Saturday, March 26, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MAURITIUS, part 13, Belle Mare Plage





GOLF, ENDLESS BEACH & LOTS TO DO...
For the whole family. Constance Belle Mare Plage has a wonderful setting on a long dazzling white beach. The fringing lagoon within the sheltering coral reef is a heady turquoise and the depth seemed perfect for bathing. On our recent visit to Mauritius we saw 20 hotels, and this lagoon seemed the most popular for actual swimming.

Belle Mare Plage is quite a big resort (235 rooms and 20 villas), so there is a sense of buzz and action. Here you have a choice of 4 pools with sunloungers, 7 restaurants, shopping arcade, plenty of watersports of course and TWO 18-hole golf courses. Green fees included.



A shuttle goes every hour to and from luxurious sister hotel Constance Le Prince Maurice via the golf courses.

For those who want to get away to delicious privacy we suggest the villas at Belle Mare Plage. On a recent hotel inspection we were shown an attractive two-bedroom villa with pool, elegant bedrooms, roomy lounge with plenty of sofa space, and a small kitchenette. That little item is for the butler that comes with the villa.









View of the pool from upstairs bedroom in our snapshot below:



We also saw a deluxe suite with lounge and bedroom. Bedroom shown below. This suite can be connected to a prestige room.



After that we ate a lunch at the beach restaurant, with a view of the brilliant turquoise lagoon and white beach. Perfect food and paradise feeling in the balmy breeze...



Belle Mare Plage has of course a spa offering massage and body and beauty treatments, fitness centre with many activities and, most important for a family resort – a kid’s club with pool.

HOW TO GET TO BELLE MARE PLAGE

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MAURITIUS, part 12, One&Only Le Saint GĂ©ran





This resort epitomizes grand old Mauritian style and hospitality. All the perfect details are there. From the turquoise lagoon, to the park with thousands of palm trees, and white beach sweeping round the peninsula. From high quality furnishings, to the hotel’s famed service and friendliness. And its Michelin-starred dining…

Guests get hooked on this style, and for the faithful nothing else will do.

For all its posh reputation, the hotel feels relaxed. Maybe it’s all that space. We enjoyed the pool bar lunch restaurant, with its combination of fine dining dishes and snack favourites on the same menu.



There are also two fine dining restaurants, one further along the beach. One is under Alain Ducasse and the other under Vineet Bhatia, both Michelin-starred chefs.

Sportiness is part of the hotel’s fame. It has a tennis club, plenty of watersports (free waterskiing) and a dive centre. Naturally fitness rooms and a spa, where we noted relax beds had a lovely view.



Evening entertainment is another part of the St Geran holiday experience. Just the mood that many guests feel marks a holiday.

The resort offers 162 suites all with terraces or balconies facing the sea. We saw a couple of rooms. Despite some new refurbishments they did feel (intentionally) old style.



Room 402



Sunday, March 20, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MAURITIUS, part 11, Royal Palm





ROYAL FROM TOP TO TOE...
In its picture postcard setting, Royal Palm radiates ease, elegance and prestige. But first the arrival takes the breath away. You swing off the road from Grand Bay and there it is. A perfect avenue of palms, leading up to the entrance flanked by royal guards in turbans.



Though a compact property with rooms in a long three storey block facing the beach, Royal Palm feels spacious and serene.

The lagoon is a glistening pastel turquoise, and the beach is soft pale golden sand, lined with palms and sunbeds. It is beautiful though not very long, with an area devoted to the best in watersports. On the beach were some guards (as the sheltered lagoon has a lot of boat traffic, they need to keep the beach free of waterborne intruders).

Preventing paparazzi might be useful because of the celebrities that stay here, among others who can afford Royal Palm’s special style and impeccable service. Loyal guests come back again and again for their holidays, to their "home from home".



Dining is strictly a la carte and innovative cuisine even on halfboard. In addition to the main restaurant with wide verandah and views, there is the exquisite Natureaty…





On our recent visit to Royal Palm we saw two rooms – a senior suite and appropriately a royal suite. Most delicious about the royal suite was the pool with its infinity edge, open pavilion and view over the beach (above). The royal suite has two bedrooms and a large lounge. One of the bedrooms has its own hammam!

The senior suite also has a very generous lounge space – so much so that the sofa set seems far away in the corner. Items like a “creatively old” desk and sideboard were interesting and stylish. The bedroom breathes luxury with its lighting, perfect linen and contrast of white and mahogany. Guest toilet in addition to the separate toilet en suite. For families, another suite can become connecting, by closing an outer door to the porch. Neat way to take away the spooky feeling of a connecting door to strangers.





Spacious lounge in senior suite



Bedroom senior suite

The spa is impressive, built in 2007, with 18 light white treatment rooms, and a lush courtyard with pools. One couple’s treatment room has a hammam attached, and another has a sauna. Nails makeup and hair are all taken care of. There are three fitness rooms with different kinds of machines, all very up to date.





Pools at the spa



Watersports

HOW TO GET TO ROYAL PALM

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport, 20 min by helicopter



Thursday, March 17, 2011

TURKISH AIRLINES FIRST CLASS TESTED


For an interim period Turskish Airlines is offering a First Class Cabin on the Boeing 777 aircraft on lease from Jet Airways. These planes mainly operate to Bangkok and Hong Kong some days of the week.

Unfortunately the service will eventually be discontinued so we made sure to try it before it is gone. We flew on the Istanbul - Bangkok route and vice versa. And we were truly impressed by the high ambitions of this airline. Everything was not perfect but the hardware and food presentation as well as amenity kit and packaging is superior to most other airlines...

Welcome message on the huge flatscreen


The seat
The seat is a mini suite with doors that close and create a private atmosphere. We thought that would feel sort of claustrophobic, but actually we loved the feature because it makes the cabin more quiet and you can sleep undisturbed. The Suite even has a do not disturb sign.


The flat screen is 23 inches and beautifully integrated into the front wall of the suite. The walls of the suite are upholstered with crushed satin and it creates an elegant touch.


The middle pair of suites photo taken from above. The cabin layout is 1 + 2 +1 with a total of 8 suites. The pair in the middle is great for couples and the sides ones the best choice for solo travellers.


The seat is controlled from a smaller LED display screen integrated into the armrest.

Safety demo shown on the screen

A blury side view of the suite


Dinner service on Bangkok - Istanbul leg

Welcome aboard, canapees and Louis Roederer Champagne

The huge table is set, reminds me of fine restaurants, or better.


Soup with nice presentation, bowl placed on a banana leaf

Starting off with Caviar, great presentation :-)


Followed by grilled giant shrimp, sallad and Parmesan shavings. Heavenly.


Chicken skewers with basmati rice and sauteed veggies. A bit dry.


The dessert trolley arrives. Full of choices. I went for some fruit and ice cream. But there were about six choices, too stuffed to handle it.


A blury pic of the ice cream and fruits.


The final touch, tea and petit fours. An amazing dinner comes to an end.


Breakfast service on Bangkok - Istanbul leg

Bircher musli and Turkish yoghurt along with bred basket



The hot stuff, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and sausage, I could have done without. Somehow cooked breakfast meals on airplanes has never worked for us.






The selection of cold cuts, vegetables and cheese was much better.






A generously sized fruit plate




The entire breakfast service in one picture. The dining table is huge. The pink drink is a breakfast smoothie. It was overly sweet but that is a matter of taste.



The amenities



A cut above the rest - the slippers are proper leather with a suede sole presented in a luxurious silk bag with the Turkish logo embroided. Presentation is key and Turkish seem to do it even better than the Japanese airlines.


The silk bag holding the slippers. A similar one was used for the pyjamas. Sorry no pics of the pyjamas. They are really comfortable satin style, dark blue and more luxurious than the ones I have received on LH, NH, OZ, TG and SQ.




A luxurious amenity kit. Inside the cotton bag is a leather bag packed with Bulgari amenities. I would have wished for something more creative than Bulgari, but again that is a personal opinion.


In flight magazines



The turndown service - 5 star


The seat goes completely flat with no uncomfortable cracks. They also lay out a thin mattress. But best of all they provide a real duvet with cotton sheets, two pillows of which one is full size. And note the red rose along with French chocolates. I think TK outperforms most 5-star hotels with their turndown service.



THE RETURN FLIGHT



We got to use Thai's First Class lounge in Bangkok with dining and a complimentary 60 minute full body massage. Such a great way to start a long haul flight. Above a picture of the treatment room.



Dinner service Istanbul - Bangkok



On departure the Champagne was not chilled enough. We asked for ice promptly delivered in a personal ice bucket. A sin to add ice to Champagne but at least better than drinking it lukewarm.




Wonderful table setting.


Wow, what a starter offering. Caviar, ceasar salad with shrimps and another sallad. It all tasted fantastic, ingredients were really fresh and definitely restaurant quality delivered by DO&CO Catering in Istanbul. I would say that meals out of Istanbul were better than out of Bangkok.









Followed by soup. This was a traditional Turkish soup and it was really sour and had an unpleasant taste in my opinion.

One of the main courses - white grilled fish with spinach and potatoes. It was really nice.





One of the other choices was chicken with rosemary, grilled vegetables and rice. Also nice tasting.


From the dessert trolley I selected a chocolate fondant and fresh fruit.







VERDICT


Turkish Airlines offers an amazing First Class which is definitely among the best in the world. The onboard food concept is generous and of very high quality. It is served on large plates which makes presentation lovely as well.

The drink list is not really First Class. The Champagne is sort of basic and could use an upgrade. When First Class was launched TK served Cristal for a while but that ended soon.

The suite and the seat is just perfect. One could not expect anything more, it serves all the needs.


The amenities are fantastic and a cut above most other airlines I have tried.

The only let down is the staff. They were all nice and friendly but English profiency really lacked. Also they are unused to working in Frist Class and are not interactive at all. They do their job and they try hard but they have a long way to go. Some training at Asiana would be useful.

The experience was still fantastic. I knew beforehand the issue with the staff and had leveled my expectations accordingly.