It always adds to the must-come-back feeling when the sun sets as the car leaves – as at JW MARRIOTT MAURITIUS, above. Look at any map of the Indian Ocean and Mauritius is a barely discernible drop in that ocean, but in fact there on the ground the island seems more like the size of Ireland, and it can take forever to get from one part to another. With the exception of a couple of straight roads the thoroughfares are max-bend-fares.
For Air Mauritius’ 9.30 p.m. departure to London Heathrow, it is therefore recommended to leave the hotel at 5.30 p.m. Four hours, when Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam International Airport is only 58 kms away? Well, if there are no petrol trucks or pantechnicons going at snail pace in front, it still probably takes at least 75 minutes. Once inside the terminal there is a long snake for emigration before the inevitable snake for security.
Fortunately Air Mauritius’ airside lounge is well signed. It’s a two-floor facility but everyone congregates upstairs, which has well thought seatings, from booths to benches to 2m-diameter circular tables with international sockets and USB ports set variously around. Self-service food counters are re-stocked nonstop, obviously needed as this seems to be a hungry complement. The only hiccup is that this is the national carrier’s lounge, at one end of the long terminal, and yet all its flights seem to leave from an extension at the other end of said terminal.
Girlahead REALLY likes Air Mauritius’ new two-class A330-900s. Colouring is pale grey, with grey-blue tweed seating, and carpeting, and coordinating blue curtains. Business Class is six rows of one-two-one, with the middle seats alternately two-inside or, easier for unrelated travellers, two outside, by the aisles. The single seats are really spacious, with a seat that easily evolves to a really flat long bed tucking under the seat in front. There is one international socket, and two USB ports. Wifi continually pops up on the laptop screen (why DON’T you want to use me, it says? With information currently showing Chinese it is impossible to access the cost).
The seat’s video screen is permanently fixed, a real boon. It has great content, including informative and amusing National Geographic documentaries on EAT (from Julia Child through to Nigella Lawson) and the ‘90s (mostly starring B. Clinton and Madonna) and really-good sound classics, especially Murray Pereira playing Mozart.
There are stemmed glasses of chilled Duval-Leroy Brut pre-takeoff, and the wine list has two reds, two whites, all French (it’s possible to mistake the carrier as the male attendants, working with obviously-Mauritian ladies, are ‘pure Air France’ matures). Washroom toiletries are Payot.
The food is honestly better out of London than Mauritius, but both ways the fixed starter and salad is followed by a choice of poultry, lamb or pasta: the big bowl of rigatoni with peas and asparagus and a modicum of blue cheese sauce from London was outstanding. Again, breakfast’s Greek yoghurt topped by a dark fruit purée, from London, was memorable, and butters were stylish Netherend Farm wraps. The breakfast concept in general is much more à la carte than is industry norm.
Also on a comparison scale, Air Mauritius’ turquoise-striped pillowcases and soft navy duvets stand out – sensibly, the airline does not bother with ‘mattress pads’. Wash bags include toothbrushes in re-usable holders, and big-size toothpastes. Navy socks have grip pads for the soles of the feet. It’s all well thought out, and agreeable. And generous. Generously Mauritius, of course.