THE BITTER TASTE OF AN EXPECTED DIVORCE

•October 9, 2020 • Leave a Comment

For many years I was a big fan of Norwegian Cruise Line, booking an average of 4-5 cruises a year, choosing THE HAVEN or the ship and not necessary the itinerary being an unconditional supporter of both hard and soft products sailing under the brand of NCL and manage to reach the Platinum Plus level of their Latitude Loyalty Program not very far of the top tier of Ambassador.

Suddenly 2-3 years ago a massive drop in quality of the service and a dramatic change of the target market made me to move away from NCL for a while. This year in February I decided to give it another try, hoping that I will rediscover my old, beloved NCL and travelled with them around South America.

It was a cruise which created memories more because the itinerary than the on-board experience but at the end of the day every cloud has a silver lining! And therefore, I decided to book once again with them, in April 2020 a 7-day Greek isles round-cruise from Athens visiting Santorini,

Mykonos and Rhodes on an SG cabin. And I decided to pay extra for Premium Plus Beverage Package Upgrade, Unlimited Premium Wifi Package Upgrade and an additional 3 Meal Specialty Dining Package. A total bill of £5,183.64, fully paid on 19th of February 2020.

Of course, Covid-19 messed up the cruise industry and my trip on Norwegian Spirt was cancelled.

I was very impressed with the speed and efficiency of NCL to react to the crisis and support loyal customer. At the same time with cancellation an incredible offer landed in my email:

“A future cruise credit in the amount of GBP 2,623.98 has been issued to your account. To reflect our appreciation for your business, we will also provide you a BONUS credit of 25% in the amount of GBP 656.00. (…)

These future credits are valid for one year from the issue date and applicable to all published sailings through December 31, 2022. (…)

As a special thank you for choosing Norwegian, and for a limited time only, we are pleased to offer you an additional 20% DISCOUNT on any sailing from July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2022 when you book by April 14th, 2020.

The future cruise credit, 25% BONUS and 20% DISCOUNT are combinable on our current Free at Sea promotion”

 A real WOW which made me think that NCL are strong in their business and they do care about their customer. And the WOW was doubled when I contacted the Call Centre to inquire about the FCC and options available. Friendly and efficient the agent made me (to be honest didn’t need to much effort for that) to re-book for January 2021 a 9-day cruise on Norwegian Spirit from Lisbon to Barcelona visiting Spain, Canary Islands & Maderia this time on an SB cabin. And once again I decided to pay extra for Premium Plus Beverage Package Upgrade, Unlimited Premium Wifi Package Upgrade and an additional 6 Meal Specialty Dining Package. This time using the previous FCC and some extra cash for the difference in price the final bill included the discount and the FCC was £5,410.30 for a cabin valued at £7,920.36.

Great deal and a win-win situation: I was happy to book a cruise in a nice cabin for a great itinerary and NCL secured future business respecting my loyalty as a Platinum Plus member. Later I contact the Call Centre again paying for some extra add-ons for my cruise.

Of course I read about the major financial troubles of NCL ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/sergeiklebnikov/2020/05/06/norwegian-cruise-line-raises-over-2-billion-after-warning-of-possible-bankruptcy/#a8e5f432b871, https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/norwegian-cruise-line-has-enough-cash-for-18-months-of-no-revenue-ceo-3, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4357115-slow-recovery-for-cruise-lines-norwegian-in-distress ) but I considered all this news as malicious rumours trusting the respect of Norwegian Cruise Line for its loyal customers.

Flights and hotels booked, cruise paid in full on 22nd of September so the only thing left to do was to pack and start dreaming of my trip on board Norwegian Spirit. And to cope to almost daily phone calls from my “Personal Cruise Concierge” who was trying to upsell me add-ons already booked and paid despite the fact that I was explaining him that maybe will save time for all of us if he will check my profile first. No results so I started to look at his weekly phone-calls as an annoying routine.

But that was the end of the “happy love story” with NCL.

Overnight a major change in T&C occurred. To be honest I don’t remember to receive an official e-mail from NCL about that, as a Latitudes member or just as a future passenger with a cruise booked. Believe me I check at least 3 times my inbox, even the spam and my account with NCl. Nothing!

Couple day ago, I received an email informing me about the cancellation of my cruise in January 2021.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities around the globe, we have made the decision to suspend all voyages with embarkation dates through November 30, 2020 as well as all voyages onboard Norwegian Star, Dawn and Spirit with embarkation dates through March 30, 2021. We are very sorry for any inconvenience these changes may have caused.”

Not at very happy moment as you can imagine but at the end of the day Covid-19 messes up our lives more than we expected.

As the options regarding my FCC weren’t very clear from the letter, I decided to contact the Call Centre.

“For those reservations paid via a previously issued Future Cruise Credit (FCC), 100% of the FCC used will be re-applied to the Latitudes account. No further action is required; the FCC will be automatically added to the account. As we are sure you share our disappointment. Therefore, in addition to the 100% refund or return of your FCC, all guests will receive a 10% OFF discount on their next future cruise with us, combinable with all available promotions at the time of booking. The 10% off discount will be automatically added to the guest’s Latitudes account and will be available as of Wednesday, October 7, 2020. This discount can be used for up to one year from date of issue and can be applied towards any of our currently published sailings from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022.”

The conversation with the Call Centre was full of surprises … unpleasant surprises! During 15 minutes (away from any customer service manners) I was “informed” that:

  • The previous 25% bonus applied to the value of the original cruise was erased and replaced with a 10% bonus
  • All the add-ons will be included in the new FCC
  • I am not entitled to a refund in cash for the original value of the first cruise booked with cash and not FCC.

“The original FCC amount will be returned to the guests’ profile. If an affected booking has a previously applied FCC (as a result of a previous suspended sailing), the enhanced value future cruise credit will not be applicable. Bookings under this circumstance are not eligible for a cash refund and will receive the original value of the FCC back to the guests’ profile. Note FCCs have no cash value and cannot be redeemed for cash. Please be advised that at no time will an FCC be redeemable for cash, including but not limited to situations of possible future cruise suspensions, displacements, cancellations or if the FCC exceeds the time in which it must be used.”

In similar situation other cruise lines (MSC and Cunard for example which whom I experience the same cancellation issue) and airlines (British Airways and Air France for example) offers their customer 2 options: accept an FCC/voucher for future trip (trying to have the cashflow necessary for survival) or give a full refund (not easy to obtain but not impossible either after long phone calls and emails exchange)

While I do understand the decision of Norwegian Cruise Line to get rid of the 25% and replaced with a 10% (taking the decision to retain customers under the pressure of desperation by overpromise and underdeliver is never a good idea anyway) I can’t understand the new T&C which doesn’t allow me to get my money back, paid in cash for the first cruise.

Let’s do some maths

First cancelled cruise: £ 5183.64

Second cancelled cruise: £ 7,920.36 (after applying the FCC and the discount £ 5410.30)

So

Amount paid by me initially: £ 5183.64

Amount received due NCL “generosity”: £ 2510.06

Cash amount paid as a difference by me: £226.66

According to the “new” T&C explained by the agent during the painful phone conversation the only cash refund I’m entitled to is £226.66

Of course, NCL can take back their “generous” bonus of £ 2510.06, are they money (virtual money) giving to kook future bookings and ensure the much-needed cash flow.

What I don’t understand is why now, when I lost the trust in NCL way to conduct business and treat loyal customers I can’t get back my £ 5183.64 and invest this amount in a cruise line which, I believe, are more transparent, with a future and a respect for those keeping the ships at sea!

Of course, for the legal point of view all this numbers are right, NCL for sure got an army of excellent lawyers to cover any potential legal complaints. And at the end of the day when you buy a cruise you accept “the rules of the game”. I am totally fine with that.

The moral aspect of the entire story is something different. In May – June when “no sailing” crisis started to look more damaging than the initial thoughts, the campaign “rebook don’t cancel” created to support the cruise industry was at its peak. I wrote about that, I re-posted and re-twitted every message from cruise lines of bloggers, including NCL, being a stronger believer that the re-bookings and the FCC will keep the ships float, the industry carry on, our favourite type of holiday to have a future. Was not an option, it was a “duty” to re-book my NCL cruise because I trusted the company. And their answer was amazing!

Now, after the success of first MSC sailings and the Royal announcing some test cruises before the end of the year, Norwegian Cruise Line forgot about the loyal supporters and placed profit before customer satisfaction and customer retention.  

Of course, next year I will book a cruise with Norwegian cruise Line, just because I want to use my FCC and don’t lose £5000 but I will operate a change in my plans too. Instead of my 5 cruises planned (from 10 in 2021) to sail with NCL will be only one, and MSC and Cunard are strong options for the replacement.

I can feel the bitter taste of an expected divorce but, at the end of the day, it is not my job to explain NCL the well-known rule of customer service: “it’s cheaper to have a return business that to gain new customers” and that their new approach of FCC is just a false economy/profit.

It is time for me to follow your commercial motto: “Feel free to cruise your way!”

THUMBS UP, THUMBS DOWN FOR A DAY AT SEA

•October 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

For me started to be a tradition all the time when I’m in Canary Islands to book a private boat for a relaxing day at sea. My previous experiences in Gran Canaria with Juanvi and Canarias&Baleares Gay ( www.canariasgay.eu ) were fantastic and even in Tenerife with Blue Boy and Tenerife Sailing Charters ( www.tenerifesailingcharters.com ) the trip was somehow above my expectations.

Therefore, for my end of September trip to Lanzarote I decided to find something similar. Wasn’t an easy task taking in the account how much tourism was affected by the pandemic and the inclusion of Canary islands on the UK “NOT TO GO” list.

After exploring some quite unreliable options I decided to book with Chillout Cruises Lanzarote  ( www.chilloutcruise.com ) a half day tour on Margarita II sailing along the bay of Playa Blanca. And here is the verdict of the trip, a mixture of “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” for a day at sea.

THE BOAT

Margarita II is a 16 metre ship which can accommodate a maximum of 12 passengers in different areas: in the back around a table with plenty seating, in the front where comfortable mattresses created a perfect place to take as much sun as you want or on the top deck where you  “supervise” the captain during the sailing. Plus you can access the indoor space where a lounge/kitchen, a large cabin and a toilet can give you the feeling of extra-comfort during the cruise. I hired the boat only for 3 of us so was plenty of space to enjoy the 5 hours cruise.

The boat needed a serious cleaning. Bruno, the Captain, was trying to explain me that after my cruise Margarita II will go in a drydock for some “much needed TLC”. I was totally fine with the fact that the pandemic didn’t give the crew the chance for some basic maintenance, but I still believe that some surface cleaning, some dusting, a mop and a bucket with water on the decks and in the toilet can’t be cancelled by any virus or pandemic.

THE HOSTS

Bruno and Sergio were fantastic hosts, charming, polite and extremely friendly, knowing when and how to jump in a conversation and giving us enough information without transforming a “chillout cruise” in a lecture about the island and the Ocean. Was fantastic to have the feeling that you are sailing with your friends not with a hired crew.

THE ITINERARY

When you read the website and the offers of Chillout Cruises immediately you start dreaming about a perfect day with “great music, plenty of drinks and Lanzarote’s never-ending sun. A great BBQ or a selection of tapas in the early evening, and perhaps a few mojitos to chill out while you enjoy the sunset” (www.chilloutcruise.com/)

I decided, as a treat, to pay an extra 50€for a sunset cruise with a departure at 3.00PM. After leaving Playa Blanca we sailed for 30-40 minutes and we stayed docked in front of Papagayo beach for couple of hours enjoying the clear water, the sun and the excellent company of our hosts. When we started sailing again I was excited to  experience a “very special evening cruise along the southern coast of Lanzarote, and contemplate a magnificent sunset from the sea with (…) freshly done mojitos as an option, a perfect drink while you relax listening to some music as the day comes to an end.” (www.chilloutcruise.com/). Unfortunately blaming some rebel clouds Bruno turn the boat towards the port after maybe 30 minutes of sailing and give us the chance to enjoy the sunset from the bus in our way back to the hotel.

THE DRINKS

Three thumbs down for the drinks on board just because I didn’t get what I paid for and the quality of what was served, was quite low. For this type of “holiday adventure” and for the price paid the “drinks department” plays an important role in gaining customer satisfaction. I discussed with Bruno before the trip that I am not a beer drinker and Cava, white wine and soft drinks will be perfect.  Reaching the agreement before hand didn’t mean that the reality was the expected one.

For the tapas a dubious Sangria was served. In touristic places Sangria is a mix of cheap alcohol, served in exaggerated quantities to be sure that the victims got drunk fast and easy. That was the case on Margarita II. Sergio was filling up the glasses with a Sangria which will make any real Spaniard to be ashamed. I can cope with one of two glasses of a “touristic authentic” Sangria but no more than that. The other option was … water.

For the BBQ Sergio opened a bottle of excellent perfect chilled local white wine. It was a chillout cruise and when the three of us finished the bottle in the middle of the BBQ and asked for another one, the reaction of our hosts was a little bit weird…trying to find excuses (“it is not the same wine”, “it is not cold”) to don’t open the second one. We didn’t dare to ask for more. And by the way the promised/paid Cava, Mojitos or soft drinks were fantastic … but only on the website not on board.

I do understand the during the pandemic the local businesses hit a hard time and sometimes they needed to cut corners in order to survive. But when you promise and charge for something which is not offered, this is more than cutting corners is a “business killer”.

THE FOOD

“Chillout cruises” offers different catering options. When booking your trip on their website you can choose

  • For €45 a selection of tapas (smoked salmon, local cheese, Iberian ham.) + drinks (cava & local wine) (15.00€)
  • For €18 a selection of local cheeses + Drinks (Lanzarote wine & Soft Drinks) (6.00€)
  • For €45 a BBQ (fish: fish of the day, prawns, squid) + Salad + Canarian Potatoes + Drinks (sangría & soft drinks)
  • For an extra €30 an extended BBQ (ribs, sausages & beef fillets) + Salad + Canarian Potatoes + Drinks (Sangria & soft drinks)

Being our anniversary, we decided for a “full option” with tapas & BBQ and I asked Bruno before booking to skip the beer in the menu and just go for sangria, cava wine and soft drinks, of course without changing the price. Which was easily agreed.

The “tapas” was in fact a delicious plate with cheese and ham which, to be honest, was more than enough to start our trip, especially that we board the ship just after lunch.

THE BBQ was an unexpected pleasant surprise, mastered by Bruno in just couple of minutes. Excellent quality meat, ribs and Chorizo sausages served with papas arrugadas and fresh salad. The only half thumb down was for the fact that before the ride I agreed (and paid) with Bruno for a mixed BBQ with meat and seafood (as mentioned on the website), but maybe the missing seafood wasn’t about cutting corners but saving the sea life!

THE EXTRAS

After anchoring in front of Papagayo beach I enjoyed the real dimension of a “chillout cruise”, because Bruno and Margarita II offer everything you need for a great day at sea: swim, snorkel, paddle surf, fish or just relax on the deck. Something for everybody on board.

Underwater Cam in Lanzarote

VALUE FOR MONEY

Don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed the day spend with Chillout cruises but, when I look back at the excellent experiences I’ve had with www.canariasgay.eu for a similar price (€600 last year for an exclusive modern yacht, tapas, unlimited drinks and a paella on the beach) and when I got the bill for €925.02(£881.96) for my www.chilloutcruise.com adventure I Lanzarote a bitter taste of disappointment labelled the folders with the photos from that day.

Chillout Cruise in Lanzarote

While I do understand the fight for survival of local businesses during the Covid-19 restrictions I can’t stop thinking why some of the local businesses don’t realised that return customers can be a solution for survival.

 I am going back to Lanzarote in November and of course I would love to take another private boat trip for a day out at sea. The question is:  “Do I choose Chillout cruises (www.chilloutcruise.com) without searching for another deal or not?” I am still thinking of the answer.

A PERFECT 9 DAYS HOLIDAY FOR 9 REASONS

•October 5, 2020 • Leave a Comment

 For the last 10 years and 50+ vacations with different cruise lines, for me a perfect holiday was a 10 day cruise in a nice spacious suite, with a generous all-inclusive package, an interesting itinerary and a personalised real 5-star customer service. A mixed experience in all-inclusive resorts holidays never made this option a top priority of my “do to” list.

Until now. Until I had the chance to spend 9 days at Melia Salinas in Lanzarote.

And let me explain you why in 9 reasons.

REASON 1 – “A warm welcome before arrival”

The communication with the hotel before my arrival was incredible proving that at Melia Salinas they know that the guest’s journey starts in the moment of booking. Messages from Guest Service Department and LEVEL Concierge increased the excitement of the future holiday, made me more familiar with the hotel and the services provided and gave me the feeling that I was “home away from home” before taking off from Heathrow. More important than that a week before my arrival at Melia Salinas I received all that important information regarding the protocols of “Stay Safe with Melia”, an excellent framework created for the comfort and safety of, both, guests and staff. Everything was done in a professional, efficient, friendly manner managing to put me an easy especially when Lanzarote is still on the “NOT TO GO” governmental list.

REASON 2 – “Check-in”

After a long journey, the arrival and check-in are maybe the most important part of the customer service journey. You want to walk in and feel recognised, attended to, and most importantly welcomed. It is an important touchpoint between a hotel and guest, is the moment where the guest’s initial impressions are formed — and, as we all know, first impressions count.

After getting over the magic landscape of Lanzarote saw during my transfer from the airport and the impressive entrance of the hotel, stepping in the luxurious lobby of Melia Salinas made for sure an impression. But that was just the beginning!

When chatting with the driver about my return journey a staff member of the Reception team pick-up my luggage and invited me at the LEVEL check-in desk. Carina and Abel, mastering to perfection the charm and professionalism of genuine hosts started the check-in procedures. As I check-in on-line before my arrival (which is always a great idea and Melia gives you extra points to your account for doing so), everything was just pure formality but done in a very elegant yet friendly way. While I was enjoying a glass of cold Cava, Carina explained me the new protocols in the hotel. Was more a chat about how I can enjoy at maximum the hotel’s facilities, than a list of “DO NOT!” things (like my later experience at RIU Plaza Espana).

A quick yet genuine welcome from the Assistant General Manager JISKE JAGER rounded the feeling that I was not just a reservation confirmation number, but a guest of a wonderful hotel. While some guests might want to skip the chitchat and get to their room pronto, a warm welcome never fails to start a hotel-guest relationship on the right foot.

While my luggage was sent to my room, Abel took the role of guiding me to VILLA Magdalena, my home away from home for the next 8 nights. In a 5 minute walk I found everything I needed about the hotel and services from Abel and the introduction to my accommodation was done in a very informative and not-rushed manner, respecting at the same time my hidden dream/need of jumping in the shower.

What a perfect start of my holiday!

Check-in Experience at Melia salinas

REASON  3– The Hotel

Melia Salinas is far from being a huge resort specialised in mass-produced package holiday experience. It is a place with a very powerful idiosyncratic, not to say eccentric, personality, bearing the legacy of Manrique and Higueras in every corner (you can read more about the hotel on my blog)

The hotel exudes magic and the array of luxury facilities for sure will kidnap every guest’s attention. But maybe after a day or two, when the pampering and comfort will be started to be a daily routine you will find some time to discover the story behind this magnificent building. Classic and elegant, yet modern and functional, this complex is a true reflection of the stories that comprise it. And I was lucky enough, one day, to have ERNESTO GUERRA, General as an excellent guide truly in love with his “little office”.

REASON 4 – Magdalena Villa

Fully renovated in 2018, the 272 rooms of the Meliá Salinas are divided into 214 doubles, 18 junior suites, 28 master suites, 9 garden villas, and 1 presidential garden villa. All decorated in a stylish, modern design combining marble and the most elegant furniture and an endless range of details and facilities to ensure you are perfectly comfortable and provided with all you will need.

The jump in quality from the suites to the private villas is tremendous. If the master suite takes your breath away, then the villas could cure a serious bout of hiccups. Designed by architect Álvaro Sans, these chalets, apart from being majestically constructed with enviable furnishings, also offer 24-hour personalized service.

My choice this time was Villa Magdalena located at the end of the LEVEL complex, with a perfect balance of seclusion, distance to hotel’s bars and restaurants and an unrivalled opening to the beach and the Ocean having an exotic botanical garden as a buffer zone. A perfect choice for those seeking privacy combined with the best service of a top-class hotel.

Most of the time the guests look at these villas as perfect luxurious accommodation options for their holidays. Fortunately chatting with VIRGINIE CORTHALS, Guest Experience Manger (you can read more about the villa on my blog) I discovered the story behind this gorgeous accommodation.

REASON 5 – All-inclusive package

Melia Salinas reinvented the tarnished image of “all-inclusive”, bringing together quality, variety, style and a touch of luxury, mixing in their approach to “all-inclusive” concept a fantastic infusion of international and local influences. Each moment of the day spent here was part of this unique concept, making the entire experience not only an excellent value for money but an unforgettable happening too. (you can read more about the all-inclusive option on my blog)

REASON 6 – Housekeeping

Nothing repels hotel guests more than poor housekeeping; cleanliness sets a huge impression for quality and demonstrates to guests how much the hotel really cares about their stay. According to statistics 97 per cent of travellers say cleanliness is an important factor when booking accommodation, and just one negative review can lose hotels around 30 guests, according to recent studies.

At Melia Salinas the housekeeping is at its highest standards both in the guests’ rooms and public areas. The hotel is sparkling clean and both, the basics and attention to details have a capital importance in the philosophy of the housekeeping department for the main service and the turn-down fine tuning.

Now, more than before, the pandemic place every hotel in the position to remove some of their special touches (decorations, amenities, room’s adds on ) and the new protocols brought the presence of masks, gloves and hand-sanitizers which can add an unwanted dimension to our holidays.

But, at Melia Salinas, using the excellent framework “Stay Safe with Melia” the comfort and the safety were tailored to guests’ expectations. Nothing was too much for the housekeeping team, every item missing but needed was provided on request, the extra-cleaning was done in an-intrusive manner and indeed the concept “my room, my temple” is a comfortable and safe reality.

I always had a bad feeling about hand-sanitizers: they are sticky, smelly … a kind of a “needed unpleasantry”. But at Melia Salinas I was looking for any opportunity (and they were everywhere) to use the hand-sanitizer – a local product with aloe vera (the green juicy star of Lanzarote) which on top of the expected disinfection function (99% alcohol) smelled  lovely and was like a free organic hands treatment.

REASON 7 – THE LEVEL

The Level It is the most exclusive service offered by the Meliá to provide its most distinguished guests with unique VIP treatment, offering a range of superior quality personalised and luxurious services.

At Melia Salinas this concept was raised to a different … level in both hard and soft products. This most exclusive hotel service provide guests with a wide range of special personalised services and unique attributes offering unforgettable experience in superbly located and equipped rooms and suites, and excellent private areas specially reserved for The Level guests: The Level Lounge – a distinguished private area with a host of services and special facilities of The Level private pool with a choice of premium-brand sunscreens, and the chance to book a Bali bed with Pool Bar service.

Here THE LEVEL is a hotel within a hotel, reminding me of the concepts on MSC (Yacht Club) or NCL (The Haven) where luxury and pampering are just daily routines.

REASON 8 – MAGIC TOUCHES

Didn’t take too long to understand that at Melia Salinas everybody understands the key behaviours and attributes which make the difference between a good experience and a great one for their guests. And each member of the team plays an active role in the business of creating ‘memories’ for their customers.

It’s like Christmas every day when you discover after the morning service or after the evening turn -down a little surprise in your room: a plate with local cheese, a mix of nuts and dried berries, some sweets or fresh fruits. Everything presented in a spectacular way. And you know the old say: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!”

I will never forget the “welcome drink” in my room. Normally some wine or a local drink will be a WOW moment. But at Melia Salinas an interactive dimension was added and, in my room,, I had the chance of a remote mixology lesson, the welcome drink being a local cocktail which I prepared myself having the ingredients and the recipe provided by the Guest Experience team.

Welcome Cocktail at Melia Salinas

Or the amazing surprise organised for me on the night when my partner and myself were celebrating our 20th anniversary. On that night I didn’t have the feeling that I was in a hotel. I was HOME celebrating a special moment with FRIENDS and FAMILY. And that’s says a lot about Melia Salinas!

Surprise Anniversary Party at Melia Salinas

Mixing the “brilliant basics” (quality of hard and soft product, impeccable cleanliness, great customer service, attention to details) with these magic touches transforms Melia Salinas from an all-inclusive resort in a DESTINATION!

If I will have to choose one single reason for returning to Melia Salinas, for sure that will be the SALINAS TEAM!

From my arrival until the moment when I started my journey back home, I was amazed at how genuinely kind the entire staff is. From thoughtful greetings to personally following up on special requests everybody at Mela Salinas feel more like family than employees, keeping a perfect balance between being professional and being friendly.

Normally great hotels put their customers at the forefront of their operation, but at Melia Salinas guest satisfaction is the heart of a daily routine. And you can feel that everywhere.

Here is so easy to realise that the entire team at Melia Salinas love the hotel and their jobs. It is an unwritten rule a hospitality that if f a customer is unfortunate enough to have a bad experience, for any reason, you need to make sure it’s made easy and clear for them to tell you about it.

From restaurant and bar staff to management everybody at Melia Salinas are genuinely interested in the dimension of your experience at the hotel. I saw during my stay ERNESTO GUERRA – General Manager, JISKE JAGER – Assistant General Manager and VIRGINIE CORTHALS, Guest Experience Manger walking around and interacting with guests, always open to feedback and suggestion, ensuring in a relax yet professional way that their quality is on par with the guests’ expectations.

Interview with Ernesto Guerra, General Manager, Melia Salinas

During the pandemic the masks in theory covers one of the few non-verbal communications that translates between cultures: THE SMILE. The human smile exerts enormous influence on the perceptions of those with whom we interact.  Research has demonstrated that “service with a smile” isn’t just a catchphrase – it’s a proven approach for elevating customer satisfaction.

The “blue barrier” had a huge impact on both sides of hospitality business. For me, as a guest, it’s more difficult to sense if the staff are welcoming, approachable, friendly, or cheerful.  For them, it’s more difficult to sense if I am satisfied, delighted, frustrated or annoyed.

At Melia Salinas all these problems were solved with grace and professionalism. That gesture with the hand on the chest showing appreciation and thanks complemented the spoken word, providing visual context to whatever was being communicated, values more than 1001 words. Smiles may be hidden behind a face mask, but the eyes aren’t and the team at Melia Salinas know how to “smile with their eyes”. Smiles may be hidden behind a face mask, but the passion and professionalism can transcend any barriers.

A team considering EXCELLENCE as a DAILY ROUTINE

I know that some of my “cruising” friends will be shocked and/or upset but I am confident in saying that my stay at Melia Salinas in Lanzarote was better than any cruises I took and I will have, in the future, a lot of thinking to do, before deciding my next holiday: a cruise or a slice of Paradise at Melia Salinas.

Post Scriptum: For all those still contemplating how safe is to go in holiday in Canary Islands when daddy from No. 10 is telling you not to go here is the proof that if you were a mask, if you protect yourself and the others, if you respect the rules, of better and easier if you follow “Stay Safe with Melia” as a Holiday Bible – COVID-19 edition you will always be on the safe side.

My Covid test done after returning from Lanzarote came yesterday: NEGATIVE !

Q.E.D.

AN ELEGANT GASTRONOMIC ADVENTURE

•October 4, 2020 • Leave a Comment

A night at “LEVEL – A La carte” restaurant, Melia Salinas

An “all-inclusive” package at Melia Salinas will guarantee you access to an extraordinary culinary experience during your entire stay, with amazing breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

But if one day (or maybe more) you want to enter a different world of flavours, a booking to the “LEVEL – A La carte” restaurant will give you the chance to embrace an exquisite cuisine culture for food sensations, whatever takes your mood.

If you don’t have a reason for a treat, invent one, you have at Melia Salinas the perfect holiday at the end of the day!

The LEVEL Lounge shows here it’s amazing versatility. The metamorphosis of the efficient bright area for LEVEL guests’ breakfast into a stylish dining space touched by an understated elegance is incredible. If you had breakfast that morning in the Lounge will be difficult, if not impossible to recognise the dining version of it. The accent lighting adds a personal flourish to the space, creating the right atmosphere for a sophisticated but relaxed dinner.

At the entrance the Maître D was waiting for me with a glass with Cava and after checking the reservation (don’t forget to book a table if you don’t want to be disappointed), he guided into the restaurant and giving me the choice of having a table in the elegant indoor area or one on the terrace with the breath-taking views of the Ocean. I decided for the outdoor option enjoying the shadows of the night on the next-door beach and the view of the incredible staircase designed by Fernando Higueras, seen now from a completely different angle.

Due to the pandemic and in line with the protocols of “Stay Safe with Melia” the classical menus were replaced with the more efficient QR code (so, don’t forget your smartphone). But our waiter was ready to replace the technology with a personal touch having plenty of recommendations for my dinner, proving not only strong product knowledge but bring to my attention the local products and the traditional cuisine.

I never been impressed by a multi-page menu which once reigned supreme in a restaurant. Though you may not realize it at first, a smaller menu can help you gain clarity on restaurant’s dining concept. A smaller menu not only easier makes the decision process easier for me, but it can also help increase the perception of quality. We all know that restaurants can’t be everything to everyone, and a large menu size can make it seem as though the Chef’s efforts are not focused. By limiting the menu to just a few offerings, it sends a message to guests that these dishes are restaurant’s specialties.

“LEVEL – A La carte” at Melia Salinas designed a successful formula for their menu.

To open your culinary celebration you can chose from 5 delicious starters, from the local “stars” Papas arrugadas with Mojo and the basic but delicious  Pimientos de Padron cooked with Janubio salt to a Grilled smoked Canarian cheese on tomato compote or Coca escalivada – the typical Catalan pizza-like pastry with fresh basil and truffle aroma. Prices from 8 to 12 Euros.

For the main dish you have a choice of 2 fish/seafood options (“cherne”/bass grouper or octopus) and meat options (duck or veal) all of them cooked to perfection with prices between 16 to 18 Euros.

And you can end your culinary adventure choosing one of the three deserts options with prices between 5 and 7 Euros.

Without being overwhelming the wine list has an excellent selection of international, Spanish and Canarian wines, all at very decent prices.

But let me tell you about my choice:

I started with a delicious “Timbal de aguacate y verduras de temporada con salmon de Uga y vinagreta de mango” ( 12 Euros) – the rich, buttery and creamy avocado, the smoky touch with a hint of the sea salt from the Janubio salt flats added to the fine texture of the salmon and the delicate zest of the mango vinaigrette created an exquisite starter big enough to open you appetite for the main course but small enough to leave space for the next culinary surprise.

When at Melia Salinas you need to try the delicious salmon just because Lanzarote is home to one of the best smoked salmons in the world. In the town of Uga, for more than 40 years, they use top-quality Norwegian and Scottish salmon and smoke it using sea salt from the Janubio salt flats, achieving the best flavour.

For the main course I decided for “Rejo de pulpo asado sobre crema de batatas y lagrimas de alioli” (18.50 Euros) The octopus was perfectly grilled, tender, succulent, with a crispy outside and a slightly smoky flavour. As the grilled octopus flavour is mostly influenced by the ingredients used along with it and the cooking method, the idea of placing the generous portion on a bed of sweet potato cream was great and the drops “alioli” added a flavour snap to the combination.

therefore I ordered TWO deserts: “Sorbete de mojito con aloe vera y toques de menta fresca” (5.50 Euros) and “Mousse de queso en cilindro de chocolate blanco sobre marmelada de cactus” (6.50 Euros) it is hard to say which one was my favourite.  The fresh taste of mint, zesty lime juice and white rum from the classic cocktail transformed into a fat-free dessert with the unexpected twist of slightly bitter, watery, with an acidic yet sweetish bite at the end added by the local aloe vera. Or the richer, fluffier texture and milder flavour of the cheese mousse perfectly contained and controlled by the suave, subtle taste of the white chocolate.

My choice for wine was “Vulcano de Lanzarote”, a local product, with a good structure in the mouth, fresh, a pleasant fruity and floral aroma and balanced acidity, which had a long and persistent flavour of white flowers (jasmin & manzanilla). Perfect choice for my fish/seafood choice for dinner.

If you add at all of this the elegant relaxed, with a pleasant smile service you will get the full image of a perfect night in “LEVEL – A La carte” restaurant at Melia Salinas. But, once again, don’t forget to book in advance. The restaurant is open only on Friday and Saturday and you can’t miss this exquisite experience.

Dinner at THE LEVEL – A la carte Restaurant, Melia Salinas

MELIA SALINAS – A luxury hotel? A living museum? Or maybe both.

•October 3, 2020 • Leave a Comment

When I booked 8 days stay at Melia Salinas, after checking everything possible on-line, from reviews to stories in magazine and newspapers I did expect a safe and luxury escape away from the pandemic daily grim. And indeed, if you’re planning to visit Lanzarote in style then Melia Salinas is likely to feature at the top of your list.

What I didn’t know at the moment of booking is that the hotel dominating Costa Teguise will offer me more than a stylish holiday I was hovering on the brink of a unique cultural experience.

What I didn’t know at the moment of booking is that the hotel dominating Costa Teguise will offer me more than a stylish holiday I was hovering on the brink of a unique cultural experience.

Meliá Salinas is the jewel that every crown would like to have. Designed since its inception by the great architect Fernando Higueras with the collaboration of the world-renowned César Manrique, the hotel was classified as a Site of Cultural Interest and is currently historical heritage, housing different works by Canarian artists that the guest can discover and enjoy.

The hotel exudes magic and the array of luxury facilities for sure will kidnap every guest’s attention. But maybe after a day or two, when the pampering and comfort will be started to be a daily routine you will find some time to discover the story behind this magnificent building. Classic and elegant, yet modern and functional, this complex is a true reflection of the stories that comprise it. And I was lucky enough to have two excellent guides ERNESTO GUERRA, General manager and JISKE JAGER, Assistant General Manager, both in love with their “little office”.

But let’s start with a little bit of history.

Lanzarote was the first island in the Canary Islands archipelago to be explored by European seafarers, probably because it is the northernmost of the islands and the closest to the continent. Between 1320 and 1339, the Italian seafarer Lancelotto Malocello arrived at Lanzarote and gave it his name. In 1402, the Frenchman Jean de Béthencourt arrived and defeated Guadarfía, the Guanche king, or Mencey, of the island. And so Lanzarote became the first annexed island of the Kingdom of Castile, coming under its rule and vassalage.

Teguise is one of the seven municipalities Lanzarote island is divided into nowadays, and it is without a doubt the one that enjoys the richest history and traditions. The place received the name of Teguise in honour of Princess Teguise, King Guadarfía’s daughter and married to Maciot de Béthencourt’s, Jean de Béthencourt’s nephew.

The island born artist and architect César Manrique had returned from New York in the late 1960´s just as package tourism was starting to take off in Spain. He was deeply concerned that Lanzarote could face a concrete burial like the high-rise development starting to engulf the Costas and other Canary Islands.

“I believe that we are witnessing an historic moment where the huge danger to the environment is so evident that we must conceive a new responsibility with respect to the future”. (César Manrique)

As a result. Manrique urged restraint and sought to influence development on the island as much as possible by using his contacts in the island government, which was under the aegis of an old family friend called Pepin Ramirez. Manrique envisioned creating a low-rise luxury resort in a previously deserted spot that was christened Costa Teguise – named as the seaside sister to the ancient island capital of Teguise some ten minutes up the road.

The Gran Melia Salinas was to be the first incarnation of this plan and the first building in the resort. Creating, in collaboration with Madrid based architect Fernando Higueras in 1976, it was hoped, a stylish example for future development.

Fernando de Higueras Díaz was one of the most famous architects in the world during the 1970s, his work being recognized worldwide as an original and interesting union of constructivist, rationalist and organic architecture

One day in 1959 or 1960, the 29-year-old Fernando Higueras was queueing in Casa Macarrón, an artists’ supplies shop in Madrid, when he recognised another face in the queue. That face belonged to César Manrique, eleven years older than him and a well-known face in Madrid’s art scene. The two got chatting, and the resulting friendship led to some of Lanzarote’s most inspiring architectural projects.

Higueras did take charge of some major projects Lanzarote – chief among them being the island’s first five-star hotel, the Meliá Salinas in Costa Teguise. He would fly over every fifteen days to check how work on the hotel was progressing, and each time he would be met at the airport by César Manrique, and would stay as a guest at his home in Tahiche

The Meliá Salinas is almost certainly the most impressive of all the pleasure palaces built in the 70s and 80s on Lanzarote, won the international Prize for Architecture in 1979.

Built by Higueras according to the brutalist current of the time, it is a poem in concrete – a spectacularly modern building that also hints at the ancient terraces of the island’s farmers. The majestic building conceived in concrete seen, due to the particularity of this material, the actions in the lining of the building both inside and outside were executed in an almost handmade way. Today it will be impossible to build such a complex because of its costs.

Melia Salinas’ idiosyncratic, not to say eccentric, personality is a reminder of Manrique’s early insistence that new building on the island should be discreet, respectful and low-rise.

The hotel was laid out around well-like patios filled with an artificial jungle of stately palms, ferns and succulents, white-painted pathways meandering among streams and lumps of black volcanic rock — typical expressions of Manrique’s art-in-nature philosophy. But its the botanical centrepiece of the Gran Melia that is arguably its most impressive feature. “You created order, I will give you chaos” Marique replayed to Higueras when he started to design the gardens.  As here Manrique designed a lush and breath-taking indoor botanical garden that serves both as homage to the traditional Canarian patio found in many older island homes – and a much-copied talking point that has been replicated in other hotels around the world.

And a quick suggestion for you. When you have time, one day just go back to the reception and re-enact you arrival: go out of the hotel, enter the revolving door and instead of searching for the check-in desk (as for sure you did at your arrival) look straight ahead. The view is mesmerizing: from the elegant lobby your eyes are guided by the luxurious gardens to meet the Ocean. What a feeling!!!!! I was not at all surprise to find out that these gardens are JISKE JAGER’s (Assistant General Manager) the favourite spot.

My favourite spot at Melia Salinas: JISKE JAGER, Assistant General Manager

Cesar Manrique’s artistic style is best observed in the very spacious swimming pool-lake area. The exquisite balance between light and shadow, the playful shapes of the palm trees, the use of natural stone for the floors, and the clever incorporation of traditional Canary Island architectural elements all nourish the singular aesthetic of this stunning space. This rustic beauty, particularly in the stone floors, for example, may seem somewhat at odds with the resulting comfort of the area.

Central Pool at Melia Salinas

And if the pool or the gardens didn’t satisfied you hunger for majestic architecture take one of the lifts to the last floor, walk along the corridor and exit the hotel using the impressive staircase, another architectural gem of Melia Salinas, descending from the heights of this concrete elegance to a wide terrace ready to embrace the Ocean. For sure you will feel like a “rock star” as the General Manager ERNESTO GUERRA described his favourite spot of the hotel.

ERNESTO GUERRA’s favourite spot at Melia Salinas

Melia Salinas bears many of Manrique´s original works of art and murals, which sit alongside works from other leading Canarian artists such as Pepe Damaso and Paco Curbelo. Two of Manrique’s rather murky abstract paintings hung behind the reception desk. What impressed me more were his original wall-pieces in the lobby and cocktail lounge — parades of stylised creatures carved into long panels of island stone.

Another element to highlight, and one of the keynotes of Manrique’s public art, is the way that this architect has capitalized on the strategic location of the Gran Meliá Salinas, directly on the beach, to spread out the spaces for relaxation and quiet contemplation around the swimming pool. The calm atmosphere is a solid feature of this luxurious resort, infused with the sounds of the waves lapping the shores of Los Charcos beach and the enveloping rhythm of the water as it falls on the natural stone of the waterfalls.

This emblematic establishment is increasingly becoming a mandatory stop for many visitors to the island of Lanzarote, who, in the same way that they visit the tourist centres designed by Manrique and the Timanfaya National Park, stop at the Hotel Meliá Salinas, a work of art and a perfect example of a manual for architects and engineering schools around the world.

A hotel with history – MELIA SALINAS

Now, do you still wonder WHY I fall in love with Melia Salinas?

A SLICE OF PARADISE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

•October 3, 2020 • Leave a Comment

A review of THE LEVEL SEA VIEW VILLA at MELIA SALINAS

After an 8 days stay at Melia Salinas I am pretty sure that a slice of Paradise was hidden here on the island of Lanzarote.

Tucked away in a quiet part of Costa Teguise, the beachfront hotel is an upscale adults-recommended location known for its beautiful gardens and iconic architectural style. It is your unique chance to immerse yourself in the artistic and cultural heritage of Lanzarote at this grand hotel with a unique lagoon pool designed by César Manrique himself, his works of art adorning the public spaces around the hotel, creating an elegant atmosphere. The stunning white sand beach of Los Charcos is on the doorstep for you to dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean or choose to chill around the palm fringed pools.

Fully renovated in 2018, the 272 rooms of the Gran Meliá Salinas are divided into 214 doubles, 18 junior suites, 28 master suites, 9 garden villas, and 1 presidential garden villa. All decorated in a stylish, modern design combining marble and the most elegant furniture and an endless range of details and facilities to ensure you are perfectly comfortable and provided with all you will need.

The resort’s reputation continues to improve, thanks to renovations which have converted adjoining double rooms into 28 master suites. The junior suites stand out for the double balconies with comfortable furniture and the addition of a mini-bar and small living room. The master suites are a testament to modernity, comfort, and luxury; modern for the appointment of technological equipment, including two plasma screen televisions and a sound-system; comfortable for offering guests a pleasant and relaxing living area that includes a dressing room, a general living room, and a kitchen; and luxurious for parquet flooring, a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom and a hot tub with hydro-massage jets on one of the two balconies. There is nothing more exquisite than relaxing in the hot tub under the warmth of the sun. The minimalist touch in the décor is evident in all corners of these breath-taking room.

The jump in quality from the suites to the private villas is tremendous. If the master suite takes your breath away, then the villas could cure a serious bout of hiccups. Designed by architect Álvaro Sans, these chalets, apart from being majestically constructed with enviable furnishings, also offer 24-hour personalized service.

My choice this time was Villa Magdalena located at the end of the LEVEL complex, with a perfect balance of seclusion, distance to hotel’s bars and restaurants and an unrivalled opening to the beach and the Ocean having an exotic botanical garden as a buffer zone. A perfect choice for those seeking privacy combined with the best service of a top-class hotel.

Most of the time the guests look at these villas as perfect luxurious accommodation options for their holidays. Fortunately chatting with Virginie Corthals, Guest Experience Manager at Melia Salinas I found more about the entire philosophy of this concept.

The LEVEL Garden Villa story

Open the wooden door at the entrance and you will enter a world of luxury and pampering. Funny enough the door is quite narrow (especially after couple of days of the excellent all-inclusive at Melia Salinas) but according the Balinese philosophy and feng shui, the front door is considered the mouth of chi (the universal energy). It is through the front door that the villa receives its feng shui nourishment of energy. The quality of this energy determines the quality of energy in your home: a narrow door will keep the energy inside blocking the access of negative vibes.

From the entrance door an angled path over the water takes you to the main patio. A curving path to the front door is much better according to the principles of Feng Shui. It slows down fast-moving energy, creating a sense of calm as it enters your home. And at the entrance another feng shui element: an impressive water feature helping to reactivate stagnant chi, to restore balance to the area and produces beneficial yang energy. The water is flowing toward the front door of the loft symbolizing wealth and prosperity.

And if all this feng shui philosophy is too complicated for you just try to sleep one night with the front door open and enjoy the relaxing sound of the waterfall at your doorstep.

The exquisite dining area, hosted in an elegant wooden gazebo, is the perfect place for an early cup of coffee or a night cup having the sound of breaking waves on the next-door beach as a unique background. Or if you really want to feel like in Paradise you can order the Villa’s version of “breakfast in bed”. The twist is a full breakfast served at your convenience and following the highest standards that you can imagine in this private retreat. And guess what: the annoying news on television or from the news papers are replaced with the breath-taking sunrise of the fighting the waves of the Ocean. What else can you wish for a perfect start of the day?

Breakfast in Villa’s gazebo at Melia Salinas

At the other end of the patio a spacious and comfortable Bali bed is waiting for you with beach towels changed every day and a generous complimentary selection of high-end suncare products. Will be you task to decide between a lazy morning in the sun or a relaxing afternoon nap.

Without doubt the star of the patio is the private 20 m2 saltwater pool. And if you think that a private pool is an unnecessary luxury just try a swim before sunrise or a skinny deep late at night and you will understand why was so difficult for me to push myself to the next-door gorgeous LEVEL pool.

The loft offers a generous indoor space without creating barriers, another feng shui presence.  The decorations are classic and elegant with a inspired touch of modern avant-garde details.  The large bedroom features a canopy bed, opposite to a complete work area with a desk. At the entrance a split lounge is perfect for relaxing or in-room dining. Guests may choose the type of bedding and a variety of pillows, bathrobes and slippers are provided. Other facilities include a cordless telephone, Bluetooth music tower, tea and coffee making facilities, a selection of fresh fruit and many other extras as a courtesy of the Hotel Management.

The dressing area is an important feature of this elegant loft with plenty of wardrobes and cupboards , with not give a chance for a fight for storage space or coat hangers, A vanity desk with an big mirror complete this space where you will find the well-stocked minibar too with soft drinks, water and beer, all complimentary.

At the end of the loft you will find the bathroom area…yeas you heard right: BATHROOM AREA! A modern rainforest shower with an ingenious ancient Roman style seating/storage solution, a toilet cubicle with a bidet (how continental!!!), a washing area with two sinks and the piece of resistance: a very large sunken tub which eliminates the traditional structure of the hotel bath tub above the floor line and essentially being part of the floor itself, decorated with elegant, once again ancient Roman inspired mosaic.

After being mesmerized by all this space, style and comfort another surprise completed the luxurious profile of this place. Opening the back door of the loft I entered a little patio where shower built in volcanic stone reconnected me with geological history of the island.

THE LEVEL SEA VIEW VILLA is for sure the maximum expression of luxury in a space where tranquillity, comfort and sophistication are ever-present. A incredible botanical garden built on a volcanic landscape separated your private pool and gorgeous gazebo from a little gulf where every day the surfers are fighting the majestic waves and you can’t get a better spot to admire the magical sunrises of Lanzarote.

Form the very first day I saw in the private garden an old windmill and I considered as an odd decoration despite the fact that was watching perfectly the landscape creating great Instagram opportunity. Learning about the history of Melia Salinas and having the privilege to chat one day with Virginie Corthals, Guest Experience Manager of the hotel, I discovered that the old windmill is part of local heritage, an wooded echo of a time when Melia Salinas was just a dream of the famous architect Fernando Higuera. Long time before this majestic hotel was built this was space was occupied by Salinas de El Charco- a wide space used to harvest salt from the Ocean water. Only couple of wooden wind pumps (used to pump water around the saltpans) survived and one of them was in my own garden at Melia Salinas.

The story of Las salinas windmills with Virginie Corthals, Guest Experience Manager

Booking one of this Garden Villas at Melia Salinas will give you the chance to enjoy an infinity of sensations you had never imagined and benefit from all the privileges you receive as a The Level guest: private check-in at your arrival, exclusive access throughout the stay to the The Level Lounge, access to The Level private swimming pool, choice of pillows in the room luxurious bathroom amenities (I adore the Rituals products), personal introduction to the resort, personalised minibar contents in the room, Concierge services, 24-hour room service and an bespoken personalised customer service.

It is a perfect option for two but, if you are a bigger party Melia Salinas has the option of the Presidential Villa – a spectacular 1,200 m2 space, the most fascinating place in the Meliá Salinas. Formed by two luxurious detached villas, a private 40 m2 pool with magnificent sea views, lush tropical gardens and a terrace with shower built in volcanic stone.

Villa Magdalena, LEVEL SEA VIEW VILLA, Melia Salinas

Magdalena Villa at Melia Salinas is indeed the maximum expression of luxury within the hotel, a place which I can’t wait to return to in November. And scary enough, I love it more than any of my suites on any cruise ships. If if you know me and my passion for cruising … THAT’S SOMETHING!

‘BRILLIANT BASICS. MAGIC TOUCHES’ All-inclusive at Melia Salinas

•October 2, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Nothing seems to split opinions on travel quite like the question of all-inclusive resorts. Some people swear by the convenience of an all-in package deal, while others would rather stay home than spend a week within the confines of a resort where a handful of fellow guests consider the term “buffet” an all-you-can-eat daily challenge. For me the “all-inclusive” option for a holiday will always be associated with mass-produced food for hundreds of people which not only is it often a far cry from 5-star cuisine but, you’ll be sick of eating it by the end of your vacation. The “all-inclusive paradise” is for me the idea of bars stocked with cheap alcohol, a place where even virtually non-drinkers find themselves all sorts of daytime drunk, and where basically, everyone parties university-style – even if they’re 60. And with the huge amount of towels placed on sunbeds early in the morning, seats in the restaurants reserved by one for an entire neighbourhood, suspicious cocktails creating long lasting hangovers and a bunfight buffet with leftovers from the previous meal, the only sense of culture you’ll get in abundance at an all-inclusive resort is the culture of western world overconsumption.

Melia Salinas reinvented this tarnished image, bringing together quality, variety, style and a touch of luxury, mixing in they approach to “all-inclusive” concept and fantastic infusion of international and local influences. Each moment of the day spent here was part of this unique concept, making the entire experience not only an excellent value for money but an unforgettable happening too.

BREAKFAST

There are two kinds of hotel guests: those who want to know what time the hotel starts serving breakfast, and those who want to know how long they can sleep in before the hotel stops serving breakfast. No matter which type of guest they are, however, they’re going to care about the quality of the breakfast and the variety of items served up.

As a LEVEL guest you have the option to start you day in “THE LEVEL” lounge where a fantastic breakfast is waiting for you every morning. The buffet is bringing an inspired mixture of traditional international breakfast food with a lot of traditional and local ideas.

Quality coffee and top-notch tea, crowd-pleasing options for carbo-loading from fluffy pancakes to flaky croissants, from buttery brioche to filling flatbreads, and from chewy bagels to crusty baguettes, sizzling bacon and scrambled eggs, cold-cuts and cheese, yogurt and fresh fruits, everything is available on the buffet.

The Spanish and Canarias touches are available option if you want to start your day in a different way with some “Pa amb tomàquet” (Pan con tomate) considered a staple of Catalan cuisine and identity, the delicious local goats cheese, the famous Uga smoked salmon (top-quality Norwegian and Scottish salmon smoked using sea salt from the Janubio salt flats) & selection of freshly squeezed juices

Due to the new restrictions imposed by the pandemic the hot dishes can be ordered in a very easy way, scanning the QR code on each table (even if you don’t have your smartphone with you, the charming waiters are always ready with a lot of suggestions) and choose between a Traditional English Breakfast, a Mediterranean one or you can create your own omelette. 

And of course, you can’t miss the delicious traditional chocolate with churros with its balanced contrast of flavours, mixing the bitter sweetness of chocolate with the salty aromas and oil from the crunchy churro.

Of course you can be healthy if you want to with the wide range of whole-grain rolls and bagels, hot or cold whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy (milk, plain or lower sugar yogurts, low-fat cheeses, such as cottage cheese and natural cheeses) and of course my favourite: the egg white omelette with chopped herbs

Talking about healthy start of the day, one morning I had breakfast with Ernesto Guerra, the General manager of Melia Salinas who introduced me to the best kept breakfast secret: on a bed of whole-grain toast and slices of fresh overripe avocado a poached egg (4 minutes for super soft, 4:30 for soft, 5 or more for semi-soft yolks) and a drop of olive oil. Pure health … if you don’t make my mistake to order 2 or 3!!!

Breakfast in THE LEVEL Lounge at Melia Salinas
A very healthy morning at Melia Salinas

It is easy to fall in love with the breakfast in THE LEVEL lounge, but I would suggest traying at least once or twice the breakfast in MOSAICO restaurant. But be aware that here you will need a little bit longer to decide what will land in your plate. An impressive breakfast with everything you dream of from Traditional English to Spanish style, from cold cuts to live cooking stations, all the difficult items are served here to perfection

In MOSAICO restaurant, getting right down to the basic, the chefs know how important is that the quality and the range of the products served at breakfast exceed guests’ expectation. And on top of the excellent cuisine the experience is rounded with a fantastic service: genuine and friendly the staff at Mosaic restaurant were always ready to guide & help the guests to choose the right things that will make them enjoy their breakfast in the best possible way.

As I said is hard to decide at Melia Salinas where to have breakfast: in THE LEVEL LOUNGE where you can enjoy the breath-taking view of the Ocean from the terrace or on the MOSAICO terrace where your eyes will be catch by the incredible pool created by Cesar Manrique. The indoor spaces are as special as the outdoors, especially when you have breakfast next to one of Manrique’s famous murals.

Breakfast in MOSAICO restaurant Melia Salinas

LUNCH

I try the lunch in MOSAICO restaurant only once during my stay at Melia Salinas and I blame the delicious snacks for that.

Served next to the impressive Manrique’s Mural the lunch was targeting both the hungry (if any) and the more weight-conscious guests.

An impressive salad bar with options for everybody, vegetarian or meet-lovers, made every guest’s trip to the buffet memorable, offering a bounty of fresh ingredients. From pasta salads to a classic Cesar with a twist, from comforting salad combinations like creamy macaroni and crisp bacon or sliced potatoes and boiled eggs to luxurious extras like thin-sliced beef tenderloin, lump crab meat or fresh peeled shrimp everything at Melia Salinas they know how to upgrade the salad options from traditional sides to enticing entrees

Once again scanning the QR code on the table opens the door to a fantastic culinary experience. My choice for lunch was

  • Timbale of avocado and seasonal vegetables with salmon de Uga and mango vinaigrette – a delicious mixture of flavours: rich, buttery and creamy from the ripe avocado, the smoky touch with a hint of the sea salt from the Janubio salt flats added to the fine texture of the salmon and the delicate zest of the vinaigrette
  • Confit of roast duck with red fruits – excellent texture, crispy skin, very moist meat and divine flavour balanced between the juicy meat and the sweet-sour addition of the red berries.

For dessert I hardly manage a trip to the “sweet temptation” section of the buffet being happy that I was strong enough to don’t jump of the amazing display. A photo will be more in line with my actual weight.

Lunch at MOSAICO restaurant at Melia Salinas

DINNER

Every night dinner is hosted in MOSAICO restaurant – the heart of the gastronomic experience at Melia Salinas and you can choose to enjoy the indoor understated elegance or the terrace overlooking the spectacular lagoon pool designed by Cesar Manrique.

I never liked a buffet for dinner with others jumping the queue and making a mess in the display, with dishes with odd looks or add-on which shows a lack of inspiration or fresh sources.

At Melia Salinas the dinner is another culinary celebration. Experimenting with the presentation by creating different heights the team in the restaurant managed every night to lift the buffet visually but also made it look inviting and exciting. Add to all, the cleanliness and the illusion that no one has touched the buffet to get the right picture of my dinner.

The culinary offer balanced every night international dishes with local options, classic with modern, self-service with show cooking stations, prioritize flavour and quality over quantity. Form fresh salads to seafood, from lamb and chicken to fresh fish and fabulous cuts of beef and pork cooked at order everything was the result of a tough competition between presentation and taste.

Every night, added to the expected dishes on the dinner buffet, a themed section was offering guests culinary travels in different corners of the world: Far East, Canarias, Mexico, Italy without ignoring those choosing a more traditional approach for their dinner. And no worries if you have any dietary request; the excellent staff in the restaurant is always there to assist you.

When MOSAICO had a canarian themed evening my favourites were:

Papas arrugadas – the island’s potatoes are nothing like those we eat at home. The volcanic earth and climate in which they are grown produces smaller potatoes with a unique texture and taste. ‘Arrugadas’ translates as ‘wrinkled’, and the traditional way to serve these potatoes is boiled in their skins, salted and dressed with a generous topping of mojo picón – a delicious spicy sauce made with garlic, olive oil, red or green pepper, cumin, salt and vinegar. On my next stay at Melia Salinas I planned to steal the delicious Mojo recipe.

Adobo de cerdo – shoulder of pork in a rich, piquant sauce. The sauce or ‘adobo’ is a tasty marinade and In Mosaico kitchen they found the perfect mixture of of paprika, oregano, garlic, salt and sherry vinegar. The slow cooked pork meat is so tender it falls off the bone

Pollo al salmorejo – a delightful garlicky marinated chicken dish, cooked perfectly at Melia Salinas in white wine and seasoned with cumin, oregano, paprika and thyme.

Canarian Dinner at Melia Salinas

SNACKS

I am blaming the snacks and the charming Delgado (responsible for the Pool bar in THE LEVEL) for missing lunch 7 from 8 days spent at Melia Salinas.

Ordering a drink by the pool or on the terrace will always bring on your table a little surprise. And don’t think of crisps or nuts. Melia Salinas pushed the standards of the concept “snack” to a different level bringing amazing flavours in every bite on the plate.

The “happy hours” by THE LEVEL pool looks more like a visit to an expensive Tapas restaurant mixing classic recipes with delicious experiments and the big genuine smile of the waiter (projected by behind the mask)  is a way to tell you: “Sorry you will miss the lunch again!”

Gin Experience at Melia Salinas

DRINKS

If you’re used to real cocktails and nice wine, you won’t likely find it at a typical all-inclusive resort, unless it’s available at an extra cost. This means that the drinks won’t go down as easy. And the hangover will probably be that much worse with cheap ingredients. But that’s not the way at Melia Salinas. Having an all-inclusive package will give you access to several indoor and outdoor bars where a Cosmo is a Cosmo and the Mojito is made in a traditional way.

When ordering a long drink (a gin and tonic or a Cuba Libre) the waiter will come with the entire bottle at your table giving you the chance to choose the measure. The wine list in restaurants is impressive and in general the dinks list is not full of signs and symbols reducing what you can get as “all-inclusive” to a minimalistic list of local and cheap alcohol purchased from the local supermarket.

At Melia Salinas quality is definitely taking over quantity and the guest satisfaction is the main rule.

ACTIVITIES

The day and night “activities” are another reason for which I try to avoid the “all-inclusive resorts”. I found very annoying to lay in the sun by the pool while someone is screaming invitations to aqua gym or to have a drink in the bar while a third hand flamenco group is massacring the idea of “local flavour”

Once again, at Melia Salinas the approach is different. Ramon, the Activity manager, organise during the day different events but he prefer to walk around the pool and invite guests in a very elegant and personalised manner or use the attracting participants during the activity, even if he started with one or two guests. Plus, the location of this activities, the fabulous pool for aqua gym or the beautiful terrace facing the ocean for spinning classes are themselves strong selling points.

Evening at Melia Salinas are extremely pleasant. You can enjoy a quality cocktail and a relaxing experience without watching a magician or an acrobat trying most of the time too hard. A hand full of very good musicians playing from rock-and-roll to evergreens and latino music are more part of the general ambiance than an act that you are forced to watch.

Normally there are few things that are locally authentic about a massive all-inclusive resort, and if you don’t venture off its property, you’ll experience little about the surrounding local way of life. And no, the creepy live entertainment barely counts as a “cultured” experience. But at Melia Salinas everybody is proud of the hotel – a real living museum with its architectural and historical value. And they don’t miss a chance to share this with you. Everybody knows the story of this magnificent building and if you want to find more just visit the Discovery Centre in the atrium or join the guided weekly tour of the hotel. You will be for sure surprised!

MAGIC TOUCHES

Didn’t take too long to understand that at Melia Salinas everybody understands the key behaviours and attributes which make the difference between a good experience and a great one for their guests. And each member of the team plays an active role in the business of creating ‘memories’ for their customers.

It’s like Christmas everyday when you discover after the morning service or after the evening turn -down a little surprise in your room: a plate with local cheese, a mix of nuts and dried berries, some sweets or fresh fruits. Everything presented in a spectacular way. And you know the old say: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!”

Surprise, surprise at Melia Salinas

Mixing the “brilliant basics” (quality of hard and soft product, impeccable cleanliness, great customer service, attention to details) with these magic touches transforms Melia Salinas from an all-inclusive resort in a DESTINATION!

RIU PLAZA ESPANA A hotel like a box of chocolates

•October 1, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Do you remember the famous line of Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”?

In a way my one-night stay at RIU Plaza Espana in Madrid was something like that. Or like a sandwich in which some of the fillings are great, some of them “meh” and some of them definitely expired.

The “box” is absolutely impressive: a historic skyscraper, the 8th tallest building in Madrid, opened in 1953 as the Edificio España. The mixed-use structure initially was containing a hotel, offices, apartments and shops and it is an example of 20th-century Spanish architecture built in the neo-baroque style. The Spanish RIU Hotels chain acquired the building in 2017 and reopened it as a hotel in 2019.

I started to feel the opulence of the building which used to be until 1957 the tallest building in Spain, with 25 floors and a height of 117 m, from the moment when I left the taxi in front of Edificio España designed by architect Julián Otamendi and his brother as  a “symbol of prosperity”. And that feeling stayed with me for couple of seconds when I entered the elegant lobby.

Just couple of seconds because immediately after stepping into the lobby, a cascade of orders and commands received from the bellboy brought me back from Francisco Franco’s Spain to COVID’s Madrid 2020. You need to “play” an unexpected hopscotch, jumping on squares designed on the carpet and the marble floor, following the “assertive” directions of the Cerberus in uniform guarding the entrance.

I’ve been in 5 hotels since the pandemic and I experienced different ways to ensure the safety of guests and staff (you remember for sure the excellent experience I had with “Stay Safe with Melia”). I am sure that you can implement and conduct all this needed measures in a more welcoming, relaxing way, without giving the feeling that for sure you will find in the lobby the famous Dante’s “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” / “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Unpleasant and unnecessary!

And the same “welcoming” style continued at the reception where I spend 15 minutes to be told what “NOT TO DO” – a long list of restrictions which made the entire check-in process extremely unpleasant. I know that we experience a new way to travel and a new way to stay in a hotel but, looking at my previous experiences all can be done in a different way. It is more “customer service” orientated to present all these restrictions as something how “TO DO IT” than as “NOT TO DO IT”. At the end of the day I payed to stay in a hotel not in a prison. The receptionist, quite charming and polite, was so busy to “force feed” me with all the rules that he forgot some basic information. He forgot for example to register my credit card and therefore 3-4 times when I was using the hotel’s facilities (bar, terrace, restaurant) I was told that I don’t have a credit in the hotel so, every time I had to go back to my room to pickup a credit card. I thought that movement limitations is a way to fight against the virus.

At the check-in the receptionist asked me for my email address. When I mentioned that I am not interested in receiving marketing information, he explained me with a genuine smile that the email address will be used “to send the password for WIFI”. Odd but fair enough but what about the situation that I don’t have internet access to check my emails?  

After check-in I had the “chance” to get another 5 minutes “lecture” about using the elevator. OK, you can presume that some of the guests never used an intelligent elevator and some explanations are needed.  But after a long flight the only thing that you need is to be in your room and was easy to save everybody time just asking, “Shall I explain you how our elevators work?”

The lobby is a gem of interior design keeping a lot of the original opulent elements. An interesting detail, kept from the old days, is the lift system control panel at the entrance of the modern elevators.  Waiting to run in high speed with the modern elevator to the 10th floor where my room was, I was sure that the new RIU PLAZA Espana will be full of this type of surprises, with old architectural features mixed with the modern ones.

But I forgot about Forrest Gump’s chocolate box. The rest of the hotel brings to the guests the disappointment of a mediocre airport hotel with no personality and long dark corridors.

My room was a “Junior Suite with terrace” priced at £150/night. The space was pretty generous with 37 m2 Jr. Suite a 180×200 cm bed, sofa bed in the living area, bathtub, WiFi connection, satellite TV, air conditioning and heating, safe, mini fridge and a nice  terrace with great views of Plaza Espana and Palacio Real. Personally, I found a little bit weird to have the bathtub in the middle of the room and a “full view” shower but I experienced a similar trendy, modern, minimalistic style in W hotels too so, I wasn’t very surprised. Looking at the photos of the room imagine the “sexy touch” of doing some work at the desk while your travel companion is having a bath next door. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Thanks God that the toilet had a door!

What I didn’t expect was how uncomfortable the bed was. In a 4-star hotels you expect a choice of pillows and a comfortable mattress. At the end of the day you like a hotel if you have a good night sleep. The only 2 pillows in the “180×200 cm bed” were the most uncomfortable I’ve ever had, more in line with £30/night hostel expectations. I do understand the limitations under the pandemic but at least you can have in the room an extra option, somewhere in the wardrobe, sealed in a plastic bag.

But maybe the most disturbing aspect of my stay was the cleanliness of the room. After the check-in experience, I was expected a room full of “disinfected” seals and an over the top clean accommodation. In reality no signs of deep cleaning and more than that I was “persecuted by pubs” (I love this line of famous Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi) on the toilet seat and in the sinks. Not really something you expect especially during the COVID madness.

RIU Hotels & Resorts has worked for the creation of a total of 17 protocols, in collaboration with Preverisk Group, an international consultancy specialized in advising, auditing and training in health and safety in the tourism industry. But I think some of the protocols got lost in translation. While the other hotels provide the amenities on request to limit the risk of infection. In my room I found all the usual amenities which was a god thing. What wasn’t so good is the fact that they were left in the room after the previous guest!!! One of the boxes was opened and half used which made me think that those 17 protocols they are great, but only on paper.

Going back to Gump’s box of chocolate the biggest surprise was 360º Rooftop Bar, a place that I heard since the opening of the hotel last year but never had the chance to experience it.

360º Rooftop Bar gives you the chance to discover Madrid from high, high above. Perched on the 27th floor of the majestic and newly renovated Hotel Riu Plaza España, this is just about as close to the sky you can get in the Spanish capital.

The 360º panoramic views from the stylish outdoor terrace are breath-taking. Literally all of Madrid and beyond is at your feet, in just about every angle imaginable. For the brave (and anyone looking for a great Instagram-moment), there is also a spectacular glass walkway stretching between two wings of the building. Here you can really walk on air and above the city. The spacious, modern and multi-level rooftop terrace is equipped with lots of comfy lounge sofas, regular tables and front-row bar seats. From the rooftop bar you can order classic cocktails, wine, beers, coffee and some snacks. And the prices, taking in the account the location are more than reasonable: €12-14 for a cocktail, €9-10 for a G&T. Spectacular like the views is the service: polite, elegant, smooth and genuine, exactly what you expect in a certain location. I wonder if they can do some training in customer excellence with their colleagues at the reception. Guest staying at Hotel Riu Plaza España can visit the sky bar and rooftop bar for free, while there is a fee for outside visitors: €5 from 11.00 to 17.00 and €10 from 17.00 to 01.00.

After a not at all good sleep I had a pleasant surprise with the breakfast. Of course, you need to book a slot to get your coffee and your “pan con tomate” but it is worth it. The restaurant has quite a complicated one-way system, but the entire staff is very efficient and pleasant. A mixture of international and local cuisine guarantees an excellent start of the day with a great 5-star breakfast. Still don’t understand how the breakfast escaped from all those 17 protocols with no gloves in the food area, with people choosing their breakfast items without social distancing and so on, but the entire experience was a pleasant one. And once again maybe the reception staff can learn something from their colleagues in the restaurant regarding customer service.

The hotel, according to the information given at check-in, was not at all busy (20-25% occupancy in their more than 550 rooms) and therefore having a 3.00PM flight I ask about the possibility of a late check-out. The normal check-out time is normally at an odd 11.00AM. The answer was blunt: “a late check-out is possible for €10/hour”. Interesting how RIU Plaza Espana, having a lot of availability, has no flexibility in their check-out policy sending the guests in a Madrid facing regional lockdown. “Care and concern” for €10 per hour. Great!

Another interesting experience, which I was able to avoid fortunately, was the famous RIU Plaza Espana pool. In line with the infamous 17 protocols the reception staff provided a complicated way to book your slot for the swimming pool for a limited time. Actually, took longer to read to rules and make a booking than the time frame for using the facility.

Understandable, in the room on the hospitality trays the little spoons were replaced with single used stirring sticks. I had to take a gel medication which requires a good stir and I ask the reception to provide a spoon. After waiting 10 minutes for somebody to pick-up the phone, I was told to wait to check “the protocols” if when room-service was eliminated (again totally understandable) a spoon can be provided. After another 20 minutes I was advised to go to the 27th floor where “maybe you will find a spoon”. I didn’t know that one of the COVID19 symptoms is the loss of customer service flair.

However, looking back to my experience at RIU Plaza Espana indeed it was like Forrest Gump box of chocolates. Unfortunately, too many odd surprises to make me consider the hotel as a choice for my next stay in Madrid. I was thinking to book one of the superb RIU hotels in Meloneras but I am afraid that, like in Madrid,  COVID19 will be a good excuse to cut corners.

And I am not a big fan of chocolate boxes full of odd surprise anyway.

A FANTASTIC 6 DAYS IN A “NO-GO” ZONE

•August 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment

After almost 6 months of dreaming and planning my first proper holiday post lockdown I decided to go back to one of my favourite place in Gran Canaria – Melia Tamarindos. Everything was planned and booked (flights, transfers, hotel) when the UK Government decided to include Gran Canaria on the “NO-GO” list. Quite disappointing but, the need for travel won the fight with the anxiety of a non-insured holiday and the hassle of a 2 weeks self-isolation of my return. And my decision proved to be the right one. But let me take you step by step.

FLIGHTS

As British Airways on my previous trip in July to Malaga was quite hectic in cancelling and re-booking flights on random dates and for random reasons, I decided to fly this time with Iberia. The £500 return ticket in business class via Madrid was a quite decent option. But that was my feeling before Iberia started to mess “Covid-19 related” with the schedule of my outbound flight. Less than a week before a cancellation e-mail was received giving me no-options for rebooking. Took me couple of hours spent on the phone with a very unhelpful call-centre until I found somebody able to re-book my outbound flights. Don’t expect that Iberia found the solution: was me searching the on-line schedule to find a new option, with a very tight connection in Madrid but an arrival which will not need changes in my hotel bookings. I found the flights, found the best options without paying any penalties or price difference and Iberia agent just pressed the ENTER button to reschedule my flights. Helpful indeed.

My outbound flights took me first from London to Madrid on an A321. I already spoke in another review about the new regulation in Heathrow airport where wearing a mask is mandatory, the social distancing is imposed by clear signalling system and hand sanitizer are everywhere. Unfortunately, nobody impose to wear a mask correctly in Heathrow and I saw an impressive collection of noses and chins “mask-free”. Once again, I was very impressed how British Airways applied the new regulation in First Class lounge where the QR system on each table guarantees a limitation of human contact and a quick service, balancing quite well the lack of variety in the food and drinks offer. At the gate the rules were completely ignored despite the fact that boarding was done in sequence, no social distancing was observed and trying to reach their OTD (on time departure) we were waiting on top of the others in the jetty for couple of good minutes.

Click here to see the check-in and lounge experience in Heathrow Terminal 5

The Iberia service was the perfect example how the pandemic can be a very good excuse to cut corners and save money. A “reduced service” was provided in Business Class but due to a human error the catering was “breakfast” instead of “lunch” for a 12.00PM flight. Weird but manageable for a short flight (less than 2 hours). The service was basic with drinks served more than once by the crew with the usual Iberia style rolled eyes. And of course, movements around the cabin were reduced and mask were mandatory during the entire flight (except the moment where you are drinking or eating). Mid-flight the pilots gave us a long speech in English and Spanish about the new filter system in the plane (the famous HEPA filters)

Madrid Barajas airport was a pleasant surprise, not very busy, with more user-friendly rules of self-protection and social distancing than Heathrow. I was impressed with the fact that in the airport everybody, but EVERYBODY wears a mask and respects social distancing, even during the boarding.

Click here to see my connecting experience in Madrid Barajas Airport

From Madrid to Gran Canaria the flight was operated by the low-cost subsidiary of Iberia, Iberia Express. I never saw such an embarrassed Purser to operate a 2h 30min flight with NO food service. She was shocked to find out that in-flight service can give you Covid-19 only if you fly with Iberia Express and you are safe flying with Iberia. Totally understandable to cut more corners in a low-cost airline but, when the flight is a codeshare with a full-service airline which charge a full premium price for its premium cabin, that a little bit cheeky. However, the service on Iberia Express was impeccable, far superior than Iberia, with genuine smiles, polite attitude and … a drink service repeated with no fuss whenever needed.

Click here to see my experience flying with Iberia and Iberia Express from London to Las Palmas via Madrid

The inbound flight was operated in both sectors by Iberia and for cargo reasons I got long-haul aircrafts (an A330 and an A350) on both legs of my journey Gran Canaria – London via Madrid: full in-flight entertainment, flat bed, plenty of space. Even the food was in a ridiculous amount (the long-haul rotation) for such short flights with the usual “whatever” Iberia long-haul style which remind me of my flight to Buenos Aires in January.

Looking back on my 4 flights was like I was flying with 4 different airlines. Does Iberia know how important is consistency in gaining customer satisfaction? I don’t think so.

TRANSFERS

After couple of failures, 4 years ago I decided to book all my transfers abroad with www.rideways.com  (now part of www.booking.com ). The user-friendly booking procedure, the impressive communication pre- and post- ride with emails and text messages 48 and 24h before the pick-up time containing information and contact numbers of the driver and the local provider and the post ride feed-back questionnaire and customer care made the transfer with www.booking.com my favourite choice all the time when I travel.

In Gran Canaria, both outbound and inbound services, provided by the local provider Horizon Bus, were at the highest standards you can imagine. The driver was on time, very polite even when he mentioned that wearing the mask during the transfer is mandatory. Th car was the requested size and had 2 hand sanitizers in the passenger section. Safe, on time and pleasant to cut the story short.

Click here to see my transfer experience with booking.com

HOTEL

I wrote couple of reviews about my previous stays at Melia Tamarindos (you can find them on this blog) talking about the excellent all-inclusive holiday package offered by the hotel in San Augustin and about the high level of customer service.

This time, my 6th stays at Melia Tamarindos had all the reason to generate the anxiety of a new adventure taking in the account all the changes imposed by a virus or a government. Especially that I arrived one day after the opening. The experience of a week in the beautiful resort in San Augustin exceeded all my expectation by bringing on the same page the previous luxury and comfort with the new safety rules and regulations.

Pablo Diaz the General Manager of Melia Tamarindos explained me the entire philosophy and effort behind “STAY SAFE WITH MELIA”, a complex operational transformation strategy, created to ensure the maximum safety of employees, local, customers and make them feel safe. He took time to guide me through the new Customer Journey Map which, on each stage, from the Pre-Stay Communication to Post Stay Loyalty place safety & health on the same page with guest satisfaction.

Everything started before my arrival in Gran Canaria. The Concierge team kept me informed with couple of emails about all the new service style and what to expect in a hotel aiming to offer a great holiday despite the world’s Covid madness. Only reading the details of “Stay Safe with Melia” program, applied in Melia hotels all around the world made me feel safe and protected. In all Melia hotels around the world each guest is contacted and told about all the measures being taken and what their stay will be like with extra information available and updated on melia.com

My room was the amazing LEVEL VISTA MAR SUITE , 57 m² divided between three clearly defined modern spaces: lounge, dressing & bathroom and bedroom with a more than generous space split by sliding doors.  Plenty of space to relax, sleep and with an unseen until now storage space. The pièce de résistance of this splendid suite with a privileged location in the central part of the hotel was the massive balcony, with colonial-style wooden features and incredible views of the Ocean and the beautiful grounds of Melia Tamarindos.

“My room, my temple” is another concept created to ensure the health and safety of both guests and staff: maximisation of cleaning standards prepared by Diversey (including new equipment and products), sealing items after disinfecting the room (remote control, cups or dispensers) or cleaning service optional for guests during their stay

Due to the new regulations some of the previous elements of the exquisite personalized service in the room were eliminated: pillow menu, room service, turndown service, The Level bathrobe and slippers, luxurious Rituals amenities in the bathroom, an included minibar with soft drinks, water and beers. But at check-in I was informed that all these magic touches can be provided at request with a touch of a button. And indeed, it was possible, on request, without fuss and in no time to recreate your own “paradise of pampering” called THE LEVEL in your room.

Click here to see the experience in LEVEL VISTA MAR room

On my previous stays at Melia Tamarindos I was very impressed with the service provided by the housekeeping team. This time they manage to beat their own standards: the room was impeccable clean, everything was sparkling, changed and disinfected every day and made me feel actually safer than home. And if I needed something 24h daily, around the clock somebody from the team was ready to provide it and made it sure that nothing affects the luxury and comfort of my holiday.

Click here to see a “special touch” received in LEVEL VISTA MAR suite

I was on a “all-inclusive” package, knowing that at Melia Tamarindos “all-inclusive” … doesn’t include the pejorative meaning of this type of holiday. ROQUE NUBLO restaurant has, under the new regulation a new design and service flow. The social distancing is respected with a decent distance between tables eliminated, at peak times, the crowded feeling of such a place and one way routes are clearly market and easy to follow. The new food concept market style of the buffet is fantastic, adapted to a market-style format with cold items pre-packed and expert chefs directly serving guests a wide range of different dishes cooked at request. Everything was designed aiming to optimise the ow of customers and reduce food handling. Of course, everything is fresh, and the reduce of food waste is obvious. Plus a takeaway service allows customers to enjoy their food wherever they wish (beach, room, etc.).

Everywhere at Melia Tamarindos a space management tool has been implemented to reduce capacity in restaurants, meeting rooms and swimming pools and manage bookings to guarantee social distancing and personal space. On top of that a new signage system was in place to inform customers and indicate how spaces will be used and the need for social distancing.

The restaurant team was impeccable, very organised with a speed of service flow which didn’t affect the quality of the service. Indeed, you need to wear a face mask and gloves all the time when you approach the food area but believe me it is worth it because the variety and quality of the infusion between international and local cuisine is AMAZING.

Click here to see the dining experience at Melia Tamarindos

For breakfast you can choose TARA SNACK BAR, located by the pool with lovely views of the beach in an open-air space with a mixture between buffet and table service which create a very relaxed and personalised experience.

The public spaces, were as always, a good reason to don’t leave Melia Tamarindos day or night! JAMEO BAR in the hotel hall was a perfect spot for the evenings. This time the professional shows were not scheduled, for obvious reason, but I still got some very good live music acts and a DJ which managed to keep me awake until 2am very night despite the excellent cocktails served at the bar. During the day , trying to respect the social distancing the normal schedule was tailored to the  new rules. But still if you want to enjoy some sports activities by the pool a daily aqua gym class took place every day. And the fun was total!

During the day TARA POOL BAR was great for a cold alcoholic break between the pool and the beach (I didn’t mention that you don’t need to recharge your batteries to swim in the Ocean: the beach is 2 minutes away from the pool).

Click here to see the Pool experience at Melia Tamarindos

And of course, the majestic grounds and gardens of Melia Tamarindos provide an excellent refuge day and night from all this rules and regulations.

Click here to see the Gardens of Melia Tamarindos

THE LEVEL SOLARIUM , despite the fact that is missing some of the previous touches (cold cava & drinks in the fridge) is still the same adult only oasis of tranquillity and lovely views of the beach.

Everywhere you still need to respect the rules: wearing a mask when moving around, gloves when approach the food area and observe the social distancing. But everything is done and explained in a very friendly manner and the staff is “walking the talk” despite the 30⁰C in a good day.

Click here to see the experience of LEVEL SOLARIUM at Melia Tamarindos

Of course, for those who wanted to push the pampering to a new level THE SPA was an excellent choice. The modern treatments and the organic and local products used made every visit to the spa an exquisite moment. As a LEVEL guest you get a discount for treatments and you can have a free circuit of the facilities with sauna, jacuzzi and Bali beds included. And for sure you will have a big surprise when you will have to pay the bill because the prices are more than reasonable: 60 euros for a sport massage, 47 euros for a full manicure and pedicure and an incredible 75 euros for a fabulous facial treatment with Clarins and local Aloe Vera products. What a treat!

 

Click here to see the SPA experience at Melia Tamarindos

If you know me, you will not be surprised that during my stay at Melia Tamarindos I was looking, fine let’s be honest PRO-ACTIVELY looking for something that will cool down a little bit my euphoric mood. It was almost impossible to find any faults in the service flows, customer approach, health&safety. Maybe one single thing: not long ago Meliá Hotels International received EarthCheck certification (one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism certification programmes) and signed a global agreement to implement its environmental management model. But in the fight with Covid19 and the obsession of implementing “Stay Safe with Melia” word by word, at Melia Tamarindos an invasion of plastic disposable gloves was part of the daily routine. Of course, the gloves added an extra layer to the safety protocols but after couple of days I started to question myself the to need for this not at all environmentally friendly item. Was not enough the impressive number of hand sanitizer dispensers, placed everywhere and refilled and check regularly by the staff? Nobody realised the huge amount of plastic generated by broken gloves (you need to try and break at least one pair before using the second one)? To make them useful you need to use a new pair all the time when approaching the food areas and with the delicious gastronomic offer at Melia Tamarindos, believe me you will need at least 2-3 trips to the buffet/meal. I was discussing the issue with the staff and despite the fact that they all agree with the environment contamination (in Canary Islands everybody is over the top echo-aware) that nobody in the HQ will change the protocols based on hotels and resorts feed-back. At least until now….

I had a very interesting chat with Raquel Cabezas López, the Guest Experience Manager who explain me how the approach to guest experience has changed to bring at the same level the new health & safety standards with the usual luxury style of Melia Tamarindos. It was interesting to find the complex transformation of the Guest Experience Manager duties to enable management of emotional aspects of customer relationships due to the situation created by Covid and the existence of an ambassador appointed in each hotel to guarantee the implementation of the Stay Safe with Meliá programme.

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But what really made my holiday fantastic despite all the odds was the staff at Melia Tamarindos, from housekeeping to waiters, from Concierge to Guest Service Manager, from bartenders to Maître D’ and Hotel Manager. A genuine smile is a fundamental part of a excellent customer experience. And it is not easy to smile when your face is covered with a mask for the entire duration of your shift.

I know that in the current situation Melia provided an extensive training to the entire staff (off the record I found that at Melia Tamarindos they had in place a simulation of a “busy day” with all the new service flows before opening on the 31st of July). But the way how “Stay safe with Melia” was moved from what was written to reality is 100% due to the professionalism, dedication and genuine love for their jobs of Tamarindos team.

 

Click here to see the smiles behind the masks of Melia Tamarindos

The entire team of Melia Tamarindos know how to smile with their eyes and their excellent customer service skills can be projected behind any face shields. The genuine, friendly and professional approach of every aspect of guest interaction made my holiday so special and “forced” me to book a new trip there.

GRACIAS MELIA TAMARINDOS!

Click here to see my question after 6 fantastic days at melia Tamarindos

PS: And guess what? At my return, after following all the rules and regulation, respecting the excellent “STAY SAFE WITH MELIA” at my return from a “NO GO” zone (according to UK Government) I had my Covid-10 test. And the result was the expected one NEGATIVE.

covid

 

My next trip : 19th of September visiting for the first time Melia Salinas in Lanzarote to try their excellent product LEVEL GARDEN VILA. At the end of the day is our anniversary!

MAMAIA, I MISS THE FESTIVAL!

•August 22, 2020 • 1 Comment

The month of August!

BBQs, holidays, fishing, too much rain, sunbathing in the garden, Pim’s, too hot, mosquitos, watermelons … all of these and more are part of our normal summer vocabulary.

But for me August is something else.

1

I know that I will sound a little bit old-fashioned but for me this time of the year was always linked with MAMAIA – the Romanian National Music Festival

You don’t have a clue what I’m talking about!

But let me tell you something: when I was a child, I was watching every year the live broadcastings of Romanian National Television from Mamaia – the pearl of Romanian Black Sea coast, dreaming that one day I will be in the audience, right there in Mamaia Summer Theatre.

When I started working in television, after 1991, my dream came true and I was privileged to be involved, couple of times, in the musical event of every Romanian summer.

 

In February 1963, during a meeting organized by the Communist State Committee for Culture and Art, it was decided to organize a contest and a music festival, aimed to promote Romanian music.

This is how the MAMAIA MUSIC FESTIVAL was born.

The first edition took place at the end of August 1963 in new Summer Theatre in Mamaia resort, inaugurated on the very first day of the festival with a capacity of 1100 seats.

What I found difficult when I’m talking with my non-Romanian friends about MAMAIA Festival is to explain the syntagma “muzica usoara romaneasca”.

The word by word English translation “easy music” / “light music” doesn’t do much good. It is easy to think of Eurovision or better the Italian Festival San Remo.

And because is summer, and because I’m home and because I’m swimming at the moment in a pool full of nostalgic memories I decided to create a virtual edition of the Romanian National Music Festival MAMAIA.

Wasn’t easy to find on-line recordings from all editions of Mamaia festival and I have to apologise for the technical quality of some of those videos.

Wasn’t easy to decide the best songs or the best voices without ending with a 24 hours long program.

I manage to choose my favourites moments of Mamaia’s stage and created 3 rounds of pre-selections, one final and of course an Awards Gala.

 

And if you are ready is time to start a virtual musical adventure and maybe your first Romanian music lesson, called “I miss Mamaia Festival!”

Ladies and gentlemen this is “MAMAIA – Mi-e dor de Festival!”

Round 1 – “Mamaia ’60s,’70 and ’80”

click here to watch “Mamaia ’60, ’70s and ’80″”

Round 2 – “Mamaia ’90s”

click here to watch “mamaia ’90s”

Round 3  – “Mamaia ’00”

click here to watch “Mamaia ’00s”

The Final – “Mamaia – Mi-e dor de Festival!”

click here to watch THE FINAL “MAMAIA – Mi-e dor de festival!”

AWARDS GALA – “Mamaia – Mi-e dor de Festival!”

click here to watch AWARDS GALA “Mamaia – Mi-e dor de Festival!”

 

The Romanian versions of the shows here:

MAMAIA ’60s, ’70s, ’80s

MAMAIA ’90s

MAMAIA ’00s

FINALA “MAMAIA, MI-E DOR DE FESTIVAL!”

GALA LAUREATILOR “MAMAIA, MI-E DOR DE FESTIVAL!”