Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Our family summer vacation in Greece at Grecotel Creta Palace

Back in Dubai, after a beautiful summer in Europe. Like every year, we go back home to South of France and Sweden. The girls absolutely cherish that time of the year with family and friends. This year, we took a little extra time to explore with my side of the family, the Greek island of Crete. One of my favourite things to do is to travel and discover new family friendly destination, and Crete was a lovely surprise. Very welcoming and infinitely generous are the people of Crete. Every single day we experience kindness and unexpected generosity in a very natural manner, never forced always with a true warmth. Here's a little overview of our stay in Crete at the elegant and very friendly, Grecotel Creta Palace.

The resort 
Crete Palace sits on a rocky coastline, about 5 km from the old town of Rethymnon, about 70km from Chania Airport and 78km from Heraklion Airport. From the exterior the hotel is simply stylish, white low rise building surrounded by trees, pretty green lawns and paths fringed by palm trees, rosemary bushes, and local vegetation. The long beach is sandy but becomes pebbly just as you go into the water. There are three swimming pools to choose from at the Creta Palace, including a super-sized main pool, a children’s water-slide pool and an indoor pool by the spa area.

The interior is bright and open, with open windows directing you to the gardens, the pool, restaurants and even a little Greek village square with shops (souvenirs, local produces, beach gear, mini supermarket) and a traditional Greek coffee house. The setting of the resort is just lovely and convenient.

There are over 300 rooms, divided in four categories: Room, Bungalow, Villa and Suite. Unfortunately I did not visit all the options, but we were really delighted with our Deluxe Family Bungalow located on the lawn, close to the pool facing a beautiful sunset. Simple but elegant decor, with marble bathroom (shower only), robes, slippers and a hairdryer, along with air conditioning, an LCD satellite TV, a safe and a fridge. I would strongly recommend to request (at extra cost) the " Famous Class Package" which include some extra advantages like express checking with champagne, personnel escort to your room, welcoming gift including fruits and wine, daily supply of mineral water in the room, twice daily maid service, complimentary tea/ coffee facilities in the room, beach service with water, tea, coffee, juice, fruits. The extra exclusive service from the package also include two invitations (per week) for complimentary a la carte dinner at selected restaurants and spa discount. (details here).

Things to do
The Creta Palace offers activities to keep the whole family happy and entertained. One of the main reasons we choose the resort while searching for our summer holidays was the children friendly facilities and range of activities available. Grecoland, is a well managed kids Club, for ages 4-6 and 7-12 (year-round) and 13-17 (seasonal). Everyday our 4, 9 and 10 years old checked the schedule and worked around the different activities to try, like art & craft, wall climbing, volleyball, table tennis, baking, pool games, sand building, ... While our oldest child 14 years old enrolled in the Arsenal soccer school and made new friends at volleyball training. All the daily activities and evening entertainment scheduled could be accessed via an online portal which was super convient. There is also a water sport centre available on the beach of the hotel. Jetski, pedalo, parasailing, donut ride, banana ride,... lots of beach fun at extra cost.

The Food
The resort offers great food option. We booked half board option, which included a really lovely breakfast buffet located in main restaurant Labyrinth and its terrace. Our morning started in the shaded courtyard with good coffee and nice variety of breakfast selection. We usually skipped lunch and just enjoyed fruit platters and drinks on the beach (part of the Famous Class package). Dinners were at Labyrinth or at à la carte restaurants Barbarossa the seafood restaurant or Golden Dragon for Asian food. I would definitely recommend both options. There is also Zeus + Amalthia, a trendy, blue-lit roof bar perfect for cocktails and sunset view. Also for authentic local food, the Hellas, a traditional kafeneion, serves local firewater raki and meze snacks.

At Cregotel, kids eat free from the Kids Corner, providing food throughout the day, it was super convenient, as our little ones are constant snackers.

The region and sites seeing options
If you are looking to explore the surroundings, Creta Palace Guest Services will be very helpful organising day trips to various destinations with private chauffeur or boat trip along the coast.
The Island of Zeus offers some interesting sites seeing, we enjoyed the Old Town of Rethymno and its pittoresque harbour with multitude of taverns, kafenions and souvenirs shops.

The Holy Arkadi Monastery founded in the 13th century, build around 1587 and expended all through the 19th century is truly beautiful. Located between olive tree, oak trees and vineyard, we absolutely loved exploring its architectural beauty.

Another pointe interest we got to experience was The Museum of Ancient Eleuthera, an on-site museum of Greece in the archaeological park of Eleutherna, and houses artifacts found in the nearby archaeological site of Eleutherna and the necropolis of Orthi Petra.

Next stop... The little town of Margarites, is one of the largest pottery center in Greece. We visited a lovely traditional family pottery workshop Tsikalario, where our children could experience clay and a bit of ceramic history. Perfect spots to grab a few souvenirs and little gifts for friends back home. In the village, we stopped at a little taverna for simple lunch under the oak trees.

We took the road again for another 20 minutes to reach the Melidoni Cave, absolutely fascinating underground caves with stalagmites formations were mesmerising for adults and children. The site is rich in history, a quite tragic story during the war with the Turks in the 19th century.

Another favourite day of our summer holidays in Crete was the boat trip to explore the coast, jump of the boat, snorkel and enjoy the true beauty of the Island of Zeus. This was also organised via our hotel in a perfect manner.

While staying in Crete, you must experience the famous traditional cuisine and the mixture of old-world charm and lively Cretan life. The AgrecoFarms, traditional farm located around 5 km from the hotel will deliver this unique experience - a true Greek hospitality. The farm is gorgeous, nestled between olive trees and vineyards, it's a beautiful example of environmentally friendly methods for traditional and modern cultivation. We had a delicious, very copious dinner followed by some traditional folklore dancing. A fantastic evening!

The lowdown and little extra you need to know...
♥ Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. It's mountainous and rocky with abundance of olive trees and vineyards. Rich in history and various influences Roman, Byzantine Empire, Venitian, Ottoman ...

♥ The resort best feature was definitely the friendliness and efficiency of all the staff.

♥ Food was super from daily buffet to a la carte dinner. Nothing to disappoint.

♥ There is activities and entertainment throughout the day to keep everyone busy. It's also a place to rest and chill out. There are few sites seeing opportunities within an hour radius but longer distance will also take you hydilic beaches with crystal Caribbean-like water. Balos, Elafonissi, Falassarna are known to be of stunning natural beauty but quite touristic during the summer months so we decided to avoid them.

♥ The resort is beach is nice but can be a little rough with some strong current. It's a Blue Flag-awarded beach. Sandy with pebbles into the water, I would recommend wearing water shoes or slippers for comfort.

♥ The kids pool with fun slides, located close to the kids club need renovations at the time of our visit.

♥ I would recommend doing a little "homework" before booking to choose your accommodation and plan. Again we suggested the upgrade to "Famous Class Package"

♥ The resort is working to be eco friendly with recycling bins and encouraging the Sea Turtle Protection initiative on the beach (and within the children kids club activities). Plastic cups and straws were still in used around the pool/beach but after requesting alternative the staff made sure to provide us with reusable, non disposable options.

♥ We would love to visit again! Hope this is helpful. Feel free to DM if you have questions.

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