Holiday Garden (Mallorca, Spain)
Holiday Garden is a 3 star hotel in Playa de Muro, Mallorca. The main reason we decided to head there was because of it was adults only and its location - easy enough to walk to Port de Alcudia and not far from Port de Pollenca. Actually the main reason was it wasn't that far from the beach with its white sands and if I was basing my ... review solely on that I would definitely recommend it. However, regardless of its location and its good points there were a few things that would really put me off recommending Holiday Garden.
Having booked the hotel and flights through Expedia we had to book transfers separately. We spent about £28 return for 2 including 1 suitcase with Resorthoppa which took around 1 hour 15 minutes by the time we left the airport (had we gone with a taxi which would have only taken about 50 minutes it would have cost £80 one way). I think it is possible to book transfers through the hotel but shortly after booking the English section of the website disappeared and the Spanish translation wasn't that easy to follow/didn't always work so no idea if it would have been any cheaper.
We were dropped off right in front of the hotel (perfect!) and almost didn't get in because the woman at reception wanted a print out of our booking which we didn't have. She did let us fill in the form but wanted us to email the booking as soon as we got into the room. I'm not sure what would have happened had we not brought the iPad because neither of us have Smartphones. They obviously had our booking though and we could prove who we were from our passports. We were however given an 'upgrade' (I say that lightly) from a standard King Size to what I'm guessing is a superior room with our own little garden with sun loungers and parasol as well as the standard table/chairs. I will also say here that all of the reception staff had quite good English for all our queries but didn't appreciate the woman booking us in being so curt.
What I loved most about the hotel is that it's not a high rise building but little buildings surrounding the stage and pool. I think they are all the same which means there are 4 rooms on the ground floor and 4 on the first floor each with little balconies (not all of the ground floor rooms have gardens).
On entering our room (231 - ground floor) it was nice and cool but did have a smell about it (a little damp perhaps) but cosmetically it looked OK but in need of modernising. There was plenty of storage for clothes, a safe available for Euro17,50 a week or Euro2,40 a day. I was quite glad the room was air conditioned although I ended up switching it off even though it was still in the 20Cs at night as I woke up quite a few times feeling cold. The King size bed was comfortable enough although quite a small pillow (no pillow menu as listed on the website). There was a matching sideboard, table, chair and bedside tables (not my taste really) as well as a comfy little sofa. The large flatscreen TV only had one English language channel - BBC World News. The little garden outside was well maintained with shrubbery border, 2 sun loungers, parasol as well as the table and chairs. We had a fridge which was invaluable for keeping bottles of water and juice in although the freezer compartment needed defrosting and there was a towel in it which couldn't have been very hygienic so I wouldn't have liked to keep anything other than bottles in there.
The bathroom was a decent size with shower (no bath), sink, toilet and bidet. When we arrived I don't think the bathroom had been cleaned as there was still a towel on the floor and no towels for us. We did find some in the room later on though. If that had been it, I would have said for a 3 star room (albeit an upgrade from the standard room) it wasn't bad. Unfortunately we noticed a rather large hole which constantly dripped through the night on each side of the ceiling just above the shower head so we reported this to reception the next morning. Apparently they knew about it so would send someone to have a look at it. A couple of workmen did turn up later that day while we were sitting outside and they ended up cutting a hole in the plaster and stuffing it with a towel - as though that would help stop the dripping!
The dripping soon started again and even after one of the workmen handed boyfriend the phone with reception on the end telling us they'd be back the next day, it didn't come as much of a surprise that no one turned up next day and even at the end of the week it still hadn't been fixed.
1. When we went for a shower you ended up getting a cold drip every minute or so from the ceiling.
2. Was this even clean water?!
This pretty much ruined the holiday for us so we tried to not spend much time in the room but obviously still had to use the toilet and shower.
Another thing I wasn't happy about was never knowing when they were coming to clean the rooms. All of the staff - whether the cleaners or workmen just gave a knock and walked in so you could never really relax. One day the cleaners were knocking at 9am and on another day they didn't do the room until about 6pm.
Our stay was all inclusive and having read many reviews before our trip I had such a low expectation of the food that I was actually really pleasantly surprised. Everything was a buffet so at breakfast you had a choice of cooked food, breads, rolls, jams, fruit juices etc. Lunch and dinner were quite similar with a range of salads, pasta and sauce, pizza, chips, lots of fish and meat dishes but then a choice of wines, cider and fizzy juice. At 4pm there was even free cake at the pool bar although when we went on Thursday it wasn't open. I think we did get our moneys worth (about £13 a day extra for all inclusive compared to one lunch out which was Euro30). On one plate I had pizza, chips, pasta, sauce, paella, potato salad, beetroot slices and savoury rice. A lot of the dishes were overcooked and some of them were not very hot but this wasn't enough to put me off. Boyfriend usually went up for 2 or 3 plates before even considering dessert. The waiting staff were very quick to clean plates away - sometimes a little too quick but couldn't really complain.
Thursday evenings offered a romantic meal and it was nice to see people making an effort to dress up a little more (well some didn't) and we got a glass of champagne and a red carnation. This was just in the restaurant though so you still felt like you were eating in a canteen. There was supposed to be live music but think we were a bit early as we didn't hear any music until later that night - likely from the stage. Fridays offered a BBQ but we left just after breakfast. The hotel has quite a good range of facilities with the pool, Jacuzzi (we were confused as to whether this cost as it mentioned 1 euro on the board but free on the welcome leaflet), crazy golf, golf, bar, pool bar, giant Connect 4, Balinese beds, dance classes, bike rental etc
Mid September seemed a great time to stay at the hotel. The hotel does seem to cater more for Germans than Brits (we seemed to be the only ones there) and on researching I was worried about the mosquitoes but can happily say we were not bothered by any even when sitting down by the lake. There was very little noise except for the neighbours coming and going and flushing their toilet/shower dripping but very few drunks. The hotel is on a one way street so little traffic, next door to the hospital (although no noise from there at all), and very close to the shops - every second shop seems to be a Spar. The area definitely seemed a lot nicer than Port de Alcudia although still very touristy.
I will never be booking a 3 star accommodation again and will never be staying at Holiday Garden again. Still really rather grossed out at the dripping water even over a month later. I wouldn't have been overly impressed with it had there not been a drip either. For a 4 night holiday I was glad to get home although I did miss the weather, the beach and the variety of food. I could only give it 2 stars though.
P.S. One thing you may see is the poor ponies tied up as you're walking to the beach. Honestly one of the most heart breaking things I have seen. They looked like they had been sedated as they barely moved and didn't look like they had food or water in the hot weather. Shame on the parents who actually paid for their children to ride them.
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Louis Zante Beach Hotel (Zante, Greece)
BOOKING My husband and I decided to spend our holiday on the Greek island of Zante. We had already stayed in Louis group hotels, and have been impressed, and so decided to try the Louis Zante Beach Hotel. This is a four star hotel. I booked as a package through First Choice Holidays after looking around at other tour ... operators. I found the flight times with First Choice great and the price seemed good, therefore I chose this company.
I looked up the holiday details on-line but booked by telephone.
We travelled from the airport to the hotel on the First Choice/Thomson coach transfer service which took no more than thirty minutes.
Several people arrived at the same time and the reception was busy but well manned.
I was impressed with the quick checking in process. We paid a deposit for a room safe and a deposit for the use of pool/beach towels.
We were supplied with information regarding meal times, food outlets, bars etc. An A/I band was attached to our wrists. We were given a room key which had a magnet attached to control the electricity supply in the room. Our cases were taken to our room by a porter.
I would say that reception service throughout our stay were excellent.
Rooms are located on the first and second floor in the main hotel building as well as in bungalows dotted around the hotels grounds. Our room was situated on the second floor of the hotel.
Inside the hotel there are two lifts for guests. I was pleasantly surprised that we never had to wait long throughout our stay for a lift to be available.
Our room was close to the lifts and staircase which seemed a good location although we were worried it might be noisy at times. However, the room position proved to be ideal; we never found the hotel at all noisy.
On entering the room the first thing I did was to open the doors to the balcony and step outside. As a sea view is very important to me I had paid for this feature. If I hadn't liked the view then I wouldn't have unpacked but would have requested a different room. I know from past experience of the Louis Hotels group that they will endeavour to please their guests. Well, the view was simply gorgeous. I couldn't complain about my home for the next two weeks.
The room had a lovely large bed and this proved to be one of the most comfortable hotel beds that I have slept in. We may have been fortunate and been given a fairly new bed as some others guests did mention their beds being uncomfortable; ours was lovely. Extra pillows were to be found in the wardrobe but we requested more for extra comfort. These were brought to our room.
There was a bedside table/cabinet (with drawer) on either side of the bed. We each had a reading lamp and controls to operate other lights in the room plus the light for the balcony.
In the dressing table drawer a hair dryer was placed inside. Next to the dressing table there was a mirror and a light above it.
The room contained a sofa bed and two chairs..
Also in the room was a chest of drawers with tea and coffee making tray placed on top. There was a kettle, cups saucers and various sachets of tea and coffee plus milk and sachets of sugar.
A large plastic bottle of mineral water was supplied on our arrival. Literature we had been given on checking in informed us that if this bottle was empty and left outside the fridge it would be replaced.
Tea, coffee etc. was replenished throughout our stay. We never had to ask for more milk or sugar.
The wardrobe was large with a shelf and the doors opened out into the room. We had enough hangers for our clothes which is unusual.
The fridge was a decent size being large enough to hold bottled water, a bottle of orange squash and a litre carton of juice.
A further set of drawers was located under the fridge.
The fridge and safe were integrated into the wardrobe fitment and a door closed over them.
There was plenty of storage in this room but then there were only two of us. I think if we had stayed in this room with any of our children some years ago then we might have needed another chest of drawers, but then I think it's rare to find adequate storage in hotels when there are more than two people using the room. But I would still say that this was one of the better hotels that I have stayed in in terms of storage space.
I thought that the air conditioning was good and used it often.
The room had a telephone and a television.
The bathroom was small but adequate, although the bath was the narrowest I've ever come across. Even just using to stand and shower (over bath shower) it was too narrow for comfort and I wonder how some of the more ample guests coped.
But the shower itself gave a good shower apart from on two occasions when I tried to shower earlier than usual in the evening.
There was a toilet and vanity sink unit in the bathroom. It had a shaver point. Hand soap was supplied as was shower gel/shampoo.
Toiletries were replenished as necessary.
There were four towels in the bathroom and a bath mat.
The rooms have been recently refurbished at this hotel and I think the balcony furniture must have been renewed at the same time. Furniture consisted of a small table and two comfortable chairs.
The balcony because was well screened from the balconies on both sides and this afforded a good measure of privacy.
There was a rail to dry clothes/towels fixed onto a wall on the balcony.
CLEANING OF ROOM
Towels were changed every day unless left them folded on the towel rack.
Toilet tissue was always supplied.
Toiletry dispensers were refilled when necessary.
Drinking water was refilled whenever we left the bottle outside of the fridge.
I have always found Louis hotels very clean but the maid who cleaned our room really surpassed herself.
Often in hotel rooms I see something that's been missed but our room was thoroughly cleaned every day.
Sheets were also changed frequently.
Any dirty cups (even our own mugs) were washed and dried. It really was a delight to enter our room after it had been cleaned.
We became friendly with a family of three generations and the elderly grandmother was confined to a wheelchair. They said they coped well and were staying in a room in the main hotel. Their only grumble seemed to be that their beds weren't comfortable.
I think that the reliability of the hotel lifts must have been a big help to disabled guests and those with babies in pushchairs.
There were many bungalows on ground floor level.
I was impressed that the hotel had ramps fitted throughout.
The swimming pool was one of the easiest to access that I have come across. It had easy to ascend/descend steps rather than ladders and sturdy handrails.
The grounds are extensive and lovely with lawn areas, trees and flowers dotted around, a pleasant pool area with entertainment area and a beach bar.
There are several ways to reach the beach and walking around the grounds is easy owing to many linked pathways.
The swimming pool had a life guard in attendance.
I loved the swimming pool although it wasn't the largest ever. It was easy to access by shallow steps and hand rails. It looked clean; we saw the pool and surrounding areas being thoroughly cleaned every morning. The pool area was kept clean throughout the day too and the life guard regularly swept away puddles to keep the area as slip-free as possible.
There was a small children's paddling pool close to the swimming pool.
The sun loungers were comfortable and the parasols attractive.
Although I appreciated this swimming pool I did think that the hotel needed a second pool. We found at times, especially during our first week, when English and Welsh (not sure about Irish) schools were still on holiday, that the pool and its surrounds became too noisy. This was really because of parents leaving pre-teens for too long to their own devices. Several people were disappointed that these older children didn't seem to be checked and they did spoil the tranquillity of the hotel. The second week was more pleasant when most of the children staying were Scandinavians under school age (under seven) and young pre-school aged children from around Europe who weren't any trouble at all.
I thought if the hotel had another pool it might have helped with this noise issue and been an improvement on the hotel, making it even nicer. Also, there were too many guests staying here in peak season, in my opinion, for just the one pool. The hotel certainly had enough room for another pool which could have been either an indoor or outdoor one.
One didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to secure a sunbed. The pool area was thoroughly cleaned every morning at around eight o clock and towels seemed to be laid on beds after this time.
We never had trouble finding two beds and a parasol together.
Sunbeds were placed around the pool and on the lawns.
The daytime entertainment was excellent. The animators were a group of lovely and friendly young Italians and one Polish girl. I cannot praise them enough. They were charming and hard working. I felt they spent time speaking to all guests and although we didn't join in many daytime activities on this holiday we weren't forgotten and became friendly with the entertainers.
All guests were invited to participate in beach volleyball, football, killer darts, pool, table tennis, French boules, pool games, water aerobics and more but there was no pressure at all.
Animators worked hard in the evening too and put on some lovely sows. We did think that the entertainment could have gone on a little later in the evenings.
Food and drink is available at the Louis Zante Beach from breakfast through to supper snacks. Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks are available from ten in the morning until midnight. A pay bar is open until midnight.
Meals consisted of self-service buffet and show cooking. Guests could eat in the Asian restaurant if previously booked.
Carafes or glasses of red and white wine were available at lunch and dinner as was beer, water, soft drinks and tea and coffee.
After dinner snacks consisting of sandwiches, crisps, and popcorn were available from the main bar area.
Afternoon cakes were served by the pool bar.
Drinks were served during the day from the poolside bar and at the beach bar. In the evening drinks were available from the poolside bar near to the entertainment area and also from the main bar. Waiter/waitress served drinks by the main bar.
Local beer was on draught. The poolside bar served beer in small recyclable plastic glasses but in the main bar beer was served in 'proper' glasses, either in half or pint glasses.
Overall we thought drinks served in this hotel were mainly of a good standard. We thought the red wine was better than the white. The local beer was decent. I usually drank vodka or ouzo as well as sampling various cocktails. I enjoyed the cocktails as they weren't overwhelmingly strong but pleasant.
My husband and I thought the all-inclusive option at the Zante Beach was impressive. Most guests seemed to be staying here on an A/I basis.
FOOD (INCLUDING VEGETARIAN OPTIONS)
Vegetarian options weren't bad although I think meat free options could be improved upon in the way of a larger choice. I would say that it is better than many hotels but not as good as two Louis hotels that I have stayed at in Paphos, Cyprus.
There was nearly always a pasta sauce (and pasta) suitable for vegetarians and there was a vegetarian corner, although I did sometimes struggle to find something I fancied. I think if the salad bar had offered a little more, perhaps in the way of quiche, more cheeses, tuna, then this would have better suited both vegetarians and omnivores. I thought the salad choices were disappointing although the sauces and dips were lovely.
There didn't seem to be many complaints about the food but my husband and I were a little disappointed. We felt food was cooked well but often there were weird choices for instance roast beef but only wedges to go with this and altogether some strange combinations. We also thought that the joints of meat on the carvery ran out too early and should have been replaced.
The food wasn't bad but we felt it could have been better.
The restaurant had Greek, Cypriot, Italian nights and there was usually something Greek to be found.
We were very impressed with staff throughout the hotel; we found cleaning staff, bar, waiting, reception and entertainment staff to all be polite, friendly and efficient.
The hotel has an outdoor pool and paddling pool.
Sun loungers are free to guests around the pool and lawns but loungers and parasol are charged for on the beach. I believe proceeds go towards the preservation of turtles in the area.
There is a small games area for children
Computers are available and Wi-Fi is at a charge.
Fully equipped gymnasium
Evening and daytime entertainment
Two floodlit tennis courts
Wedding packages and services
The hotel is beachside. The beach is long and of soft golden sand. The sea is clear and it's easy to access the calm waters. When we were here (late August to September) the sea was wonderfully warm and inviting.
Water sports aren't available because they would disturb the turtles in this area, which is an important nesting area for the loggerhead turtles. However, pedaloes can be hired and the hotel has a diving centre and small boats can be hired. A few metres from the hotel there's a small jetty where boat trips can be taken from.
Louis Zante Beach Hotel is located on the outskirts of Laganas and close to the small resort of Kalamaki. It's on the outskirts of Laganas and is fairly peaceful but still easy to travel to the main (and lively) Laganas strip or the lovely family resort of Kalamaki, or to Zante town.
From the front of the hotel there is a long driveway leading to the main road and the start of shops, bars and restaurants.
It is more pleasant to walk a short distance along the beach where one soon comes across bars and shops.
GUESTS AT ZANTE BEACH
There was a good mix of nationalities staying at this hotel which makes things more interesting. It is nice, in my opinion, to meet people from other countries.
There were probably mainly British guests during our first week but there was more of a mix during the second week.
The Louis Zante Beach is a family hotel of a good standard.
We would definitely consider returning to this hotel. We loved the beach and the grounds. Most of all the service was excellent.
I liked our hotel room and was impressed with the cleanliness of the room, hotel and grounds.
I also liked the fact that the hotel is close to the airport meaning that the transfer time was short.
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Guest House Martin (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
To many the term 'guest house' to describe Ljubljana's Guest House Martin' will be something of a misnomer: I've stayed in some dive-y hostels where I felt more like a 'guest'. Still with hotel rooms shooting up in price and hostel rooms non existent due to the final stages of the European Basketball Championships in Ljubljana recently ... we bagged one of the few remaining cheap rooms in the city.
I wouldn't recommend Guest House Martin to Ljubljana first-timers. It's not that it is far from the attractions but it is quite tricky to find and you can pay just a few Euro more to be more central in a nicer pad. The owners live in part of the house and rent a few rooms. We arrived last so ended up with the room with the bunk beds. After a few beers and 14 hours travel, we didn't really care but if you book this place and really don't want bunks, you should stress this when booking and ask to have one of the other rooms reserved.
First impressions aren't great although the house is at the end of a lovely quiet lane. The garden is a bit scruffy and the car port roof is badly in need of a major clean. It does look a bit tired and run down. The paving stones leading to the guests' entrance were uneven and the sensor lights had a mind of their own so tackling the path in the dark was a bit awkward. The owners have a dog which I'm sure is friendly but it gave us quite a fright when it leapt out onto the first floor balcony to bark when we arrived.
The room was clean though it was in dire need of some refreshment in the decoration. The walls were rough and badly painted and the cheap furniture knocked about. The carpet didn't meet the walls and was shabby. In the shared bathroom the walls had clearly been painted over and over with whatever paint lay around at the time. The shower ran off the taps over the bath tub; the bath tub was very deep and this made climbing in and out very tricky because I have short legs and also because there was nothing to hold onto. The water took a good couple of minutes to reach a temperature warm enough for a pleasant shower. Small towels were provided in our room in spite of the website I booked with saying they weren't.
While this 'guest house' could do with an upgrade in terms of furnishings and decor, it did have some advantages. At Euro36 for two people we couldn't really get too vexed about the short comings: a tourist tax of Euro1.01 was paid in cash to the owner at the time of departure. They also have free wi-fi in the rooms and this ran quickly and without interruption.
All of the rooms have a little balcony with views over the back and side gardens which are much nicer than the one at the front. The landing has a sofa on it but it's not really a place you'd go to sit and relax in; for one night we didn't mind but there is no real communal area so those looking to meet other travelers may find this place a bit disappointing. I found the owner a little abrupt and less than friendly but ultimately we didn't have to engage with her much so this wasn't a major issue.
Breakfast is not provided but there are bakeries and cafes close by in the Trnovo district. If you want a meal but don't want to go far there's a restaurant just at the entrance to the lane. A shared kitchen is listed on booking sites but this was not pointed out to us so I can't comment on the facilities.
Guest House Martin is very basic. That said we had a good night's sleep and there was hot water. As we know the city well we were happy with the location; in fact it suited us better than being in the centre as the bars and restaurants here are cheaper and you mix more with the locals. The heart of touristy Ljubljana is ten minutes walk away.
I wouldn't stay at Guest House Martin again but I would recommend it to someone on a really tight budget who doesn't want to stay in a conventional hostel.
We booked through booking.com. The guest house does not have its own website.
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