I booked this holiday with Saga for myself and three friends, all Silver Travellers, as I was the only one to have gone all-inclusive with Saga previously. I need not have worried that they would be disappointed with my choice. Each of us had a large, clean twin room, with bed linen and towels changed daily, and a balcony. The rep told us some guests complained at the lack of toiletries in a basket, but the soap and shower gel dispensers were a sensible alternative, (though we had no little bottles to bring home).
We wanted to visit Knossos and Heraklion, and the location in the centre of the north coast suited us best. Though some other reviews warned of steep slopes and crowds of aggressive Germans hogging the sun-beds, we did not find either of these hazards a problem – and two of us have walking difficulties. The hotel itself is easy to negotiate with wide corridors, open areas and lifts.
Certainly it is built on quite a steep slope, ten to fifteen minutes up from the town below, but on our first visit, we simply used a taxi, and subsequently found we could manage it by taking it easy and using the lifts which accessed the lower levels. A shuttlebus operates to the beach and leisure park.
The majority of guests were Russian, only a few English families having taken the chance of a collapsing euro. The dozen Saga guests had exclusive use of a lounge and huge private terrace, elegantly furnished and a lovely spot to sit sheltered from the sun or to admire the sunset with a glass or two of (included) wine . The elevated site meant that the view to the sea was uninterrupted, even the extensive facilities on two lower levels being hidden.
The Imperial shares many facilities with its sister hotel, the Royal Belvedere, including two huge, immaculately kept swimming pools, one of Olympic size. There were plenty of sunbeds free, but a charge of one euro was made for a mattress, and one euro for a towel: Saga guests were exempt from the latter, only paying the 15 euro deposit. All guests were free to enjoy the bars, snack bar, entertainment area, gardens and children's play area with its own three pools – literally, as both hotels are all-inclusive.
The Imperial's buffet-style restuarant was a pleasant surprise, and we found no queues or lack of tables. The food was varied, with plenty of fresh salads, the best feta cheese we've ever eaten, and lots of fresh fruit if you could resist the delicius array of desserts. There was plenty of variety for a one week stay, but those staying for a fortnight might have found the menu repetitive as the buffet was very similar at lunch and dinner. The included drinks were perfectly acceptable, and also available at the other bars on site, including the open-air snack bar that was popular with younger guests, serving pizzas, burgers, and quality ice-creams.
Possibly because of the currency crisis, every Cretan we met was welcoming and friendly, and the two on-site shops had sales which tempted us to buy sandals, kaftans and T-shirts, much better quality than the goods offered elsewhere.
The indoor games tables required coins in the slot, and the ten euro charge for an open air "fish pedicure" was money well spent. The young man in charge gave us fresh apricots from his orchard while we dangled our feet to be nibbled.
The staff without exception were keen to be of service and the catering staff proud of their work when we took the hour-long tour of the vast kitchens, showing how our food was stored, cooked and attractively presented; it seemed a shame to eat the beautifully carved fruit which appeared at every meal. The tour ended with specially made profiteroles.
Altogether we strongly recommend this hotel for older travellers, as it has plenty of space to relax, is central for the island's many excursions, and above all is good value for money. We will certainly stay there again and are considering a visit with our grandchildren.