Edward’s Crete Fam Trip with Cyplon Holidays

I have recently returned from Crete courtesy of Cyplon Holidays. Having been to Crete on two previous occasions on family holidays and with friends I was intrigued to go back once again. Luckily for me Chris and Stephanie from Cyplon were kind enough to give me an opportunity to go back and to re-visit the island in some style! Starting out early we flew directly from London Gatwick to Heraklion. Despite the weather’s best attempts to stop us, we arrived safely and checked into Aldemar Royal Mare. We began our hotel inspections at the sister hotel of the Royal Mare, the Knossos Royal.

The Knossos Royal is set within lovely well-kept grounds along a vast stretch of sandy beach, which unfortunately for us was spoilt somewhat by an uncharacteristically cloudy day. Despite this the luxurious, family and romantic feel of the hotel could still be felt. For families there are a number of room’s types which caters for various family types and ages with various board basis options. Coupled with the modern facilities you’d expect from a 5* hotel the Knossos also has Spa facilities, access to a nearby Golf Centre and transport to and from Hersonissos. With the various bars, lush scenery, beach access and events within the grounds you can spend a full holiday in the hotel and never leave once. Following our inspection we returned to the Royal Mare to freshen up before dinner and our planned inspection of the hotel. I was fortunate enough to be given a VIP Room with a sharing pool but sadly I had only a short amount of time to make use of the pool facilities but my room was exquisite. Where it’s sister hotel is geared for families and for parties, the Royal Mare quieter and focused on relaxation. This isn’t a bad thing but something one should be wary of when choosing between the two. Whilst sharing many of the qualities with Knossos the Royal Mare has twenty-five outdoor pools, Thalasso Spa treatments, tennis and squash courts and many other facilities which you would expect again from a 5* complex. The Royal Mare has a plethora of room types and dining options which compliment different family and group needs. My favourite part of the Mare was the easy access to the sea. Conveniently my room was close to the ocean front which meant I got some great photos of the beach. With the conclusion of dinner the group retired for the evening as our long first day came to a close.

Our first full day began early in the morning once again as we drove to Rethymnon, a busy coastal town I remember fondly having stayed in the area on holiday in the past. Our first hotel of the day was the Atlantis Beach Hotel. Situated on the beach and roughly 1.5km from town, you couldn’t find a much better located family beach hotel. The rooms have been recently refurbished and have been completed to a high standard giving a good base for days on the beach or in town. Spa treatments are available with a fitness suite and sauna. Having a half board dining option gives guests a chance to sample the best in Cretan food.

Moving into town the we were introduced to the Mythos Suites Hotel which is tucked away in the old town of Rethymnon. This family run boutique hotel; converted from a sixteenth century manor house, manages to retain all of its charm mixed with the modern amenities one would expect whilst carrying the warmth of a family run hotel. With only fifteen suites; all finished to a high standard, each room feels comfortable and homely. Traditional Cretan breakfast is served daily which gives guests ample opportunity to explore the town, dine out in the evening and stroll along the beach. For a sense of the real Crete I would highly recommend the Mythos hotel.

With only two site visits the group were treated to a walk around the old town and dined at a local taverna for a typical Cretan lunch. And this was followed up in the evening with dinner in a beach front taverna a short distance from the Royal Mare.

Tuesday saw us drive to Elounda which is located on the northwest coast of the island. Known for its harbour and beautiful surroundings we made our way to the Porto Elounda Gold and Spa Resort.

Probably the most obvious and compelling feature of this hotel is the golf and spa facilities. Unique to the area, the resort has a nine-hole, par-three golf course and putting green. Quickly you can work out that hotel is in many ways perfect for families as you something for parents and children, with quality golfing amenities, spa treatments and kid’s club. There is good access to Elounda and the private beach for those who need the sun and sea. All rooms have a sea view which is really quite special; you can see why such high profile guests like Gareth Bale have stayed at the hotel in the last two years.

Moving around the bay we strolled across the grounds to inspect the Elounda Peninsula Suite Hotel. Immediately you’ll be knocked back by the views of two bays. These views are capitalised on by all suites having sea view rooms; a common theme between the surrounding hotels. The property has its own gourmet restaurant; for breakfast and fine dining, and has cross over with the other hotels on the bay. This means that guests staying at the Peninsula can use the facilities offered at the adjoining Golf and Spa.

Following our inspections we made our way to the outstanding Domes of Elounda. I would suggest that was the highest standard of hotel that we visited during our time in Crete. It operates within the realms of supreme luxury for families and couples. Sadly I can’t comment on the standard rooms as they were all occupied at the time (always a good sign to me) but we were given a tour of the complex. Built on a hilly incline we were whisked around the hotel on golf karts; similar to the Royal Mare, but this doesn’t detract from the quality of the facilities or décor or the hotel’s main buildings. With a plethora of facilites,dining and entertainment, the Domes of Elounda epitomises the old meets new which can be found over the island of Crete. With brilliant views of the Islet of Spinalonga you have a perfect blend of traditional Crete and modern luxury.

After a short transfer we arrived in Plaka, a typical Cretan village, which overlooks the medieval fortress of Spinalonga. On the hillside we took a closer look at the Blue Palace. Much like the Domes the modern versus the classical can be witnessed in its design. Both have the facilities to keep you busy and to relax yourself during your stay. Many of the rooms have a direct view of the bay and Spinalonga, which during sunset is really something to behold. With our busy day coming to a close the group completed the short journey to Agio Nikolaos where we dined at the St.Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel & Villas. Leaving the Royal Mare for the penultimate time we drove across the island to Heraklion. Over the years the new leaders of the city have been working hard to improve the city and make it as appealing as its neighbours. Whilst this has been done to a degree there are parts of the city still needing some tender loving care. The Aquila Atlantis Hotel is an example of an oasis located in the centre of the city. With tremendously decorated rooms and main restaurant the Atlantis is highly sought after and noted as the best city hotel in all of Crete. However I would suggest that you use this hotel as a stopover as you travel further towards the east or west of the island, in the future Heraklion could become a city break itself but not at this time, it pains me to say otherwise. Located close to Heraklion is the Agapi Beach Hotel situated in Ammoudara, the scene of our next inspection. Being a classic family, beach and all- inclusive complex it has everything a family or group could want from a summer holiday. With three pools, beach access, a good location to explore the town and various room types to accommodate all guests who may be more budgeted restricted or travelling with a large family. Whilst we were there, our hosts made us feel very welcome with drinks and fruit after the completion of our tour which was most welcome on such a hot day.

The group’s last site inspection of the trip saw us arrive at the Knossos Beach Bungalows & Suites in Kokkini Hani. In close contention with the Mythos and the Domes for my recommended hotels, Knossos Beach has one-hundred and thirty-five rooms all featuring a balcony and terrace. It has access to a private sandy beach, two pools and other sports activities. The design whilst simple also emits classic Cretan design with the white buildings built along a clean sandy beach. Whilst family orientated for families it has a touch of class and family and couples will love it.

Our afternoon was spent at the Lliostasi Museum in Chersonissos which has been dedicated to depicting and educating guests how Cretan life was and how it has changed over time. After our whistle-stop tour of the museum our schedule was completed and our final evening was spent with the group having a well-deserved break before out gourmet dinner in the Royal Mare. Going back to Crete was a joy, despite detailing in this blog what hotels we saw and where we travelled the group was a real joy to be around which made the whole experience a great one. Revisiting places you once explored as a child can sometimes spoil the nostalgia of some memories.

Thankfully in this case my good memories remain intact! Despite the tough times the Greek people have faced recently, we were welcomed wherever we visited with genuine warmth and friendliness. Chris and Stephanie were fantastic hosts and showed great passion and knowledge for the places we visited and I both commend and thank them for their hospitality.

Top 5 Tips for travelling to Crete:

  • Whilst I experienced no issues with withdrawing cash on the island, I would suggest that you take enough money with you; just for emergencies.
  • If you have difficulties walking or have long standing mobility issues, some areas of Crete are hilly and uneven. Caution is advised or perhaps in the extreme a different holiday location is suggested.
  • Hire a car. It’s the best way to see the country and the local villages you might miss on a group coach tour. The new highways make previous long journeys much more manageable then they previously were.
  • Learning to speak Greek is notoriously difficult, but, if you make the effort to say even the simplest phrases such as please and thank you. Your efforts will be highly appreciated by the locals!
  • Pace yourself with Raki and Ouzo, both of these have high alcohol content and can cause headaches!

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