In this story: Review of the Yachting Club Villas at the Elounda Beach Hotel
Dear readers of this column, I have been to many great hotels. My line of work has allowed me to sample some of the world’s best accommodations. Lucky me, you might think, however, one side effect after many years of visiting such places is that getting truly impressed by a hotel has become quite rare.
Such a rare Wow! moment occurred when I recently discovered the amazing, highly innovative Yachting Club Villas at the Elounda Beach Hotel on the Greek island of Crete, an experience I want to share with you. Here are the details.
The legend of Elounda
First, a few words about the hotel
The Elounda Beach Hotel, a long-time member of The Leading Hotels of the World, made itself a name as one of the Mediterranean’s best resorts since its opening in the 1970s. It is situated in Elounda, Greece’s most prestigious resort destination in the eastern part of Crete Island, and has been home to heads of state, billionaires and celebrities of all sorts. They kept coming thanks to the hotel’s high level of personalized service and privacy and the persistence of the Mantonanakis family, the resort’s owner and operator, in regularly rolling out new suite and villa concepts of the highest standards.
Their latest creation is also the most impressive one. The Yachting Club Villas, a cluster of nine villas in one of the resort’s more secluded parts, are the brainchild of Pantelis Mantonanakis. His concept has been smartly executed by the Swiss architectural bureau of Davide Macullo, resulting in stunning hi-tech accommodations with cutting-edge design and many innovative features. I simply had to see them for myself, so I booked the villa and off I was to Crete.
Sense of arrival
The joy of being a guest of the Elounda Beach Hotel starts even before getting there. The management of the hotel has put much effort into offering its guests a smooth and streamlined arrival experience. This starts with Yorgos, a gentleman stationed at Heraklion Airport. His presence there is most welcome, considering that this airport can become quite hectic during peak time. He intercepted us as we left the airplane, claimed our luggage, which later magically reappeared in our villa, and had us in no time sitting in the hotel’s black Mercedes S-Class limousine on our way to Elounda.
The driver offered us refreshments and asked whether we would like to pass by the reception building for a welcome drink or if we preferred to proceed directly to our suite and called ahead to inform the hotel staff. We decided for option no. 1 and were treated to a most heartfelt welcome upon arrival as the front office and management team came out to greet us.
We were then whisked off to the Yachting Club Villas in an electric cart and finally set foot in the Sea Silk Villa, our home for the next few days.
The sophisticated interplay of technology and good taste
The design concept unfolded as we entered the villa’s courtyard. Its location right at the water’s edge and the whole décor convincingly creates the illusion of boarding a yacht from the rear entrance. The expansive teakwood deck, the brass and wooden trimmings, the retractable motorized bridge leading down to the lower deck and the seafront, all convey the feeling of a modern luxury craft.
The focal point of the partly shaded spacious deck is the private pool featuring a counter-current system. One can easily spend much of the day – and also the evening – in this modern and swanky outdoor space without worrying much about privacy and dress code. Everything needed is there: A pair of sun loungers, a dining table, a large 42-inch TV set than can be folded out of the wall and even a heating lamp in the rare case of a chilly wind. An extra set of sun loungers and an umbrella are a few steps below right in front of the sea.
The villa’s large sliding doors reveal its posh interior and the stylish furniture. The décor is contemporary yet relaxed, nothing loud or intrusive, definitely elegant and sophisticated.
The smartly designed open-plan interior can be easily subdivided into three distinct spaces thanks to the concealed sliding walls. There is a living room with an advanced home cinema and audio system as well as a bedroom with a motorised bed for adjusting the mattress to any desirable position. The most attractive, though, is the spacious bath area with the sunken hydromassage tub and the twin vanities. The shower cabin is large enough for two people showering together and also doubles as a steam bath.
However, something else caught my attention. I was magically drawn to a polished brass stand with many buttons on top. It was the master control panel allowing me to manipulate the entire universe! I could dim or switch the lights on and off (with plenty of lights to play with), unlock the exterior door, call the butler, activate the privacy function, switch music on and off, operate the skylight, move the curtains and the blinds, switch the heating lamp on the terrace on, move a large screen up and down that shades off the terrace for added privacy. There is also a sister panel outdoors and another touch-screen control panel by the bed and several remote controls. I almost felt like Alice in Gadgetland surrounded by a world of technology that has been created especially for making my stay as enjoyable as possible.
By the way, the poolside TV set is the only one visible, the other ones are well hidden. Several TVs have been inlaid in mirrors in the bath and the living room and magically appear out of nowhere while you were wondering about the use of those remote controls. The most decadent, however, is the bedroom’s TV set. You lie down on the bed, push a button and a huge 46-inch monster folds out of the ceiling in the proper angle for happily watching a movie from your pillow. The chances of staying awake until the end of the film are very slim, though.
Well, going to the loo also needed some twist. You don’t just open the door to the separate WC cabin; you need to press the button to operate the motorized sliding door. Once inside and seated, you notice a remote control. You press the “On” button and – you guessed it – another TV monitor concealed in the wall-to-ceiling mirror flickers on for catching up on that soap opera or the latest from the stock exchange.
No detail has been overlooked. There is stereo music throughout the villa and even the lighting installation has been well thought through for creating the proper mood. Lights are unobtrusive and flattering and the pool lights up at night in different colours. As a consequence, there are plenty of switches around the villa and – thankfully – there is also the master switch for putting out all lights at once.
The concept of the Yachting Club Villas is refreshingly playful and very adult at the same time. All these gimmicks can drive you mad or give you plenty of joyful moments – and many things to write about back home – depending on how you relate to technology. Needless to say that I enjoyed every one of these never-ending hi-tech encounters and throughout our stay I felt like a six-year old boy receiving his first Playstation.
Did I mention that our Yachting Club Villa also offers a very seductive ambience? Well, don’t take my word for it. After all, what do we men know about these things?
In any case, the proper atmospherics were there in our villa: Fresh flowers, a large fruit basket, champagne and candles and also roses and chocolate candy put on the bed with evening turndown are little touches that are supposedly enhancing romance.
And then there was the spa…
How could I bypass the wellness centre of the Elounda Beach Hotel aptly named Thalaspa Chenot? Well, I couldn’t, so I left the villa for the afternoon and turned up to enquire what the spa has to offer.
The Thalaspa is affiliated with the Italian wellness firm of Henri Chenot and offers a combination of advanced technology, natural products and a luxurious ambience. The treatments on offer are a unique blend of traditional Asian therapies enhanced with devices that yield a deeper effect than manual applications. The result is a range of Asian-inspired treatments that are highly customized to the personal needs of each guest following an individual consultation.
For me it all started with a chat with Maria Charouli, the spa manager. She had a good, inquisitive look at me and my body posture and immediately diagnosed the endless hours I spend sitting in front of a computer. She then called Anna, gave her instructions and handed me over to her.
Anna applied a combination of different techniques to my body ranging from traditional relaxation massage to detoxification with the help of a humming apparatus (note for our Greek readers: something like hi-tech ventouzes), gently removing tension and toxins from my muscle tissues. Unfortunately, at some point my time with Anna was up, but my visit to the spa wasn’t over, yet.
It seemed Maria got word of how bad a person I am and she decided to culminate my spa experience by sending me to the wet section. There I was stripped bare and I was hosed down with a high-pressure water jet.
The outcome? Just amazing! I felt fully energized and was ready to take on the world.
I must say that Maria and her team know their job very well and that it was a wise choice for me to let her decide what treatments I should do. This spa is quite different than the other ones I have been to due to its concept of not just selling therapies out of a catalogue but of customising the spa visit to each customer’s requirements.
The spa comprises a total of 18 rooms for wet and dry treatments including a couples suite with views as well as indoor and outdoor pools, a lounge and a private terrace for relaxing after treatments. Guests can also use the hotel’s gym and select among several multi-day wellness or dietary programmes.
Other accommodations to choose from
With prices for the Yachting Club Villas starting at 3,000 Euros in low season, our readers may consider other types of accommodation for their stay at the Elounda Beach Hotel. The selection is quite large, as there are all sorts of rooms, suites and villas available at this resort.
Rooms start at 27 sqm and even the smaller ones are especially well equipped. The décor here is very relaxed and casual with maritime touches, with the bathrooms being particularly attractive. Families will especially appreciate the rooms with safety features for kids and also the facilities of the kids club.
The suites and villas come in all possible sizes and with all amenities you can think of. There are junior suites with gyms, steam baths and whirlpools; suites with pools; and villas with pools and gardens. The resort’s top accommodations occupy more than 300 sqm, with features ranging from fireplaces and fully equipped kitchens to business centres, pianos and both indoor and outdoor pools.
The larger villas come with up to five bedrooms, thus offering very flexible room combinations to host any guest, from the secretive honeymooning pop stars and stressed-out tycoons to three-generation families and bachelorette parties of any size. The accommodations are clustered in such a way that couples stay separate from families, so nobody is really discomforted in any way.
The social life of the Elounda Beach Hotel revolves around the square styled like a traditional Cretan village, complete with shops and a small church. Nearby is the resort’s main heated outdoor pool, the beaches and the kids club. The resort’s well-attended gardens comprise around 300 different plant species ensuring year-round blossoming.
Guests can partake in watersports and scuba diving and also use the on-site basketball, volleyball and tennis courts or head to the nearby 18-hole golf course. Needless to say that it would be a pity for somebody to vacation at the resort without venturing further afield to explore the island. Crete, well documented as the cradle of Europe’s oldest civilisation, is blessed with many world-class heritage sites, great outdoors, excellent beaches and most tempting food and wine offerings.
The Elounda Beach Hotel has seen its fair share of events, ranging from weddings at the resort’s private chapel to international conferences and performances held at the congress centre or the open-air amphitheatre.
One service guests of the Elounda Beach Hotel shouldn’t forgo is room service. What you get is an opulent in-room dining experience as the table is set up indoors or on your private terrace with candles, flowers and other decorative touches and each course is served separately. Guests are free to order either from the room service catalogue or from the menus of any of the resort’s five restaurants.
Restaurants range from the traditional Greek taverna and the laid-back Italian restaurant to the chic Polynesian eatery and the resort’s fine-dining venue Dionyssos. The latter offers chef Stefanos Kolimadis’s modern Mediterranean dishes with a creative twist such as the cod with beetroot risotto or the red mullet with potatoes and tomato foam. There is also a choice of bars scattered along the waterfront.
Elounda Beach Hotel is especially proud of its wine cellar with one of the best collections of reds and whites around the Mediterranean. The 1,100 labels include highlights from the Old and the New World, rarities such as a Château d'Yquem from 1954 and a 1961 Pétrus as well as the complete selection of Greece’s top wines including some vintage bottles dating back to 1974. Wine tastings are held at the hotel upon request.
One of the resort’s most unusual features is its guest loyalty programme, encouraging customers to book their next stay right on the spot to take advantage of an attractive benefit package. As Andie, the lady in charge of guest loyalty, explained, an impressive 60% of the resort’s clients are repeat visitors, who usually book the very same accommodations over and over again.
Perks for loyal guests include free overnight stays, discounts and free services such as leisure activities, meals and spa treatments. Repeat guests also enjoy assistance with flight bookings and at Heraklion airport as well as a free transfer to and from the hotel. They are offered a streamlined arrival experience by entirely skipping check-in and proceeding directly to their rooms or suites, that have been set up exactly as they asked for during their previous visits.
Elounda Beach Hotel is part of the Mantonanakis family’s Helios Hotels chain with notable sister hotels on the island of Crete as well as on the Greek mainland (in Nafplion and the Athens Riviera).
At the end of my stay at the Elounda Beach Hotel it became very obvious to me: Both the owners and the staff truly enjoy having us there. You just feel their love for the work they do and you appreciate how they go out of their way to show you how proud they are of being your hosts.
My stay at the Yachting Club Villas, in particular, has made quite an impression on me. I had a hell of a fun just by figuring out all these buttons and discovering the villa’s hidden features.
These highly sophisticated accommodations may not be for everybody’s taste and are certainly not for technophobes (there are plenty of other options they can choose from), however, they represent a bold statement for Pantelis Mantonanakis’s dedication to develop an innovative hospitality concept. Based on my experience I must say that he fully succeeded and that the end result is simply world-class.
It is quite evident that both he and the team involved in designing the Yachting Club Villas enjoyed every moment of it. They had a blast of a time and so did we.
We will be back!
Morpheus wants your feedback! Let him know about the most memorable hotel suite or villa you have stayed at. You can send him an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or hook up with him on Facebook (he goes under the name Morpheus Morfeas).