This year we chose the Elias Beach Hotel in Limassol, Cyprus for our annual family holiday. By family I mean all thirteen of us, from the youngest at aged six to the oldest at 72.
It’s normally difficult enough as it is to choose accommodation that suits the five of us, so you can imagine what it was like finding somewhere for a large group.
The requests were:
Somewhere hot but not too far away
Somewhere with a beach and a pool
A holiday where we don’t have to go anywhere (this one was based on the fact that our usual holidays involve daily trips out and sight seeing)
I added to this list:
A decent sized family room
Somewhere that is prepared to cater for my son (gluten and dairy free)
Normally hotel rooms are for up to four people and not many will guarantee an interconnecting room. This is why we rarely stay at hotels because I prefer not to take that risk. I also hate the idea of the five of us squashed in a tiny room for a week. This holiday, we didn’t have to worry about that though, as my eldest daughter was sharing a room with my mum, so it meant getting a family room for my husband and I to share with our two youngest.
When we settled on Cyprus, it was time to choose the hotel. It’s a long old process, but eventually my sister in law and I found the Elias Beach hotel and it seemed to have the best option for family rooms (one of the largest that we came across). I found a review on trip advisor that said the hotel catered for their gluten free needs, so I was happy with that. We booked five rooms and got a good all inclusive deal.
I was concerned about the all inclusive bit, so I emailed the hotel nearer to our arrival to check that they would be able to provide food for my six year old and they assured me that would be fine.
After a late arrival on the Saturday evening, we were surprised to find that our first day was Easter sunday, celebrated a week later than in the UK. Within ten minutes of being out by the pool, we found ourselves doing an Easter egg hunt (most bizarre I can tell you), much to the delight and amusement of the children. We were later to discover that the entertainment team (affectionately referred to by us as the pink people, due to the colour of their t-shirts) would be out organising games by the pool at intervals during the course of the day: my twelve year old nephew was kept happily amused all week playing water basketball and polo.
Our room was a good size, with a separate sleeping area for the children. I was under the impression that it would have bunks beds, but what we had instead were two small sofas converted to beds. I thought that the room was a little dated and the mattresses were incredibly hard. After a couple of days, the children were complaining that theirs were too hard too, so I asked the reception if they had something. To their credit, they put mattress toppers on all our beds, which made a big difference.
It’s always a concern wherever we go when it comes to getting food for our little one. I was so relieved to find a huge buffet of food choices at every meal time and chefs who were able to tell me exactly what was in each dish. The catering team were so fantastic and accommodating that I couldn’t thank them enough. If the vegetables had butter on them, they would cook up a separate batch just for him, if the meat had a creamy sauce or contained gluten, they would make him a plain piece. They kept gluten free bread in the freezer and soya milk in a separate fridge and they even bought some gluten free cereal especially for us. On the day we were leaving, they also made some sandwiches to take on the plane, as we knew we wouldn’t be able to get him anything else.
Being little and cute helped and my son was given so much attention by the chefs, who seemed to take a shine to him. Of course he loved that!
In other areas of the hotel, such as by the pool or in the cafe bar, you could get drinks at any time up until 11pm, as part of your all inclusive package. Sandwiches were available in between meal times to keep you going if you needed them (not that you did given the amount of food you could eat at every other sitting!).
I’ve already mentioned the catering staff and how good they were. The same goes for all the staff we encountered. They are all incredibly friendly and on the ball and would go out of their way to help you. It’s obvious that they work hard for their tips and it’s well deserved. As I have never been all inclusive before, I didn’t expect the waiting staff to be so attentive when it came to offering drinks. But whenever you went in the café bar, they would come over and serve you and in the restaurants at lunch and dinner time, they were constantly checking to see if you needed water or any other drinks. They never minded re-arranging tables so we could all sit together either, which when there are so many of you, is a real bonus.
The entertainment team worked incredibly hard. Not only were they out by the pool most of the day, they hosted the evening entertainment as well. This included a children’s mini disco with dancing and games, a quiz, bingo and then a live cabaret show. They’re all lovely talented individuals and great sports. I say this because on a few occasions they were performing by the pool to only a handful of people and a couple of times at the kids disco, we were the only ones there. They did their show anyway and our kids loved it. It was much appreciated and certainly made a big impression on my eight year old, who wants to be an entertainer like them when she grows up!
This was a holiday of relaxing by the pool and enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately, the first few days were cloudy and cool and because the pool isn’t heated, it was too cold to go in. My younger two found they were at a loss for what to do, so they asked to go in the kids club (yes they really did). We have never put them in a kids club before and I was surprised to find that it was put on at no extra cost. For two hours on a morning and two hours in the afternoon, the children could go along and take part in the daily activities of crafts and games.
The hotel was very busy during the first weekend, but by Tuesday numbers had reduced. We arrived at the same time as a wedding party of around 60 people and other than a group of German tourists that appeared in the restaurant in the evenings, we were practically the only ones there, which was lovely. This meant that the little ones had the kids club to themselves almost everyday, so they were very lucky.
As well as the outdoor pool and splash pool for the little ones, the hotel also had a small indoor pool. It was handy to make use of this when the weather wasn’t so good. It was certainly useful to keep the older children entertained.
For those who feel inclined, there is a gym at the hotel too. I never even took my trainers, but my husband did and he went a couple of times. There is also a path that runs along the beach front that is popular with runners. The beach itself was dirty when we first arrived – full of litter, but after a couple of days was tidied up. The hotel has its own private beach area and beach bar (although it wasn’t open at the time when we went). The beach is man-made, with dark, volcanic sand, not the prettiest, but I have it on good authority that it makes great sandcastles. The only problem was, that three of the children reacted to something on the sand, whether it was the sand itself or something that bit them, but they each had a rash all over their feet and had to stay off it.
We all (well the girls, at least) took advantage of an offer in the spa to have our nails done. Again another friendly member of staff, who made a lovely job of them using the Shellac gel polish. I also had a back massage, as did my husband, which was excellent. There were many other treatments on offer that you could take advantage of if you wished, all reasonable priced.
With a tennis court, indoor squash court and also the opportunity to try out archery during the week, we found there were plenty of activities on offer. Our eleven and twelve year old contingents were kept suitably amused and what was great about the hotel complex was they could have free run of it. Whilst there is plenty there, it’s not too big, so you know they’re never too far away.
The aim of this holiday was that there would be something for everyone, whether that meant relaxing and doing nothing or being actively involved in activities that were on offer. We certainly got that and it was a success all round.
I’m still not a fan of resort holidays. We got lucky in that it was so quiet in the hotel. I can imagine at peak season, having to fight for a sunbed and queue up every mealtime would be a different story and I’m not sure I would enjoy that at all. Having said that, when you go away with a large group, it’s the perfect solution and no doubt we will do it again next year.