In one of the finest twists of irony, nowhere is a parent more tested than traveling with children, especially the younger ones. One of the common jokes among parents of lighties – who love to empathise with each other when their paths cross – is that “I need to go home for a holiday”. With that in mind, there’s an eternal gap in the market for a fresh hotel concept that crosses the divide to captivate children of all ages while retaining a real touch of class. Most luxury hotels cater to children, and offer all the amenities expected of them, but so few cross the border into serving up something memorable and unique that draws in every member of the family.
Mauritius is the first-choice family destination for South Africans and there’s a world of hotels that promise every entertainment under the sun. Having been to all corners of the island over the last fifteen years, I’d seen my fair share of resorts, and they can seem a homogenous set, I’m sorry to say. I’d been invited to LUX* Belle Mare, and I was intrigued to see if it would stand up to the hype, especially with a ‘spectrum’ of three kids, aged 2 up to 11.
LUX* Resorts and Hotels had merged three of the industry’s finest talents into a venerable dream team – Paul Jones, CEO (formerly of One and Only), world-renowned interior designer Kelly Hoppen, and Piers Schmidt, kingpin of hotel branding for some of the finest residences known to luxury travellers. Between them, they tackled a stiff challenge to re-imagine contemporary luxury – a wise move on a new world order of savvy, social travelers. *LUX prides itself on its own signature moments – which they call ‘Reasons To Go’ – unique experiences that have the depth and thought to touch your rested soul and raise a smile. The moments which are familiar and important to you, are cleverly owned by the brand.
It starts as you step out of the airport shuttle and through the thatched walkway to reception – you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. The green tea scent seems to hang in the air, holding you until you leave. The foyer plays host to the magnificently styled Cafe LUX*, where barista Fabrice will make you almost any coffee concoction you can imagine from their own organic beans, freshly roasted on-site. The craft beer, B-LUX*, is available around the resort and on tap at the K Bar, a microbrewery conveniently situated by the pool. The Scrucap wine label is ‘own brand’, offering Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc specially made for LUX* by a number of carefully selected wine farms from The Cape. Parents tend to unwind rather quickly in an environment like this.
Then there’s the fun stuff. ‘Phone Home’, a London-style telephone box offering free calls anywhere in the world, ‘ICI’ a sorbet & fresh smoothies parlour by the pool for the morning which promptly changes into an ice cream stand in the afternoon. There’s an uber-cool lunch trailer, ‘El Jeffe’, inspired by Jon Favreau’s cult art movie Chef, offering a stylish take on hot dogs, nachos, burgers, and freshly prepared salads, and the Tree of Wishes, a living art installation to which hotel guests tie their own personal hopes and dreams with a ribbon.The hotel essentials also surpass the benchmark. The pool is the largest on the island and heated too, capable of changing the temperature to suit the climate of the day. In Mauritius, that’s (surprisingly) rare. The beach, voted one of the best in the world by CNN, is powder-soft immaculate and there isn’t that stinging coral that creeps onto the shoreline and has kids stepping out at their peril.
Rooms are generous with Junior Suites starting at 60m2, Ocean and Honeymoon Suites at 90m2, and villas from 160m2 to 255m2. Space matters on a family holiday. And, importantly, so does the bed, with most of the credit handed to the mattress, designed by an aeronautical engineer from Pretoria, and scientifically tested, one can only assume. The rooms and suites were Kelly Hoppen at her best – white with a touch of tropical colour – and parents can request two suites with interlinking doors totalling 120m2 and two lounges.
Aside from the full range of watersports and exercise facilities, PLAY, the Kids Club put on a wealth of daily activities but always with a touch of class as the denominator – henna tattoos, a big screen movie night on the beach with old-school popcorn machine and movie theatre usher, a Cake Boss afternoon (in honour of the DSTV show), where the kids crafted their own cakes and received a personalised certificate. On a number of mornings our daughters chased around the resort seeking any one of five ‘Messages in a Bottle’ – each containing a mystery prize. Adults weren’t shy of the hunt either. The Kids Club sidles up next to the sports club with free ‘Teddy Tennis’ lessons for the youngsters every morning, plus ping pong, gaming consoles and a pool table. At the award-winning spa, the kids can even have a massage, with chocolate-infused oils – no holds barred on novelty. For mums with toddlers, there are changing mats in various facilities with their own branded baby products – just to demonstrate that they understand the needs and luxuries a mother appreciates on holiday.
The luxury hotel seeks to cover the variety of associated cultures – Mauritian, The East and India – demonstrated in their four restaurants. There’s enough here to make you feel like you’ve been fortunate to experience a gourmet city break over a 7-night stay. But if you’re dining out with the kids, two of these restaurants in particular step forward into the limelight. There’s the main buffet restaurant, M.I.X.E. and then there’s Beach Rouge, which occupies a prime spot right on the sands and with spectacular views across the Indian Ocean – open for lunch and dinner. There’s a hint of Ibiza meets French Riviera in the airy white, light and bright decor. The restaurant and its deck spill onto pure white sand and turquoise water, with huge cushions on the beach – which allows for as much running room as you could dream of for young children, all under your watchful haze.
Great websites, photography and taglines are a dime a dozen. But the brand’s “Lighter. Brighter.” proposition stands up, the warmth of the staff shone, and the fine detail that was present in every dimension of the experience was branding at its finest. As you have your ‘ahaaa’ moment, you give credit in full because the idea was owned by the brand from beginning to end. And when all of these touch points connect, you waft through reception, say your farewells, and climb onto your transfer shuttle home, wondering what just happened to you.
For luxury travel bookings, please visit: http://www.opulentliving.travel/