European Holiday Reviews

European Holiday Reviews

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Fuerteventura 19th – 26th June 2013...

As we’d read on previous reviews, there were quite long queues at check-in and not enough staff to cope, but we were prepared for this. This is something that could easily be rectified with 2 extra members of staff on reception for busy periods so I’m not sure why they don’t just do it and get better reviews! (Tip: as previous reviewers have suggested it may be a better idea to fork out for a taxi, although your room won’t be ready any earlier). I guess we waited about 30 minutes to be seen and then we were told the room wasn’t ready (which we assumed it wouldn’t be as it was only 1pm) and given 2 complimentary vouchers for drinks at the bar, which was welcome (either wine or orange juice). By 2pm our room was ready  – ours was room 1316. I was a bit worried as I’d read that Block 1 was quite noisy but we found our room nice and quiet (as long as you keep the windows closed at night). I had emailed in advance asking for a quiet room upstairs and this is exactly what we got (Tip: email them with any special requests before you go).

There are lifts, which are a godsend, although they are a bit bumpy. They do make life a lot easier when you’re on the 3rd floor.

The room was an adequate size, nice and clean and well decorated. We were glad of the aircon, especially at night. If you leave the windows open you may get mozzie bites – I’ve never been bitten in the Canary Islands before, and I’ve been to Lanzarote, Tenerife as well as Gran Canaria, but got several nasty bites here. The mini-bar was really useful as was the lovely big area outside the toilet for getting ready, tons of space for toiletries.

We had an ocean view, and could see the harbour, which was nice. The balcony was small but ok for the two of us and the chairs comfortable. It could have done with a table but it was simple enough to take the small table from the room out there, so not an issue. The balcony also has foot rests and a pull-out clothes dryer. It didn’t get much in the way of sunshine, which may bother some people or may suit others better (personal preference).

The beds were quite large and comfy and there was a large flatscreen tv as well as tea/coffee cups and a kettle….but bizarrely no teaspoons! (No tea or coffee either).

The wardrobe was large and the wardrobe doors were mirrors. 8 clothes hangers in each side was ok for us, but some people may find that’s not enough. 3 drawers for clothes was, again, ok for us as we travel light, but may not be enough for other people (especially for a 2-week stay).

Restaurant opening times were:

7.30am – 10.30am for breakfast.

1pm – 3.30pm for lunch (for those all-inclusive).

7pm – 10pm for dinner.

If you are half board you can swap evening meal for lunch as long as you do so by 8pm the night before. We didn’t bother so I can’t comment on the lunchtime service.

We were half-board and to begin with very confused about eating arrangements. It turns out that when you go to the restaurant for the evening meal (gents must wear long trousers as previous reviews state), you must take a slip of paper which is allocated on arrival (you don’t get a wrist band for half board). At the door the restaurant manager will issue you with a ticket on which your drinks orders will be written by the waiting staff and you sign it (you pay for all drinks after your meal, even water). As we’ve never done anything other than self-catering it was also confusing about what to do, but we eventually figured it out. Extra cutlery on a trolley somewhere obvious (not hidden away) would be useful as you have to rely on place-settings at tables for knives and forks. Also, do check your plate / bowl /cutlery as they are not always as clean as you’d expect, especially the backs of plates.

It’s a large restaurant with a vast variety of food, so it can feel overwhelming at times and despite nice tables with proper tablecloths can feel a bit like a school dinner hall. Food was generally good and plentiful and there was probably something for everyone, although on occasion things were a let down (bones in fish, gristle on bacon, cold vegetables and the Canarian sauce went from delicious one night to inedible the next). Food has basic labels but a small green ‘v’ to indicate suitable for vegetarians would be really helpful. There are no labels on the dessert counter where the cakes and pastries are so it’s pot luck. (I wouldn’t have had coffee cake if I’d known). The cheese counter was a real let-down with only 2 varieties on offer most evenings (one of which was a smokey cheese which is an acquired taste). Staff are quick to take empty plates and glasses away so if you haven’t quite finished then be on your guard! Also, the restaurant felt very hot at times, so wear lightweight clothes if possible. I’m not sure why they can’t put aircon or fans in there for diners comfort. It can also be really noisy, and on occasion it was almost impossible to hear yourself speak (I’m not a fan of having to shout to my companion in order to have a conversation, especially at breakfast).

On our second evening we went down at 8pm and it was very busy, so much so that when we’d got our food it took a full 5 minutes before we located a clean table. The staff work very hard but were obviously rushed off their feet, which meant by the time we were finally seated our food was stone cold. (Tip: when you notice it’s busy, locate your table first, leave 1 member of your party to hold the table and go up for food in shifts). I’m guessing most family-orientated places are the same, but be prepared for children running around screaming and putting their fingers in the chocolate fountain, ice cream etc. (Not entirely the fault of the hotel but an issue of poor parenting by certain families).

Breakfast was a more casual affair, no ticket for drinks needed (free), and again there was more than enough choice. The bread rolls were excellent and there was a selection of cereals as well as hot food (although hash browns instead of chips at breakfast would’ve been a better option in my opinion). No need for long trousers at breakfast, however, again it did seem very confusing and it did take several days before we finally sussed it out. Some may find this exciting, but others may find this a little stressful. Queues are an issue at times and it can take an age to fill your plate. Several times I gave up and had something else instead.

Although the bed was comfy I suffer back pain and went down to reception the first morning to ask for a softer mattress (and a teaspoon for tea/coffee).

We also paid 20 euros deposit for the beach towels, which you get back when you return them as long as you keep the receipt (don’t lose it!) This is useful as you don’t need to pack towels and you do get your deposit back.

The cleaner came in and put lovely squishy mattress toppers on both beds – sorted! I have to say this made the beds the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on during any holiday. However, when I asked about a spoon for my tea/coffee she indicated she couldn’t provide me with one. When I came back through reception I asked again (different staff member) and he handed me 4 small plastic stirring sticks! He said it was all he’d got. At least I could now stir my coffee – I just didn’t have an easy way of getting the sugar into the cup. I swiped one from the restaurant at breakfast the following morning but I have no idea why they don’t provide them in the rooms. (Tip: take a teaspoon!)

Wifi was really expensive at 25 euros for the week and you can only use one device at a time, which was a bit annoying when you have 2 or more people wanting to use the net at once. It also kept cutting out on some days and at times was painfully slow, which really isn’t good enough when you’ve paid so much money for it. Unfortunately, as my partner and I are both self-employed we both need access to emails throughout the day, so had to suffer it. (Tip: There’s plenty of nearby bars and restaurants which offer wifi for free if you simply buy a drink if you only need occasional internet access).

The beach at the back of the complex has quite a few stones (you may want to wear flip-flops of jelly shoes when paddling), but if you stand at the beach looking towards the ocean and walk 10-15 minutes to the right, past the fish restaurant and past the small shopping centre, you’ll come across a really lovely beach with soft sand. This is definitely worth the walk, and just past the shopping centre are some rocks where chipmunks / ground squirrels live (be warned, it can smell rather foul there at times!). You may even spot a few lizards in the morning. Camel rides are behind the fish restaurant (white building before the shopping centre).

As previously commented on, the pools are very cold, however once you get over the initial shock it’s actually quite nice in there. There are also daily activities such as water polo for those with a bit more energy. I have to add that maintenance of the pools could be better – several of the small tiles are missing and some areas appear grubby. Also, despite the signs saying it’s forbidden to reserve sunbeds, it happens all the time. At one point I counted 12 people in the pool and well over 100 sunbeds with towels on them (all in the shade).

The hotel animation team worked their socks off to please all of the families and the theatre shows were obviously well rehearsed. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like marmite – you either love it or hate it. I’ve never been a fan of Butlins-type entertainment so it wasn’t my cup of tea at all (although the theatre was always packed and it was clearly very popular). Several people left the theatre one night (‘The Best Of’ show) during the sketch featuring two grown men running around in nappies pretending to be babies, and another sketch where a man pretended to have no arms in order to trick another man into helping him to pee, although others found it hilarious. I guess it’s simply a matter of taste. Also, it can get incredibly hot in there (presumably a ploy to encourage you to buy drinks, however, people were actually leaving due to the temperature in there).

Next door is a shopping centre with several really nice shops and restaurants, and if you cross the road from the reception and turn either left or right you’ll find plenty more shops and restaurants within easy walking distance (I can recommend the Trafalgar restaurant, Wild West Restaurant, Piero’s Bar, Lin’s Café, The Goose and Firkin or the Fado Rock restaurant).

For the final 2 days of our stay the mechanism on the gate leading to the beach nearest to our room was broken and you couldn’t use your key to get out (although you could get back in). This meant you either had to stand there waiting for someone to return to the complex and let you out or a walk around the pools and sunloungers to locate the next nearest gate. It was still broken when we left…

Would I go back? In a word, no! Too many issues and the unexpected mozzies really were the last straw.

Gran Canaria 3rd – 10th December 2012...

After a very early start and a very long day of travelling, we finally arrived at The Marina Suites and all I can say is WOW! We were greeted by genuinely friendly reception staff and given a room on the 8th floor overlooking the ocean – stunning. We were given 2 room keys (credit card types that also serve the electric) and were told if we needed an extra one just ask, which was just as well after my partner dropped his key in the lift and it disappeared down a gap in the wall. There were 3 lifts in reception, so we never had to hang around very long waiting to get back up to the apartment.

Even though I’d read on Trip Advisor about the size of these rooms, I was still taken aback by the vastness of this apartment. We had a large bedroom, with lovely wide beds, the biggest bathroom I’d ever experienced on holiday along with a beautiful large lounge area with kitchenette.

I’d also read that the wifi wasn’t very good and not available in the rooms, however, my partner was thrilled to be able to use free wifi on his iphone in the room for the entire week! (He only lost his connection a couple of times). I’d taken my laptop with me and although I couldn’t seem to access the wifi in the room I had a decent connection downstairs in reception, which suited me just fine allowing me to do everything I needed. Wifi was a little hit & miss around the pool / restaurant area but this wasn’t a huge problem for us.

Everything was spotlessly clean, which you always hope for on holiday but don’t always get. Even though the beds were really comfy, I suffer back problems, so I asked at reception if there was a slightly softer mattress I could have. Despite being told the hotel was fully booked so the lady on reception couldn’t guarantee anything, within 5 minutes a maid had appeared upstairs with a thick mattress topper and within seconds it was on my bed and the bedding all replaced! This made a HUGE difference. I have never slept on such a comfortable bed before. My partner didn’t like the small, long pillows but if only he’d asked reception I’m 100% confident they’d have found him bigger ones.

The pool towels were an extra 20 euros but you got it back when you checked out, so that wasn’t an issue at all. If you required a clean one during your stay you simply handed the dirty one to the lifeguard at the pool and 1 euro 50 cents and he’d hand you a nice clean dry one. It couldn’t be simpler.

The first day we weren’t sure about the on-site restaurant options as we were self-catering, but for just 17 euros 10 cents for two you could make use of the all-you-can-eat buffet from 8am – 11am!! We felt this was exceptional value for money as there was a huge variety of food and drink from crispy bacon, cold meats, cereals, breads, cakes and so on, as well as unlimited soft drinks, teas, coffees…. I must admit, I pigged out and couldn’t move afterwards (shame on me). In fact, after an encore the next day we decided to ask about breakfast deals and on the 3rd day we paid reception 30 euros each so we could have breakfast every day for the rest of our holiday. This saved us quite a bit of money, although I think we’ve gained a stone each in just 7 days!

The Balcony was big, with plenty of space, and this is where we spent most of our time when we were in the apartment. I had originally requested a marina view but I’m really glad we had an ocean view as it was beautiful, and this will be the view we request when we return. The balconies are glass-fronted so as not to spoil the magnificent scenery. I was a little worried as I’d read that there can be noise from the boat yard but we were never disturbed by any industrial sounds and it was actually interesting watching the men at work. I also liked the idea we could watch the evening’s outdoor entertainment from the comfort of our apartment if we felt too lazy to go downstairs (starting 9.30pm and ending before 10.30pm so “noise” was never an issue.)

The décor was minimalist and very stylish with a lot of marble and aluminium, which we like. The settee/bed and armchair in the lounge were both incredibly comfortable (don’t lie down on the sofa if you have plans to do anything because you’ll fall asleep!)  There was a large flat-screen tv and a DVD player to use (apparently there was a large selection of DVDs at reception but we never bothered to watch any). I think there were just Spanish tv channels but that didn’t worry us as we had no intention of wasting any of our week glued to the screen.

The kitchenette was cleverly hidden behind doors. It was small but perfect for the two of us. There were plenty of plates and glasses etc. The microwave was definitely a bonus. There’s a sign telling you not to bake for longer than 10 minutes or the kitchen would overheat but this wasn’t a problem for us. The fridge was perfect for all the usual self-catering bits and pieces, including our bottled water (DON’T drink the tap water on Gran Canaria). I was especially pleased we were provided with a kitchen pack consisting of washing up liquid, a sponge and a cleaning cloth (something I always hate having to buy on holiday).

The two outdoor jacuzzis were a fabulous 30 degrees and quite addictive. The infinity pool was utterly gorgeous and around 28 degrees. Much has been said about sun-loungers but we had no problem whatsoever nabbing two right next to the edge of the pool whenever we went down there and it didn’t bother us that there were lots of other loungers in close proximity. The lifeguard was, as all the Marina Suites staff are, very friendly and ever-present, so we felt confident about leaving bags unattended (although common sense should prevail and you’d be a bit daft to bring high value goods to the pool with you when every room has a safe – for an extra charge).

On the Thursday we decided to try the buffet dinner at The Marina Suites, and at 15 euros each (drinks were extra) we found it to be exceptional value. It was steak night and the food was outstanding, plentiful and there was a wide variety (plenty of options for a fussy vegetarian like myself). The staff in the restaurant (downstairs opposite the reception) were polite and helpful and at no point did we ever feel rushed. It was the only time we have ever said we’d consider all-inclusive next time (we ALWAYS go self-catering but the food at The Marina Suites has been sensational). Every night the menu has a different theme (Italian, Spanish, Mexican etc) and I assume the food is just as good then.

We also tried out the Atlantic Bar & Restaurant afternoon menu (1-4pm) and that too was excellent (pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, chicken etc). As with all the meals and bar services at The Marina Suites, you could pay cash, credit card or simply give your room number (and sign the receipt) and have everything added to your bill, and pay when you checked-out. Everything is made as simple as possible.

There was a toilet block behind/underneath the Atlantic restaurant which was spotlessly clean (same as everything else at The Marina Suites) and jolly handy if you’d been in the pool or around the restaurant area. Disabled toilets and baby change facilities were near the covered walkway. Ramps everywhere make this complex highly accessible.

There was an information booklet in the bedroom listing everything you needed to know, and if you needed anything else 24/7 you could simply phone reception staff who would help you.

There was a supermarket within 5 minutes walk, which would suffice for most self-catering needs, or the Spar which was about 10 minutes walk (near the beach).

There was a dress code – you must cover up when in reception and for evening dining gentlemen are to wear long trousers, not shorts.

I have to add that we always felt safe at The Marina Suites and felt that our belongings were also safe. This was highlighted one day when my partner accidentally left his Reebok trainers under his sun lounger by the pool about 4pm, and when he eventually realised at 8.30pm the same night the trainers were still exactly where he left them! (Thankfully!)

It wasn’t just the main features which impressed me about the Marina Suites, but also the ‘little things’ like having a liquid soap dispenser in the bathroom, having ‘do not disturb’ signs to hang on the outside of the doors so you didn’t get woken up by cleaners in the morning and finding out that the maids who clean the rooms also do your washing up!

Disney was wrong – The Marina Suites is the ‘Happiest place on earth!’

Corfu 29th June – 13th July 2012...

This was our third stay at The Kanali, and the first time we were able to stay for 2 weeks.

What can I say that hasn’t been said already? Nikos, Spiros, George, Kelly & Peri and all of the rest of the hardworking staff are the best hosts you could ever wish for, including all-rounder Mario who provides the best poolside BBQ in Sidari. The apartment was the same one we stayed in July 2011 (308) so it was just like ‘coming home’. Since our last holiday the shower has been upgraded – WOW!! A glass fronted enclosure so no soggy shower curtain. Superb!!  As an additional touch there are little complimentary soaps and shampoos for you in the bathroom – lovely.

Studios cater for up to 3 people. There are 3 proper single beds (none of your 2 beds plus sofa-bed nonsense) and there are 3 of all cutlery, cups, glasses, plates etc. On arrival, the towels were made into butterflies on our beds, which was another lovely touch.

The air con has a sensor, located on the sliding doors to the balcony, which shuts off the air-con when the door is open, which is a very sensible idea. If someone in the room wants the air con on and another person wants to sit outside on the balcony admiring the stunning views, simply close the sliding door.

The cleaning team are as efficient as ever, coming in 3 times a week – actually, I believe they came in most days (linen & towels changed twice weekly). Wifi is free throughout the apartments and the signal is often quite strong (although I did have a few problems staying connected with my laptop at times but that’s to be expected).

Air con is 40 euros per week and is excellent value for money and a real must in the summer months.

The swimming pool is lovely and clean and is open from 9am-7pm. There is a smaller kiddies pool and a larger pool next to it. There are loads of sun-loungers and sun shades around the pool as well as some set back slightly on a grassy area.

Reception at the Kanali is open all day (08:00 – 00:00) and is manned 10:00-12:00 and 18:00-20:00. Outside of these hours, if you need anything at all the staff at The Aquarius Bar and Restaurant will soon sort you out.

The site itself is beautiful (lots of gorgeous flowers and the grass is mowed regularly). Why would you ever want to go anywhere else?!

Here are more photos of our trip:

Corfu 1st – 8th July 2011...

Bearing in mind that the flight from Stansted only takes about 3 hours, this feels like a very long journey (especially if you had an unsociably early check-in). This is made slightly worse by the 2 hour transfer bus from Corfu airport (if you booked via First Choice / Thomson), although you could just treat the experience as a free tour via the scenic route. If you don’t mind paying extra you can get there an hour or so earlier by getting a taxi. Also, at Corfu airport, there are just 2 baggage belts each with 3 screens so they can process 6 flights at a time. Be warned to watch these screens carefully as they can change at any point and you’ll find yourself watching the wrong luggage coming through!

However, all of this hassle is totally worth it for the fantastically warm welcome you get when you arrive at The Kanali, and throughout your stay.

We first visited The Kanali in May 2010, but this time we had a tighter budget and instead of a large apartment we booked a studio, which was more than adequate for the two of us.

Nikos greeted us off the coach with open arms and took our cases in his pick-up along the short lane to the reception, and then Spiros (from the Aquarius Bar) came across to give us another warm welcome. Once the formalities were done (handing over passports and receiving the paperwork and key for the room and another for the free safety deposit box in reception) we were taken to our accommodation.

Room 308 is on the top floor and there are 3 single beds, bedside cabinets, plenty of pillows, kitchenette, and separate toilet/shower. The tv has several channels and you can watch the latest movies, not that we used it as the weather was so fabulous all week. The balcony (a real sun trap in the afternoons) has a table and 3 chairs, along with a clothes line and has a fabulous view of the Mediterranean and Albania. There’s also a wardrobe with hangers and drawers, a dressing table with more storage space and stool as well as table and chairs. The kitchenette is equipped with kettle, toaster and although there’s no microwave there is a 2-hob over/grill. There’s enough plates, cups etc for 3 people along with cooking pans.

The air con is 40 euros a week but is well worth it in my opinion. Wifi is freely available for those who want/need to be ‘connected’ during their stay.

The cleaning staff apparently have magic wands. How else could you explain how they manage to change your bedding, empty your bins, sweep the floor and bring you clean towels and new toilet rolls in the blink of an eye? Fantastic!

The on-site restaurant (The Aquarius) is perfect for all of your needs, whether you want a full English breakfast or a wonderful Greek dish, all served with a large portion of kindness and generosity. The home-made veggie pizza is to die for and the walnut cake is truly phenomenal. Spiros, Kelly, George and the team work tirelessly to ensure that you’re the centre of their attention and that you are made to feel like royalty. Evening entertainment is plentiful, with a BBQ by the pool, quiz night, a highly entertaining Greek night and also a live band night… featuring the multi-talented Nikos! My birthday was a few days away, but during the live band night I was given a delicious birthday cake, complete with sparklers by the Aquarius staff, while the other customers sang Happy Birthday to me, which took me completely by surprise! These are the sort of things which makes the Kanali and Aquarius so very special.

Obviously, we popped in to say ‘Hello’ to the wonderful Jeni at Jeni’s Mediterranean Moments en route to the town, and to have home-made cheesecake. As always, we were made to feel extremely welcome and were updated on the most recent dog rescues. While we were there we booked our sandwiches and bottled water from Jeni for the journey home. The food at Corfu airport is very expensive (and ghastly) and for just a few euros Jeni will make sure you have something fresh and tasty to eat during your final few hours on the island, even bringing it to your accommodation before your transfer bus arrives.

This is a fantastic place to stay and after the last two wonderful holidays at The Kanali we’d never book to stay anywhere else on Corfu.

Here are more photos of our trip:

Tenerife 29th March – 5th April 2011...

I cannot rate the Parque Santiago IV highly enough.

On arrival we were given a very warm reception, two door keys (credit card type which also turn on the electrics), pool passes and other literature. As we arrived quite late the apartment was already available, but for early arrivals you may need to wait while the room is cleaned as check-out is not until noon. I think that rooms are generally available after 2pm, but you’ll be given your pool pass if you wish to wait in the sunshine, and if there are any spare rooms available you may even be offered one so that you can freshen up while you wait for your own apartment. The lady on reception will do all she can to ensure you don’t have to hang around too long.

We used the lift to get to our apartment. The lifts are small but were a godsend during our stay.

The apartment, a studio suitable for 2-3 people, was the best we’ve ever stayed in.

Kitchen: Fully equipped (I’ve never seen so many different types of glassware in a holiday apartment before!), with an oven, hob, fridge (with ice cube trays), toaster, coffee percolator, pans, etc etc. The kettle was not electric (on hob) but it didn’t bother us. There was no microwave, but (again) this was not an issue. Everything was spotlessly clean.

Bathroom: Crisp white towels, plenty of toilet rolls (replenished by the cleaners throughout our stay), mini soaps, lovely bath and shower.

Bedroom: Open plan design (less claustrophobic than other places we’ve stayed at), twin beds (quite firm but you can use the extra blankets folded underneath you for padding, or even the main cushions from the sofa bed), bedside cabinet, wall lamp, clean bed linen, extra pillow/blankets (not needed), plenty of wardrobe space (lockable), wooden hangers.

Lounge: Ceiling fan (excellent!), flatscreen tv, table & chairs, a rocking chair (fantastic!), sofa bed, coffee table, table lamp, safe (we didn’t use it), and a bowl of fruit, bottle of wine and a bottle of water waiting for us on the table (lovely touch). They also provided a pen, writing paper and a small note pad!

Balcony: perfectly adequate for our needs, wonderful views, table and chairs, washing line (with pegs), and an outside lamp. The shutters are presumably for windy days.

Electric sockets: 1 in the kitchen, bathroom, balcony, bedroom and 2 in the lounge.

Gym: Available, but we didn’t use it.

Reception: 24 hours, comfy chairs and reading material, holiday rep information, postcards for sale, free wifi, 6 pay-as-you-go computers (50 cents for 5 mins, 1 euro for 10 mins, and 2 euros for 20 mins).

Pools: Fabulously clean, heated pool (approx 25 degrees) was heaven, plenty of sun loungers and brollys.

On site restaurants: A little pricey but good selection.

Cleaners: If you hang the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door handle (outside!) the night before, they won’t wake you up. When you want them to come in you simply turn the card over and request they clean your room (which they did every day).

Security: Plenty of visible security day and night. Poolside gate needs a door key (card) to get in, so you feel safe on site.

Video footage of the view from the balcony:

Here are more photos of our trip:

Corfu 14th – 21st May 2010...

Well, what can I say? It was love at first sight! The Kanali is everything we’d hoped for and more.

When our transfer bus dropped us off at The Kanali, after an hour and a half journey from the airport, we were met by a very polite young chap with a truck, who took our cases along the short track for us in order to save wear and tear on our baggage (and our arms!) This service is also repeated when you leave at the end of your stay, which is a nice touch.

In reception we were warmly welcomed by Nikos, who greeted us like old friends even though we’d only just met. We later discovered that Jeni is no longer the manageress at The Kanali due to her other commitments (Jeni’s café and the dog rescue centre), however, she’s still involved with the bookings and emails. The reception area was beautifully clean and Nikos explained we could have a free safety deposit box whenever we wanted. There’s a bookcase full of holiday reading material, free to use as & when, and the First Choice notice boards are located on the wall with all the flight info and schedule for when the rep would be on site.

Nikos then took one of our cases, mine as it happens, and led us up two flights of stairs to our apartment – 304. He helpfully explained a few things about the electricity supply, the user name and password for the on-site wi-fi (we’d taken a laptop with us) and showed us the folder full of useful information which was on the kitchen table.

As soon as Nikos left we turned around and saw what a stunning view we’d been given. It was utterly breathtaking. The apartment was absolutely brilliant – everything we needed for a great stay. We’d been allocated an apartment with two bedrooms, enough for 4 people, even though there was just the two of us!

Both bedrooms overlooked the sea. There was a twin room, with two single beds linked together, while the main bedroom had a double bed. Both bedrooms had a phone, tv bedside lights and cupboard space along with a mirror and dressing table. Both bedrooms also had their own sliding doors leading onto the balcony.

As we were on the top floor, directly below the roof, the ceilings were slanted and wooden, with a gloriously rustic feel. The balcony was large, with a table and 4 chairs and a line for hanging out the washing. House martins and sparrows (in May) were chirping and swooping around making nests under the roof tiles, which was a joy to watch.

The bathroom was equipped with shower and plenty of freshly washed towels (as well as a couple of essential toilet rolls!) There was enough shelf space for toiletries and a very useful hairdryer.

The kitchen was basic but more than adequate for our needs, with a kettle, fridge, 2-ring stove & oven, dining table & 4 chairs, and enough cutlery and cooking utensils for 4 people. Tip: the smoke alarm can be a bit sensitive, so if you’re making toast it might be a good idea to open the kitchen window.

The main wardrobe was in the hallway, with easy access from both bedrooms and had plenty of hangers as well as two drawers at the bottom, and in there we found more pillows and clean towels. Bins are provided I the kitchen and bathroom. Tip: remember not to put toilet paper down the loo!

There’s no lounge in the apartment but there’s actually no need for one. It’s sheer bliss to watch tv from your bed and there’s always the balcony for sitting and chatting or having a bite to eat.

On the topic of food, we were travel-weary on arrival so headed to The Aquarius Bar & Restaurant next to The Kanali as it was the easiest option. Spiros and the team were the most fantastic hosts anyone could ever hope for, and to be frankly honest we were spoilt rotten. The food was sublime (strawberry cheesecake to die for), and nothing was too much trouble. The entertainment on Saturday night was the delightful Nikos and his band, playing a range of cover tunes in the upstairs bar. Needless to say, that’s where we ate most meal times as it soon became addictive.

Five Minutes walk away is the much advertised Canal D’Amour, with breathtaking scenery. In the heat of the day, small lizards scuttle about on the pavements and into the dense shrubbery.

Sidari town is just a 10 – 15 minute stroll down the road (depending on how distracted you get en route). Half way there we felt we just HAD to pop into Jeni’s café and say ‘hello’. We were made extremely welcome by Jeni and we even made a fuss of Bella, a rescue dog who chooses to pop by every now and again. Jeni’s cheesecake is an absolute must!

As you stand on the balcony of the apartment you can see a swimming pool just below you, but that one belongs to the apartment block next door. The Kanali pool is to the left as you look out on the sea – between the apartment block and the Aquarius Restaurant. Plenty of poolside sun loungers for everyone.

Cleaners seemed to pop round on an almost daily basis, ensuring clean towels never ran out and bins were emptied before getting too full. The entire site was spotlessly clean.

We didn’t bother with the welcome meeting, but Alison (First Choice Rep) made sure we had all the information we needed about excursions and departure times by pushing notes and leaflets under our door during our stay. When we wanted to book an excursion, we simply spoke to Nikos on reception and he immediately arranged for us to meet her in the bar for a chat later on. It couldn’t have been simpler.

We chose to book an excursion on the Wednesday called “Simply Corfu” but after 11 hours on a hot bus (little or no air con) I was far too tired to attend the fabulous Greek Night at The Aquarius, which I’d been looking forward to all week. Hindsight is a wonderful thing….

Mosquitoes WILL be an issue for many people, however, by sensibly using an insect repellent spray and covering up in the evenings, and by using plug-ins in the apartment at night, most of the discomfort can be avoided and it really isn’t much hassle. Most of the shops nearby are fully stocked with mosquito coils (for burning on balconies), citronella candles etc etc…You may find that using a product such as ‘after-bite’ as soon as you spot a nibble will prevent any itching and potential swelling.

We happened to arrive just prior to a storm, and the wind can really blow hard on Corfu. It really howls at times, and this can keep you awake if you’re a light sleeper. Also, when it rains it’s a full-on downpour, however, it soon eases off and if you find yourself out when it rains just nip into the nearest shop to keep dry. The shopkeepers won’t mind at all.

We were VERY unlucky with the weather as it happens, it was very windy and quite chilly during most of our trip, and it poured with rain most of the week, but that’s just the luck of the draw. We’d have loved to have gone in the sea but it really was too rough most days. On our last day the rain was so torrential that the apartment began to flood under the front door! Luckily we threw our towels down and managed to stop it reaching the bedroom. Later on, after we’d braved a dash to the Aquarius Restaurant, we discovered that some kind person had put a thick towel down on our doorstep to prevent any more water getting in under our door. Tip: if it does rain during your stay, be careful where you walk as pot-holes in the roads quickly become mini-ponds.

We would dearly love to return to Corfu, and wouldn’t want to stay anywhere other than The Kanali – however, we won’t be doing so in May again as the weather is too unpredictable.

Corfu is a smoker-friendly island, and non-smokers may find it irritating in bars and restaurants when others light up, especially after being used to the UK being a non-smoking zone in public buildings.

Video footage of the view from the balcony:

Here are more photos of our trip:

Lanzarote 2nd – 9th July 2009...

We had booked our holiday through the First Choice website, flew Thomson, and the tour operator was Skytours, so it was no surprise that when 10 of us got off the bus at reception approx 3pm on Thursday 2nd July 2009, none of our names were on the list.

The rep had conveniently remained on the coach, which was now nowhere to be seen.

Eventually, all of the various couples were allocated rooms, however, as the Spanish receptionist handed over the key to room 114 she warned us that the view was “not good” and that “maybe you move room tomorrow?”

As we didn’t plan to spend much time in our apartment, the lack of a view did not unduly bother us. We certainly didn’t want to waste our first full day there unpacking / packing / moving room / unpacking again. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

There were no pillows on the beds, however, once I’d been to reception and asked politely we were given two (albeit the lumpiest pillows I have ever seen). Predictably, the beds were very hard, but there are thick foam cushions on the sofa and arm chair which we laid underneath our sheets at night. This seemed to do the trick.

There is a free tv in the room but channels are very limited and prone to interference.

There were only minimal kitchen utensils available, and I had to ask reception for a corkscrew. The can opener was completely rusty, and we chose not to use it. There are just 2 hotplates, no oven or grill. There is no microwave (although I accept that these things were not promised). A kettle and toaster are also provided.

We weren’t overjoyed at our room, but as it was only rated a 1 key we weren’t expecting a palace. I didn’t expect to see rust along the edge of the bath however, nor did I wish to see weird gunge growing on the internal window frames. With no windows, other than the large sliding patio doors, the room felt quite claustrophobic. With no windows in the bathroom you wouldn’t want to get locked in there!

With the July heat we decided it was a good investment to spend 21 euros (5 euros refundable deposit) on hiring a fan. We actually paid 20 euros as they had no change.

With only one visible socket in the room, located in the kitchen, the fan wouldn’t reach to the bedroom area. We asked reception for an extension lead but was told that we should come back and ask again in the morning!

The room was unbearably hot with no air con so we had no sleep. The fridge in the kitchen backs onto the wall beside one of the beds, generating even more heat for the poor unfortunate trying to sleep there. At 3.30am my partner went to the bathroom to find a huge cockroach scuttling around. I went to reception and woke up the night watchman to tell him. He spoke virtually no English but managed to convey to us we need to see the manager in the morning.

It was windy outside (which I’m certainly not blaming on the accommodation!) but the 6 feet tall metal fence, which was just a few feet from our room, kept banging and creaking all night long, so we had to keep the patio doors closed because of the din, meaning we had no fresh air in the room. (Also, we didn’t fancy letting any more cockroaches into the apartment).

After no sleep at all and having to sleep with the lights on so we could look out for more cockroaches, I went to reception at 8.30am Friday morning. I was finally given an adapter for the fan so we could at least cool down, and a large can of industrial strength cockroach spray (it was apparently up to us to fumigate our own apartment).

Due to the lack of any sleep, we missed the visit from our rep at 5pm as we’d dropped off. No attempt was made by the rep to check on us at any point during our stay.

The pool and Jacuzzi were quite nice, and there were plenty of sun loungers, but it would’ve been good if the poolside bar had been open, especially on Sunday. Everyone had to walk to the local shops for ice creams which was annoying when there’s a fully stocked bar on site.

Despite spraying the whole room several times each day, Sunday afternoon we had cockroaches on the patio. If we hadn’t spotted them, they could easily have scuttled into the apartment.

A cleaner came in but simply emptied the bin and washed the floor. She didn’t change the towels (or tea towel).

Monday morning, after another sleepless night paranoid about cockroaches in the room, we found another two large ones on the patio (making a beeline for the apartment). I’d had enough of this and asked reception to move us.

I have to say that the reception staff did the very best they could, and were very sympathetic throughout our ordeal.

We wasted all Monday morning packing up our things and waiting for an available room. By 1pm we finally had the keys to room 204. (A cleaner had been scrubbing it for over an hour to make sure it was fit for use).

The bathroom door handle came off when we used it, but the views were better and room was much cleaner. We were promised that there would be no more cockroaches, and I admit that we didn’t actually have any cockroaches in this room for the remainder of our stay.

There was no kettle in this room and I couldn’t be bothered to pester reception yet again, so I made do with boiling hot water for my cups of tea using the percolator.

The new issue became stray cats, who come into the apartments every time they notice the patio doors ajar. The image of an emaciated stray cat munching on a large bug just 3 feet away while I was trying to eat my breakfast outside on the patio is an image which will stay with me for quite some time.

Although there is a public computer in the reception area it costs 1 euro for just 10 minutes, so is quite expensive.

During our stay we used the Thomson helpline but they simply said that cockroaches are a common problem and that there was nothing they could do. Basically, they didn’t want to know.

I have tried to write a balanced review, including some positive aspects, but it hasn’t been easy finding anything good to say about The Panorama Apartments.

The décor in the corridors is nice, the receptionists are very helpful, the views in some of the rooms are nice, the wardrobes are large, the fridge is adequate, the pool and Jacuzzi are good and the actual location of the apartments is good (5 minutes from The Strip, 5 minutes from the Old Town, 3 minutes from the local Spar supermarket).

There is a gym on site, but I never once saw anyone use it.

Unfortunately, this is the worst holiday I have ever had and I would certainly not recommend The Panorama Apartments to any of my friends or family members. There are lots of far better places to stay in Puerto Del Carmen.

Here are more photos of our trip:

Cyprus 12th – 19th November 2008...

When we booked online for our holiday in Cyprus from 12th – 19th November 2008, we misread the ratings for this holiday village and believed the apartments to be 4 star, when in reality it’s the SITE which is rated 4 SUNS. The site rating reflects the quality and quantity of the food outlets, general cleanliness, quality of the swimming pools etc and does not reflect the quality of the individual apartments. Subsequently, when we were shown to our basic apartment (kitchen / bedroom / lounge all in one room) we were very disappointed. I would personally rate the basic rooms as 2 star.

The apartment (room) was a lot smaller than we expected, bare wires hung out from a light fitting (this was rectified after a complaint to the management) and the shower was coming away from the wall (again, this was fixed within the hour).

There was no lock for the toilet door. This didn’t bother us but some people may wish for more privacy.
There were complimentary soaps and lots of toilet rolls. Clean white towels appeared frequently, due to the efficiency of the on-site cleaners.

The beds were very hard, but we found that if you take the big blankets out of the wardrobe and fold them in half, you can use them underneath you for some light relief. The stone floors however mean that even small amounts of movement will send the beds sliding across the room. The novelty of getting out of bed to put it back against the wall wears thin after the 4th or 5th time.

The wardrobe was big enough for the two of us, and a few wooden coat hangers were provided.

The small, portable tv had a good selection of channels, but the remote control was awkward to use.

The sofabed looked like it had been dragged out of a skip! It was stained and wobbly, with bits of foam hanging out of it. I would not have wanted to have to sleep on it!

After complaining to our rep, she showed us the deluxe apartments in the fishing village. Although they looked quite nice it didn’t justify the extra £20 a night, which would’ve taken an extra £140 out of our spending money simply to get the quality of room we had been hoping for before we arrived.

The manager put a basket of fruit and a bottle of wine in our room by way of an apology, which was a nice touch.
We actually found that the staff were efficient and friendly.

On arrival we discovered that there was a welcome plate in the fridge, with tea, coffee, sugar, milk, crackers and jam. This was another nice touch.

The kitchen was adequately equipped, and clean. I was impressed with the microwave/grill. A cleaning cloth and scouring pad were provided, which was useful. Thankfully, the fridge was not a noisy one (a blessing when you sleep in your kitchen/lounge).

There was a storm during our first night and water poured in under the door. Luckily, I’d put a towel down but some of our things still got wet.

The next day we started getting overrun with ants, but once the cleaning staff had sprayed in there the problem was solved. (Tip: if you want to buy your own ant spray, buy the stuff in the green can from the supermarket).

It was my partner’s birthday during our stay, and hotel staff put balloons and a birthday card in our room, which was a nice gesture. (Tip: If you are going to be having a special occasion during your stay, just mention it when filling out your registration form on arrival).

The balcony was relatively large, and the view was pleasant. We had room 413, on the 3rd floor overlooking a pool, close to the main reception.

The pools on site are fabulous to look at, but were far too cold to swim in unfortunately. There were a few brave souls in there midday, but generally they remained unused (there is apparently an indoor pool on site but we did not bother looking for it). There are plenty of sun loungers around the pools, and it was warm enough to get a tan in mid-November.

The food outlets were good. We were self-catering but for just 5 euros per plate you can help yourself from the Lighthouse buffet (Tip: pile the plates high). We did not use the main food hall which the all-inclusive people use, but I took a small peep inside and it looked really lovely.

The Aliathon Village has many, many cats (this seems to be the case all over Cyprus). They tend to pester you whenever you sit outside to eat, which is off-putting. If you have issues with cats, maybe Cyprus isn’t the best choice for you.

As for the entertainment…..well…..they did their best!
The music in the evening is very loud. If you are hoping for a quiet night in, you’ll be out of luck. Even with the tv up high we could still hear the singing until about 11pm.

The actual site is quite stunning, with many different kinds of trees and flowers. It was wonderful to wander around the gardens, seeing fruit trees, grapevines and an abundance of blossoms.

Local buses run regularly to the Harbour and are cheap (1 euro 30 cents), but be warned. After 7pm you’ll be very lucky to see any buses at all. We waited for about 40 minutes one evening until a nice couple informed us that bus inspectors go home at 7pm and drivers ‘do their own thing’ after that! (They’d spent the previous evening waiting for a bus). It cost us 10 euros for a taxi back to the Aliathon. (Tip: you might want to ensure you catch a return bus before 7pm unless you fancy a walk or are prepared to pay for a cab).

We booked 3 excursions via our First Choice rep. We were allegedly the last group of the season to walk on the seabed under the water and feed the fish (fantastic!). The half-day cruise to Coral Bay was superb value for money. The day trip through the mountains was lovely but we were not informed beforehand that we should wear long trousers when we visited Kykkos monastery (luckily they supplied robes for us to cover our legs, or we would have missed the highlight of the day).

Paphos airport has a brand new terminal (opened this week). It is clean and efficient, but there are very few shops in departures (you can buy duty-free and food but I couldn’t see anywhere to buy postcards).

Overall, this was a reasonably good holiday but it could’ve been better if the accommodation was nicer.

Here are more photos of our trip:

Lanzarote 2nd - 9th October 2008...

My partner and I stayed in apartment 206 (upstairs) from 2nd to 9th October 2008 and we had a fantastic time.

No cockroaches (there was a can of spray in the cupboard but we didn’t need it), lovely big balcony with table and chairs (and a wall light), lots of pretty shrubs planted around, plenty of kitchenware, cleaning lady almost every day, and a lovely view.

The only slight niggle was the hard beds, which was very easily rectified by using the sofa cushion and the spare single mattress (under the sofa) on top of our beds. Problem immediately solved, and a good nights sleep was had by all.

Very helpful reception staff. We asked for 2 extra pillows and within 30 minutes they’d been put in our apartment (cleaning staff finish at 4pm so requests for things to do with the apartments need to be made before then, otherwise it’ll have to wait until the following morning).
There were 3 computers with internet access available in reception. I think that 2 euros bought about 20 minutes of surfing (I could be wrong). 24 hour reception meant that there was always someone there to help you if you needed anything, which was good.

Pool was wonderfully clean and very well maintained. At night it looked stunning with the coloured lights turned on. Nice little poolside bar for snacks. I counted about 60 sun loungers, so more than enough to go round.

I’d read the negative reviews, so we didn’t bother using the safe inside the wardrobe (kept our cash on us), however a guard was walking around all day long so we felt happy with the security arangements. I did notice several people leaving doors and windows open (ground floor apartments) while they went off to the pool, which I’m guessing might’ve encouraged an opportunist thief to try his/her luck, however we didn’t hear of any robberies during our stay.

I was concerned that we were right above the on-site bar/venue and that we might’ve been disturbed in the night by noise, but the site operates a policy of ‘no unnecessary noise after midnight’ so we rarely got woken up. To be honest, once the balcony and bedroom doors are shut you can’t hear anything much.

There was so much choice within a 5 minute walk we only bothered to pop into the on-site bar for one quick drink, so I can’t really comment on the entertainment, however I know they had quiz nights, karaoke and satellite tv in there.

I liked the fact that the bathroom had a bath and a shower. The microwave in the kitchen was very useful. There were tons of coat hangers in the big wardrobe. Spare blankets were in the cupboard, but we didn’t need them. The kitchen had lots of cupboard space, which was also useful. I also liked the fact we were given plenty of big blue bath towels & hand towels (changed twice during our stay).

I highly recommend the Grand Tour (volcanoes, camel rides, lunch, wine tasting, lava caves……) as well as the submarine safari (32m under the Atlantic Ocean watching the fish in their natural environment). We booked through our rep and we got door-to-door service (which is what you need after a long day’s sightseeing).

Yes, ‘cardiac hill’ is quite steep but it’s mentioned on all of the websites I’ve seen so there’s no reason for anyone to not be aware of this before they book their holiday. In my opinion, it’s worth being up a hill to get better views.

Grocery shopping can be done cheaply at the local Spar shop (5 minutes walk).

The new shopping centre is just over 5 minutes walk away. Lots of designer shops if you like that sort of thing, along with restaurants and a creche.

‘The strip’ is at the bottom of the hill (turn left) and is crammed with bars, restaurants and tacky tourist shops. It has a vibrant atmosphere for those who like things lively.

The beach is at the bottom of the hill (just across the road) and is vast.

To the right (10 minutes walk) is the old town, which is quite charming and has a more relaxed feel.

There’s a wide variety of entertainment available, from drag shows to live music venues, so something for everyone!

The sheer number of shops, bars and restaurants mean that prices are competitive and good deals can be had (avoid the electrical shops as there’s a lot of dodgy iPods and cameras about). Full English breakfasts are around 2.5 euros.

We can’t really fault the Atlantis Las Lomas and we’d definitely return if we had the opportunity.

Atlantis las Lomas website

Here are more photos of our trip: