This is a hotel with pros, con and, frankly, some bizarre peculiarities. First the good bits. The room was small (for 2 adults and 2 children) but very clean and functional and maids did a thorough job daily. Reception staff were friendly and helpful. The hotel is close to the beach and all amenities.
The resort itself, Pineda de Mar, is an ideal family holiday location. No gangs of drunken youths or any loutishness at all – go to Lloret de Mar for that if you must. Not much nightlife but laid-back family friendly bars and it feels very safe at night. Train station is nearby and useful for trips to Barcelona and Gerona. Fares, at less than 7 Euros, are reasonable but children pay full price. Calella, the next train stop down from Pineda, is livelier with good shopping - lots of bull-emblazed tourist tat but also higher end shops and especially good for shoes (don’t know why) and the delicatessens offer some fascinating stuff. Eating out, despite the dire exchange rate, is still reasonable (5 to 7 Euros gets a good main course). Alcohol in bars is similar to English prices but supermarkets are much cheaper. Cigarettes, even American brands, are half what they cost in the UK. Lots of Spanish holiday-makers and very few English; we didn’t mind that but it meant it was difficult for the children to find friends they could converse with. The beach is busy but there is a calm and quiet atmosphere and again it is very family friendly. Beware of passing pleasure boats discharging effluent into the water. Sometimes it hadn’t even been properly processed and lumps of what was unmistakeably human excrement were spotted. The sea emptied for this reason one afternoon and we felt somewhat put off visiting it after that.
Now the bad bits. The food in the hotel is dire. In fairness, one can always find something to eat. There’s lots of fresh fruit, salad stuff, bread (though sometimes a little past its sell-by date especially the ‘croissants’), chips and bland stuff like processed cheese and those square pieces of ‘ham’ that you only ever seem to see in cheap hotels. However, all the main dishes are made with the cheapest quality and cuts of fatty meat you can imagine and the fish is no better. The bacon is revolting. There is a risible attempt at a Chinese night once a week when the staff don oriental style tunics. If they did not, one would never guess it was an attempt at Chinese food. That they use spaghetti instead of noodles sums up the general feel of it. Mexican night is marginally better but even the most pampered fresher away at university for the first time could probably knock up a better chilli con carne. The soup is made from a packet. The ‘fruit juice’ tasted like it was reconstituted from one of those artificial tasting powder mixes. One particularly annoying thing was that in the evenings you had to pay for even non-alcohol drinks from the serve-yourself machine if you were only on half board as we were. This was a rule that the staff were only too keen to impose, unlike the hotel’s ‘towels on sun-beds’ rule (see below). The desserts were so ghastly that even our sugar-craving 12 and 10 daughters eschewed most of them, the principle exception being some strange pre-packed cold desserts which we never managed to decide were mousse or ice-cream.
If you’re not on the all-inclusive package – and virtually everybody was it seemed apart from us – it was irritating to be expected to pay standard bar prices for drinks served in a plastic glass. Hence, we probably bought no more than three or four drinks in the entire fortnight from the hotel bar. For those on the all-inclusive deal, they had to endure the ordeal of having to eat a further daily meal at lunchtime in addition to being ‘tagged’ for the duration of their stay with a rock festival style armband. We’ve not been on a package holiday for over 20 years so this may be accepted practice on the Costa Brava but, if so, it’s not a very appealing one.
I’m all for saving the planet but this hotel takes its energy saving policies rather too far. If you’re sharing your room with children and want to read then the only option is to sit out on the balcony. It’s plenty warm enough thoroughout the night. Alas, on the first night we couldn’t locate the light switch for the balcony and gave up. We were relieved then when, at about 9:30, the balcony lights came on automatically. We were rather less chuffed when our light, along with every other balcony light in the hotel, went off at midnight prompt. Cue collective groan from all patrons left stranded visionless on their balconies. It felt rather like being at boot camp at lights out time.
A further point of criticism concerns the space. This hotel is far too small for the number of guests. The dining room is so cramped that it is barely possible to eat without elbowing diners at the surrounding tables. The pool gets so busy it is off-putting and there aren’t nearly enough sun-beds for guests. We were impressed on arrival when we saw a notice at the pool saying that it was forbidden to reserve sun-beds by placing a towel on them. Unfortunately, this rule was not only not enforced but the hotel, in effect, facilitated breaches of its own rules since at 7 am they opened up the sun-bed area to a waiting queue who then reserved their pitch with a towel and promptly left the area to go for breakfast. By 8am every sun-bed was reserved but not a soul was to be seen. I complained about this to the lifeguard who wasn’t interested and asked to see the manager. I am prepared to put down his initial brusque response – ‘So what?’ – down to language issues. When he suggested that I take any sun-beds I like and remove the towels and he would deal with any fallout arising from this, I knew I was wasting my time. He was expecting his guests to police and impose the hotel’s rules on other guests. A most peculiar way of carrying on. If you want to meet the few English people at this hotel, I’d advise you to go to the back of the sun-bed area where most of them are sat on chairs – they either couldn’t be bothered to get up in the middle of the night queuing with their towel or, like us for the first week, had foolishly chosen to abide by the hotel’s rules.
And finally the bizarre. Those with a sense of humour might enjoy the hotel’s evening entertainment which, to put it mildly, is outrageously dated in style and very amateurish. Frankly, it makes the ‘turns’ on Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights look like high culture. It repeats on a seven day cycle as do the meals. The magician, a professional hired in on the Sunday night, is worth watching for the right reasons. Also, the singer/guitarist performing to backing tracks from Leeds is passable but, if he’s reading this, his guitar is not loud enough in the mix (though as a guitar maniac myself, maybe that’s just me). The rest of the entertainment provided by the in-house entertainment staff is, to use the cliché, so bad it’s good. The staff themselves are charming, friendly, enthusiastic, very good humoured and absolutely wonderful with young children. They work during the day providing children’s activities suitable for ages up to around 8. By night they transmogrify into multi-lingual bingo-callers and the cast of High School Musical and Moulin Rouge. The bingo takes forever and is hilarious as they read out each number in Spanish, English, German, Italian and French using a child’s toy bingo kit. One night the caller didn’t appear to know her German numbers and the next week we spotted at least three occasions when the numbers shouted in English were different to those shouted in French, German and Spanish. Neither of us speak Italian so who knows what was being said to the nationals of that fair country. Needless to say, a lot of false calls were shouted. On our second week there were not enough pens to go round. But it was free to play and an unforgettable experience.
Even if, like me, you detest musicals, it’s worth going to at least one at this hotel. The plots bear no relation to the originals, there is next to no stage scenery and the props and stage clothes are such as would embarrass even the most cash-strapped sixth form production. The best bit is that the cast are not actually singing and speaking the dialogue but miming out of synch to a tape. It could only have been funnier if they had attempted to speak every line in five languages like the bingo. Before the evening’s grand production, the staff organise a disco for the young ones resembles which some chaotically insane crèche. The staff do an excellent job at this. The whole entertainment experience in this hotel was akin to what one might have expected from the ‘redcoats’ and ‘bluecoats’ at Butlins or Pontins in the 1960s and 70s but nowhere near as classy!
One last oddity. The hotel rejoices in its possession of the uncraziest crazy golf course you might come across along with a very strange pricing policy. To play table tennis or badminton, there is a fully refundable deposit required for the bats/ balls/ shuttlecock etc but no actual charge. Fair enough. Not so the crazy golf which is nine holes of tubular steel with wacky variations such as a curve or a shape in the middle of the ‘fairway’. The course is on a concrete floor so there is no maintenance required. Yet for some reason known only to the hotel’s management a charge of 1 Euro per person is levied in addition to a deposit. Given my previous encounter with the manager, I judged it best not to bother asking!
We had a good time in Pineda and the shortcomings of the hotel by no means spoiled our holiday. But for little under £2,000 (circa 10% of the average UK wage) for a family of four, the poor food and cramped conditions means we wouldn’t go again to this hotel. Next time we’ll rent an apartment and use the money saved on the initial outlay to eat out.
- Also Known As:
- Serhs Montemar Hotel
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