Sheraton Deva Golf & Spa Resort
How the Sheraton Deva Golf & Spa Resort in New Caledonia stacks up:
•Location: At the base of the Deva Domain and the turquoise world heritage barrier reef as its backyard, a 90-minute drive north of Tontouta International Airport.
•Check-in experience: A young concierge, Pierre, greeted us at the foyer as a yawning, warmly-lit bamboo and timber entrance way beckoned to bars but patience is crucial when venturing into island time. A complimentary chilled glass of juice with a slice of lime in it on arrival is refreshing as another employee realises we're from New Zealand and quips: "Kia ora."
•Room: We were pleasantly surprised to discover our accommodation had been upgraded to thatched bungalows without a sea view but a nice patio. I enjoyed the walk to find the bungalow through a maze of twists and turns but numbered signs helped. We saw guests using bicycles although it was great to have a porter deliver the luggage to the rooms later on a golf kart. A complimentary bottle of sparkling water and macaron-heavy gift pack offers a special touch.
•Price: From $289 to $328 a night, based on standard rooms.
•Amenities: The space, comfy furniture, bathroom, with an expansive bath tub and great lighting, all lent to the ambience and has a five-star look about it. Beware if creepy crawlies make you squeal.
•Food/drinks: Unfortunately this is where the promising five-star rating starts to lose its twinkle a little. Maybe it was a Sunday but the main dish, tuna, came out a tad dry so neither I nor freelance photojournalist Ocean Belcher could finish half of it. The waiters were courteous and helpful. The breakfast was ample but, seriously, no croissants in a French colony? Quite often one can reconcile that by going to other restaurants but nearby amenities at Bourail seem an expensive taxi ride away.
•Vicinity: Breathtakingly beautiful and balmy, albeit in peak cyclone season. We only had one night's stay so weren't able to venture out at all to the reportedly 13km of white-sand beach or nearby restaurant or shops.
•The bed: I slept on the king bed like a baby with one bed-side light switch illuminating a good part of the key areas.
•Facilities: The full-length mirrors, clothes iron, compact fridge, dinky corner table area to launch digital platforms but the wi-fi was almost non-existent although the front-office staff did their best to offer other links. Nice flat-screen TV but, like social media, it was the last thing on my mind on a slice of tropical paradise.
•Noise: Someone mentioned there was going to be the baby crying-like sounds of the storm-petrel, a fast-flying black-and-white bird resembling its New Zealand cousins, but, disappointingly, I had slept through it.
•The good: Great bungalow, friendly staff and great potential to mutate into an exceptional five-star venue. The golf course is a great adjacent distraction if it's your thing but it shouldn't stop nature lovers from exploring the exotic flora and fauna, not to mention juxtaposing it with Kiwi ones.
•The bad: Low occupancy rates but it was the cyclone season so "locals" seem to be hanging out at the bars to take in the panoramic views. Front office needs to have another staff member on call to attend to already checked-in guests to take the load off Pierre catering to new arrivals. The retail outlet, along the foyer, didn't have anyone behind the counter to sell insect repellent. The woman swiping the windows kindly scooted off to find one but it took almost 10 minutes for the person on duty to arrive. You can live with a few toss and turns on the pillow but the way to many hearts on an expensive holiday is through their stomach so food selection is paramount, even on a Sunday.
•Ideal for: Those who are not shy to spend money to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital of Noumea for some authentic New Caledonian experience.
•GETTING THERE: Aircalin flies direct from Auckland to Noumea.