After announcing the fact that it would be joining the luxury collection a few months ago, looks like the Blue Palace on Crete is finally listed on luxurycollection.com! It does not come up on starwood.com when you search on greece, FYI. The hotel will be a Category 5....I wonder if we will be able to snag the infinity pool rooms with a specialty upgrade. For those of you that are not familiar with this property, the lux collection site does not do it justice, check out this site: http://www.bluepalace.gr/
I was sad to see the Rayavadee leave the Luxury Collection after a fantastic stay there last year, but maybe this will be a new property to look forward to visiting with my points :-)
Second your rate comment, Fly Co. From what I've seen, rates look pretty good (but beware rate differential for single vs. double occupancy). With this in mind, however, it does not seem like a good redemption value as a Category 5.
Anyone hear any buzz on this place, or has anyone stayed there previously?
"We're not scaremongering, this is really happening."
Just returned from Europe including Grande Bretagne in Athens, Santa Marina in Mykonos, Blue Palace in Crete, and Imperial in Vienna. I know there has been lots of commentary on most of these hotels with the exception of the Blue Palace so I won't discuss the others except to say that we received great upgrades and that the Imperial was flawless with the Grande Bretagne a close second. What was surprising was that Greece was not busy and according to many we spoke with in Crete it was their worst year for tourism in a decade. Theories included tour operators promoting less expensive countries, rising costs in Greece due to conversion to the Euro and people staying away due to the (mistaken) perception that things would be crazy busy with the upcoming Olympics.
The Blue Palace had occupancy in the 50% range and they were doing much better than most of the so called competition. The Blue Palace is located on the outskirts of the town of Elounda essentially in a fishing village called Plaka and is about a one hour drive from the main city of Heraklion on excellent highways. The hotel sits on 70 acres and has been opened just over one year. It has 204 rooms/suites half of which have private pools and a few of which have a shared pool, the remainder with no pool. The scale is immense in every dimension with the hotel built mostly of cut stone on five levels (seven if you include the beach levels) in a crescent shape facing East on a terraced hillside down to the road. A large walkway under the road leads to the beach levels which include a giant pool area, a couple of restaurants (including a simulated Greek Taverna) and an enormous two level spa with indoor pool. The beach itself is about 500m long and consists of baseball sized stones, there are water sports and it is suitable for swimming but no sand and no surf as the bay is protected. The view from the resort and from every room is of the Sea and an island called Spinalonga which was an ancient Venetian Fortress and up until the 1950’s a Leper Colony. If it were not for the Sea you might think you were in a resort in Arizona due to the desert like landscape and climate.
The lobby of the hotel is on the fourth level and is accessed in four ways: a very steep road; a Funicular which runs up the slope in the middle of the property from the beach (it can be very slow); stairs (stairs are a good 5-10 minute climb not counting getting lost enroute as they are staggered); or with a series of elevators (because of the terraced construction the elevator service is restricted to up/down one level only so to get to the top would require 5 or so different elevators).
The fourth level lobby area is as nice a setup as I have ever seen in a hotel. The lobby extends into an indoor and outdoor bar area which extends to a pool and sun terrace. It reminds me of the pool area at the W in Westwood except that the view and scale are incomparable. Above the lobby area is a large restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served. Breakfast is part of the room rate and they offer packages with lunch and dinner as well, again the view is spectacular from the restaurant. We only ate breakfast at the hotel so I cannot comment on the other food. The breakfast buffet quality and selection was very good but because of the scale not at all intimate. e.g. it has the feel of a big resort which is what the Blue Palace is. The service at breakfast was very efficient but more impersonal than friendly.
Check-in was very efficient and included a 10 minute explanation of the features of the resort. We were escorted to our room and upgraded from a superior bungalow with no pool to a deluxe suite with private salt water pool. As the resort is new, the rooms were in excellent condition and were tastefully appointed. Our suite was on two floors and excluding pool and balcony about 60 sq. m. with two full bathrooms (marble) including one with Jacuzzi and an outstanding shower setup. The floor surface on the main floor of the suite was stone and the walls white plaster, ceilings were 10 feet. The main floor featured a desk and two couches with large coffee table and a credenza. The bedroom was on the second floor and featured hardwood floors and white plaster walls and had a large balcony (note: the bed was very very firm). The main level had a walkout to a stone terrace and wood deck in front of the private infinity pool. There are many different configurations but in ours the pool measured about 3m by 4m and at its deepest was 1.5m. (good for plunging or floating on an air mattress) and again a spectacular view.
The accommodation in the resort is on levels one through five and consists of separate two level buildings connected by indoor/outdoor hallways and stairways. In our building there were four suites each two levels. The "private pool" is really one large pool separated from the other rooms by partial walls that rise about a half meter out of the water and are designed with a couple of gaps at the ends to allow water to flow between the pools. In other words you are in full view of your neighbors when you are in the water. From what I could see the set up for pool bungalows was similar except that the room was on one level with the room above being a separate standard room without pool.
In walking the property I was able to see different configurations of the deluxe suites with some choice ones (in my opinion) on a single level with a very private pool adjacent to the suite (e.g. a real swimming pool) An example of that style would be suite 415. Other suites that I deemed to be preferred locations are 521, 527, 528 and 534. It should be noted that with the various walkways and stairways through out the resort that many pool areas are full exposed not only to neighboring rooms but also to other guests using the walkways and stairways.
I would strongly recommend that you rent a car as bus service while on a time table is not always frequent and there is much to see in the area including numerous archaeological sites and places of interest. The town of Elounda, 3km away, is a thriving full service community with numerous restaurants and lots of accommodation options including some five star hotels. About 15km away is the town of Agisos Nicholas which is much larger than Elounda and very nice. Cruise ships stop there and there is limited ferry service. We ate at local tavernas in Plaka and at a Taverna next door to the Blue Palace called Pietros. All of the restaurants in the area were virtually empty due to so few tourists but the food and service fantastic.
My overall impression of the property is mixed. Service as I stated was efficient but impersonal and communication with the staff was difficult even though many spoke English. For example we were interested in finding a nice sand beach. On our last day we finally found one 26km away in a village called Istren (two beaches in that town (excuse the phonetic spelling), one called Panatalome and the other Vukalis). I shared this find with guest relations as they had previously been unable to assist and while the one person was very appreciative for this info as she was from another part of the island her colleague (a local) scowled as I described the location and provided directions. I suppose they want to keep the good beaches tourist free which is somewhat understandable. The resort is very much like a compound and designed to keep you physically on the property which was a bit frustrating as just getting to the road to go for a walk was an ordeal. Even getting around within the resort was frustrating with few signs and at night poor lighting. I am at a loss to draw a comparison to other resorts but will give it a try: It perhaps reminded us a bit of a modern day Las Brisas in Acapulco but without the intimacy, privacy or level of service. If I had to describe the “feel” (just the feel) of the Blue Palace it reminded us of the Marriott resort in Fort Lauderdale but obliviously with much nicer accommodation and setting. We likely will not return to the Blue Palace as a “destination” hotel whereas we would return to the Excelsior in Venice Lido or the Diplomat in Hollywood as destination hotels.
To conclude The Blue Palace is magnificent in its setting and in its architecture with very few shortcomings – if the service could somehow be raised a level or two this place would be hard to beat notwithstanding its inaccessibility.
Programs: UA 1K, UA 2MM Lifetime, Marriott Plat Lifetime, SPG Plat Lifetime, Hyatt Diamond
Thanks for the excellant trip report! Being the first to write a trip report
for this resort, I'm sure you'll be answering a lot of questions. I'll start:
Did you stay on points or pay in full?
Regarding transport to the island, did you fly or ferry? If you purchased tickets while in Greece could you give details on where you bought them and approximate prices?
Did you stay on points or pay in full?
Regarding transport to the island, did you fly or ferry? If you purchased tickets while in Greece could you give details on where you bought them and approximate prices?[/quote]
1. Payed for Athens, Payed for Mykonos 2 nights and (free weekend 2 nights) and payed for Vienna (50% off award). We used points 48,000 for five nights at the Blue Palace (low season rate for a cat-5)
2. Ferry from Athens to Mykonos -- purchased through Concierge at Grande Bretange but would have been easy to get at any of the numerous travel agents of Ferry offices in the central area of Athens. We took the Hellas Flying Dolphin fast ferry from Piraeus -- very pleasant and payed for first class (top deck) --First features reserved and comfortable seating and access to a huge outside deck with additional seating. I think we payed 62 Euros per ticket -- economy is on the lower deck and would have been 36 and I think business class was 48 or so. Economy has limited access to the outside. Business class is at the front area of the Econo section. The trip took from 8:30am to 11:15 am with short stops at a couple of other islands
We planned to take a smaller fast ferry from Mykonos to Heraklion (Crete) but too windy so the fast ferries were not running -- so we flew from Mykonos back to Athens and then on to Crete -- same elapsed time as the ferry. Flew Agean in business -- a very nice airline I must say -- and had the added bonus of a two day free Hertz rental with a return business ticket. Tickets were purchased from a local travel agency on Mykonos and cost 276 Euros each for the Mykonos - Athens - Heraklion - Atherns routing. Athens airport is great and the Agean lounge very nice- Heraklion airport is old (no lounge) and very crowded due to charters. I can only imagine what it would be like if they were having a good tourist year.
Programs: SPG LTP, Hyatt DIA, AA 1MM, Delta DIA, Avis PC, United Silver
Thanks for the detailed report! I'm bummed to hear that the private pools aren't necessarily private, and that the atmosphere is a bit weak. I'm starting to think about my honeymoon next summer, and the Blue Palace was one of the places we are considering, but we want to go to a true "destination" resort.