“ Address: 1 Rapti square / 85101 / Rhodes „
===I want my hol, want my hol, want my holidays===
It was February. My partner Allan and I had a very hectic few months so we decided what we really needed was a holiday. We had a few options. We could jet across to Atlanta and visit my fantastic friend Jess. We could hop over to Cyprus and visit my Brother and his family. Nothing like free accommodation! The flights to Atlanta, however, are extortionate at the best of times and the idea of spending a relaxing week with my two young nephews hanging off my neck, love them as I do, wasn't what we needed. As such we decided to have a look around for somewhere nice, fairly cheap and completely and fully all inclusive. An all inclusive holiday has a lot of aspects to consider so I'll try and keep it short, but there is a lot of info to give you here so it'll be a long one.
===To see you coun, see your coun, see your country===
After much deliberation and searching we found Sunshine Rhodes Hotel, sometimes known as Sunshine Vacation Club with a room costing £398 each all inclusive for a week. Sunshine have two hotels on Crete, one on Corfu and one in Rhodes and specialise in all-inclusive holidays. The one on the Greek island Rhodes is situated in Ialyssos (roughly pronounced EYE-AHL-IH-SOSS, though that changed slightly depending on who you spoke to) which is on the northern coast of the island and sits directly on the beach that runs up the coast. In the distance directly north you can see (on a clear day) Turkey. A bit closer to home you can also see the northern most tip of the Island which is home to Rhodes Town and is at most a couple of miles away.
===Planes, trains and automobiles===
Getting to the hotel really couldn't be simpler. It's situated about a 15 minute drive from the airport. If you've booked through a travel company then you should probably already have a transfer set up as we did. The airport is fairly small and easy to navigate with a plethora of transfer busses and taxi's waiting outside. Even if you DIDN'T have a transfer set up, I don't see a taxi costing you an arm and a leg as it really is a very short journey. We had a minor hiccup with being told to get on the wrong bus, but that was (thankfully) sorted when the driver looked at our paperwork and told us the right bus to be getting on.
===Check it in===
The Entrance to the hotel is fairly grand. A large golden seahorse sprays water into a fountain in the courtyard and the reception building has marble floors with lots of very Greek looking artwork on the walls and some bronze statues kicking about. One thing I will say is that if you're a bit of a prude about boobs and willies, then you may not quite enjoy the nudity of the art that will pretty much surround you in Greece. Thankfully we aren't prudish in the slightest. Check in was very easy. We arrived around midnight and were greeted by a polite well dressed man explaining where to find the restaurants if we wanted a midnight snack and how to get to our rooms. He gave us a map of the complex and marked a few key areas that we'd want to have a look at and asked me to fill out some information. After that he handed me the keys and let us go on our way. Being that we'd left the house at 9am we decided we'd have a very quick snack and then go straight to bed.
The complex has about 5 buildings that run in a line. The front of the blocks look out onto the pool and the ocean, the back of the blocks aren't ugly to look at either with gorgeous smelling trees and flowers planted and neatly kept all around. After a short walk (maybe two minutes) we arrived at Room 401in the Iris building. While the block was clean there was a little whiff of sewage hanging about which made my heart sink a little. Thankfully once we got inside the smell completely disappeared. Upon first glance the room seemed great. Directly in front of you when you open the door is the bathroom door. The room opened up to the right where there was a large double bed and a seating area that also folded out into another bed. There was also a desk with an old television with the massive back sitting on it. Underneath the TV was a cupboard which housed a refrigerator. Each side of the bed had a lamp above a bedside cabinet. Each side also had a plug socket and a light switch that turned the room's main light off. Right beside the door was a built in cupboard with hanging space; this is where the safe lived. Sliding patio doors were at the far right and opened out onto a balcony with two plastic chairs and a table to match on it. The Air-con unit was next to the entrance and looked a bit like an old storage heater. A bit of fiddling with the grating on the top right hand side of it revealed a very simple control panel.
As I said, everything looked grand on first appearances. We had went for the cheapest room the hotel had to offer, which turned out to be a family room so we weren't expecting miracles. Looks wise we were pleasantly surprised. Even the artwork on the wall (which I later realised were scenes from Old Town further up the Island) was lovely. It all looked fairly plain and simple and clean. As such, we weren't incredibly disappointed with anything but there were a few things that either could be better or that others may not enjoy. The first thing was that "Double bed" actually turned out to be two single beds shoved together which I felt was a bit naughty of them. It also led to the fun lottery as to how the beds would be made up each day. Sometimes they were made up with two separate sheets under one larger double duvet, other days they were made up with one sheet under the larger duvet. It did, however, make it obvious that the sheets were changed every day. It also meant that occasionally Allan didn't have to put up with me stealing all the sheets.
---Conning the Air-Con---
Our next slight niggle was with the Air-Con system. Having turned it on as soon as we arrived we expected that by morning the room would have cooled down, especially since the blackout curtains on the balcony doors were blocking any heat and light coming into the room (fantastic, by the way!). Alas by the time morning came the room was stuffy and hot. Through the course of the holiday we realised that even with the Air-con on full, the room didn't cool down. At most there was a slightly cooler bit of air directly above the unit. Leaving the balcony doors also turned the air con off as it has a pressure switch on it. We found out that if you cheat a little and jam something between the door and the pressure switch you can keep the unit on with the door open which, surprisingly, did help cool the room down better than just leaving the door open. Weird eh? There is a complimentary bottle of water in the fridge, I would recommend emptying this and using it to jam the door open. I don't know if it was just our room's unit that was on the fritz, but something tells me if you had paid for a more expensive room you'd probably get a bit more control in your room.
Talking of the complimentary water, we noticed that this wasn't replaced once it was gone. On the plus side, if you are lucky/ sneaky you can do what we did and pick up another from the packs that the cleaners sometimes leave unattended in the entrance to the block. After you have two bottles you can use one to jam the door open and another to refill from the water cooler at the pool bar. Huzzah, problems solved. If you don't want to steal a bottle of complimentary water, I'd suggest not binning the one that you get so you can refill it as it's always a good idea to have some chilled water in your fridge.
===THE BATHROOM ===
As with restaurants, I get a bit picky about hotel bathrooms. This bathroom came fully stocked with a toilet, sink, bath and shower so you don't have to worry if you have people travelling with you who are specific about how they prefer to wash. Personally I hate baths and love showers so I was incredibly happy to see a good looking shower in the bathroom. I was even more impressed when I stepped under it for the first time. It was akin to being gently beaten to a pulp. In this case, that's a good thing. The water pressure was amazing and was most definitely better than that of my shower at home. The temperature was the only thing I had slight issue with. If you wanted to shower just before the hotel restaurant opened or any other "typical" shower time, you may find that the water doesn't really get hot. That being said, it's never cold. Luke warm would describe it well. If, however, you don't follow the crowd then you can get an amazing and hot shower out of it. Unlike other places I've been, the water even came out of the pipes clean, which is a plus! We were even supplied with two fresh bath towels and hand towels every day. I assume you'd get more if there were more of you staying in the room.
The toilet was fine and you are even allowed to put paper down it! Success! The only trouble I had was the first time I flushed as the flusher looks like a button to be pushed when, in fact, it is to be pulled up the way. Allan also had trouble figuring that out on the first flush which made me giggle when I heard him getting stressed over it. A quick shout of "pull-it, don't push it!" sorted that out though.
The sink was big enough for the two of us to stand at brushing our teeth and admiring our pasty white skin in the large mirror behind it. There was also plenty of room for toiletries around the sink so if you've packed your entire supply cupboard, it'll fit nicely around the sink.
===Leaving your Room===
Ultimately we view the hotel room as somewhere to sleep in between doing things. There is plenty within the hotel to do. There are three separate pools. One is a large swimming pool that was rarely overly busy; one was an activity pool for the kids with slides and basketball hoops which is where the entertainment crew danced around keeping the kids occupied. The third pool is up at the far end of the complex and is a "Quiet Pool". It really does live up to its name too. There were never more than a few people sitting around it and Allan and I were the only people I saw swimming. The quietness is partly due to being quite far from the other pools. By quite far I mean not far at all, but it's out of sight and a little further away from the bar than most people were willing to venture. It is surrounded by "please keep quiet!" signs but I imagine the biggest factor would be that there is a horrible waft of sewage in that area of the hotel. It's not coming from the pool but you can understand that most people wouldn't stick around long when it smells like that. We only went in once to get away from the noise at the main pool. The only other downside of the all of the pools is that they aren't heated. I usually love a good swim on holiday but there was a day or two where the prospect of jumping into the cold water put me right off.
If swimming in the pool isn't your thing, the pools are situated about ten meters from the beach which comes furnished with its very own ocean. The water is clear and clean and blue. The beach is mostly pebbles with a little bit of sand nearer the hotel, so that made it a bit less appealing but it was otherwise still lovely to lie on a sun lounger (the hotel has plenty on the beach free to use) and stare out across the water at Turkey.
More on the exercise front there is an open air Gym which has a small amount of good gym equipment such as weights, cross trainers and bikes in it. Mostly it was empty but I did see a few people use it over the course of our holiday. Mini golf is also available if you fancy it with a really good selection of crazy courses for you and/or your kids to work their way round. You can pick up clubs by putting a 20 Euro deposit down at the blue wooden hut next to the activity pool OR you can barge in, take them and shout at the staff when they tell you about the deposit like we saw one incredibly rude man do.
Lastly on the entertainment front was the open air theatre where the entertainment crew put on a show every night which is geared toward kids. If that's not quite your cuppa either you might be interested in the massage parlour that is held in the "Apollo" building at the very back of the resort. Unfortunately the massages are not included in your all inclusive experience!
Sunshine Hotel has three restaurants and three bars. The main restaurant is a buffet and is situated just around to the left of reception and up the stairs. Breakfast (between 8am and 10:30am), Dinner (between 7pm and 9pm) and Midnight snacks (12am to 12:30am) are served here. The food is, quite honestly, fantastic. There's always a huge selection of really well prepared and incredibly tasty food. Each night at dinner we noticed the main dishes changed so there was a really good variety and you could eat as much or as little as you wanted. A whole section of the restaurant faces out over the ocean with giant windows creating a stunning view, especially at sunset. Unfortunately the buffet also serves up stress. If you got there ten minutes after opening, you practically had to fight to get to the food. I don't think I've ever seen so many people be so rude, pushy and impatient as I did in that buffet. We even had our seat stolen from us half way through the buffet when we both got up to get more and came back to our table to find people sitting there when it was clear we hadn't left. The waiter saw this and called them something nasty as we moved table. We figured out that the best thing to do was to arrive after 10am for breakfast and about 6:50pm for dinner allowing you to get to the front of the queue, get the pick of the grub and find a seat all before anyone else has had a chance to crowd the place. Alternatively, you could arrive about 8pm and find it fairly busy but manageable but also chance not getting a good pick of the leavings. It was certainly hectic enough to really encourage us to book the other two restaurants.
---Booking the other two---
Alas, we weren't informed when we arrived how to book the restaurants when we arrived. Basically each restaurant takes it day about. There is an Italian restaurant called Mama Mia's and a Greek restaurant called Zorba's Tavern. You need to book each restaurant the day before at exactly 11am. The queue for this is formed on the left hand side of the reception desk, though the place is completely devoid of signage or instructions about that, which lead to me standing in the reservations queue for 20 minutes getting more and more agitated that we were being ignored in favour of people checking out. My biggest tip here would be to make sure that you arrive at 10:45am at the latest to queue for reservations. They fill up incredibly quickly as they can only cater for about 20 people a night so you'll get turned away if you are at the back/middle of the queue.
Bookings for Mama Mia are a simple affair, simply giving the time, room number, number of diners and choosing between smoking and non-smoking (remember that??). All that is then required of you is to show up, which we failed to do after having stuffed ourselves when we were out and falling asleep in the late afternoon. Booking Zorbas is a bit more complicated in that you need to choose what each person wants for their main course. The menu changes around too so you may not always get something you like. If you are booking for a large party you CAN come back later to tell them what everyone wants. Allan and I just chose while booking. The only downside of this is that you can't always know there is something you're going to like on the menu before you book.
As much as they do have two separate restaurants, both the Greek food and the Italian food were served in the Italian restaurant area. It was a little nicer than the tavern area but a little confusing if you haven't been told about it. For starters at Zorba's you'll get a Greek mezé (a selection of Greek starters) and dessert is a help-yourself deal but on a much less stressful scale than the buffet. The food at the restaurant is absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious. Both Allan and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only problem we encountered the second night we ate there was that our table was infested with ants which made it quite uncomfortable. The restaurant is open air and we were just unlucky with our table but it was a bit disgusting.
The tavern area is used during the day for snacks between 12pm and 4pm and serves a selection of Greek and Italian food. Their spag bol was fantastic and their Greek Salad has given me the kick I need to start eating healthy again.
There are three bars in the complex. One is inside, just below the buffet restaurant, one is next to the main pool and there is a little bar up beside the quiet pool, however this remained closed the whole time we were there. Being that the hotel is all inclusive, the staff are pretty much used to giving you the selection of local brewed spirits and beers. They have 8 different cocktails making any of the more fire-water-esq spirits taste fantastic all of which we tried on our first day. We were off our faces by 1pm, sober again by 5pm and drunk again by 8. They do HAVE branded drinks which you would need to pay for but I'm pretty sure they'd panic if you asked for one since it simply didn't seem to be done by anyone we saw. Both bars serve soft drinks and tea and coffee and the staff are all very friendly. Being the only Scottish/British people in the resort meant that I was constantly called "Ahhh Scotland!!".
Given that the hotel is 15 minutes from the airport, you may have realised that you are directly under a flight path. This, however, isn't a big issue. The flights in seem to be less frequent during the night and the balcony doors do a good job at cancelling out the noise from overhead holiday-makers. A little closer to home is the noise that the Air-con makes but I wasn't getting along too bad with that. The thing that caused the most noise, however, was the hotel entertainment. Our room was at the back of the blocks which meant we couldn't hear the racket coming from the pool bar and the entertainment team during the day. If we had a room round the front I think that would have driven us crazy. There were, however, a few nights where we had our ears blasted (with the same music every night) from the outdoor theatre which is behind the blocks with the rooms in them. If you want a quiet relaxing holiday, I will tell you now, this place is probably not for you. We adapted our ideas pretty quickly but if you are a stickler for peace and quiet, avoid, avoid, avoid.
Kiddies will probably love the place. Most, if not all of the entertainment is geared towards them. The entertainment team really do dote on the kids at the resort keeping them involved and playing games with them. If I had kids, I would definitely be taking them to one of Sunshine's hotels just for this. If you don't have kids, the entertainment team are still lovely and we actually ended up making a couple new friends out of them coming over and chatting away to us while we sat sipping on cocktails. That made it a bit easier to forgive the noise they were making all day!
One thing I would say is that I don't imagine this place would be incredibly friendly for people in wheelchairs or who have trouble with stairs. All the rooms I could see, even ours which was on the ground floor, had at least one step up to them. Some of the nicer rooms on higher levels had a lift that could take you up, but you still need to get up that first step. Throw in that the main buffet restaurant is up a large flight of stairs and then a smaller flight of stairs, you'd be scuppered to get up that in a wheelchair without a lot of hassle. The other restaurants are on a ground level but booking may cause issues with that. Obviously the decision would ultimately be up to the person in question but I know if I was in a wheelchair I'd be a bit daunted by this place.
===Things to do nearby===
If you want to go outside the hotel, there is plenty of really cool stuff to do for fairly cheap. The strip outside the hotel has a bunch of restaurants on it and there's a bus about a ten minute walk from the hotel that takes you directly to Rhodes Town for 2.20 Euros each. There's also taxi's everywhere. Rhodes town has a new section which is boring and full of brand names and an Old Town which is basically built within a huge sprawling castle. It's beautiful and well worth a visit. In Rhodes town there are also the ruins of an Acropolis and a Temple of Apollo (basically, Greek temple ruins) which is no more than a half hour walk or a very short (but 8euros) bus ride. I recommend walking as you'll get to see more of the island that way. If you're in Rhodes for a while, you might want to take a trip across to Turkey or one of the surrounding Greek islands, there are boats all along the harbour offering day cruises as Rhodes is about 45 minutes by boat away from a good few places. They range in price between 25 and 45 Euros so have a look around the harbour for the best deal. If you want you can also book day trips to the other side of the Island to see Lindos which is also full of traditional Greek stuff and Falaraki which is full of traditional teeny bopping Brits having a rave. There are travel shops hidden between the restaurants outside the hotel and you'd probably be able to find some in Rhodes town too if you wanted to do this.
===My Top Tips===
Ask at the reception for a bus timetable and a map to the bus stop. It comes in really handy.
If you want to get a seat on the bus, there is another stop on the same street you'll be directed to but about a three minute walk away to the right instead of the left. It's a big yellow pole with a square on it.
The bus back from Rhodes Town is labelled "Kremasti". Keep an eye out and ask the driver if he goes to Ialyssos to make sure.
Get to the buffet either very early or very late. Arriving on time will lead to a battle of wills.
Queue to the LEFT of the reception desk at 10:45am to book restaurants.
===OUR STAY IN SHORT===
Price:4 out of 5: for what we ate and drank, it was well worth it though still maybe a touch near the expensive side.
Room: 4 stars out of 5: Everything was nice enough, Air con was a bit of a pain and the two single beds were a bit annoying.
Bathroom: 4 stars out of 5: Clean, tidy, shower good most of the time but occasionally let down by water temperature. Towels changed every day.
Pool: 4 stars out of 5: Mostly lovely, though a touch on the cold side with the quiet pool area smelling a bit bad.
Restaurants: 5 stars out of 5: Based solely on the food, 5. If I start thinking about the people who ATE there, I'd have to take stars off. But I won't.
Bars: 5 stars out of 5: they have a really decent range of drinks and all for free. Can't really fault that!
Cleanliness: 4 stars out of 5: mostly the place was very clean, just the ants that had my skin crawling that loses a mark here
Noise: 2 stars out of 5: Great if you have kids, a total pain if you don't. Not a great hotel if you want peace and quiet throughout the day.
The place was nice. It was a bit noisier than we had hoped for, though that doesn't mean we were kept up at night. Just that we had looked forward to a relaxing beach/poolside holiday and the day was somewhat akin to a disco around the pool. We could put up with it but I'd definitely be tempted to look for a couple's only hotel next time we go somewhere. If you have kids it'd be brilliant for them. The food was great and the drink was decent too. The staff were mostly very polite and helpful and the entertainment crew were a great bunch despite the noise they were making. The ants in the restaurant have to take a point off as does the noise which leaves a three, but don't let that fool you; it's still a decent hotel for a family get away or for people who just aren't as grumpy as us when it comes to other people making noise. Three stars out of five from me.
Sunshine Vacation Club
1 Rapti Square
Tel: +30 22410 92411