Emma is a willing guinea pig on a luxury family holiday to Crete:
“We chose the relatively new Daios Cove in Crete to spend our annual summer holiday (brought forward due the impending arrival of baby number 4). Having been to Greece in early June before, it is by far one of my favourite times to visit this Mediterranean gem. The weather is hot but not too hot, it’s never too busy to travel through the major London airports and there is a far greater choice of rooms on offer. We opted for a two bedroom family pool villa complete with some VIP amenities.
If I can just start with the traveling part: there are two things as a traveller with small children in tow that I will not compromise on. The first is meet-and-greet parking. Most families value their child seats which make travelling by taxi all the more challenging. This way, you can rock up right outside departures and let someone else take your car off and park it. Similarly on the way back there is someone there upon exit with your car all ready to go. Secondly, wherever possible, try and book your seats in advance, it’s worth the extra cost. It’s not possible with some of the low cost carriers but if you are travelling with Monarch, BA, Thompson or any of those types of airlines that offer the choice, take it! It makes the check-in stress so much less painful knowing that you are all guaranteed to sit together and it’s not dependent on checking-in stupidly early. Final tip, check out the competitive currency rates online and pre-order your foreign money with someone like Moneycorp located in the major airports. The rate you get online is often far more competitive than that offered at the airport and with the desks opening at 4am, you can just collect from the counter and smile smugly as you get far more for your £ than others who are not so organised.
The hotel is a 50-minute transfer from Heraklion airport and we arrived into blissful sunshine around 3.30. I was more grateful than offended at being told I looked tired and was led straight to a lovely terrace area where we were offered a drink and a seat to begin the check-in process. The kids were given milk and very large chocolate cookies to keep them quiet while we told about the facilities of the hotel.
The villas are very spread out and afford excellent privacy. Our villa had amazing views over the ocean and could not be overlooked by any other villa or passing guest. The layout is well thought out with a bedroom, bathroom and living room on the ground floor and master bedroom, bathroom and large terrace upstairs. The villa comes with stair gates (although the lower gate starts 4 wooden steps up the stair case so still a slight worry for very young toddlers.) The private pool was extremely well protected with a secure gate and offered us total piece of mind that our 14 month old could not make her own way in. All in all, I was very impressed with size, comfort and location of our villa.
We had pre-ordered a steriliser, baby monitors and a buggy to hire which were all there and waiting for us. They had also gone the extra mile and included a high-chair, baby feeding equipment, a nappy changing table and a booster step. We didn’t use half the stuff but it was comforting to know that it was there and available. Having enquired about the possibility of getting milk from the shop, I was informed there was no option to buy fresh produce so I also pre-ordered some formula powder for the peace of mind.
As a villa guest, you get to eat breakfast at the Ocean restaurant and what a difference this makes to the start of the day. Far less crowded than the main buffet option, you have a more peaceful and relaxed table service option. The normal offerings are laid out for you such as cereals, fruit and pastries but all other dishes are cooked to order. This avoided the normal getting up and down from the table to get the kids breakfasts with my husband and I taking it turns to eat which has normally been the case on holiday! A special mention to Anna, our breakfast host, who could not have been more attentive, nor made a bigger fuss of my children.
The main pool area is stunning and there was absolutely no need to bag a sunbed early during our entire 10 day stay. There were plenty of sunbeds plus they have their lovely private beach which seemed to be very popular so late risers can relax knowing that they don’t have to forfeit their precious holiday lie-ins! You can clearly see where the one million Euro investment went on the beach project as it really is a stunning cove and copying Dubai’s idea, there are wave breakers in the sea. More crushed shells than fine powdery sand, it didn’t seem to make too much difference and it was by far the more popular option for where guests chose to spend the day. My one criticism about the beach is that the access is a bit tricky for buggies (or heavily pregnant ladies) as there are quite a lot of steps to negotiate. It is worth it once you are down there and the cove is so protected and calm that the kids can’t fail to enjoy a paddle in the sea. They offer supervised diving for kids as young as 8 and plenty of other water sports to amuse the more active.
Dining options are good and we found the quality of the food overall worthy of the hotel’s five star status. The main buffet restaurant affords a beautiful setting and was a perfect set up to watch the kids running wild (far enough away from disturbing other diners but close enough to see them). The buffet options had a good combination between traditional Greek delicacies and international dishes to please all and the chefs were so friendly. Bearing in mind we were there ten days, I did feel that the three restaurants were perhaps not enough choice to keep things varied enough for us. The Greek Taverna which is at a small supplement over half board is very nice but could offer more in the way of Meze’s and grills and the Ocean Restaurant – which calls itself Italian but I felt was more of just a gourmet fine dining – was very good. The settings of both the Taverna and the Italian made full use of the stunning sea views and offered a more romantic option to have a dinner without the kids.
The Kids Club was exceptional. Run by the World-Wide Kids Company (who follow Ofsted standards and whose staff are City & Guilds Accredited), the childcare assistants were very friendly, hands-on and seemed genuinely enthusiastic. My older two are used to a nursery/kids club environment and slotted right in. My youngest being only 14 months old had never before been left in a crèche or with anyone other than family or our nanny so I was a little more reticent about how she would find it but she couldn’t have been happier. The Creche Manager Viv was brilliant with her and engaged her in so many new (and very messy) activities that I wouldn’t have thought to do at home! The fact that the baby threw her arms out towards her when we arrived for our session each day spoke volumes.
A big bonus is the supervised early dinner for the kids club from 6 – 7pm and then a drop off if requested back to your room by the staff when they are finished. This meant on the babysitting nights we just need to give our youngest room service and then do bath and bedtime in the normal manner as we would at home. Babysitting is pro-rata so there is no rounding up the hourly fee if you go slightly over. It was also very reasonable with three children at 15 Euros an hour. Our three hours of childcare every day plus the evening babysitting made all the difference to us getting the balance between a family holiday and some much needed downtime with just the two of us.
Our company policy with all reviews and blogs etc is that we try and give as unbiased an opinion as we possibly can. We are there visiting hotels with our corporate hats on, but we are also there as parents and have the same demands as our clients would. For this reason I am going to mention some things that I found didn’t necessarily let the hotel down, but if improved, could really help make Daios Cove the one to beat.
The pools were cold. Though they say they are heated to 25 degrees, they were a real endurance test. The kids didn’t want to stay in the pools long enough to keep them amused for any length of time and the baby screamed when we put her feet in! This was a real shame as for us as I imagine as it is for most, the pools and swimming is one of the key features of any family holiday. It could have been a trick of the imagination but towards the end of our stay, they did seem to get a bit warmer but I would still advise taking full wetsuits for travel in May and June.
The kids menus – although they had all the classics you would expect such as burgers, pizza, pasta e.t.c, I think for those staying longer than a week the options run thin and you soon get bored of seeing your kids eating the same things. I have spoken with the resort and I do believe there are plans to introduce some healthy dishes in collaboration with a nutritionist. Whilst the dining options are reasonably priced – you may want to up the budget to allow for the extortionate ice-cream costs! The cheapest one is 6 Euros so it’s not cheap buying for a family of 5!
Ending on a positive note, the staff are by far one of the hotel’s greatest assets. Everyone from guest relations, to the buggy drivers, to the waiters and waitresses were nothing short of charming. The aim is to please and you very much had the feeling that no request was too great. We ordered room service each night for 6.30 and there it was at 6.30 delivered by a charming porter who took great care in laying out the meal (and a rose) for our youngest!
The biggest Tots Too test I set myself when staying at any of our properties is to answer the following question confidently – “Would I go back for another family holiday?” if it’s a yes, its passed the test and in this case, I am very pleased to say that I would go back. ”