Looking for some inspiration for your next family getaway?
I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday to Crete and I’d thoroughly recommend it.
Crete is a 4-hour flight from the UK. Once there you’ll find beaches, quaint little towns, good food and a warm welcome. In May the weather is a bit more unpredictable than the Summer months but you pay considerably less and it’s not as crowded – we had two days where it was cool with some rain but the week before they’d had unusually warm temperatures of 30+ degrees.
We decided to split our 11-day holiday between two locations. To begin with we headed to the East Coast for a week in a 5* beachfront resort. Then we went inland, up in the mountains to stay in a stone cottage and experience a more rural and traditional side of Crete.
The Domes of Elounda
So, first up, we head to the Coast…to stay at the Domes of Elounda – a family-friendly resort where children are well catered for by the staff and facilities, but you don’t have to sacrifice the little touches of luxury nor do you need to grit your teeth while pretending to enjoy the Club 18-30s equivalent for kids!
As soon as we drove into the resort, a member of guest relations came out to greet us and we were taken to a sea-view terrace to enjoy complimentary welcome drinks (while our car was parked for us and our bags taken from the car to our room). The toddler received a little gift and the staff instantly engaged warmly with her. After having our drinks and getting a quick run through of some resort information, we were taken to our room.
Room and resort
We’d booked a family suite which was a generous size with a bedroom, bathroom and separate living area. Outside we had sunny and shaded seating areas, sun loungers and a small pool. Although the pool is your own, don’t expect a totally secluded private pool. The same can be said for the rooms that have a hot tub on the terrace. The buildings are close together so you will have a neighbouring suite alongside and/or above you. This isn’t intrusive but something to be aware of if you’re after total privacy. (They have some luxury villas which offer more secluded outside space but they also come with a more hefty price tag).
The resort is spread out over two distinct areas. On one side you have reception, the main buffet restaurant, 2 a-la-carte restaurants, the bar, the beach and the adults-only pool. The other side has the kids club, the family pool areas, another restaurant and a mini-market. You can walk between the two sides of the resort but there are some hills so most guests make use of the buggy service – the drivers are on hand to chauffeur you around, either door to door if you call up reception or you can wait at one of the pick-up areas – we never had to wait longer than 5minutes.
Although (apparently) at full capacity, the resort never felt busy or crowded. The service was great. Everywhere was spotlessly clean and well maintained. Expect a few steep inclines to access most of the rooms, but you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views and flower filled walkways. There’s a spa – and a heli-pad. More active guests can make use of the small outside gym area or the tennis courts. And if you want a change of scenery, you can get a boat over to the Island of Spinalonga or visit one of the nearby towns of Plaka, Elounda or Agios Nikolaos. Further afield you’ll find the Bronze Age archaeological site of Knossos, or to keep the kids entertained for the day take a trip to the Aquarium or Waterworld.
Food and entertainment
We were lucky enough to get a free upgrade to half-board as part of our booking. The half-board option gives you unlimited food at the breakfast and dinner buffets. Breakfasts have plenty of choice, with a fresh fruit and smoothie station as well as pancakes and eggs cooked to order. Dinner has a different theme each night – we only had one night when the selection was a bit lacking for us but apart from that we always found something we liked. The dessert area being the favourite for the husband and toddler, who happily ate their way through sweet treats, baklava and ice-cream every night.
The other dining options are an Asian, Italian, and Seafood restaurant – these need to be booked and have an additional cost on top of the half-board unless you have paid for a dine-around option. We only ate at the buffet as it suited our needs – highchairs, booster seats, plastic plates and cups, a kid’s corner with some simple staples of meat, pasta and a few steamed vegetables if the main buffet doesn’t appeal.
Despite the number of little people you still felt you were having an adult meal out thanks to the ambience, chill-out music and the restaurant design, which had a choice of al fresco dining on the terrace or inside with sea views and comfy sofa seating options. There were no screaming children running around or parents yelling at ‘Billy’ to shut the f**k up. But there’s no ignoring that this is a resort which attracts families so I wouldn’t choose it if I was looking for a romantic, couples retreat.
Evening entertainment was a little sparse – perhaps as we were relatively early in the season. Usually there was some live piano in the bar and one night there was a live magic show for the children but other than that there was no real evening action.
So what else made the Domes of Elounda a good family-friendly resort, in our humble opinion:
- Children under 12 stay for free.
- The staff make a special effort with the children and genuinely seem to like them.
- The beach – a picturesque white-sanded Maldivian beach this is not – it’s narrow and a bit pebbly in parts but the water is shallow for some way out, and there’s shaded areas (or the beach staff are on hand to bring you a parasol) making it ideal for kids to play safely.
- The kid’s pool area is sizeable with 3 pools of different depths. This is not the place if you’re looking for slides and wave machines.
- There’s a teenagers gaming area, playground, kids club and crèche. Evening babysitting can also be arranged.
- Mini-market with baby supplies (although you’ll find them a lot cheaper from one of the local supermarkets).
- Baby change facilities in the main toilet areas.
- On-site photographer to take family photos which are then available for you to buy.
- You get little extras like baby shampoo and children’s dressing gowns. You can also request cots, highchairs, buggies, baby baths, potties, monitors, sterilizers etc.
- Family rooms have two doors into the bathroom and to access the outside space so you don’t need to go through the room your child is sleeping in.
- Efficient house-keeping with a morning clean done while we had breakfast and evening turn down while we were at dinner (with chocolates and bottles of water given on a daily basis).
I’d definitely recommend the Domes of Elounda if you’re looking for a beach holiday that balances child and parent-friendly. We booked through British Airways – along with our flights and hire car – which worked out cheaper than booking it all separately.
Our photos don’t do the resort justice so take a look at this photo gallery if you want see it for yourself. [The picture on this blog is the beach at nearby Plaka.]
Come back soon for Part 2 of this Crete holiday review, I’ll tell you about our mountain retreat at Eleonas Country Village.