All Inclusive vs Self Catering
My first all inclusive holiday was in Corfu, where I went with my friend Jan. We stayed in an Iberostar Hotel and were thoroughly spoilt. The Kerkyra Golf is a large beachfront hotel set in spacious gardens, with three bars and two restaurants; lunch was served in a covered area outside, while dinner was in the main restaurant indoors. The food was absolutely outstanding, with lots of fresh local produce and Greek specialities served alongside the usual chips and pizza. With so many delicious healthy options, we didn’t need to worry about watching our weight, although maybe the lunchtime lagers and evening cocktails made up for it!
A couple of years later, we opted for another Iberostar Hotel, this time in Zante. The Plagos Beach was a great choice – it turned out my niece and her boyfriend had also stayed there a few years before, and recognised two of the barmen from our photos. This hotel was much smaller than the Kerkyra Golf, with a reasonable sized swimming pool and the beach a short walk away. There was just the one restaurant, and although the food was good, the options were limited and I ended up eating more chips and pizza!
Fast forward a few years to when I met Chris; we opted for Rhodes and chose the Electra Palace, an all inclusive with good reviews. Whether it was the fact that it was a different set of islands, or simply a different chain, but this was a much different experience. Chris had never been on an all inclusive holiday before and so had nothing to compare it with, but the restaurant felt more like a cafeteria, where you were jostled along without being able to compare all of the options properly. The Maitre D’ was a formidable woman who ‘managed’ the customers rather than treating them like guests, and it was impossible to sneak out a piece of cake for later. This we wouldn’t have worried about, had it not been for the number of other guests who would load their plate with a sample of everything, take one bite out of each, and then just leave the rest to be swept into the bin. We struggled with the booking system for the speciality restaurants, and our best eating experience during the holiday was at a taverna in Rhodes old town where we were treated like old friends.
Still, we persevered and the following year booked another all inclusive holiday in Corfu. The Mitsis Roda was set on the beach, and a 10 minute walk took us to Roda town. The restaurant was slightly more organised in so much as we had to wait to be seated, and if we timed it right, this could be outside on the terrace. Drinks were also served at the table, but this was where the personal service ended and the conveyor belt started – pick up your plate, find your place in the queue, and square your feet! This hotel did offer exquisite miniature cakes, pancakes, and speciality restaurants on the beachfront, but we spent most of our evenings in Roda, which was a short walk along the beach. Roda is a great place for dog lovers, lots of stray dogs regularly make their way along the beach to the hotel where many tourists buy food for them.
We then decided to try something different, and our next holiday in Menorca was self catering. We also chose a different travel company, and booked an apartment at Talayot in Cala’n Forcat. The apartments are well managed and spread out across several sites each with its own swimming pool. The resort offers lots of beautiful coves within easy walking distance, and after a couple of days we settled into a routine of visiting the coves and returning to the main pool late afternoon. By this time, most of the families with small children had left the area, and we were able to relax without worrying about having to get changed for dinner. Although the main strip in Cala’n Forcat is very commercialised, what we really enjoyed about this holiday were the many gorgeous coves and the freedom to just do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.
Last year we went back to the Greek Islands: Crete. We chose a 3 star hotel thinking that although it would be basic, it would at least be clean and comfortable. Unfortunately not – I did choose to ignore the mixed reviews when we booked, but we did end up making a complaint to the travel company which was upheld. Dionysos Apartments is family run with a lovely swimming pool and offers an excellent bar and reasonably priced food and drinks. It is also run on a budget, with some apartments looked after better than others, and is unable to cope with demand in peak seasons. However, Stalis is a fantastic resort and we were only a 5-10 minute walk away from the beach. The supermarket next to the hotel is expensive, but the bakery a little further along is excellent, and there are cheaper supermarkets on the main strip in Stalis. We dined on croissants for breakfast, with a light lunch at whichever taverna was offering the sunbeds & parasol for the day, and dinner at a different restaurant each evening. As well as the choice and lack of time constraints, we made sure that we also got some good ‘steps’ in each day.
What we have discovered is that, although the all inclusive option might very well save money, by choosing self catering we only need to pay a little bit extra to enjoy a much better experience of the local hospitality on offer - as well as having the freedom to come and go as we please. The only thing I would say is that it pays to do your research and read into the TripAdvisor reviews!
We’re off to Majorca in September & hoping to book Kefalonia for next year …