This is part 15 in a series about my summer 2017 trip, which took me to Norway, the Netherlands, and Malta. You can read an overview of the trip here.
My initial plan for my first afternoon in Malta was to check-in to the Intercontinental Malta l and head over to wander the streets of its capital, Valletta, for a few hours. But I ended up not arriving to my hotel until around 4pm, after a fifteen-minute ride from the airport, and it was quite hot still – about 95 degrees – so I ended up spending the afternoon/evening just in the immediate environs of the hotel in Paceville.
My first night was at the Intercontinental Malta for 45,000 points (a good deal for a room that ws going for 215 EUR). I stayed there on a cash and points rate as that was one of my “tasks” I’m pretty torn overall about the Intercontinental Malta. In a lot of ways, it didn’t really feel like an Intercontinental, but more like a massive Sheraton or something. A lot of the photos and amenities on its website are actually reserved for the “Highline Suites,” a sort of hotel within a hotel built literally on top of the existing structure. The rooms in the rest of the hotel were quite dated, and the facilities fairly crowded. The service was quite excellent, though, and the location was pretty convenient if you want to have access to restaurants, shopping malls, and bus transport. It was less of a relaxing location to take in the beauty of the island, as the neighbors of the hotel are gentleman’s clubs, discos, and the like, catering to the party tourist set. There’s a Holiday Inn Express coming in right next to the IC, so that will be interesting.
As soon as I arrived at the property, several people welcomed me and offered to help. I was acknowledged as a Platinum Ambassador and given a welcome letter laying out the standard benefits, as well as a 20% discount on lounge access, which I didn’t take advantage of. One thing that became very clear was just how massive the hotel was. You enter on floor 3, which has the lobby and some restaurants, and a long walkway leading to the elevators which went to my room. One floor below is a casino, then there’s an indoor pool, kids club, and spa on the 5th floor, “gardens” leading to the gym and several conference facilities on the 7th, and regular rooms on floors 7 through 14. There’s an outdoor rooftop pool on the 10th floor, and then the 15th floor is the “Club Intercontinental” floor. Floors 17 and 18 have the “Highline Suites” and the fancy rooftop pool and lounge that is dedicated to those guests.
My room was on the “Club Intercontinental” floor. I don’t think the rooms are actually any different than the standard rooms, just sold with club access, which isn’t given if you’re upgraded. The room was quite large, but looked straight out of 1997. The best part of the room was the balcony, with two chairs and a small table, which faced the pool and gardens, with a tiny sliver of ocean view. At night the view was spectacular, though, which I’ll get to.
The room had two double beds, which I didn’t particularly love. They were not very comfortable, and one of the teal schmatas they had on the bed was heavily stained. There was a full desk and chair, a dresser with a TV, and an armchair and small table next to the sliding doors. There were some really tacky gold framed mirrors over each bed, and white tile floors. There were no outlets next to the beds, and the headboard was really beat up.
The bathroom was very large in an off-white/tan motif. It had a separate tub and shower stall, and the standard Intercontinental amenities, but really seemed old.
On the plus side, my Ambassador amenities were waiting in my room, including a large bottle of water, a big fruit bowl, a note, and a very nice local amenity of a gift pack of Maltese sea salt. (Along with two regular water bottles that are given to all guests.)
After settling in, I headed to the “Beach Club.” The Intercontinental is not itself on the beach, but has a small private beach down the block. It really was nothing special, as it’s next to a huge public beach, and is just a small cove. There was fighting over seats when I was down there, and it wasn’t really relaxing at all.
I read for a bit before heading back up the hill to the hotel and checking out the pool that is accessible to non-premium guests, which was quite crowded even at 5:30pm. It was nice, though, and had some great views. It definitely was more resort-like than the “beach.”
I tried to nap, but live music started at 7pm, which made that difficult. So I thought I’d check out the gym instead. . . ..which apparently closes at 6 on Sundays. So I just went wandering again, and found a small Marks and Spencer Food in the mall across the street where I was able to pick up two beers, before finding a larger supermarket where I got some breakfast and snack for the next few days.
I came back to the room and sat on the balcony and watched the sunset with a beer, which was quite lovely. (Unfortunately, there was no ice box in the room so I couldn’t keep beer #2 or my yogurt cold.) As the sunset, fireworks started, making for a really lovely view.
The restaurants at the hotel were not particularly expensive, but I figured I’d at least get off-property for dinner, and wandered over to Gozitan, a well-reviewed Maltese restaurant a few blocks from the Intercontinental, near the very nice-looking Westin Dragonara. I was a bit disappointed in Gozitan, as it basically seemed like New York Greek diner food, but more expensive. The people were nice, though, and there were lots of British tourists.
So you know what Maltese food is, bread was brought with butter mixed with sundried tomatoes and a ramekin of tomato paste. My appetizer was warm “discs” of goat cheese. For my main, I had a Cornish hen with gravy, which was served with both French fries and roasted potatoes. I was given a complimentary dessert of ice cream, pistachio halvah, and a poppy and phyllo pastry. The meal together came to 27,50 EUR.
I stayed in that night after a long day. In the morning I got lost trying to find the gym, wandering through the gardens before finding a very large private gym. I didn’t take many pics given how crowded it was with a standard 8am workout crowd. But it was easily the largest gym of my trip and one of the best hotel gyms I’ve had access to.
By 10am, I was checking out, having to pay a 50 cent city tax (which oddly I didn’t have to pay at the Radisson). I left my bags and walked 5 minutes to the bus stop, where I will pick up the next blog post.
A bit out of order here, though, I did end up back at one of the IC’s restaurants, Paranga, on night 2. Paranga is on the beach, and I was able to make a reservation using Opentable. The tables and chairs are white plastic and plastic glassware is used, but it is a lovely atmosphere either way sitting on the beach. There’s also a small permanent structure with a bar and lounge seating. My appetizer of a “salad” with ricotta and pork belly was inedible because it was just so much thinly sliced pork belly and cheese and no textural or flavoral variety to cut all that mushy cold fat. My main dish was outstanding, though – one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time- a squid ink pasta with a variety of seafood. The meal came to around 30 EUR which wasn’t bad given the quality and ambience.