A basic thing to get right is to communicate with your guests - something which the Cliff Bay started very poorly. Having booked direct with the hotel, and checked before we arrived of a request (which at least one travel agent will guarantee) for interconnecting rooms for our family with three children, and as we had not advised that there was an issue, we were looking forward to be impressed with the Cliff Bay's attention. We were sorely disappointed when on arrival, no mention was made of the fact that we had been in communication, and no discussion was volunteered. There were reasons why the request was made, which are not suitable for a public forum, and this was advised to the hotel before we arrived. Worse, our rooms were located in different wings of the hotel something we had never ever experienced on a family holiday. How we could then keep an eye on our three children is beyond us. This location was quickly changed but our original request was not met at that time. Whilst we accept that requests cannot be guaranteed (despite the fact that the Hotel can do it for others), good service should generate a discussion with us on arrival as to firstly the issues around meeting our request, and secondly whether there was any alternate options available. None of this happened.
Things went from bad to worse as we took a walk around the hotel, and arrived at the indoor pool and was presented with a scene reminiscent of the film set of Cocoon. At this stage, we were unsure if we could take eight days there, also given the lack of facilities (more on this later). A quick walk to the Porto Mar hotel revealed much better facilities, a more sheltered pool area, in fact several pools including a wonderful large one. The 4 star rating of the Porto Mar did show however and the polish of the Cliff Bay was absent. But we seriously thought about asking to move there.
We also had a walk around the Pestana Carlton later in the week which had a great games room with excellent table tennis table and pool table, but the poolside chairs and general feel of the hotel was below their 5 star rating, and certainly below the standard of the Cliff Bay.
The following day we asked to speak to the Hotel manager and try again with the interconnecting room request. Thankfully they made a great effort for us. Rita was wonderfully helpful and deserves a special mention and a thank you. The rooms were bigger than our previous rooms, and had two double beds each. This meant that a third bed did not need to be squeezed into one of the rooms as it was the previous day, but this did leave us rather thinking that the new rooms would have been a better option from the start. Perhaps a lesson learned for the Cliff Bay is to have had a discussion with us rather than the head in the sand approach taken when we checked in. The suggestion of offering that we could move during the holiday, made when we checked in, would have been more in keeping with the service level expected from a 5 star.
Breakfast was the best out of any hotel we have stayed at with a massive selection of foods. Except for the awful mushy scrambled eggs made from powder presumably which were quite gross. And the sausages were best given a miss. Omelette station ladies were lovely and cooked to order. Superb slices of cake, which no doubt many guests may have taken for a snack later! We witnessed some elderly guests insisting on fried eggs from the pan when ones had been put onto the hot plate a minute earlier. Bizarre and a touch pretentious, but looking around, somehow not that surprising. Lunch options were ok although the Blue Lagoon was overpriced and generally empty. The Cliff Bar had great food but many mistakes were made initially with the food that arrived. The menu was not very child friendly so we asked for chicken nuggets, and they provided some very nice chicken strips in breadcrumbs. Maybe they should add this to the menu as it proved very popular. Other food could be requested that was not on the menu, for example grilled chicken breast which was superb. From this perspective, the service was fantastic. We did not try the Gallo D'oro as it appeared pompous, and a quick peek revealed a dinner dance that looked like a time warp. This was not for us, nor many, it seemed. And a jacket and tie stays firmly at home where it should when on holiday. We have eaten in local Michelin starred restaurants which instead provide a trendy and informal environment accepting of both jeans or a penguin suit. The Rose garden buffet was of a very high standard, but again a lack of children's food, which we normally see at other 5* hotel buffets. Perhaps the Cliff Bay could think about this.
The hotel is a bit fussy and has a 20th century dress code which is a pity. Modern holidaying is about relaxation, not worrying about the length of your trousers. Only on one night towards the end of the holiday was one of our sons asked to change his 'shorts' for the Rose Garden, which he refused to, as they were not in fact shorts at all. They were 3/4 length fashion trousers and therefore in keeping with the 'dress code' - which in any event is stated as 'suggested' and not compulsory. The arbitrary nature of this was revealed further when son number 2 wearing the same style trousers was considered fine, and when challenged, the 'concern' was stated as son number 1 being too tall! Very random. Yet our daughter was more informal in her attire, showed even more leg than son number 1 and wore flip flops, yet she was not picked on. The Cliff Bay needs address these inconsistencies and not discriminate by sex, age or height. Or simply relax a bit more.
Drinks were not badly priced for a 5 star, with a pint of Coral, which is quite a decent lager, being Eur 5.50. Much cheaper than Disneyland Paris at nearly Eur 9. Cocktails a touch pricey though.
Facilities and activites
If you like a spa hard sell then this is the hotel for you. Invites shoved through your door, a free consultation designed to flog you something, an 'activity' tour of the spa - the list goes on.
Being keen table tennis players, and armed with our equipment, we were looking forward to playing on the table which we had confirmed existed. We could not believe it when we saw it. The worst table out of any hotel we have stayed at. And it was positioned towards the cliff edge, so not only windy, but a decent shot (if you could hit the ball with the wind factor) would have sent the ball over the side. Or into the bushes. There should be a table indoors perhaps in the oversized and hardly used creche, the latter of which could be located in the underused nail salon. Table tennis is the most popular raquet sport in the world, so why stick a table in a daft location which makes it broadly unplayable. Ridiculous. When we visited the Porto Mar, we spotted a nice indoor table, and had a few trips there to play. Only around 10 minutes brisk walk or two minutes by taxi (a special note on taxis below) although not ideal to have to do this. The Porto Mar also had a very large indoor pool which could have done with better lighting inside. If you say you are from the Cliff Bay, the pool office area will provide towels.
The pool table also ranks amongst one of the worst. The cushions around the corner pockets were not affixed correctly, so that the corner pockets were so small that any shot that was not direct into the pocket would rattle, coupled with ridiculously large middle pockets.
The indoor pool was small, not particularly deep, and led out to a small outdoor area. Top quality indoor pool chairs with back padding support making it easy to sit up and read comfortably. There was a sign to shower before entering the pool which 99% of people ignored, which is no wonder as the shower in the mens toilet was fairly gross, with a rank and stale urine and sewer smell from the toilet area. This was fortunately the only such unsavoury facility. A tissue was left in the pool one day, and two days later, bits could be seen throughout the pool. Only on the third day did one of the staff get a cleaner out to resolve this. The saltwater pool layout was uninspiring and the cosy chairs around the pool of most hotels did not exist.
The gym was ok if you like running or cycling but with only one main, tired and basic workstation, it needs to be upgraded. The activities in the day time did not really exist. Two sessions of aqua aerobics would be the highlight of the week, otherwise if you are into flower arranging lessons, you would be happy. There were no organised competitions or fun activities that we have seen elsewhere. Evening entertainment was a live band every night, and one in particular was very good. No tribute bands though which can often be great fun, so this was a pity.
There was only one shop which sold, guess what, spa type products. Plus clothing with the Cliff Bay logo, and OPI nail products. Oh, and a very small selection of papers. To find a mini supermarket, go out of the hotel, turn left. Walk past Mamma Mia restaurant and a couple of hundred years later, cross over the road and there is a sign for supermarket - more of a corner shop. Otherwise turn right and just past Reid's, cross the road.
Beware. Beware. Beware. Taxis that wait in the Cliff Bay grounds must see guests as rich pickings. Some switch off the meter and make up a charge when your arrive. The fare to the Porto Mar should be on the meter just eur 2.90, but we were charged Eur 5 before we realised. A trip to the cable car entrance in Funchal should be Euro 6 by meter. One time we were blatantly short changed, which we spotted. Another time, one of us dropped some sunglasses and as we walked away the driver picked them up and got back into his car. It was only the diligence of a good taxi driver (there are some) who watched this, and came running after us, told us what had happened and telephoned the association of taxi drivers to lodge a complaint, of which there is a formal record. The glasses were returned then to the hotel. We reported this to the hotel management with the taxi driver's number plate and his name so they are on notice that their guests are being abused, and they now have a duty to ban him from waiting in their grounds.
For airport taxis use Daniel Madeira taxis at Euro 30 each way. They always arrived exactly on time, and cannot be faulted. The hotel quoted euro 50 each way for the airport run, so again it looks like the taxi companies are hiking the price for Cliff Bay guests.
Rooms were smart, with TV and plenty of channels. The lighting and aircon do not work if you take both key cards with you, so a top tip is to fold one of the nice Cliff Bay sheets of paper supplied on the desk into four, and shove it in the holder by the door to ensure the aircon stays on when you are out. The mini bar did not have the annoying auto charge mechanism of some hotels, so your own drinks can easily be put into the half decent fridges. Beds were fantastically comfortable, with a choice of pillows. Some rooms are bigger than others, so it will be pot luck.
Our first rooms faced the gardens, out to the sea, in the middle of the hotel, and were southfacing. The rooms we moved to faced East looking at Funchal harbour and did not get the afternoon sun, but this did not matter as it was overcast and rainy most of the week. Good quality shampoo, bath stuff etc. Two hair dryers, one in the bathroom, and one loose in the wardrobe (although one of our bathrooms only had the socket instead of the hairdryer). Maid service was great.
Staff and Ambience
Staff had clearly been trained to say hello to guests walking past, and generally they appeared happy and friendly. A good atmosphere throughout and the reception ladies were always helpful. Cliff Bar staff were excellent (bar the one surly youngster), as were nearly all of the Rose Garden staff - in fact some offered the best service levels we have experienced in a hotel. Well done on this front.
A smart and well run hotel catering it would appear for much older guests, providing generally high levels of service but not a great deal to do at the hotel itself. Maybe many guests choose to look around the Island, but if all you want to do is to relax at the Hotel, it has little extra to offer. Could do with adopting a more modern approach to holidaying.
Would we go back? We are not inclined to, but would consider it if there was an indoor table tennis table, a wider and enhanced activity program, coupled with better initial effort & attention to detail and better communication with guests.
Funchal view rooms only get the morning sun. Slot a piece of card or folded paper into the holder by...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.