Reading many of the reviews of the Shandrani here, my wife and I were very excited about our January trip. Unfortunately, the resort is more like the three-star experiences you will get for much less money in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, or other places. If you are flying here quickly and cheaply from South Africa, then I can see where you might think it a quick, nice weekend hop.But to come here from any significant distance away (I live in the U.S.) is a waste of time and money.
The beaches are nice, as they are throughout much of Mauritius and the Indian Ocean, just bring some shoes ahead of time so you can walk out into the water without stabbing your feet on rocks.
The real letdown with the hotel is in the quality of staff and accomodations. The staff has been poorly trained and lacks the ability to properly handle situations or communicate with guests. We had a couple of run-ins with the breakfast staff at the buffet restaurant, who are indifferent and rude. My wife once put a table napkin under her legs because she was wearing shorts and the bamboo wood chair was making her skin sore. Immediately, two waiters came running up and made her take the napkin away, loudly proclaiming that it was unhygenic. I'm sorry, but that's not how any well-trained staff is supposed to handle a situation like that. Not in a so-called five-star resort charging a king's ransom per night.
That experience, I'm afraid, is rather typical of the "rough around the edges" people working the resort. Some of them were very nice, though they all got nicer when you greased their palms with extra cash and freebies, which is typical of any three-star all-inclusive in the world.
The real problem with the resort right off the bat was the quality of their rooms. The superior beachfront rooms look like they haven't been renovated in 20 years. Everything from the linens, to the furniture and decor was outdated. They still have old 1990s tube televisions, which no high end resort in the world dares to put in rooms anymore. Our tile floor was always greasy with condensation because the air conditioner did not work efficiently.
Had we paid $150 for this room at a Courtyard by Marriott in the US, we'd be OK with it, I suppose. But not for several times that amount.
I had to go online to discover that a portion of the hotel had actually been upgraded -- flat screens, new furniture, modern look -- in some higher category rooms. I went and complained to the hotel's manager, Jean-Paul, about this and asked to change. He initially said he'd only do it for 40 euros per night and it took two arguments on different days with him before he relented. The hotel was barely a third full. Any decent high-end hotel manager would be mortified about a guest complaining about 20-year old designs in a room charging five-star rates, but Jean-Paul continued to argue that nothing was broken and that everything worked.
Well, everything works in a Holiday Inn, too. But that chain at least offers flat-screen TVs and charges five times less than Shandrani. Just as an aside, we barely watched TV on this beach trip. It's the symbol the TV offers as to how little the hotel cares about the state of its rooms.
So, the big problem at this hotel: everything's a fight beforehand just to try to get things up to anacceptable level of service and accomodation.
If you are not from South Africa, be prepared for a big fight over you selection of restaurants. The hotel tries to steer everybody into the terrible dinner buffet multiple times per week and will do so unless you battle them for it. We booked through a South African tour operator and were allowed to book restaurants 2 weeks in advance (other countries' guests are not afforded that) and still had to fight tooth and nail to avoid the buffet.
The a la carte restaurants are good (Le Boucannier was best) but the food portions are tiny and it's not all due to a gourmet style of presentation. The hotel has the feel of a place hit by hard times and that is trying to skimp and cut corners where possible. The breakfast buffet is terrible and the staff badly trained. You'd think an island resort would have a decent fresh fruit selection, but there is nothing here you couldn't find at any mid-level US hotel.
Best part of the all-inclusive? You get a good selection of South African wines on the menu as well as some French ones. The French champagne is a nice treat. But Americans, beware, in this part of the world, those things are not as cost-prohibitive as they are in the U.S. You can get champagne at most hotels and restaurants for a minimal cost -- the Shandrani isn't pouring Veuve or Crystal.
To summarize: while the hotel bills itself as 5-star, it is at best a 3-star experience. If you're OK with that and don't mind paying 5-star prices (or can score a huge discount) then this place might be for you. And judging by the positive reviews on Trip Advisor, some people -- often with small children -- do like it.
If you must come here, insist on paying for the Superior (upgraded) rooms. All rooms here have some type of ocean view. The "beachfront" rooms merely face a beach used for docking boats and you can't directly swim off it in any event.
My sincere advice, for those seeking a five-star experience, is to go someplace else. If you are used to the Ritz-Carlton, or the St. Regis, or some of the many beautiful safari lodgings in South Africa, or boutique hotels like the Manolo in Cape Town, or Quartier Francais in Franschhoek, you will not enjoy the Shandrani. You will experience the "Sham-drani" which promises a five-star resort with choices and gives you a three-star experience with plenty of stress and arguments in store.
It starts with bad management and filters on down to the staff. I wish I could be more positive, but having read the handful of negative reviews of this place, I can tell you they are spot-on right down to the last detail. I hope those who read this gain something from it. I'd hate to see anybody travel halfway around the world to visit this beautiful country, only to havean experience thatcould easily be replicated in any budget all-inclusive in the Carribbean.