Flying in Style with Etihad Airways
Flying with Etihad Airways ensured both a wonderful start and finale to my action-packed trip to Abu Dhabi. After a quick and super friendly check-in at Manchester airport, it was time to get going. I was shown to my seat by a smiley stewardess and was instantly impressed with how spacious the economy cabin was. The seats were comfortable with plenty of leg room, adjustable back support and reclining features, as well as full-sized fleece blankets in a lovely shade of turquoise. Throughout the outbound flight - which took only around seven hours and seemed to pass by so quickly - I was constantly refreshed with a huge choice of drinks, as well as a delicious hearty dish of braised beef and dumplings for lunch, followed by an indulgent chocolate brownie.
The economy cabin also features an impressive entertainment system called the E-Box that offers hundreds of hours of in-flight films, TV show, box sets, radio shows, CDs and interactive games. There was nothing better than snuggling up under my blanket, catching up on the latest blockbusters that I kept meaning to watch at the cinema. Similarly, the return flight back into Manchester offered great food, great entertainment and more seamless, smiling service.
Though not flying with children this time, I constantly travel with my little boy in mind and was keen to know what Etihad Airways offers for little ones. As it turns out, they have a service called the 'Flying Nanny' on long-haul flights, where dedicated staff members help assist families with children - definitely worth bearing in mind when choosing who to fly with on your luxury family holiday.
The Adventures of Abu Dhabi
If there's one destination in Abu Dhabi (or beyond!) that you should head to for hours of fun for the whole family, it is Yas Island. This incredible island is home to a range of theme parks, water parks and interactive museums. A highlight for children (and, unashamedly, adults too) is Warner Bros. World, home to six separate lands - including Gotham City and Cartoon Junction - that house nearly 30 rides, live shows and themed restaurants. A real blast from the past, I even met a range of my old favourite Warner Bros. characters!
That afternoon, our group split into two, with some visiting Ferrari World and the others (including myself) heading to Yas Waterworld. With 40 slides, rides and attractions, I can see why it's been voted the best waterpark in the Middle East! I particularly loved the 'Cinesplash', a completely unique and immersive cinema that floods up to your knees, offering a 5D experience with waterfalls, water explosions and moving seats. Later, my group reconvened with those that visited Ferrari World instead, and they were all still pumped after riding the fastest rollercoaster on the planet!
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Located just a short distance from the stunning Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort - a contemporary and understated hotel overlooking a 9-kilometre stretch of white sandy beach - is the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first branch of the world-renowned museum to open outside of France. Before even looking around, I was simply blown away by the unique design of the building (the sun filters through a dome of aluminium stars) though the real delights awaited inside. An incredible guide took around an absolutely mind-blowing collection of artwork that represents the journey of time and humanity across twelve chapters - from prehistoric treasures to some whacky contemporary masterpieces.
Authentic Arabian experiences
As well as the ultra-modern Yas Island and Louvre, Abu Dhabi still offers a glimpse of authentic Arabia. I was so glad to get the chance to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and was blown away by the sheer size of this magnificent monument which holds up to 40,000 worshippers at one time! As well as its size, the architecture is so ornate and striking, and for me, it rivalled the Taj Mahal in its beauty!
Of course, no trip to the Middle East is complete without heading into the desert and, one evening, we were whisked by dune vehicle through the sands to the Arabian Nights Village, an enchanting camp in a courtyard overlooked by two traditional watchtowers. While here, I felt that I really got a taste of traditional Emirati life. Activities included camel rides, quad biking, sand boarding, henna painting, stargazing and watching an incredible performance of Arabian dancing and music. The food was also incredible and there was such an impressive spread of barbecued meats, traditional Arabic dips and dishes, a live bread making station and much more! To top off the ultimate Middle Eastern dining experience, we sat on sunken floor level seating beside firepits, and ate out of authentic handmade crockery, looking up at the stunning starry sky.