January 2020 – from the perspective of holidaying with young children
We’ve been very keen to get our children used to travel from an early age (and whilst free under 2!). We took RLT on his first holiday abroad when he was 13 months old, so we were conscious that it was time to show Little E a little bit more of the world, as he is already 15 months old. We visited Fantasia Bahia Principle in Golf del Sur, Tenerife in January 2020 as a family of four (two adults, two children aged 1 and 3). We did a lot of research before we went and ummed and arred about booking because we found such conflicting views, so I decided to publish my honest review which is not paid for in any way shape or form.
Before booking research
There are so many Facebook groups, trip advisor reviews, google reviews and marketing from the hotel itself that you can take into account before booking this hotel. I looked at the majority of them and now writing this as I am at home, I’m honestly gobsmacked at some of the comments I have read. I can only imagine they are from rival hotel chains looking to do some damage limitation to their bookings, as this is a new hotel.
So what I would say to you is; the Facebook group whose members are previous or upcoming guests is the best one to join for honest opinions. I’m not saying that there won’t be some ‘ringers’ in there, because some of the comments on there are insane too – either that or people have impossibly high standards for a family hotel. Trip advisor is known for rival staff comments and I can tell you from my own personal experience that the hotel has a ‘share your happiness’ event to drive up their google reviews – you get a t-shirt if you post. From a marketing point of view, I applaud this and at no point did I see staff direct anyone to say or give a particular mark, but the numbers are inflated because who doesn’t love a free t-shirt?
The hotel itself isn’t that pretty from the outside, but you can’t fail but be impressed by the light and the interiors when you walk into reception. Check-in is prompt, you get bands with NFC tags in them which become your digital passport to your dining and pass to your rooms, no having to take the key card in and out with you, which is great. They provided a map, which showed us where the pools were, which ones were heated (all but one) and advised how many shows and meals we could book in the a la carte restaurants based on how many nights we were staying. All seemed fairly straight forward and there was a little area in which the kids could play at the side of reception whilst we were checking in.
What they didn’t tell us at check-in
They didn’t really explain the map at check-in – the map is pretty rubbish. It makes no reference to the fact that the hotel is on four levels and doesn’t let you know which levels anything is on. Reception/lobby bar/theatre/sports bar/shop are all on level 4, the unheated pool, 2 heated pools, towel exchange, buffet restaurant, Asian and Italian restaurants, and castle are all on level 3, the children pools, bar, and adult-only infinity pool area are all on level 2 (or s2 on the lift) and the kid’s club, outdoor football area, running track, gym, spa and exit towards the back of the resort are on level 1. This shouldn’t really matter, but we had a pushchair, so it was incredibly hard to navigate around. Why? because most of the floors are only accessible via lifts for some reason if you cannot take the stairs outside. There were no stairs visible in the hotel itself so everyone in the hotel was relying on lifts, which meant that a wrong turn could take you an age! We got there in the end, but it really was a self-learning exercise that wasn’t needed if they had a clear map (it’s on the digital displays around the hotel too).
All of the information you need in regards to what’s on at the hotel can be found on an app or on the interactive displays in the hotel reception. There is a rolling programme of daytime and nighttime events, but you need to seek out the information through these channels. I’m not sure if we just didn’t get told about a welcome meeting from Jet2, or if this is the ‘all online no hassle’ approach to this resort (great if it is) they just need to signpost people where to get the information.
Food and drink
We were happy with the selection of food and drinks at the bars and restaurants. In fact, as far as all-inclusive goes, I’d say they did these very well. We’re not massively into spirits, so I couldn’t tell spirits apart from premium versions, the cocktails tasted good to me. The beer was San Miguel Especial and the soft drinks were Coca-cola, Fanta, Fanta lemon, sprite. There were fruit juice machines around too. As we had little ones with us we took our own Robinson’s juice and used the water machines to mix as we didn’t want them having fizzy drinks nor drinking fruit juice constantly.
The a la carte restaurants were OK too. Compact menus but a good break from eating buffet every night. The staff were attentive, the wait times for food when ordered wasn’t massive and there were other parents there with children, which was a help to us as we weren’t the only ones rushing against the clock to eat a meal. Staff were nice in all bars and restaurants. I could not fault them at all. I don’t think the quality of ingredients can sometimes be the best in all-inclusive hotels because they’re mass-producing, but everything was fresh, well presented and probably the best all-inclusive food I’ve had, and I’ve been to a fair few different places on AI!
Dreams factory fast food restaurant at the poolside was a nice touch. Food was cooked to order between 10-4 and salad and snacks such as ice cream available too free of charge. Food was obviously always fresh and it was quite a fast service. There was a locked freezer of branded ice creams which was available for a charge.
The rooms are clean, a great size and very comfortable. We were most impressed by our master suite which comprised of a huge bed, another double in an area which could be closed off from the other bed and a travel cot for the little one. The bath was deep, the shower was good and there were two toilets, one with the shower and one close to the door of the room which had a door to keep it separate. There was an included minibar, wardrobe and kettle area which were all much appreciated due to our little one still having a night time bottle. On every floor of the hotel, there were ‘baby stations’ which were equipped with microwaves and bottle sterilisers, which were a great addition. The balcony was also fairly well secured for toddlers too. There were two chairs, a table, and a mini washing line.
There is pool-based entertainment during the day for adults and a kids club for 3-11 years on level 1. I was informed that children between ages 3-4 could go if accompanied by an adult, but when we went to the kids club, I was expected to leave and they could call me if my 3 year old wanted to come out, otherwise, he would stay with them until 4 pm. He wasn’t happy about staying without me and to be honest, neither was I. We were advised the children could use the kids club between 6-7 on an evening if they wished as parents and children of all ages were permitted to be there – but as this was the earliest evening meal was available, we never took them up on the offer. There was a giant chessboard by the poolside and a ‘playground’ which was actually a room with toys and tv in. It is advertised to be open between 9 am-2 pm then between 7 pm-9 pm but what we later found was these are the times that it is supervised and by that I mean that you can leave your children in there with a member of the entertainment team whilst you eat without your children. The room itself is open anytime if you’re supervising your own children.
There was a nightly mini-disco and this was hit and miss depending on the members of staff taking it, there was a man named Carlos who was fantastic and engaging with the children and they absolutely loved it when he did it. Other times it was done by some girls who were just dreadful, they couldn’t have made it any more obvious that they thought this was the short-straw so spent the majority of the 30 minutes allocated to mini-disco getting children to shout 321 music DJ in various languages. It was really quite painful at times, especially for the kids, for whom Carlos and his discos had been the highlight only days previous.
The shows were quite obviously where the hotel put its entertainment budget. They had several during the week (all bookable) all with different storylines and choreography. They were all 8.30-9pm starts, so a difficult ask for little ones to stay up and sometimes the content a little on the dark side. There was a payable show starting the evening we left, tickets were 12 euros each, apparently thanks to the fact that people who lived on the island like to book into the hotel as day guests, so they were trying to tempt them into overnight stays during the quieter winter months.
We had a good week. We were cautious, given the things we’d seen about wind and sewerage smells! The wind was only an issue when we had a tail-end of a storm. The sewerage could be smelt when you were outside of the works, which were close to the sea-facing swim-up rooms, so I’d be cautious if I had one of those rooms. I think that it was possibly more suited to children aged 4+ because of the necessity of the use of lifts, late shows, kids club and size of the waterslides, but this is probably a mindful decision on their behalf as children aged 2 and under are free.
Would I go back? No. We’ve tried it. It was a nice week but the customer service isn’t quite as polished as our stays in Iberostar hotels. The Iberostar Malaga Playa is still my favourite hotel that we’ve stayed in as a family and I would pick that one over Fantasia Bahia Principle. If you do have any questions about the hotel, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via email here.