The Aqulila Elounda Village Hotel in Crete is a wonderfully, relaxing Adult Only resort set on a hillside with fabulous views over the Mirabello Bay to distant pink-tinged mountains.
I had booked the Mythica superior rooms package as we knew that we would be confined to the hotel due to my partners’ poor mobility at that time and wanted to avoid the potential hurly burly/spot the drinks waiter of the buffet evening meal every night. Mythica enabled us to eat in either of the 2 A La carte restaurants with waiter service every night, which was absolute bliss, especially given the fabulous cliff top setting of the Mirabello Restaurant where you could enjoy a delicious meal to the backdrop of the sun slipping slowly into the sea. Furthermore, the Mythica package also provided, amongst other things, an express check-in and late check-out, a daily British newspaper, fresh fruit delivered to the room and a daily turn down service which went beyond merely folding over the corners of the bed covers and leaving a chocolate on the pillow: the entire bathroom area was cleaned, floors – slippery and flooded after our showers – mopped dry and towels folded or replaced if soaking wet, providing a tidy, safe environment for our late night return after our evening meal. The mini bar was also replenished daily providing welcome cold beers to enjoy whilst sitting on our spacious terrace drinking in the views. Our room was massive with a large seating area, table and chairs, and a generous balcony overlooking the main body of the hotel and the blue sea. I had also, somewhat guiltily, booked all inclusive – not because we wanted to graze all day or drink ourselves under the table, but because we would have had difficulty travelling outside the hotel to support local restaurants and supermarkets which is so important for the Greek economy. Aware of the prices of the hotel's drinks, and the lack of a nearby supermarket, I believed AI would more than cover the daily cost of bottled water and coffee, and evening beers and wine. We were, thankfully, spared the indignity of wearing coloured wrist bands indicating our AI status. Food was plentiful but there was no way I could eat the mid-morning and mid-afternoon hot snacks served at the Beach Bar; the afternoon Coffee and Cakes served in the Lobby and the late night snacks served in the Symposium Restaurant! After a lovely breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, yoghurt, fresh fruit, tasty fresh bread and honey, I was sated until lunchtime. For those who like a big breakfast, there were plenty of hot dishes available, an egg station and sparkling wine to make bucks fizz! At lunchtime the delightful Mirabello Restaurant staff were initially concerned that I would not (and indeed physically could not) eat the full AI 3 course lunch on offer but they soon became used to me having just a Greek salad with cold water and a glass of sparkling rose followed by coffee. My partner did not wish to drag himself away from his sunbed, get dressed and climb the steps to the restaurant so I usually took him down a roll and drink. The quality of the food served in the two a la carte restaurants every evening was very high; the waiters delivered the main courses under domed cover which they removed with a theatrical flourish; kept our glasses topped up with water and wine and provided a constant supply of ice cold bottled Mythos beer for my partner. Several times we enjoyed gentle live evening entertainment – three guitarists singing music by the Eagles and Beatles, a string quartet with a cretan twist; pianists. There was also a spectacular Greek dancing night. and, rather bizarrely, a Brazilian dance night. I suspect we more or less broke even in terms of costs but I believe the price of AI has increased recently so this may no longer be the case. If you are Half Board, the hotel is very good value for money compared with other similar hotels in the area (in the Thomson brochure) and this compensates for the cost of drinks which is high but, unfortunately, typical of many 5 star hotels in Crete.
I am not one to sit still on holiday so it was a real delight to find that Nea, from the animation team, ran wonderfully calming "Well Being" classes in the Olive Garden at 11.00 every morning (except Fridays). Under the cool shade of the trees she set out yoga mats, put on some gentle, mood music and took a small group of very lucky guests through a series of Yoga/Pilates or Tai Chi movements. Nea also led an afternoon Aqua Aerobics in the pool/sea followed by Zumba, Step or Jazz dance in the Olive Garden in the late afternoon. At the end of our stay she very kindly made me a copy of her mood music CD.
The only downside to the holiday was the early morning reservation of the good quality, wooden sunbeds by the hotel's only, tiny beach by other guests which on one day in our first week forced us to pay 40 Euros for the VIP sunbeds with "trampolines" (netting strung out over the sea) at the end of the pier as my partner's back problem meant he could not cope with spending a day on the thin blue plastic beds that were helpfully dragged out from storage into use. I had initially thought that these “posh” VIP beds must be for people with more money than sense (though the four posters do look wonderfully romantic and you do get fresh fruit, an ice bucket and two drinks included making a lovely one-off treat). I felt a bit of a "poser" but, having supported my partner down the extreme slopes and 90 odd steps from our room to the beach, there was really no other option! Fortunately, by week two the lovely, cheerful beach towel guy started removing towels and other personal possessions from sun beds that had been left unoccupied for a while, thereby freeing them up. He received quite an ear bashing from disgruntled guests returning, often as late as 4.00 pm, to find “their” beds occupied! Thereafter, as long as we were down on the beach by 08.30 there was plenty of choice. The Thomson Reps provided an excellent service: they were very visible throughout our stay and, from what I saw, really went the extra mile on behalf of their guests.
By the end of the holiday, thanks to good food, sunshine, excellent service, relaxation and twice daily exercise classes, I looked and felt 10 years younger (and have the hotel photographer's before and after photos to prove it!) and did not put on any weight. My younger brother, who stayed there for a week HB, and ate in the buffet restaurant most nights, managed to put on 4 kg, despite making several treks in scorching heat to the supermarket (15 minutes walk away along a steep track) to top up with bottles of water and tins of beer.! Having lost 4kg in preparation for my holiday there was no way I was going to put it back on – easily done with so much delicious food and the constant grazing option offered by AI. I would happily go back tomorrow. However, my partner, who loves sitting by the sea, could not face the number of steps to and from the beach again, so, for this year’s summer holiday I have booked us into the equally wonderful but flatter Minos Beach Art Hotel just outside Agios Nikolaos – review to follow in September. Meanwhile, if I close my eyes and put on my mood music I can pretend I am back in the Olive Garden at the Aquila Elounda Village.