InterContinental Hotel Malta: An Upgrading Hotel Experience

InterContinental Malta

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

Location

Leisure Facilities

Food and Drink

Why We Chose to Stay

Initial Impressions

Check-In

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

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.

2. Location

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.

Swimming

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.

Skybeach

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.

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.

Spa

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.

Other Facilities

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.

Skybeach infinity pool.

Skybeach on the hotel roof.

Skybeach view over Paceville.

Skybeach infinity pool.

View towards the city from the Skybeach.

It’s a long way down from floor 19.

Skybeach infinity pool.

Indoor pool.

Corridor towards Charisma Spa.

Skybeach infinity pool.

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”.

Our Experience

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.

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.

Eurofile

7. Check-In

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.

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