Intercontinental Mauritius Royal Ambassador Experience
As a newly minted Intercontinental Royal Ambassador, I couldn't wait to try out my status when I went to Mauritius in July. July is winter and off-season in Mauritius, so I was hopeful that upgrades would be plentiful.
Planning My Nights
My plan for Mauritius was for six days and five nights. I'd spend the first night at the Intercontinental (because as a Royal Ambassador I'm guaranteed 8am check-in and my flight arrived at 7am), the following two nights at the Starwood Grand Mauritian (which is right next door to the Intercontinental) and then the last two nights at the Intercontinental using my Ambassador buy-one-get-one weekend night certificate. This would yield me three stays versus just one and the hassles of hotel hopping would be minimized since the hotels were adjacent to each other and I have top tier status (late check-out) at both properties.
For the first night at the Intercontinental I re-booked at the last minute to a non-refundable rate of 216 euros for a Deluxe Terrace Ocean View Suite, which is the category below the Presidential Suite (which was going for 550 euros a night). I probably could have gone a couple categories down to regular rooms at 175 Euros a night, but I figured I'd pay the extra $60 to have the increased chance of the Presidential Suite.
I landed at MRU airport at 7am and after my rental car fiasco with Hertz, I hopped in a cab and snaked across the island in rush hour traffic. The Intercontinental is on the northwest coast and the airport if on the southeast, so it takes about an hour with no traffic. I was happy to be in a cab because I was a little groggy from my flight and traffic was pretty bad. All of the major rental car companies will deliver cars to hotels, so I'd recommend cabbing to the hotel straight off of a flight, unless you are particularly adventurous.
Ninety minutes later, we pulled up to the hotel and immediately several bell hops got my bags and ushered me into the open air lobby and had me sit on a couch as they fetched someone to help check me in as a VIP/Royal Ambassador. They immediately knew who I was, but I'm not sure how because I didn't contact the hotel prior to my arrival and during my stay I made friends with the Director of Rooms and she was unaware I was a blogger. I guess I look American and I was probably the only American in the hotel at the time, so they put 2 and 2 together.
Checking in, sir?
The staff brought me sweet Mauritian tea and I relaxed in the lobby as my paperwork was handled. There were about four people running back and forth and they asked for my voucher (which at the time I thought they meant Buy One Get One, but they really just meant printed reservation, which I didn't have on me). They also asked for my Royal Ambassador card, which I hadn't yet received, because I left before I got it in the mail. I guess I take for granted that hotels in the U.S. and Europe know that everything is handled electronically. They admitted that they rarely see Royal Ambassadors, so this was a big deal for them.
While I was waiting ,the General Manager also introduced himself and welcomed to me the property. I have to say they really did make me feel like a VIP, though they did fumble the paperwork and overcomplicate things. It took about 20 minutes from sitting down to get everything sorted out. However, I didn't really care, because they told me I was upgraded to one of the nine Presidential Suites and that they were certain I'd like my room. Sweet.
A small group of people escorted me to the room and indeed it was pretty nice. It was a two-story loft-style room with floor-to-ceiling windows and three large outdoor balcony-patios facing the ocean. There was a small kitchen with full-size refrigerator, though I was a little disappointed that instead of a full mini-bar, I got a couple beers, water and Redbull - no wine or spirits! As a Royal Ambassador you are entitled to all mini-bar items for free, so I thought it was a little skimpy - especially for the Presidential Suite.
However, the suite itself was nice and they had fruit and water waiting for me. The two upstairs patios were substantial and one even had an outdoor bathtub! It was also completely private, so it would be perfect for honeymooners, if you catch my drift. I almost felt bad being there alone - I could have housed a small army in the room, which was over 3,200 square feet!
The bathroom was large with a unique spa-type bathtub with wooden chaise chair built in and full-size Elemis spa products and bath salts.
Overall it was a stunning room, though there was no WiFi and my Macbook air doesn't have an ethernet plug (which I didn't realize until I had left on this trip so I didn't buy an adapter). This meant I had to go to the lobby for my internet needs, which was annoying, though I did figure out how to get internet on the TV so I could at least read my email on the big plasma, though the in-room internet was broken for my last two days.
The check-in agent told me I was not on a rate plan that included breakfast so I'd have to pay. Though on one of the other days the waiters told me I didn't have to after I told them my room number (I bet they just figured I was on full-board). I did get a healthy, fresh room service breakfast one day, which was fantastic (I figured I had to put the balconies to use!).
I ate room service a bunch of other times and each time it was good. As much as I don't mind traveling alone (this is my first extended vacation I've ever taken alone, though I did meet up a with several groups of friends in Spain), I do not like eating alone, and I never did during my road warrior days. Since I always have so much work to do on my laptop, I really don't mind room service and I'm usually good at picking out decent items. One of my daily rituals each evening was watching the sun set on the beach and enjoying a local beer (Blue Marlin). Or two. And eating a Mauritian sampler platter (spicy samosas, calamari and spanakopita type puff pastry).
One rainy afternoon I decided to go to the spa, and had the best massage of my life. The masseuse, whose name I can't remember, gave me a much "kneaded" deep tissue massage that was legendary. At several points I wondered how many hands she had, because there were so many things going on. After spending so much time on airplanes - even in business/first - I know that it wreaks havoc on my back and she agreed that I had way too many knots. I used to never do spa treatments, but lately I try to work in some spa time on every trip. I guess it also helps that this is now 'work' for me, since these treatments aren't cheap. The 90-minute deep tissue and foot massage ran me $200 when all was said and done. And it was worth every penny.
I ended up getting the Presidential suite again on my weekend stay using the Ambassador buy-one-get-one free weekend night certificate, so altogether I got three nights in the biggest suite of the hotel for 456 Euros ($650) total. This is definitely a function of going in the off-season, but even in the "winter" it was still nearly 80 during the day, though I wasn't expecting the sun to go down by 5:30pm every day. Anyone can buy Intercontinental Ambassador for $200 (you need to earn or be nominated to Royal Ambassador) and I found the free night certificate to basically pay for itself. Additionally, you get 5,000 Priority Club points and then on paid stays: free upgrades, late check-out, fruit and water amenity, a free movie and other benefits for a year. If you stay at Intercontinental hotels, you should look into upgrading to Ambassador.
While my stay was overall great and the staff bent-over backwards to provide me good service, I did have two aggravating experiences regarding hot water. On the Saturday night of my weekend stay, I got home from 8 hours touring the island and walking with lions and tigers (more on that later) and couldn't wait to wash off and get ready for dinner. However, the shower had no hot water. I called to let them know and they promised to send someone up right away. I was skeptical they would be able to do anything, barring bringing 40 pails of hot water, and indeed they were useless. Twenty minutes later I get a call that it was a hotel-wide issue and it should be fixed in 40 minutes. Mildly annoying, but I understand that kind of thing happens ... especially on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Fast forward to my last day - I spent the entire day on a catamaran that ended up getting hit with a fairly rough rainstorm. Soaked to the bone and cold, I got back to the hotel with enough time to warm up with a hot shower, pack and get to the airport, which was an hour-plus away. But as I turned on the faucet, only ice cold water came out. I was momentarily warmed up by the rage from within, but anger took over and I called the front desk who promised to send someone up. I think I got bitchy at that point and demanded to be let into a nearby hotel room to shower because I didn't have time to watch a clueless maintenance man tinker with some valves that wouldn't do anything. What can I say, I get crabby when I'm cold.
I escalated with management and they promised to let me use a room - on the other side of the resort! My response? "No. You will have to do better."
Five minutes later, I got an apologetic call and they promised to send someone with a key to a room 2 stories down in the same unit. They apologized and apparently there was a water heater issue with my suite that they didn't realize the night before. While it worked out in the end, it was a major inconvenience and something a high-end hotel should not put their presidential suite guest through - at least not two nights in a row.
I'll focus more on what to do in Mauritius in my next post, but overall I had a really nice stay at the Intercontinental and I would highly recommend it - especially if you are an Ambassador or going for your honeymoon. It can be had for just 30,000 Priority Club points per night, which is an amazing deal - especially during peak season when regular rates are much higher.
I recognize that most of my readers are not Royal Ambassadors, so I asked the hotel to show me a standard room and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Honestly, having a gigantic suite is a bit of a waste in a place like Mauritius because there is so much to do and see outdoors, you really only need a comfortable place to sleep.
So that was my VIP stay at the Intercontinental courtesy of Royal Ambassador status. Stay tuned for further posts on my Starwood experiences on the island and all my Mauritian adventures.