Blissful relaxation in Greece, our first all-inclusive vacation

Tout inclus Barceló Hydra Beach Resort: piscine à débordement

Last summer, after taking a solo trip to Finland, we decided to spend a week as a couple in an all-inclusive resort. We made that choice for the first time because we were both very tired. Réjean has just founded his company and my carpal tunnel syndrome kept me awake most nights.

Not wanting to spend hours on end sorting through hotel offers online, we visited a travel agency. Yes, in this day and age I still went to a brick and mortar agency because professionals have knowledge that online reseller don’t have. It was important for us to find a resort in Europe in a quiet setting. We wanted to stay in Europe to avoid a long flight, keep our Euros and be insured with our European Health Insurance Card.

My heart was set on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands because I knew Khlauda had a great time there. However, we were quickly convinced by our travel agent to fly to Greece.

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Barceló Hydra Beach Resort at Thermisia

After having thoroughly explained what we were looking for, including our budget, our travel agent showed us the brochure for the Barceló Hydra Beach, a five-star hotel located at 175 km (109 miles) from Athens in a secluded area of the Peloponnese peninsula. We were hesitant to pick this hotel because it required us to take a 2,5 hours bus ride from the airport. In the end, the promise of calm and the beauty of grounds convinced us it was the right choice for us.

After a testing charter flight (many hours late) and a tiring bus ride, we arrived at our resort in the middle of the night completely exhausted. As soon as we set foot on the lobby, we were told not to touch our luggage, as it would be delivered to our room with a golf cart. The people at the reception were incredibly quick as two buses full of travellers were given a key to their room in a few minutes. Because of our flight schedule, we had not eaten since lunch and the hotel was kind enough to leave us some food for a quick snack.

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Olives au Barcelo Hydra Beach

It’s only the next morning that we really saw how beautiful the hotel was. Wow! Pure white buildings encircled by flowers and exotic plants. The resort looked modern and well tended. We did not know what to expect from an all-inclusive resort, but all our hopes were exceeded.

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The only thing that we liked less was our room, as it felt very standard. I did not take any pictures, but it looked exactly like the pictures from Barceló. The mattress felt like it was made of stone, but we did not say anything to the staff. If we did, maybe they could have accommodated us with a pillow top. We paid a small fee to have a view of the sea, it was nice to see it from our balcony.

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Few places on the resort did not have a sweeping view of the sea, even the restaurant and its large terrace had it. At first, we were apprehensive of the quality of the all-inclusive buffet but it was rather good. There was a salad bar where there were Greek tapenade and feta cheese as well as a variety of fresh fruit. Since there were many Italian guests, there was a large choice of pasta, but it was taken by storm by the said guests. The only things that I could not eat were the deserts as they were everything I hate with desert (frosted and sugary).

At the Barceló Hydra Beach, there wasn’t much to do except enjoying the beach and the infinity pool. There was some animation but only in Italian. I did not mind it at all since I was not interested in animations. By the end of our stay, I ended up with nothing to read. I was saddened by the fact that the shop by the pool did not keep any magazine in French or in English.

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In regards of the beach, the travel agency had warned us that the beach was like “kitty litter”. The sand wasn’t fine, but it was nice enough especially with the clear blue water. I wanted to bring my mask and tuba but, unfortunately, left them in Paris.

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Did we enjoy our all-inclusive vacation?

When I was 17, I went to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic and there were times when I was bored out of my mind. Fifteen years later, I changed my mind.

While I was a teenager, spending a week without any responsibilities was just routine, now as an adult I know that it is something to be cherished. I loved how relaxing it felt not to have to worry about groceries, cleaning or cooking. At the Barceló Hydra Beach Resort, the staff takes care of all that. It was great for a week but by the end of it, I felt as if I would not have enjoyed spending another week at the hotel.

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What I enjoyed less about our all-inclusive stay was that it did not allow us to discover Greece. Although the hotel is not a prison, it offers everything that one might need and there is no need to venture outside. The food is standard, the staff is international and you mostly speak English. The Barceló Hydra Beach resort could have been in any other European country other than Greece and it would not have changed anything for us.

I sometimes felt guilty of not wanting to explore the surroundings, so we went for a boat trip that I will tell you about later on.

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Another thing that I enjoyed was not having to worry about our budget. We went for drinks by the sea every night, something that we might not have allowed ourselves to do if we had to pay everything.

With all-inclusive trips, you pay your whole stay in advance according the budget you have set and after there aren’t any reasons to take your credit card out of your wallet. Staying on budget is easy for once!

Something worth knowing if you choose the Barceló Hydra Beach Resort: All-inclusive does not include everything! For say, only the cocktail of the day was included, but not classic drinks such as rum and coke. Alternatively, coffees and cappuccinos were included but not ice coffee. It’s well advertised, but it was sometimes frustrating.

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Something that really annoyed me at the resort was the morons that woke up at 5 AM to reserve beach or pool chairs. We are civilised people that did not indulge in this kind of behaviour, but it was annoying to arrive at the pool where all the chairs were reserved but no one was swimming. It’s very frustrating, especially because if no one would do that, there would be enough chairs for everyone to move freely between the pool and the beach.

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In conclusion, we were satisfied with our stay in Greece. The hotel was exactly what we were looking for and I felt privileged walking those beautiful grounds. In the future, I picture us staying again at an all-inclusive resort, but we are not in a hurry to do it. This type of vacation is fun, but it will never replace “true” travel.

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A few points about the Barceló Hydra Beach Resort

Positives

  • I think that the prices were in line with the amenities offered
  • The food was good and diverse, I enjoyed eating dinner on the outside terrace
  • The resort invites to relaxation (there is a spa but I did not try it)
  • The hotel is splendid
  • The average age was high (+30 years old), it was calm
  • The rooms are located in low-rise buildings sprinkled through the propriety, it feels nice not to be piled up on top of each others.
  • Everything was spick and span

Negatives

  • A few morons hoarded lounge chairs with their towels (it’s, unfortunately, universal)
  • The bed was not comfortable
  • Buildings are far from each other, it might be difficult for someone with reduced mobility
  • If you have motion sickness, the bus ride from Athens is rough. Take two Gravols and hope for the best!
  • The all-inclusive did not include everything

My opinion on all-inclusive holidays

Positives

  • You can determine your budget when you purchase the trip, no risk to go burst
  • During your stay, you will feel like a princess: no domestic chores!
  • It’s great if your goal is to relax
  • With the help of our travel agent, we found exactly what we were looking for

Negatives

  • A few morons hoarded lounge chairs with their towels (it’s such an annoying behaviour that it is worth a third mention)
  • You don’t feel like you are discovering a new country
  • There are always people everywhere, there is no way to escape the crowd inside the resort
  • Characteristics from the host country are erased to offer a standardised experience
  • I did not enjoy our charter flights, as they were late on our way to Greece and on our way back. The planes were uncomfortable and the schedules were impractical.

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