Sunday 22nd July, 2018

Le Meridien Noumea, New Caledonia

This deluxe hotel is reputedly the finest in New Caledonia. The drive from Tontouta international airport is 45 minutes and takes you through some beautiful scenery, through the city of Noumea to the outskirts where the Le Meridien is located on a peninsular with panoramic views all round of the ocean. The taxi fare from the airport is a hefty 8,500 Pacific French Francs (CFP) which equates to around $65 to $70 US. Most people travel by bus (there was only one taxi on stand by at the time of our arrival) at a cost of 2,500 CFP (around $20 US). Pre-arranged private cars and taxis can be arranged by the hotel at 7,000 CFP, we found out later.

The hotel is not new but has been impeccably maintained. It is set amidst tropical gardens and palm trees, has 240 rooms and 15 suites. There are additionally 6 rooms especially designed for the disabled.

Stepping into the lobby we were greeted to an elaborate lay-out, extremely spacious with views over the gardens. Check-in was professional and swift. The hotel also assisted by picking up the taxi fare which they added to the bill. If and when you travel to Noumea, be sure to convert your currency in the baggage area at the airport. The only foreign exchange bureau is in that area and once you exit customs you will be unable to change money at the airport.

The room tariff at the hotel we accessed through International Hotel was 28,050 CFP (around $220 US). Most rooms in the hotel appear to be labelled 'Deluxe Standard'. There is also a 'Deluxe Superior' which has a full ocean view.

The room we were allocated turned out to be spacious with a queen size bed, a bed width foot stool, two armchairs, a table and the usual adornments. A large drawer chest was a handy feature. The bathroom was a good size and had a bath and separate shower, and a separate toilet. An unusual feature was the large window in the bathroom which open on to the bedroom. There were shutters which could close off the window for privacy.

Our outlook was over the tropical gardens, the hotel pool and with glimpses of the sea. A generous balcony with outdoor furniture allowed us to take advantage of the outlook.

In all we found the rooms of an excellent standard with all the usual amenities and the couple of unusual features we have already mentioned.

The telephone did not have a computer modem so a replacement was requested and it arrived within a few minutes.

We were also given a one page sheet of instructions which detailed a local telephone access number and password so as to set up local Internet access. Cost for this service was 130 CPF (about $1 US) per minute. Unfortunately the access is quite slow, which is frustrating and, at $1 US per minute, can be quite expensive.

In the early evening we had a drink (a beer cost 450 CPF or $3.50 US) in Le Bar, which is located in the Lobby. Table service was not up to speed and a number of guests were ordering direct from the bar, rather than wait. Nuts and olives were served, a nice touch. Entertainment was being set up which was to get underway around 7.30pm.

We then headed off to Le Sextant, where international buffets are held each night. This was a Wednesday night and the theme was Italian. The selection was quite good, both cold and hot dishes, salads, a lot of sea food, breads, bread sticks, cheeses and desserts. On stand-by was a chef waiting to cook up a variety of pasta dishes.

The quality of the food was quite good and the service very good. Cost of the buffet was 7,600 CFP (about $60 US), although this tended to vary over different nights. Tax is applied to all purchases of 4%.

Entertainment is provided on Thursday nights when the theme is Tahitian, and on Mondays nights which are reserved for the New Caledonian theme. Tuesday and Friday nights are Seafood nights, Saturday 'Around the World' and Sundays the 'French Bistrot Evening'. Despite the change of theme each night the range of dishes varied little. The same salads, appetisers, desserts and vegetable dishes were put out each night.

The hotel also features a fine dining restaurant, Hippocampe which provides traditional French dishes and an international wine list, and a classic Japanese restaurant, Shogun.

The hotel has a health club, disappointingly there are only manual running machines (two). There are four Cybex strength machines, massage facilities, some dumb bells and a sauna. There is also an extensive skin care clinic and hair salon. Tennis Courts are also on the premises.

A nearby games rooms offers 'billiards' (more aptly, a pool table) and table tennis. These facilities, and health club usage, are complimentary.

The pool is very large and is surrounded by palm trees, ponds with live fish and gardens. Immediately adjacent is the beach. The sands are not quite white but they are an inviting alternative to the pool area for those that prefer to swim in the ocean. The hotel offers equipment for sailing, wind-surfing, diving, kayaking, peddle-boating and mountain biking. The beach runs along past the adjoining Le Chateau Club Med and extends to the main beaches of Noumea. The main beach area is easily accessed by walking along the Le Meridien Beach. In the main beaches strip you'll find a host of restaurants, cafes and a discoteque. The major hotels are in this area. Aside from the Le Meridien and Club Med is the Parkroyal and the Novotel Le Surf. In the adjacent bay is the Hotel Ibis. All these hotels face the ocean, separated only by the main highway, except in the case of the Le Meridien and the Club Med, both of which are oceanfront properties.

TV and cable TV channels are available in the rooms, most are in French. There is one Japanese channel, a Euro news channel in English and an Australian Broadcasting Commission channel beamed from Perth. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) also features movies in English.

Being a province of France, the main language throughout New Caledonia of course is French. English is spoken, however it is quite limited. The hotel staff have only moderate skills in English, and the same for Japanese. All signs throughout the hotel are translated into English and Japanese. Restaurant menus, in-room compendiums and telephone information are the same.

Telephone calls from the hotel, as stated in the hotel directory, are 'very expensive', as is Internet access.

The hotel staff are particularly hospitable. They go out of their way to assist. There is a friendly concierge team ready to assist with the "golden keys" to Noumea. They can reconfirm flights, recommend restaurants and make reservations, point you to the best duty free shops and jewellers, fashion boutiques and attractions. They can organise excursions, car rentals and more.

There is a Casino adjacent to the hotel and easily accessed from the front lobby. Only one of the three floors appear to operate and the only gaming facilities appeared to be poker machines, of which there were about 100. The decor, and machines, appeared quite tired. There was no glamour or excitement. The main clientele appeared to be locals.


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