I visited the Hotel Vedema, a Luxury Collection property, with two of my sisters for three nights in early June and I thought I’d share some observations. The Villa Vedema is a beautiful hotel with high caliber facilities. Certain elements of the hotel’s service are excellent, others should be honed. I warn all readers that this report is quite long and contains both details about the hotel and about Santorini in general! Onwards…
The hotel is very small, 36 rooms/villas. I have no idea how full they were while we were there (though they were sold out the night before we arrived and seemed to have plenty of online availability for the nights we stayed) but I never laid eyes on more than a dozen couples/families. The hotel is located in the small town of Megalohori on Santorini, Greece.
We had booked a 2BR/2BA villa for our first night and I redeemed my award night/get an award night free for the next two days. Prior to our arrival, I had called the Platinum desk to link the reservations and otherwise smooth over what was sure to be differences in booked room type. We attempted to “upgrade” the free nights with points but the hotel had not loaded that option in inventory. I knew that these second two nights were not particularly full, however, based on availability on the website.
We arrived at the hotel via taxi around 11:00am and were met with some astonishment by the front desk clerk. Since they provide complementary airport shuttle (which I’d forgotten), they usually have a very precise handle on when guests are arriving. We caught them unaware. Things started out very nicely, seating us at a large table in the reception building and bringing us glasses of sparkling wine to refresh us while we filled out the silly little arrival cards. One of the reception ladies sat with us and described some tours they pitch of the island and the ways in which we could book them, as well as giving us maps of the island and the towns.
The reservation nightmare began with only a small hiccup. The hotel had run 50% of the first night’s rate on my profile credit card, which I hadn’t expected (it wasn’t prepaid). When I asked them to cancel it and charge my personal card (rather than the corporate card attached to my profile), it really threw them for another loop. But, eventually, it got done.
By now it was around noon and I was getting a fishy feeling about the situation since check-in was taking so long. Raza offered to take us on a tour of the facilities while our room details were being sorted out. Our (very slow paced) tour included:[*] The beautiful wine cellar (Sales pitch #1: 7 tastes of wine, no food, 30 euros, must book 1 day in advance)[*] The romantic restaurant (Sales pitch #2: The private dining room with custom service, 30% upcharge, must book 1 day in advance) Now I ask you…I’m standing there with my two younger sisters who are still in college. Would you think that I’m in the market for a romantic dinner in the private dining room?[*] The lovely spa/Turkish bath/sauna/fitness room (gratis, must inform front desk of sauna use 30 min in advance)[*] The idyllic outdoor Jacuzzi with nearby bar[*] The impressive public art[*] The well-stocked gift shop (Sales pitch #3, “You must need some sunscreen, the sun is very direct in Greece”).[*] Finally up to the pool where Raza asks us to sit at a table while she checks on the status of our room.
By now, it was a quarter to one.
Around 1:15p, Raza scoots us off to the Pergola restaurant for lunch. I thought that they might treat us due to the extraordinarily long wait for our room, but no such luck. We ate some salads that were fine but not extraordinary. The cover charges per person were very steep, in my opinion, for a pool place. Around 2pm, when we couldn’t stand it any more, the Manager on Duty shows up and asks our waiter to settle all of our charges first. Then, we get escorted to our villa.
[Note: I would not have minded the wait if they had been up front about it in the first place. In reality, we probably would have gone out hiking if we had known we’d be waiting for 3 hours but we kept thinking that we’d have our room in 15 minutes because the staff kept telling us we would]
The saga continues…while I had been in the reception the first time, I had alerted the staff to the linked reservations and they seemed quite befuddled. But, given that 3 hours had transpired, I figured they had worked out a plan to deal with it. Nope. After the Manager showed us around the villa, he pulled me aside to explain to me that A. I had two different classes of room booked (which I knew) and B. that they had upgraded me to a 3BR villa (more on the veracity of that statement later). If I wanted to stay in this lovely 3BR villa, I would have to pay a supplement each night, on top of my points. I proposed that he find out how many more points they would charge to be considered even. He told me I had to call SPG to work that out. When I countered that I had already tried that route, he became very huffy. Not wanting to set out on the wrong foot, I asked him to check with the GM about what they could do for a Platinum member and get back to me.
Our villa was pale, pale pink in a cluster of about 8 units. One entered into the “kitchenette” area of the villa. There was a fridge/minibar, sink and two burners (duly marked that they were not there for use of guests, huh?). There was a kitchen table with three wooden chairs and two more comfortable chairs. On the kitchen table was a TV. Also on the kitchen table was a tray of fruit and a bottle of local wine, a very nice amenity.
Down one half level was a bedroom with two twin beds pushed together but made separately, a phone, a clock and a bench. The bedroom had French doors leading out to a small patio with two lounge chairs (I bet there used to be 3 but the villa next door held a family and I think they swiped our third). This level had a decent sized bath with shower, all marble.
From the entry, up one half-level was an open room (no door) with a twin daybed, comfortable chair and bench. This level also had a nice bathroom, with shower (also marble). Since there was no door and the daybed was made up as a couch, I didn’t really consider this a “real” bedroom.
Up another half-level was what I would have considered the “master” bedroom, with a queen bed, a small chair in the corner and a cupboard. The bath on this level was so small, I ended up walking downstairs to my sister’s bath to wash my face because the water from the faucet wouldn’t stay in the basin – even without me touching it! I’m not kidding, the basin was 8 inches wide! The shower was fine with a window to the outside but the toilet actually rubbed up against the shower. This was not a bath consistent with a luxury collection property, let alone in the “master” bedroom! The bath amenities were generic and not that exciting but there were hairdryers. The room had neither a phone nor a TV nor a clock. It did have a window with a nice view of the vineyards and AC.
Another half level up led to a roof-terrace with nice vistas. There were not any chairs or tables on this terrace but there was a built-in bench along one side. It was a very peaceful spot for us to go to read and watch the .
The overall décor of the villas is very simple. The floors are painted with a white enamel which is very stunning when you walk in. Everything is bright and shiny. However, within minutes of actually being in the villa, white floors begin to show their flaws The beds were made in solid coverlets in bright colors – purple, yellow, blue with large colorful pillows. But beneath the bright colors, the beds were very basic, very Sheraton. All the furniture is also painted in enamel, mostly in medium grey or blue. The overall effect is very soothing but spartan.
So, my thought is that this villa has usually been billed as a 2BR and the TV is usually in the room with the daybed. That would make a proper “Living Area”. So the story about the upgrade, I believe, was a bunch of hooey. Don’t get me wrong, the villa was very nice. But once I began to think about it, I was not impressed with the pushback I was getting from the front office.
Once our luggage *finally* made it to the room (I know, they only had 3 hours), we quickly donned our swim suits and headed over to the pool to lounge .
But wait, there’s more…Within a short while, the Manager tracks me down and informs me that GM has given me two options: 1. pay a significant supplement to my award (already 12,000 pts) to keep my 3BR villa or 2. arrange with SPG an additional point transfer. I mentioned to him that I could 3. actually move to my reserved room. No, he replied, you cannot. It wouldn’t be “comfortable” (I didn’t push it, but I bet it would have been fine, I just didn’t want to move). I ask him again to look into the points option and he retreats.
Back to the pool…While not large, the pool is elevated (with lovely vistas of the town and the distant sea) and surrounded on three sides by wooden chaises with comfortable white cushions. The area was very serene, despite being the “center” of the complex. The water in the pool was kept crystal clear and the chlorine was not overpowering. Elevated several feet above the pool on one side is the Pergola Restaurant. Nestled on another side is the Pool Bar. Throughout the bar area, bartenders were discrete but attentive, serving both beverages and light bar food. One strange procedure: the bar was responsible for handing out pool towels (that were too small, unfortunately). Each guest was required to give the bartender a towel card that was returned when the towel was returned. I refer back to the fact that there are only 36 rooms at the Vedema – was this procedure really necessary? The hotel is gated and I hardly believe interlopers are going to sneak in, approach the bar, and ask for towels.
The GM gets in on the fun…On our way out for the evening, the GM appeared while we were waiting for a taxi (actually, I was alone, my sisters were in the “business center” on the internet). He introduced himself and invited me to “follow him”. He led me to a private area where we sat down and he reiterated the whole story I’ve already gotten from the Manager. He insisted that I had to call SPG directly to sort this out. He volunteered to get me the toll free number when I got back.
That evening we had a lovely dinner in Fira overlooking the crater and witnessed a magnificent sunset at the Restaurant Aris.
On day 2 we slept in (missed breakfast) and were on our way to Fira when….
…I stopped by the front desk to drop off my key, they insisted that I settle up my account to date so that they could clear the computer for my next reservation (the points one). Again, I thought this was a bit over the top for a Luxury Collection hotel, but I didn’t want to make a scene. The lady at reception actually had quite a difficult time getting the charge through (about 20 minutes worth) and finally just took down my number and decided to clear it up while I was out, which I appreciated.
Finally, we went into Fira. We purchased an excursion to the crater of the volcano by boat. Prior to departure, we visited the municipal museum to view the lovely frescoes uncovered at the Akrotiri excavations. The outing was fun, especially for my sister who had just finished a geology class at college. We cruised over to the crater (took about 30 min) then climbed the summit to peer into the center. It was very hot (lots of black lava rock) and dry but interesting. The boat made a stop at some nasty looking hot springs on the way back to Fira, where people were encouraged to swim. Several other Americans commented, upon their return from the swim, that we hadn’t missed a thing by staying on the boat.
In Fira, we hit the grocery for some munchies and local wines before heading back to the hotel and the pool.
And as a welcome back…On my way into pick up our key, I was alerted that my charge slip was ready to be signed from that morning. While I was signing it, the Manager appeared behind me (I was starting to think he watched hidden cameras for me, he was constantly popping out of no where – and not to provide great service!). He asked if I’d “cleared-up” the points “issue”. I told him that he hadn’t given me the phone number yet So he hands over the number and I march straight to the villa and call SPG. I got the exact same information that I’d gotten before I left the States. Most hotels load the schedules for upgrades, etc. into the computer so SPG can access them, in addition to standard redemptions. The Vedema had not. There wasn’t anything they could do if the hotel was unwilling to quote a number of points. I finally had enough of this and just confirmed with SPG that the supplemental fees I would pay for the two nights would count toward stay credits (because I’d really be paying for another “room” within my villa). They assured me that this would be the case and I was happy. I asked them to fax a note to the Manager because he had *insisted* that this occur.
That evening we had our own local wine tasting . While we had been at the pool, we were approached by Raza to pitch a “Greek Night” evening they were having that very night. We pleaded prior plans, more so because both my sisters are vegetarians and we didn’t feel like a BBQ or group activities. She seemed sure that we’d participate. That night we grabbed a light dinner at a taverna in town (Megalohori).
On day 3 we had the lovely breakfast buffet which was set up by the pool at the Pergola restaurant. A fine assortment of all types of breakfast foods, both American and European. Afterwards, we asked the front desk for the best route to get to Akrotiri by foot. This request met with gasps and much to-do. How could we even contemplate walking? It was too far! We got pointed in the general direction and marched off, with the entire front desk staff thinking we were crazy. It only took an hour of leisurely walking to reach the site, couldn’t have been farther than 4 miles. And the views were fantastic. We toured the site, which is small but interesting. Afterwards, we tried to hail a taxi to get back to the hotel, but none could be found. Instead, we happened upon a bus that took us right into Megalohori. We spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool. That evening we taxied into Ia for cocktails and dinner since it was supposed to be *the* place to watch the sunset. We thought it was overcrowded and overrated. Our meal was fine but we were happy to get back to our quiet little villa.
Is it over yet?…The front desk nabbed me again when I stopped in to get my key, in order to settle up the bill prior to our early morning departure. No problem. When they started looking at the account, however, they became very confused and called for the Manager. He approached me and mentioned that he had not received a fax. I assured him that I had requested that SPG confirm with him, but that it shouldn’t really make a difference. I would pay the amount he quoted, and he would code it as room charges in the computer. We’d all be happy. This scenario was very, very hard for him to understand, though he had proposed it in the first place. While he went to go check with the GM, I was asked to fill out a very long survey. I did so enthusiastically, giving the property very high marks for facilities and general service. I did not mark reception and check-out well at all, however. I cited specific examples of where I felt the service could be improved. He finally returned with my charge slip and I bid them goodnight.
I returned to the villa where room service had sent over a wonderful assortment of breakfast goodies for the morning, including a coffee maker, due to our very early departure time. This was fantastic. Very top notch!
Finally over…The three of us were curled up in the kitchen watching the World Cup (not the most comfortable place to watch TV) when the doorbell rang. Lo and behold, there was the GM again. He handed me a voided charge slip and told me that they had worked out the points with SPG. I thanked him and closed the door. Once he was gone, however, I began to wonder whether they’d agreed to some astronomical transfer of points from my account! I decided to worry about it when I was back home.
The hotel shuttle showed up right on time in the morning and whisked us to the airport. We were very sad to say goodbye to Santorini, a most beautiful island.
[This message has been edited by BingoSF (edited 06-22-2002).]
Net-net I was pleased with the location of the Vedema. It is by no means “central”. The main towns of Fira and Ia are about 15 minutes and 35 minutes away respectively by taxi (6 and 20 euro). The airport (free shuttle) and the beach (free shuttle) are also about a 10 minute drive away. It is instead located in a very, very small “traditional settling” village on the road toward Akrotiri (the ancient settlement being excavated from volcanic ash, similar to Pompeii). The “traditional settling” is a town with no clear center (square or plaza or anything). The Vedema has nestled itself in the middle of the narrow allies and rolling hills of this town. Since all residences are behind whitewashed walls, the hotel blends in nicely with the surroundings. There are a couple of local tavernas in town with friendly locals as patrons. There are also a couple of small markets. I saw signs for some sort of new gallery but didn’t feel like tracking it down. Right on the outskirts of town is one of the island’s larger wineries, alas, I didn’t find the time/energy to drop by. I’ll just have to return…
The hotel is laid out as a series of clusters of white and pastel villas around smaller volcanic stone courtyards creating pockets of intimate space. Public areas are very peaceful and well laid out. The landscaping is stunning. Right outside our villa was a huge bush of honeysuckle – the scent was intoxicating.
Fitness, sauna, pool, gift shop. They had it all. They even have their own beach and a shuttle which goes back and forth a few times each day. We never visited, though, because the black sand is just too hot for me and the pool was so lovely. The business center is only a computer with a 28,000 baud dialup in a small room with a big table and chairs so be warned. But you’re on vacation! I used it to periodically check e:mail but browsing FT was not an option
The staff throughout the hotel were very friendly and helpful. They were discrete and attentive. One bellman (Arthur, who took a fancy to my sister) even coached us in learning several words in Polish! (now, if that isn’t a pick-up line, I don’t know what is. “I’ll teach you to say thank you in Polish…” )
I don’t understand nor agree with all the Vedema is trying to do, given its size. While we were there, they were putting the finishing touches on a sushi bar! Add that to the formal restaurant, the pool restaurant, 3 bars, and periodic “events” (like the Greek Night) while only having around 100 guests MAX. Throughout my visit, I felt very pressured to “buy” one of their add-ons (food, drinks, tours, etc.) which I knew they must be having trouble filling. My advice to them would be to cut back and do a few things well. It’s not like they are ever going to have any walk-up traffic, they are in the middle of no where.
SPG Recognition/Program Compliance
They claimed to have given me an upgrade, and the villa was wonderful, but I don’t think they did. I did receive my amenity and it was very nice. The reservation fiasco, however, was a nightmare and really put a damper on the whole visit. Perhaps they’re still getting familiar with the program. I can only hope it gets better for others! I have yet to receive stay credit for the night I paid for (which I need for my free weekends!) but I’ll give it another week before investigating with SPG.
The bottom line?
Wonderful hotel, spectacular location (Santorini), great staff, unprofessional/insensitive management. I would return but wouldn’t try any fancy reservations.
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by monahos:
When in the Cyclades, I prefer to stay in basic accomodations, and try to live/eat like the locals; free-spending tourists seem to be seen primarily as cash-cows.
Then again Santorini is perhaps too fashionable for that.</font>
I usually try to do the same (and did use the same approach on different legs of the trip in Samos and Athens, but went with the resort in Rhodes). Staying at this property was more of an experiment and Santorini really does lend itself well to the experience. By mixing thing up - pampering vs. cultural immersion - I found that I had an even more interesting vacation.
Starpoints were eventually manually posted with the assistance of the nice folks at the Platinum desk. Very simple and easy. Never did get the online booking bonus but will follow up on that at a later date.
On the same trip, I stayed at the Hilton Rhodes Resort (as mentioned in an above post). At both properties, I was asked to fill out a fairly long questionnaire related to services and facilities. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I returned home last week to find a personal letter from the manager of the Hilton addressing every one of my suggestions. For the most part, the hotel and service at the Hilton were fantastic. The property treated its Diamonds very well - the manager came out to meet me at check-in, I received daily amenities (yummy!) and the staff always recognized and greeted me, despite this being a fairly large resort. The manager of the Villa Vedema could surely pick up a few pointers from this property!
Anyone stay here? Another thread has mixed reviews but was started by a poster who has blasted this hotel on every review site on the net (with a carbon copy review that is insanely long).
Anyway, the long and short of it is that it seems fantasticly luxurious but there's no view of the Calderra. Is that enough to stay away when a 5 night award (48k points) seems so cheap? Lesser nice hotels with a view of the Calderra start at $200 a night.
Any suggestions from people who have been to Santorini? Reviews?
I stayed there three years ago and had a nice stay. Having said that, I would have to agree with letiole. When I go back, I will stay somewhere on a cliff and pick the view (and town) over the *wood points.
I stayed there last year and it was a great hotel. There was no view of the caldera and the only view of the ocean was from the roof of the room. It is also in a small village with not much around. You would definitely need a car if you stayed there.
On the other hand, the rooms (all suites from what I could tell) were outstanding as was the service. They had a great breakfast in the morning, a nice pool and jacuzzi, each with bars next to them. They also have a fitness room with treadmills, lifecycles and weights, which I can't imagine you'd find at other places in Santorini. There's no view and if you're looking for nightlife or beaches, you won't like Vedema unless you have a car. The bottom line is that is a great hotel in a very strange location.
I wouldn't stay at the hotel on Santorini....it is not on the scenic caldera but tucked away in some little village and you only get a territorial view....one of the main reasons of being on this magnificent island is to be on or in view of the plunging cliffs....this is a reoccuring comment about the Santorini Starwood property on other travel forums I have read.......
I have searched and can not find any real information on this property. I am also going to Santorini this summer and travelling with my parents. I looked at the Mystique, but appears to have alot of stairs. We're not into partying , so proximity to the caldera is not an issue. I just want to be able to relax a bit, have my parents be able to take a shuttle to the shopping area and feel comfortable.
Reviews seem mixed, we're paying about 355 Euros for three of us in an apartment, which seems okay for a Luxury Collection property.
FWIW, I am a gold, I could probably get a one time plt comp since i'm a diamond at hyatt, if it helps, but there is no way I'll make plt on my own this year.
I know there are hipper places to stay, but I'm looking for something that will appeal to them as well as me.
We're staying two nights with only one and half full touring days.