Have returned yesterday from family holiday at Aurora hotel and overall feelings are mostly positive. I have stayed in Croatia several times during 90's, then after pause again in 2008 and returned again this year. I can compare Aurora to Valamar Club Tamaris which I stayed at back in 2008 from family holidays point of view. Both hotels are older buildings that underwent extensive reconstruction in the second half of noughties. Aurora has nice spacious lobby with reception and concierge desks, bar with plenty of seating options. We stayed at suite room which is the only option for families with 2 kids - there are 2 rooms, small anteroom, bathroom and relatively big balcony. All family suites are facing sea side westwards - but due to pine trees you don't see much water - not an issue for me, but if it issue for you, ask for the highest floor available. I would describe the room itself as satisfying - I have stayed in many better 4* hotels in terms of overall impression - don't expect Radisson Blu or other chain hotels level. I think selection of several materials during reconstruction was bit on a budget side (cheap looking laminate flooring, tiles in the bathroom, carpet in corridors, cheap looking chairs in the main restaurant). But don't get me wrong, there is nothing substantial to complain about accomodation and technically we can speak about "lower" 4* level in rooms and proper 4* in other areas. Compared to hotel rooms in Valamar Club Tamaris there are marginal differences in favour of Valamar. Cleanliness wasn't a problem though, our room was cleaned on daily basis.
Free wired and wireless internet are nice bonuses included in the price of stay which is still not standard these days even in more expensive hotels. Wired internet tends to be more dependable, with download speed varying typically between 3 to 5 Mbit/s, upload 300 kbit/s only. Wi-fi is available in lobby/bar area - speed obviously heavily depends on amount of people connected at the same time, making it literaly unusable especially in the evening.
Main restaurant is vast and tends to get crowded after 8am during breakfast and during dinner - but this is typical for all half board holiday hotels, so I wouldn't consider it disadvantage of this particular hotel. However food is in my opinion strong point of the hotel and I have to admit I am quite picky. Breakfasts are varied, you get typical choice of cold & hot buffet ranging from ham (even prsut - prosciuto type), cheese, pates, spreads, mayonnaise salads, smoked fish, choice of cereals, fresh fruits, full cream, semi-skimed and skimmed milk, yoghurt (although a bit sloppy), jam, not to forget grilled or cooked sausages, bacon, pancakes, scrambled and fried eggs. You could also have omelette made directly to your taste with choice of bacon, ham, mushrooms, capsicum, onion and cheese to throw in. Regarding the omelette preparation, there is some room for improvement - there is only one cook and one pan available and the same cook has to operate the grill with sausages & bacon and even giant pan for scrambled eggs at the same time! Which results in long queues and unpleasant delays for omelette lovers. I can remeber dedicated omelette cooks with either vast grill or at least 2-3 separate pans during my previous vacations in Turkey in recent years. Some might say I am
too fastidious, but it's these little details that make an overall impression. Nice bonus - you can have espresso/cappucino/latte machiato from La Cimballa self service automatic machine, again a feature not seen in many 5* hotels. The only letdown - they use rather cheap and thus not very tasty coffee beans. And the last word goes for "juices" - expect the usual sirup water dispenser - nowhere close to a real fruit juice.
Dinners were similarly nice with wide choice of dishes ranging from 2 soups of the day, cold starters to roast or grilled meats (pork, beef, poultry, lamb), various sides and desserts including ice cream (good point if you have kids). Negative details - there was only radichcio and lollo biondo available from fresh leaf salads constantly (where is ruccola and other memebers of this broad family?). Tomatoes were only sliced big ones (cherry or cocktail tomatoes would be wellcome enrichment). I have to make special notice on fish and seafood - there were always 3-4 different fish dishes every night including not only ordinary fried hake/cod routine, but also shark fillet, tuna, red dragon fish, fried squids, fish stews, cold octopuss, squid or tuna salads etc. As this is half-board basis hotel, be aware that drinks are NOT included and tend to be quite costly (nearly 3€ for 0.2l juice or 0.25l coke/fanta, over 3€ for 0.75l of mineral water or 0,5l bottle of local beer etc.) However, there is nice detail to mention - approximately every second evening there was a waiter at the restaurant entrance offering either a glass of free sparkling wine or local spirits (rakija, travarica) and orange/apple juice for kids (this time real juice). Talking about meals and nice surprises - as a matter of fact I celebrated my birthday during our stay at Aurora - this fact was met by a birthday card, bottle of sparkling wine and neat cake that awaited me in our room after coming back from the beach. Another fact that illustrates attention to details by the hotel management.
If you hesitate whether to pick Aurora or sister hotel Vespera nextdoors for your family holiday, go for the first one. Both hotels form one complex with Aurora being promoted as wellness/conference option and Vespera as the family hotel. But my brief impression is that Vespera tends to be more noisy because of sheer amount of families with kids. Even if you pick Aurora you can still hand your kids to hotel animators at designated times (10 AM and 2PM if I remember that correctly) and you can also use children's pools that lie between both hotels. However, if you still use a pram for your offsprings, beware - both hotels lie on a relatively steep slope with big amount of steps to climb from the beach to the hotel. (The same warning applies to disabled persons). Vespera hotel is less challenging in this respect - hillside flattens out towards the hotel and there is at least one path with ramp if I remember that right.
Which brings me to the sea and beach part of this review. First - if you have never been to Croatia, get prepared. There are almost no sandy beaches in this country, many of them are either gravelly or rocky, often finished with concrete and ladders to ease the access to the water. If you insist you have to bring home pictures of your child building a sand castle, look elsewhere. Beach called Veli Zal is not hotel-owned, it's accessible to public which makes it crowded especially on weekends. (But not worse than my previous Turkey or Greece experience). The very tip of Suncana Uvala (Sunny Bay) consist of gravelly section not more than 100 metres long, which is full of deckchairs and beach umbrellas, the rest of the beach is aforementioned rocky/concrete type. Which doesn't sound tempting, does it? But it's not that bad in real life, my kids are 7 and 5 yrs old and they weren't missing the sand for a second. Absence of sand has one big positive - the water is incredibly clear especially in the morning, colours ranging from turquoise to deep blue with breathtaking visibility underwater. You have to see it for yourself, Croatia prides itself on seawater quality. But there is a but - aforementioned tip of the bay tends to attract disgusting dirt (especially plastic debris) in approx. 5-10 metres wide belt along the beach. If you avoid this part, everything will be fine. As to deckchairs and umbrellas - they are free of charge (not that usual in Croatia). Sadly, you just have to forget your sense for fair play - if you don´t put your towel on a deckchair before 8:30 AM at latest, you will be lying on concrete or rock. I resigned on third day of our stay and did it the way everybody did. The hotel also boasts its' wellness part consisting of small outdoor saltwater pool and 2 indoor jacuzzi plus 20m pool which are freely accessible during the day. For saunas which are also included in the price you have to make a reservation - won't comment on this, haven't used them.
Hotel staff is mostly attentive, if sometimes lacking smile (common problem in almost all post-communist countries). But generally nothing to complain about, all requests were resolved quickly.
So to sum it up and add the comparison with Valamar Club Tamaris - although Valamar is all inclusive light which means full board and drinks during meals, it's not worth the extra money. I payed 1770€ for 8 nights for family of four, Valamar Club Tamaris would be approx. 3200€ for the same period. In other areas both hotels are very close side-by-side with price advantage lying on Aurora's side. The price/value ratio of this hotel is very good to excellent and you could spend similar money in Croatia on much worse hotel. Aurora is really recommendable choice with only minor reservations.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel Aurora is located in the beautiful Sunny Bay, surrounded by the blue sea and green centuries-old pinewood. Situated only 50m from the island’s most beautiful beaches, we provide top quality service and comfort. The Aurora hotel is a perfect choice for family or wellness vacation, sport and recreation, conferences and formal gatherings. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Aurora Hotel Mali Losinj
- Wellness Hotel Aurora Croatia/Mali Losinj, Losinj Island