A FANTASTIC 6 DAYS IN A “NO-GO” ZONE

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.

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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!

~ by leonard69 on August 23, 2020.

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