We are a couple in our forties and travelled to Madeira for the first time, with Firstchoice.
The early morning flight was very comfortable, except for the bumpy landing which we had been warned about.
After a short 20 minute transfer we arrived at the Enotel Lido at 1130 and were pleasantly surprised to find that our room was ready, we later found out that others that arrived around the same time had to wait until later in the afternoon before being given access to their rooms. We hadn’t expected our room to be ready until after 1400 as would happen in our own country, so we felt very lucky that we could dump our luggage in the room and after a quick change of clothing, our holiday could begin.
I had emailed the hotel prior to travelling and had asked that we be allocated a room on a higher floor overlooking the pool area. This is exactly what we were given, Room 915 overlooking the pool area. Great service so far.
The room was very nicely furnished, very clean, plenty space, with a nice sized balcony with sea view and very good bathroom facilities (separate shower and bath). Our room was cleaned to a good standard every day, and bedding was also changed daily, although as the holiday progressed the timing of the cleaning seemed to get later and later. This was no problem to us, as we ate later in the evening, but could be a problem if you wanted to get ready for earlier dining. We never saw a lot of maids and the few we did see were cleaning a lot of rooms, management cutting costs I fear.
There was a fridge stocked with soft drinks and water.
The location of the hotel is perfect, seafront, not far from the shopping outlet at the Forum (about 10 minutes walk away) and about 20-30 minutes’ walk into the heart of Funchal, with a few bars and restaurants within two minutes walk. The area is very hilly with some very steep slopes; however, if you plan your route right, these steep slopes can be avoided.
The seafront area of Funchal is currently undergoing a lot of re-development work and we counted our blessings that we were not in a hotel within earshot of all the noisy work currently being undertaken. It will be nice to come back to see how they have transformed this area. There are plenty small cafes and bars around Funchal and some very nice traditional eating establishments to suit all tastes. The city is not too big and most the tourist areas of interest are easily accessible by foot. We walked into the town on one occasion and took a Tuk Tuk Vespa back to our hotel, the young lad driving us proved to be a font of local knowledge and the trip back turned into a mini tour, going up back lanes inaccessible to the many busses and cars, great value for 10 euros for the short trip around town with various stops at points of interest and transport back to the hotel.
We ate in the buffet on only one occasion, as we chose to eat at the three onsite speciality restaurants and on another night ate at a steak on stone restaurant (Solar D’Ajuda, highly recommended for value and fantastic service) along the road from the hotel. In the buffet there was not as much choice as we have become accustomed to on similar holidays, but what was on offer was well cooked.
If you arrived at the buffet at the wrong time you could be met with the sight of many tables which had not been cleared in time for guest to take their seats and you would have to queue and wait for the staff to clear them for you. This seemed to be down to a lack of staff, as the staff that were present were all working flat out, more evidence of management cutting costs and corners. This happened to us on our last night and we decided not to wait and ate at a local restaurant along the road, which defeated the concept of all inclusive somewhat. The buffet is open at lunch time, but we ate here on the first day only, choosing to eat at the pool area cafe during the day, although it was more fast foodlike.
The speciality restaurants were all very nice and a pleasant alternative to the busy buffet, each had two sittings 1900 or 2100, we chose the later of the two sittings. The Japanese was our favourite but we also enjoyed the Italian and the Madeiran.
The bars were busy, but I never waited more than a couple of minutes to be served. This was down to the professionalism of the bar staff, a nice change for bars to be run in an organised manner, instead of the same faces being served first all the time, bar staff are a credit to this hotel, well done.
The bars served mostly named branded drinks and a number of pre-mixed cocktails, as well as the locally brewed Coral lager. We were informed on our last night that the practice of serving named brands was to change and a new bar menu made an appearance on the morning of our departure, hopefully this isn’t the start of even more costs/corners being cut by the management as it would be a shame to see a hotel with a relatively good reputation spoiled by more poor management decisions ‘cheapening’ the hotel.
As we ate late in the evening we only caught glimpses of the entertainment, we didn’t appear to miss much. The entertainment was usually rounded off with some loud music to dance to, which was very entertaining to watch, for all the wrong reasons.
The entertainment was usually centred on the pool area, conveniently allowing the entertainment lounge bar to remain closed (maybe I’m too cynical). The down side to the entertainment being by the pool was that the Sports Bar was the bar that is used and it only serves drinks in plastic glasses.
The Sports Bar is the main bar used throughout the day (you have to dry off after being in the pool, before going for a drink), there is always snack food available here in the evening, they show various football matches from around Europe, but the channel used is cabled Benfica TV, so they do not show all British games being screened. After realising after a short walk that the Hole in One pub was not showing the games it had advertised (not a good practice if you want custom), we found a nice British type bar called The Prince Albert, a short walk from the hotel that showed all the football I craved, the bar is run by a likeable French chap who is very hospitable, with good beer and food at decent prices.
In the hotel, there was a lounge (without bar) situated to the evening entertainment lounge on the fifth floor tastefully decorated and complete with large aquarium. This would have been the perfect place to have had a bar open in the evening with a pianist, instead of the pianist being situated at the lobby bar, cramming everyone into a smaller area, just a personal observation.
We went on a couple of excursions whilst on holiday, the West Tour and a visit to the Nun’s Valley. Neither trip blew me away. The West tour consisted of approx 8 hours on a bus (we paid extra for the VIP excursion, so there were only 16 on a smaller bus) with various stops at view points and a stop for lunch in a revolving restaurant which was very nice. The highlight for me was a visit to one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, complete with glass walkway (this was during the first hour of the trip).The Nun’s Valley visit was more trekking up small twisty roads up and down very high mountains and visiting a valley which had no monastery or Nuns.
A fellow traveller summed up these trips at one of the view points when he quipped to his wife “another stop, another view, another cliff or valley, another 20 minutes before we get back in the bus”. These trips were quite expensive, similar trips are available cheaper right outside the hotel. However, we like to play safe and booked through the Firstchoice rep, who on the whole was quite helpful. I feel we didn’t really get value for money and the trips were overpriced as compared to trips we have experienced from Thomson’s/Firstchoice on previous holidays to the likes of Sorrento, Cuba, Greek Islands and Dom Rep.
The only down side to our holiday was as has been stated by many and obviously ignored by the hotel management/ holiday operators, the state of the sun loungers. They are made from black/grey plastic which absorbs the heat, so lo and behold when they get very hot they melt and collapse, an accident just waiting to happen. If you were to have an accident on them who would you take the issue up with your rep or the management (both of whom are well aware of the issue, but have chosen to do nothing about it, showing a degree of negligence towards safety). Surely these contraptions would not have been too expensive to change or exchange as not fit for purpose, and a management decision to change them should have been taken early in the season at the first hint that there was a problem (ignorance is bliss)!
Also the pool area is very small and enclosed with aforementioned dangerous sun loungers packed in like sardines with no space between them. The whole area is a bit like being in a gold fish bowl and spoils the overall experience of such a nice hotel. Waiters bring trays of various drinks around the pool area, a great idea, if they did not serve the same chosen few time and time again.
I witnessed the pool area being sprayed down and sun loungers arranged into regimented into close rows four times during the week we were there, it doesn’t get sprayed down at the weekend.
I never saw the pool get cleaned once. However, it always seemed clean.
Would we return, yes in a heat beat, to Madeira, as it really took me by surprise as to its beauty and cleanliness (never saw a bit of litter or graffiti all week). However I think we would try a different hotel (thetre are a lot of good standard hotels in the same area), purely down to the state of the pool area, shame really as this hotel has a lot going for it in other areas.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.