Family fun on Crete
The economic turmoil in Greece in the recent past has negatively impacted the tourist industry. Despite the constant stream of negative press, we concluded that there is no reason not to plan a family vacation in Greece right now, particularly if there’s a way to skip Athens, the epicenter of the disruptions and protests. Good news, easyJet has flight from many European cities that go right into the Greek islands including Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, and Crete. We opted for Crete as there are direct flights right into Heraklion Airport from our home-base in Geneva.
We had just a four-night window to spend in Crete so we opted for a full resort that would allow us to relax on property versus prioritizing an optimal home-base for sightseeing. I’ve had an eye on the Elounda family of resorts for years now. Porto Elounda, part of Preferred Hotel Group, is their family-focused resort so we decided to give it a test drive with four kids from ages 4 through 10.
Porto Elounda Highlights
Beach. Elounda is a small fishing village and the bay around it features a number of upscale accommodations. The water here is just what you hope it will look like — bright blue and stunning.
The beach at Porto Elounda is sandy and protected so the waves are minimal. It’s contained and perfect for young children. With school-age kids, we were able to sit on our lounge chairs above the sand while the kids frolicked on the beach and waded in the water. There is a family pool and kiddie pool in this beach area as well, so guests get the best of both experiences.
The resort provides sand toys and offers chair-side food and drink service. It’s really all you need to relax at the beach for the day!
Children’s World water slides
Kids’ Activities. Porto Elounda is a family-focused resort with an array of activities offered for kids of all ages. Children under 5 can access daily supervised care at the Children’s Ark kids’ club.
Meanwhile, the Children’s Park is an area for kids 5 and up with two small water slides and an activity zone with ping pong, crafts, and games; this area offers daily supervised access from 10a to 1p. Finally, there is a schedule of structured activities offered each day including tennis and golf lessons, as well as an introduction to scuba diving.
Porto Elounda is also offering daily football (soccer) clinics with an Arsenal coach. The boys in our group (ages 9 and 10) enjoyed this. Note, the structured activities all cost extra.
Six Senses Spa. I’ve always wanted to check out a Six Senses Spa and finally got my chance at Porto Elounda. Inspired by Asian principles and treatments, the spa is wonderfully appointed and set up for parents-only rejuvenation with lovely sea views. You have to have a treatment booked to use the facilities including indoor and outdoor whirlpools, a Turkish hammam, dry sauna, and multiple relaxation areas.
Relaxed Atmosphere. The casual ambiance of this resort means that families can thoroughly relax. There’s nothing precious for kids to ruin and even the bar is a place where families can be comfortable at all hours.
Porto Elounda is connected to two more upscale resorts, Elounda Mare, a Relais & Chateaux hotel with an award-winning restaurant, and Elounda Peninsula, an all-suite hotel. The hotel shuttle will transport families or parents to these other resorts for meals on request. I did full tours of both properties and although they are more luxurious than Porto Elounda, they do not have adequate open spaces for children to run around.
Looking back at Porto Elounda from Elounda Peninsula hotel
Families Should Know
For me, guest happiness is directly connected to expectation setting. We cover many truly luxurious properties on Ciao Bambino — kid-friendly luxury hotels are our specialty. Porto Elounda is not a luxury property. It’s marketed as a “Deluxe Resort” and this is accurate. The hotel offers a long list of amenities and services, but the atmosphere and experience is not polished or elegant. Of course, this is one of the reasons why families have such an easy time vacationing here!
Rooms. Guest room configurations for families include suites and connecting rooms. These configurations are spacious and many feature sea views. The guest room experience is adequate and comfortable, but not a resort highlight. Note, some room categories include private pools and are not safe for families with very young children.
Meals. We found that the food experience at Porto Elounda varied in quality. The breakfast spread is substantial, while the poolside food options are very limited. Our favorite food experience was their Greek Night celebration. At 65€ per adult and 35€ per child for guests outside of the half-board program, this night out is not a cheap date, but it includes supervised kids’ activities, a Greek dancing performance, and extensive buffet options.
Kids’ Club Set Up. Since the all-day supervised kids’ club only takes children ages 5 and under, parents with older children need to be active in their kids’ entertainment. There are scheduled courses offered throughout the day, but it’s work to manage taking kids from one activity to another. The majority of these activities cost extra.
The Children’s World water slide is a small space and fun for a an hour of two at a time, but this is not a “water slide park” by any stretch. Plus, it’s only open from 10a to 1p each day. I also discovered that the caregivers here are not certified lifeguards so we opted to stay here and watch our kids on our own versus utilizing the drop-off option.
Not your every day hotel activity. Kids’ football (soccer) training with an Arsenal coach
Since our four-night stay was so limited, we opted to use the hotel-sponsored shuttle service to and from the airport. The drive takes about an hour or so and is 180€ each way, a good value for our group of eight. Otherwise, if you are at the property for a week or more, I’d recommend renting a car which provides flexibility to explore the island.
Either way, it’s a wonderful time to support the Greek economy and vacation on a Greek Island! The setting is beautiful and there are certainly deals to be had at properties who are anxious to keep the guest list flowing.
Editorial Note: Porto Elounda offered Ciao Bambino a media rate that included a mix of hosted and discounted nights for our stay. They didn’t ask us to express any particular point of view. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
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Just booked my tickets to Greece for the Fall! Can’t wait to see Crete and the family-friendly options they have.