June - July 2012
Perhaps it's a sign of the times. Having been previous Mark Warner guests (San Agostino, Paleros and Lakitira), we were used to distinctive red and white MW bag tags, tickets and lots of other MW paraphernalia. None on this occasion, except an e-ticket and letter of confirmation, which was completely perfect and no doubt reduced MW's overheads. This all worked efficiently too.
Flight - This was a charter flight operated by BA, departing from the beautiful Terminal Five at Heathrow. The experience of departing on time was a new one (based on previously travelling with Excel, Viking, Tor and other Mark Warner flight operations during the past 5 years!). This BA flight was the perfect flight, really charming staff, great food and we arrived 30 minutes EARLY at Rhodes Airport. I have to say the BA cabin crew were just completely fabulous with kids and adults alike. MW have clearly listened to customers. Humans tend to remember the beginning and end of a holiday! Typically, our last (2011) experience of 8 hour delays (including a fire alarm evacuation!) at sunny London Gatwick no doubt has a potential huge impact on MW guests returning the following year. If MW listens, the BA charter concept is compelling and just brilliant. MW - Bring it in for all the resorts and your returning guests will increase, I promise!
Transfer - Despite the early arrival at Phodes, Mark Warner staff were ready and waiting with four coaches for transfer to Levante Beach. Transfer time was about 25 minutes. Despite being located close to the airport, throughout the stay there was no sound of either light or commercial aircraft. Seat belts are fitted on the air conditioned coaches, I noted a few defective belts.
We were allocated a small room on the floor above reception and in all honesty couldn't have asked for too much more, as we had only booked a standard room (2 adults, 1 child). The room had views at the rear of the hotel, overlooking the tennis courts and a small mountain, but facing away from the sea....we were quite disappointed. However, there are much worse rooms we spotted - on the ground floor, also at the back, but looking directly onto the wall of the tennis centre and next to a very noisy generator!!! Hopefully MW guests don't get landed with those....some of the rooms fall into the room numbers 1000's and 2000's.
There didn't appear to be a dedicated MW Reception desk, as reception is shared by all the operators at Levante Beach. Departure information is positioned to the right of reception on the wall. The Greek reception staff are great English speakers and were always very helpful. The hotel operations and general running is overseen by a Greek chap who bears a huge similarity to Bernie Ecclestone! The MW resort manager is also always contactable.
CAUTION RE THE MAIN POOL - As everyone does, within a few minutes of arrival, we went to explore the resort. Our daughter, put a foot in the beautiful, huge main pool's shallow end and instantly slipped, fully clothed into the pool! The MW resort manager, Sue, happened to watch this event. Sue is very congenial, helpful and delightful. She chatted for a while and we were informed that the resort was not at full capacity but was going very well, (based on feedback from other guests). Sue made an admission that the pool requires a repair due to slippy sides. The plan is to drain the pool in the winter, I just hope that no one becomes injured from a slip or slide into the pool. Upon examination the pool isn't suffering from algae etc - it's just some areas of slippery tiles.. For those with infants another word of caution - the pools have no fenced containment, so you need to keep a strict eye on non-swimming toddlers who may wander off - lots of ground floor rooms open directly out onto pools... This of course is different to Lakitira and San Agostino, where these areas are rigorously fenced and gated off. This is probably due to hotel policy, rather than MW.
We have encountered management in previous MW stays, but Sue was just great when it came to dealing with people on an approachable and professional basis. We were very, very impressed, as she is clearly experienced at dealing with issues (and was good at remaining in touch throughout the entire stay). Sue also arranged for an alternative room.
We were lucky, and probably only as there were still vacancies, to be given a new room (classed as a deluxe suite) near the centre of the resort, which was a huge improvement. It's difficult to know whether to choose ground floor and patio, or first floor and balcony. We had opted for the latter. Everything was brand new and In fact it was so new, that we were missing a handle on our interconnecting door, which really didn't matter. We had a stunning view of the adult pool, Crocodile Rock and an interrupted view of the sea. Be advised, there are however, a number of rooms in the 'nice' blocks beginning with no. 7 which face out onto the side exterior of the resort, with a potential view of a long wooden fence!
Each room has a larger than iPad compatible size safety box which is electronic so no deposit is required, previously hotels have required deposits for a key at reception, so this cuts down on a bit of hassle.. We had two flat screen LCD televisions, of which Sky and BBC news updates and other English channels could be viewed. Wi-fi is not available in most rooms, however there are a number of wi-fi 'hotspots' around the resort which can be 'tapped' into, at no additional cost. We were also supplied with plush white dressing gowns. Shampoo, shower gel and body lotion was also provided - but bring conditioner!
Work in progress - The resort is still undergoing work in some areas. Power cuts and the occasional lack of bath water are not a sign of Greek austerity measures! The bushes and grass turf have a bit of growing to do! There are no diggers, cranes or really anything which negatively affects the quality of customer satisfaction. Levante Beach is the most northerly of a current development of three hotels, which I believe are all operated by the same owner, Aqua Sol Hotel Group. As things stand, if the four pools at Levante Beach aren't enough, you are free to venture to the other hotels to use their pools. Our suspicion is that ongoing building work has come to a halt next door, until winter time, when it will restart without interfering with guests lifestyle.
The pools - there are four outside pools, which include an adults only (over 18's) pool (for water polo and staff lifeguard training too), the main pool (slippery edges), a kiddies paddling pool and an 'infinity style' beach pool, with stunning views of the coast and surrounding mountains. This pool also has a beach style bar and has an area with sofas and chairs overlooking the beach on a wooden decking. One improvement would be to place 'tea lights' on each table, to improve the general ambience, when the sun has gone below the horizon at night. One of the right-angle tiled corners of the beach pool is very sharp (careful of heads etc), consistent with shoddy finishing. Costs of the pool bar are reasonable and are mentioned later. There is also an indoor pool too, which just seemed a bit redundant. We wondered if the indoor pool is to used to assist the hotel's star rating.
Of note, beach towels are supplied by the resort, so don't bother packing any towels.
The Pan Asian 'Annora' restaurant wasn't tried by us. In fact it looked very quiet and there is an additional supplement if you choose to eat there. It is located close to the beach pool and overall looked very much under-used.. It must be stressed that we were staying at a relatively quiet period, hence during the summer holidays, it may prove to be more popular.
If you are needing to push buggies or are disabled, there are very user friendly ramps everywhere which is a sign of change, (when based on our previous experiences at Lakitira, Saint Agostino and Paleros). There are also modern lifts in the main hotel complex. Another recent Greek improvement is the recycle policy. There are now recycle bins around the resort. Sadly, whilst aluminium cans, bottles and paper are dealt with, plastic bottles are still not recycled. This is however a major improvement to previous recycling experiences in Greece.
Beach - The beach is about 150 yards from the main reception. First impression is that there is a little finishing off required in the beach area. The paths to the beach on the sand are the typical Greek 'duck boards'. It looks like the volley ball area needs a little work, as the composition of the beach is made up of course sand with a lot of pebbles. It also appears there is further turf to be laid. With the Greek weather, you will need some footwear as the beach also gets so, so hot.
Watersports - All of the beach sailing equipment is new and the MW beach staff seem so helpful. We tried 'SUP' or stand up paddle boarding and were hoping to end up with fab figures. It didn't work, but this is a very nice beach and I strongly recommend you have a go at SUP. The beach is a little pebbly near the shore line and within a few yards, it shelves off very quickly so be warned. Watching individuals getting in and out of the sea becomes a little comedy, as around the tide line, the quirky combination of pebbles and hot sand always causes guests to look like they are performing an emergency brake! There were no real currents detected, which is just great. For those that are into sailing, the mornings tend to be a light breeze, which increases during to day to maximise the 'yee hah' factor when using a sail. The staff were hugely experienced and seemed to be very cohesive. Friday is sailing competition day and is clearly taken extremely seriously by some guests (whilst I sipped cold Mythos Beer on the beach). I felt the number of boats available, was slightly less than previous MW resorts.
Food - We have previously been spoilt by the delightful Lakitira cooking. I have to say that whilst the food is good, in our opinion, it's not quite as good. We feel that the selection and quality of meats is poorer and the main feature dishes lack a detectable theme. We would like to see an advertised theme each evening, as done at the other MW resorts. Saying that, the food is perfectly satisfactory and breakfasts are just delightful. Fresh squeezed orange juice and delicious pancakes are highly recommended. On a positive note, the quality of fresh fruit was by far the best we have encountered at MW. The melon, plums and peaches are just unbelievably brilliant. Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 10.30am. Dinner is served 7.30pm until 9.30pm, with no real dress code. I think in high season, the main restaurant will become very, very busy - perhaps keeping it open later would be more conducive to having second or third sittings....Personally, we always found it a rush to play tennis at 7.30pm, (when its cooler) then get to the evening meal around 9pm. By this time, the food was always of a poorer quality, and many dishes had not been replenished. When the resort increases to 100% capacity, the issue of 'covers' could be a major issue.
Kids food - Kids tea is served from 5.30pm until 6.30pm and is the usual kids appealing pizza, pasta and smiley potato faces etc. Staff as ever, are attentive and always on the lookout for dads, looking for a necessary 'top up' before dinner at 7.30pm. We really highly rated the kids food and liked the endless supply of fruit (and dads - potato smiley faces!)!
Kids clubs were very impressive! Levante Beach has its own, purpose build air-conditioned club. Everything is modern and appeared very safe. Kids in the 'juniors' have a combined games room and craft room. The amenities for other age groups were equally good. Activities are great, mostly water sports based. Don't forget to pack sunglasses, uv suits, hats and decent kids suntan lotion. Of special note, Kay, Ellie and Hannah S. were particularly great with the juniors. Those kids who are 10 years of age or more can sign themselves in and out....parents be warned! The staff supplied bottles of water for kids. Hours for kids club are 9am to 12.30pm, then 2.30pm until 5.30pm. Additionally for our daughter, a sports activity and DVD went daily from 7.30pm until 10.30pm (Saturdays until 9.30pm).
Tennis was a purpose built and specially designed floodlit area. Consisting of 6 courts, but be prepared that between 10am and 4pm, it's just too hot to use them. They offer little protection from the sun, so take decent sun hats, trainers, sunglasses and copious amounts of water (rooms have fridges, hence it's possible to keep purchased water cold)...again the staff (special mention for Josh) were just great. We found slots at 9am or 7.30pm a more sensible temperature. MW supply quality balls and very good 'Head' rackets. As always there are the typical slobs (like me) and a number of strongly motivated tennis players, who take their tennis very, very seriously. For those like me, to find yet another bar at the tennis courts was fantastic. I personally, really enjoyed an after tennis 'rescue remedy' of Mythos Beer, served by the adorable Adam.
Kolympia Village is about a 25 minute walk (south) away via the beach, which is hard work on the sand and pebbles. Alternatively take the road, but be warned that the road is relatively busy at times, with mostly no footway, hence it's probably not that safe if you are walking to town with children . Taxis are a viable option, but we chose to cycle, which reduces the journey time to about 7 minutes (at a sensible pace). My Garmin GPS said the distance was about 1 mile to town. The road is relatively level, so no real level of fitness required. We chose to support the Greek economy a little, hence went to a couple of bars and tavernas (more Mythos Beer!) on the beach in Kolympia. The setting is idyllic, to say the least and a large beer is about 3-4 euros, a wine about 3 euros. Follow directions for the beach! Meals were of an 'ok' standard. Be sure to visit a blue gated fenced off area on the beach, adjacent to the tavernas, as it's full of Lobster and small fish. There are some boat excursions from the harbour which seemed to cost about 30 euros for the day. Fishing trips are about the same cost for 3 hours with all equipment provided. You can also travel from the resort by a fairly regular bus service (hotel reception keep a timetable). Another great destination, is to continue to the beach, further (South) of Kolympia, by about 1/8 of a mile. You will need to hire a sunbed, but the bay is sandy, gently sloping and a dream, in terms of being child friendly and picture postcard beautiful!
Soft drinks, ice cream, wine and beer are available within the hotel shop. This is at a slightly reduced cost, when compared to bar prices within the hotel bars. If you want to save more, a trip into Kolympia results in a huge saving (500mls can of Mythos are 1.10 euros compared to about 1.95 euros in the resort shop). Be warned to take a sturdy bag or rucksack! We found a great place called Zeus Supermarket, close to the crossroads at Kolymia (on the left before the crossroads, when travelling South). Shop about, but at the time of writing, this is the cheapest for beers and general soft drinks. The staff are also delightful and fluent in English.
Evening entertainment - we didn't see anything! This appeals to most, but if you are keen to do a little something in the evening, the resort next door (south) has a lively bar with live music, dancing and a fabulous atmosphere - thankfully no rave music! Predominantly French guests, and the bar has much the same prices as Levante Beach. There is a great little fun water park pool there, that the kids will love for a change. You are welcome to go next door at no extra cost. I know that there are plans to introduce a quiz night at Levante Beach in several weeks time, which is a good idea, but of course, we are realistic that this won't suit all.
Previously, MW has used 'happy hour' to encourage a rapport amongst guests. This has been the case at all other MW resorts and I know that hotel management have been approached by MW, requesting a happy hour! This no doubt, will generate revenue for the hotel too. The cheerful bar staff within the hotel are predominantly Greek. At external bars by pools etc, staff are partly MW (and really lovely at supplying glasses of ice etc) with some bar staff also Greek. They appear to get along extremely well and were always very courteous. Bar prices were as expected ie cocktails for around 6.50-7 euros, pint of beer about 3.50 euros and a house white 12 euros, house red 14 euros. If the cost of wine doesn't kill you, the taste might! You have been warned its not Cotes-du-Rhone!...but it is drinkable!
Mountain bikes - these are available at no extra cost. They are 'Specialised Hardrock' branding and utterly perfect for the task of 'on and off' roading. Run by Chris, he has also performed a thorough recce of the local area and has devised an easy, intermediate and advanced level to suit your own abilities (or lack of them!). I did the intermediate course (13.79 miles), but be warned, don't expect to make it up every hill, without stopping! I also did the 'easy' ride (9.21 miles) and there were several in our group who hadn't ridden a bicycle for 10 years. The course seemed ideal for the novice. Taking about 2 hours, the rides both included a stop at a beach cafe, the scenery is just just exquisite. Mythos Beer might make you a bit wobbly on the way back, but remember to bring a money belt and cash! I would also highly recommend packing a pair of padded cycling shorts and trainers. Cycling with Chris was a great experience and he should be commended for finding such great routes and actively adapting them to the abilities of his groups. It should also be said that he maintains the bikes too and has done a great job. Cycle hats are supplied and are mandatory in line with sensible MW policy. We also completed a 2 1/2 hour, unescorted ride to Faliraki. No raving or dancing required, the ride consists of some steep hills and a brief stop at Anthony Quinn bay, which is unimaginably beautiful. The bay is the perfect environment if you are keen on snorkelling with fish.
Pool Safety - The life guards appear to be Mark Warner staff. The Greeks have apparently stipulated 2 or 3 guards should be on duty at all times. MW supply staff, then I believe, claim the costs of employing lifeguards, back from the Greeks. I observed a few deficiencies whilst sat by the pool, in terms of lifeguards not paying sufficient attention to the occupants of the pool. To the credit of management, I brought these matters to their attention and the difference is an improvement. If I had a say, I would make the 'on duty' guard wear a bright yellow shirt, whilst the life guard on their breaks, wear a different colour 't' shirt. Also, 'on duty' lifeguards tidying away bed chairs and umbrellas whilst lacking 'eyes on' the pool is not acceptable. On one occasion, this led to a period of over 5 minutes when no attention was paid to some areas of the pool. Having been closely involved in a pool emergency, several years ago, the identification of pool responsibilities is just so, so important.
Room cleaning - our block was serviced by two cleaners. This resulted in our room being cleaned, generally in the early afternoon. Whilst the block is nearly brand new, there was an absence of 'make up my room' and 'do not disturb' pendants for doors handles, to enable staff to prioritise room cleaning. I know that the resort have now supplied these. To the staff's credit, we were in the newest block, hence cleaning orders and procedures are clearly work in progress. On a couple of occasions we were eating lunch on the balcony and had the staff wander in and start cleaning. Overall we went from disappointed with the room cleaning, (with curtains left undrawn, table on balcony etc) to much being happier by the end of the stay. The cleaning staff are definitely getting their act together. As we were on the first floor, an unclean balcony was not a massive concern; of course a ground floor terrace and bread crumbs, could encourage a number of beasties to pay a visit.
Aerobics. The outdoor aerobics area is positioned close to the main entrance, busy and noisy road and the hotel drainage system, (hence you can get some strong 'whiffs'). I have not been tempted to join in this year - usually MW have their aerobics close to the sea, so you can exercise with a view. Perhaps consideration could be given to one of the large grassed areas, which would make a more pleasant spot.
Levante Beach is a modern, pristine (for Greece) resort but be advised the resort is not occupied solely by MW guests. I was slightly confused by a sign at the hotel entrance saying 'A Hotel Exclusively For Mark Warner'. I always enjoy a bit of diversity, hence having some French, Germans and Greeks in the same resort was absolutely fine. Also, Levante Beach is no more than 90 metres wide, hence it feels rather more compact, when compared to the other MW resorts.
On the downside, I think Levante Beach is not as good (in my opinion) as Lakitira or San Agostino for:
I would however, rate Levante Beach resort very highly. I heard a few guests mention that they preferred MW Lakitira. I listened and being a stubborn, 'Mythos swilling' individual, would disagree. We loved the resort.
Overall we were delighted by our experience at Levante Beach. I would strongly recommend a visit to this resort. The staff are great, full of motivation and have an attitude to 'make things work'. Despite having a few teething difficulties, the new resort felt exclusive, gradually filling with character (and guests) during the stay and was well laid out and purpose built. Once Levante Beach has established mature gardens, this will only increase the character of the resort. My main reason for choosing this resort would however be, the good management, the great flights and the superb cycling.
As mentioned, during the two weeks we were at Levante Beach, it became much busier with guests. The resort is still operating below capacity. It will be interesting to see how areas such as the main restaurant, tennis courts and resort bed chairs, deal with the increase in 'foot fall' at the resort during peak holiday times. One idea would be to keep the main restaurant open a little later at dinner (say to 10.30pm) to prevent the anticipated evening meal rush when the hotel is at the anticipated 100% occupancy in August. This would also allow individuals to play later tennis etc.
MW, take note BA flights were just brilliant! The morning departure at Heathrow and lunchtime departure at Rhodes worked very well, and was suited to those travelling with young families. We would encourage MW to introduce BA charter, (for south of the UK departures), for all of your holiday destinations. Decent, nearly on time flights (40 minute delay on return due to an issue with ATC), with new, smart accommodation and affable guests and staff are all the perfect blend to make a brilliant holiday - which is exactly what we had.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- FIVE STAR HOTEL ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Levante Beach Resort Rhodes/Afandou, Greece