Sunday, 25 September 2016

Review: Cala Font Hotel, Cap Salou, Spain


Last month our family took our first holiday abroad. Of course the hubby and I have travelled abroad dozens of times but the furthest the kids had ever been was Jersey and we felt it was high time after a really tough start to the year for us all to kick back and have some proper relaxation.

We've always been really lucky and had many UK based holidays and short breaks; my blog has been immensely useful for securing those but I did find this year that nothing beats the complete difference of being abroad. That hot weather makes you feel like just completely chilling out, not visiting theme parks, historic houses or trekking round towns. Just laying on a sunbed, reading a good book, having a wonderful swim and eating fabulous food.

Thank the Lord we absolutely fell on our feet when we booked the Cala Font Hotel via Thomsons. We were quite late to book our August break as it was only June that I proposed the idea of a jaunt abroad to my husband but my research on Trip Advisor and other online forums definitely paid off. I'll start by saying that we would highly recommend the Cala Font Hotel in Cap Salou and at the moment we are considering if we will return again next year. I say considering as we are wondering if it would be good to try a new resort or country for variety but we are being heavily swayed by the lure of coming back to a hotel that we know provides everything we need to a very high standard.



Cap Salou
As the name suggests this resort is on the small cap just after the super busy report of Salou on the Costa Dorada. My husband and I stayed in Salou about 16 years ago and we had a very memorable holiday there and were keen to return for this break but I had read that the resort had grown since we went there and we didn't really want to end up on a noisy strip with loads of drunk teenagers.

We completely made the right choice to stay in Cap Salou as it is much more upmarket and very quiet in comparison. The small village has a few supermarkets, some trinket/ tourist shops, about eight decent size family cafe/ restaurants, a cash point, a Plana (bus excursion) office and some market stalls selling things like waffles and hair braids.

There are excellent bus services to Salou, La Pinada, Port Adventura, Tarragona and Barcelona, as well as many more local areas. The buses are reasonably priced if you buy a pre-paid card and they are all a decent standard. There is also a small land train that goes between the main holidaymaker resorts and you can buy a 'hop on, hop off' ticket for use on this. The one time we did go into the main resort of Salou, we chose to walk and this took us about 40 minutes to stroll along and enjoy the sea views.

Cala Font positioning
The Hotel has an amazing beachfront position. The bay that it is set in makes it look as if the hotel has a private beach, it doesn't but it easily could be as even in August we didn't feel it was too busy.

It is situated on a steep hill but you literally enter the hotel at the top and the there are lifts inside to access all areas. You can go directly from the hotel pool onto the beach road and it is just about 50m until you are in the sea. There are sun beds (5 euros) and parasols ( 7 euros)to hire on the beach but we basically sat by the pool and just headed to the sea for swimming and fun. This was the best of both worlds as we had sand free relaxing, decent showers on hand but also the warm crystal waters of the Mediterranean. 

As it is a bay the kids enjoyed climbing the rocks and searching for small crabs and other animal amongst the rocks and of course bobbing in the waves on their inflatables. We never quite made it into a pedalo but they have very large ones that can seat about 5 or 6 and you can take them out into slightly deeper water and enjoy using the built in slide for 10 euros for an hour.


Public areas
As soon as we entered the hotel you heard the kids intake of breath. It is really beautiful and you can easily see why the Cala Font has achieved 4 stars. On entry level there is a large public lounge with plenty of comfy sofas, a vending room, computers you can hire to surf the net, left luggage, a small trinket shop, which is such wonderful value and the guy who runs it is great and of course reception.

Nothing was ever too much trouble for the receptionists and they appeared to speak a whole variety of languages so all customers could be helped. We arrived at the hotel at 10am and our room was not due to be ready until 2pm but the receptionist got our paperwork sorted and flagged to housekeeping that we would like the room earlier if possible. We were lucky enough to get both rooms just before 1pm but we were encouraged to use the free Wi-Fi and enjoy the pool area whilst we waited and our luggage was kept securely for us.

My husband and I quite liked sitting on this reception level in an evening as you could hear the evening entertainment but not actually have to be in the middle of it, meaning we could play cards with the kids and JJ could be online chatting to his friends back home!



The next level down is the public bar and the venue for the nightly entertainment. Again there are plenty of comfy sofas and also sets of tables and chairs. There was never an evening when it was too full, you could always find somewhere to sit. In fact as we often went to the bar about 8pm after our dinner we normally had the pick of the seats and we would choose a comfy sofa area with stunning pool and sea views. There is also a really nice outside area with tables and chairs, which is great for watching the sun go down but we didn't use this as it was generally where the smokers went. 

I was also pleased to see there was a book swap area and always plenty of magazines and newspapers around for you to read. The free Wi-Fi also works on this level and for 6 days out of 7 of the holiday we had great internet connection.

On the bottom level was the restaurant, free to residents gym and children's club. It was also the entry way to the pool and I'm pleased to say there was a lift that would take you from reception, down to both of the lower floors. We didn't make use of the gym but it looked well maintained and never too busy, so if you are the kind of person that likes to work-out it would be perfect.


Bedrooms
Due to the ages of our children, we choose to have a boys room and girls room. So my husband stayed with our 12 year old son and I stayed with our 8 year old twin girls, there didn't appear to be adjoining rooms but a quick email to Thomsons meant that we have rooms right next to each other and the hotel we're happy to provide as many electronic keys as we wanted so that we could easily get in both rooms.

I was pleased to see there were two lifts to the bedrooms floors as we were on the sixth floor and this meant we had a really fabulous view out to the pool and sea. The Cala Font Hotel has 312 rooms and as well as the standard rooms we stayed in the Cala Font also has Superior and Junior Suites.

Both my husband and I felt our rooms were of a good standard. Each bed was made with 2 pillows and a sheet and over-cover, rather than duvet but this was appropriate for the weather. As we kept the air conditioning on over night to help us sleep my girls choose to have a blanket each too and these were readily available in the wardrobe. The mattresses were very firm but we had a great nights sleep every night so I can't complain.

In the bedroom was a large mirrored wardrobe with plenty of hangers, a safe (which you had to pay to receive the lock/ key too), drawer and shelf space, a luggage rack, dressing table and large wall-mounted TV. My son was very pleased that he managed to find a way to take the generic channels back to English rather than Spanish and it meant him and my husband could watch things like NCIS and Hawaii five-0. The girls were more into the Disney channel and we even enjoyed a couple of movies during our afternoon 'shady' time.

One thing to say about the TV is that you can often hear next doors TV that is attached to the other side of your wall, luckily for us this was my husbands room, so we could ask them to turn it down when the girls wanted to sleep earlier than many on holiday but it might have been difficult if we had noisy neighbours.



Every room has full length glass doors and a wonderful balcony with plastic table and chairs. It was very welcome that there was a black out curtain as well as the fabric one and thus we could keep our room cool all day and night.

The en-suite bathroom was of a very high standard with both bath and overhead shower and this delighted Miss E was she has bought her bath bombs with her. All the towels we needed for in the room were provided and we could have had them changed daily if we so wished.

The housekeeping service really was exceptional, I've honestly never seen one like it. The room attendants would change/ make the beds daily, sweep the floor and balcony, empty bins, clean the bathroom and change the towels. Nothing was too much trouble for them as we had to ask for their help a couple of times and despite language difficulties they kept smiling and helped as best they could.


Swimming pool
We spent so much time down by the pool, it really was a highlight of our holiday. The pool area isn't opened until 9am so no-one can go out there at crazy times and bagsy all the beds with their towels. We waited at 9am for the door to open and this meant we got the beds of our choice each day, we choose to only take two for the adults as realistically the kids stayed in the water the whole time. I'm pleased to say that most people by the pool seemed really considerate, there wasn't arguing or bed- grabbing. I must also say the pool area is kept spotlessly clean with the beds being moved each night and the whole area being hosed down about 6am.

One of the things we enjoyed about the hotel was the amount of different nationalities holidaying there. It was interesting to play 'spot the language' and it meant our kids had to work hard to make friends but that didn't stop them. The girls got on wonderfully with a couple of German/Romanian girls and spent many hours playing in the pool and sea. It was also nice to see the adults were friendly too and a French guy called Wally taught all my kids to do flips into the pool. They were so proud of themselves.

Each day at 11am there was either stretching or water aerobics and my husband and I joined in with the aerobics and then crazy dances afterwards and it was lots of fun. The stretching on the poolside (in a cossie) wasn't for me but many enjoyed it.  Of course early morning and late afternoon were the times that the pool was least busy but even at the peak around 12 noon or 2pm it still felt as if there was room for everyone.

The shallow kids pool didn't really appear to be used much but my JJ liked to lay in there and relax as it was often shady rather than the main pool which kept the sun until about 5.30pm when it disappeared behind the hotel. There was also a tiny park between the pools with a few pieces of play equipment for the smaller kids.

On the one hand it was great that inflatables were not allowed in the main pool as it meant no-one was getting knocked by them and of course it left more room for swimming and playing, on the other it meant we had to go down to the sea to use the rings and ball. There was a lifeguard on duty from 9am - 7pm each day and that of course was reassuring.

By the side of the pool there is a small cafe selling drinks, slushies, ice-creams and snacks like sandwiches, burgers and chips. The prices are pretty much in accordance with all the local cafes, with a sandwich being about 4 euros. I used to send JJ to the shop opposite where I could have a large cold bottle of water for us all to share for 1 euro but the kids would often wangle ice-creams or slushies (about 2 euros each) out of me, we were in holiday after all!


Entertainment and kids club
Every day there are activities going on for children and adults at the hotel run by three young summer staff. I've already mentioned the daily water aerobics/ stretching at 11am and then at about 12 there was a kids hour with something like craft, painting or story time. Later in the afternoon there were activities like boules, a pool tournament or water polo and JJ loved this time as it was mostly teenagers/adults taking part.

Then in the evening there was a mini discos with action songs and popular music and afterwards something different each night. Perhaps karaoke, a singing act, music performer or flamenco dancing. The kids and I all joined in for karaoke and had a lot of fun and the flamenco was great to watch.

You are not talking West End show standard with the entertainment but it made for a pleasant evening in the hotel and as I've mentioned we played cards or Miss E bought her colouring down and would nestle down with some of her friends to do that. JJ was also pleased that the free Wi-Fi worked in the bar level too and he could still chat to his friends at home.

Food and dining
We had booked for breakfast and dinner each day and we knew to expect an eat all-you-can buffet style restaurant. We were very pleased that it managed to maintain a restaurant feel rather than becoming a massive canteen. The tables were well laid with linen cloths and the cutlery and glasses were always spotlessly clean. On the one occasion we couldn't find a table one of the supervisors appeared and immediately found us a table. It appears they kept a few large tables reserved for when it was really busy.


Dinner - This was the first time my children had eaten at an international buffet and it was funny to watch them look over all the counters on the first night as there were many things they did not recognise. There was always a huge variety of food that included meat, fish and vegetable dishes. There is a salad counter, breads display, paella, pasta, soup, desserts, ice-cream and four hot food counters with about six dishes on each. Each night they also cook something fresh to order as well like grilled chicken skewers, turkey escalopes or salmon fillet.

My husband and I seemed to settle into a routine of grilled meat, loads of salad and some rice most nights for dinner but it was good to have a change to sauté potatoes or chips on occasion. Even the pickiest child should be fine at this buffet as there was plenty of meat, chips, pasta, nuggets, rice, casserole and bread.

The kids adored the dessert area as a few things stayed the same every day - chocolate mousse, rice pudding, sponge, ice-cream, jelly and loads of sliced and whole fruits - and then others changed daily, so they were never short of a sweet treat.

Sadly no drinks are included with your evening meal and this means you either go without a drink with your dinner or order from one of the wine waiters. We had a bottle of water to share each night and this was 3.40 euros. It could have become very expensive if we had been buying cokes and wine.

It is useful to note that you can change yoru dinner to lunch if you request at reception the day before. The lunch service is pretty much the same as dinner but it appeared less busy in general.

Breakfast - was always a great meal and when we go away this is the highlight of JJ's stay - the buffet breakfast, so I had been a little worried as anyone who has been to Spain will know that their bacon is very different to our English back bacon. I needn't have worried as every day there were good pork sausages, eggs (boiled or fried), plum tomatoes, hash browns and baked beans. As well as an abundance of cereals, yoghurt, fruit, pastries, breads and toast.

You could help yourself to hot drinks, water and juice at breakfast time too, which was very welcome.

Breakfast is served 8 - 10.30am, lunch at 1.30pm and dinner 7-8.30pm.

Conclusion
We loved the Cala Font Hotel and our family will happily return there again. I would probably book direct next time as now having stayed there I believe I can trust the hotel's management to really look after us.

Yes there are a few things that could be improved - more comfy mattresses, better sound-proofing in the bedrooms, a free fridge in the room and perhaps a kettle, as well as a non-smoking area by the pool and offering tap water with your evening meal but these were just small things in comparison to the excellent holiday we had.

A big thank you to all the wonderful staff at the Cala Font Hotel. Especially the three barman that befriended Miss M and made her a mocktail each evening.




Disclosure: We fully paid for this holiday and they knew nothing of me writing this review. I just had such a great time and I wanted to shout out about this fantastic hotel.
Happy Mummy
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