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Pestana Carlton Madeira hotel review | Cosmopolis

My hotel review of the Pestana Carlton Madeira has to start with a charming detail: instead of “Do Not Disturb”, the sign to put on your door reads in big letters: “Having The Time Of My Life”, with the classical text following in small letters below.

The history of the Pestana Carlton Madeira hotel and its owners

Just fifteen minutes on foot from the historic city center, built on a cliff and on the site of the previous Hotel Atlântico dating back to 1896, the Pestana Carlton Madeira was the work of the architect Semião, with the latest transformations made by Jaime Morais of Dueto Arquitectos.

The first stone for the new hotel was set in 1968. On November 20, 1972, the hotel was opened under intense “flower showers” by Almirante Américo Thomaz, President of the Portuguese Republic, as the new Madeira Sheraton. A cocktail party with illustrious guests followed. Nowadays, not a single international hotel chain is present on the island of Madeira.

This room is very similar to my Sea View Junior Suite 915.

This bathroom is very similar to mine in the Sea View Junior Suite 915: free standing bathtub, a walk-in shower, a toliet, two sinks. The bathroom is spacious, elegant and comes with Molton Brown Mandarin & Clary Sage amenities.

The owner of the Madeira Sheraton hotel was Manuel Pestana, the son of a large family of farmers from the picturesque Madeiran village of Vila Madeirense, Ribeira Brava, located some 20km away from Funchal. At the age of 20, he emigrated to Mozambique in southern Africa, where he made a fortune in the real estate business in both Mozambique and South Africa.

He came back to Madeira in 1966 and bought Hotel Atlântico, which he transformed into the first hotel on his island of birth; today, Pestana Group operates about ten hotels on the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo alone. Incidentally, a public relations lady from a rival hotel group told me yesterday that she had recently spent a great time at the Pestana Porto Santo; I may check it out the next time I fly to Madeira.

Back to our history: Manuel Pestana’s only son, Dionísio Pestana, born and raised in South Africa, later took over his father’s businesses.

For 18 years, Madeira Sheraton was run under the management of the Sheraton Chain. Only in 1990, it became the first Pestana Hotel in the world, under the management of Dionísio Pestana, at the time renamed Madeira Carlton Hotel.

Today, Pestana Group is Portugal’s largest hotel group and operates some 90 hotels around the world. Other investments include Vacation Clubs (time-share), real estate, business centers and travel agencies. Manuel Pestana died in 2008. His son Dionísio is the new CEO. He has three children.

The outdoor swimming pool on the hotel level. On the right you can see the deck bar & snack restaurant, where you can sip a cocktail admiring the view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Today’s Pestana Carlton Madeira

This is already my third time at the Pestana Carlton Madeira. Since my first trip in 2012, I’ve always stayed faithul to my room category choice: a Sea View Junior Suite, because the offer the greatest value for money.

Sometimes, when you are lucky, you enter a hotel room and think, this is it, the room I have been waiting for! For me, that moment came in April 2012 when I entered my Sea View Junior Suite 1115 on the 11th floor at Pestana Carlton Madeira. I felt like in a 1970s movie, although the interior design was last updated in 2007 and impeccable.

Later, I had a walk around the property and a look at several other of the in total 285 rooms and suites. The suites are larger than my junior suite, the corner rooms (also junior suites) on the four floors around the pool have large balconies to two sides, but clearly my favorite room remained my Sea View Junior Suite 1115 with an elegant sitting area, a writing area, a freestanding bathtub, a separate shower, and of course a fabulous view over the Atlantic Ocean as well as the hotel property. Incidentally, all rooms have a balcony with a sitting area. If you have deep pockets, I had a look at the Presidential Suite, which features a Jacuzzi on its balcony.

The bathtubs of the superior rooms are by Duravit, a Philippe Starck model. The standard rooms have bathtubs by Sanindusa (Prestige model). The wooden floors are made of American Oak and American Ash. The Portuguese marble used in the bathrooms is called Crema Marfil. All hotel rooms are decorated with abstract paintings by the Brazilian artist Frederico Alves Pinto.

Among the great features of Pestana Carlton Madeira are the pools. On the hotel level is the heated, fresh water 25-meter Indoor Pool. In addition, also on the hotel level, you can find a large, outdoor Garden Pool with seawater; on the ocean level is the equally large Atlantic Pool, another seawater pool.

Pestana Carlton Madeira is one of only a handful of hotels offering diving lessons and a scuba diving center. They have their own motorboa. When I walked around the seawater pool on the Atlantic Ocean level, three men just came back by boat from a scuba diving tour.

In addition to a gym, a Finnish sauna, a steam bath, a Jacuzzi, a solarium as well as massage and treatment rooms, the hotel also features a tennis court and a mini golf.

When the hotel opened as a Sheraton in the 1970s, it was a glamorous place. On the walls of Restaurant Taverna Grill (currently closed for covid-reasons), you can admire old photographs showing the young Cliff Richard, the young Olivia Newton-John as well as Amália Rodrigues, Portugal’s best Fado singer.

An island as safe as it gets in covid-times

At the end of September 2020, I stayed once more in a Sea View Junior Suite (915). Because only 3 of the 10 Pestana hotels on the island are currently open, most of the group’s guests end up at the Pestana Carlton Madeira. Occupancy was around 80%. Only the masks to wear in the hotel, the disinfectants to use before chosing your food and drink at the breakfast buffet and the social distance to keep told you that we do not live in normal times. Most hotels on the island of Madeira are only 30% to 50% full.

If you do not arrive with a brand new covid19-test, you go through a mandatory test at the airport and have to isolate until you get the results (within 12 hours). My plane arrived at around 16:00. At 23:20 the same evening, the (negative) test result already arrived in my mailbox. So far, Madeira has not registered a single covid-related death. The island is a safe as it gets.

Arcos Restaurant where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Additional restaurants are just across the street near the hotel entrance.

View of the Taverna Grill Restaurant, currently closed because of covid19. If possible, have a look at the photographs on the walls dating back to the 1970s when the hotel was operated as a Sheraton, with stars such as Cliff Richard, Olivia Newton-John and Amália Rodrigues staying at the hotel during its most glamorous period.

The deck bar and restaurant facing the Atlantic Ocean.

The seawater pool on the level of the Atlantic Ocean. Here you board the motorboat if you like to go scuba diving. You can do it even if you’re a beginner.

All photos in this hotel review are the copyright of Pestana Carlton Madeira, Pestana Hotel Group.

Hotel review and photos added on October 4, 2020 at 15:48 Madeira time.