There are now quite a few luxury hotels on Crete so why stay here? Well, if you're just planning on a bit of relaxation by the pool or on the beach, then that's a good question. Elounda, where the other five star hotels are situated, is a lot prettier than Kato Gouves, which is, to be frank, a bit of a one horse town with an unappealing beach backing onto a bit of wasteland. The sand's brown, the beach is covered with smelly seaweed, and the large pipes waiting to go somewhere on the field behind the beach don't exactly add to the ambience.
But actually, there is a very good reason to stay here. Gouves is about a 15 minute drive from the airport and Heraklion, so it's much more central to the island than Elounda. If you plan on doing a bit of exploring of the island and its historical sites, but you also like a bit of luxury when it comes to your accommodation, then the Amirandes is really your only option.
And it doesn't disappoint. It really is a beautiful hotel. The public areas have been built to resemble a Minoan palace. There are walkways and arcades beside shallow reflecting pools which are all magically lit up at night with sparkly lights and candles. Breakfast and dinner are outside in a beautiful courtyard with a pool in the middle and walls to protect you from the (quite strong) breezes, yet giving views of the sea. The huge swimming pool (Olympic size) is surrounded by a kind of louvred sun shade so you can choose to be in the sun, in the shade or in dappled sunlight and there are enough sunbeds for everyone, even when the hotel is full (which it was the first week we were there). It's very romantic - you could come here for a honeymoon (as many couples do) and not be disappointed. It reminded me a lot of the sort of ultra stylish resorts you get in places like Mauritius.
The staff are wonderful. Everyone is so friendly, even the room maids. Most of them are native Greek although there are some Eastern Europeans in the kids club and on the reception who are equally chirpy. The restaurant staff loved my son and gave him lots of attention. I can honestly say they are the best staff of any hotel I've been to, and that includes the Four Seasons, where they're great, but you feel they're paid to be great. In the Amirandes you get the feeling they're so nice because they're just really nice people. It won't take you long to learn what "kalimera" and "kalispera" mean.
In fact in many ways the Amirandes is up there with some of the best hotels I've stayed in, except for one thing, which is that it's really not very cheap to stay here. The hotel is lovely but for the amount we paid we expected it to be pretty darn lovely. We booked a family suite with sea view, but the first room we given (in the sunset wing) was very disappointing. In order to see the sea, you had to stand right by the window in one corner or go out onto the balcony or otherwise you were looking straight onto the hotel's even pricier villas. The so-called suite was actually a normal sized room split in two, with the part nearest the window divided off with some sliding doors and two small beds were placed in there for the children. It wasn't a suite in the sense of any hotel I've stayed in. We asked to be moved (we were paying extra for a sea view and wanted to see the sea without craning our necks) and the hotel manager was very helfpul. She said the hotel was full so couldn't move us, but the next day another suite became free in the building near the swimming pool. This wasn't much larger than the first one, but had a much better layout with a separate dressing room, and our bedroom had it's own window (as did the kids' one) so we weren't cut off from the outside world when the sliding doors were closed. At a very conservative estimate (we booked through Sovereign, who I might just add were absolutely dreadful - they couldn't even get the departure terminal right) we were paying more than five hundred quid (GBP) a night for this, probably more. I just expected something a bit better. The pillows were hard, the bed was uncomfortable, when you had a shower water went all over the bathroom floor. If they'd made the rooms a couple of feet bigger in each direction, that would have helped. Charging less would have helped even more. It's a nice hotel in an unclassy part of a very touristy island, and Greece is in the middle of a massive economic crisis. But hey, the hotel was full, so who am I to moan about it? (although while I've got your attention, over seven Euros for a freshly squeezed orange juice seems a bit over the top too. Cocktails were around the 12 Euro mark.)
The food was good. Breakfasts were excellent with loads of choice. Dinners also had a lot of choice although vegetarian dishes were more limited if you don't eat fish or meat. You won't starve, but you may find it getting a bit samey.I was disappointed that the menus were rotated on a weekly rather than fortnightly basis so the second week the food was all very familiar. There is loads of fresh fruit. I had fresh figs with honey and yoghurt almost every day we were there. Delicious.
The hotel has free wi-fi and it was super speedy. My husband always has to work on holiday and this makes a big difference to us. It's very rare for hotels to offer it for free and for it to be so good, so well done to Grecotel for moving with the times. Less good was the gym, which was a bit sparse in terms of equipment.
More than half the guests were Russian, which may account for why it's so pricey, as they seem to be a bit less price sensitive than the rest of us, the rest of us being a mixture of Europeans, mainly German and British. There were some quite stunning women the first week - which made for interesting people watching around the pool and in the dining area. But fortunately for the body conscious there were also plenty of fatties (rich ones I think - not many tattoos here) in inappropriately small swimming cossies.
In other reviews people have mentioned the aircraft noise and mosquitoes. Although the hotel is under the flight path, the planes are high enough up that they haven't got their undercarriages down when they fly over so they're not landing imminently and the noise is no worse than it is where I live in South London. Maybe I'm more used to it than some people, but it didn't bother me at all. We didn't see a single mosquito the entire time we were there. I'm normally a biting insect magnet but I came away with not a single bite and my insect repellent spray went unused.
The hotel has a little kind of mini supermarket which sells more or less anything you might want. It's a little pricier than a normal shop but not that much more, and is actually very useful if you've forgotten or run out of something.
I was a bit disappointed by Crete. It's very touristy and nothing feels very authentic. Even it's most famous attraction, Knossos is mostly a total fake. We hired a car and drove around a bit, but this isn't very relaxing. The Greeks drive like maniacs and not surprisingly have a death rate on the roads three times ours. However, the weather when we were there was fabulous - fourteen days of glorious sunshine (with a cooling sea breeze), and it's only a three hour flight from the UK (even if Easyjet can make it feel a lot longer).
If you're going anyway, then the Amirandes is certainly the best placed of all the luxury hotels to make the best of the island. It's an undoubtedly lovely hotel, but for the price you're paying, I can't help feeling it jolly well ought to be.
Avoid the sunset wing if you want a seaview. The wing by the pool is the most convenient..
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