ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa: My first stay at my old favourite

In July, Shipra and I headed to Goa for a quick trip, long after the last time we were there, perhaps in 2018. Among the many places we were going to stay at, ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa was my first stop, especially since this is where my love for Goa in the Monsoons started.

The ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa was the earlier Park Hyatt Goa, and ITC Hotels took over the property and relaunched it in late 2018. As I’ve stated before, I have a fondness for this place and its hospitality, and hence it was my go-to resort in Goa for a quick trip or a long one in the times pre-Covid19. So, it was only logical that I came back to the ITC Grand Goa as my first stop after many years.

Booking the ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa

The ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa is bookable with ITC Hotels via the ITCHotels.com website and their app. Since some ‘ITC Grand’ properties participate in Marriott’s Luxury Collection brand, one could also book these properties via Marriott.com. The rates on both sites are the same. I hold ITC Hotels’ Club ITC Platinum Tier, and with Marriott, I have Titanium Elite. For this stay, I chose to book and then bank the stay with Marriott because I was short of requalifying for Titanium, and it just made me get closer to my requalification requirement.

I booked and then rebooked the ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa at least a couple of times over before I finally made it there, as prices continued to change during the second wave. I eventually booked it at INR 7700 + GST per night for a breakfast-inclusive rate.

Since ITC Grand Goa is not directly under the Marriott flag, I did not have the opportunity to apply for a Suite Upgrade (using my Suite Night Award certificates) on my stay here. We were going to wing it and see how far status was going to get us.

On Arrival at Goa

Goa does not have a great public transport system. So, you either need to have a pickup organised by the hotel you will stay at, or you book a cab from the airport counter and have them drive you to your location. In this case, ITC Grand Goa reached out to me beforehand to confirm my flights and arrival time. On arrival at the airport, I was told to look out for a resort associate holding a signboard of the hotel. We located him, and he took over our luggage and called the driver to bring over the car assigned to us.

A BMW rolled up pretty quickly. What did they say about first impressions?

All our luggage was sanitised and then loaded into the car. ITC Hotels has fortunately taken a higher level of threat perception concerning the Covid19 pandemic as compared to other hotel chains. On the inside, there was a transparent division between the chauffeur and the passenger section.

Not just that, instead of the usual water bottles and candy, the centre divider was now taken over by sanitisers and masks for guests.

It took about 20-25 minutes after we got out of the airport to get to the hotel in South Goa.


ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa entrance

Check-in Experience

Once we arrived at the resort, we had a team of people waiting to welcome us. The hotel was now being run by Mr Amit Kumar, who is the General Manager, and we had run into him earlier on at the ITC Grand Central, where he was the GM when I visited back in Q1 2021. As we pulled over, I noticed his familiar face waiting for our arrival behind a mask. We underwent a Covid-19 checkup via a machine and we exchanged hellos as we arrived. As is usual at this property, we had a welcome drink waiting for us at the reception, and also we saw a few familiar faces.

ITC Grand Goa Lobby

ITC Grand Goa “WeAssure” temperature and mask check

We could either complete our check-in formalities at the lobby or in the room. We opted for an in-room check-in and were brought up to the cart where our bags were already loaded. We were driven to the third court, and a front-office executive followed us as well.

In the assigned room, we were quickly ushered into the room. We went over the check-in formalities on an iPad with the agent, who briefed us about our inclusions. Our identity documents were borrowed and taken back to the front desk for making a copy and sent back in a short while.  While in the room, we also had to sign a health declaration individually for both of us. Although I offered to have them take a look or keep my RT-PCR negative test result on file, they said it was not required.

ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa’s Sea View Suite

For those of you who are not familiar with the layout of the ITC Grand Goa, it is organised in terms of five different “courts” numbered one through five. Court 1 and 5 are closer to the lagoons inside the property, while court three is where the best views are, and hence, the best rooms are here. All rooms are either on the ground floor or the first floor only. The whole property is inspired by Indo-Portuguese villages from the history of Goa and is spread across 45 acres.

We were upgraded from our Garden View Room to the Sea View Suite at the resort on this stay. Located in the third court, we walked into our suite, which was very familiar to us from the days gone by. The Suite opened up into a massive living room, with ample seating space and a work desk in one corner. The soft-top centre table doubles up as an ottoman as well.

On the centre table, we had some sweets and savoury snacks, along with a ‘Welcome Back’ note from housekeeping, and a handwritten note from the General Manager waiting for us.

The hotel staff had set a few pictures of ours from our social media on the work desk, along with another welcome note from the Front Office Manager waiting there.

Across the living room, the minibar cabinet had a fridge, a kettle, a french press and other necessities. The minibar had been emptied out.

The staff had laid out a lot of water bottles for us. One change here has been that the water is all RO-purified and bottled in glass bottles, thereby reducing the plastic usage in the resort.

 The living room connects directly into the bedroom, as well as the washroom. In the bedroom, a massive couch sat across from the queen bed.

There was some towel art set out on the bed by team housekeeping again, which for once, was not the usual cringy stuff and minimalist. I loved it.

We also noticed the special efforts they had already put in to welcome us back to the property. A custom throw pillow with our names embroidered was placed on the bed, which was a marvellous touch, I believe.

There was also a big dressing table placed in the bedroom.

The wash area is right behind the room, complete with a full-size mirror, a sunken stone bathtub, and his and her washbasin.

There was more housekeeping art on display at the basins.

Right behind the basins was a massive closet for our luggage and had an ironing board and other necessities as well. ITC Hotels always have ITC’s amenities produced by sister brands ‘di Willis’ and ‘Dermafique’, and this resort was no different. Some of the other stuff at this resort was moving towards sustainability, such as the bamboo toothbrushes.

Both the living and bedroom opened up into a massive balcony outside, which had a view of the sea on one side, into the horizon.

This was a great place to drink some tea and soak into the sounds of the sea early morning.

The balcony had clothes drying rack, and a daybed and a chair with an ottoman laid out.

On the other side, which opened from the bedroom, there was a dining table and chairs set out, and the balcony overlooked the lagoons that dot the resort. The perfect spot to grab your morning cuppa or even set up your lunch if you intend to dine in the room.

A copious amount of tea was had in this external setting.

As it turned out, we were atop the suites with their plunge pools, something I want to try on one of my next trips. I think the resort has two such suites.

Apart from all the other nice things about this resort, the one thing I found missing were masks and sanitiser in the room. We now travel with our big pump of sanitiser and some disposable masks, so it was not a problem. I was told it was one of the items which are usually placed in the rooms but were perhaps a miss from housekeeping on this stay.

ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa Pool

After our check-in was completed, we immediately changed and headed out to the pool. The pool has been one of the major draws for me at this property, and fortunately, I was informed, the pool had opened up on the day we arrived after a long closure due to Covid-19 restrictions placed by the state government.

The ITC Grand Goa pool is a two-level pool, with a water slide connecting the two. Here is the top-end of the pool.

Here is the bottom tier of the pool.

To get into the pool, we had to sign a separate medical form of sorts, which was provided to us by the pool attendants by the poolside. Once we signed off on the form, a pool attendant prepared some poolside beds for us.

The Farol Bar was also open, however, there were no poolside tables, perhaps because it was the early days of the reopening of the pool, or it was a mandate. So, we ordered some drinks and jumped right into the pool for a few laps. By the time we got out, it was late evening, and the sun had set. It made for a beautiful image.

The pool also has a jacuzzi, which I forgot to head out to over the two days I was there. However, it was functional, for those interested.

ITC Grand Goa Dining

The ITC Grand Goa has a total of 5 restaurants apart from the Farol Bar. These are the Ottimo Cucina Italiana (serves Italian), Kebabs & Kurries (serves Northwest Frontier Cuisine), Tempero (serves Goan Cuisine), The Royal Afghan Seaside Barbeque and Grill (serves Northwest Frontier Cuisine) and The Pavilion at the Village Square (the all-day dining outlet).

All the restaurants, apart from the seaside one, are organised next to each other, which is why it is called The Square, again, inspired by the Portuguese village concept prominent in Goa. At the time of our trip, however, only The Pavilion and Tempero were functional, and the other two restaurants were under renovation. We were however informed that we could pick a dish from any of the menus, and it would be prepared and served for us in the room or at the restaurants which were operational.

Breakfast was served in the Pavilion every day. ITC Grand Goa had not given up on Covid-19 yet, so every item was kept covered, and there was a plexiglass shield between the food and customers. There were also plexiglass shields separating tables. If you were away from your table, you had to be masked. Of course, there were several guests who would want to move around without the masks, but the restaurant staff was empowered to point out to them that they were not wearing masks, and they would often bring them a fresh mask in case they forgot. Compliance was necessary, but not rude and in your face. Each table had sanitiser pumps placed, and much like the rest of the ITC Hotels group, all plates were wrapped in paper and also the cutlery. Nothing was to be touched by hand after it got out of the wash till it reached the guest’s hand.

One of the days we sat inside for breakfast, and another day we sat outside, enjoying the al-fresco setting.

Fortunately, we ran into many familiar faces at the restaurant. Some of them even remembered some of our favourite dishes. For breakfast, we had a pick between south Indian dishes, fruits, Goan delicacies, and all sorts of live stations, right from Eggs to dosas and paranthas amongst other things. ITC has championed the North-Western Frontier and South Indian cuisines successfully, and hence some of their south-Indian offerings at the breakfast were also top-notch. I think I ate some of the fluffiest idlis I’ve eaten at a five-star hotel here. Every day we had new sorts of dosas on the menu, such as the Hyderabad Dosa and the Charcoal dosa, and we tried it all.

ITC Hotels’ Hyderabadi Dosa

ITC Hotels Idlis

ITC Hotels’ Ras Omelette

Not to be missed, however, are the egg dishes. When in Goa, try out the Ras Omelette, which is an omelette dunked in curry. I went for it one day, and another day, I had my favourites, the Eggs Benedict at the restaurant.

ITC Hotels’ Eggs Benedict

ITC Hotels Charcoal Dosa

In terms of lunch and dinners, we largely used to go for the buffet options. The day we arrived, we had a very small lunch from the lunch buffet, and we realised they had some amazing biryanis on offer, apart from some great Mirchi ka salan. That had us hooked with their food offerings.

One evening, we took the dinner buffet after a nice long swim, and there was some excellent food. It being a Sunday, however, the restaurant was crowded, and we were seated in the Goan restaurant for our dinner. There were miles and miles of excellent food, however, to choose from, and we tried a few things.

The chef also brought us some fresh appetizers from the kitchen.

But if you want to step out you could also do that. One of the days we stepped out for a longish walk at the beach and ended up at a local but popular restaurant called Zeebop. It was empty, perhaps with hardly any tourists coming into Goa, however, we were both hungry, and decided to grab a bite at the restaurant itself, rather than wait to go back to the resort. The portions are big, so order accordingly. There are many other resorts and restaurants (like Martins Corner) also close by but you need to drive, you can’t walk over.

Zeebop

ITC Grand Goa Public Areas

The beauty of the resort is in the vast open expanses of greenery, and we walked about a lot, exploring various corners of the resort. The lobby itself is marvellous and usually quiet and has a seating area where one could just lookout, or grab a book and read there.

ITC Grand Goa Lobby

ITC Grand Goa Lobby

ITC Grand Goa Greens

ITC Grand Goa Greens

There was also a kid’s creche called Ollies Club at the resort, in case someone wanted to leave their kids for a few hours for daycare, and right adjacent to that, kids swimming pool as well. The Spa was closed during our stay so we did not get to try out the spa in this instance. There is also a sports complex with tennis and basketball offered if I am not mistaken.

ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa Beach

One of the major attractions for staying at a resort in South Goa over North Goa is the fact that resorts are self-sufficient, and not as crowded as North Goa. Also, it is quieter to be in South Goa. At the ITC Grand Goa, there is a beach that is largely for the use of the guests of the resort itself. While it was monsoons when we were there, so you could not get yourself a daybed or something, but come October to March, and you should be able to have a beach sunbed as well.

Our Anniversary at the ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa

I am usually very coy about spelling private life details out there, but with a resort where so many people working there had interacted with us in the past, it was hard to keep it a secret that we were staying there on the occasion of our anniversary. After all, we had gotten married at the same resort, and hence many people knew already. So, on the day of our anniversary, while we were away for breakfast and a walk, they set up a lovely surprise in our room and decorated it with lots of balloons.

A cake was also delivered into the room before we arrived.

The cheesy housekeeping towel art made an appearance, but with a new throw pillow wishing us a Happy Anniversary, and had a picture of us along as well.

The crew was also sweet enough to prepare a nice bath for us.

At the dinner in the evening, as we waited for the check, came along another pastry, before we would be given the check.

ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa Associates

I am for one really glad I visited after years. Apart from the management, which has changed, most people were retained and we were very familiar with so many of them. I generally love to talk to staff and understand some things about them or their families or their work, and it was wonderful to meet so many people who remembered us. We also were happy for so many of them who had grown into new responsibilities at the resort. We met one such gentleman who was in charge of housekeeping and responsible for all the surprises in the room, and since he was going to take a transfer to a Welcomgroup hotel closer to his family, we figured we wouldn’t cross roads anytime soon, we took a picture with him.

Check-out experience

After our two days at ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa, we were rueing the fact that we had built such less time for one of our favourite resorts in Goa. However, we could not extend our stay as we had decided to head to North Goa on this occasion as well and stay a few days there before heading out of Goa. Outside the hotel, there is a taxi stand, which, unfortunately, is one of the only ways you can get a cab, because they won’t allow other cabs to be brought in. So, we went to the hotel itself, and they quoted us a price for a cab that matched the price outside the hotel, and hence we hired a car from them.

In terms of check-out, we had requested a late checkout at 4 PM, which was confirmed. However, we started about an hour earlier than that given how far the ride to north Goa would be (approximately 90 minutes). We were also delayed due to some adjustments we had to get on the bill done, which was a bit of a slow process as it was a two-level approval or something. I was just trying to use some of my Club ITC discount vouchers I receive as a Platinum member there on this stay, such as a drinks voucher which took off 50% of the drinks tab and some such stuff. On the other hand, when I arrived for check-out, my Marriott tier-based Dining Discount was already applied for the food bill.

Bottomline

The ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa is a fantastic pick when you want something private, yet not very far from the airport. It is not surprising that the hotel had become the flagship for the ITC Hotels chain so quickly, and the product and the people justify every bit of the centre stage the hotel has been afforded. We loved our 48 hours at the hotel and figured we really needed to spend more time around there the next time we would be back.

Video

As we do with most of our hotel experiences now, we made this video in case you would like to experience the hotel with us, rather than just read about it. Check it out.

Have you been to the ITC Grand Goa Resort and Spa? Do share your experiences and questions with us.


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Comments

  1. Repeating a question I had asked on one your earlier Marriott reviews? Any reason you didn’t leverage the 5x bonus through AMEX Reward Multiplier?

    • @Mika, it does not seem to work from what I have heard from people. Also, it only works on prepaid bookings and in the hotel world, no hotel charges you immediately.

        • I had booked a Marriott stay in March using reward multiplier from Amex for which the payment was upon checkout at front desk.
          Received the Bonus MR points for that transaction today.
          So this indeed works.

  2. I just got back from this resort and as a Marriot Ambassador Elite member wish I received even half the kind of service your report talks about.

    The property is dated. Two wings are under renovation. There is construction work going on.

    The staff were ok, made little effort to go over and above. We booked two rooms and we first got them on two ends of the property! After requesting the next day we were grateful for them to give us two rooms together. As an ambassador elite your used to a few perks but no lounge, I got 1000 points welcome bonus!

    I’ve stayed in this hotel 2 years ago and it was December not the monsoon but for the price and expectation this hotel needs a lot of work to get back to its glory days

      • I would rather go to a property which has a lounge… or which offers happy hours. 1000 points??? Does it matter??

  3. Interesting experience.. I too am a Marriott Titanium elite and am planning on my wife’s 50th birthday at ITC grand… Needed to know about their lunge access for Titanium elite…

  4. Hi Ajay,

    very nice narrative and even nicer pictures. planning for GOA in November and now ITC is top on th elist.

    Thanks,

    Nitin

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