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Mauritius and Le St Geran – the place for a truly luxurious, family-friendly holiday.

Superb service, food and and facilities: David Bulman and family have an unforgettable holiday

So you have kids, and you thought those sun drenched stress free relaxing holidays were but a distant memory. What if you could do both? Have a holiday with your kids, but still get some of your own time to be pampered and relaxed? Mauritius in general and the Saint Geran in particular are your answer. The Saint Geran specialises in pampering people, both big and small. It is a five star resort that openly welcomes families, but doesn't leave you feeling overrun like some "family" resorts do.

Image copyright: D.Bulman

Spread over 60 acres, there is a blissful feeling of space. Though you are certainly aware of other people there, the overall design of the resort means you're not continually bumping elbows, far from it.

The location is superb, situated on a private peninsula within a coral reef, the water is gentle and calm. The beeches are fine white coral sand with only a very gentle slope. The gardens around the resort are beautifully laid out, and very well maintained. That alone would rank it highly as a beach resort.

Image copyright: D.Bulman

Next though there is the accommodation, it is an all suite resort, with very generous sized rooms. Every room faces off to the beech on one side, with a stunning garden to walk through to your front door on the other. Fittings are first class with large king sized beds, up to date technology with stereo, DVD and internet access, and marble fitted bath and change rooms. The resort is all two storied, so you either walk directly onto the beech, or have a generous terrace looking out onto the water. The resort has three restaurants, and the executive chef is Alan Ducasse, so the quality of the food is excellent. The main Terrace restaurant is primarily for guests, and is situated around the pool, with many of the tables on small islands dotted through the pool. The breakfast buffet is definitely a challenge to the waist, with every type of food on offer. No warmer trays full of pre cooked green scrambled eggs, everything is cooked fresh. The omelettes are truly to die for, and our boys had to be strictly rationed on the fresh pancakes. We encouraged their appetite for the large quantities of tropical fruit.

Dinner is an every changing feast with a new menu every day, and for the gourmands could be held of 7 distinct courses. Yet you have to try the other two restaurants as well. Ducasse runs one of his Spoon restaurants in highly stylish quarters. The menu is experimental and not to be missed. As well there is a seafood and Creole restaurant called Paul et Virginie right down on the beach.

The resort offers the full range of sports. There is a gorgeous nine hole golf course, a five court lit tennis club, and a full featured set of water sports. Everything is included bar private golf, tennis & scuba diving instruction. During our stay we took advantage of much of that. The quality of instruction is superb, with both my wife and I learning to water ski expertly by the end of the week. The scuba diving is very good, though the visibility on the East coast is a bit poor. Try diving on the west coast for the best sites. Then there is the spa. Run by Givenchy it offers a full range of treatments from European trained specialists. You can have done everything from a body wrap to a hot stone holistic massage. Massages are a speciality and you can have them done in the spa or in the privacy of your room. There is a beauty salon as well, and a very well- equipped gym with a staff of personal trainers that will happily help you create or update a training plan. Something both my wife and I took advantage of.

Last but certainly not least is the children's club. Capable of handling toilet-trained toddlers from the age of two up to 18 is has a range of activities for all ages. For the young ones its an uber nursery with the usual range of games and art, but as well they really treat them with pony rides and glass bottomed boat trips.

Image copyright: D.Bulman

Older children and teenagers are also catered for, with special tuition in golf, tennis and any of the water sports as well as site seeing, bike riding and trips up into the hills. The facility has its own toddler's pool, play ground and a pitch of grass for the more active games. As well it has its own kids restaurant for lunch and dinner that serves honestly tasty food. Useful for those times when your active or want some private time with your significant other. Though it does the usual range of sausages and beans, it does many interesting items with seafood, fruit and vegetables. Our boys are generally good eaters, but they both grew well on the excellent food they ate during our stay. Many nights we honestly had to drag them away crying they were enjoying themselves so much.

The club also has a large staff of nannies. If you need one (which we did for our one year old), you'll be assigned the same person for your stay. If necessary she'll work every day, but does gets more time off when you go so you needn't feel too guilty. They work 8 hour days, but ours was extremely flexible, often doing 4 hours in the morning so we could go diving, then coming back in the evening so we could have a meal to ourselves once the boys were asleep. Ours was very good, and after a first few transition days getting used to each other, they were generally happy to spend time with her.

All of the above probably sounds very attractive, but frankly could be found elsewhere. What really sets the Saint Geran apart is the service. The staff to guest ration is 2:1, so its off to a good start. They are all extensively trained by the best in the business. For example, when the Saint Geran closed for renovations in 2000 most of the senior staff was sent to work and train in Europe at a variety of the best hotels. But what really makes the difference is that they are all genuinely friendly and really like kids. Let me give you a few examples. You arrive bright and early for breakfast. There will be an immediate flurry of activity as baby chairs are brought up, silverware is replaced with kiddie cutlery and linen bibs are expertly tied around small necks. The staff will make faces and crack jokes with the kids. If the inevitable happens and food is thrown to the floor, far from anyone making a fuss you may not even notice its been cleaned up.

Do you want an indulgent day laying on the beach? Well, when you walk down a nice man will trot over to the sun loungers you've chosen (there's more loungers than guests to make sure you've always got a selection, no need for morning sorties to get the best location) a nice man will trot up with two big fluffy towels each, bring complimentary bottles of water with glasses full of ice, and give you an cold rosemary scented towel to sooth your brow. Want a drink or one of their extraordinary beach lunches?

Image copyright: D.Bulman
Just wave a green flag and another nice man will come over to take your order. You literally never need leave your very comfy lounger bar moving it to follow the sun or shade as you wish. Is a tidy room important? Well a team of two will take over an hour each morning to clean your room and change the bed with freshly ironed linen. Not enough? They come back again when you're out at dinner to do a final tidy up, bring you fresh towels, turn down the beds and leave you a last late night snack. Do you have a screaming child and urgently need some warm milk? Call your personal butler and it will be at your door in 5 minutes or less (yes, we timed them, and yes it was never more than 5 minutes). Has there been a small accident in one of the kid's beds? I called when it happened to us and was told they'd be right by to change the bed. I was expecting someone to come by with fresh linen, but within a few minutes there was a knock at the door. Our butler came in, folded up the offending bed and rolled in a new one, complete with freshly laid linen. They actually keep a number ready, "just in case". I also asked sheepishly what they do with the wet one, and was smilingly told its was washed down with antiseptic soap and left to air in the sun for at least a day.

Has it been a long day, and all you want to do is be a vegetable and have your dinner watching the telly once the kids are asleep (they have a library of a couple hundred of the latest DVDs)? You can have room service, except its not your ordinary room service. Within 20 minutes of ordering a team will come sweeping in to the room (they can be amazingly quiet if there's small sleeping bodies in the corner of the room) and will set up the table in the room or out on your patio, complete with linen and silver service. If you order white wine it will come in an iced bucket. Plus, they will bring each course separately if you wish to make sure you get each course at the right temperature. You can also do this at breakfast if you can't be bothered getting yourselves and the kids dressed and ready to go out the door. It really makes for an unforgettable experience.

This level of service and luxury doesn't come cheap, so be warned, but it will make for a family holiday you'll never forget. We were able to both have time to ourselves and have some really fun time with the boys. I'll never forget watching my oldest sitting in the shallow water singing as he make very wet sand castles, or my youngest laughing wildly as we chased around under the palm trees searching for small immature coconuts. I'll also not forget the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. It truly sets the Saint Geran apart.

Now, if the above has convinced you to go, here are a few pointers they don't tell you:

1) If you are on Half Board, don't order from the "Room Service" menu, as you'll pay full price for what's delivered. Go to the Terrace Restaurant and get that evenings menu. Order off of that from room service and you will only pay a small "tray charge" to have it delivered to your room.

2) The Terrace Restaurant has a rather arcane reservation process. The idea is that they will block a certain table for you for your entire stay so that you will get to know your serving staff and vice versa. That is fine if you eat with your family every night and want a "safe" table inside the restaurant rather than out under the stars or on one of the cute little Islands on the pool. We got caught out the first night we fed the children early in the kiddies club and used the babysitter, expecting to be able to get a romantic table for two outside. It was very disconcerting to be led inside and be told nothing else was available. Its easy to solve, you just have to make sure the restaurant knows you want a different table some evenings.

3) The hotel has a tip at the end of your stay policy, and if you pay once when you settle up your bill it will be distributed from a "tip pool" amongst all staff. This makes it much more comfortable as a guest as you never get the feeling someone is angling for a tip for a specific bit of service. However, some of the staff do stand out, and we made a point to give out some personal tips to a few individuals. This is not at all frowned upon as was very graciously received, but is not required.

4) Though the quality of the food was excellent, they do serve seafood, and seafood can never be guaranteed safe. I had a bad day after what we thing was a dodgy langoustine. You need be no more cautious than in Europe, but should be no less cautious either.

But all in all it was a superb location for an unforgettable family holiday.

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