Destination of the Week: Mauritius
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This week’s record highs across most of the country got us longing for a little spot of summer, so we figured we’d talk about a destination near and dear to TPG’s heart: Mauritius.
This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean was once part of France and has a colonial legacy that brings lots of Europeans, but very few Americans, to its sunny shores. Well, the colonial legacy and the distance from North America.
However, just because it’s far from the U.S. doesn’t mean you can’t get there using a reasonable amount of points. And once you’re there, there are a surprising number of things to see and do, plus several accommodation options where you can earn and use your points.
Sure, there are tropical islands closer, but Mauritius is a special place with a fascinating mix of cultures that blends influences from Africa, India and Europe thanks to its location on the crossroads of the ancient spice trade routes. You can see all the things Brian did on his trip there last summer, but in the short version: he visited Hindu temples, played with baby lions and tigers, took a catamaran trip to a private island, and stopped at one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls … when he wasn’t relaxing on the stunning beaches.
It makes for a great vacation destination for more active travelers looking to experience natural wonders like the Seven-Colored Earth at Chamarel Park, and disparate cultures like the Indian population on the island, as well as just relaxing on a sunny beach.
Brian took his trip to Mauritius last summer using 120,000 Delta SkyMiles, he structured an itinerary that utilized Delta’s allowance of open jaws and stopovers and that took him from New York to Spain aboard Air Europa (stopover), Barcelona to Paris on Air France (open jaw), then down to Mauritius on Air Mauritius (destination), back through Paris to Amsterdam for a quick layover and on to New York on KLM. All in business class. All of those carrier’s award availability shows on ExpertFlyer, so simply piece together your ideal award and then call Delta to book.
If SkyTeam’s not your alliance, you can also catch flights to the island on Emirates through Dubai (you can also connect on British Airways or American Airlines through London then Dubai), or South African Airways through Johannesburg.
Grand Mauritian: Back in October, the Starwood Luxury Collection property suffered a devastating fire that badly damaged the lobby, one of the restaurants, and seven of the 15 villas. Since I could still book a room on the web site, I assume it’s not entirely closed, but be aware that the resort is probably still under repair. Brian actually stayed here during his visit last summer. In his review, he noted the resort has just 193 guest rooms and suites in 15 villa buildings. Like the other resorts on this list, it has several dining options including Bar 68 for casual meals and live music in the evenings, Brezza for poolside Italian dining, Seasons for gourmet meals, and the Reflections bar on the beach (and which also hosts a free cocktail happy hour for SPG Platinum members in the evening). Brian had booked a Deluxe Ocean View King, which was almost 650 square feet, but got upgraded to a Luxury Ocean View Terrace Suite that would have been more than twice the cost and was almost twice the size. The aesthetic is sort of conservative beach chic with dark wooden built-ins, but bright blue upholstery and throw rugs, and crisp white linens in the bedrooms and bathrooms. The bathrooms look like they have standalone deep soaking tubs and separate showers. The resort can arrange for the usual array of beach and ocean activities, and there’s also a spa and fitness facility on property plus tennis courts. This is an SPG Category 5 property, so free nights go for 10,000-12,000 Starpoints or 4,800 Starpoints + $90 and rates start at 210 euros ($275) in February.
Hilton Mauritius: The Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa is about an hour’s drive from the international airport, and 15 minutes from Casela Nature Park where Brian walked with the lions and tigers. The hotel is right on the beach near Flic en Flac. The standard rooms are almost 500 square feet with either garden or ocean views, balconies, desks, armchairs and ottomans plus WiFi access. The resort’s pool is sort of lagoon-style with rock borders, waterfalls and foliage, and there’s a kid’s pool for families. There are also four restaurants and two bars including Melanzane for gourmet Italian, Ginger Thai, and Les Coquillages on the beach for seafood at lunch. The Spa Mauritius. This is a Hilton HHonors Category 7 hotel, requiring 50,000 points for a free night, which is pretty steep. Rooms are starting at 370 euros ($490) in February.
Intercontinental Mauritius: Brian also stayed here while testing out his new Priority Club Intercontinental Royal Ambassador status last summer. The resort is on the northwest coast about an hour from the airport on a lagoon called the Baie aux Tortues and near the capital of Port Louis. It has only 210 rooms and suites decorated with crafts representing the many cultures that have passed through here including Chinese, Indian and Muslim. Rooms have a mix of dark wood fixtures and furnishings, and earth-colored tiles plus crisp white linens accented with touches of red, orange and turquoise fabrics. The bathrooms are pretty large as well with separate showers and freestanding deep soaking tubs, his-and-hers vanities, and WCs. The hotel has five restaurants and bars including Noble House for Asian fusion, Segala for Mediterranean and seafood, and Palms for salads and sandwiches. The Yuj Spa features treatments inspired by local healing traditions, and Brian said he had the best massage of his life there. Brian was upgraded from a Deluxe Ocean View Suite to one of the hotel’s nine two-story loft-style Presidential Suites with three private patios (the one on the rooftop had a spa Jacuzzi on it), a huge spa-style bathroom.
Free nights here can be redeemed for as low as 30,000 Priority Club points in low season (their winter, when it’s still quite sunny and warm) up to 50,000 points in high season.
Le Méridien: The 265 guest rooms and suites have either mountain or Indian Ocean views, satellite TV, and even the standard Deluxe rooms are quite spacious at over 500 square feet. The Executive rooms are in their own wing of the building (the Nirvana wing) with a private beach and outdoor pool, and a restriction on children under 12, so no screaming kids there. Though overall the resort is child-friendly with activities like beach volleyball, sailing, waterskiing, glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling and more. It also has an Asian-inspired Taamra Wellness Spa with Indian and Balinese treatments, and a fitness center for staying in shape. Dining options include Shells right on the beach for casual meals, La Faya for chic Mediterranean “gastronomy,” La Croque for snacks, 180 Degrees for breakfast and dinner buffets, and Cumin for contemporary Indian cuisine by the pool. This is an SPG Category 4 hotel requiring 10,000 Starpoints for a free night though rates in February are going for 210 euros ($275).
St. Regis Mauritius: This new hotel is scheduled to open in May 2012, by a lagoon on the Le Morne Peninsula on the southwest coast of the island near the UNESDCO World Heritage-listed Le Morne Mountain. The resort will have 173 rooms and suites spread out in colonial-style buildings across the property. Each will have St. Regis Signature Bedding, private terraces, LED TV’s with DVD players, WiFi access and what look to be huge bathrooms. The resort will have six restaurants and bars serving everything from contemporary Asian food to traditional Mauritian cuisine, and Indian, as well as a casual beach grill. There will be an Iridium Spa with 11 treatment rooms and 7 Spa Suites. The resort will chauffeur guests to and from the airport and to a nearby golf course in one of their Bentleys, and arrange activities like beach picnics, dolphin-spotting cruises on its private yacht, and various other water sports, plus kid’s activities at the St. Regis Children’s Club. No word on which SPG category this resort will fall into, but I suspect it will be 6 or 7, meaning it will take between 20,000-35,000 Starpoints to redeem for a free night.
One & Only Le Saint Gérain: For a really decadent experience, consider a stay at what just might be the island’s most exclusive property, the One & Only Le Saint Gérain. This is 162 all-suite resort with a private villa on property as well, and all guests receive 24-hour butler service. Each suite (they start at 700 square feet) has a private terrace or balcony facing the ocean or a tropical garden. Beds come with Egyptian cotton sheets and goose-down pillows, while the colorful furniture is meant to evoke the Indian Ocean spice trade. Rooms also come equipped with satellite flatscreen TV’s, WiFi, big bathrooms with his-and-hers sinks, granite countertops, bathtubs and separate cascade showers. There are several gourmet restaurants including the PRIME steakhouse and Rasoi by Vineet for Michelin-quality Indian. Perhaps a bigger draw, however, is the onsite ESPA spa, salon and fitness center.
While it doesn’t have a loyalty program of its own, guests who book a stay on the One & Only website or the company’s reservation line at (230) 401-1888 can earn one Emirates Skywards mile for every US dollar spent on accommodation from now through March 2012. Rates start at a jaw-dropping 887 euros ($1,165) in February-March.