Earlier this year we enjoyed a two week holiday in Cape Verde with Thompson holidays. Being a big guy I was apprehensive about the six hour flight in a standard size seat without a seat back TV entertainment screen to help pass the time. We chose to pre-book two aisle seats to obtain as much “leg-room” as possible, but our selection was limited to about a dozen options at the back of the aircraft as we decided not to purchase the overpriced inflight meal.
The aircraft is divided into those taking the inflight service and those who are not. A word of advice do not select seat 38D, as this is the position that they store the inflight entertainment system. Therefore there is nowhere to store your hand luggage and my wife spend more time standing up while cabin staff stood on her seat to access this equipment.
We were staying at the Riu Garopa, but it’s sister hotel the Riu Funana is located on the same complex and they are mirror images of each other. As you can use the facilities of both hotels the only reason for selecting the Riu Funana would be that you have a far greater change of obtaining a sea view. The beach isn’t anything special with the sea being far too rough to swim in, even when the green flag is flying.
The island itself is just a volcanic rock with nothing really to see or visit. The main town Santa Maria is worth a visit for a couple of hours (a twenty minute walk along the beach, but we would suggest you take the taxi which is only three Euro). Santa Maria will be very nice when it is finished, at present it is just one big building site.
As stated the hotel has a very captive audience, our first week (Easter) all the amenities were overcrowded, our second week was a little less hectic with fewer people staying at the hotel. But during the busy periods if you don’t “put your towel down” to reserve a position at the pool you are not going to be able obtain a sun bed after nine ‘o’clock in the morning. Yes, all sun beds are either occupied or reserved by nine ‘o’clock. Also note that the water in the pool is very cold when you first get in.
In the evening it became difficult to obtain a seat in the bar lounges and the theatre area always seemed crowded or pre-reserved. We found the entertainment was amateurish, all effort but very little quality. Still most of the crowded audience appeared to enjoy it.
The weather during our stay was warm, but cloudy with a constant wind. With the evenings becoming quite chilly. There is also an abundance of flies to annoy you while trying to read your paperback on your much prized sun bed. On the positive side the hotel grounds, general areas and bedrooms are immaculately clean.
The food in the restaurants is fresh and of a reasonable standard, although the meals could be hotter rather than luke warm. Overall after two weeks the meals become very repetitive. Do not put your knife and fork down during the meal as your plate will be whisked away from you by the waitress, they are very keen on getting you to eat your meal as quickly as possible. My wife found the vegetarian selection limited to non-existent with some evenings the choice restricted to the main meal’s vegetables. One evening my wife asked if the pizza was vegetarian (contains no meat) to be given an indifferent yes. While eating the pizza my wife found pieces of bacon in the meal, resulting in her being quite unwell and spoiling the evening. Another evening the vegetarian selection was Milanese rice with pork! Plus the vegetable dishes often contained small qualities of meat. Complaining doesn’t produce results as everybody becomes uncooperative and forgets how to speak English.
There are four themed restaurants, grilled meat (didn’t go as wife is vegetarian), Cape Verde cuisine (much the same as the main restaurant), Asian (greasy Chinese with selection of Japanese sushi) and African (which was far the best). But we found the booking of these themed restaurants three days only in advance and with two sittings, either seven or nine completely strange. Firstly the food is still self-service, so why two sittings? Secondly, the first sitting have between seven and nine to enjoy their meal, while at the nine sitting the food starts to get removed promptly at ten. On our second visit to the African restaurant we were rudely informed by a waitress taping her watch at twenty pass ten that the restaurant was closed and could we leave. We had a nine ‘o’clock booking, yet were asked to leave at ten-twenty. Do they have time restriction on how long it takes to eat your dinner? Self-service and “rush, rush, hurry, hurry” seem to be the order of the day at these hotels.
Why? I am on holiday to relax and enjoy myself. I even had to take my own laundry to reception as this isn’t part of the chambermaid service. Another strange thing is that you can only obtain bottled wafer from reception and not the bar. The beer is excellent, with the red and white wine an acquired taste, plus the staff are very generous with their measures of alcohol. Generally we found the staff to be respectful but not courteous, pleasant or helpful. It appeared that the customers were an inconvenience.
Some advice, Sal airport does have small expensive restaurant airside, pass airport security, where you can purchase food and drink. But as you can also take bottled water into this area we would recommend that on the final day you prepare and smuggle your lunch out of the hotel using the breakfast menu. Also remember to save some money to purchase drinks on the aircraft.