Tags

, , , , , , ,

I’ve written before about the Canary Islands and how there doesn’t seem to be any wasps or mosquitoes, although there are cockroaches. That was from my experiences in Lanzarote and Tenerife. My visit to the Canary Island of Fuerteventura in August 2014 was very similar – no wasps or mosquitoes and very few flies (mainly at lunchtime). We were able to have breakfast and dinner outside without any bug issues. There were cockroaches, although I didn’t see the first one (in my room) until one of the last nights of our stay. It was about two inches long and crawled up the front to the fridge before I smashed it with a shoe. On the day of departure we emptied all our bags, shook everything and re-packed – didn’t find anything. But with bags packed and ready, I lifted one to find a one-inch cockroach hiding underneath. This met a similar fate to the previous night’s bigger brother.

The Spanish Barceló hotel chain (I think based or originated in Mallorca) is huge. They offer a wide range of properties, many all-inclusive, some branded as ‘Deluxe’ and with a ‘Club Premium’ option. We’d previously stayed at the Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe Hotel, all-inclusive and ‘Club Premium’. When we booked the Castillo Beach, there wasn’t a Club premium option so I booked a junior suite, sea-view, all-inclusive.

This was planned to be an all-inclusive holiday with a group of friends, one couple have a seven-year old Son – hence the school holiday booking. Sadly they weren’t able to make it due to illness. So we arrived on Saturday and another couple on Wednesday.

We arrived on an excellent Air Berlin flight from Zurich. The hotel was only a €12 taxi ride from the airport. We checked in without any queue and headed to our suite.

The resort design is a little weird as each group of rooms is surrounded by a fence with access doors that require a room key. This is because it isn’t really one area owned by Barceló, but a series of areas separated by public walkways. Our enclave was between reception and the pool.

The suite (5021 ground floor) was huge; full kitchen, small bathroom area, two single beds (sadly), a large lounge area, another large lounge area outside and a Jacuzzi and two sun loungers on the final terrace. The air conditioning worked really well. The terrace had various blinds that could be used to create a roof shade and also screen the terrace from onlookers; there is a path that runs between the fence that surrounds the enclave and the beach. You can see this fence in one of my pictures below. I’d avoid rooms 5029-5030 as their terrace is very close to the fence and passers-by. Our friends had a first floor suite (5120) and that had much better views of the sea, but slightly smaller room, no Jacuzzi, nor sun blinds. I took a picture from their terrace and include it below.

But I was honestly quite disappointed, the fridge was empty (a few bottles of water would have been nice), there were no bathrobes or slippers, no tissues and the toiletries were pretty basic. After all I’d booked a premium room and apart from the size it didn’t feel like that. In fact it got worse.. The safe wouldn’t work and I called reception who said I’d need a key which would cost €3 a day plus €7 deposit. I’d also need to pay €10 deposit for a beach towel and €2 to change it. I was annoyed at being nickel and dimed and also annoyed that I wasn’t offered a safe key at check in.

We went for dinner. There were a lot of kids, but we knew it would be that way in school holidays. The food quality was pretty good and there were plenty of tables outside. Wine, beer, water and soft drinks were on tap – there was no waiter service for wine unless you ordered a paid for bottle. Cava should be available (all-inclusive) from the waiters although we didn’t try. I saw bottles available for pouring during one breakfast.

The evening drinks and entertainment are in a new harbour side theatre; leave the restaurant, cross the pool area, walk along a public beachfront path to get there. The theatre has seats inside and outside (with nice views of the harbour and a sea lion exhibit). The acts are all terrible, but that is typical of almost all Spanish resorts. There are queues for the bar but the waitress service was quite quick. Top-shelf spirits weren’t part of the all-inclusive offering. The outside seats run parallel to the harbour wall. There isn’t anything to prevent anyone falling down onto rocks and into the water – just an illuminated line at night. I mentioned to the hotel that there was an accident waiting to happen and they were aware already and negotiating with the harbour owners to erect a barrier.

We soon noticed that there was a ‘Club Premium’ room to one side of the main restaurant. This also had its own dining area outside. I was a bit annoyed that having booked what I thought was one of the best rooms, I wasn’t part of this Club Premium offering. I went to the ‘Club Premium’ desk in reception and had a chat with a really helpful lady called Ina. It emerged that the Club Premium offering was very new and that there were hardly any guests on that package –  like a soft opening. I also found out that a new Premium restaurant was due to open that evening. I was keen to sign up for Club Premium and was sure my friends who were to arrive on Wednesday would feel the same. Ina investigated and came back with a very reasonable upgrade price which we took. At the time I thought this was just for use of the Club Premium room and new restaurant, but soon found that it meant that all my previous misgivings were resolved…

Cleaners visited our suite and took the single beds away, replacing with a double bed. They left a bottle of Cava, bottled water and soft drinks in the fridge. Bathrobes, slippers and upgraded toiletries appeared. We were given two pool towels and our safe rental and deposit refunded. Our red wristbands were replaced with gold. We were given free Wi-Fi codes. Our room keys were re-swiped so that we could access the Club Premium pool, which is in another area of the resort where new Club Premium rooms have been furbished. We were given two day passes to the Thalasso Spa (part of the nearby Barceló Thalasso Spa Hotel). Apparently, the beach view suites are due to become Club Premium by November. The current Club Premium rooms look out at another part of the sea (the beach is around the other side of the resort in a cove), with lava and strong waves – spectacular but not suitable for swimming.

We visited the new Club Premium restaurant, which is on a first floor level behind the theatre. The indoor terrace has spectacular views of the lava and rough sea. The outdoor terrace has good views of the harbour. A friendly waitress took our drink orders and we were able to choose from a wide range of good quality all-inclusive wines by the bottle. The food is still buffet style, but with a couple of chefs standing by to cook items to order. There isn’t the variety that you would find in the main restaurant, but this is more than made up for by the quality. We really enjoyed our dinner there – don’t forget that the food is only available until 9:30pm. The restaurant is currently only open in the evenings.

We had drinks in the theatre bar. Our new gold wristbands meant that we could consume a variety of top-shelf spirits, such as Bombay Sapphire Gin.

The next morning we had breakfast on the Club premium room outdoor area. A waitress took our orders for coffee, tea, juice and Cava. The coffee was better than the main restaurant, where there is a queue for the machine each morning. The service was a little slow, but I think this is all part of the move to Club Premium; staff not quite used to waiting tables yet. We still had to visit the breakfast buffet in the main restaurant, but that was fine and nice to return to the peace and quiet of the Premium area. Lunch was very similar although we ate inside – room was air conditioned.

The beach is wide and covers the entire cove. The sea is calm and shallow. When the tide is in, you are walking on sand. When out, there are quite sharp rocks and water shoes are recommended. Plenty of local fish swimming around. But the beach is public and there is no Barceló presence there; no bar, sun loungers are chargeable etc.

The hotel has some animation team, but there weren’t any premium activities, such as rifle shooting, that we were offered in the Barceló Lanzarote and Tenerife hotels. There are two mini-golf courses. Both are chargeable, although all-inclusive guests receive a small discount. Our Club Premium wristbands didn’t mean any additional discount – I would recommended that Club Premium guests get in free as the program matures. The mini-golf near the Premium rooms is in a state of disrepair and closes on Sunday and Monday. The mini-golf that is close to the Barceló Thalasso Spa was nicely landscaped and maintained.

The main hotel pools are in front of the main restaurant. There is a pool bar with beer, wine and soft drinks on tap, plus a small buffet of burgers, chips etc. There is also a barman who serves cocktails and spirits. The pools are both sea water which means they are very buoyant. The pools weren’t too crowded and seemed well maintained. Sun beds were all reserved with towels, despite signs advising that this wasn’t allowed. The Club premium pool was quieter, smaller and chlorinated. It looks like a bar is planned there, but this wasn’t open when we visited. There were quite a few children in the pool and I wonder if this pool should be made adults only.

Some more about our suite and hotel facilities: There is only one mirror and it isn’t suitable for shaving or applying make-up. There were no tissues. The laundry service is slow and haphazard; no Sunday service, 48-hour standard turnaround, laundry not returned to the room as you have to visit reception and pay directly. I didn’t even know that was the process until I called to ask where my shirts were. The pricing is strange; costs more to have a shirt ironed than it does to have it washed and ironed. But €2.40 wasn’t a bad price. I took one laundry bag and the appropriate forms to reception on the Tuesday (cleaner hadn’t taken the bag from my room) – just a cheap t-shirt in the bag. This never came back and I thought it was lost – but I just received an email to say it was found and they would post to my address.

Club Premium also includes late checkout, when available. Sadly this wasn’t available when we asked to keep our room until 3pm – but it was a Saturday (traditional changeover day). Our friends were given late checkout until 6pm on a Monday, but charged € 35 – perhaps 3pm would have been free?

I’d also like to say how impressed I was with Ina, the Club Premium manager (who incidentally looks like Cameron Diaz). Her business card says ‘Public Relations’ and I assume that she’s been given the additional task of rolling out Club Premium. But I’ve also seen her behind reception, checking in regular guests and in the main restaurant picking up stray plates. The only downside to her dedication to the hotel is that the Club Premium desk is often unmanned. I’m assuming that when Club Premium is fully rolled out, a permanent Club Premium receptionist will be appointed.

I’d certainly stay at this hotel again, although only in Club Premium. It would be a difficult choice as to whether I stayed in the same suite, first floor suite, or in the dedicated Club Premium enclave. I think if the Club Premium pool was heated, adults only and had a bar, then I’d be tempted to try the Club Premium enclave.