I love hotels, from the grand lobbies to the little bathroom amenities, the entire experience of staying with a high quality, luxury hotel is an event unto itself. While traveling through Australia, I partnered with InterContinental Hotels Group to put their famous service to the test, which I detailed in InterContinental Challenge – The Results. While the service at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto won me over, every aspect of the hotel experience managed to impress me.
Hotel location - Location is very important to me when I travel. I usually dismiss hotels that are located too far away from the tourist activities no matter what they cost because of the inconvenience. Time is valuable, and the time and expense it takes to travel to a less expensive, but horribly located hotel just isn’t worth it for me. The InterContinental Rialto in Melbourne surpassed my hopes for being well located. The hotel is in downtown Melbourne, an easy walk to just about everything including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and the famous lanes and arcades that make the city so distinctive. For areas of town that aren’t within walking distance, there are several tram stops near the InterContinental for ultimate convenience.
Hotel property - The hotel itself is a stunning example of 19th century, Melbourne gold rush architecture. At one point, Melbourne was the richest city in the world, and there are still plenty of architectural examples of this period throughout the city. The property used to be home to a wool and wheat storage facility, and the main lobby/atrium in the InterContinental used to be the laneway separating the buildings. Instead of knocking down the old buildings (which the city forbids anyway) InterContinental fused the older structures with the new and the result is a stunning hotel. From the outside the fin de siècle design is beautiful and inside the old building style adds character and interest which can oftentimes be lacking even in the best hotels. Many hotels around the world have themselves become iconic buildings, but very few have taken an existing heritage building and transformed it into a modern and well designed hotel. The Rialto accomplished both and is truly one of the most unique luxury hotels in the world.
The Rooms - While location and hotel design is nice, ultimately it all comes down to the rooms. We stayed in the ‘heritage section’ of the hotel which meant we were in the Rialto side. What’s great about the heritage side is that no two rooms are exactly the same. Because of the old design of the original building, every room is guaranteed a certain amount of character. Our room was huge, very high ceilings and a spacious, modern design created a sense of calm, rest and comfort. There was literally nothing we disliked about the room. The work area was well designed and practical, the bed comfortable, and the bathroom remarkable. I think bathrooms are a good benchmark of a hotel’s quality, and the high tech yet elegant bathroom in the Rialto won us over. There was a luxurious tub and a separate shower that was one of the largest I’ve ever experienced. An array of buttons and knobs allowed us to customize all aspects of the cleaning process to our liking.
Service - I wrote about the astounding service in a separate post, but it really is phenomenal. Luxury hotels depend almost entirely on their staff, everything else is easy to reproduce, but a truly good staff is hard to come by. From check in to check out, every staff member went above and beyond to help us enjoy our time at the hotel and as we explored Melbourne. They treat all of their guests not just as a valued patron, but like a rock star. I watched them interact with a variety of guests over the course of a week and it was extraordinary. How they maintain such a level of upbeatperkihappiness is well beyond me, but they do.
Overall impressions - My partner and I were chatting the other day and the topic of hotels arose. Out of nowhere he challenged, “I bet you can’t guess my favorite hotel in the world.” I rattled off several, from tropical destinations to country escapes until it hit me and I smiled, “The Rialto,” I correctly replied. From someone who travels a lot and has stayed in hundreds of hotels, this says a lot. If we could live in the InterContinental Rialto we would, that’s how strong of an impression it left with us. The InterContinental Melbourne – The Rialto has achieved the right mix of all the important factors that make a hotel great. Location, service, comfort and a undefinable quality that can’t be forced, it’s a feeling of general contentment that has to come organically. I can’t recommend this hotel strongly enough and personally, I can’t wait to return and enjoy once again the legendary hospitality for which InterContinental is world famous.