I have just returned from a one week stay in the Red Level of the Gran Melia Palacio de Isora as a Sensatori guest and felt it was my turn to give an honest and truthful account of our stay. Having read all the reviews before leaving we had a comprehensive overview, good and bad, of what to expect and although the Thomson reps say that you should not read TripAdvisor reviews because they are just negative, there has to be some truth behind the negative comments for them to have even been mentioned in the first place. So here is my review:
Overall Short Summary – If you are a couple looking for a luxury break in the sun I would be a bit cautious as to where you book. I would highly recommend staying in the Red Level, it is worlds apart from the main resort. I personally will book to stay again in Red Level, direct with the hotel, on a B&B basis and travel out of the resort for dinner. There are a number of restaurants and bars in Alcala or alternatively take a short taxi drive to Los Gigantes. I would highly recommend the main resort for families as there was plenty to do for them and the adults although do bear in mind we saw buggies being lifted up and down stairs more times than I wish to remember, there are lifts but out of the way. The sports and entertainments programmes were very comprehensive. Food at lunch and dinner was disappointing for a more discerning customer unless you want to pay extra and even then a bit hit or miss.
In Depth Report :
As we were travelling as a couple and for a special occasion we opted to pay for a private transfer to the hotel and this was an excellent idea, I would suggest doing this whether for a special occasion or not. No waiting around for the bus or arriving at the hotel with the other people from the flight trying to check in at the same time.
When we arrived at the hotel we were picked up in the beautiful lobby by one of the Red Level butlers and taken down to the Red Level lounge in a golf buggy. We were then seated at the reception desk and checked in and they brought us a lovely cold glass of bubbly. Once checked in we were taken to our room and shown how to use the mood lighting etc. The room was fabulous, spacious and clean. We had made our concerns known to Thomsons about going to the resort before we left and we had been given one of the best rooms in the house (a Gran Melia room not a Thomson room) with a fabulous pool/sea view and a Jacuzzi on the balcony – which was actually the room were had expected to get any way, as back in January when we booked, Gran Melia only had one grade of Red Level room and it included a Jacuzzi. Since Thomson have taken over 60% of the rooms at the resort on 1st May, a second grade of Red Level room was brought in for Thomson guests which did not include a Jacuzzi – so bear that in mind if you did your research on the hotel before 1st May.
Basically, I cannot fault the Red Level area. The staff and facilities were perfect. We especially enjoyed the private breakfasting area, great choice of fruit, cereals, cold meats, breads, teas, coffees, bubbly, juices etc and a great selection of cooked to order items from the menu. The open bar with tapas in the early evening was also very enjoyable after a hard day in the sun. Also the ability to just go and help yourself to a cold bottle of water (still & sparkling) from the lounge fridge to cool down while by the pool or a cup of coffee/tea at any time of day was most appreciative. There was also afternoon tea served with pastries. The staff in the Red Level made all of our restaurant reservations, spa reservations and arranged for car hire and booked our Bali beds every day in the location we wished. The staff would also greet you by name which was a lovely touch - how they could remember everybody’s names is beyond me. I would suggest that if you are a couple looking for peace and quiet and a bit of luxury this is definitely the area to stay in. I cannot recommend the Red Level area highly enough. We will definitely stay in the Red Level area again – however I would book this direct with Gran Melia on a B&B basis and not with Thomson Sensatori. This is due to poorer room location and board basis with Thomson.
SPA – We went to the spa and I had a Hot Stone Massage and my husband had a Back , Neck and Shoulder massage. Both treatments were very good but we were a bit shocked when both of the therapists were men, perhaps something that should have been advised to us beforehand. But other than that, well worth the money.
Hotel, Grounds & Staff – The hotel and grounds are stunning and immaculate. The maintenance, cleaning and gardening staff do an excellent job. It really is lovely walking around the gardens. The waiting staff in general were all very good, welcoming, courteous and happy.
Drinks – We had no problems with the price of drinks around the resort out with mealtimes. €4 for a beer and €3 for a glass of wine, €6 for a large free poured Bombay Gin and €5 for the tonic. Twice during our stay (3 days apart) I tried to order a Cosmopolitan but they did not have any cranberry juice. I did have a Mojito which was fine and the Palacio de Isora cocktail, which was not really to my taste, it was the sweetest greenest cocktail I have ever seen.
Ok, so now unfortunately I do have to give some negatives and of course for some people these might not be negatives so it depends on what you expect and what your tastes are but for us, as a well travelled couple who appreciate good food and luxury surroundings, there were a couple of disappointments.
A Small Niggle – As a couple looking for a quiet romantic holiday we had to be very selective where we went in the resort and at what times due to the very large number of families with small children. I realise that this is not the fault of the families as they are entitled to a holiday too but the holiday that was sold to us did not include this type of ambiance. It was like a holiday village at times. The Ocean Club is a fabulous area with a DJ playing chill out tunes in the evening but once you get to about 8.30pm onwards after the families have been for dinner it resembles more of a children’s disco. We always left at this point and then went for dinner. The Ocean Club also has a fantastic huge fire pit in the centre but due to the amount of children running around they are not allowed to light this for safety reasons – a real shame. There is an adults only bar (Nemo’s) but it is inside and when we are on holiday we like to sit outside in the evenings.
Disappointing – FOOD
Over the first 2 days we decided to try every restaurant included in the package so that we could work out for ourselves which restaurants were the best for our tastes and needs in order that we would know where to choose for the rest of the week. Overall we were very disappointed with the food that was included in the Thomson package. We ended up paying extra for every meal in the a la carte restaurants to get something of a higher quality and quantity from the regular menu.
The Market Grill - Our No 4 Choice
Lunchtime – the menu itself is quite acceptable as a pool snack bar but the quality was very poor. My partner ordered a prawn wrap and it was inedible, I ordered the chicken club which was ok but you could have found a far better example in a cafe on the front at Los Cristianos. Perhaps the salad bar and a pizza here were the best options. We decided we would definitely not go back to the Market Grill for lunch– oh and one of the other options on the menu was a Doner Kebab!!!!
Dinner – We were told by the Thomson rep, Andrew, at the welcome meeting that the Market Grill becomes a Steakhouse in the evening. We arrived one evening, sat down, looked at the menu and could not believe our eyes - Doner Kebab, Pizza, etc on the Sensatori section of the menu. We decided to pay the extra and select food off the regular menu. I ordered a Fillet Steak, asked for it to be cooked rare and it was perfect.
Ocean Restaurant – Our No 3 Choice
Dinner – We had high hopes for this restaurant as in most previous reviews it came out on top. Well unfortunately not for us. It was very disappointing, the staff were not very attentive and the food we ordered from the Sensatori menu were extremely small portions. I ordered melon with parma ham for starter which was quite tasty but very small, then the veal with lemon for my main and I got 2 very thin slices of veal with a tablespoon of extremely wilted spinach – no further vegetables or potatoes? I had the tiramisu for dessert which was nice and in actual fact 2 times the size of what I had had for starter and main luckily. My partner had the asparagus for starter and then the sea bass/bream. These were better than my choices.
Pangea – Buffet – Our No 2 Choice
We ate breakfast here once and it was fine, plenty of choice but we preferred the peaceful surroundings of the Red Level breakfasting patio.
Lunch – We had lunch here on three occasions as we enjoyed the salad bar. We always ate after 2.30pm when it was much quieter and we always ate outside. This was very enjoyable with plenty of wine top ups. Also there is a severe lack of salt and pepper pots. It can be a real search sometimes to find one.
Canarian Night – We went to the Canarian night and were very disappointed. The best part of it was the freshly cooked King prawns and the Canarian potatoes. Not many Canarian choices on top of the usual pasta, chips, onion rings and sea bass/bream and I certainly did not expect 3 Chinese dishes plus spring rolls as a Canarian delicacy!!!!
Oasis Restaurant – Our No 1 Choice
Lunch & Dinner - Again we opted to pay for food but this is the restaurant we ate in most, the seafood paella at lunchtime with a few glasses of wine was perfect. I could have had this every day. The suckling pig was extremely tender, fell off the bone and the grilled prawns delicious. Also the Crema Catalana was to die for, soft and creamy. Very attentive staff.
Calima – We had the Gran Tasting menu. We enjoyed our evening although we felt very rushed. Our bill with 2 glasses of champagne, bottle or wine, tea and coffee including the 20% hotel guest discount was €234.
Summary – The hotel is lovely but I think it is a shame that Gran Melia have needed to sell most of the resort to Thomsons, as it really has changed the type of hotel this was initially designed for. If you are a couple looking for a luxury break in the sun I would be a bit cautious as to where you book to stay within the resort. I would highly recommend staying in the Red Level, it is worlds apart from the main resort. I personally will book to stay again in Red Level, direct with the hotel, on a B&B basis and travel out of the resort for dinner. There are a number of restaurants and bars in Alcala or alternatively take a short taxi drive to Los Gigantes. I would recommend the main resort for families as there was plenty to do for the children and the adults although do bear in mind we saw buggies being lifted up and down stairs more times than I wish to remember, there are lifts but out of the way. The sports and entertainments programmes were very comprehensive. Food at lunch and dinner was disappointing for a more discerning customer unless you want to pay extra and even then a bit hit or miss. We did enjoy ourselves but I can see how some could be disappointed.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.