To be clear, the only reason we go to Club Meds is the baby club. The kids love it, so we try to minimize the possibility of bad surprises by going to what looks as good as Club Med can offer in the sea, sand and sun category. We have been to other 3 truly 4 trident Club Meds (knowledgeable people say out of top 5 Club Meds worldwide), so we booked this because it was 4 trident and it had baby club. Apparently we got one the best 8 floor room (which was not suite).
It all started to go wrong at the airport. They sent us a private van (which we ordered). As this was our first European Club Med destination, we chose not to take our car seats. It turned out that while the car driver had car seats, he did not know how to put them into the car. Despite some non-trivial entanglement with the belts, the baby seats were pretty much just sitting on the van's seats, unattached. Seeing our concerns the driver was very friendly and appreciative and offered us to drive "very slowly".
Of course we spoke to Club Med, however, perhaps since it was Sat eve, the hotel suggested that we just get another cab ourselves (with two tired kids at 9pm at the airport), since they were sure that the baby seats were legal. We sent the driver to bring the police officer such that he can validate the legalities of the seats (and also because the driver refused to show us his driver license). While he was away I miraculously managed to set up the seats myself, by following the instructions on the label that was curiously hidden under the seat's upholstery, perfectly invisible to the non-initiated ones. (I did find it by chance, while examining the seat in detail, looking for cracks).
The bonus was that we arrived at the hotel around 11pm (almost two hours later than planned), so we were spared of the true specialties of the place on the first night. The check in stuff was friendly and helped us binning the dinner plates to the rooms. Overall, one cannot fail staff in this place, most of them do a fantastic temporary job there. Still, there was one warning sign: the name plaque by the hotel entrance clearly showed only 3 stars. This was the first time when the internal Club Med's rating was actually higher than the local.
Next day was Sunday, when everything is closed. (Mind this, in most other Club Meds, Saturday is the dead day; here it is Sunday. Yes it is written on the web site). The highlights of the day were seven circles of hake, for lunch and dinner and a discovery that there are no fresh juices. In fact there is only one "juice" at all - orange juice from the machine. Other "juices" are 20% fruit drinks (e.g. apple) and barmen truly believe that those are "juices", despite clear markings on the cartons. An yes, you need to go to a bar to get this juicy drink, it is not available in the restaurant, only the high tech orange.
The first hit was the disco. During the day we were warned by another British family (that flew in together with us and were lucky to use the standard transfer thus arriving around 9pm) that disco could be very loud and overrun the promised 10pm end time. We were too late on the first night. And we were too tired to appreciate the second hit: the cold.
Anybody who visited Portugal this May/June will probably agree that this was one of the coolest years. The forecast was not perfect (it was supposed to be sunny, but only around 20-22C). But the night felt surprisingly cold. It was the next eve when we found out why.
Next morning we sent the kids to the club, which was just OK. Again, the best part was the personnel. Very nice and professional. The facilities themselves are well below average. Very small detached villa, no separate swimming pool, let alone children's aquatic mini park. Lot's of tricycles though and all trees wrapped in padding. Nice touch.
Despite the disco loudness and surprising cold, we decided not to go and ask for a different room. It was our first day of relaxation (since we spent whole Sunday with the kids onsite). And while both issues existed, but there were just bearable. (I guess this is exactly the hotel's bet).
No hake at lunch or dinner, just when we have almost got used to it. Perhaps because lot's of tourists have arrived on Saturday. Interestingly, most of them were not placed in the posh Tower.
Few words on the hotel geometry are due. Looking from the top, the hotel complex is roughly a obtuse angle, rougly pointing at the sea side. The right side (from the top) is the older wing; it is almost parallel to the sea side. Then there is the Tower, a more modern high rise building (about 10 floors) hosting the best rooms. The main restaurant and bar (the disco) are right under Tower, the only pool is a bit father (See picture from the Tower's balcony).
Finally, there is Golf hotel. It is of much lower rise (4 floors?) that the Tower. Being the left side of the angle, it pretty much "hides" behind the Tower that shields it from the disco and, I guess, wind. The sea view is impaired of course.
(Note that the three "hotels" are actually wings of the same complex. You don't need to go outside to get from one hotel into another.)
The second evening was truly horrible. The disco was very loud, much louder than the previous night. Apparently this was because the hotel was half empty the previous night. Now there seemed to be a welcome party. The kids could not fall asleep until the disco was abruptly stopped, after we called the reception.
We discovered the problem early next morning. Apparently, the balcony door was not fully shut even when closed - see pictures. This was the reason both for the excessive cold and loudness (and, actually, dampness). With half inch gap between the door and the frame, the room would clearly not meet Building regs in the UK, and I am pretty sure it would not in Portugal either. And the problem here is that Club Med had such a room and it was selling it.
First thing next morning we did go to the reception and asked for the new room. Apparently there were no rooms available of the same quality. The only option that the village manager Bruno was kind to offer was a similar room only on the fourth floor of Tower. Sort of disco-immersion augmented reality treat. After a brief but heated discussion of few abstract economic concepts (such as "fraud", etc ), we have opted for leaving this little shop of horrors. They were so kind advising that we could bring up all our issues with Customer Service later (which we did, so the saga continues).
Unfortunately, Club Med could not get us tickets for the same day, so we had to enjoy their hospitality for an extra night. Of course we used this opportunity to make additional high quality shots and HD videos. FYI one had to bring the TV volume to 40 (out of 60, perhaps) for it to level the noise of the disco. We'll post them once they are remastered for the internet.
The bottom line: avoid this place, it is a rip off. It's not worth more that a quarter of what they charge. Go to Turkey for a much higher value for money.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Da Balaia stands on an ochre cliff in southern Portugal, overlooking a magnificent white sand beach. The Resort allies sports and well-being in an outstanding setting. It's a world to unwind in, perfumed by the woody scents of parasol pines, olive trees and eucalyptus. Comfort and cosiness are to be found everywhere, even in the reception area where marble floors and deep red walls set the tone. This is a Club Med Resort where families, golfers and Spa enthusiasts live together in harmony. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Club Med Da Balaia Hotel Albufeira
- Da Balaia Club Med
- Club Med Albufeira
- Albufeira Club Med
- Club Med Da Balaia Albufeira, Algarve, Portugal