We fancied a cheap fortnight away from the UK and Malta was high on our list of places to revisit, the last time we were here was in 2008 when we stayed in St Julians. We’d seen reviews saying that the hotel entertainment could be quite noisy, so I emailed to request a quiet room on a high floor and we booked this hotel as it was away from the main area, so thought it would be quiet. Well, our room was on a high floor and we even got a glimpse of the sea from our bedroom, but as for quiet…
It would have helped were we not next to the lift shaft which you could hear throughout the night. Also, on a Wednesday and Saturday night, you can hear the karaoke from the Two Cherries pub directly over the road – and one night we had to shout out at 12.30am from the balcony for some people who were having an extremely loud conversation just outside which echoed throughout our room. The immediate area is one huge building site, with work starting at 7am, six days a week. We’ve never been that near to a crane before! One day, we returned to the room and our balcony chair/table were inside our room, with work happening on our balcony, which happened every now and again without any warning. The final straw was towards the end of our holiday when workmen were working on our balcony at 8am (always involving loud hammering), meaning we had to change rooms (and we weren’t the only guests that complained). Unfortunately, we both were ill during our stay (a cold, followed by sciatica then a tummy bug), so we really didn’t want the upheaval of moving, and just wanted a quiet holiday.
Our first room was bright and spacious and kept very clean (as long as you didn’t let the dust in from the building work just outside), with plenty of storage space. The towels were of good quality, but the hot water didn’t always work. We brought our own redbush tea, so were glad that a kettle was included, but did miss a teaspoon – a stirrer was provided on the first day, but not replenished, but we picked one up from the restaurant without too much fuss, although the chambermaid decided to take it back down to the restaurant, so we hid it in the bureau (yes, there was a bureau in the room!). The television was too small to be of any real use – interestingly there were no British stations, but it was interesting to see how other countries see the world – news in English was available from France, Germany, UAE, Russia and Malta (at 8pm, but we were never in the room at that time). We ended up using a plaster to cover the annoying bright blue TV light which kept blinking, illuminating the room at night – we couldn’t find any way to switch it off at the mains – and even when we’d sorted that out, the smoke alarm flashed all night. Apart from the socket for the fridge, there were only two plugs, one used by the light and the other the kettle, so our extension lead came in very handy. Charging appliances was quite difficult as the old-fashioned room key was needed for the power supply, so we couldn’t leave anything charging while we were out – a business card didn’t do the trick as is sometimes the case.
The balcony had two plastic chairs and a small table, but the building work outside meant it was usually too dusty and noisy to make use of it. Ironically, the main reason for booking the hotel was its location away from the main area – we thought it might have been a bit more peaceful, but any street noise echoed badly in the room.
Unfortunately half way through our stay, my husband caught a cold and then a tummy bug – and my back “went” during the stay – meaning we spent much more time in the room than we would usually – work even continued into mid-Saturday afternoon, but neither of us felt like moving room and simply put up with the banging and clattering until the Monday morning when it was just too much and the banging and clattering was horrendous given that a doctor had been called to try to sort out my back problems and we were in the room all day.
Changing rooms wasn’t too much of a problem – our second room, 142 was on street level, once again nearby some other works which started with a digger at 7am, but at least we were away from the pub, the entertainment noise and the lift shaft, meaning after nearly two weeks, we had a fairly decent night’s sleep, until 7am. Other than the TV being much bigger, the amenities were the much the same as the first room, but when there was no sun, it was very dark, with nowhere near enough lighting which made packing to go home rather difficult. The balcony wasn’t useful as it overlooked the street and was near an electricity substation and lots of piping and general rubbish.
All-inclusive included so much, so we found it annoying that there was a charge for the safe. I can understand a deposit so keys aren’t lost (and people don’t leave things in the safe). Also, surely it should be for the holiday companies to sort out the local tourist tax, rather than having to stump up €5 each on arrival, but I suppose that’s something for the Tourist Minister and Holiday Companies to sort out. Were the UK still a member of the EU, I’d be writing to my MEP for that to be addressed, as they’ve done with additional credit card charges, mobile roaming, etc.
On a much brighter note, the staff were excellent once we’d let them know about our problems. The manager called for a doctor who arrived a few hours later, gave me a prescription which we picked up at a Chemist about 10 minutes’ walk away. The rep also arranged for special assistance at the airport as we weren’t quite sure how to manage with the cases, etc – it worked amazingly well.
Guests were from a mix of nationalities, UK, French, German, Polish and quite a few Maltese at weekends. We were completely blown away at the irony of some Brits who warned us the hotel would be “invaded” by the Maltese! Surely, “locals” know the best places to go, so it’s a good sign. It was interesting to see that Brits tended to be older, whereas guests from other countries tended to be young families. Of course, that could have been more to do with staggered school holidays – we came in British term time.
We also heard another Brit say that he couldn’t stand it when people said the food was good. On the whole we found it acceptable considering what we’d paid for our holiday. There was usually plenty of choice, although not too much for vegetarians (sometimes nothing but salad) at lunchtime. It really can’t be easy trying to cater for an international audience, some local dishes were on offer, including rabbit from time to time. We didn’t think going to eat was an “occasion” – we did our best to avoid the area where plates and cutlery were collected as it was very noisy – and some tables where the air con was a little fierce. Noise levels differed, but most of the time we found it difficult to hear what the people on the next table were saying if they spoke to you. Sunday lunch was unsurprisingly busy given that it’s €17 or €22 with drinks included – a young girl sang at the piano, and timing on the Sunday was everything when going to the buffet – if you time it right, you’ll have the food to yourself, if you don’t, then you’ll end up queuing!
Drinks-wise, I found the red wine very disappointing – however, we were pleased that the all-inclusive drinks package included Kinnie (including the diet version), a Maltese soft drink which we very much like (and it goes well with Vodka!), but it’s not to everyone’s taste. There’s a bit of bureaucracy with a wristband (nobody wanted to see), as well as a hotel card and plastic card that are required for drinks/meals – the room key is very old fashioned – there’s only one – and you are requested to leave it with reception when leaving the hotel which is just as well, as it’s very heavy!
The hotel is a complete maze – there are lots of lifts dotted about the place, one set goes directly to the basement indoor gym/swimming/sauna/jacuzzi area. There, towels – and padlocks – are available for a €5 each deposit, although there’s really nothing to stop you taking your room towel down – and I did wonder about buying a padlock. On occasion it’s closed for childrens’ parties, so well worth keeping an eye out on the noticeboard for any variations. One morning, breakfast finished an hour earlier (it was usually until 10am) so the restaurant could be used for bingo – we were invited to play, but not only did it go on about five hours, even throughout lunchtime, making it very surreal. Amusingly, the bingo numbers were called in English, but anything else was in Maltese. We were asked by the organiser if we wanted to join in, but that morning, we did manage a short stroll outside.
There are also two outdoor swimming pools, one on the roof, where it’s very difficult to find any shade –the only place to sit outdoors in the shade was the ground floor pool which was unfortunately a smoking area, where we had to leave mainly due to staff (one smoking a cigar which smelt truly disgusting for ages afterwards), and no comfortable seating that suited my back problem.
There was nightly entertainment in the bar area excluding Sunday, consisting of singers and weekly karaoke. A pianist would sometimes play in the restaurant, and once there was an accordionist who travelled round the tables – which added to the atmosphere – but it certainly isn’t somewhere you’d go for a quiet romantic meal.
The immediate area is extremely “workaday” with a lot of building work, but within a few streets, there’s a nice enough promenade with some cafes, bars and restaurant, but it’s down a steep hill. The aquarium is about 10-15 minutes’ walk, as is the bus station, but the pavements mean that you need to be careful where you walk, there are some hills and a lot of uneven surfaces, making it very difficult for people with mobility issues. And dog dirt is a constant issue. We did see one coach leave their passengers and make them walk up the hill with their luggage. We used Mercury Holidays and our transfer brought us directly to the door – we were, however, very annoyed that they hadn’t told us about the work going on in the hotel and surrounding area, otherwise we would have chosen somewhere else.
One tip we found helpful was to always get a bus from the station – by the time they get to the stops near the hotel, there were no seats left (even when we went at times we thought would be less busy). One place that shouldn’t be missed is Rabat/Mdina, an easy ride on bus 186 – and one day, we shared a taxi (costing around €15 each way using the “Bolt” app) and went to the Popeye Village where we had a wonderfully memorable day – for all the right reasons! We were also here around Carnival time, so went into Valetta to enjoy the parade of floats which were amazing.
Where the hotel failed with noise issues, it made up being small enough to be friendly, and the staff were generally very helpful. However, even without the building works – no, I do not want anyone working on our balcony at 8am – the noise from the pub, the lift shaft and general outside area would make us think twice about visiting this hotel – or indeed this area of Malta – again.