My husband and I booked this holiday in November 2009, as the reviews for the Vilanova were really good at the time. As it got nearer to our holiday, I had a look at the latest reviews, and was horrified to see how bad they were. So we turned up on the 23rd August, expecting the worst, and were totally taken aback at how NICE the vilanova resort is!
We arrived at 10,30am, and asked if we could check in early (website says check-in from 2pm so we didn't think we could but worth a try). We were told they would try their best, and they spent some time talking to the cleaning crew via radiophones trying to sort it for us. They then said to come back at 1pm, and that we could leave our luggage in their luggage room and enjoy the pool if we wanted - so we did!
We went back at 1pm, and were told that a room was ready, but as I had emailed before we arrived to ask if it would be possible to have air con, the receptionist (Carlos) said that a room with air con would be ready at 2.30pm if we'd rather wait for that one - so we did. He was very apologetic (as we told him, nothing to apologise for!), and very polite.
When I'd emailed them, I'd also asked for a quiet room overlooking the garden away from any groups of younger guests (bearing in mind I'm only 28!!) as we wanted a quiet holiday. When we got our key at 2.30pm, our room was on the third floor of block 5 (the main apartment block) and had an amazing view of the very well tended garden (lawn mowed every other day, sprinklers on morning and evening, litter picked up every evening and morning) and clear blue pool (cleaned every morning).
We'd booked a 1-bed apartment, which I'd recommend over the studio apartment - we had 2 wooden beds pushed together, which were comfy (take your own pillows though - they were not comfy!) and there were 2 'beds' in the living area that we used as sofas, which were mattress/cushions on concrete. Still fairly comfy though. Everything was clean, tidy, with cooker, fridge, cupboards full of cooking utensils, bathroom was basic but fine, good water pressure....
Maid cleaned every single day, towels changed every other, beds made and sheets changed.
Air con worked great, bit noisy when starting up but hardly noisy at all once 'warmed up' - we had it on all night and slept fine. Occasionally you'd hear the odd guest being a bit rowdy on their return from the Strip at 5am, but we only heard it twice and it was stopped very quickly.
Pool was gorgeous - very very clean, not too chlorine-y and didn't ruin any swimwear. Lovely cool water too. Could probably have done with a few more sunbeds, as they were hogged quickly, but a towel on the grass worked pretty well. Good pool bar and snacks.
A 'train' (it's on wheels) to the old town stops right outside vilanova every 20 minutes, costs 2 euros per person one way, or 3.5 euros for a full day pass. Takes about 5 minutes on the train to get to the old town, which isn't as old and quaint as we thought it would be but when you wander past the main square into the side streets it's a lot more quaint and pretty. Found an AMAZING restaurant just past the main square (went through the square and out the top left by the wine shop, then up a side street that's right in front of you). It was called Adegas Dom Pipas, and was a proper portuguese restaurant selling genuine portuguese food, not lasagne and chips like all the other restaurants. Staff were amazing, especially Sao, the smiley happy waitress who seems to work there all day every day. Open from 12-3 and 7-11 every day except Mondays when it doesn't open at lunchtime. Excellent fish, and the steaks were the best we've ever had. Pretty cheap too - a huge fillet steak for 12.50 euros. Favourite was beefsteak algarve style, which was a medium steak topped with a homemade sauce made from tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs. Delicious!
Would also recommend the Jeep Safari with Sul Travel, we booked them through the Ticket Shop in the Old Town (go down the escalators and it's a few shops up from the cafe with the icecream freezers outside). Our driver was Hugo, he was only 22 but knew everything about the area, stopped to pick up herbs and show us fruit trees, showed us how they remove cork from the trees and dry it, took us to a gorgeous man-made river with a cafe/bar, had a fabulous lunch in a traditional restaurant, sampled Medronho, the local alcohol they call Firewater, before stopping at a beautiful waterfall with a crystal clear pool at the top that we swam in. The day lasted from 9am - 4pm, and was 45 euros each (including the lunch, which was a 3 course meal of homemade soup and bread, roast pork with potatoes and salad and fresh fruits, with unlimited wine, juice and water). We had a lovely family of 3 from Swindon with us, who also helped to make it a fantastic day.
Would also recommend visiting Fiesa, the sand sculptures, which is 8 euros to get in, and we booked it as a trip with travel costing 5.40 euro each. Go in the evening though to get the best lighting for pictures.
We also went on a boat trip to see wild dolphins and caves, which was 35 euros each and worth every cent.
Zoomarine was also good, especially the seal show and the dolphin show. Good family day out, but make sure you take your swimming stuff as it gets VERY hot and there's not much shade during the shows, which are about 45 minutes each. But there are swimming pools, diving displays, flumes, a rapids ride, lots of fun and a good way to cool off.
Overall , we had an amazing time. If we'd just hung out around the hotel and not gone farther than the Strip we'd probably have not had such a good time and spent a lot more money, so I'd recommend making the effort to go out during the day and visit some places. Plus, it was definitely a good idea to email a few days before we went to request air conditioning as they did their best to accommodate our request, and it really made a difference!
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- Also Known As:
- Vilanova Hotel Albufeira
- Vilanova Resort Albufeira, Algarve, Portugal