We had a relaxed, quiet time and generally enjoyed our stay at Sao Rafael resort and really loved Portugal. However we would not go back to CS Atlantic hotel again. Like every hotel and resort, this have also it’s positives and negatives. Firstly, it is not a 5* hotel in our view. It has potential to become one in the future but needs to improve in some departments which we’ll mention later. At the moment it has its star rating overrated.
Before we booked it, we read nearly all the TA reviews and somehow we didn’t want to take on board those bad ones. Unfortunately some of the earlier critics were spot on. If someone is talking this hotel is good value for money than I agree, it probably is. But if you pay a 5* price for your 5* accommodation you expect one with no exceptions.
LOCATION: hotel is located in a very lovely, quiet and peaceful residential area, so if you are looking for night outs and night entertainment this isn’t place for you unless you want use a taxi to get about. Nearby beaches are fabulous - Arrifes is small and cosy and Sao Rafael is much bigger and open. We went there everyday of our stay and we loved them both. On Arrifes beach you have small bar/restaurant which is much cheaper than restaurant on SR beach and the food is very good. Short walk from hotel is Tommys supermarket, Chinese restaurant and City Bar which is ok for a drink but I suggest you don’t eat there. I had there the worst burger of all times, on the good note, guy didn’t take money for it.
ROOMS: we liked our room. Décor and design was minimalist as it has been said by earlier reviewers. Plenty of storage in the cupboards, however by the bed side more useful would be cabinets instead of the lamp tables. We found bed very much comfortable and big enough although the pillows were a bit too soft but still had good sleep despite this. Also we didn’t mind the open plan bathroom, it was quite modern and spacious. There is also safe box to use free of charge.
Another positive point, there is a LAN internet available in the rooms but you need to request a cable from reception to connect. You can as well use the internet free of charge on 2 computer stations in the small “library” section or via WIFI in most communal areas of the hotel.
We were surprised that nobody in earlier reviews mentioned that there isn’t any small washing line/towel dryer on the balcony. Had to use chairs, table and balustrade to dry wet swimwear and pool towels.
Cleaning service didn’t put too much effort in cleaning our room on daily basis, making bed was the only sign. Our room never has been done until 4 or 5pm.
On a change over days maids were making hell of a noise from 6.30 am by vacuuming, banging their trolleys and shouting to one another.
STAFF: absolutely nothing to pick on. They were all very nice, polite and helpful especially Monica from the reception and Joseph from Al Fresco.
POOLS/GROUNDS: pools were very good and the water was not cold at all, it was nice and refreshing. Exactly how it needs to be. Although we didn’t like the cheap brown concrete finishing around the pools. In minus surprise too, were pool toilets which looked (inside and out) like toilets by road side for motorways users. Still noticed plenty of broken sun beds around but when get the good one, its very comfortable. Grounds are extensive but looking neglected and overgrown with weeds at places.
If you fancy a walk night time in the gardens, it might be tricky. It’s the first hotel we saw without having a proper night lighting in the gardens apart from small spot lights marking foot paths. And the pools weren’t also lighten up in the evening. What we found to be definitely 5* were the pool bar prices with e.g. 8,50 euro for a burger.
ENTERTAINMENT: rather dedicated to older generation of guests. Not really our thing. We saw Gemma and Willjamin on couple of occasions. Must say that seeing them once or twice would be much enough.
It might sound surprising but we did enjoy the Elvis performance, he wasn’t that bad in our opinion.
We suggest that having quite many young couples around (probably some older wouldn’t mind either) hotel should consider of doing a disco night for guests because on Dj’s Wendesdays guys were doing good work and playing good stuff at Chill Out bar. Of course, saw some people trying to give it a go and dance but it’s not the same.
FOOD: …. What do we say… A major let down of our whole holiday. This is still our own opinion but we think whoever says that the food is “fabulous” must never cooked his own dinner and eat only ready meals. If you like full English breakfast than you’re in paradise but if you don’t you’re in trouble. There are only few choices of cheese (only one type of sliced cheddar), 3 choices of cold meats (same everyday – blunt and tasteless). The worst was bread – nothing decent to choose from. Cheap toast bread and 3 other unknown, often stale (same everyday). No rolls, no buns, no baguettes to choose. And that makes it weird cause in the evening they were available everyday, as we were told baked at hotel. But when I asked for some in the morning they had none. So after the holiday we can’t look anymore at scrambled, fried eggs and toasts.
Evening buffet, again was very poor choice and quality. Salads had no description so e.g. if you don’t tolerate sea food you had to dig in the bowl and try to work out what it consisted of. We found buffet just satisfying on two occasions – Chinese and Gala.
We don’t know where all the excitement with Al Fresco coming from cause it’s also very average. Pasta and pizza meals are exactly same as on Italian buffet and the baked salmon was available on few occasions at the buffet as well, cooked same way. What we liked there was the cod meal with spinach. On our last visit to AF we both ordered the cod, and how much surprised we were that we got our meals made of one regular portion! Basically, there was half of the spinach and only one small piece of fish each! On one occasion some of the dessert wasn’t available as we were told – was not delivered from hotel. We leave drawing the conclusions to you.
Summing up, as we said at the beginning we had lovely holiday cause we did not want the negatives to put us off so we got on with it instead wasting time for complaints. We went to Albufeira Old Town few times, and it was great. Fantastic atmosphere, friendly people and all those small and narrow streets to explore with local cafes and restaurants. We didn’t like the New Town though, especially The Strip. Too commercial.
We absolutely fell in love with Portugal and Portuguese people and definitely will go back to this beautiful country.
Last but not least, words of critics about Thomson. Firstly, evening trip to Vilamoura. With Amanda… who was the worst and most incompetent tour guide we ever experienced (not only our opinion), she had no idea about the place we are going to, completely unprepared and not up to the task given. On the way back we almost ended up in a different hotel, cause the driver didn’t know the way to CS Atlantic and she even didn’t try to understand him when he tried to tell her that.
Secondly. They made ours and other guests departure day really stressful. Having in mind that we were leaving still during the peak season, our pick up coach was arranged to arrive at the hotel 2,5 hrs before the flight. It came 40 minutes late, so we arrived at the airport 1 hour before the plane departure!
I am sure Thomson’s staff know how busy Faro airport is. After the check in, we waited in the longest queue for the security check I’ve ever seen in my life at the airport. And they also are aware that you need to go through additional passport control (after you checked in) before going to the boarding gate (again enormous queue). Despite these facts they failed to arrange the pick up with reasonable amount of time between drop off and the flight. As a result we got on the plane out of breath and sweating 5 minutes before departure!!!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The hotel Sao Rafael Atlantico enjoy a spectacular location overlooking the Atlantic sea, direct access to Sao Rafael Beach and only at a short drive to Albufeira centre. The interiors have contemporary design features with space and light throughout. The rooms are modern and have large balconies with views over the sea and gardens. The extensive gardens offer a beautiful mediterranean landscape with olive and palm trees. There is also a state-of-the-art SPA featuring leading wellness therapies and treatments. ... more less
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