A hotel is a hotel and a palace is a palace, you say, and a hotel that calls itself a palace is giving itself something it must live up to. Although Malta’s Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa may have begun life in 1920 as a mere villa, in 1962 it transformed into its present use and in 1968 received a royal imprimateur when the official opening was performed by none other than HRH Prince Philip.
The British royals don’t confer such a privilege on any old Hotel Spendide or Hotel Magnifique. Also at the opening ceremony was one Roger Moore, five years before inheriting James Bond from Sean Connery, and thus not yet concerned that the Corinthia Palace might be the secret headquarters of an arch-villain out to destroy the world from innocent little Malta.
The connection between Malta and British royalty does go back a bit, with the tiny Mediterranean country having been part of the Empire from 1800 to 1964. King George VI awarded the entire populace the George Cross in 1942 for heroism in the face of a massive pummelling by Italian and German bombers.
Queen Elizabeth II-to-be and the Duke of Edinburgh lived on the island on and off as newlyweds between 1949 and 1951, and they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary there in 2007.
Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa started life as the Art Nouveau Villa Refalo. Our taxi driver from the airport says we are bound for a very quiet area, leading us to believe that the hotel may be in the middle of a huge empty field.
However, it turns out to be not only a considerable size in extensive grounds but in an area called The Three Villages, namely Attard, Balzan and Lija, and known as such because of their close proximity to one another. In some cases one side of the street is part of one village while the opposite side is in another village.
This, and the fact that the location is almost at the very centre of the Mediterranean island, means the place is lively enough. The capital, Valletta, is just a few kilometres away and so is the ancient walled city of Mdina. We figure the taxi driver must have been comparing it to such bustling coastal tourist hotspots as Sliema, Paceville and St. Julian’s.
Furthermore, right across the road from the Corinthia is a “real” palace, the San Anton, which is the home of the president of the country. Even a five-star Corinthia may be a little infra dig for a royal couple, and the Queen and Phillip stayed at the San Anton Palace in 2007.
In November 2015, when the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was held in Malta, the Queen again slept at the San Anton, popping across the road to the Corinthia Palace to host a lavish dinner in the ballroom for all the heads of state and other dignitaries.
They were served a three-course meal prepared by the hotel’s Executive Chef, Stefan Hogan, and his team, who apparently often train new staff at the San Anton. David “Brexit” Cameron and some of his Commonwealth counterparts were among those ensconsed in the salubrious digs at the Corinthia.
Brass plaques at the hotel doorway remind us of Prince Philip’s ribbon-cutting in 1968 and inform that the hotel is not just a five-star but a “Five-star Superior”, as designated by Malta’s tourism authority. True to Corinthia form (Corinthia Hotel Budapest is home to The Budapest Times), we find a plethora of luxurious dining, wellness and conference facilities.
This hotel has a welcome drink at reception, helpful concierge, wide corridors, thick carpets and smart furniture. Our executive room has a balcony overlooking the extensive gardens and an attractive outdoor swimming pool with plenty of sun loungers, lots of shade and the Summer Kitchen poolside restaurant.
The spa offers an indoor pool and a comprehensive range of professional pampering and discrete treatments.
A hotel calling itself a palace may invite scrutiny under the Trade Descriptions Act but as far as we know there has been no punitive action so far.