Firstly, apologies if I am repeating any of what my husband has said if they ever publish his review from the other day, but as he's a man, he's probably missed loads off! :D
Secondly, I am going to try and be as subjective and informative as possible with my review.
We are a family of 4 (we have a 4 year old and a 15 month old) and we booked our holiday through a small company via icelolly.com. We paid just £1200 (inc transfers, baggage, etc) for 10 nights all inclusive from the 29th July, which in my opinion, is a very cheap price as it is was school holidays and we had been getting quotes for above £2k for 7 nights self catering! After we booked, we received a phone call from the travel agent telling us that as we had a night flight and would be arriving in Majorca at around 4am, we would not be able to book into the hotel until around 12pm. As we have 2 young children, this was not an option and luckily the agent booked us into the hotel from the 28th July for no extra charge.
On the morning we were due to leave for our holiday, we read the terrible reviews on here of people not having rooms when they arrived at the Santa Monica, and I was adamant that I was not taking the children unless I was damn sure we had a room; I was even willing to pay more to stay in another hotel, so we phoned the after sales team, who rang the booking agent, who rang the hotel and confirmed we had a room.
We arrived at the hotel around 5am, after not much sleep with 2 kids on a loud flight! When we entered the hotel's lobby there was already a comotion going on between the guests and the vile man on reception, as they had no rooms until "Mañana" (his favourite word, it seemed). The fella spoke very little English, was very aggressive and escalating the situation by banging on that we were not all-inclusive but we would only be getting breakfast and evening meal. My husband eventually proved to him that we had a room booked from the previous night and gave us our key.
Our room was on the 5th floor and the lift was not working (we since found out that you have to press the down button first to call the lift) so my husband went upstairs with the cases and came down shortly after to ask for a cot for our 1 year old. The guy on reception was just shrugging his shoulders and shouting his Mañana mantra, and my husband, frustrated and tired from travelling with 2 stressed out kids who would not sleep on the bright and loud flight from Manchester and in no mood to be shouted at, swore at him in Spanish, to which the man brought out a truncheon (looked more like something out of Christian's Grey Red Room of pain if you ask me!) and threatened my husband who was holding our baby son. Luckily my husband is an infantry soldier and not scared of Spaniards waving weapons and told the geezer to bring it on, he bricked it and backed down and thought better of whacking my hubby with his kinky toy. I however, saw my bum, as any mother would at a supposedly grown man waving a weapon in their baby's face, and in a rage, knocked his file of the desk, so he rang the police. I would have stayed and waited for them as I was so angry (and on the offensive due to the reviews we'd read), but my hubby convinced me to go upto the room, and our son slept in his buggy. Luckily I took a reclining buggy, as I very nearly took my Quinny Zapp that doesn't recline and there was no way he could have slept in that. If you have kids, take a reclining buggy!!
In the morning, my husband went down to reception, where a women with decent English apologised to him for the night before, confirmed we were all inclusive and gave us a travel cot. We later heard from the other guests that arrived with us that the police did actually arrive at the hotel shortly after we had retreated to bed :S We decided though to try and forget what had happened, as everybody was tired and defensive (it sounded like the staff have been getting constant grief) and that we would try and enjoy the holiday as best we could, which we did. Incidently, the vile man apologised to my husband, but not to me.
Breakfast, as everybody else has already said, was more for the German and Dutch guests and not the best by a long shot. It was cereal (the only ones I recognised were cornflakes, muesli and sugar puffs), the milk was UHT and tasted a bit rank, as UHT milk does, bread, rolls, rich tea biscuits, and yoghurts. I didn't try the yoghurt, or the meats so I can't comment on those, but my husband seemed to enjoy the meat. I had the toast (which does take a while to make) and the jams were not the best, so I stuck with the marmalade or had a cheese/toast butty which was nice enough. The kids liked the jam, and the biscuits! We were getting down to breakfast late most mornings and there was always enough left by the time we got down. The room where it was served however was always pretty packed, so at the end of the holiday we started having breakfast across the road at the Alegria, which was not as chocca and much more relaxed.
I actually really enjoyed the lunch and evening meal and other guests told us the same thing. I was a bit nervous as I have always gone self catering before as I was a vegetarian for 18 years so it was always the better choice. If I'm honest though, it wasn't that brilliant for veggies, unless you want to eat salad, potatoes and melon every day. The meat was gorgeous though, I really pigged out on the burgers, the meatballs, etc, and by the end of the holiday my clothes were straining at the seams! :S Besides the salads and meat, there was either chips or roasted baby potatoes, paella some days (loved it!), soup (loved the chicken noodle one!), pasta, deep fried battered courgettes, broccoli and cauliflower (nicer than they sound!), fish fillets in a sauce, potato or cheese croquettes, calamari, onion rings, fish ball things (my youngest loved these!). For dessert there was a different jelly everyday, a different mousse type thing (flavours such as strawberry, hazelnut, coconut, pineapple, etc), tinned fruit, loads of melon, creme caramel, ice cream (but not always available). It was pretty much the same theme throughout the holiday but the main meat, fish and pasta would change every day and was different at lunch and dinner.
There was no harnesses/straps on the highchairs in the restaurant, so if you have a little monkey like us who climbs out of everything, then you will need to take a cheap harness or use your buggy for meals.
The hotel decor was pretty crazy. Typical of most hotels built in the foreign tourism boom of the 70s but had a bizarre Polynesian theme! The room itself was pretty small (smaller because we had a camp bed and travel cot in the room) but it was perfectly functional and clean. We had a telly but we never switched it on. The balcony was pretty much an accident waiting to happen for very young children, so although we allowed our 4 year old on the balcony, there was no way my 15 month old could have gone on there as he would have climbed through the gaps in a second. There was no air conditioning and we could not hire a fan (€10 a week) as they had run out, so we just sweated through it, but a couple we met on one of our last nights said that they had seen fans in a shop (not sure which one) for €20, which you could buy and sell on before you go back!
The pool was a bit hectic and busy at the Santa Monica and the tiles had seen better days, but my son thought it was brilliant. We used the pool at the Alegria a lot though because it was smaller, shallower, more chilled and better for the kids. The toilets were lighter, bigger and cleaner here too. Especially towards the end of the holiday, the toilets at the SM did get really bad. You can also use the facilities at the Emperador (across the street) and at the Palma Mazas, but we never tried them.
All inclusive is from 11am-11pm. Snacks are not included but we ate so much that we never needed any. It was pretty relaxed for the first couple of days and we could get drinks for the family, however, this did change due to some people getting drinks for other guests who were not all inclusive. Kids can't get their own drinks, and we had no problems getting a beer and a soft drink at once, but 2 beers was a no-no. Drinks are in plastic half pint glasses, as mentioned and then fella on the bar was pretty miserable. However, he was working from 1pm at the pool bar, and then moving to the main bar from 6pm in sweltering weather and got loads of grief of everyone, so it was no wonder he found it hard to crack a smile! However, he was alright when you spoke to him.
There was no music and no real atmosphere in the Santa Monica in the evening, and the only entertainment was the Olympics in German, a pool table at €1.50 a game, and computer (€1 for 15 mins). Near the end of the holiday, we started going across to the Alegria which played music and was more relaxed in allowing you to get more than one drink at a time. Drinks are cheap at the SM after hours, we got a beer and a gin & tonic for €1.80 so you really can't grumble!) but you will be kicked out on to the bench outside the hotel after 12am. As for the drinks being thrown at you, on our last night, I would have happily have thrown a drink or more on some banshee outside who was shouting obscenities (even in Greek which was odd seeing as we were not in Greece!) until about 6am! If she had have woken the kids, I probably would have!
Arenal is a lively resort, but it's not a family resort. It's where young Germans and Dutch go to get drunk, and they can do so there really cheaply, as most shops sell big buckets of booze, mixers, ice, and straws at bargain prices. If you have kids, be careful where you are on the beach, because some areas have broken glass and beer ring pulls. It's a lovely beach, but you do have to be a bit cautious.
We got a 10 day all inclusive holiday for a family of 4 for half the price of what we were quoted for a 7 day s/c holiday (and that's before spending money, we hardly spent a penny on this one!) in another bog standard accommodation in school holidays. If it was the same price next year, then I would go again as it was much better than we expected and what people are making it out to be, but maybe we were lucky ones. I'm at uni so we are on one income and can't afford to be snobby at the moment. Bar the first night, we had no other problems and we had a fab holiday and met some really lovely people. It was noisy at night, but any hotel in that area would be. It's not the best hotel in the world, but it was far from the worst. It's just what you make of it though and our sons had a fab time too which was all we wanted.
- Also Known As:
- Santa Monica El Arenal
- Santa Monica El Arenal, Majorca
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