I went to Hilton’s new Warner Brothers-themed hotel in Abu Dhabi — but couldn’t find any Hollywood magic

Mar 30, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Abu Dhabi’s playground, Yas Island, in the United Arab Emirates has been steadily growing its list of attractions as it aims to compete with the nearby tourism mecca of Dubai.

Ferrari World, with the fastest roller coaster in the world, sits next to the Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Formula One Grand Prix each year. In 2018, the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park opened at a cost of around $1 billion. So, when I saw the world’s first Warner Brothers themed hotel had opened last year I was intrigued. As a loyal Hilton Honors member, would this be a traditional hotel or a one-of-a-kind extension of the theme park?

After flying from London to Abu Dhabi on ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air, I was ready for some relaxation — and some Hollywood-style fun.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

In This Post

Quick take

While this is a perfectly comfortable new Hilton property, there are many missed opportunities to make it a truly one-of-a-kind experience based on the Warner Brothers theme. For example, save for a few movie stills, the guest rooms are similar to other Hilton properties worldwide. The property does get many of the basics right — the pool areas are brilliant, and everything that left the WB’s kitchens I would happily order again.

I can’t help but think the strict brand standard Hilton imposes on Curio Collection properties limits the ability of the WB Abu Dhabi to be more quirky, immersive and memorable. I would have loved for each room to have a strong theme from a specific Warner Brothers production — how cool would a Matrix-themed room be? Instead, a few low-resolution prints on the wall are about the only reminders of where you are.

As much as I love to earn Hilton Honors points for my hotel stays, I would equally love to see this property change management and continue outside of the Hilton group ecosystem, adding far more Hollywood touches to appeal to young and old alike.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Getting there

The WB Abu Dhabi is located on Yas Island, 10 miles from Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). An Uber ride from the airport to the hotel will cost around 60 dirhams (£12) and takes around 15 minutes, depending on traffic. There’s limited public transportation, so it’s much more efficient to take an affordable cab or ride-hailing service.

The hotel is mere steps from Warner Bros. World theme park with Yas Mall, Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World a short walk away. While it’s possible to wander around the island on foot, it’s not particularly picturesque — don’t expect long sandy beaches and clearly marked walkways.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Booking details

Abu Dhabi is a highly seasonal destination with rates plummeting as the temperatures soar every summer. Base rates start from 690 dirhams (£143), doubling over peak periods such as Christmas.

I booked a base-level King Artists Room for 860 dirhams (£178) including taxes for my two-night stay over a February weekend.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

I hold top-tier Diamond status in the Hilton Honors program — another reason I was attracted to this property. I received a single category upgrade at check-in to a King Directors Room. I pressed to see if suites were available, but was politely informed they were completely sold out during my stay.

Related: Suite upgrades, bonus points and more: 6 amazing benefits that make Hilton Diamond status worthwhile

I could have redeemed 50,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard award night, which are worth around £200 since TPG values Hilton Honors points at 0.4p each. It made more sense to pay cash, so that is how I booked.

Standout features

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
  • Free tickets for all guests to various attractions on the island.
  • Spectacular swimming pools for both children and adults alike, with thoughtful touches appealing to both demographics.
  • Looney Tunes character appearances were regular and cast members were very generous with their time.
  • Food and drinks were high quality across the property and I enjoyed every single thing I ate during my stay.

Drawbacks

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
  • WB theming could have been taken so much further in the guest rooms.
  • The beautiful lobby resembled a playground as excited, sugar-fueled children bounced around.
  • Elite status benefits were delivered inconsistently.

The vibe

Wealthy Middle Eastern and European families use the hotel’s handy location to explore the nearby attractions on Yas Island. That means the elegant lobby ended up home to children bouncing around on the sofas and tossing cushions across the room as they entertained themselves in the absence of proper children’s facilities. Staff members were constantly scurrying around to reset the space. It would have made more sense to have a dedicated children’s play area in the lobby rather than expect young guests to sit still.

Warner Brothers characters made regular appearances throughout the common spaces and restaurants. While some had been booked specifically by guests for children’s birthday events, the characters made sure anyone could have as many selfies with them as they wished.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The room

I was assigned a King Directors Room on level five, with the hotel key card being housed in a film slate-inspired holder. Guest rooms corridors were filled with prints from iconic movies such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Ocean’s Eleven” that had me immediately recalling some of my favourite Hollywood films.

My 375-square-foot room was spacious, bright and airy. But don’t expect to find cutting-edge interior design here; this is a hotel by Miral, an “Abu Dhabi-based curator of experiences,” meant to service a commercial theme park. I’ve stayed in more than half the 18 Hilton brands, and the design elements found here, like the parquet floors and framed, flat-screen televisions, are common in new build Hilton properties around the world.

There was a fabulous view from my room of the theme park next door with its iconic WB water tower.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The only Warner Brothers references in the room, however, were a few low-resolution framed Scooby-Doo prints and a long Warner Bros. cushion on the bed. This was a real missed opportunity for the property. I had been hoping for far more Hollywood references in the room. Instead, it largely felt like any other new Hilton property.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

I did enjoy the Hollywood dressing room-style lights around the mirror in the bathroom along with a generous shower and Sicily Camellia toiletries.

The room service menu offered packages to accompany in-house movies that included soft drinks, popcorn and french fries. I was perplexed to search through the channel guide, however, and discover not one dedicated Warner Brothers channel, be it cartoons, television series or movies. After a busy day exploring the theme parks of Yas Island or relaxing by the fabulous hotel pools, watching a WB classic like “Harry Potter,” “Batman” or “The Matrix” would have been a perfect way to unwind. Instead, it was another missed opportunity.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

A Diamond amenity of a cheese platter was an unexpected but welcome delivery on my first evening.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Food and drinks

I was impressed with everything I ate and drank at the hotel. The enormous buffet breakfast served in Sidekicks daily, was free with my Hilton Honors elite status — and I couldn’t resist indulging in some of the sugary treats popular with junior guests.

I also popped into Sidekicks for lunch and enjoyed a delicious, freshly cooked shish taouk for 75 dirhams (£15).

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Weekend bottomless brunch was served at the rooftop pool. But after seeing the food sitting out in the blazing sun for hours on end, I decided to order a la carte from the Overlook menu instead. Options were perfect for poolside lounging, including sushi, sashimi, salads and ice cream. The sushi especially was excellent.

For dinner, the hotel’s signature Director’s Club delivered a well-cooked rib-eye steak for 190 dirhams (£39), and I was thrilled to see one of my favourite craft beers from my homeland of Australia, Little Creatures, on tap in the Middle East.

I also tried out room service for the “local” set breakfast menu, as I love Arabic food. A substantial and tasty spread was delivered with a smile 20 minutes later. I enjoyed it while gazing across to the theme park outside my window.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Amenities and service

The hotel has designed two separate pool spaces for two very different types of guests. On the ground floor, you’ll find the sprawling main pool with its “dive-in theatre” showing Looney Tunes cartoons nonstop, paired with adorable mini lounge chairs where younger guests can soak up some rays. As a child-free adult, I loved escaping to the adults-only rooftop pool where the vibe was chilled house music courtesy of a resident DJ and attentive staff who stood ready to deliver cool drinks in the hot sun. With so many families staying at the property, I had the rooftop mostly to myself.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The well-equipped gym and spa are located on Level 1 where there is also a kids club. An image of Bugs Bunny pumping iron on the gym wall made me grin — this is the sort of branding I wish was more present throughout.

Service ranged from incredibly attentive to frustratingly lazy. Dinner at the Director’s Club was a master class in hospitality: After I gave my room number as I was seated, the host excitedly returned a few minutes later to thank me for being an elite Diamond member and advised me I would receive a 25% discount on all food and drinks at the hotel as a reward for my loyalty. After my meal, the Canadian chef on duty came into the dining room during a lull in orders to thank me for my patronage — we had a good chat about his family’s life in Abu Dhabi and the challenges of opening a new property.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Contrast this with the service at the swim-up bar at the ground floor pool the following day when I ordered a drink and gave my name and room number, politely asking if they could apply the Diamond discount. They bluntly refused to do so unless I presented my membership card — something difficult to do when submerged in water and soaking wet. The staff members could have easily checked this themselves, as my status was clearly listed on my reservation and staff at The Directors Club the night before had noticed without being prompted.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Out and about

A mere 50 feet from the hotel is Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, and in-house guests receive free entry each day of their stay. The indoor park is aimed more at children than general thrill-seekers. I tried out almost every ride and there were only a few that raised my heart rate, the Fast and the Furry-ous mini rollercoaster being my favourite. While there are only a dozen or so rides among a sea of retail and food and beverage outlets, I didn’t wait more than 10 minutes for any rides when visiting in the late afternoon and it was a fun way to spend a few hours.

Right next door is a Hilton Doubletree property that looked presentable from the outside and has very affordable rates and spacious one-bedroom apartments. Guests at the Doubletree can use all of the Curio Collection’s amenities, so if you are looking for a great value on a Yas Island experience, you might want to check that option out.

Checking out

I was hoping for a truly one-of-a-kind immersive experience I would rave about for years to come. What I found was a perfectly pleasant but rather forgettable Hilton hotel lacking the glitz and glam of Hollywood.

The peaceful and luxurious design of the hotel seemed at odds with a clientele that consisted mostly of families with excited and energetic young children. It’s incredibly convenient for the range of attractions that Yas Island has to offer — but the missed opportunities and half-hearted commitment to the theme mean I’ll probably save my money and book the Doubletree next door instead if I return.

Featured image by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.