We booked the Porto Mare because it looked like it would provide a stress-free, relaxing break where our two-year-old would have plenty to do. And so it proved.
The biggest plus point was the service and friendliness of the staff. In particular, the waitresses and waiters in the Atlantida restaurant (where breakfast and the evening buffet dinner option are served) were very warm and accommodating for our little one. More than that, they often went out of their way to entertain and interact with him. Special praise is due to waitress Nicola Mendonça who made every mealtime a pleasure.
On the day we arrived there was a bottle of sparkling wine and a pair of flute glasses in our room. Then at dinner that evening, the waiters and waitresses brought out a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday in Portuguese for our son (whose second birthday it was, which we had mentioned when checking in).
The hotel provided a proper cot-bed (I will attach a photo) as opposed to the more usual flimsy fold-up travel cot you tend to get in hotels. We stayed in a large end-of-corridor corner suite which meant we could watch DVDs in our lounge room once we'd put our son to bed at night. This had a kitchen area with sink, hob, fridge, kettle and microwave which meant we could easily prepare sterilised bottles and boiled water for our son.
We found the best swimming pool for family swims was the Eden Mar's indoor pool, as this was less deep and had wide steps descending progressively into the water at one end. This meant it was easier for our son to step in by himself, and for us to hold him once he was in the water. By contrast the indoor/outdoor pool in the Porto Mare was a little too deep, and the large outdoor pool in the Porto Mare was unheated and so too cold in late February.
We also once took him in the small, circular children's outdoor paddling pool which was good too, albeit it soon gets crowded if a few children get in.
The free shuttle bus into Funchal was convenient and the driver simply popped our Maclaren buggy into a storage area under the bus without our even needing to collapse it.
The gardens in the hotel grounds are really nice. There are all kinds of plants and trees, many of which are labelled, including cacti and orchids. There is even a small aviary with brightly coloured tropical birds that provide a pleasant tweeting background soundtrack.
There is a (unmanned) kindergarten/creche with lots of toys, ride-on toy motorbikes, a Wendy house, etc., plus an outdoor play area with a climbing frame, spring-mounted car and horse, etc. But our son was probably more entertained by the crazy golf course, which he liked to climb on and over (without actually needing to rent the putter and ball to enjoy himself).
The physical structure and design of the hotel are excellent. Although it's a big complex, especially if you include the Eden Mar and Residence (which occupy the east and west sides), you never really get the sense of being in a massive monolith of a place. The space is cleverly broken up, both indoors and out.
As for criticisms, it's surprising that the hotel charges 10 Euros per week to use the in-room safe. I've never known any hotel do this. While the service in the Atlantida restaurant was excellent, it did seem a little slower and less sparkling at the Veranda outdoor poolside bar/cafe. Although our room was on the 5th floor, every night we could still hear muffled music coming (presumably) from the ground floor bar when we went to bed at 11pm. And (this is a small point!) the bedside clock radio had a habit of setting off its alarm at seemingly random times, meaning that we eventually unplugged it.
Before we booked the Porto Mare we had also considered taking a suite in the Eden Mar, which would have been larger and a bit more expensive. But we were glad to have chosen the Porto Mare because not only was the suite perfectly large enough but the physical appearance and ambience of the Porto Mare seem slightly nicer and a little more special.
The end-of-corridor suites are very spacious. 5244 is a great room.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Thank you for your feedback about your recent stay at Porto Mare hotel and I am happy to know that overall you have enjoyed it.
Thank you as well for the praise of Nicole. I am sure she will be delighted to receive your thoughts.
It will be a pleasure to welcome you back in a near future,
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.