cars and guests wearing safety glasses just like the real drivers, Formula Rossa looks like the coolest race car themed roller coaster.

[Image credits: Flickr users – daveyinn, woofiegrrl, & mjohn2101]

Abu Dhabi Emirates Palace hotel regrets $11 million Christmas tree

Well – that was quick. Just a couple of days after we reported on its excessive $11 million Christmas tree, the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi has confirmed that it may have gone a little overboard in decorating the (fake) evergreen.

The $11,000 tree had been filled with almost every piece of valuable jewelry the in-house jeweler could find – including diamond earrings, necklaces and pearls. After all the attention the tree got, the hotel manager admitted he “regretted overloading the tradition”.

Of course, one thing not really pointed out in all the attention was that the “decorations” would all be recovered after the holiday season, so despite their insane price tag, the tree itself was not going to cost $11 million.

Still, while the world is in the middle of its first signs of economic recovery, a tree with this kind of excess sends a rather disturbing message. Then again, this is the same hotel where you can buy gold bars from a vending machine and waste $1 million on a week-long stay.

[Photo: AP]

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge underway

The fourth annual Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge is underway in the United Arab Emirtates. The six-day long, stage based, adventure race pits coed teams of four against one another as they compete on foot, mountain bike, and kayak across a course designed to test their endurance, smarts, and navigational skills.

The race actually got underway on Friday with 50 teams setting out on the first of four stages that are spread out over the course of the six day event. The first two stages were just a warm-up for today however, as the teams are currently taking on a desert stage that combines a 58 mile mountain bike leg and a 75 mile trek that requires them to navigate their way through a sea of endless sand dunes in the dead of night. Tuesday marks the start of the final stage, which will involve more than 80 miles of sea kayaking.

As of this writing, the three-time defending champions, New Zealand’s Thule Adventure Team, is in the lead once again, but with three more days of racing to go, the championship is still up for grabs. The winners of the race receive $40,000 in prize money and bragging rights for another year.

Over the past four years, the ADAC has been the final race of the season for adventure racing teams across the globe. This year is no exception with the event rounding out a busy year for the sport, which has suffered a bit with economic conditions over the past few years. 2011 is shaping up to be an excellent year for adventure racing however, and these amazing endurance athletes will have plenty of opportunities to compete in some of the most remote and spectacular settings on the planet.

[Photo credit: Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority]

Abu Dhabi police find snakes on a plane … and squirrels and parrots

You know that the United Arab Emirates is not to be outdone, right? So, when an 89-year-old lady’s dog gets loose on an American flight, the Middle East has to find a way to trump it. And, you know it was better than a dog and a cat or an angry monkey.

On a flight from Indonesia to the United Arab Emirates, a passenger was reported to have “four snakes, two parrots and a squirrel inside a box” … not to mention other animals! I seriously want to know how the hell this stuff made it onto the plane!

Though the police in Abu Dhabi didn’t reveal the snake species, a newspaper in Dubai hit up a few experts and said they were “reticulated and blood pythons, both non-venomous,” according to the Associated Press.

[photo by goingslo via Flickr]