It’s not often that I am completely underwhelmed by a hotel in this league, and I leave at the end of my stay having not enjoyed it at all, but Raffles on Praslin Island left me feeling numb.
I have stayed at a few Raffles properties over the years and have generally thought that they were up to the mark, those based in cities anyway. However, this one being the second resort of theirs that I’ve experienced, I’m not sure that this is their forte. Because although lovely in design and ‘hardware’, they do not seem to have the service or operational skills to cope with the demands of a resort clientele. There is no denying that Raffles Praslin has lovely accommodation and incredible views but I didn’t, at any time during my stay, get a warm and fuzzy feeling of actually being in paradise.
For the truth is, there is almost no ambiance here, with no ‘life’ in any of the resort’s communal areas. The pool and the beach were both seriously lacking in any aesthetic qualities and even at dinner, while there were several tables occupied, something was missing. I guess I just didn’t feel spoiled enough, or really welcome.
Worse yet, while the breakfast was good, the food was just awful at dinner. Maybe it was an off-day for them, but the lack of cohesion, genuine care and attention from the staff who dealt with my issues over the course of the evening meal, was dismal.
The hotel felt like it was almost empty during my stay. But when I asked for a late check-out I was made to feel it was all too hard and yet, I was told, they were only 65% full. Going out of their way was all too hard for the team working here. I left, reflecting that it was only the few local staff members, mostly driving the buggies, who were helpful and friendly. The rest, hailing from all over the globe, seemed disgruntled and not at all happy.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Buffet breakfast
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Spa credit
- US$100 or equivalent for treatments at the spa
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
- Detailed Review +
- Facts & Amenities +
I arrived at the hotel after a pleasant airport transfer with the property’s driver. It all looked promising. I walked into the outside space, which doubles as the lobby, to see only one desk occupied by a staff member who was already with some guests. There was no one else around but soon someone showed up who I thought was going to check me in, only to be asked to take a seat and and wait. Not a good start. A couple arrived who had been on my flight and were also told to wait. I asked where the restroom was and on my way there noticed half a dozen staff just outside, all standing around. I wondered, since I not only arrived at my estimated time but had come by a hotel car, how this could be deemed acceptable.
Finally, I was checked in and shown a couple of areas on the resort map and then taken to my room. I was not shown any of the resort on the way, and I was not impressed at all by the mediocrity of what should have been a simple check-in.
Rooms and suites
The villas are situated over the hillside, with views generally facing out to the bay and sea. My partial ocean-view was slightly obscured by another building, so I didn’t have a total view of the sea but still, the room was very nicely appointed. The villas are large, at 125 m² (1345 ft²), and while luxurious, are not particularly Seychellois in any way and to me seem similar to resort villas in Thailand and Bali.
Outdoor spaces consist of an sitting room with a dining table and sun loungers on the terrace next to a small plunge pool. French doors lead into the bedroom where there is a settee and a raised, king-sized bed, both with views down to the bay. From there, you walk through into a large dressing area with wardrobes.
The room is what I would call ‘contemporary, light and airy’ and is beautifully appointed. There is nothing that you would be disappointed with if you booked this category, but to have a full view of the sea, opt for the ocean-view or panoramic-view villas. The beds are fabulous—you’ll have a hard time getting up and out in the morning.
Technology in the rooms is fairly up-to-date, with large flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, many of which did not actually work. There is a control panel for the lights and a ‘do not disturb’ button and drapes button next to the bed, but I did notice that there was a lack of sockets and there are no USB ones either.
The hairdryer in the room has a very short spiral cable and the only socket to use is one next to the desk, where there is a vanity mirror. Annoyingly, the cable is not long enough to reach the mirror, a pet peeve of mine.
The air conditioning works well and is very quiet.
The bathroom is lovely. Square in shape with a sunken bathtub offering sea views, it is framed by picture windows with electric blinds. There is a large, double vanity unit with plenty of space to store toiletries, and off of this is a separate small room which houses the toilet and bidet and a large walk-in shower. All of this is done-up in marble from floor to ceiling. The lighting is ample and there is a vanity mirror on the wall to use for makeup or shaving.
Asprey Purple Water is offered in 50 ml bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and body lotion. The cleaning staff left only one set and didn’t replace it at turn-down—or leave spares—so I had to ask for more before I could shower in the morning. Also, my body lotion had been used before as it was all messy around the opening: gross.
The word disaster aptly sums up my dinner at Curieuse Restaurant. It started off with my request for a piña colada which, to me, is essentially a holiday smoothie with a bit of rum and not hard to concoct. Anyway, aren’t coconuts ubiquitous in the Seychelles, especially on the island of Praslin?
My cocktail arrived—essentially pineapple juice with some rum and no coconut cream to be seen. Returned to sender, another arrived with a cloudier consistency and when I again turned it down and requested to alter my drinks order, the barman came over and asked me what was wrong with it. When I explained that it just didn’t cut the mustard and I was happy to drink something else, he told me indignantly that his blender was broken. Seriously? So I ordered a G&T but the tonic water was out of date and flat, which I again had to send back for a replacement. Just what did a girl have to do to get a drink around here, I wondered…
Refreshed, finally, I arrived at the dinner table sure that the menu would delight as it was heavy on Asian staples and some dishes with a twist.
I ordered a potato-based Indian starter and requested that it came ‘mild’. No problem, I was assured. For mains, a Thai Green curry with king prawns, asking again, “More creamy than spicy, please.” My companion chose chicken satay and then a red fish Thai curry. And we waited.
About 45 minutes later, our starters arrived. Bearing in mind there were only about ten tables occupied, I wasn’t impressed. Yet things got worse. My Indian potato special arrived looking like chips with a runny sauce. Raffles is an Asian hotel group, after all, so I thought for sure this dish would taste better than it looked, but one bite and I nearly went supernova. Heavily spiced was an understatement.
I left the food and when the waiter came over I told him that the dish was far too hot and I refused the offer to replace it as, to be honest, even if it was cooler it was still basically chips with sauce and not the Bombay potato bhaji I was expecting. Minutes later, the chef appeared and informed me that he thought it was not spicy and when both myself and my dining companion challenged this, he mumbled a quasi apology and went back inside.
Our next courses arrived and were just as mediocre; the green curry was at least edible and not too spicy but the red fish curry had basically been fried in batter and then put in a sauce, greasy and unappetising. To top it all off, the bill arrived and on closer inspection, we had been charged for about four drinks too many. The F&B manager made an appearance and said that a misunderstanding had happened and made a big fanfare that he was ripping up the bill, which, mind you, was about £100 over-charged.
What did he want, gratitude for charging us too much? I left completely underwhelmed on both the service and the cuisine.
Other restaurant options
I had breakfast the following morning in Losean, which becomes the Indian Ocean restaurant at night. The breakfast was buffet-style with an egg station; Thai and Indian breakfasts and juices; and freshly baked breads and pastries galore. It was a good experience and I left satiated and pleased with the service levels here.
Spa and wellness
I hit the gym one morning which I liked a lot. The equipment—all Technogym—was obviously new and state-of-the-art with enough free weights to keep an army unit happy. Lacking was a mat area but I decided to use the yoga mat in my villa instead.
Speaking of yoga, I was going to book into a yoga session which was on the daily activities list. I then noticed that there was quite a hefty charge for such an activity which seemed a little mean as other hotels on the islands here offer comp yoga sessions. This ‘nickel and diming’ of guests is not very smooth.
Pool and beach
The pool was large and half-moon shaped, set over two levels. It was a nice design and in black tile. Sadly, there was no space to sunbathe. The terrace for the sun loungers is only on one side, adjacent to the restaurant, and there are some large, double day-beds along the pool’s edge and the odd splattering of normal metal sun loungers, which are not very comfortable as they have no mattresses on them. I suppose that in a resort where the rooms all have pools, it may be assumed that the main pool wouldn’t see so much action, but when I was there, every lounger was occupied, probably by guests craving some other guest interaction. This lack of a communal area is a negative for a resort of this size.
The beaches in the Seychelles are renowned for being some of the best in the world and you see this as you are driving around the island on the way to the hotel. So I was very disappointed when I went down to the beach and it was small, with no sun loungers laid out at all, and just one guest who had obviously just found a lounger and dumped it on the beach himself. I thought that I must have found the wrong venue and walked along to discover a second beach, pretty and overhung by trees in a long, coved bay. There I ran into a member of the hotel staff who told me that it was not possible to put loungers on the beaches. Really? Why?
Staff and service
Senior management were notably absent and junior management seemed insincere when hearing that there were problems during my stay. They almost seemed to be running for cover.
It wasn’t that the staff were bad or ill-trained. They were, by and large, very pleasant and helpful but ineffective. There is a language issue as well, as a lot of the staff here are from Asia rather than being local. In comparison to the other hotels I reviewed in the Seychelles, the service here is lacking.
The majority of guests were Asian and European. Mostly younger couples, many looked to be honeymooners and there were a few families with children. But although there’s a kids’ club, I don’t think this resort is geared up for kids in terms of layout or facilities. Mine, as an example, would not be happy here.
I called for a buggy to collect me and was greeted by the charming driver who drove me up on arrival. He took me to the lobby area and I was told to sit down at a desk which was in the full sun. Yet another example of carelessness and oversight. I quickly settled up and was escorted to my car for the 30-minute ride to the airport.
How to get there
20 minutes by flight from Mahe International Airport