Not quite paradise: A review of Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove in the Seychelles
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Editor’s note: During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips. Instead, we have been publishing a selection of our most popular reviews from the past year. However, we have resumed the publication of new, previously unpublished flight, hotel and lounge reviews, from trips taken before the lockdown, like this one. We hope this will help you choose once we’re all ready to start booking trips again.
Seychelles, a tiny nation made up of 155 islands about 500 miles off the coast of Madagascar, is a hard-to-reach but undeniably luxurious tropical getaway. Unlike other popular destinations like the Maldives and Mauritius, you won’t find a ton of top-tier luxury-branded points hotels in the Seychelles. (There is a Four Seasons on Mahé, the main island, and another on a private island farther west.)
Hilton has a few properties on the islands, but the Le Méridien is Marriott’s only Seychelles property (except for North Island, a luxurious private island that costs more than $5,000 a night).
Still, the Seychelles boast some of the best beaches in the world so I was excited to visit. Add in a great fifth-night-free award booking and I arrived with high hopes. Perhaps a little too high.
Further reading: How to use hotel points to visit the Seychelles
Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove is a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy hotel, meaning standard award rates cost 50,000 points per night. Rates drop to 40,000 points per night on off-peak dates and climb to 60,000 points during peak season.
I locked in a five-night award stay using Points Advance before Marriott introduced peak and off-peak pricing last year, so I paid 50,000 points per night, thanks to Marriott’s fifth-night free on award stays, I only spent 200,000 points for the five nights, which TPG values at $1,600. The cash rate for five nights would have been about $2,700. That’s more than I was willing to pay, and overall, I was pretty happy with this redemption value of 1.35 cents per point.
About a week before my arrival, I received an email explaining that because of extreme weather, beach access would be closed during my stay. I wasn’t sure whether this meant the beach itself was closed or simply the access from the hotel. Thankfully, it was the latter. Having seen images of the Seychelles’ many picturesque beaches, I decided to roll with the punches.
If you find yourself needing to top up your account before a redemption you may want to consider signing up for a cobranded Marriott credit card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
You’ll earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. Additionally, you’ll receive an annual award night worth up to 50,000 points upon account renewal, up to $300 annual travel credit at Marriott properties, instant Gold Marriott elite status with the ability to earn Platinum with $75,000 in annual spending on the card. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees).
Fisherman’s Cove is on the northwest side of Mahé, the main island in the Seychelles. The property is right next to Beau Vallon Beach, where you’ll find several other hotels and restaurants. Our flight from Abu Dhabi (AUH) landed around 1 p.m. Our taxi from the airport to the hotel took no more than 30 minutes and cost 700 Seychelles rupees (~$51), though the hotel insisted the ride should have cost only 600 rupees (~$44).
Our arrival coincided with the end of the rainy season. We knew that the weather might be unpredictable but what we didn’t learn until halfway through our stay was that the conditions change, depending on whether you are on the north or south sides of the island. The water on Beau Vallon Beach was too rough for swimming throughout our stay, while some of the beaches we visited in the south (especially Grand Anse, Anse Intendance and Anse Royale) were as smooth as glass.
The views on approach into Mahé were beautiful, but it started raining as soon as we touched down and the rain kept up for the rest of the day. We were the only guests in the arrivals area, which connects to the hotel’s main bar and breakfast restaurant.
Check-in was uneventful, though a bit drawn out. We were invited to take a seat and were offered some refreshing tea and cold towels while we waited.
The agent thanked me for being a Titanium elite, but she didn’t mention that the hotel had upgraded us from a junior suite to a deluxe oceanfront suite. (I only knew because I’d checked the app in advance.) I’d rather be upgraded and not be told about it than the other way around, but this was a missed opportunity to earn some brownie points.
During check-in, the agent handed me a letter explaining that Le Cardinal, which normally features a buffet for dinner, was temporarily closed. We would later find out that Sunset Bar, one of the most beautiful parts of the property, was closed as well (because of storm damage). The hotel staff never mentioned this to us, and we only found out when we tried to go for drinks only to find it roped off with an “under construction” sign. These closures were not a good first impression of the hotel, leaving us only one option for lunch, drinks and dinner.
As we were walking to our room, we saw a massive spider hanging out between the trees. We were reassured that the mega spiders in the Seychelles are not poisonous, but I’d still suggest packing bug spray if you visit as there were plenty of mosquitoes too.
The spacing and design of the property made the oceanfront rooms feel more like private villas than suites, with the caveat that there are two rooms per building.
At 592 square feet, our room felt spacious, with an L-shaped couch and two desks close to the balcony. The couch was big enough for a crowd but the back was very low, forcing us to lean awkwardly any time we sat on it.
The bed had a beautiful arrangement of towel swans and flower petals. I’m not sure if this was because I told the hotel we were celebrating our sixth anniversary (there was no card or cake or anything to suggest that), but they remade the swans a few times and even made a heart out of flowers on the bed once, which was a nice touch.
The bed was centered in the room, which allows you to walk around either side to get to the bathroom but takes up nearly 50% of the real estate.
There was a large wood-paneled tub in the middle of the bathroom, and double sinks on the vanity along the wall.
The hotel provided Malin+Goetz toiletries, but it was stingy with them, only giving us one set at a time despite repeated phone calls explaining that my girlfriend has long hair and goes through conditioner at a lightning-fast pace.
We received two complimentary bottles of water per day, but after that, they are $4 each. Although this is technically the policy at most hotels, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been charged for extra bottles of water.
The bathroom also had a shower and toilet with a separate bidet. The shower was a step lower than the floor to minimize flooding, and the pressure and temperature were great, though there was no door.
A spacious closet area includes a tea and coffee station, but housekeeping was not always great at restocking it. It’s also worth mentioning that the room didn’t have a minibar.
Overall, I found the room to be comfortable and spacious, but not especially luxurious or high-end. There were no USB ports or outlets by the bed, and the light switches had to be turned off in a precise sequence to actually darken the room. I also found it interesting that there was no do-not-disturb sign (electronic or paper). Housekeeping never bothered us too early in the morning but it was a confusing omission for sure.
The room was labeled as an oceanfront suite, but don’t expect to stroll from your deck down to the beach. We were was set back behind the pool and the beach walkway and we could still see some of the storm damage from our room.
We found the deck to be comfortable, with a large lounge chair and a small table and we were able to stay outside and enjoy the ocean breeze even when it was raining because of the overhanging roof.
Food and beverage
Breakfast was served daily from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Le Cardinal restaurant, which is attached to the main reception area.
Because I have Titanium Elite status, I selected breakfast as my welcome amenity. Otherwise, it would have cost 650 rupees or about $47. That price puts it on par with some of the more expensive breakfasts out there, including places like the Maldives, though the offerings did not justify that price.
There was a made-to-order egg station, fresh fruit, cold cuts, pastries and a few hot selections like bacon and roasted vegetables.
I ate almost the same thing all five days: Muesli with coconut and pistachios and a vegetable omelet. It was a delicious, healthy breakfast that left me feeling full and satisfied every day, but if I’d had to pay $47 per person for this (or nearly $500 for our five-night stay), I would’ve been upset. It’s not that the breakfast is lacking, as most people should be able to find a meal here that makes them happy, just that it’s not worth the outrageous price.
There’s really only one lunch option available on the property, Le Cocoloba Bar. You’ll find it one level below the main reception area, offering great ocean views at any time of day.
On our first day, we went there for lunch and ordered the Cajun chicken quesadillas and shrimp and papaya salad. The quesadillas were delicious, though far oilier than they looked, and the salad was just alright. Even with the dressing and a lemon, there wasn’t much flavor.
The room service menu was a smaller version of Le Cocoloba’s menu, so I decided to sample it one day while reading out on the deck. I ordered a falafel wrap that was delivered in about 20 minutes. The dish was more than 50% fries and the wrap barely had two pieces of falafel in it. For the rest of our stay, we went offsite for lunch, as there are great sushi and Indian restaurants about five minutes up the beach at the Coral Strand hotel.
Although the food wasn’t worth repeating, we frequented Le Cocoloba Bar for drinks as it was really the only option at the hotel. The bar had a rum-only menu, so on the first night, I had a rum Negroni while my girlfriend had the Fisherman’s Choice, a mixture of rum, rosemary and lime.
We’d picked up a bottle of Champagne at the duty-free shop to avoid overpaying at the hotel, and we called the desk one night to ask if we could bring it to Le Cocoloba. They said we could but there would be a corkage fee, which we were happy to pay. When we arrived, the bartender told us it wasn’t allowed and the hotel could lose its liquor license, so I went to go put it back in the room. We settled in and ordered some drinks from the bar, but a few minutes later a manager came over and told us the bartender was wrong, and we actually were allowed to bring our own alcohol. Because of the confusion, he waived the corkage fee and even comped the drinks we’d just ordered, which I thought was a great gesture.
With Le Cardinal closed for dinner (and Le Cocoloba menu failing to satisfy us twice), we ended up dining at the Paris de Seychelles restaurant three of our five nights. This was the shining star of the food scene and the saving grace of an otherwise mediocre stay. The food was top-notch, and unlike breakfast, it was quite reasonably priced. I almost had to pinch myself when dinner for two — two appetizers, a soup, two mains and two glasses of wine — came out to just shy of $150. Normally, you expect to pay a bit of an “island tax” when you’re staying somewhere so remote, but that was less than we would’ve paid for a comparable meal in most cities in the U.S.
Paris Seychelles is on the jetty sticking out from the property, just before the Sunset Bar.
Most of the property has wooden signs to direct you to room blocks and amenities, so the laminated piece of paper tacked to a tree felt rather … tacky … for a luxury resort.
Once we sat down and started eating, it was easy to forget. Every night we were treated to a plate of bread with a deliciously juicy tomato, pesto butter, and balsamic and olive oil served with a little dropper (a nice presentation, but I’m fine skipping the single-use plastics when we’re this close to the beach).
We sampled nearly everything on the menu during our three dinners, but here are a few highlights: fresh and delicious scallops with curry-infused tomato fondue and seafoam. It was one of the dishes that was so good we had to try it again.
The same goes for the yellowfin tuna with sweet chili mayo, which didn’t overpower the fish at all.
On more than one occasion, we ordered the red snapper with passion fruit mash. This dish still makes my mouth water. It did everything right: excellent presentation, unique and flavorful ingredients cooked to perfection.
Other main course highlights included the char-grilled tiger prawns served with burning hot Creole rice and herb-infused coconut broth and the duo of octopus with coconut and turmeric reduction and green papaya chutney.
Ordering dessert after a meal that rich and delicious is always a gamble, and I appreciated that the restaurant had small and manageable portions for both the blueberry cheesecake and apple crumble.
The ambiance of the restaurant was nice, but I found it funny that they kept looping through a playlist of acoustic versions of rap and electronic dance music (EDM) songs. Over our three dinners, we heard The Chainsmokers, Eminem, Despacito and more.
Of course, the nicest amenity for most people visiting the Seychelles is the beach and the water, so let’s start there. The hotel doesn’t have its own beach, but rather it connects to the larger Beau Vallon Beach next door. The storm that hit in December 2019 damaged the walkway, which remains closed for repairs.
You can’t control the weather and it’s not the hotel’s fault, but I was surprised that no one explained that we could still walk down to the beach by going out on the main road and following a public path. My girlfriend ended up asking on our second day and was given clear directions, but with property damage like this, I think providing a map with an alternate route is the bare minimum you can do for your guests.
Most guests spent their time lounging around the hotel pool, which had a shallow area and also a small section of an infinity pool close to the water’s edge.
There was a free water station (the only one at the property as far as I could tell) and I didn’t see any servers coming by to take drink orders.
One day when the rain was relentless, my girlfriend and I tried to book a couples massage that was advertised in the hotel’s spa pamphlet. We ended up having to wait a day and a half for an appointment, and the hotel only had one masseuse so our “couple’s massage” took place individually over two hours. The masseuse was also doubling as the receptionist, which meant that the desk was unattended whenever she was with a client (which was most of the day as the spa was booked up nearly the entire time we were there).
The 60-minute massage was good, but certainly not memorable. The masseuse was wearing latex gloves which felt very odd when she was massaging my head (more like a lice check than a massage), but given that the coronavirus was just beginning to take hold in much of the world, it does make sense.
The experience felt decidedly less luxurious than we were expecting. There was no welcome experience (tea, cold towels, etc.) before the massage and no questionnaire to indicate any medical conditions, focus areas or pressure preference. These are all staple parts of the experience at every other spa I’ve been to and they felt conspicuously absent here.
There is a small gym near the spa with free weights, a treadmill and a few exercise machines.
We interacted with several staff members during our stay and found the service varied widely. Some employees had lively personalities and were incredibly friendly, while others were less enjoyable to work with. On the first day, my girlfriend tried to organize a diving trip and the hotel repeatedly connected her to the wrong dive shop, after telling us via email that there’s one shop they work with.
Our time in the Seychelles was very relaxing, but by the second or third day, I began to get frustrated with the bar and restaurant closures and, more importantly, by the limited communication from staff about the closures. I’m loyal to Marriott (almost to a fault) but I think that many other guests might have considered booking another hotel if they’d known the extent of the damage, so I decided to raise my concerns with the manager.
I ended up speaking to Oliver Schafer, the rooms division manager at the hotel. He provided additional context on the storm damage (including mentioning that the pool had been closed for a while and that the Sunset Bar was closed because it was deemed structurally unsound by the local authorities — so really a safety issue). He also apologized for the lack of communication and said he would work with staff to update the letter being sent to guests before arrival and that he would try to pull together a map of how to access the beach. He offered to comp the massages we’d had the previous day ( a ~$140 value) and invited us back to Paris de Seychelles on our last night for a “special goodbye dinner.”
They set up a special table for us out of the main dining room and as close to the water as possible. We also were offered two complimentary glasses of wine. I never asked for compensation and I thought he handled the situation appropriately. We were upset by the lack of amenities at the hotel (relative to what we expected when we booked) so he made up for it by inviting us to enjoy the best they had to offer, on the house. He was gracious about the whole thing and I’m confident that future guests will be kept apprised of any construction or closures at the property.
We caught Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove at a bad time, both in terms of weather on the island and the state of the property itself. Still, this hotel is reasonably priced on points and Paris de Seychelles is an absolute bargain of a restaurant. I can’t say this will be my first-choice hotel if and when I return to the Seychelles, but if you do it right, it can be a great value relative to its luxury location.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Brilliant Amex card, click here.
All photos by the author.
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