Despite having to cut short my stay in Beijing due to a pesky pandemic in the making, I wasn’t able to find any earlier flights on my originally scheduled Doha–Montreal return segment, which left me with a longer than expected eight-night stay in Qatar.
Moreover, even though I had planned a side-trip to the fellow Gulf nation of Kuwait, those plans were scuppered on short notice by Kuwait’s border controls against anyone who had been in China or Hong Kong for the past 14 days.
Facing an itinerary for this trip that was far less ideal than I had hoped, I decided to make the best of the situation by taking advantage of the wide range of Marriott Bonvoy properties in Doha and indulging in a little bit of hotel-hopping while I explored the city.
Having completed a similar hotel-hopping circuit in Dubai last year, I knew that there was plenty of luxury to be sampled here in the Middle East, and I figured that an abundance of hotel reviews may be helpful for anyone who’s planning a stopover or a cheap layover hotel in Doha when flying with Qatar Airways.
I divided the eight nights across three hotels as follows:
One night at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, located in the artificial island of The Pearl
One night at the JW Marriott Doha City Centre in West Bay
Six nights at the W Doha in West Bay, booked with a seven-night Category 1–4 certificate from the Travel Packages in the legacy Marriott Rewards program
The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, and W would check off three of my favourite hotel brands in the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio. The St. Regis Doha had also caught my eye, but I’ll have to save that for some other time, as it struck me as relatively less appealing than the other three options.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha is a Category 5 property within Marriott Bonvoy, meaning that a free night would cost 35,000 Bonvoy points. Using all the tools at my disposal for hunting down cheap cash rates, however, I found a Club Lounge Access rate for only 550 QAR ($209), which felt like much a better deal than redeeming points.
Not only was the cash rate lower than my 0.9cpp valuation for Marriott Bonvoy points, but I’d also have access to the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge, which I wouldn’t otherwise receive even with elite status. I secured the booking only a few days in advance, just prior to boarding my Qsuites flight to Doha, and upon landing in Qatar, I indulged for an hour in the Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge before calling an Uber for the 20-minute ride over to the Ritz.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha – Location & Arrival
The hotel is housed in a huge 23-storey building near The Pearl, the manmade island (some might call it an imitation of Dubai’s The Palm) on the northern edge of Doha.
As it’s situated relatively farther away from Doha’s airport and main attractions, the Ritz-Carlton is more suited to a role as a luxurious retreat of its own rather than a base from which to explore the city, and that was exactly what I hoped to get out of this stay.
Having opened in 2000, the building exterior is starting to show its age somewhat, especially after being exposed to the relentless Middle East sunshine year after year.
I was greeted by a bellhop upon arrival, who helped to collect my baggage and direct me through the metal detector at the front entrance – a pretty common security setup at hotels throughout the Middle East.
With one bellhop grabbing a hold of my bags, another one motioned me towards the check-in counters, where a front desk associate was on hand to take my passport and look up my reservation. Once he saw that I had booked a club rate, he invited me to complete my check-in upstairs in the 23rd-floor Club Lounge instead, and motioned for the bellhop to escort me upstairs.
The Ritz-Carlton brand is synonymous with a very strong service culture, and that was already on full display just a few minutes into my stay at the Doha location.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha – Check-in
Upon arriving at the hotel’s premium space on the top floor, I was greeted by two Club Lounge hosts, dressed in navy blazers and khaki trousers.
They mentioned that “they were serving breakfast” and invited me to help myself to the buffet while I completed my check-in procedures and waited for my room, and it was a pleasant surprise to be treated to the breakfast service even though technically my stay hadn’t begun yet.
I must say, I’ve visited a handful of Ritz-Carlton lounges around the world, but this has to be the poshest one I’ve patronized so far, and I felt severely underdressed when I showed up in the morning in my Qsuites pajamas and a dishevelled mop of hair.
We’ll talk about the Club Lounge offerings later in the review. For now, I did have to wait here for several hours before my Executive Suite would be ready, and I helped myself to breakfast, coffee, and then lunch over the course of the morning.
The Club Lounge associates – and one man, Nicholas, in particular – were almost overly polite and attentive, clearly taking great pride in their jobs as they asked if I needed anything from my luggage while I waited (I asked for my backpack so I could use my laptop, which was promptly brought over), continually checked if I needed any more top-ups to my coffee, and stopped by every now and then to reassure me that it wouldn’t be long until my room was ready.
After about four hours, which I spent mostly catching up on work in my very posh surroundings, I was finally given the keys to my Executive Suite on the 17th floor – one that had been proactively granted in advance of my stay as a Titanium Elite member, without me even having to ask over the chat app.
Nicholas escorted me down to the room and ensured that I settled in comfortably, which was yet another example of the excellent service in the Club Lounge and at this hotel in general.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha – Executive Suite
The Executive Suite is the second-highest suite type at this hotel, boasting an impressive 1,205 square feet of space. Perhaps its greatest asset is the large combined living and dining space, decorated in an elegant, modern, and stately fashion that was typical of the hotel overall.
The sitting area consisted of an extended grey couch and two royal blue upholstered chairs, which I thought was a beautiful accent colour against a backdrop of white and brown. A tray of Arabic sweets and dates had been left on the table here as a welcome gift, which I snacked on throughout my stay.
The furniture faced against a sleek black wall-mounted cabinet, which housed the television, pantry, and minibar.
A single round table is to be used for both dining and working; while my preference is always to have separate surfaces for these purposes, this one functioned just fine as a work desk as well, which is what I primarily used it for.
Importantly, there was an abundance of USB and universal charging outlets available on the nearby counter, which was very useful for getting all my devices charged in one place.
A set of French doors lead to the bedroom, which featured a king bed, a television opposite it, and a daybed in the corner.
The piece of art adjacent to the daybed, leaning so casually against the wall, was typical of the decor of the Executive Suite and made the place feel like a stately private residence.
The bedroom also provided access to a small balcony, which was much less exciting than it first seemed. The space was very limited, with a small chair available if you wanted to sit out here and take in the views of all the construction going on in The Pearl, an artificial island that is supposed to serve as a residential estate upon its completion. I never returned to the balcony after checking it out once.
Instead, a much more satisfying place to spend time was the indulgent walk-in closet and bathroom. The former had a full set of vanity mirrors, drawers, cabinets, and a wardrobe if you wanted to unpack the contents of your suitcase during your stay.
I’m a real sucker for a marble bathroom, and I was overjoyed to see that the hotel didn’t hold back with the Tuscan marble decorations.
While it wasn’t the largest bathroom, it had all of the essentials – double sinks, separate chambers for the shower and toilet, and a bathtub. I made sure to squeeze in a nice and relaxing bath before departing the hotel the following day.
Finally, there was also a half-bathroom by the entrance, this one also decked out in marble on all sides and featuring an even more lavish sink design than the master bathroom.
The Executive Suite certainly ranked as one of the nicer suite upgrades I’ve received, and I did my best to maximize my enjoyment of it over the course of my short one-night stay.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha – Club Lounge
After seeing how posh the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge was, both in terms of its ambience and the demeanour of most of its occupants, I made sure to dress up a little bit when I headed upstairs so that I wouldn’t feel too out of place when Nicholas was speaking to me in his equally posh South African accent.
The Club Lounge is designed in the image of a luxurious reading room, drawing upon many of the same elements that I found in my Executive Suite below, and I found the abundance of mid-century modern furniture to be exactly to my tastes.
It has enough seating space for roughly 50 of the Ritz-Carlton’s most valued guests: those who are staying on Club rates or who otherwise purchased Club Lounge access. (Recall that Marriott Bonvoy elite members do not ordinarily receive Club Lounge benefits at Ritz-Carlton hotels.)
Ritz-Carlton lounges are known for their daily meal presentations, allowing guests to enjoy all their meals in the lounge if they wished. Since I had plenty of time to kill in Doha, I didn’t feel bad about staying in the hotel for the duration of my stay and making use of the breakfast and lunch services (twice) and the evening hors d’oeuvres (once).
Each meal tended to include a light spread from the buffet, as well as one or two dishes that the chef could prepare for you at the live cooking station. If the chef didn’t happen to be there when you were getting your food, then a Club Lounge host like Nicholas would readily pop over and say, “Let me get the chef for you.”
The buffet spread wasn’t large by any means, instead consisting of small portions that would be quickly replenished. Some of the highlights included shakshouka at breakfast…
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…made-to-order carbonara at lunch…
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…and a variety of Asian dishes, like dim sum, sushi, sashimi, and curry rice, for dinner.
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And of course, one of my favourite features the Club Lounge was the self-serve wine cooler, where I helped myself to quite a few pours on the second day before leaving the hotel.
Overall, I had no regrets about booking the club rate for my stay, as I found that the Club Lounge made for a delightful set of surroundings in which to work, dine, and unwind, and really added to the experience of staying at this hotel.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha – Pool & Gym
After spending most of my first day at the hotel catching up on sleep and work, I decided to check out the pool and gym facilities on the second morning, after breakfast.
The facilities are spread out over a large area on the lower floors of the hotel, and are accessible via the lobby lounge. As you head to the gym, you’ll come across the full-sized indoor pool, which is quite impressive in size for a hotel swimming pool, even if it didn’t “look” like it belonged in a Ritz-Carlton if you know what I mean.
(I did get the sense that I had caught the hotel in the middle of a sustained period of transformation, as the guest rooms and Club Lounge seemed to be decorated in a very modern style, while other public areas seemed like they belonged in a bygone decade. I’d be excited to see what the hotel looks like once the entire transformation is complete.)
Equally impressive was the hotel’s gym. This was hands-down the best gym I’ve come across at any hotel in quite a few years, as it offered a wealth of equipment for resistance training, cardio, aerobics, and more.
At some hotel gyms, you’d be lucky to find a single exercise bench with a set of free weights, but The Ritz-Carlton, Doha presents guests with a complete set of benches, racks, barbells, and plates, and I was delighted to get a full workout under my belt.
I loved that the treadmills faced directly against the marina here at the Pearl – how’s that for a motivational view?
After the workout, it was time to chill by the pool for a little bit. Compared to the full-sized indoor pool, the outdoor pools seemed much more in line with what you’d expect from a hotel pool – a space for hanging out and going for a dip, rather than actual swimming.
To that end, there were a series of different pools available, all surrounding a central rock-and-waterfall formation.
Poolside service was limited, and it seemed like the only way to order food or drinks was to approach the lightly-staffed outdoor bar nearby. I wasn’t sure if that was the standard practice, or if there would be more service by the pool if there were more guests using it during warmer weather. (It’s my understanding that the Ritz-Carlton even has a private beach available during the summer as well.)
Indeed, the weather was still rather chilly at this time in late January (at least by Middle East standards, which meant that one could feel a light breeze pass by every now and then), so I didn’t hang around the pool for too long.
Instead, I retreated to my room to freshen up, hit up the Club Lounge for some lunch and day-drinking, and bid goodbye to the Ritz-Carlton in the afternoon as I headed for my next humble abode: the JW Marriott Doha City Centre.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha lives up to the brand’s reputation as an upscale and luxurious place to stay if you find yourself in the Qatari capital.
As it’s nearing a 20-year lifespan now, the hotel seemed to be undergoing a gradual makeover, resulting in varying levels of quality across different parts of my stay. Both my Executive Suite and the Club Lounge excelled in terms of looks and functionality, with Nicholas’s service in the lounge standing out as one particular highlight; meanwhile, the hotel’s public areas were a little bit older and less polished, but still a strong product on the whole (as exemplified by the impressive hotel gym).
If you’re interested in a bit of hotel-hopping among Doha’s many luxury hotels, then this would be a great item on your list, even if its location makes it less ideally suited to be used as a single base for your time in Doha. The same abundance of luxury hotels also means that I’d be more likely to try out a different spot in Doha than return to the Ritz-Carlton in the future, although I could certainly be tempted once the hotel’s transformation is complete.