Madeira in April has good weather (20s) and although the whole island is like one large botanical garden, I wasn’t bothered by any insects at all. No wasps, flies, cockroaches, mosquitoes – nothing 🙂
The Pestana Casino Park is a large, Oscar Niermeyer designed (hotel overly proud of this), 70s style hotel close to the capital, Funchal. The hotel is on a cliff overlooking the harbour and you can watch large cruise ships arrive and depart each day. It’s quite a steep hill down to the town, but there are regular public transport buses that will take you back up from the town for a couple of Euros.
There was a queue to check in but we were pleased to be given our room key at noon rather than wait until 3pm. We had booked, rather than were upgraded to, a suite. It was quite a long walk to our room – it seems the suites are located at the end points of the hotel. Ours had a view of the gardens, casino and mountains – we couldn’t see the sea and almost asked to change rooms, but as we’d been able to check in at noon we decided to keep what we had.
The suite itself was unremarkable; it seemed as if the hotel didn’t know what to do with the extra space. The lounge area was populated with a variety of furniture that could have come from a second-hand store. There was a flat-screen TV with plenty of channels, including one with hotel information and a telephone. The bedroom didn’t have a TV – not that we really wanted one, but some would expect a suite to contain a TV in both rooms. Neither room had a clock or clock radio alarm. There were no pictures on the walls, adding to the bleak feeling of the place – although we later saw some pictures in regular rooms as we walked past ones with doors open for cleaning. There was a laptop size programmable-code safe in the bedroom.
The hall was strange in that there was a fridge, microwave and hob (all working) but no utensils nor cooking equipment. No kettle, tea or coffee making facilities were provided – I’d seen this mentioned on other reviews and the hotel’s reply was that, being a 5-star hotel, they expected guests to order room service. Well times have changed since the 70s and much grander hotels than this now provide tea and coffee making facilities.
The bathroom had a double washbasin, separate toilet and over-bath shower. The shaver socket was at basin level and almost directly in the path of the shower should it be turned on fully. I’m not sure if the shaver supply was protected by a transformer, as is the current UK regulation, but if not it represents an electric-shock hazard.
Air con was primitive (low/high/off) but seemed to work fine.
On a positive note, the rooms were very clean and although dated, were well maintained. Towelling slippers and bathrobes were provided as well as pool towels.
I used the laundry service twice and was pleasantly surprised to have this returned the same day even though the information sheet said 24 hours.
Dinner is served buffet style in a large restaurant with floor to ceiling window views to the pool and sea. Tables for two were very close together and we tried to be directed to larger tables wherever possible.
Staff were friendly and helpful.
The food was mostly good quality and the hotel tried to vary the offering with a nightly theme. Keeping with the 70s concept, the attempts at food from different lands was … quaint: Italian night was missing anti pasti and focussed on lasagne and spaghetti. Mexican night had hard-shell tacos with some fillings, but what appeared to be single cream rather than sour cream and a green soup purporting to be guacamole. Madeira night was a success as they served the excellent local fish with banana plus local dancers – we would have liked to see some of the strange local fruits (you can see these at the large market in Funchal) available, but there wasn’t any.
A bottle of wine was around €15 and a large bottle of water €4.
There was only one night where a selection of after-dinner cheeses were available.
Dinner is very early (7 – 9:30pm). The result is that, if you start at 8 or take your time over the meal and wine, the staff will be laying tables for breakfast around you at 9:30 – we felt a bit uncomfortable at this and it felt like being the last midnight diners in a restaurant that wanted to close and let staff go home. It is possible to exchange one half board dinner in the hotel for a dinner in the casino – we booked this, but later cancelled after we saw the downmarket casino and suspected the dinner there wouldn’t be good.
After-dinner entertainment, mostly a singer or band trio, is provided in the upstairs bar.
Buffet Breakfast is served in the same restaurant as dinner. We avoided the tables near the window as these were directly in the morning sun and too hot. Croissants, pastries, fresh juices, a variety of eggs, including omelettes to order, bacon and continental sausages were all available. There was also sparkling wine.
We hired a car for a few days and discovered that the hotel only has five parking spaces. There is plenty of wasted potential parking area. So we had to park in the casino car park for EUR 6.40 a night. The hotel own the casino and so I think guests should be able to park there for free.
The hotel has an outdoor infinity pool (nice to look at but very cold) and an indoor pool that is part of the spa. The indoor pool is very good (warm) but it’s a pity that Mr. Niermeyer didn’t think to add some windows. The sauna was out of order. I didn’t use the massage treatment rooms.
I’m reviewing the casino as part of the hotel review as it is effectively part of the hotel. Note that I did actually win money in this place and so the negative review is not related to any hard feelings about losing.
Probably the worst casino I’ve visited and that includes England where the casinos are pretty bad. It’s more like a penny arcade than a real casino. Anyone can wander in without registration and play the large variety of electronic gaming machines, two roulette or two blackjack tables. I only played the roulette table (only one table open).
I went to the cash desk to take EUR 300 on my card. I asked for chips but they said they could only give cash. They charged EUR 304.50 for EUR 300 which I thought was a bit of a cheek.
The roulette table doesn’t have any chairs around it. I asked for a chair and was told this wasn’t allowed. The first reason given was that players may need to walk around to place chips on various extremities of the table – I said that usually if a player can’t reach, they can ask the croupier to place the chip on their behalf. I was then told that Portuguese law prevents chairs around the table. I didn’t believe that either. Considering the average age of tourists in Madeira, I think they must lose a lot of business. I wonder what happens to wheelchair visitors?
The minimum inside and outside bet was EUR 2.50, which is a little odd as the outside bet is usually higher and inside lower. Even more strange was the maximum inside bet of EUR 10 – usually the difference between minimum and maximum is much more. I asked about a ‘neighbours’ bet – where you give the croupier five chips and say, for example, “zero neighbours” to cover the numbers close to zero. These bets are usually placed on a separate part of the table, but that area was missing. The croupier didn’t understand the concept and instead showed me the wheel so I could identify the numbers close to zero and bet them myself.
A waiter arrived and I ordered a small beer. It took 20 minutes (while standing) for the beer to arrive and I was presented with a bill for EUR 1.50. I had been betting constantly and asked why drinks weren’t free to players as is common in most casinos. This was met with incredulity.
While I was playing, other customers did walk up and play for a few spins; some were clearly under 21 but weren’t asked for ID.
So avoid the casino and enjoy the hotel.Rua Imperatriz D. Amelia 55 | Quinta da Vigia, Funchal, Madeira 9004-513, Portugal