Before I start telling you about my recent stay at the Hilton Hotel in Malta I have to admit that even though my last ten years of intense travel meant I stayed in lots of hotels, I never felt I´d fall in love with any of them. I was impressed, yes, but never like this. I recall my last evening, while enjoying a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the terrace of the Quarterdeck bar and admiring the view over the Portomaso Marina, how I wished so badly this trip wouldn’t end.
When you go on holiday you want to leave all your worries at home and just enjoy quality time together with your loved ones. You want everything to be perfect and this is what you will find at the Hilton in Malta: perfection! Even if the Hilton is a massive hotel with 413 rooms and hundreds of guests every day, I still felt I was treated like a VIP by every single member of the staff.
After a crazy journey from the airport where I experienced the chaotic Maltese driving and traffic jams, I arrived at the Hilton in St Julian’s (San Giljan in Maltese). However, all the chaos disappeared as soon as I stepped inside the hotel. I was greeted with a large smile by one of the receptionists standing behind the reception area decorated with an engraved map of the Portomaso Marina. I was early and the room was not ready yet so I was offered a remote control to let me know when the room was ready and my luggage was taken away so I could walk around and discover the Vista lobby lounge.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and I chose to wait on the outside terrace overlooking the pools and the sea. At home, in England, it had been raining for over a week and I was craving the warmth of the sun. The terrace is actually brand new and was built during ten weeks of renovation that took place in spring. During the same period, 290 rooms were renovated and given a modern Mediterranean feel.
You´ll be pleased to know that all rooms at the Hilton overlook either the sea or the Portomaso Marina, so you will always have a beautiful view and balcony while staying there. The best part is that every morning you can enjoy the sunrise from your bed as the hotel faces east.
I knew my room was ready when the remote beeped so I headed toward reception to get my bag. My room was on the 10th floor, which is the executive level. By booking an executive room you have access to the executive lounge on the 9th floor.
The reception is situated on the 5th floor (even though when you first arrive it looks as though it’s on the ground floor, that´s because the hotel is on a cliff) and if you want to go further up you need to use your key card on the lifts. I considered this a great security feature restricting non-guests from the upper floors where the rooms are located.
The minute I entered the room I was impressed by how spacious, modern and bright it was. Beside the bed there was a nice living room area with a comfy sofa, an armchair and a coffee table. The view from the balcony was breathtaking, overlooking the sea and the pools.
One of the disadvantages of travelling so often is that my back gets all the pressure from tiny plane or train seats, crowded buses with only standing room, so when I sleep I need good support so the pain subsides. The bed at the Hilton was simply amazing and I slept like a baby every night, waking up rested and ready for a new day. I discovered later that the Hilton has its mattresses custom designed with extra coil support and an innovative quilt design and plush top which improves circulation and reduces night time restlessness. The pillows were made of foam, which means they mould to your body shape to give you a natural position and they were also hypoallergenic. If I wanted another type of pillow, there was an entire list I could have chosen from for only three euros a day.
I was welcomed to my room with a note from the manager of the hotel and a tray of delicious cakes, which I considered very thoughtful. I enjoyed eating them on the balcony while enjoying the view.
The first thing I did after settling into the room was take a shower and change into summery clothes. It was 30 degrees outside and Malta was waiting to be explored. Have you ever imagined what your perfect bathroom would look like? Well the one I was just stepping into was just that! The toilet was at the back, separated by a glass door, next to a large shower cubicle which had a large shower head with great pressure, perfect to relax my shoulders.
In the other corner of the bathroom was a large round bath with a window toward the room and a curtain to hide it if I wanted to. Across from it were two sinks (one for him and one for her) and two mirrors, with a set of luxury toiletries inbetween.
One thing that impressed me is that the cleaning lady would come several times a day to clean the room. Every time I returned to the room all the towels had been re-arranged and the toiletries replaced, the bed cover was on or off the bed – depending if it was morning or evening and every day I got a new packet of lemon shortbread cookies and a bottle of water.
Breakfast at the Hilton Malta is served at the Oceana Restaurant and is an experience in itself. The food selection is vast and covers all tastes. I was happy to find the Maltese food corner where fresh pastizzi and other traditional delicacies were served. Every day there was a different selection. There was even a gluten free section from where I tried out the rice milk for my coffee.
I was impressed by the cooking station, where a chef made omelettes to order using fresh ingredients chosen by the customer. Every time my spinach, tomato and cheese omelettes were perfect! In another corner, another chef was making fresh pancakes or waffles, while another is preparing the freshly-squeezed orange juice.
The best time to go for breakfast is before 8, when it’s not too busy. This way you will make sure that you will get to sit and enjoy it outside, by the pool.
As I mentioned before, if you book an executive room you will have access to the executive lounge on the 9th floor. Here you can enjoy lovely views over the pool and the sea and also have breakfast in a more intimate and quiet atmosphere. In the lounge afternoon tea is served between 3 and 5.30pm and also pre dinner drinks and canapés between 6 and 8pm.
Even if there are a lot of places to explore in Malta, sometimes you just want to relax by the pool with a nice cocktail and a good book. This is exactly what I did. When I checked in, together with my room key I also got a card which I could exchange at the pool for a towel. There were plenty of unoccupied beach loungers and I could choose wherever I wanted to be. Every 2 loungers had an umbrella with a call button and a table with the beach bar menu written on them.
There are 4 outdoor pools, a Jacuzzi, two paddle pools, a kids club, the Aqua bar and the Merkanti Beach Club and Bistro which was unfortunately closed for the winter season. If I had arrived just a week earlier it would have been open.
One morning I woke at sunrise and went to swim in the adult only pool. It was a special experience because I was the only one there. It was amazing to see the sun rising and its orange rays reflected in the pool’s water.
Hilton Malta also has an outstanding health club equipped with an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, fitness studio with more than 35 classes a week, spinning studio, games room, table tennis, squash and tennis courts. You could also opt for one (or more) of the 80 unique treatments available at the Myoka 5 Sense Spa, where you could relax and unwind. You can actually book a luxury spa break package at the Hilton Malta!
I had the pleasure of dining at Oceana, the main restaurant at the Hilton Malta. Decorated with blue and white chairs and high ceilings with silver lamps that look like fluffy clouds, Oceana Restaurant is the perfect place to sample the flavours of Mediterranean cuisine.
Besides the Oceana Restaurant, Hilton Malta is the home of The Blue Elephant Thai Restaurant (one of a few on the island), the Quarterdeck Bar, the Vista lobby Lounge and the Merkanti Bistro (in summer months).
Next time I visit Malta I will definitely dine at the Blue Elephant too. The restaurant is designed to look like an authentic Thai village with lush vegetation and even a waterfall inside. Some of the dining areas are huts and if you require privacy you can always shut the doors.
During my last evening in Malta I went for a drink at the Quarterdeck Bar, which is designed with a nautical theme in mind. The ceiling is an outstanding work of art with an enormous round painting depicting the 12 zodiac signs. Here, at the Quarterdeck Bar, every Tuesday you can enjoy live jazz music while sipping from a glass of gin.
The Hilton Malta is also the perfect venue for weddings with an impressive banquet hall boasting stunning mirrors on the ceiling. In fact, when I was there, five couples were getting married on just one day. Who would not love to say “I do” among the olive trees around the pools?
Hilton Malta is located in St Julian’s, just a short 15 minutes’ drive to Valetta or a relaxing 30 minute walk from the Sliema ferry that goes to Valetta. The St Julian’s area is lively with an abundance of restaurants and bars overlooking the sea.
I had the chance to ask the management a few questions about the hotel
Each guest is different and wants their vacation to be perfect. What are the unique experiences and services that you provide to your guests in order to make their stay extraordinary?
The Hilton Malta has always welcomed guests from all over the world, from different cultures, and with varying culinary tastes and expectations. The hotel has just undergone a €15 million refurbishment and, now more than ever, boasts a selection of rooms and suites appealing to the tastes and needs of business and leisure travellers alike. Moreover, from the very moment you walk into the hotel, you are welcomed by the warmth and attentiveness of our staff, and by a soothing and sophisticated Mediterranean atmosphere. Whatever guests are looking to get out of their stay at the Hilton Malta, our extensive list of facilities assures them a home away from home and a memorable experience, namely:
- 413 comfortable guest rooms
- 19 meeting rooms and a Business Centre
- Executive Lounge
- 3 restaurants and 4 bars
- 4 outdoor pools and 1 indoor pool
- Living Well Health Club
How much team work goes into making sure that each guest will have a memorable stay?
The efficiency and quality of our hospitality is based on consistency, team work and effective communication among team members and departments. Only through a strong and enthusiastic liaison among our people can we work around our guests’ varying needs and special requests, and most of all aim at exceeding their expectations. Our teams live by a culture where going the extra mile to support a colleague will make the difference between a guest’s good experience and a great one.
How important is the team work at Hilton? Do you have any stories you can share about your team’s successes?
Training and coaching team members is fundamental in order to make them absorb the essence of hospitality, and feel comfortable approaching our guests and understanding their requirements. We empower our team to take any necessary action and use their judgement, no matter their level of responsibility, in order to improve guest satisfaction. If they don’t feel they are able to handle a challenge, then they are encouraged to bring it to their supervisor’s attention.
This however is not enough: we also train them to be positive whenever a challenge occurs, so that they are able to proactively implement our “Make it Right” procedure, whereby every single team member is trained to action and correct any shortfall in service.
Did you ever have any unique requests from your guests? What are some amazing things that your Concierge can arrange for your guests?
At the Concierge Desk, we assist a lot of guests with information that might seem trivial to locals, such as where to visit and which buses to take, which however is greatly appreciated, particularly by first time visitors. One can easily forget how packed our Island is with history and culture, but we are reminded of it every time we welcome a guest back after a day out exploring Malta. As they recount their adventures and experiences, our guests make us aware of things that we may have missed ourselves. There is no such thing as a routine job in this business – you learn something new every day! This improves our ability to make recommendations to guests, as we get to see things from the perspective of a local as well as that of a visitor.
We assist guests on a day to day basis with their transportation requirements, last-minute flight changes, tickets for sold-out events and reservations for top tables at restaurants that are already fully booked! Just recently, we had a request from a Prince requesting a Super Yacht to be made available within the hour, as well as catering requests for exotic foods, drinks and water sports equipment. Needless to say it was quite a challenge being a Sunday afternoon. That said however, nothing is more satisfying than accepting such challenges and seeing everything come together in time for the guest’s arrival.
How would you describe your hotel management philosophy?
Our philosophy is focused on adopting strategies leading to the achievement of goals and results. We make sure that everybody is on board, understands the set goals, and feels confident that they can be achieved. We also work on ways to reduce waste and utility costs, help our local community and sustain our eco-system. We feel that involving our teams in these processes allows us to look more closely at the operation and identify opportunities for improvement. To this end, we adopt a bottom-up approach where we ask our team members, working in committees, to come up with ideas on working better and more efficiently, to improve our guests’ experience and reach our other goals.
What are you doing to reduce your environmental impact and how do you contribute to the local community?
At Hilton Malta we carry out a number of sustainable measures to minimise waste of energy and resources, both for the sake of cost-containment and as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility. The culture of reducing waste is part of the induction training given to our Team members, and is reinforced through monthly communication meetings.
We use what is called a Building Management System to control and monitor the lighting, heating/cooling and water irrigation systems automatically. We also have a separate Room Management System to control energy waste in guest rooms. Water aerators reduce water flow in tap water without affecting guest comfort. We are one of two hotels on the island that treat waste water for ‘second class use’, that is, for flushing and irrigation. All lights are of the latest LED low-wattage rating with high lumens.
We contribute to the local community first by being an eco-conscious hotel, going well beyond the strict minimum criteria laid out by our regulators. Waste management and separation is practised both in the public and guest areas, as well as in the back-of-house with our team members.
Finally, we reach out to young people in the community by providing local and foreign students with information and tours of the hotel for their school projects and assignments.
We are proud of our efforts to give back to the community and environment in which we work, and we will keep coming up with ideas to make our contribution more valuable and impactful.
Disclaimer: Please note that my stay at the Hilton Malta was complimentary. However, all comments and opinions in this article are my own.