27 August 2020
Malta – 16th-19th July 2020
Travelling and the Travel Industry is in my blood so one of the toughest parts of the UK lockdown for me personally was the closure of the skies and the feeling that we just didn’t know when things would return to any sort of normal. Thankfully the restrictions started to lift from 11th July 2020 so in conjunction with the Malta Tourism Authority we nipped off to Malta and Gozo for three nights just to understand what travelling in the “New Normal” looked like. The big question for me was “Can it feel like you’re on holiday with all the new safety measures in place?”….. thankfully it was clear to me very quickly that the answer to this was yes!
Departing from Birmingham on 16th July 2020 I was really pleased to see the age old British respectfulness in full swing with everyone wearing masks and adhering to social distancing measures. The airport checked our temperature as we walked through the front doors and check-in was smooth and calm. Heading through to Departures the Duty Free shop was open albeit they have had to remove all testers so make sure you know what you want with fragrances and make-up before you go…. There were some really good offers in place so watch out for these.
Top Tip for the airport – give yourself some extra time, be ready to queue for the main shops like Boots and WH Smiths along with the restaurants and bars due to CV-19 social distancing measures slowing everything down.
Top Tip for travelling – Make sure you wear/try out your mask before you travel, personally I didn’t struggle with mine but had worn it a few times and was used to it but I could see lots of passengers fidgeting with theirs who were clearly not used to it.
The flight was around 80% full and once boarded everyone continued to wear their masks. If you need to use the toilet you need to use your call button and the cabin crew come and get you once there is a toilet free. Food and snacks were available however you can only pay by card and not cash.
We had to complete two forms to hand over on arrival in Malta, both of which ensured we could be traced if need be. You can download these forms from the Malta Government website on THIS LINK and I’d recommend completing them before you go as there was limited space to do them in the airport on arrival. Masks were worn throughout the airport in Malta however everything was organized and quiet and we retrieved our luggage and were on our way fairly quickly. Our taxi had a Perspex screen between the front and the back and we had to wear masks whilst in it, like you have to on all public transport in Malta still.
I always love the feeling when you drive up to your hotel for the first time when you’re away…. And we were certainly not disappointed when arriving at the elegant 5* Phoenicia ideally located just on the edge of Valetta. Again, our temperatures were checked on arrival by concierge and screens had been added to reception to ensure safety… despite this though the service and the smiles still shone through and the team were exceptional in helping us understand they changes and we felt very reassured. All staff at the hotel were wearing masks or visors however guests are not expected to do so. Hand sanitizer stations were everywhere and became a natural part of our trip.
The hotel explained their standards with room cleanliness in detail. They had removed all unnecessary items from rooms however we had received a pre-arrival list of what we could request to be added back in, I chose an ironing board & iron and a hairdryer. The rooms were deep cleaned between guests and a really nice touch was once the room had been sanitized they put a sticker across the door and the door frame to show that it was sealed when you arrived and you were the first person post-sanitisation to enter the room. We were given the choice of having a main clean daily or not so you had everything within your control relating to who entered “your space” A nice touch of a PPE pack was provided with a mask and a wipe in it.
Within the hotel the pool was open which we were very happy about as it is a stunning infinity pool with great views, sunsets and tasty cocktails. We also had dinner here on our first night which was a great spot with quality food.
We met our guide for the trip, Vicky who was extremely experienced and knowledgeable and took us on a walking tour of Valetta including the Cathedral and Barrakk Gardens which were a great spot for heady views over to the three cities whilst sipping a cool drink. We had to wear masks in the cathedral however other than this we were outside where they weren’t required, which was a relief in 29 degrees! Over our three days we fell in love with the stunning scenery, history and culture of Malta and Gozo and accompanied by Vicky we always had someone on hand to answer our questions.
During our stay we visited 9 further hotels, 7 in Malta and 2 in Gozo and we were impressed at how everyone had adapted their approach in line with guidelines provided. It didn’t take long at all for us to settle into the slightly adapted ways and feel like we were on holiday…. Pools were open, guests were sipping cocktails and whilst restaurants were adapting in many cases to table service rather than buffets the food remained of excellent quality.
On the subject of food Malta has been proud to have 3 restaurants awarded Michelin Stars this February which was the culmination of a lot of focus to put them on the gastronomy map. We ate at the well-known De Mondian restaurant which was one of these restaurants. The restaurant is part of the Xara Palace Relais & Chateau Hotel set in the most stunning of locations in Mdina. The hotel has just 17 rooms each with their own individual style and provides a personal service second to none. The restaurant De Mondian was awarded it’s first Michelin star in February 2020 and has an enviable location overlooking a 180-degree vista which especially on Saturday nights provides the wonderful sight of fireworks going off in all the local towns as the locals celebrate their Festas. This is a great spot for a romantic meal or special occasion and the food was superb.
Out and about we were amazed at how easy it was to get to Gozo, a 25-minute ferry ride away with frequent roll on / roll off ferries and a cost of 4.5 euros per person return and for a car 15 euros. Once in Gozo there’s so many beautiful areas to see. In particular we loved the Citadel and the cobbled streets of the stunning villages and our day was completed with a “Secret Picnic” which had been booked for us with a local business who arrange picnics all over the island in different locations, again perfect for celebrations or a proposal. Your Personal Travel Agent will be able to tell you more about these.
We return home richer for our experience in Malta and Gozo and I’m personally reassured that I can answer my question “Can it feel like you’re on holiday with all the new safety measures in place?” with a confident yes and it will be added to our list as a business that we feel confident recommending to our customers be it for a cool city break, a family beach stay or a cultural adventure. One thing is for sure, I will return!
Our suggested itinerary for a long weekend break…..
Day 1 – travelling and checking in at hotel Phoenicia, Valetta
· Once arrived and checked in do a walking tour of Valetta including the Cathedral and Barrokk Gardens
· Take some time to relax by the beautiful Phoenicia infinity pool which a cocktail and watch sunset
Day 2 – See Malta
· Take a tour of Malta with a guide to see the various jewels available
· Include brunch at Two Buoys restaurant on The Harbour at St Julian’s
· In the evening head to Mdina and have a stroll around followed by dinner at the Michelin Star De Mondian restaurant with amazing views (on a Surday you will see fireworks)
Day 3 – Visit Gozo
· Either drive or take a tour to Gozo
· Take the 25 minute ferry ride and once in Gozo head for the Citadel and for swimming at one of the many beaches (if you can steer this day away from the weekend days the beaches will be quieter)
· Return to Malta and enjoy an evening in Valetta with a stroll around the cobbled backstreets where restaurants and bars are plentiful