We're a family of four (with two boys aged 5 & 6) and we stayed at the Alto da Colina for ten days in early August. We've previously visited Holiday Villages in Spain (our rating 4/5) and Majorca (our rating 4.5/5).
Transfer and check in were great and we were allocated room 319 in block 1; a behemoth of a room with two separate sleeping areas divided from the lounge/kitchen by sliding doors. Including the sofa beds, this room could have slept 8 people. In addition to having enough beds, there would have been ample living area for 8 people too. Air con is plentiful and the balcony was huge. We had paid a supplement for a sea/pool view.
The Maid Service was good. Six times a week, except a Sunday. Friendly and efficient. Usually from 9.30am onwards and our room was always complete by midday at the latest.
We spoke to a couple who had booked an apartment in Block 2 and they said in comparison they felt like "second class citizens" as their rooms were tired and cramped. Still, there's a nice quiet pool outside Block 2, where there always seems to be sunbeds and it has it's own snack bar and the mimimarket.
Onto the subject of sunbeds. Changeover days of Thursday and Sunday mean that there are plenty of beds available until after lunch. On the whole, guests are responsible about the number of sunbeds they reserve. As a guide, a trip downstairs between 7.15 - 7.30am will see you score premium beds around any pool. Whilst 8am onwards leaves you with the shadier options or ones without umbrellas. It was genuinely never a big issue though.
All the pools are fantastic and for our family the splash pool, slides and adjoining swimming pool was perfect. More grown up than the option in Majorca, yet not the full on water park offered in Spain. The snack bar in this section of the grounds was great too and kept restaurant dining down to two visits a day.
The All Inclusive option is adequate. All the drinks you'd expect minus the Slush Puppies offered in Majorca (2013). In comparison, ice creams are from a pot rather than some of the premium brand 'lollys', which were again on offer in Majorca in 2013.
In terms of First Choices performance, there's a good selection of staff at this hotel. They range from those who you can have a good chat to (Alex and Adam), to the downright daft yet entertaining (Miles). Jack, the swimming coach deserves a particular mention. He had both our boys performing beyond their capabilities during threes sessions and he also took time out to muck about with them in the pool whilst taking bookings. Well done.
Kids Club was safe and secure, although it feels like some of the topics need a bit of an update. They've been very similar for the three years we've been visiting Holiday Villages and on occasions the boys came out saying they'd had a good time but looking a little bored. Widget Party and Chocolate Party excellent as usual.
The Kids Club facility also look a bit battered. Staff were constantly having to fight with a broken patio door entrance and some of the exterior rails were broken. This didn't affect your faith in the staff or the childrens safety, however it just looked unprofessional and not what we've come to expect for the Holiday Village.
Worthy of credit are the local staff. The bar staff were really efficient and friendly despite the contempt with which some of the guests treat them. As your stay goes on you'll also learn to appreciate Thierry, who will no doubt be serving you your welcome Sangria. He always has a friendly welcome to the restaurant for you, if you take the time.
Onto the food, which is most certainly the 'jewel in the crown' of this Hotel. Breakfast is good and as other reviews mention you get a satisfactory choice of both Traditional English and Continental. We only had lunch in the Palm Restaurant on our day of arrival but it was fresh with some lovely local salad offerings. Evening meal really was excellent for each of our ten days. The Sunday roast was as good as any UK carvery; Mexican night was great; all the meat choices were cooked perfectly and not too fatty (steak and lamb particularly good); the soups lovely and Wednesday saw the best prawns I've ever had. There was the normal 'Kids Corne' but for the first time (due to the choice and quality on offer), our boys regularly selected from the adult options.
Tables in the Restaurant were invariably always available, although changeover days can get busy early on and on occasions the girls then struggle to turn the tables. As an improvement, it may be better for staff to seat diners (as they do in Spain and Majorca), which in turn generally gives a more systematic approach and ensures all tables are presented as they should be. All in all though, a real tick in the box for the Chef. The best food we've ever had at an AI.
Evening entertainment was good and as with Spain, there's an entirely separate bar and seating area, which allows you to escape the Widgets and i5Live as you see fit. Unlike Majorca, there was seating available for the evening entertainment right up to about 8.30pm, so you never felt pressured to eat too early or too quickly just to get a table.
Outside the Hotel, we took a walk to the beach, which took about 15 minutes at a slow pace. There are multiple routes, just follow your nose. The quickest and easiest route takes you through the grounds of the Hotel over the road.
We also visited Albufeira Old Town. Staff at Reception in Block 2 booked the taxi for us which cost 7 Euro's each way. The Town wasn't as quaint as it may sound, but decent enough for a change of scenery and the normal tat shopping. Just be mindful when you visit. The daytime was like walking into a furnace and we're told the evenings can be very busy and a little raucous?
In summary, another fantastic overall experience from First Choice's Holiday Village range. From the three we've tried they really have a great formula. We never go back to the same place twice, nor do we verbally recommend to other people but in this instance we may well make an exception.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
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- Also Known As:
- Holiday Village Algarve Balaia Hotel Algarve