Sunday, 23 October 2016

A Review of Levante Beach Resort with Mark Warner

It's been a little quiet over on my blog lately due to us being in the middle of moving house, but if you read my blog regularly or follow me on social media, you will know that in September we went away for a wonderful week to Levante Beach resort in Rhodes with Mark Warner. You can see and read more about our amazing week here and here, but I am back today with my third and final post about our holiday- a more in depth review about the hotel and resort itself. 


Getting There
You can fly to Levante Beach Resort from either London Heathrow or Gatwick with British Airways on a Saturday or from Manchester with Jet2 on a Wednesday. Living in the north, we opted to fly from Manchester. We did have a problem with our plane unfortunately (the landing gear wasn't working which was a little alarming and so the flight had to return to Manchester, circle over the airport for 2 hours and then land again so we could get on another plane). It did mean that the journey took around 7 hours instead of 4- not the easiest thing on a budget airline with two young children and no meals provided. Given the choice again, we would definitely go with BA not Jet 2...


Arriving at the resort
The delay with the flight did mean we arrived in Rhodes much later than planned, but we were really happy to be greeted by a friendly member of the Mark Warner team who promptly showed us to the transfer coach. On arrival at the resort, check in was quick and efficient, our bags were labelled and we were able to go straight to the restaurant with two very tired little boys. Our late arrival did mean that we missed the welcome meeting where they tell you about the facilities and activities on offer, but it's not vital to attend that and we were able to discover most things for ourselves anyway.

After a really good first night's sleep, we woke up feeling refreshed and excited to see the resort in the daylight. I was amazed at how bright and modern the whole resort looked and the pools just looked so inviting. The landscaping around the resort is beautiful with lots of plants, flowers and green spaces.


Accommodation
We were in a deluxe suite (room 6006, which is in the first block by the baby pool). We were pleased we were on the ground floor as it meant we didn't have to worry about balconies with the boys and we didn't have to carry the buggy up any stairs. The room was spacious and split into two, divided by a large sliding door. The bed was absolutely huge and very comfy and the room was it was spacious with plenty of room for the four of us.

 The stone tiled bathroom was really spacious with double sinks, a large shower cubicle and bath. It was immaculately clean with plenty of towels, some nice toiletries, bath robes and complimentary slippers.

 The other half of the room. LO slept in here and for the first night Little L slept in his super comfy travel cot in here too. We did move the travel cot into our room though as he kept waking LO when he cried in the night. From the second night he slept much better and the big sliding divider door was a really useful addition.

The view from our terrace. It was lovely having double sliding doors leading out onto a terrace patio. We enjoyed sitting out here in the evenings when the boys were in bed and we would sit and listen to the restaurant entertainment in the distance.

Facilities
The facilities at Levante Beach Resort are fantastic. I wasn't sure what to expect having never experienced a Mark Warner holiday before, but it most certainly caters for the more active holiday-goer as well as people like me who prefer a slower paced holiday. There were 4 outdoor pools (one being a baby pool and one being adult only) and an indoor pool too, lots of sunbeds (we went when the resort was really quiet but even in peak season, I don't imagine there would ever be a shortage of sunbeds), an indoor gym, tennis courts, bike hire beach front watersports equipment (kayaks, windsurfs, paddle boards, sailing boats and waterskis).

There was also a really good children's playground which seemed very popular amongst families after the children's tea. We often took the boys to have a play there before their bath time.



There was a spa which I didn't get chance to try, an indoor gym, an onsite mini market which had any provisions you might need for your holiday from things like snacks, sweets, postcards and bread to sunhats, nappies, toiletries and inflatables for the pool. We also discovered there is an onsite British nurse who works on behalf of Mark Warner. Little L was really struggling with teething and we ran out of Calpol. The lady in the shop directed us to the nurse's office who was able to sell some children's paracetamol for €7.

Food
We absolutely LOVED the food at Levante Beach Resort. We were staying on a half board basis so breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the holiday but we paid for drinks (bar drinks at breakfast and children's juice) lunch and snacks. The restaurant is buffet style with a different themed cuisine each night. We all really looked forward to breakfast every day as there was just so much choice. One of my favourite breakfast treats was the pancakes and waffles which were freshly cooked. LO and I ate way too many waffles and pancakes over the week.


There was just so much choice of different kinds of food, from cereals to Greek yogurt and honey, cooked breakfasts and omelettes, cold meats, cheeses and breads, to pastries and oodles of fresh fruit. Watermelon was my healthy choice each day. We love the buffet style of eating when on holiday with young children as it's a great opportunity for them to explore and try new foods. Little L was able to try so many different foods and the whole dining experience was so child friendly. There were lots of highchairs available and plastic children's cutlery too. The staff were amazing and so friendly. The restaurant manager Mika was such a lovely lady and really made our week extra special.

For the first 2 evenings, we tried to take the boys to the standard dinner in the evening, which doesn't start until 7:30pm. This was much too late for them and LO was just too exhausted to sit and eat and those meals were a bit stressful because of that. By the third day, we decided to try the 5:30 children's meal, expecting there to just be a few families in the restaurant with their children. We were amazed to go in to find that actually the majority of families on the resort were there with their children. The food is still buffet style but more child-friendly, with pasta dishes, chips, fish fingers, along with other more exciting dishes too, cucumber and carrot sticks and a selection of simple desserts like jelly and ice cream. As we always eat together as a family at home, we felt a bit guilty about LO and Little L eating on their own and then us eating later but it was the most practical option with two small children. It worked really well and it's great that the resort offers families such flexibility.

As well as the main buffet restaurant, there's also a Greek Taverna poolside restaurant and a Pan Asian restaurant too but you had to pay to eat at these. Bar one day when we went into Rhodes, we had our lunch at the Greek Taverna by the pool every lunch as the food was so delicious. Pork Giros was a particular favourite, but they also served pizzas, paninis, chips, and tasty dishes like stuffed peppers which were divine. They also sold ice creams throughout the day too. If you didn't want to spend money eating lunch there every day, you could also buy things like sandwiches, cheese, ham and crisps from the onsite mini market.

Childcare
We used the Mark Warner childcare facilities for both boys on our holiday. Again, using childcare on holiday is not something I'd ever previously considered, and I was quite nervous about sending Little L to childcare as he was only 8 months old but I knew the Mark Warner childcare had an excellent reputation and I'd read such good things about the service. We opted to send them in the afternoons, which along with the evening listening service, was included in the price of the holiday.


The childcare facilities are located in a light and air air conditioned building next to the restaurant. It was only a short walk from our accommodation block too which we found extra handy. Each child has a key worker and it operates much like in a nursery. The facilities were excellent with lots of nice toys and equipment. Little L was in the Baby Club and LO was in the Mini Club for 3-5 year olds. 

One thing we did find was that Wednesday arrivals seem less popular than Saturday arrivals so there weren't many families who arrived at the same time as us, and on top of that, morning childcare was more popular than afternoon childcare. Little L was therefore the only baby in his session and LO was one of only two children in his afternoon session. It meant that he didn't really get much chance to meet and play with other children but he did get a lot of extra attention from the staff! I think maybe during peak season the afternoon sessions may be more popular however. 

I thought I'd include a timetable of the activities for the week just to give an overview of the sorts of things they did each day. They went to the pool, for walks around the resort and they even did watersports in the Mini club too. I was so amazed to see LO out on the water in a sailing boat! 

The childcare staff are absolutely amazing and felt totally reassured by their competency. It was also very reassuring that they operate a password system too and always felt the children were in safe hands. They always ensured the children had sunscreen and sunhats on, and Konfidence jackets in the pool too.

In the evenings, they offer a creche service where you can go and drop off your children at 7:30pm in their pyjamas back at the childcare building. After signing them in, they get to choose a little bed with a snuggly fleecy sleeping bag (LO chose a lion) and that's their bed for the week. The children snuggle on the sofas to watch a film and then get into their little sleeping bag bed so they can fall asleep. It operates from 7:30 till 11pm. 


I honestly didn't think we would use this service as I was nervous to leave LO (Little L didn't go, he stayed with us). After two very difficult dinners where he was too exhausted to eat, we opted to do the early children's tea and then use the creche service. It was a real treat to be able to enjoy a few less stressful dinners and it gave Mr F and I the chance to sit and chat together. We would always go and pick LO up by about 9:30pm and he always looked so cute and snuggly in his little bed. 

I really cannot recommend the Mark Warner childcare highly enough- it was just fantastic and it exceeded all my expectations. A really lovely touch was the presentation at the end of the week where the boys were both presented with awards and some of their artwork. Little L was presented with the Disney Award, for being such a character, and LO got the Haribo award, for being such a sweetie. 


Activities
As we arrived too late for the welcome meeting, we weren't entirely sure what was on offer in terms of activities when we first arrived. But after a walk around the resort, we could see there was plenty going on, from aerobics classes to watersports classes down on the waterfront. You can do windsurfing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, water skiing and sailing and all are included in the price of the holiday. You can pay to do a diving course but I saw some free taster sessions going on in the pool. We tried the kayaking and paddle boarding and didn't need to attend a class to do these. They operate a very safe and efficient flag and tag system where you sign yourself in and out. The instructors and lifeguards are always on hand if you need assistance.

Mr F also tried the 3 hour sailing course at the end of the week. He was the only one in his session meaning he got one to one tuition which was fantastic. He really enjoyed it and only managed to capsize the coat once.


We had such a fantastic holiday and it really was the most memorable and enjoyable week together- our first holiday as a family of four. I was so impressed by the Mark Warner facilities and staff and the childcare provision and watersports facilities were outstanding. I'd say that if you're into sporty activity based holidays then you should definitely try a Mark Warner holiday. And while we weren't as active or sporty as many of the other guests we didn't feel out of place and it gave us the opportunity to try out something new. 

I am really surprised at how I've been converted by the childcare aspect of a holiday. Previously I would never had put LO in to childcare, but he seemed to enjoy it and got a lot out of it. In my opinion it gave him something fun and exciting to do in the afternoons when we would normally just be having a siesta with Little L in our room anyway, so I feel it gave him something more constructive and fun to do for a couple of hours each day. I would have preferred to eat together as a family each evening as it's what we are used to at home, but the 7:30pm dinner time was just a bit too late for the boys. 

The resort was absolutely beautiful and both the Mark Warner staff and the local Greek staff were so friendly and helpful, particularly in the restaurant. One thing we were a little disappointed by was the beach. It's very pebbly as opposed to sandy so for young children it isn't as fun or easy to go down and enjoy a day on the beach. I think an improvement which could be made would be if they created a sectioned off sandy area for kids to play in. It would encourage more families down to the beach. I rarely saw any children on the beach playing, and the emphasis there is very much on the provision of watersports. For a family resort I do think a sandy section of beach would be a really welcome addition and improvement to an otherwise outstanding resort. 

We would absolutely go back to Levante Beach Resort again and I think it would be really fun to take the boys back when they're both a little older as they'd be able to join in with more of the sports activities. 



NB: We were chosen as Family Ambassadors for Mark Warner for 2016 and were sent to Levante Beach Resort in collaboration with Mark Warner. All opinions and photos are my own. 


You can read my other two posts about our holiday here...

Our Holiday to Levante Beach Resort Part 1
Our Holiday to Levante Beach Resort Part 2
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