LE MERIDIEN – ONE ISLAND, TWO STORIES
Starwood Hotels, one of the world’s foremost international hotel groups, operates two resorts on the island of Mahe / Seychelles, under their Le Meridien brand.
During a recent visit to the archipelago I had the privilege to stay in both, located on the opposite sides of the main island, and was able to sample and review their services.
The larger, and as I describe it ‘classic’ type of a beach resort with traditional accommodation blocks is the Le Meridien Barbarons, located in illustrious company along a stretch of the island where Banyan Tree, Four Seasons and the fabled MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa are also found, offers just over 120 rooms and suites and inspite of having been around for a good number of years is extremely well maintained and shows its Starwood pedigree in the way the rooms are equipped with all a tourist’s heart can desire, tea / coffee maker, wireless internet connection and flat screen TV’s included.
Sufficient staff are at hand to attend to guests arriving even when a group checks in at the same time and they are whisking them to their rooms and then giving a detailed brief about what is where and how to get services, showing that good training of staff does pay off.
Breakfast at the Barbarons was what I call extensive and although I only ate once at the hotel for dinner, the variety was, while tempting, made for two or more stomachs and not one alone. I tried some very passable Sushi, then had some fish from the active cooking station and rounded it up with a generous helping from the cut tropical fruit section on the buffet.
Being presidential election time on my arrival I found it intriguing to chat with many of the staff, and almost identical to the outcome of the final tally – President Michel won with a convincing 55+ percent margin – the staff took their sides. Several openly admitted they intended to vote or later on to have voted for the opposition, rendering some of the nevertheless published comments on my blog from ‘regime critics’ – fellows, it is an elected government and not a regime – as without basis in fact nor of any true value. None of them showed any fear of persecution and not one confirmed the opposition’s story of vote buying, so thank you and try again in 5 years time. This was in marked contrast to my very first visit 30 or so years ago when staff were unwilling to talk politics at all and is surely a pointer to the fact that things in the Seychelles have fundamentally changed and why tourism is such a success story now – politically ‘enslaved’ staff, as one comment put it which due to bad language I opted to throw out, are simply not capable of rendering such first class services.
The beach at the Barbarons was what one comes to expect, picture perfect to the last detail, and my two nights were up before I could even remember my room number without looking at my key card holder.
Across the island, with the Seychelles Tourist Board offices just behind the resort and across the road at Bel Ombre, is the Le Meridien Fishermen’s Cove, rated 5 stars as opposed to the sister property which is a four star resort.
Smaller than the Barbarons with just about 80 rooms, suites and beach fronting adjoining cottages the Fishermen’s Cove is the more intimate resort of the two and superior in noticeable ways, especially when it came to the food. But first about the ‘early’ experience. I checked in rather late, having come from across the island after the end of day cocktails for the Seychelles Regatta teams and was nevertheless greeted by the duty manager and then briefed in the lobby over a refreshing glass of juice on the resort and my way around. Having my room, more a suite really, nearby I was swiftly installed and an adapter for a two pin charger delivered almost before I had put the phone down.
A ‘stand alone’ giant bath tub gave me some temptation to try out the oils and salts but common sense in the end just had me take a shower, equally large and open to the room, making watching the late evening news possible.
The most impressive feature, besides the location at the end of the renowned Beau Vallon Beach with sweeping views across the entire bay however was the food on offer. The resort sits on a coral outcrop with direct beach access, which allows a view to other resorts, but also encourages to go for some shopping or simply enjoy a long stroll across the powdery white beaches which so fascinate visitors who are used to the often coarse sands of the Mediterranean.
Back to the fabled food now. First the superb cheese board caught my eye, available at every meal, and the restaurant was distinctly smaller and set up in a way that guests never appeared to be a crowd. Live music was being played for dinner, much of it instrumentals of well known songs, giving the right backdrop to the delicious meals the chefs conjured up on the days I actually was at the resort for dinner.
Smart casual was the ‘recommended’ appearance but some guests went well beyond that and wore head turning dresses, which speaks for the quality of guests and resort.
A live cooking station offered what the heart desired and several and daily changing main dishes on the buffet were fit to put on a stone in a day, had I tried to eat my way through all of them. Anyone on a diet ought think twice going there or else allow for an interval of uninterrupted culinary pleasure and indulgence while at the Fishermen’s Cove. Nationalities were legion at the resort and languages spoken reminded me of the biblical Babel, so many different ones were overheard.
Sadly, time flew by me like lightning and my week on the archipelago came to a vastly premature end, leaving me with pangs of regrets and a resort staff enthusiastically waving me off, demanding I return at my next visit if only for a meal – friendships are easily struck with the beautiful people of the Seychelles and a few words of swiftly acquired Creole do no harm but rather make friendships with the staff fast and steady.
The Seychelles, with tag lines like ‘Another World’ but also ‘Affordable Seychelles’ has a unique standing in the global markets and the recent honeymoon on North Island by the Royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has driven demand for honeymoons and holidays on the archipelago into the ‘cosmic’ range. With more flights and frequencies, Kenya Airways will soon add a third weekly flight from Nairobi and Etihad will join up with four flights later in the year, at which time Emirates will fly double daily and Qatar Airways once a day, airfares will be competitive and so is the accommodation range on the islands. From locally owned and managed bed and breakfast establishments to guest houses, holiday villas up to the very top end of luxury accommodation setting one back a couple of thousand Euros a night, all tastes and pockets are catered for. The Seychelles, often thought to be for the rich and famous only, in fact is open for business for even budget travelers, though probably not, in all honesty, for the 10 USD a day types. This might be a challenge to prove me wrong and I accept that challenge in good spirits, should one prove to me it can be done – NOT sleeping on a beach that is or going fishing to catch a meal.
I take the opportunity to thank my hosts at the Le Meridien Barbarons and Fishermen’s Cove again for all the courtesies shown, and as I promised, I did write the truth and nothing but the truth about my stay.
Visit www.seychelles.travel for more information about the archipelago’s wide range of islands, accommodation and attractions and make sure you too visit the Seychelles one day – because it truly is ‘Another World’.