A PIECE OF PARADISE BETWEEN OCEAN AND VOLCANOES

Booking a last-minute holiday can be a very difficult task and I always avoided a “the day before” decision. But at the mid-June due to some cancellation in my agenda 7 days window suddenly appeared and, due to a grey wet weather back home I decided to book a one week run to a nice beach, a comfy hotel and a 150% relaxed week.  Tenerife was my first choice as I never spent on the island more than couple of hours during some cruises. When was the moment to chooses the hotel Gran Melia Palacio de Isora was an easy decision four couple for couple of reasons: my previous memorable experience with the Level product at other Melia hotels, the fantastic memories from other Grand Melia stays and of course the impressive number of accolades that the RedLevel at Palacio de Isora won during the last couple of years.

And here I am on a holiday booked Tuesday night, with a flight on Thursday afternoon and one week spent in a room with breathing views in RedLevel at Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora. How shall I summarise my experience? Let me see: “a long line of “WOW” s with couple of “MEH”s.

Let me tell you why…

ARRIVAL & CHECK-IN

My arrival at Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora was the first big WOW moment. Before even my taxi stopped in front of the RedLevel entrance, separated from the hotel main entrance, I was greeted with a genuine big smile from a member of the Concierge team while the luggage disappeared from the car straight in to my room. The check-in process was more a friendly conversation with the Concierge staff with a brief introduction of the facilities and suggestions for dinner plus all what was included in my holiday package over a glass of Cava on the beautiful terrace of the RedLevel lounge.

One of the butlers, Pablo, escorted me in the room and, once again, the high standards of the hotel surprised me when Pablo, looking at my 3 suitcases for a one-week holiday asked me if I need more Clothes hangers in my room. That is what I understand by thoughtfulness and anticipating customer needs in a 5-star hotel!

ACCOMODATION

My RED LEVEL DELUXE ROOM FRONTAL OCEAN VIEW was simply … perfect. The bright 49m² space was stylish and functional, with plenty of storage spaces and elegant details. Fully equipped with a coffee maker, king-size bed, sofa-bed and a full bathroom, it was exactly what I needed for a one week of full pampering.

The panoramic sea views from the large, private, fully furnished terrace were stunning especially for sunrise and sunset. The private hydromassage bathtub was another amazing touch especially when you ask your butler to prepare an out of this world session with candles and Clarins amenities.

Everything was created with the image of a perfect stay in mind: the in-room aromatherapy menu, the free of charge ironing service of two garments per day, the extensive pillow menu, the fully stocked minibar and the turn down service done with an incredible attention to details.

A special mention to the housekeeping team. I never saw them (proving a perfect team management, service flow and excellent timings) but the results were impossible to ignore: the room was sparkling clean, the attention to details was amazing and the standards were indeed at the level of a 5-star hotel. Absolutely brilliant!

The bathroom was another sign of indubitably luxury with its bathtub, double sink and European Spa-style jet shower. While in other hotels “cutting corners” policy affects most of the time bathroom amenities, at RedLevel Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora, the world famous Clarins products were generously replaced whenever needed and the towels, bathrobes and slippers – changed daily – never showed a sign of overused (something that I absolutely hate in a hotel). Maybe all this are small details, but those are the elements which create normally that “luxury feeling” of any holiday.

THE RECEPTION & CONCIERGE

At Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora this team were an important part of my amazing experience. With their hearts in the right place, with a passion for creating memories and a obvious pride in their job, the entire team was 24 hours available to help you designing a perfect holiday.

Indeed, is space for improvement at the level of Front desk team. Couple of times I was trying to book some activities (restaurants, spa, etc) through Concierge and spend good minutes giving all the details regarding my intentions. I was quite surprised to receive phone calls, letter or messages from other members of the team asking, more or less, the same question as at the first point of contact.  It can be quite annoying and frustrating to answer to the same question again and again and to realise that actually nobody listens to you first time, or second, …, or third. My impression of an inefficient communication system was created by the fact that, once, I saw one of the receptionists making notes regarding my requests, notes which got lost or forgotten. But, ignoring this little hic-ups, the entire experience was incredible, especially when you realised, as a holidaymaker, that you are not a number / room but a real person, a guest, with a schedule and plans. That’s what I call a “personalised experience”

THE POOL

For sure if you are a fan of resorts pools, Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora is the place to be, with its 7,500m² of pools for all ages, with 5 outdoor pools for unique experiences and an indoor pool in the spa.

With 5,000m², The Infinity Pool is the biggest saltwater pool in a European hotel tempting the guests with 80 water beds in the pool and 2 integrated water rituals. And that’s not all: a family pool, a children’s pool with pirate ship, a baby pool and, of course, an adults-only pool transform the resort in a real luxurious water park.

For guest in RedLevel, the experience is taken to another dimension with the private adults-only pool surrounded by Bali beds and with a Pool Concierge service offering refreshing complimentary drinks and fruit snacks and even a sunglasses cleaning service. WOW! But, once again couple of “MEH”s, made me choose in some days the beautiful beach next door.

In the first day, after reading with hope the “no reserved sunbeds before 10.00AM” policy (what a great idea) and having breakfast a little bit later, around 10.15-10.30AM I realised that was no sunbeds available even though the Red Level wasn’t operating at full capacity. Later I found that a big percentage of the sunbeds were taken by the “smart guests” having a DAY PASS and therefore I decided to use the amazing beaches for the first part of the day. A little bit unfair to grant access and offer the same services for guests who paid full price to be in the Red Level and for those on a far much cheaper holiday who bought a daily access pass to the area. And the impact of guest experience was bigger during the weekend when was impossible to find a sunbed even at 9.00AM.

The Red Level pool has a lot of comfy Bali Beds (by the way the hotel has a real fetish for them, and you can find them everywhere) but unfortunately, you can’t use them without buying on of the “Bali Beds packages” advertised almost everywhere. The feeling was like flying with EasyJet: you can have only your seat, or your seat with a coffee and a panini or a seat, a G&T, a coffee and a panini … depends how much you are keen to spend. It is OK for EasyJet but is that matching the Red Level profile? And maybe was just a one-off occasion, but in a week, I saw only a couple of times the beds busy; most of the time they were beautiful decorated and … EMPTY. It is a golden rule in any selling process: it’s easier to up-sell than to sell: I would be interested to buy an add-on (a jar of Sangria or a bottle of Cava for example) if I got the bed included anyway!

The passion for excellent guest experience is present even around the pool. I enjoyed so much the little refreshing fruit treats, the smoothies and the cleaning the sunglasses service. Very thoughtful but … again some changes can be made. One day the pool boy started to clean sun glasses but after couple of guests somebody ask for a drink, the service stopped and was never resumed. Wasn’t a big deal but is better to don’t provide a service at all than only half of it.

BREAKFAST

Liquid Garden, providing a unique ambience next to the private pool and surrounded by aromatic trees, was the perfect set for an excellent breakfast. When your guests come from all over the world, having different gastronomic favourites and diverse eating behaviours it is a challenge to provide a “100% satisfaction” breakfast. But at RedLevel Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora, the success of mornings was) not only a delightful experience, but a daily WOW! An excellent buffet always fresh and following any international preferences (Continental, Spanish, English, name it) with the option of a la carte menu offering from Corral eggs (my favourite was the sublime Eggs Florentine and the delicious Scrambled a la Provencale), omelettes, pancakes and mouth-watering waffles. Was up to you if you wanted to be healthy or to leave the calories counting for your return home! A morning WOW repeated every day for an entire week.

The morning “MEH” was generated by a lack of leadership during breakfast time. Most of the time the breakfast was far a way to be the relaxing start of another holiday day. The staff was running, literally, around, giving a feeling of rush and lack of “what to do next” approach. Every morning the routine was the same: 10 minutes waiting time to order a coffee. For the next 10 minutes I had another 3 waiters asking if I want a coffee and finally when the coffee arrived the waiter didn’t know whose order was and walking around with a “getting cold cappuccino” shouting like in a train station coffee shop “who wanted a cappuccino?” And the history repeated when I ordered an orange juice or an omelette. With the omelette was more fun because the order was taking by a waiter, passed in front of me to the second one who run to the kitchen and finally the eggs were brought at the table by a third waiter after a long and loud “criminal investigation”: WHO WANTED THE BENEDICT’S? Because everybody was busy trying to find what to do next, many times the unused table were a paradise for the little birds enjoying the high quality of Red Level breakfast. After each breakfast I felt more tired than when I woke up and I can imagine how the staff were feeling after 4 hours of unplanned madness.

LIQUID GARDEN’s HAPPY HOURS

Without any hesitations the “Happy Hours” was the weakest link of my entire experience. Far, far away for the level expected from a RED LEVEL and a GRAN MELIA … very far …. on a completely different planet. The one hour “happy hours” made guests in Red Level to start taking tables 15-30 minutes before which gave a feeling worse than reserving the beds by the swimming pool by tourists in Benidorm at 6.00AM. When the bar was open, a queue of “thirsty for free drinks” was forming transforming the entire experience in a low-cost buffet one. Because of the 60 minutes windows couples were organising “drills” in taking as many drinks as possible in a limited time (transforming their tables in serving tables) and hiding bottles in their beach bags Despite the high quality of the drinks, food and service, nothing was making the experience an elevated one, a memorable one. As the guest attitude wasn’t enough, a service management failure made it worst. After the first drink was served in a proper glass, the second or the third started to be offered in very weird recipients: beer in cognac glasses, G&T in wine glasses and wine in flute glasses making me to wait for the moment of the debut of plastic ones! That’s not happy hours in a 5* resort is a buffet 3* ‘bun-fight’ experience.

DINNING EXPERIENCE

Booking a half-board formula for my stay at RedLevel Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora gave me the chance to discover a wide range of restaurants and take the advantage of an impressive list of dining options.

  • “La Terrace”, an exclusive and elegant adult only restaurant started to be my favourite from the very first evening. Not easy to say why! Maybe the wonderful sunsets with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the island of La Gomera. Maybe the exquisite menu created to delight your taste buds with exclusive dishes inspired by Canary Island and international cuisine. Maybe the sophisticated atmosphere created by the resort elegant dress code and the stylish deco. Maybe the outstanding service of a team able to mix superb manners with a friendly approach and incredible standards. Or maybe all this together. After coming back to “La Terrace” again and again I still can not make my mind up regarding the my favourite dish: The delicate Canarian grouper with seafood reef or mouth-watering Roast pressed suckling pig. Talking about starters the winner was the innovative Squid and Coconut Ceviche and top of the class for deserts the explosion of flavours of the White Chocolate soup with passion fruit
  • “Nami Asian Bistro, was another dinner choice where the perfect service match the incredible menu. The restaurant offering 3 experiences adapted to the preference of every guest: sushi show-cooking, teppanyaki tables and Japanese bistro, took me one night on the crest of a wave towards an Asian fusion and sushi experience. The elegant and efficient team in Nami introduced me to an outstanding contemporary Asian fusion cuisine with exclusive and elaborate dishes: a mixed tempura with prawn, lotus root, asparagus and broccoli as a starter, Shumai and Gyoza Dim sum, the incredible Nami pasta made with rice noodles, beef sirloin stripes, pak choi, egg and brown sugar. I still wonder today where I found place that evening for the unusual but tasty mix of green tea and red bean ice cream.
  • “Teppanyaki” , bringing to Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora the famous hibachi cuisine style offered a menu with 3 starters (Nami mix salad, miso sup and Hibachi rice) one main course (my choice was Hibachi king prawns) and a desert (I opted for flambéed pancake with cream and palm honey). Having previous experiences with this type of cooking show, both on the cruise ship and hotels/resorts I was very excited to see your approach to a traditional cooking-tainment. The venue and the service were exceptional, the food was brilliant and the way how the Chef managed a bi-lingual demonstration was amazing. The only thing missing was the “teppanyaki” element. Was more a “cooking at the table” experience with some weird twists (using fried vegetables – stir fried style, instead of rice as a main side dish) with a not very well-planned timings for serving the dishes (some of the guests finished their main course when others were still waiting for their order while the vegetables were getting cold on plates). The essence of such a dinner is the joy of customers watching the skilled manoeuvres of the chefs preparing the food and basic elements (the snake omelette, flaming onion volcano and catch the food) are a must of this type of cooking experience. Nothing like that happened that evening and I understood that the Chef was still on his learning curve. Far enough, everybody has a starting point but why not do what others are doing in this type of restaurants? I still remember on board of NCL Epic or in Four Seasons in Budapest when passing buy during afternoon hours I saw the Chefs learning with their Master the manoeuvres, improving their skills and technique with no guests around the table. For me was OK as the restaurant was included in my half-board package, but I wonder what if I would have to pay for the experience?
  • “ OCEAN” – It was the least favourite from all restaurant offered as a guest in Red Level despite de fact that the location, ambience and decor were great. First, because of a very un-inspirational food. After eating there, I had the feeling that somebody, with no cooking experience using an Italian food recipes book published in a foreign language decided to open an Italian restaurant using Google Translate. Funny that the food looked like the original but the over the top mix of flavours (the pasta were hard to digest being heavy with too many ingredients and strong flavours mixed in one plate) and self-interpretation of classic recipes (the classic tiramisu and cannoli which looked like the originals but taste like … something else) mad the dinner not the best experience. An Italian restaurant is everybody’s favourite and an easy to achieve success for a family dinner for example if you know the big secret: KEEP IT SIMPLE. The Italian dishes offered in such a restaurant need to target the resort market and not the Master Chef Jury, especially when sophisticated cooking wasn’t the strongest point of the kitchen team. The service flow had the right pace, not to rush bot to slow, but the entire attitude of the staff gave the place a feeling of a canteen in a cheap resort. No matter that the restaurant is open for “all-inclusive” guests, we are still in a Gran Melia and I couldn’t find the explanation for a Maître D so busy to chat and boss around the waiters and no time to realised that most of the menus are old and in pieces and with old fingerprints acting as photos illustrating what is served for dinner.

BEACH

I was telling you about how amazing the swimming pools are at Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora but on the 3rd day when finding a free sunbed was a too difficult task for my morning hangover, I decided to explore the beaches nearby.

Only 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel 3 natural coves with black sand beaches offer an excellent alternative to the concrete environment of the hotel’s pool. They are public beaches, everybody having access to them, but thy are in the administration of the hotel. I don’t remember last time when I saw such a clean, well maintained public beach. One morning I saw couple of staff member cleaning and tiding up the beach and even polishing the handrails. And everything done with keeping the natural environment as …natural as possible. If you are in RedLevel the Concierge will give you a card and you can use the sunbeds on the beach and keep in mind that in each of those 3 coves they were not more that 5-6 sunbeds…quiet, relaxing, simply WOW!

You are in the middle of the nature but the comfort of the RedLevel is following you. A discreet button will alert the nearby chiringuito, from where a very friendly staff will bring to your sunbed drinks & snacks whenever you need. And the entire service at the same high standard, like in the hotel. The only difference was the price: everything was half price than by the pool for the same order. Weird because I think is nicer to have a cold glass of Tinto de Verano or a Clara in the pleasant breeze of the Ocean, far much better than by the busy swimming pool.

But the gem of the beaches administrated by Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora was the natural swimming pool, 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel. What a magic place, what a WOW moment! Contained by the solidified walls of black lava the crystal-clear water was perfect for swimming, changing its level with the tide but always at a safe level, even for the little ones. Without affecting the natural environment, the hotel took seriously the safety of those choosing the place for a relaxing swim: a line of steps covered with anti-slippery rubber, handrails and ladders ensured a pleasant and safe use of the natural pool. It was amazing how keeping health & safety in mind Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora manage to protect the environment and offer an excellent alternative to the classical hotel’s pools.

Just later I discovered that Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora is EarthCheck certified. Sounds confusing? Let me explain that to you: EARTHCHECK is an international Certification program which provides a framework to achieve the desired outcomes for sustainable development in the hospitality industry. EarthCheck is certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). All hotels who display the EarthCheck Certified seal, can clearly demonstrate their environmental and social performance and provide confidence for consumers that they are walking the talk. And Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora is one of them.

THE HOTEL

With the Atlantic Ocean at its feet and the majestic Teide as a backdrop, Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora combines timeless luxury with an avant-garde flair, providing endless magical moments. The hotel has taken care of everything down to the very finest detail in each of its rooms, creating a personalised setting to ensure your total satisfaction. Imagine the experience of viewing the sun setting over the ocean from one of the magnificent suites in this fantastic resort, the best 5 star hotel in Tenerife.

The grounds and the indoor areas are fantastic with their sophisticated mixture of modern and traditional elements. And you can’t miss the superb fountains with a incredible versatility during the day or night.

Everything was planned here for a perfect holiday with choices for an adults-only experience in RedLevel, an exclusive boutique hotel within the resort providing the most exquisite attention, or a family experience in RedLevel for Families providing superior facilities and services for the little ones.

Believe or not you can bring your furry friend with you: dogs weighing up to 10kg are welcome in some rooms to share with you an unforgettable vacation. The welcome pack includes a bed, two toys, poop bags, food, water and biscuit dispenser and food throughout the stay. That’s what I call attention the details!

And I don’t want to forget the Clarins Spa. I was impressed with the bathroom amenities in RedLevel, all Clarins but a visit to the Spa projected me in a different dimension of pampering. A subtle alchemy uniting highly effective products created by Clarins Laboratories, 100% manual massage techniques and sensual surroundings to ensure a deep sense of well-being. Each Clarins treatment is an unforgettable experience…The Clarins treatments are designed as authentic rituals for all the senses. Delicate fragrances based on aromatherapy, personalised music, sumptuous textures, completely manual application, a selection of teas to finish the treatment … With body and spirit in perfect harmony, the effects of the treatment are enhanced further.

But of course, now is time for a “MEH” moment

In all public spaces where I’ve been (bars, terraces, lounges, restaurants) I identified the same issue: nobody care about clearing-in (cups, glasses, ashtrays) until the point when is no space available, no clean glassware or no space for new guests. In Nami restaurant I had an amazing dinner surrounded but dirty tables left by previous customers 20-30 minutes before and some of them even before my arrival. In Red Level terrace the two coffee cups and the ashtray used by me in the morning were my companions until late afternoon. During breakfast on Liquid terrace or lunch in Ocean grill the situation was identical: somebody will pick up the used crockery only on request when you don’t have space, literally, on the table for the new ones. And once again is not because of the staff forgetting or ignoring, they worked very hard running from one customer to another. I think that, my usual obsession, that a bad management didn’t give the right directions and include such a duty in the service flow.

ACTIVITIES

Normally I avoid the “daily activities” when I am in a resort, just because, most of the time, they are planned and organised more like a time filler. The reality at Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora was completely different. Whoever was in charge put a lot of thinking and planning in creating a packed schedule with something for everybody. If you are an activity addicted it was easy to choose from archery and French boules to aqua boarding and body combat. If your competitive spirit couldn’t take a break you could join the table tennis, football box circuit or paddle tennis competitions. And  if you like more sophisticated physical activities yoga, cycle spin, aqua aerobics, Pilates or Latin dance classes were available all day long.

And in the evening the live entertainment offer was extremely appealing with resident live musical bands and DJs, innovative shows in the theatre or a fantastic fountain show in the main lobby.

I decided  to take part in a wine tasting. Another WOW moment! Excellent and affordable choice for an afternoon when you want to run away from the sun. And to be honest I was very impressed by the balance between an great Somelliere with a charming personality and solid knowledge and average wines.

And only risk was that if you planned to be part of all of them you will need another holiday to enjoy the fabulous sun, the amazing swimming pools and the fantastic beaches next door.

REDLEVEL TEAM

It is hard to find the right words to describe the excellence of the RedLevel team. From housekeeping to pool attendants, from restaurant to concierge team, everybody adopted with visible enthusiasm the unique approach to hospitality promoted by Melia.

I didn’t need to much time to discover in every member of staff at Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora a sense of pride of being part of an environment which fosters the feeling of belonging to something special, to a great concept where durable memories are capital.  From the first coffee in the morning until the night cup in the bar the excellence and coherence, matching the high standards of staff professional behaviour and guest’s expectations gave me the comfort of a stylish proximity, experienced through the warmth of each and everyone’s behaviour.

RedLevel team, having their hearts in the right place, knows exactly how to build on the foundation of a fantastic hard product – an oasis of peace and elegance, a personalised service which creates durable memories.

Going back to my “MEH” list, I was very surprised when I received the “post-stay” message from the Red Level Concierge. Normally all hotels, resorts or cruise lines use these questionnaires as a powerful tool to measure the quality of the service and performance. A series of well design questions will request scores which can be use as indicators in statistics related to achievements, failures and more important ways for improvements. Socking, the link received from red Level re-directed me to a Tripadvisor page. This type of reviews are very important for future guests in a managing expectations way, but from the business point of view the value is very close to 0. I had the feeling the Red Level manager is more interested to be praised or to find explanations for various critics than analysing the level of performance. A review is a subjective analysis of somebody experience in Red Level a proper questionnaire give the chance of an objective analysis, identifying the weakest point and suggest way for improvement. I still don’t know if this was a local decision or Melia changed the way how to approach a potential repeater after their stay in Red Level?

A small fine tuning is needed to transform RedLevel Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora in a perfect luxurious holiday resort. I had the privilege of a very interesting conversation with Ivan Messa, the Deputy manager of Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora, a professional who knows very well that every feedback is a gift. And to be honest after only couple of minutes I understood that this fine tuning is wanted, needed and possible.

I personally consider a misconception that “all inclusive” dilute a luxury product. Important players on the resort market (Sandals, Four Season, Ritz Carlton) following the trends on the cruise market (Oceana, Silver Star, Seaborn, Viking) have the “luxury all-inclusive” concept in their offers based on the idea that even the big spender holiday makers search for a good value for money. Having “all-inclusive” added to the Red Level product will increase the revenue (eliminating the temptation of spending less outside the resort) and at the same time will make the product stronger by giving customer a wider range of choices. A higher price for a better value for money all-inclusive option will filter the clientele and erase the risk of “bun-fighters for free drinks” type of guests. And you don’t’ need to wear an “all-inclusive” bracelet to identify the guests – here the “personalised service” can kick-in by recognising the top payers in different ways.

I know that a resort is a business and a successful business needs to generate a profit. This rule can be applied without restriction in the Palacio where the definition of “luxury holiday” is different. In Red Level the focus must be on the guest experience which ensure a repetitive business and stays longer than 3-4 days (long weekend). A “discrimination in services” between different types of room (an included Bali Bed for the high-end rooms for example), an “all-inclusive” option for higher grades, a real butler service or in-room breakfast option will make stronger the motivation of “paying more for more”.

DEPARTURE

The departure was another WOW moment. Showing an impressive flexibility tailored to the hotel availability a late check-out was possible (my flight was in the late afternoon) so I could enjoy the RedLevel until the very last moment. No hassle in checking out, no waiting for the final bill just a pleasant conversation at the reception desk over a cup of coffee. A smoot process and a conversation which made me feel not like a customer at the end of his stay, but like a valued guest planning already its return.

When I saw my luggage in the lobby and bid farewell to the amazing RedLevel team the only “MEH” moment was the fact that I have to leave But this can be corrected and I already planned my return at the end of November trying to escape the grey English weather in this  PIECE OF PARADISE BETWEEN OCEAN AND VOLCANOES!

 

~ by leonard69 on July 25, 2019.

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