During an extended break in Malta and Gozo, we wanted two weeks of chilling, and chose the four star Westin Dragonara in St Julian’s Bay. With 436 rooms and part of the Marriot chain, it was not our usual choice, and we hoped we wouldn’t feel swamped.
We’d booked a room with a king-size bed, balcony, and purportedly a sea view. As we were on the north wing we looked across to the south wing, although you could lean over the balcony and just see the sea. However, room 565 was in a reasonable position with a very private balcony with walls on both sides unlike others with rail dividers. The huge room was well equipped, with wardrobe, mainly with hanging space, robes, slippers, safe, hairdryer near mirror, two easy chairs and coffee table, drawers, TV and stocked mini bar. The AC and Wi-Fi worked efficiently, and light switches were handily labelled. Tea and coffee making facilities and complimentary water were provided and there was an ice machine on the landing.
The bathroom was disappointing with no walk-in shower, but it was light and bright with illuminated shaving mirror and toiletries in large bottles. There were plenty of towel hooks, rails and a washing line.
Having found our room being serviced mid-afternoon when we wanted to escape from the heat of the lunchtime sun, we spoke to Ashish, one of the managers who was constantly chatting to guests, who arranged for it to be cleaned by midday. He also provided several excellent restaurant recommendations.
The hotel had two swimming pools: one was at the Reef Club, which was slightly further away from the main hotel, but we found it rather a soulless area. The other pool at the front of the hotel attracted the small number of families enjoying a September holiday. We chose to use an adults only area: a man-made peninsular which provided direct access via steps into a roped off slightly chilly sea. This required a little negotiation and as there were rocks to contend with, we were glad we’d packed aqua shoes. The weather varied during our stay and at the beginning and end, when it was windier, the sea was more volatile, waves crashed over the area and there were lots of ‘fried egg’ jelly fish, which we read had only a mild sting. One thing to commend the hotel was the huge volume of loungers: although some had more space around them than others, it was always possible to find an empty bed regardless of the time of day, which alleviated the need for anyone to bag beds at 7am. Rolled up towels were put on beds in the morning and staff kept a watchful eye and cleared towels when people left. Fresh watermelon was brought round in the afternoons.
Breakfast was available from 7am to 10.30am and offered seating either outside, inside or in a light and bright conservatory. The splendid offering had a vast range of cereals, yoghurts in every flavour, fresh fruits, cold meats, cheese and salads along with smoked salmon and lampuki, a fish found in Maltese waters. Breads and cakes were fresh and varied and hot dishes included all the ingredients to make a full English with sausage, bacon, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans along with daily changing nibbles like mini pasties and potato dishes. The scrambled eggs were particularly good and became one of my favourites along with the smoked salmon. An egg chef made huge looking omelettes, but also had poached eggs available on tap which always had runny yolks. A variety of coffee was available as standard, and prosecco was the icing on the cake.
There was a large piano bar with a variety of seating and although there were lots of restaurants within a short walk, we ate in once on the terrace where there was a good range of both Maltese and international dishes.
Within the hotel grounds, but seemingly separate were a couple of restaurants, and the Dragonara Casino which a Maltese friend recommended for both a flutter and reasonably priced restaurant. After a lovely dinner, we tried our hand with €10 on the slot machines and left with nearly €50 which paid for dinner. Buoyed with our success we called in the following night and quickly got through our allocated second €10 and never returned.
Whilst all the staff were friendly and would never pass without saying hello, I would particularly commend the two concierge who were a mine of information and always happy to recommend or arrange a trip out.
This was a great hotel and to some extent, allayed our fears about large chain hotels.