Thought Gibraltar was little Britain in the sun? Then think again.
Since the arrival of the new 5 star luxury yacht hotel The Sunborn, Gibraltar suddenly got sexy.
Nestled on the far south coast of Malaga on the Costa del Sol sits this 425 metre high rock proudly protruding out of the Mediterranean sea. But despite the Mediterranean climate there's no escaping the fact that Gibraltar is very much an overseas territory of Great Britain.
A slice of Britain in the sun
Giveaways are the bright red telephone boxes, Policemen in British uniform and more British pubs in a square mile that you can dream of. With names like ‘The Lord Nelson' and ‘The Trafalgar', obvious signs that Gibraltar is very proud of its heritage.
When the Marina was developed a few years ago complete with luxury apartments and chic restaurants built on reclaimed land jutting out to sea, it gave a whole new appeal to the rock.
But nothing could have been more exciting for this tiny island than when the Sunborn Yacht Hotel sailed in and took up a permanent spot on Gibraltar's new Ocean Village marina development.
Rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous
During the first weekend in September Gibraltar hosts an annual music festival which attracts thousands of music fans from all over the world. As the only 5 star hotel in Gibraltar The Sunborn attracts most of the headline acts that perform there.
Last year while we were in Gibraltar for the festival I was over the moon to meet and have my picture taken with Kelly Jones the lead singer of The Stereophonics. We popped up to the the pool bar for a cheeky G&T before heading into the festival and there they were, The Stereophonics just casually chilling by the pool.
Check-in was a breeze
I knew nothing could top that first experience on the yacht but loved it so much that we decided to spend our 7th wedding anniversary there. Living just over an hour away from Gibraltar it seemed like the perfect place to spend a child free night.
We had pre-booked a car parking space and admittedly were a bit excited to see our name attached to a car parking spot in prime position outside the yacht. Feeling felt like VIP's already…
As soon as we had taken our bags out of the car we were met by the porter who came and carried them up the sweeping entrance ramp to the front reception desk for us.
What an entrance it was too, the biggest chandelier I have ever seen hung directly above us, suspended like an enormous glitter ball with what can only be described as its own orbit around it. Everything from the staircase to the marble floor and the beautiful lighting was unbelievably elegant.
Check in was the smoothest I've had anywhere, we were attended immediately by the reception manager and straight away offered a glass of Cava…always a winner. As it was a special occasion we were upgraded for no extra charge to a Superyacht Deluxe room and the manager offered to send a free bottle of Cava to the room. Great first impressions so far.
Once we were checked in the porter took our luggage and offered to show us our room which was on the 4th floor. The room didn't disappoint as he proceeded to show us exactly how the electronic shower, lights and curtains all worked from a keypad by the entrance door or by the telephone system next to the bed.
I wasn't really concentrating and hoped it was as easy to work as he seemed to demonstrate.
Immaculate room with mod-cons
The room was immaculately clean and of a good size, the bathroom was spacious and luxurious with a large marble walk in shower.
The views were amazing, we could see the marina, the airport runway and across to Spain, we stood for a minute and watched a plane take off with uninterrupted views.
Don't worry if you think you are going to hear aircraft noise all night though, there are no arrivals or departures before 10am and after 9pm generally.
One thing I would say is you need to know your companion well to stay here as only a glass door protects your modesty in the toilet and shower. Fine for my husband and I but may not suit everyone.
We hadn't even started unpacking when a knock at the door revealed a member of staff with an ice bucket of yummy Cava and two glasses.
Having checked out the drinks menu the bottle of Anna Codorniu Mediterrania Brut was priced at £29 to buy so the complimentary bottle went down a treat.
Cocktails & Cava poolside
After unpacking quickly we headed straight up to the 7th floor Aqua bar and rooftop pool as the temp was about 25 degrees, great for mid April and perfect sunbathing/cocktail weather.
The pool looked nice if a bit small, not sure if it was heated as we didn't go in so I can't comment.
The pool area itself is also quite small for the size of the ship and there are only around to 10 to 15 sun loungers. It wasn't overly busy when we were there but not sure how this would work during peak summer.
On the other side of the pool are nice sofas for chilling with a drink and there are also tables and chairs for eating or drinks too. Lunch menu at the Aqua bar is lovely, healthy, light and perfect for poolside dining.
We ordered a couple of Passion Mojitos at a reasonable £7 a pop and a Mezze Feast from the sharing menu at £15.
Drinks and food were served pretty sharp and all was absolutely delicious.
We settled in for a couple of hours of sunbathing while enjoying the chilled bottle of Cava that was previously sent to the room. Nice chill out music played in the background and it made for a perfectly relaxing afternoon.
We had pre-booked dinner in La Sala restaurant on the 3rd floor for 8.30pm that evening and just had time for a quick pre-dinner glass of wine in the Sky bar on deck 7.
In the summer months the Aqua pool bar stays open late and they have events like DJ afternoons and canapes & cocktail evenings but it was a bit too cold and windy out there for drinks mid-April.
A few more people trickled in sitting down for dinner in the Sky restaurant. Around 8.30pm we went down to dinner at La Sala restaurant which was a good three quarters full with a nice vibe.
There are lots of restaurants and bars all within a few minutes walk of the Sunborn. Some traditional pubs, others wine and cocktail type bars but we wanted to experience everything on the Yacht.
Dinner & dancing at La Sala
Service in La Sala was excellent despite it being pretty full, drinks were served straight away. For dinner we went for a classic Prawn Pil Pil and Chateaubriand to share.
The restaurant was full to bursting by 9.30pm and while we tucked into our starter a male and female soul singing duo took to the stage entertaining diners with some great soulful classics.
The Pil Pil was delicious as was the Chateaubriand, cooked more or less medium and to our liking but if I had one criticism, I would say the steak was just a little tough.
After dinner, we propped ourselves on a bar stool so we could be among the action and had one last drink before bed. People were up dancing and really enjoying the music, the place had a great buzz and was still going strong as we left round 12.30am.
After a good night sleep we headed for breakfast which is served in the Sky restaurant. The restaurant is well laid out, bright and airy with enough space in between tables. We were told to sit where we wanted so chose a table close to the window.
First off, a fresh fruit and veg smoothie which I hoped would give me a little lift…probably shouldn't have had that last gin.
The breakfast looked as good as I had heard it was and I went straight for the cooked option. Although it was help yourself style, there was nothing that looked like it had been left standing for hours as a chef was there behind the scenes cooking everything fresh.
The proper British bangers were yum, not the processed ones you sometimes find at hotel breakfasts.
Tons of different types fresh fruit, bread, dried fruit, ham, cheeses, cereals and even Cava if you can face it. Not for me this early in the morning though.
Check out was at 12 so we went to settle our bill having decided to put all our food and drinks purchases on the room. I would loved to have stayed another night or two on the Sunborn and really did not want to leave.
The cost of our stay
Currency in Gibraltar is pounds sterling. We booked a Superyacht Superior room at £205 for 1 night, breakfast was priced at £15 per person and parking at £25, total was £265.
Our bar and food bill was an additional £170 bringing the grand total to £435.
Now some might say that's a little pricey for 1 night away but for us was well worth paying that little bit more for a bit of 5 star indulgence.
Is it for you?
We have stayed in other hotels in Gibraltar that were cheaper, but if its a bit of luxury you're after then the Sunborn is by far the best. The setting, quality, service, dining and drinks options and poolside ambiance can't be beaten in my opinion.
The super yacht would definitely suit couples of all ages looking for a few nights romantic getaway. Although the hotel offer rooms for families, I didn't see any children on board while we were there, I would say it is aimed more at the adult market.
The hotel is a great base for exploring Gibraltar and parts of Southern Spain and around 20 kilometers from Gibraltar is the ferry terminal to Morocco which offers return trips around every 2 hours.
Overall we had a really fantastic time on the Sunborn and would love to stay here again, the service the cleanliness and the facilities are all top notch and it is absolutely a 5 star hotel in my opinion.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see inside the gym or the casino so I am unable to comment on these extra facilities the yacht offers.
Get married on the Sunborn
The Hotel is one of few locations in Gibraltar that has a licence for civil wedding ceremonies. They offer a dedicated planning team to take care of everything for your big day. There are a variety of locations around the ship to hold a wedding ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening party.
If you have have stayed on the Sunborn Gibraltar or have a question about my stay please feel free to leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.
I certify that this review is a true and genuine account of my stay at this hotel. I have no personal or business relationship with the hotel.