On arrival the First Choice rep greeted us and we had our silver AI wristbands attached. There was a bit of a queue in reception but not too bad. Cases were brought to our rooms for us which was a nice touch (you can take them yourself if you wish). I have to admit I found the whole thing very strange (reception is on the 8th floor and you go DOWN to your room). A map was provided but it’s still a little confusing until you get used to the layout.
My room was nicer than I thought it’d be. Bathroom with bath, shower, toilet and bidet is in a separate room to the bedroom. 3 table lamps in the bedroom were adequate. The free safe was a bonus (as was the free beach towel – which some hotels charge to change). The room has a proper metal key, not a plastic card, and there was a knack to opening it (had to pull the door slightly towards me when turning the key). Bottles of water are available free from reception as & when required (big 1.5 litre ones) and there’s a mini fridge in the bedroom, which is handy for keeping it cool. The carpet was a bit worn and the bed base was tatty, but these things happen in well used rooms.
My room had a balcony overlooking the beach, with a round table and 2 chairs. This has a superb sunset view. There was also a pull-out clothes dryer, although I’d have liked a light for sitting out there at night time but was informed that as all balconies overlook the ocean it’s a shipping hazard to have lights (presumably ships might mistake it for a light-house in poor weather). Ceiling fan was useful and there was a flat screen TV. There’s a few sports channels, sky news and a few other English-speaking channels. Could’ve done with a few more electric sockets as I had to unplug the TV to charge my mobile but that was no deal breaker. The mattress on my bed was a little firm, so a quick chat with the reps and it was all sorted out (just ask if anything’s not to your liking and the hotel staff will bend over backwards to put it right asap for you). Rooms are cleaned daily and the cleaning staff are lovely.
It hadn’t been confirmed on arrival what sitting I was at for the evening meal. I’d emailed ahead requesting 6.30pm and I did mention it at check in. However, when I made enquires 6.25pm on my first night I hadn’t actually been officially allocated that time –I’m glad I asked! The main restaurant was to the right of reception downstairs (a red rope is across it until 6.30pm). You have to tell the restaurant manager your room number on the first night, he’ll check it on his list and a waiter will show you to your table. You can simply breeze through on subsequent evenings. The same restaurant is where you go for breakfast and is also open for lunch at 1pm. No allocated seating and a much more relaxed affair (and yes, you can pour yourself a beer at 8am if that’s your thing!). Good to see a hand sanitizer at the entrance (would’ve been nice to see one at the entrance to the poolside bar as well considering the close proximity to the toilets).
Food in the man restaurant was plentiful and there was a wide variety at both breakfast and evening meal. I’m extremely fussy and am vegetarian with a fish and egg allergy, but I had no problems at all filling my face day after day with delicious treats (far too many treats if I’m honest). Fresh carnations on the tables were lovely. Could’ve done with labels on the fruit juice at breakfast as the grapefruit looks very much like pineapple (those on statins be wary). There’s beautifully presented tiny pots of food but with no labels it’s impossible to be certain what was in them. There’s also bowls of yoghurt (I think) but again, labels were lacking. Restaurant staff were very friendly and obliging. Tip: If you don’t like where you’re seated for the evening meal just ask the restaurant manager to give you a different table and he’ll do his best to accommodate you. The pool bar has themed nights but you have to book 24 hours ahead for these. I didn’t test this out but everyone I spoke to said it was fabulous.
The lifts are vital as there’s a lot of stairs and reception is on the 8th floor, pools on the 9th. The longest I had to wait for one was about 2 minutes. If you struggle with stairs you may find you spend rather a lot of time in and around lifts.
The top pool had plenty of sun loungers and parasols and the area was kept nice and clean. It’s all up steps, so be prepared. The pool bar/restaurant provides all drinks in plastic cups for safety, and around the pools are grey crates where you put your used cups. These are emptied regularly. Good to see a lifeguard patrolling. I didn’t test out the lower pool. During the day the animation team walk around the pools offering ping-pong, beach volleyball (there’s sand in 2 tennis courts), football, aqua aerobics and so on. There’s yoga every morning too. You’re never pestered into joining in, it’s just there if you want it. It would’ve been nice if the top pool had been adults only but that’s just personal preference. (There’s a large sun terrace full of loungers before you get to the pools and I didn’t see any children in that area during my stay).
The pool bar/restaurant had a relaxed feel and food was adequate. It was pretty much basic holiday fare; chips, pizza, pasta, fruit, bread rolls, cheese, salad etc. I must admit that after the 3rd time I was getting a bit bored with the selection, also the food could’ve done with being hotter (not a fan of lukewarm pasta in sauce). Although most of the food is labelled, some of it in the salad bar isn’t and although most of us can recognise grated carrot, I wasn’t entirely sure if the ‘bits’ in some of the dishes were meat. (A little green ‘v’ would’ve been helpful). I preferred to have my lunch in the main hall (away from the smokers… and pigeons) as there was more variety.
The walk to the ‘nearby’ beach takes about 20 minutes. The first 5 minutes is up a steep hill, before a further 15 down winding slopes. Walking back took me longer as I somehow managed to lose my way – twice! This walk is not for everyone as it’s challenging. Tip: Wear very comfy/sturdy footwear. Better tip: Use the free courtesy bus or get a taxi!
To get a taxi anywhere just ask at reception. They will issue you a slip of paper with the number of your taxi and the car will arrive outside the front of the hotel within minutes (so simple). A taxi to the beach is approx 3 euros, very cheap.
The beach itself is partly crushed coral and pleasant enough. The water is warm and clear. The beach is surrounded by the usual restaurants and flip-flop shops you’d expect.
I’d been to Gran Canaria once before, and taken a boat trip to Mogan. This is something I wanted to do again, so instead of a busy Friday I went on a quiet Wednesday. Tip: Instead of paying to go via First Choice at 28.50 euros, get yourself a taxi to Puerto Rico harbour for 4 euros. A return ticket to Mogan is 11 euros and the glass-bottomed Bluebird boats run every 30 mins from Puerto Rico from 9.30am til teatime. Boats back to Puerto Rico are hourly and when you get back to the harbour just walk to the left for 2 minutes and get another 4 euro taxi back to the hotel. It means you can be far more flexible as to when you go and you’ll save yourself money.
As the Riu Vistamar is a bit remote, with no adjacent shops, I asked about the nearby Europa Centre and was told it’s just a 5 minute walk. That’s a bit of a porkie as it takes almost 5 minutes to get up the infamous ‘cardiac hill’. You then have to keep walking before you see the signs (keep on the right hand side of the road once you get up the hill). It took me around 10 minutes in total. I went twice (one evening and one morning) but didn’t stay long as I found it a bit too much (typical holiday touts hassling you to try their bar/restaurant and a load of sunglasses shops). For those who enjoy a bit of ‘night-life’ and shopping I’m sure you’ll find something to suit you there.
On site there’s a small mini-market, beauty salon and pay-as-you-go internet pcs down some steps (stand outside the front of the reception, where you were dropped off and to the left follow the silver signs down some steps). Internet is 1 euro for 15 minutes (2 euros for 30 minutes). It’s quite fast and (in my opinion) a much better option than the wifi. There’s 5 computers in the room. Mini-market sells postcards and other holiday bits and pieces and is open til 10pm.
Wifi in reception at the Riu Vistamar is free for 60 minutes per day per device. (You can pay for more via a big silver machine in reception). There’s chairs and tables in reception and I always found somewhere to sit with my laptop. I tended to go between 1pm and 3pm and found I got a fairly usable connection, although I understand 6pm is really slow as there’s so many people trying to connect at once. I heard several people complain about the wifi during my stay…
I have to say that this Hotel was immaculate. Even walking around the grounds at night there was no litter or any unwelcome creepy crawlies. The theatre was ok. Seats were a little worn out but they were comfy enough and there were lots of tables. Shows were probably what you’d expect of a holiday resort and the animation team did work hard. Every Friday evening craft stalls are invited into reception – leather goods, glass ornaments & jewellery (it’s like a very small market). There does tend to be a lull early evening when nothing much happens until 9.30pm, so the Friday market is a good idea.
Corridors were extremely quiet at night which meant you could get a decent night’s sleep. The vast majority (over 70%) of the guests are German & Scandanavian, which might not be to everyone’s liking.
My final evening I felt queasy and had an early night. By morning I had a nasty tummy upset – no telling where I’d picked it up from. Tip: Pack Immodium and Dioralyte just in case. Better to have them and not need them than to not have them and find yourself having to get to the pharmacy up cardiac hill in a delicate condition. A very big thank you to the Thomson/ First Choice cabin crew for looking after me on the flight home when the holiday sickness bug took hold of me somewhere over Portugal!