How the Chateau Royal Beach Resort & Spa skirting the waterfront of Noumea, New Caledonia, stacks up:
•Location: Where Noumea says welcome, from a beachfront overlooking Anse Vata Bay, about a 45-minute drive to its doorstep from the La Tontouta International Airport.
•Check-in experience: The buoyant Baptiste and co at the foyer reception beckon with a greeting that isn't always a given in the tourism industry. The English is precise, the response patient and the delivery of room/gym key, beach towel and manual transfer of phone callers are invigorating.
•Room: 45sq m on the sixth-floor "resort suite" with a partial sea front view for two adults plus one extra adult or two children on a sofa bed on request. Basically, all the rooms are the same in format and you're paying top dollars for the views, which includes a "lagoon suite" (full-sea view) and "prestige suite" (panoramic view). The two-bedroom, four-adult suite, including two en suite bathrooms, over 68sq m and 90sq m, come with balconies.
•Price: From $300 to $430 a night.
•Amenities: You name it, they've got it. It's almost feels like home. Sparklingly clean sauce pans, cultured knives, cutlery, crockery, dishwasher, clothes iron/board, lounge/room LCD TVs, safe box, microwave and even a shoe polish. The bathroom space is expansive and facilities abundant, including snugly bathrobes with slippers, spare toilet rolls, hair dryer. A miniature tube of toothpaste would have completed the basic toiletries.
•Food/drinks: The best dinners during the five-night trip. From the maître d' to the chef and waiters, the taste and presentation was unrivalled there. The maître d' did an excellent job of matching wines with mains. I broke my minimal-carbo diet to enjoy the freshly baked French pastries but couldn't find gluten-free options. A filling brekky box was delivered to my fridge to compensate for the 5am departure to the airport as breakfast is from 6.30am-10am.
•Vicinity: It skirts an enchanting stretch of coastline but keeps an arm's length from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. I went for a run up the hill at 5.30am and found early birds, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists make the most of starting the day in a slice of paradise. I was conscious of the right-hand-drive motorists and drivers who stop abruptly at zebra crossings or simply don't indicate at junctions but the distinctive cycling lanes put the mind at ease. Restaurants, including pizza and pasta takeaways, and bars are within walking distance. The much-talked about Le Roof also is around the corner with its bread-fed, fish-infested surrounds on a jetty. With a pre-picked steak dinner it's hard to say if the Le Roof menu lives up to the hype.
•The bed: A comfy king but far too many decorative cushions that annoy although the diligent housekeeping staff did a great job of stacking them on the floor.
•Facilities: A compact 15-hour gym with the air-conditioning revved up too high but the tummy workout machines were conspicuous in their absence of the treadmill, cycle and elliptical trainer. But why would anyone want to work out indoors when the tropical treadmill of life beckons outdoors?
•Noise: Minimal even though a party went into the wee hours of the resort's 1.5ha beach-front park. More irritating was the heavy-breathing twin air-conditioners, which I switched off.
•The good: The 110-suite, seven-storey resort is where the Club Med used to live and it is on the cusp of undergoing another facelift so watch that space. Resort international sales rep Alexandra Kine rates the four-star complex third best in Noumea but I believe post-revamp it'll regain its No 1 status to match it's five-star service. Oh, the Aquatonic spa and pool — only eight in the world I'm informed — is sublime with its jet-powered squirts to pummel those lactose-laden muscles. However, I didn't fancy a lifeguard-style cap (I'm a skinhead so no chance of hair polluting pools) or squeezing into a budgie smuggler, especially when I noticed someone in a swim shorts in the pools. "Sorry, sir, it's compulsory," said helpful front-desk trainee Wendy, armed with a boxful of blokes' thongs to suggest I'm not the first one to have been left in a twist.
•The bad: Blue light on the balcony that keep you awake because you want to sleep with the heavy curtains open to soak up the coastline. The magenta ones at other hotels nearby makes it marginally less tacky but the revamp will no doubt address that.
•Ideal for: Sporty types who can share suites for the annual waterfront Coastal Walk marathon on August 25, the two-day Groupama regatta on June 20, next year, windsurfers (next year) and the 130km Ultra Trail that was staged on June 7-8 this year.
•GETTING THERE: Aircalin flies direct from Auckland to Noumea.