Trip Report: Raffles Praslin Seychelles

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  1. Prior2Boarding

    Prior2Boarding New Member

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    ***This is part 10 of my "Camels, Bats, and Bloggers" trip report detailing a recent trip to Dubai and Seychelles, with a final stop in Las Vegas to attend the 2014 BAcon conference hosted by BoardingArea***1. Introduction - Camels, Bats, and Bloggers2. Emirates Lounge at SFO 3. Emirates First Class San Francisco to Dubai4. Conrad Dubai5. Old Dubai, Ski Dubai, and At the Top6. Emirates Terminal B First Class Lounge at DXB7. Emirates First Class Dubai to Mahe, Seychelles8. Four Seasons Seychelles 9. Air Seychelles Economy Class Mahe to Praslin10. Raffles Praslin Seychelles11. Island Hopping - La Digue12. Island Hopping - Praslin, Cousine, Curieuse, St. Pierre13. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa14. Emirates Business Class Mahe, Seychelles to Dubai15. 7-Star Luxury at the Burj Al Arab16. British Airways Lounge at DXB17. Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai to Los Angeles via Hong Kong18. 2014 BAcon Conference in Las Vegas + Mandalay Bay Hotel19. American Express Centurion Lounge at LAS _______________________________Getting there/Check-inWe had pre-arranged airport transfer in the hotel car, which meant a much less stressful drive to the hotel compared to our adventure in Mahe. I had looked into renting a car for our 3-night stay in Praslin, but didn't feel like it was necessary since we'd primarily be using Praslin as a launching point for island hopping over the next few days, and thus spending more time on the water than on the road.An added benefit of having a driver was that he doubled as a guide and gave us the ins and outs of everything on Praslin island. On the way to the hotel, he pointed out some of the key landmarks, including Vallee De Mai, Cafe des Arts, and several beaches that we returned to later on during our stay.30 minutes later we rounded the final corner and entered the gates of the Raffles Praslin property. It's a relatively new resort that opened in 2011, featuring 86 villas spread out across an expansive hillside overlooking Curieuse Island.We pulled into the circular driveway leading up to the lobby, where a crowd had gathered with several parties waiting to check-in. We grabbed a seat and waited a few minutes before it was our turn. During check-in, we received a overview of the resort including details on the resort facilities, restaurants, the beach, and activities.Views of Curieuse Island all aroundRaffles Praslin lobbyOur VillaWe had booked a Panoramic Pool Villa which was located at one of the highest points of the resort, with amazing views of Curieuse Island from our doorstep. For the most part, most of the villas have a very similar layout, and all feature an outdoor deck with a plunge pool.We hopped in the buggy after check-in and started the climb up the the hill toward our villa. Perhaps it was the luggage, or perhaps I had a bit too much to eat that morning, because the buggy was really struggling to make it up the hill. Turns out that this was a regular occurrence with all of our buggy rides, so it appears that the hotel cheaped out on buggies with the requisite horsepower to climb its own hills.The villas are found in pairs, sharing a walkway from the road that branches off in opposite directions. Given the proximity between the villas, you can hear your neighbors at times when outside, but other than the occasional noise the villas were very private and spacious.Heading through the front door took us to the outdoor deck which had a large sofa, reclining sun chairs, dining table, and plunge pool. Heading into our villaOutdoor patioTrying to spot the pot of goldView of the other villasPlunge poolFrom the outdoor patio, there is another point-of-entry requiring the key card in the form of two huge glass sliding doors that open up into the bedroom. For the most part, we would just leave these open while inside the villa.First impressions? A much more modern style here than at the Four Seasons, and a bit more high-tech with the lighting and sound in the room controlled by a master panel located on the night stand. There was a nice welcome gift with a card, fruit, and chocolates waiting for us.Sliding doors leading into the villaBedroom View from the bedroomWelcome giftEasel for the artists out thereNext to the bedroom was a small workplace, which was adjacent to the wardrobe, and led into the bathroom which featured a comfortable tub with great views out into the ocean. There was another door at the back of the bathroom which led out into a small outdoor space where the outdoor shower was located.Work areaBathroomBathtubIndoor showerOutdoor showerResort FacilitiesUnless you're spending more than 3 nights here, most of your time will likely be spent off-resort. As I mentioned before, Praslin is a perfect launching point for island hopping and that's where the majority of our time was spent. Also, because we had done most of our relaxation already in Mahe, we didn't really budget any time for the spa and gym here. However, we did carve out some time to spend at the pool which is truly special. It's the largest, most unique pool I've come across at a hotel. The best way to describe the shape of a pool is like two bananas next to each other. Now imagine those bananas are about 50 meters long and staggered at two different heights, with a constant waterfall effect flowing between them. Hotel Pool After taking a swim, we decided to check out the hotel's beach. Unfortunately, there wasn't much beach equipment available for use, which was a shame because the waves were perfect for boggie boarding. The long stretch of beach is broken up by granite rock formations, which effectively turn it into 4 separate segments.Only the 1st beach area had sun chairs and beach service, so as you can imagine that's where most of the guests hung out. We actually preferred walking down to the 3rd and 4th sections which were more secluded and private. On the way, there's also a small garden that you can walk through.Raffles Praslin beachLove Tree GardenActivitiesI'll cover the island hopping in a separate post, since those activities weren't directly associated with the resort. Other than hanging out at the beach we didn't do much at the hotel, but one afternoon we took advantage of the complimentary bicycle rentals and headed over to Anse Lazio.It's only a 15 minute ride if you're able to stay on your bike the entire way. That's a big "if" for most people, since in the middle of the ride there were some Tour De France-level hills that we simply couldn't climb and had to jump off and push our bikes up. To make ourselves feel better, it seemed like everyone was having the same issue.We finally made it and hung out at Anse Lazio for a couple hours. It's certainly one of the most popular beaches on Praslin, and it was a revolving door of taxis and tour buses coming by to drop of people. One of the big reasons that Anse Lazio is so popular is that there was a nice selection of beach restaurants to grab a bite and relax. Overall, we're glad we stopped by but it was a bit too crowded and very wavy and thus hard to swim.Anse LazioFood and BeverageBreakfast was served each morning at Losean restaurant with a relatively simply breakfast buffet which offered mostly Western options, along with a couple Asian items, and small pastry selection. The highlight here was the fresh fruits which varied daily, and had more exotic options than you usually find such as longans, lychees, bread fruit, and soursop.Losean restaurantFresh fruitBreakfast selectionSince most of our time was spent off-resort, we had most of our meals away from the hotel. We did order room service one night for dinner, which included a seafood pizza and octopus curry. Sadly, the food here wasn't as good as what we were able to find off the side of the road in La Digue.Room service - seafood and octopus curryOur best meal of the entire trip was off-resort at Cafe des Arts, which is a 10-15 minute drive from the hotel. It's one of the most well-known restaurants on Praslin, and we actually ran into several other hotel guests here who had the same idea as us.It's one of the most romantic settings you could ever find, located right along the ocean where you can listen to the crashing waves throughout your meal. They also had live music which was a great touch and added to the romantic ambiance. To this point we hadn't really had a true seafood meal. We decided that this was the time and ordered the signature seafood platter. Wow, this was a true feast. Every type of seafood you could crave was in there - lobster, crab, fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams. And all smothered in the most amazing butter and white wine sauce that was so good that we tried to pry the recipe out of the owner. The owner by the way was fantastic, constantly walking around to check on everyone and make sure they were having an enjoyable dinner. This was by far the best meal we had while in the Seychelles, and I'd highly recommend eating here when visiting Praslin.Cafe des Arts exteriorBeautiful flower arrangementDelicious seafood platterCoconut and bread fruit dessertFinal ThoughtsWith its modern villas, new facilities and amazing location and views, the Raffles is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, hotels on Praslin and has everything needed to be a world-class resort. I really wanted to love this place, but I didn't. It was a very clear rung below the Four Seasons, and it all comes down to the little things which in many cases the Raffles simply did not get right. A few examples:Service: it's not like they are lacking in bodies, there's actually a great staff-to-guest ratio. I think the problem is that the staff lack proper direction, with an opportunity here for a full operational makeover. For example, our calls to the lobby were only answered 50% of the time, yet every time we walked by the lobby there were no fewer than 5-10 people standing around.Amenities: no slippers or beach bag were provided to guests. Given that this is a beach resort, I have no clue why they don't a beach bag for use during the stay. Everywhere we went we saw guests bringing their Constance Lemuria bags around, and would be a perfect opportunity to build the Raffles brand and advertise by having their guests do the same.Villa: I completely understand that at island hotels things can go wrong, but neither of the issues we encountered were handled satisfactorily. First, our hot water heater fuse blew out, and required 3 visits from the repairman before it was correctly fixed. Second, our phone line died multiple times which required us to walk down to the lobby in order to speak with someone. No dry area: This one really left me baffled, our villa had literally no outdoor space available to hang dry our clothes, which is essential at a beach resort. There was a clothes line attached to the outdoor shower, but with no cover and constant rain you can imagine how effective that was. And the outdoor patio had a small area that was covered, but the wind blew the rain directly into that area and would again keep things wet.I'd still recommend the Raffles to others who are looking for a resort on Praslin, but I certainly think there's room for improvement here. Hopefully these little things can be addressed, be in theory they should also be the easiest to fix.

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