InterContinental Hotel Malta: An Upgrading Hotel Experience
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.
On its website, InterContinental Malta states that it
"has been true to its vision of becoming the Mediterranean’s leading hotel of distinction".
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?
If hotel facilities are not up to scratch do you?
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.
Staff on the private reception desk near the Club Lounge were quick to engage with guests as they walked past. So it was easy to get into a conversation. When we were asked how our stay was going, we explained our disappointment at the indoor pool. The staff member expressed surprise and, when I mentioned the photos on my phone, he was keen to see them. He took it all very seriously, explaining that the leisure facilities were managed by a different company. He asked if we would be happy to see a manager and explained that we would receive a call shortly.
We were pleased to find that the daily fruit delivery had arrived in our room and we waited for a phone call.
13. The Meeting
Within a few minutes, the phone rang. A very pleasant customer relations manager introduced herself and offered to meet with us. We arranged a meeting in the Club Lounge.
Not wanting to be overheard by other guests, we selected a quiet corner. By now, familiar with our choice of tea, the butler was quickly in attendance. Paola listened to our concerns about the indoor pool facilities and looked at the photos, requesting copies to be emailed to her. She said that the hotel managed the pool, there was a refurbishment plan in progress on the 5th floor and that the shower by the sauna needed a part that was on order.
She implied that they were aware of the issues. We were surprised that the management of a 5-star establishment hadn't acted quicker to resolve it. After all the refurbishment of changing rooms, small as they were, would equate to updating 4 bathrooms.
She thanked us for bringing it to the hotel's attention, said that she wanted to make our stay a good one, and discussed what could be done for us. This was a surprise, as we hadn't expected to benefit from the situation.
Would we like a bottle of wine? Did we prefer red or white? A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc was decided on.
Next, she wiped the Club Lounge charge (50 Euros) from our bill. But what could she do to make it right? Would we like a meal in the hotel restaurant maybe? I asked about a possible points refund. She recalled that we had been disappointed with our partially enclosed balcony, could she show us a suite on the top floor?
We decided to look at the suites. We were shown two. Both were on the 18th floor and had great views over the lagoon pool and beyond. One was larger, on a corner of the building, and had a mini gym, so it was a no brainer.
What would you choose?
Reach for the Sky
14. Highline Suite
Location of 1816
The Highline suites occupy floors 17 and 18 of InterContinental Hotel Malta. Their modern design stands out from the rest of the building. Around 2015, they were built on to the top of the hotel. You can see the 'stilts' on level 16 in external photos. Externally, they reminded us a little of InterContinental Cascais-Estoril, Portugal, a hotel from the same era.
1816 occupied the far western corner, at the end of the corridor. Unusually for a hotel room, it had three outside walls. the back wall and part of the sidewall were made up of a wide corrugated opaque material. To make the most of the view, part of the side and most of the front had full-length windows and patio doors.
The entrance hall was along the back of the suite, which was open plan. A randomly placed sofa bed was pointed out to us, a little further along the back wall. Beyond this, there was a small kitchen area with a dividing wall behind it. A parallel wall with long curtains at the side hid the mini gym, with a dining table and chairs on the other side of the curtain.
The lounge area was the other side of the gym divider and had the benefit of the windows and view around it. A balcony ran along in front of the lounge and the adjacent bedroom. An office area was by the bedroom door.
The spacious bedroom had access to the internal ensuite bathroom/dressing room and there was a window with Venetian blinds from the bath into the bedroom and the balcony beyond.
Main Living Area
The main door was painted grey. Walls were painted in a gunmetal grey, with a lighter shade to one side of the mini gym. This color was so predominant that I wondered if a job lot had been purchased from old stock at a naval shipyard. A dark wood panel behind the desk and adjoining door separated the living area from the bedroom. The opaque walls at the back and side of the suite took on a mint color in daylight. Floors were covered in large square and rectangular tiles in a neutral color.
The mini-gym was shielded from the dining room table by a full-length black curtain. Windows had full-length net curtains and dark grey curtains, with electric mechanisms.
The wide entrance had a tall narrow black shelf/table to the right with a black-framed print on the wall above. Beyond, against the back wall was a large dark grey sofa bed with two matching dark grey cushions. It was well lit by two ceiling lights.
The kitchenette, located further along the back wall consisted of a compact unit, comprising a fridge, freezer, sink, with cupboards above and below. There was a kettle, coffee maker, cutlery, crockery, trays, teapots as well as a drinks selection in the fridge/bar and a selection of small jars of jam. In short, most things that an attendant butler might require. Most of this equipment looked like it had never been used. There were two ceiling lights in this area.
This was packed into an area on the other side of the kitchenette. A treadmill faced towards the lounge and windows beyond, with a good view. Other equipment was at right angles. The cross trainer faced the treadmill, towards the opaque outer wall. The rowing machine faced the other direction, to the black curtain or, when this was pulled, the dining table. There were two black and white prints on the wall and an elaborate ceiling decoration, which suggested that this was originally intended as a dining area.
A circular black glass table, supported on thick black central legs was located on a round turquoise rug with 4 padded turquoise chairs arranged around it. A large black pot with a tall rubber tree in it stood beyond this area, near the bedroom door. There was a light over the table.
The lounge had the benefit of full-length windows to one side and patio doors onto the balcony on the other. The focal point was a large rectangular patterned rug in beige, blue, grey, and black. A large flat-screen TV with an automatic retractable soundbar on a chrome plinth stood partway along the dividing wall that backed onto the mini gym. We felt like moving it into the center to cover the plug socket.
Two low grey sofas on legs and a pale grey armchair with a mixture of cushions were arranged to face the TV. It seemed a shame to miss out on the view outside, which we were constantly turning round to take in. Furniture was completed in this area by a circular glass-topped coffee table and a low plastic stand by the armchair. There was a large glass bell cover on the table, as well as bottled water and a complimentary bottle of artisan olive oil.
There were 4 ceiling lights in this area, as well as a lamp in the corner near the window, with large white shade. Full-length net curtains and dark grey curtains hung at all the windows. Everything was fine until, after dark, we looked to close them. It took a minute or two for us to find the electronic control panel.
To the side of the lounge area, near a full-length window onto the balcony, a pale grey worktable was located along the wall by the bedroom door. There was a black vinyl office swivel chair, a hooded desk lamp, telephone, pen, and pad in a holder, as well as a black material covered tissue box, hotel information, menus, and writing paper.
The patio doors, running the full width of the room, meant that a view from the balcony was a feature of the room and could be seen from the bed. Full-length nets and dark grey curtains were remotely operated. The opposite side of the room had a large window into the bathroom. Lighting was provided by two centrally located lights in the ceiling.
As you would expect in a Highline Suite, the bed was large, on two bed bases with chrome legs, and very comfortable with good quality pillows. Pillows, duvet, and sheets were white. A dark brown padded vinyl headboard was fixed to the wall and matched the bed bases.
Either side of the bed there were free-standing bedside cabinets. Each had a black-based cylinder lamp. There was a powerpoint and a USB point too. A large print in a rectangular black frame hung on the wall behind the bed.
Opposite the bed, there was a large dark brown unit with two storage spaces and a lamp with a glass cover to the side. A large flatscreen TV was on the wall, but we found that the remote control required new batteries. Luckily the remote from the lounge could be used instead. A tall black framed mirror was attached to the wall beyond, leaning at an angle.
The wall behind the TV was the reverse of the wood panel behind the desk area. Towards the window and behind the bed, the walls were painted grey. The bed was on a large grey rug.
A dark brown door at right angles to the bedroom door opened into the bathroom area. The right wall was taken up with fitted wardrobes and shelves. The area was well lit with three ceiling lights. Three tall white doors opened to reveal a dark wood interior with a top shelf, shallow hanging area, safe, two push opening drawers, a gym mat, and a shoe rack in the bottom. There were two large deep hanging areas with 6 hangers and 2 padded hangers. Two bathrobes were hanging up and there was an ironing board in here with an iron, as well as a collapsible suitcase stand. A spare pillow was on a shelf above.
Beyond this, there were 5 dark open shelves, on which were piled three bath sheets and several trays. One with a hairdryer in a bag, another with a clothes brush, shoehorn and laundry bags, and one with slippers on it.
The adjacent wall was taken up with a beige marble effect double sink unit with matching wall covering behind with two large rectangular mirrors. There was a black leather tissue box, two tumblers, and a white soap dish with a block of hand soap. A central black tray had two white flannels, two body milks, two bottles of mouthwash, with compliments shower cap, a sewing kit, a wooden comb, nail file, vanity set, as well as two individually packaged dental kits and two shaving kits.
There was a circular extending shaving mirror with a light high to the right and a shaver point. A large white bath mat was on the floor, with hand towels on the rail behind. There was a speaker set in the wall.
A brown wooden central panel opposite the wardrobe area and the sink concealed the bath area behind. The white jacuzzi bath with a retractable shower attachment and side filling had a black marble surround with a grab rail to the side. A small white towel with a wrapped bar of soap was balanced on the side and there was a white bath mat on the floor. There was also a black 3-legged low stool with a plastic tray top by the bath.
The bath commanded a good view of the bedroom and beyond through the full-length glass window. The electronic Venetian blinds could be closed for those requiring a little more privacy whilst bathing.
The bath was slow to fill. The water was not piping hot and judging from the pale brown color, it had not been used for some time.
A rainfall shower, with an additional shower hose attachment fixed to the wall, was located in a fully tiled open wet room area opposite the bath. Larger than normal containers of Amande shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel were in a chrome wall-mounted rack. There was a rail below this, a towel rail near the entrance, as well as two hooks on the wall.
A toilet and bidet were in a whitewashed cubicle with a white door next to the shower. There was a telephone next to the toilet and a rail by the bidet with two small white towels. Toilet paper was of surprisingly poor quality.
There were several lights in the ceiling, ensuring that the whole area was well lit.
We went from one extreme to the other, moving from a cubby hole balcony with railings to this one on the top floor, which stretched along the length of the bedroom and lounge. Accessed through patio doors from either room, the balcony commanded impressive views over the hotel complex and the surrounding area.
The grey theme continued with the big tiled flooring and framework above. Large strips of opaque corrugated mint plastic material served as a divider. The glass barriers ensured that the view was maximized.
In addition to a planter by the divider, there was another at the far end and three cylinder ones in the middle of the balcony. We weren't sure whether their rusty appearance was a sign of wear and tear or a design feature.
The furniture consisted of a padded white chaise longue outside the bedroom, two white chairs and a small table near the lounge.
Vertical strip lights illuminated the area at night.
15. Pre-Dinner Drinks and Canapes in the Club Lounge
By the time we had moved into and explored our Highline Suite, it was nearly time for the early evening canapes and drinks in the Club Lounge served between 5.30 pm and 7.30 pm.
A good selection of spirits and wines were laid out on the side. There were two hot options of a meat quiche and a vegetarian dish in breadcrumbs. The many small savory choices included bowls of salad with smoked salmon, cheese and biscuits, sundried tomatoes, olives, mini seafood roulade, a tuna dip, and black olives and ricotta dip. There was a selection of fruit available. The butler was on hand all the time. A few guests came and went, but the area was never busy.
16. Breakfast in the Club Lounge
The Club Lounge offered an impressive range of breakfast options. There was a selection of branded cereals from Kellogs, Weetabix, and Mornflakes, dried fruit, and nuts. Skimmed milk was available near dispensers of apple, orange, and pineapple juice.
There was an impressive bakery selection of different breads, heated pastries, and tempting chocolate muffins, red velvet cake, and cookies. A selection of small jars of jams, honey, and marmalade was on each table.
The savory cold options included goats cheese, Leicestershire cheese, cured and smoked salmon, chorizo, cold meats, cherry tomatoes. salad bowls, sundried tomatoes, and olives.
There was a good choice of fresh fruit, melon, pineapple, orange segments, halved kiwi, and a fresh fruit salad.
Hot drinks were served at the table by the attentive butler. There was a menu of hot food options to order, including various egg dishes and omelets. I would highly recommend the Eggs Royale.
This was a much more relaxing breakfast experience than you would ever find in a main hotel restaurant.
17. Building Work
It's hard to miss the many cranes and building sites around the local area of Paceville and the wider area of St. Julians, which appears to be undergoing a constant process of regeneration. As space is at a premium, there appears to be a competition going on to construct the tallest buildings.
No doubt the addition of the higher floors to InterContinental Malta in recent years contributed significantly to local disruption. But now the hotel is the victim of a situation beyond its control. You've already seen the view from the junior suite at the back of the hotel, but the Highline suites were certainly not immune from the building craze.
Our suite was immediately above one such building site, all be it in the early foundation stages and others were clearly visible nearby. By day we were aware of the constant noise of heavy machinery nearby.
18. Our Hotel Rating
A Tale of Two Hotels
Rating this hotel is not an easy task. The older part, up to floor 15, is poorly designed. Many rooms, from their position, low down around the courtyard area, overlooking the back street or, as we found, stuck in a corner, have poor outlooks and a limited amount of natural light. Externally the building appears dated. The indoor pool facilities would measure up poorly in a 3-star hotel and certainly don't fit with a 5-star brand.
Step into the Club Lounge and head up to the Highline suites (floors 17 and 18) and you enter a whole new world. This is what a 5-star hotel should be like. 'Was the hotel slipping in its rating or in danger of being rebranded?' I wonder, 'So they added two luxury floors to save the star and keep the brand?'
It's tempting to give different ratings for each area, but grudgingly I have had to award 4 stars on an average basis between the two. Refurbishment of the indoor pool and lower floors needs to move on at pace.
It's telling that, whilst on Malta, we met a guest who was staying in the InterContinental, because his travel company found prices there were more reasonable than the limited-service Holiday Inn Express next door.
19. Thoughts on Our Experience
It would be fair to say that things did not go quite to plan for us at InterContinental Malta. If we had been given the promised pool view room on a lower floor at the outset, we would have settled for it. Although the state of the indoor pool was always going to be an issue. I still look back in disbelief at the series of events in the first few hours of our stay, culminating in a move to a top floor suite.
A lot of the problems we encountered; poor design, dark rooms, the need for refurbishment were beyond the control of the staff members working with guests. Problems often arise in hotels, but what sets the best hotels apart from the rest is how they are dealt with. All the staff we met were helpful, courteous, and polite. Issues we encountered were addressed immediately and every attempt was made to resolve them so that we went away happy with our stay.
In my view, InterContinental Hotel Malta has a long way to go to achieve its 'vision of becoming the Mediterranean’s leading hotel of distinction' in its fabric and facilities, but the guest relations are working hard to keep guests happy with the service they receive. What started out as a disappointing experience ended up exceeding our expectations.
20. Top Tips: How to Make the Most of Your Hotel Stay
- Join free hotel rewards loyalty schemes to collect points on stays and gain status. The higher you go, the better the perks.
- Research hotel brand credit cards to see if it's worth using one. Our free night came as a perk.
- Plan your trip. You might laugh, given our experience, but we chose to use this hotel because we could combine it with a points stay next door in the Holiday Inn Express.
- Email ahead of your stay if you have any queries. As no complimentary upgrade showed on the booking, my husband wanted to check room allocation.
- Check your rights as a brand loyalty scheme member before your stay. Find out what perks you are entitled to before you go. We were told we could check in at 11.00 am. Online it said 10.00 am, so we arrived then.
- Be prepared for a special occasion question. Some hotels appear keen to hand over complimentary bottles of wine at check-in.
- If drinks vouchers are offered at check-in, ask how many. The guidance generally in IHG brand hotels is one voucher per booking, but some will give two.
- If you are unhappy with your room, don't suffer in silence, say something. Give the hotel the opportunity to put it right.
- If it's not included, but it's available, consider the option of adding Club Lounge access to your booking. Do the maths, it might be worth it.
- Take photos if possible. Photographic proof of the poor leisure facilities helped our case.
- If you are unhappy about anything, be polite and reasonable. You will be surprised at how keen management often is to make amends.
- If management offers choices of options, weigh them up and choose what suits you best.
Enjoy your trip!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Liz Westwood