Keen followers of this wonderful blog might have noticed that I recently spent some time at a hotel in/on Mauritius. This property belongs to an Indian hotel chain. I had heard good things about this chain and was not disappointed. You would not be wrong in choosing Oberoi, although the locations are mostly not the kind of place I want to visit. ie. India and Africa. To date, only the hotels in/on Mauritius and in Dubai come in questions. I have tried both and both are excellent. I have not had better food in any hotel in the world, with the possible exception of the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, where restaurants are considerably more expensive.
The decoration of the hotel in/on Mauritius was a mix of local and Indian/Hindu/Buddhist. This is not the kind of decor that one would find North America or Europe. Hotel chains worry too much about being sued or submitted to demonstrations and boycotts. Negative press is something all try to avoid.
To date, no women's group has noticed or complained about the portrayal of women as servants, as seen in the figures decorating the pool showers. Imagine this at a pool in Florida...
Why is there no internet site—something like Guestadvisor, instead of Tripadvisor--that provides space for hotels to comment on guests?
Hotels are not able to choose their guests, but they should be able to praise nice ones and warn other hotels of horrible ones. Even better would be if guests could find out who has booked into the same hotel and decide if they want to risk sitting near such people in the hotel restaurant or beside the pool. Hotels can see what kind of people have received a room and treat them accordingly upon check-in…such as putting them in a bad room.
Rating could include polite/arrogant; neat/messy; easily pleased/demanding; thankful/entitled; pleasant to staff/nasty; scrounge amenities/demand more; generous tipper/stingy; steal towels, bathrobe, etc; spend on extras/bring own alcohol; and so on.
No, I am not going to evaluate hotels, although one could do worse to vacation at the Jumeirah Vitavelli in the Maldives.
Instead, I want to provide some advice to aid anyone’s trip from things I learned on my trip to the Maldives. I am not going to recommend hotels (although I did in the first sentence) or airlines. You’re on your own. I will only suggest to research carefully using the hotel internet sites, blogs, and Google Earth (especially the photos). You might check the weather, because the rain might be warm during the rainy season, but one does need sunshine for turquoise waters, which the brochures use to lure tourists.
One should read up on restrictions, so that you are not surprised upon arrival. All hand luggage is x-rayed to root out pork products (hotels serve beef or turkey bacon; nice try, but it’s not the same), alcohol (all hotels serve alcohol, probably because of tax revenue bonanza), religious idols (non-Muslim), and spear guns (fishing is another profit center). This country is more worried about pigs and alcohol than terrorists, which makes arrival rather relaxing (unlike some countries I could mention). So, don’t stock up at duty free, hoping to save money on drinks, and get your fill of good bacon at home.
I have three bits of additional advice to make your vacation more enjoyable.
3. But, one does need what Germans call Badeschuhe. Perhaps these are known as surfer shoes: rubber soles with a mess top. Maldives are basically coral, and coral is very sharp. Even sandy beaches have coral lurking underneath. These were the wisest item we had in our luggage and prevent painful gashes. If you bring nothing else, bring these.
Speaking with the manager about life on the Maldives and other hotels, I learned that we were blessed not to have been able to book our first choice. We were told that this hotel is booked out years in advance by the same guests. We would have found the same level of luxury (One and Only hotels are very good) and service, but the ambience is very different. Whereas this hotel (Jumeirah Vitaveli) is calm and relaxing, the other one is loud and vibrant. DJs rule the pool and beach. David Beckham (whose incomprehensible fame is irritating at best) is in residence, so I can imagine the added uproar.
We were fortunate to have been unable to book a room. We would have hated every minute...which adds to the appreciation of where we landed. We enjoy the tranquility of the pool beside a white sandy beach and clear turquoise water, with few people and little noise.
What I like about the hotel we chose: no peanuts. With drinks, either at the pool or at the bar, one is served cashews and olives, good olives. Peanuts, which I dislike, are a sign of cheapness, as displayed on US airlines (although some seem to have moved down the cheapness scale to indescribable, shapeless bits of surely corn, everything in the United States is some part corn).
Of course, there are other pleasing aspects to this hotel: setting in turquoise water, luxury, service (Asia is different from the US; in Europe, service is a dirty word), scant humanity (although full, one runs into a handful of other guests only at breakfast and dinner) and the fact that there is nothing to do...
Today, we arrived in heaven...or how I would like heaven to be, when I finally am sent (I had a Christian upbringing!). The hotel, which is in a building from early in the last century, but has been renovated to the highest level of interior design, sit high above lake Lucerne. One drives up and up a narrow road, often only wide enough for one car, through pastures filled with grazing cows and woods, to a high plateau. The only other buildings in sight lie on the shore of the lake, far below. The view is the kind one usually enjoys only from an airplane.
I visited this location a decade ago, when the building had been neglected for years and a hotel was not in operation. I had spotted the building from the autobahn and thought that it might be a hotel. We drove up the narrow road and found it to be abandoned, so stayed at a different hotel on another part of the same mountain. I recall that as being rather mediocre, but any port in a storm...
I recognized the building, when I saw the internet site after searching for Swiss wellness hotels. The offer looked inviting, if pricey. Upon arrival and inspecting the renovation of an old building first seen as a ruin, I discovered the nicest hotel I have ever seen. The rooms might be small, restricted by a building from the last century, but the decor is close to perfection. The design, choice of materials (nothing but the best stone, wood, leather, and fabric), and workmanship are superb.
As one might expect, the service and food are excellent. The cuisine exceeds the quality of most hotels in the world. Swiss agriculture produces excellent quality and the season is just right for local produce. The kitchen staff are very talented.
Because we got the last room, ours has view of the Alps and not the lake. There are worse views in the world. The large balcony faces west, so expect a sunset or two over the next days.
We have stayed at several hotels in Dubai, but our favorite is the Al Qasar, which belongs to the Jumeirah chain. We have used other Jumeirah hotels, which are all good, but this is the best we have enjoyed. The most-famous Jueirah hotel is the sailboat-shaped Burj Al Khalif, but that is a bit over-the-top and too expensive.
I like the almost everything about this hotel, which is more like a small city than a hotel. It lies in a huge grounds, which are laced with canals. One can stroll, ride a golf cart, or float in an Arab dhow. The hotel has one of the longest stretches of beach, and has unobstructed view of the Arabian Sea (unlike properties that have had artificial land built in their faces. The is thanks to being located beside residences of the sheiks, who don’t want high rise buildings nearby or islands obstructing their views.
Another advantage is the plushness. I’m certain that the architect was told to create something beautiful and interior designers were instructed to spare no expense. I doubt that contractors or suppliers ever heard the words “can we make it cheaper?” Controllers had no say in matters, beyond checking estimates against invoices. No one cared about quarterly earnings reports. For example, what finance guy would approve inlaid marble and furniture with cushions in front of a elevator?
One can easily spot the differences between this hotel and western chains, even the “luxury” brands. Once one leaves the attempt at opulence in the lobby, cost-cutting becomes evident. Not at Al Qasar, where even the cheap rooms (ones without a view of the sea and which are not cheap, but comparable to pricey US chains) are opulent in furnishing and details. Service is incomparable.
Years ago, when traveling on vacation to France, we often spent a night at a Novotel. The main reason was that children were free, which was unusual in Europe. The rooms were motel-basic and the breakfast buffet rudimentary, but adequate. The price was reasonable. Most had a small pool, which was welcome after a long drive with children. But, this was not luxury. One night spent in a Novotel in Marseille might be the low point of our hotel experiences.
Because our flight home from Bangkok leaves at 9:00, I did not want to spend the short night in the city and risk notorious morning traffic to the airport. I discovered that a Novotel was located at the airport terminal. The location suited our needs, but I recalled earlier stays at this chain. Deciding that a bed and a shower were all we needed and that convenience trumped comfort, I booked a room. Given the choice, I selected a deluxe room, which was cheaper than a basic room at a Frankfurt Airport hotel.
The first shock came upon entering the hotel lobby, an five story atrium affair with modern architecture and plenty of marble. (Perhaps Thailand, like Dubai, has passed an ordnance requiring marble in hotels!) At reception, I was informed that my room included private check-in at the business center, where we were offered seats and personal service. Adjacent was a lounge with daily food and breakfast from 3 a.m.
The next surprise came upon entering the room, which was large and well-appointed, with orchids, fruit, and pastries. The bathroom and walk-in closet were about as large as rooms we used to occupy in France. I looked at logos to ensure that I was in a Novotel.
The hotel offered five restaurants with different cuisines. The food was rather good. From the window of our room, we could see the tropical garden, large pool, and restaurant.
Often, it is easier to create an image than to change an image, but Novotel has managed to erase memories of a low-budget point of refuge.
Christmas is over--all three day’s worth. Dismantling the Christmas tree was a sure sign of the end. We did not wait until midnight, because we had to leave town. As already mentioned, we are staying at an airport hotel, despite living only 30 minutes from the airport. This is much less-stressful than getting up early and fighting morning traffic.
Frankfurt Airport offers three terminal hotels; others are a short bus ride, which I did not want. I could have sleep at home. This way, we can walk through the terminal to the check-in desk. There has been a Sheraton at the airport for as long as I can remember. I have sleep there: the cost is too high for what one receives. I have heard that rooms have not been renovated recently, but prices continue to be exorbitant. Hilton has built two new hotels in an adjacent building: a Hilton and a Garden Hilton. I chose the later, because I do not need whatever the higher cost provides. We need a decent bed and a shower for one night that is a short walk from our departure gate. I was surprised at the choice and quality in the “second string” Hilton.
On a side note, as I walked from the elevator to our room, I could help recalling George Clooney in Up In The Air. I am happy that I do not have to spend time in such hotels.
We are staying at Claridges, which is one of London’s more-famous hotels. We did not book the cheapest category of room, but I think we got the worst room in the hotel. After two days, we complained and were moved to a better room. The hotel must have agreed with our judgment, or they would not have reacted and then given us a bottle of Champagne. I was surprised that a hotel of this price category had such bad rooms...and that people accept such bad quality. We have stayed in this category of hotel in various cities around the world, so can judge the difference.
London hotels are notorious for not living up to the standard of world class cities (even if the English do not notice), but I expected something better from Claridges. The staff is excellent, friendly, and helpful, but the rooms are not all good. And, being in England, the plumbing has not improved much since Queen Victoria reigned.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.