Liz and her husband have stayed in many hotels. They aim to help other travelers make informed choices by sharing their experiences.
This article combines general information about InterContinental Hotel Malta with our own experience of staying in the hotel in the following order:
- About the Hotel
- Leisure Facilities
- Food and Drink
- Why We Chose to Stay
- Initial Impressions
- Junior Suite
- InterContinental Club Room
- The Club Lounge
- Indoor Pool
- Afternoon Tea
- The Meeting
- Highline Suite
- Pre-Dinner Drinks and Canapes
- Breakfast in the Club Lounge
- Building Work
- Our Hotel Rating
- Thoughts on Our Experience
- Top Tips: How to Make the Most of Your Hotel Stay
1. About The Hotel
InterContinental Malta, with 481 rooms, is one of the largest hotels in this luxury brand. The lower front section of the hotel is topped by a large rooftop lagoon-style pool. Behind this, the hotel extends back around a courtyard/garden area. Opened in January 2003, the original building consisted of 15 floors and was designed to resemble a cruise liner with its distinctive balcony railings. Wings extend either side of a central block at the rear of the hotel.
Around 2015 three further floors were added; the two top floors of Highline suites and the roof area boasting the Skybeach with an infinity pool. Rooms on the lower floors are deluxe rooms, family rooms, junior suites, and club rooms. The higher you go, the better the room and the bigger your bill. Club rooms and above have a private check-in on the 15th floor near the club lounge.
Malta is a European island in the southern part of the Mediterranean, located 80 km south of Sicily (Italy), 284 km east of Tunisia and 333 km north of Libya. Since independence from the UK in 1964, Malta has increasingly gained an income from tourism, as visitors take advantage of its mild climate.
The residential areas around Valletta, the smallest capital in the European Union, have expanded greatly and the construction industry now appears to be in a competition to build the highest structure. The bays around Valletta, especially to the north are densely populated.
InterContinental is located on Bay Street in an area called Paceville in St. Julian's. Although some sites describe the hotel as being by a beach, it is actually a 240-meter walk to the small beach at St. George's Bay, where the hotel has a beach club (in season) and a restaurant, Paranga.
Paceville is known as the night club area of Malta. As locations go, this is not the most salubrious. Tall buildings, building sites, and cranes abound. InterContinental has a cinema and a Holiday Inn Express as neighbors with more cinema screens and bowling alley opposite. Further down the street, there's a shopping mall with a McDonald's outlet.
Any guests looking for a glimpse of the sea would be well advised to go for a room on a higher floor, which will come at a premium. Or you could settle for an upgrade to a pool view room.
3. Leisure Facilities
As befits a 5-star hotel, InterContinental Malta has a wide range of facilities for its guests.
There is a choice of three pools; two outdoor and one indoor and, of course, the beach club at St. George's Bay, down the road.
Lagoon Style Outdoor Pool
Covering an extensive area on top of the front hotel block, this pool also provides a pleasant view for those in rooms in the higher levels of the block at the rear of the hotel. There is plenty of space around it for a significant number of sunbeds, along with bushes and palm trees, as well as access to sundecks on other levels.
Much is made on the hotel website of the Skybeach infinity pool on the 19th floor. Located at the highest point, it boasts the best views over the surrounding area and beyond. It consists of a moderately sized rectangular rooftop infinity pool with decking, sunbeds and dining facilities.
In reality, complimentary access is limited to those in the most expensive suites. This access is described as 'exclusive', but we noticed several large posters in the area advertising Skybeach. Anyone can access it, by booking 48 hours in advance and paying a fee.
Note: The outdoor pools and beach club are seasonal.
Heated Indoor Pool
Located on the 5th floor, the indoor pool is 17 meters long and 1.3 meters deep. It has changing facilities and also a steam room, sauna, and showers. Guests from the adjoining Holiday Inn Express have free access to this facility, as do members of the adjacent fitness center.
Cynergi health and fitness center is one of the largest on the island, with over 2,500 square meters of workout space, a well-equipped gymnasium, and two squash courts. Access is complimentary for hotel guests and those staying next door in the Holiday Inn Express. It also has a local membership with street access.
Carisma Spa is located by the indoor pool and offers treatments as well as a Turkish Hammam. There's a booking desk near the indoor pool.
InterContinental hosts Casino Malta, apparently the biggest on the island. There is a hair salon in the hotel. An onsite kids club also appears to offer childcare facilities for the local community.
4. Food and Drink
As you would expect from a 5-star hotel, InterContinental Malta, has several locations, where food and drink are served. The hotel boasts of seven restaurants and seven bars on its website.
The main restaurant, where breakfast is served, is Harruba. The hotel bar is located beyond reception, but some choose to drink in Waterbiscuit. This is on two levels at the front of the hotel, has street access, and also serves meals.
Paranga is located a short walk from the hotel, overlooking St.George's Bay.
Other outlets, such as Narcis pool bar (near the lagoon pool), Skybeach (poolside snacks and grill), and the nearby Skyhigh, a 19th-floor premium lounge bar, are all seasonal.
In addition to these, there is the Club Lounge, on the 15th floor, serving breakfast, afternoon tea and canapes at set times, drinks and snacks throughout the day, as well as alcoholic beverages for a limited time in the evening. Access is included with Highline suites, club rooms, and junior suites. At the hotel's discretion, other guests might be offered access for a chargeable rate.
Let's see how the hotel measures up to its claim.
5. Why We Chose to Stay at InterContinental Malta
We had a voucher for a free night to use in any InterContinental Hotel Group hotel, which was close to expiring. Realizing that a Holiday Inn Express was conveniently located next door and, never having visited Malta before, we decided to check out InterContinental Malta in March.
Either side of our night in the InterContinental, we booked a few nights in the Holiday Inn Express.
6. Initial Impressions
As guests of Holiday Inn Express, we were given a card that allowed access through a door on level 1 into InterContinental level 5, where we could use the indoor pool and leisure facilities.
It wasn't long before curiosity got the better of us and we decided to go exploring. As the Holiday Inn Express is relatively new, having opened in 2017, going from the limited-service hotel into a luxury hotel corridor was not a huge step up. The color scheme changed and the carpet was maybe a little deeper.
Having found the indoor pool and explained to the staff on the desk that we weren't in the market for a spa treatment, we decided to see how far we could get. I was surprised at how unchecked our movements were. We found our way up onto the courtyard level and, from here made our way up the steps to the lagoon pool, where a few hardy souls had found a sheltered spot to sunbathe in early March. The pool was a good size and a focal point, but, out of season, sunbeds were limited in number and the bar was understandably shut up.
As the Skybeach had been well-publicized on the hotel website, we were intrigued to take a look. I was surprised how easy we found it to take the lift up to the 19th floor and step out on this level. The pool looked good and the views from the top of the hotel were interesting, but clearly the area was not in use. There were no sunbeds out and the bar was shut up. It was surprising, given all the publicity and lovely photos, that there was no attempt to keep a covered area open for drinks and meals.
What Goes Up Must Come Down!
Having taken in the view and a few photos we headed back to the automatic glass doors. Unfortunately, try as we might, there was no way of getting them to open from our side. I suggested ringing reception on our mobile phone, but, as we shouldn't have been up there anyway, nor were we, at this point, guests of the InterContinental, it might have taken a little explaining.
I wasn't too keen on the thought of a fire escape from the 19th floor, but we eventually found an open door to a service stairwell. We came across a service lift. Some cleaners got in on a lower floor, gave us a funny look, but carried on. We got out on a lower level and found ourselves in a kitchen area for room service. Eventually, a manager saw us and guided us out onto the guest floors, much to our relief. It was a whole new world in there, very austere compared to the guest areas.
But I think what surprised me most was the absence of any security. Surely our explorations should have been tracked on security cameras and a staff member sent to apprehend us?
In Need of a Drink
At check-in next door, in the Holiday Inn Express, we had been given 2 drinks vouchers. Other guests had commented online that they had used their vouchers in the InterContinental bar, so, in need of a drink, we decided to give it a go. We enquired at what we thought was the main bar, outside the main restaurant. But, as soon as we showed the bartender the vouchers, he ushered us away to the Waterbiscuit at the front of the hotel.
For a 5 star hotel, there was nothing especially remarkable about the Waterbiscuit. It was modern enough with a brightly lit bar behind a white frontage, but furnishings were fairly basic with some clear plastic chairs identical to those on the Holiday Inn Express terrace next door. Overlooked by tall buildings across the street, it felt dark and shut-in, even for those sitting at the high tables outside.
Although it clearly stated 'spirit and mixer' on the options, this had to be pointed out to the bartender. Drinks were served to the table and, just as we were about to enquire, a two-tier selection of crisps and nuts was brought as well. The area was clean and modern, but not luxurious.
Due to IHG rewards club membership of a high tier, my husband is entitled to a complimentary upgrade where available. For online bookings, he usually requests one in the notes. Most times it pays off.
Unsure of his room allocation at InterContinental Malta and keen to get access to the club lounge, he emailed the hotel. He was told that he had been upgraded to a pool room, but that access to the lounge would cost 56 Euros. We decided to pay the extra for the food and drink in the lounge. He was told that check-in would be from 11.00 am, but online he noticed it was 10.00 am for his tier status.
So, at 10.00 am we went to the main reception. We were told that we had been upgraded to a junior suite and informed that lounge access would be 50 Euros. We opted to pay at check out, which proved to be a good decision, as you will find out. The receptionist was keen to establish whether the booking was for a special occasion. 'Was it a birthday or an anniversary? Was it a special treat for your wife?' she asked. Eventually, my husband agreed that it was the latter and immediately he was told that a bottle of wine would be sent to our room. This was an unexpected bonus.
Check-in was smooth and efficient and we headed to room 1219.
8. Junior Suite
As we approached Room 1219, we soon realized that it was on the back of the hotel. Having viewed the hotel from the street below, we had already decided that it was not a good location. Unfortunately, our fears were proved true.
Don't get me wrong. The room itself was fine. There was a separate toilet by the door, an unexpected bonus. This was slightly dated in appearance, with a beige marble surround to the sink but it was well maintained and very clean. A large mirror was on the wall opposite with wall lights either side.
The generously proportioned separate lounge had a sofa, armchair, large cupboard, work desk, upright chair, coffee table, and two small side tables. There were lamps on each side table and also on the desk, which had a large mirror on the wall in front of it.
There were two large beds in the bedroom, slightly excessive for two guests. An uplighter stood in the corner by the window and there were two globe lights by the beds. A flatscreen tv was on a unit opposite the beds.
The nicely appointed bathroom with a separate walk-in shower was well maintained and modern. It was spacious and fitted out to a high standard. Although brightly lit, there was a fair amount of black marble around the bath and sink.
Grey and beige were the predominant colors for the carpet, walls, and curtains with dark furniture and doors. There were dark red runners and decorative cushions on the bed. Even the wall fitting behind the beds was grey. The lounge and bedroom had several large prints of Maltese scenes, in dark frames, hanging on the walls.
Patio doors gave access to the balcony with old ship style railings, which ran the length of the bedroom and lounge. There were small dark patio tables and chairs out here, but what caught our eye was the view. The balcony hung out beyond the others on this level. Tall buildings overshadowed it from across the opposite side of the street. We had a good view of a building site down a side street. To our left, we looked out onto a flat roof. It was definitely not the most scenic of views and there was no sign of a pool, as mentioned in the email.
9. InterContinental Club Room
Recalling that he had been promised a pool view room by email, my husband spoke to reception. Clearly, a suite on the back of the hotel was missing this detail. The receptionist apologized and we were allocated a club room on the 15th floor.
This had the advantage of being on the same floor as the club lounge and it had the pool view, but with a catch. Room 1512 was a corner room, with only a small section of the balcony open to daylight, so this room was also dark.
Feeling that we were going through a series of rooms that couldn't be sold to other guests, we headed to the lounge for a drink. As we passed the private reception, the receptionist asked how our room was. We expressed disappointment at the shut-in balcony and lack of natural light. She looked on her screen and offered an alternative for a supplement of over 100 Euros. We declined. She looked again and insisted on showing us a couple of alternatives. Both were on lower floors, further from the club lounge and not of a club standard. So, although we felt like we were getting to see the whole room range, we opted to stay in 1512 (for the time being).
Unlike the junior suite, 1512 did not have a separate lounge, but it was of generous proportions. The bathroom door was to the right, with the lounge area stretching from the main door to the far wall and an interconnecting door. The bed was around a corner near the patio door.
The lack of natural light was not helped by the color scheme. The walls were grey, as were the doors, carpet, curtains, circular rug, sofa, and armchair. The bed base was black on black legs. The exceptions were the white walls by the door and wardrobe and the white bedding. There was a moderately sized black-framed Maltese print near the desk. Even the tissue cube on the desk was black.
Furniture was arranged along the wall opposite the bed. There was a black desk with a black upright chair, followed by a sofa and a narrow white shelf beyond with a moderate-sized flatscreen TV on it. A black circular coffee table was on the rug, with an armchair nearby.
Lounge furniture was completed by a dark cabinet beyond the bathroom door, which housed a well-stocked minibar as well as tea and coffee making facilities, including a coffee pod machine, along with several glasses and cups.
Lighting was provided by a white globe light on the wall, near the desk, a hooded desk lamp, and an uplighter in the far corner. We had all three on, due to the lack of daylight.
The large bed consisted of two single mattresses. There was a black leather effect headboard on the wall behind in four sections, with a patterned inlay. On either side, there was a black bedside table on thin legs with a drawer, as well as a black angled lamp.
Bedroom furniture was completed by a full-length mirror, attached at an angle to the wall, and a white, free-standing wardrobe with four hinged doors. The inside fittings were grey to match the room. A narrow full-length space housed an ironing board. Next to it, there was a deep hanging space with 10 hangers, 2 of which were padded and a folded suitcase stand. An iron was on the shelf above. The next section had a further slim full length hanging space with a shoe rack below. Next to it were several shelves, one of which had a safe on it and another a shoebox and shoe cleaner.
The bathroom was modern and fitted out to a high standard. It had large pale grey rectangular floor tiles, dark grey tiles around the sink, bath, and shower, with a white painted wall near the toilet and a white panel on the bath. The bath and toilet were white and the room was well lit with spotlights in the ceiling over the sink, bath and shower, and recessed strip light over the toilet.
A jacuzzi bath was along the wall opposite the door, with a toilet on the adjacent wall to the right. A glass screen at the end of the bath separated the shower off in the corner with a large rainfall fixture from the ceiling and a hose attachment on the wall. There was no shower tray, as this was a wet room arrangement. I'm not sure how this worked in practice, as we didn't get to thoroughly test out these bathroom facilities (for reasons that will become clear later).
On the wall opposite the shower, there was a long grey marble rectangular unit with an integral sink and a large rectangular mirror on the wall behind it.
There was a circular extendable shaving mirror by the sink with a light, as well as a wall-mounted hairdryer and a shaver point.
There was a black cushioned headrest at the end of the jacuzzi bath.
Towels and Toiletries
Tissues were in a black fabric cube by the sink. There was a bar of soap to go in the soap tray and a black tray contained a collection of two flannels, large body lotion, two containers of mouthwash, and a with compliments pack (shower cap, shaving kit, comb, nail file, vanity set, and two dental kits).
Agranja shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel were on a glass shelf in the shower area.
There were two thin white towels (surprisingly poor quality for a 5-star hotel) on a chrome rail between the sink and shower. A white bath mat hung over the side of the bath with a bar of soap balanced next to it. Four white bath sheets were piled on top of a small black padded stool with three worn wooden legs.
Two bathrobes with slippers were on a hook by the door.
Taken as a whole, the balcony was a reasonable size. It was accessed via patio doors near the bed. The problem was that two-thirds of it was enclosed by the outside wall of the room around the corner. The paint on the walls was deteriorating. This left a narrow opening with ship style railings. Two white chairs and a coffee table jostled for a position with a view, as they didn't all fit by the open gap. The deteriorating paint on the walls didn't help the outlook.
The view from the 15th floor, limited as it was, was still good. It was indeed a pool view. We could see into the courtyard of the hotel, the lagoon pool, and as far as the sea in the distance.
10. The Club Lounge
After all the toing and froing over rooms, we decided that it was time to check out the Club Lounge more thoroughly. So we headed along the corridor to the reception desk and lifts in the middle of the hotel, where the lounge had a prominent position on the 15th floor. It was well equipped with plenty of sofas, comfortable chairs, and low tables, as well as dining tables and upright chairs.
There was plenty of natural light from the large windows and a large terrace area outside offered good views over the rest of the hotel and beyond.
Fridges with a range of beers and soft drinks, with glasses on shelves nearby, were located in a central serving area. An impressive range of hot drinks was available from a large serving area along the back wall.
Crisps, nuts, dried fruit, cookies, and fresh fruit were available when we called in there late morning.
A butler was in attendance constantly and quick to offer drinks, which he insisted on bringing to the table.
Light meals served here were breakfast, afternoon tea, and canapes with a range of alcoholic drinks in the evening.
We dropped in here several times during our time in InterContinental Malta and never found it busy. The lounge had a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere, with gentle music playing in the background.
11. Indoor Pool
In search of some light exercise, we decided to take a dip in the indoor pool. Having been there several times, whilst staying next door in the Holiday Inn Express, I had tried to explain to my husband the reasons for my disappointment. Now was the chance for him to see for himself.
Superficially to a casual observer, the pool looks okay, all be it a little on the small side maybe for such a large hotel. But it didn't take long for us to discover its shortcomings. The changing rooms are small and woefully in need of refurbishment. They consisted of two showers, two toilets, two sinks, one wooden bench against the wall and two banks of lockers. Any more than two people in there and they feel crowded. In the ladies, the fascia of the lockers was chipped, wall tiles were damaged, water shot out of the pipe above the showerhead, there was mold on the ceiling in the shower cubicles, the sealant and grouting were black in places, a large shower gel dispenser lay on the floor because the fixing had come away from the wall and the door frames around the toilet doors were rotting. The hairdryer glowed orange and cut out. The men's changing room was of a similar standard, but one of the showers was out of order. In addition one of the two showers by the steam room (with a door that didn't close properly) and sauna (often on the cool side) was out of order and my husband was dismayed to see a lot of dirt particles in the pool.
All in all, it would have been a disappointing experience in a 3-star hotel, but totally unacceptable for a 5-star.
As I was alone in the ladies' changing area, I took a few photos on my mobile phone, just in case no one believed us.
But what should we do about it?
What Would You Do?
Making a Plan
My husband reminded me that the bottle of sparkling wine promised at check-in, had yet to materialize. He suggested that if we got back to our room and there was still no wine, whilst chasing it up, we could also comment on the state of the indoor pool.
Guess what? When we got back to our room, the wine had appeared in an ice bucket!
Plan B. As it was 2.30pm we decided to take Afternoon Tea in the lounge (served 2.30 - 4.30 pm) and figure out what to do.
12. Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea in the Club Lounge was an impressive affair. The ever-attentive butler was quick to offer us drinks and provide us with our choice of tea. We were surprised how quiet it was with only a handful of other guests drifting in and out.
There was an impressive buffet choice of small savory sandwiches and savory filled rolls as well as olives and other accompaniments.
Scones, sweet spreads, and whipped cream, as well as a good selection of mini desserts, mini cakes and macaroons were set out for guests to help themselves.
Afternoon tea used to be considered a peculiarly British tradition, but we were very impressed with the provision in the Club Lounge.
Good food aside, we still had the dilemma of what to do about the indoor pool. We decided that we should inform hotel management, who might be unaware, about the shortcomings so that action could be taken for the benefit of future guests. We agreed that we shouldn't be looking for any recompense for ourselves.
This set in motion a series of unexpected events.