with a Diva – by Derek Annoh
She was built to carry up to 2,050 guests and is fully equipped
on 12 levels with restaurants, bars, wellness facilities,
theatre, night clubs, duty free shops, basketball pitch,
casino, separate indoor and out door children’s entertainment
– she certainly must be a DIVA!
Last April, I arranged a date with a Diva.
She was not in the UK and I had to travel to meet her. It
was going to take more than a car journey because this diva
was in Hamburg, Germany. I set off by car on the M25 south
bound to Gatwick airport. At 5am, the car journey lasted
only about 20 minutes and was very smooth. There were very
few motorists on the road until I had to leave the motorway,
destination Gatwick Airport, south terminal and was scheduled
to fly Germanwings. This was my first time flying to Hamburg
and also my first time with Germanwings but it had to be
done because I had a rendez-vous with a Diva.
It was as if everyone at the south terminal
knew about my mission because check-in, and all travel formalities
were very swift. The excitement started aboard the flight
with the “Village People” on board. They were
a popular musical group of the 80s, renowned for their flamboyant
dressing. This time, one was dressed as a Red Indian chief
with colourful feathers and boots but this did not upset
our take-off which went ahead very smoothly and on schedule.
Baggage claim and arrival formalities in Hamburg were also
excellent. I would say my baggage was in the hall in about
ten minutes after I had set foot in the hall. My host’s
representative was at the airport to welcome me and assisted
me with the transfer to my hotel, the Grand
The Grand Elysee is a five star hotel founded
by Eugen Block, a man who believes in satisfying his guests
by providing an exclusive service and rejects the idea of
a hotel chain. Eugen Block does not want to create any distance
between staff and guest. His hotel provides unique luxury
hospitality within a relaxed atmosphere. With 520 rooms,
including 25 suites, 24 conference rooms, three restaurants
and a congress and event hall for 1,000 guests, I couldn’t
ask for more. The Grand Elysée also has a wellness
centre and Spa for relaxation and leisure
to stay in Malta
The Sheraton in St Julian offers
excellent accommodation. The hotel is fully equipped with
swimming pool, gym, spa and comfortable rooms.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MALTA
The Official language is maltese, but English
is widely spoken and hotels have staff who speak a wide
range of other major European languages.
From LIRA to EURO
On 1st January 2008 Malta adopted the Euro as its official
currency. From this date onwards, the Euro became legal
tender in Malta and Gozo. Throughout the month of January,
cash transactions can take place in both Maltese Lira and
Euro, but after January 31st 2008, businesses will accept
only payments in Euro.
Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept
all major credit cards. Banks are normally open until early
afternoon from Monday to Friday, and until midday on Saturday.
Some banks/branches work longer hours. Summer and winter
opening hours may differ.
Tipping practices are similar to the rest
of the world. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip but will
appreciate a little extra. In restaurants 10 % is considered
adequate if service is excluded.
The Maltese Islands are not very large,
which makes getting around relatively trouble-free. However,
the public bus service on Malta and Gozo is a good way to
get around as buses serve the major tourist areas, go practically
everywhere and are cheap and efficient. The cost of a bus
route ranges from €0.35 to €0.58 and the longest
bus journey takes about fifty minutes; the average ride
is between twenty and thirty minutes. Valletta can easily
be reached by public transport as it is the main bus terminus
for the majority of the public transport routes. If you
are in Sliema you can also take the ferry which will take
you to the West side of Valletta. Alternatively you can
drive to the city – there are various public car parks
on the outskirts where you can leave your car.
Renting a car is a good option if you want
to get to the farther reaches of the island. All the road
signs are in English and driving is on the left.
Major and local car hires are located on
Malta and Gozo with daily rates of €16 - €28.
International and national driving licenses are acceptable.
A number of internationally based car hiring firms as well
as local garages also offer the services of chauffeur-driven
Renting scooters, motorbikes or mountain
bicycles is an option, but please note however that not
all roads are two-wheel vehicle friendly.
The white taxi service can pick up passengers
from anywhere, except bus-stops. Taxi services from the
Malta International Airport and the Seaport Terminal to
all localities in Malta are based on a fixed tariff. For
more information on taxi rates click here.
A regular ferry service links Malta to Gozo,
taking about 20 minutes each way. A sea plane service links
Grand Harbour in Valletta to Mgarr Harbour in Gozo. There
are also regular boat services between each island and Comino.
A water taxi service using traditional Maltese
'dghajsa' boats is also available in Grand Harbour.
A winter weekend
in Tallinn, Estonia