We have recently returned from a wonderful two weeks at the Club Palm Bay and could not recommend it more highly.
We last visited Sri Lanka in 1997 and despite promising ourselves a return visit “soon” (the years fly by) we finally have and are not disappointed. Last time we did a week’s cultural trip followed by a week at Bentota Beach. This time we just wanted two weeks of chilling in the sunshine – and on a budget!
We had monitored Mercury Direct over the past few months and had researched their choice of hotels on TripAdvisor, deciding that Club Palm Bay seemed most appropriate for our needs (quiet and relatively close to the airport as we well remembered the time it takes to travel short distances in Sri Lanka). We booked only 4 weeks prior to departure and were very pleased with Mercury.
We opted for the Kingfisher Airlines flight via Bangalore and were extremely impressed. The aircraft for the first leg of the flight was brand new. The food was excellent and as the flight was very empty we were able to stretch out over two rows and get some sleep. The transfer at Bangalore was quick and efficient and the flight to Colombo is only 50 mins.
Mercury’s transfer was trouble free with only 5 passengers in a minibus. We dropped off 3 at Goldie Sands in Negombo, which looked OK but the area around it busy so we approached Club Palm Bay with some trepidation. From the moment we arrived we just LOVED it.
Reception was gracious and simple. The first room we were given (109) overlooked other rooms rather than the lagoon so we went to reception and asked to change which was done without a murmur and the new room (118, but layout of all seems the same) had a beautiful view of the lagoon. Yes, the rooms are a little tired but maintenance in such humidity must be an uphill task so if you overlook the odd damp patch, and remember this is Sri Lanka 4* and not the US or Europe, you will not be disappointed (and has to be the best value for money going!) The rooms are spotlessly clean; the beds comfortable, the linen changed every day. The fridge works and the daily replenished supply of bottled water a lovely touch. We loved coming back each evening to find the beds covered with flowers. The bathrooms are probably the most dated areas but beautifully clean, the shower powerful and there is always hot water. The towels are changed daily.
We have never been on an All Inclusive holiday before and had visions of wrist bands, paper cups and queues at the bar. From the first five minutes these fears were dispelled and we sat back to enjoy 14 nights of heaven. The drinks are beautifully served and replenished most times without you needing to ask. The bar staff try SO hard and are delightful. I tried some of their cocktails but found most a little sweet so stuck to their well mixed G&Ts. It’s worth asking what the cocktails are as a “Rider” turned out to be a Shandy – quite welcome in the heat!
The food was superb. The choice every day was excellent. The salads are beautifully prepared and we soon realised how high the hygiene standards were so had no fear. We tended towards the curries but the choice of European food seemed good and the puds a work of art! The restaurant staff were fantastic and very well run by the restaurant manager.
We spent our days lounging round the pool reading and swimming (I’m not a beach fan although my husband enjoyed a daily stroll and said it was always deserted with the beach staff eager to help if you did need sun beds and wanted to spend time there). I did freak the first morning when the “Animators” (who were just LOVELY) wheeled out the ancient music system and cranked up the Bee Gees but it only lasts from 10.30 to 12.00 for the Water Aerobics, Water Polo and Volley Ball – sadly most days the lads could not get enough people to prise themselves off the sun beds and participate but if you did they were so pleased that I ended up doing Water Aerobics for them!
The “free” massages were good and my husband easily able to swap his head massage for a leg massage. The pedicure in the beauty salon was excellent (and toes still painted three weeks later!) and they need the custom, so treat yourself. Other hotel facilities, such as laundry and internet, cheap and efficient. The hotel shops handy for postcards, the odd t-shirt, etc.
The capacity of the hotel seems to be around 275 but I think the maximum occupation during our stay was 84 – great for the guests but not the hotel – so it always felt relaxed and quiet. During our stay the guests were pretty equally split between Mercury, SAGA and Russians. At weekends (one assumes wealthy) Sri Lankan families come either to stay for one or two nights or on day visits and there was a steady stream of local honeymooners as well as local people who use the hotel for wedding photos, which was delightful to watch. At no time was there a shortage of sun beds or was the pool full (and no 6am sun bed reserving!). Again the pool boys were just lovely and the pool and surrounding spotless. We have read comments about the crows but they didn’t bother us (keep an eye on your afternoon cake though) and the chipmunks/squirrels gave us hours of amusement.
This time we just wanted to chill so didn’t really leave the hotel much but did do two trips with Sumudu Perera at Slimline Travel after reading great reviews on Trip Advisor (out of the gate, turn left, cross the creek and then walk about 300 yards, his office is on the left hand side in the modern single story green building with the SlimLine sign). Sumudu is a delight. His English is excellent and nothing too much trouble. He has at least two spotlessly clean, air conditioned minibuses and his driver (young brother in law Sami) is an excellent driver. We did trips to the Elephant Orphanage (a must) and an early morning river trip near Negombo (highly recommended). Sumudu will tailor trips to suit your needs – in our case that was “no Gem Factories please but could you take us to the ATM in Marawila and we need some more sun cream” – he even tried three places before we found the sun cream! Do go and see SlimLine, you won’t be disappointed.
All in all this holiday rates as one of the best we have ever had and we can only reiterate other reviewers; the staff at Club Palm Bay make the hotel what it is and should receive the credit for making this a most special holiday and for making Club Palm Bay a gem on this beautiful island. We can’t wait to go back.
One minus – our camera seems to have been nicked at Bangalore Airport on the way home (and the only time it was out of sight was during security screening) so we can’t share any photos – another reason to return I guess.
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Palm Bay
- Resort All Inclusive Palm Bay