Towards the end of October there are relatively few destinations close at hand for British tourists looking for those last rays of warm sun before the realities of winter are too close to ignore. Deciding to return to Crete where I had enjoyed several family holidays as a young teenager, my wife and I spotted a bargain on Thomson’s website, staying at the luxury 5* Sensatori Resort Crete for 10 days on a full-board basis for a little under £700 each. Now that the holiday is over and we’re safely back home I thought it would be good to review the hotel so that others might decide if it’s the right place for them. I will also be posting a cut-down version of this review on TripAdvisor as I realise that there’s far more chance of someone reading it there than here!
One of the great things Thomson offer on selected holidays is their day before check-in service. Those with early morning flights, like ours departing from London Gatwick at 07:30, can arrive the night before, pop across to the airport terminal with luggage in tow (and travel documents of course) and offload their cases not to be seen again until your reach your destination airport’s baggage reclaim. Basically it means that you don’t have to deal with the extra stress of queuing at a check-in desk early in the morning, or carrying heavy luggage from your airport hotel to the terminal building. It seems like a small thing but I find airports quite a stressful environment, so anything that makes this part easier is a winner in my book.
The flight itself was pretty standard so I won’t waste any time talking about it, other than to say it was on time so no valuable holiday minutes were wasted. Heraklion airport is not a particularly exciting place but we were swiftly through passport control, collected our bags and set off to find our Thomson rep to guide us to the right bus.
The next great thing about being a Sensatori guest is you get a dedicated bus transfer from the airport to the hotel, so no stopping along the way to drop off other guests. As the hotel is only 20 mins from the airport this makes for a nice speedy arrival. First impressions of the hotel were a little mixed: the lobby is certainly plush but has a slightly dated feel to it with lots of dark wood and marble, it’s not the brightest of places despite the bank of windows opposite the reception. However on arrival we were given a glass of Champagne (okay it was fizzy wine but tasted pretty good), and better still we weren’t forced to check in straight away and in fact were encouraged to head straight to the main buffet restaurant just in time to catch the end of the lunchtime opening – this was a nice touch as many places would force you to check in first meaning you could end up missing out. Also your cases are tagged up with your room number before you board the bus from the airport, and are delivered straight to your room.
With lunch out of the way we returned to reception to pick up our room key, then waited for a few others guests whose rooms were nearby so the Thomson rep could show us to our rooms as a group. First negative experience: the Thomson rep, rather than taking this time to chat to us and explain about the hotel and surrounding areas, basically walked us in silence across the resort to our accommodation block and didn’t really make much effort to make us feel like valued guests.
Arriving at our room was really the major disappointment of the holiday, as unfortunately the room was nowhere near 5* quality. It was clean and reasonably well cared for, but small, poorly lit and has clearly not been redecorated since the hotel was built. In particular the bathroom is decorated with garish green marble, the bath is incredibly small (I’d be surprised if some larger guests could actually fit in it) and the jacuzzi nozzles protrude awkwardly making it difficult to be comfortable in any position. On the plus side the bed was comfortable and the rooms were serviced regularly.
Over the 10 days that followed we spent several of them around the pool, and being out of season it was never too busy so none of the usual fight to get a sunbed. Unfortunately the pools are not heated so were a bit too chilly to use despite having some glorious weather approaching 30 degrees! It was nice having separate adult and family pool areas so we were never bothered by noisy kids (occasionally noisy adults but generally everyone enjoyed the quiet). It’s a shame though that the separate adult/family concept hasn’t been extended to the accommodation itself – I don’t see why, with accommodation already separated into different blocks, they can’t make some of them family only and others adults only. During the last 3 days of our holiday we had several noisy families arrive in our building and it made for a few unpleasant experiences as the hallways, being tiled and fairly bare, echoed badly and any noise carried around the building for all to hear.
For dining experiences we generally stuck with the main buffet restaurant as it offered the largest variety of dishes and you didn’t have to book in advance. We tried the Tex-Mex once at lunch time but weren’t impressed with the food (my chicken taco shells were soggy on the bottom and nearly raw at the top). We also tried the paid-for Al Dente which was tasty but felt a bit over-priced even with the €15 per person guest discount; the Five Flavours Thai which was okay but a fairly tame imitation of Thai food (possibly biased by the fact we visited Thailand in July so had a good idea what it should have tasted like); and the Red Saffron which was disappointing as the main courses were all buffet-style and not really any different to dishes you could get in the main restaurant.
Although there isn’t much near the hotel, its location in Crete makes it an ideal base to explore some attractions either by car or organised excursion. We hired a car for 5 days, visiting Knossos, Heraklion, Psychro Cave, Spinalonga to name just a few. Within 5 minutes of the hotel you are on the main E75 road which is probably the best road I’ve driven on in all of Greece.
So in summary we had a great time and certainly didn’t regret booking our Crete holiday or staying at the Sensatori Resort Crete, but if I’m honest it isn’t really deserving of a 5* rating – the rooms alone justify no more than 4* at best, and we’ve had better food at other 5* resorts in places like Mexico. Had we not got such a great deal due to being end of season I don’t think I would’ve been so happy.