We had decided to go away for our first Christmas ever abroad but didn’t know where to go! Problem was, I preferred a wintry destination whereas my husband wanted somewhere warm. However we both agreed on a short haul destination and tossed a coin…my husband won!
After hours looking at countless hotels on various websites I found the 5 star Dream Gran Castillo Resort which had great reviews on Trip Advisor (along with others). This hotel was bookable via Kuoni & Cosmos but they were sold out for the dates we wanted. I noted that EasyJet Holidays also featured this hotel and had a good choice of flight times. The total holiday including flights, transfers and a superior room at the hotel on an all inclusive basis cost £1545.00 which we thought was quite reasonable for the Christmas period (we departed 20th Dec and returned late evening of the 27th Dec).
After a great flight we had approx 40 min wait for our transfer as we were sharing with another couple arriving on a different flight. (Top Tip: pay an extra £10 and the transfer (speedy shuttle) has a max of 4 stops). On arrival at the hotel we were greeted by a very smartly dressed porter who gave us a very friendly welcome and took our bags to reception where we were offered a welcome drink of either cava or juice .
To say were impressed with our room (a superior double with balcony) would be an understatement. It was nicely furnished with a lounge area and was very spacious as it had a separate wardrobe room. The bathroom had a large tiled shower, 2 sinks, a bath and separate toilet. Everywhere was exceptionally clean. It also benefited from a lovely view (see photos). There was one downside however… it was above the main bar! Although we are not “early to bed types” my husband is a very light sleeper. Sadly we did move rooms after the second night of people talking loudly well after 1am even though the bar had closed. I hasten to point out they were just enjoying themselves but my husband could still hear them even with ear plugs in!
Our second room was lovely too – just not as spacious as the first but was very quiet as it looked out over a black sand garden area which proved very useful for a birthday message, side sea view and the promenade into Playa Blanca (see photos). Very pleased with how the reception staff dealt with our room change request. They could not have been more helpful especially Javier, the reception manager.
There were many rooms with sloping pathways for easy wheelchair access and we did note a few people with mobility scooters.
We ate in the buffet restaurant Las Coloradas which had 2 sittings. You selected your preferred sitting for the duration of your holiday on the first night. First sitting 18.30-20.00 (enter by 19.15) and second sitting was 20.30-22.00 (enter by 21.30) which was our choice.
The food was delicious, very varied, of good quality and displayed in an attractive manner. In fact there was so much choice I had to resort to very small portions in order to try a few different dishes, otherwise I would have returned home very overweight! There was something for everyone at all meal times, unless you were exceptionally hard to please (see photos). Nice touch at buffet breakfast is that there are tea & coffee pots so no getting up to keeping refilling your cups!
There were 2 other restaurants that were included on the all-inclusive package, The Oriental “Guangzhou” which we did not eat in and an Italian restaurant “Portofino” which we dined at on my birthday evening which made a change. Portofino was self-service for starters & dessert and with waiter service for your main course. Booking was advised for both restaurants. Long trousers were a must for gentlemen in all restaurants for dinner. There were 5 pool areas (2 pools were heated). The one facing the beach and near the snack bar –seemed to be busy with families whereby the pool near the spa seemed to attract adults only (see photos). The snack bars served burgers, hot dogs, chips, salad, sandwiches & ice creams and we did eat there on a few occasions when we were too late for lunch in Las Coloradas. The food wasn’t brilliant but ok. It was a pool snack bar not a restaurant! There were some self-service soft drinks which eased the pressure on the bar staff and useful for children. Although it stated that reservation of sun beds was not allowed, we witnessed this rule being flaunted as is the case with most hotels. I asked at reception why they bothered to make a rule if they were unable to police it and I was told that they do take action ,particularly in high season. If sun beds are left unattended for a significant period of time (checks are carried out) or a guest complains, the towels are removed and taken to reception. I have to say though that there were plentiful sunbeds and parasols (other hotels take note!) during our stay. Large pool towels were provided. Unfortunately we never got round to visiting the spa – something I regret, we were always going to go the next day.
The staff, in particular in the pool snack bar & restaurant, work exceptionally hard. As for the excellent chef Abdullay – I honestly don’t know how he coped with all the many different breakfast egg orders and always with a smile and his friendly comment “Enjoy”! Nothing was too much trouble for him, every hotel needs an Abdullay! If you wish to tip there are specific boxes in each department. We have been to other hotels where “communal” tipping is also encouraged (often shared out twice a year so that the gardeners, maintenance staff and other “behind the scenes” employees can benefit) which we think is good. Obviously you can choose to reward staff individually if they have been extra helpful. However at no time did any member of staff make us feel like they were “after a tip”. Even the porters did not “hover” after depositing your luggage which was refreshing.
There were lots of activities on offer throughout the day for both adults & children such as archery, darts and football. The entertainment team asked if you wanted to join in but were never pushy. We intended to take part but like the spa visit, it was always going to be tomorrow! Again something I regret.
The evening entertainment took place in the Bar Salon Castillo which closed at 1am. The animation team were brilliant. They worked so hard, and the programme varied. The tribute to ‘We Will Rock You’ (see photo) and the medley of theatre/film songs were both fantastic. Sadly we missed the Mamma Mia evening. We couldn’t stop laughing at the hilarious interpretation of Patrick Swayze’s “Time of my life” from Dirty Dancing! There was also a professional Beatles tribute band one evening who were superb. Special mention to Mandi of the entertainment team who posed with my Silver Travel bag whilst dressed as Mother Christmas!
There was free Wi-Fi in the reception area of the hotel and there were many comfortable places to sit or you could pay to have internet access in your room. Only problem was that with it being Christmas quite a few people were “phoning” home via Skype and seem to be of the impression that the louder you spoke the better the folks back home hear you. It was quite funny to be honest.
The walk into Playa Blanca took about 30-40 mins and was via a promenade suitable for wheelchairs & buggies. Surprisingly all the shops and restaurants were open on Christmas Day which we definitely didn’t expect! We also took a walk to the nearby Papagayo beaches which were lovely. It was very windy that day so we just had a look and took a few photos. This walk is definitely unsuitable for anyone with walking difficulties as it’s uneven and steep in places.
As we have visited Lanzarote a few times before we didn’t do any sightseeing on this holiday. However we can certainly recommend a trip to Timanfaya mountain (brilliant scenery and volcanic “activity”) which is the home of the artist, Cesar Manrique, who influenced many areas of Lanzarote and the stunning Los Jameos del Agua which he designed. Look out for the tiny white crabs that are blind as they live in total darkness in the “lava” lake. Music concerts are often held in one area of Jameos del Agua as it has great acoustic qualities. In fact we have been to each place on more than one occasion. We particularly liked the underground part of his old home which is now a museum which houses some of his varied art. It’s very easy to drive around the island. Roads are very good and all these places are signposted.
This hotel seemed to be very well run with the majority of staff appearing to genuinely care about customer satisfaction and there was a team effort atmosphere. All areas of the hotel were exceptionally clean and well maintained so I totally understood why it had been given glowing reviews. If we were looking for an all-inclusive hotel and wanted to return to Lanzarote we would not hesitate to book the Dream Gran Castillo Resort again. However this time I would tear myself away from my book and sunbed and take part in the activities and visit the spa!