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Tuesday 24 December 2013

Melia Tortuga Beach, Cape Verde

This is a hotel which, in some ways, has something for everyone. There are a number of swimming pools which cater for those needing ‘entertainment’ (or providing it, of course), to those who just want to sit quietly, or those caring for smaller children who are more interested in a paddling pool.

The beach is vast, with soft sand; there have been comments made about the lack of availability of sun loungers, this was never a problem during our stay.

The accommodation is more than one can reasonably expect in this price bracket. We had a two bedroom and sitting room apartment which was kept very clean by the staff.

The landscaped gardens are meticulously maintained by a large staff of gardeners, and certainly add to the feeling of comfort.

There are four restaurants, which again offer something for everyone, although the lack of choice makes a long stay a tad repetitive.

Spices – a self-service buffet
This is pretty much as you would expect, with both local and standard dishes. These are frequently replenished and kept tidy by staff.

This restaurant (for dinner) has a choice of four starters, four main courses, and two deserts (although they tend to be served as two half portions on one plate).

Ô Grille
This restaurant serves grills (not much of a surprise, given the name) and other dishes at lunchtime. It metamorphoses into a cosy place for an evening meal by the beach, complete with musical entertainment (sometimes excellent). The real limiting factor is that there are only 3 menus, with no variations.

Not our favourite place but, it is another option. This restaurant is only open in the evening and serves basically the same menu, with a choice of meat or fish, in either Mediterranean or Oriental (perhaps better described as eastern Mediterranean) slants.

As a generality, the cocktails are perfectly drinkable, although you will have to queue at one of the many bars.

The staff are very polite and will all smile back to a greeting of ‘olà’ (hi).

There has been mention (in other reviews), of mediocre standards of hygiene. In our experience, this is absolutely not the case; quite the contrary. Staff preparing food all wear hats and latex gloves however, the conduct of some customers might be the cause of any germs; sneezing and coughing over displayed food, let alone tasting different dishes with the same utensil… (this only applies to the self-service restaurant).

4 Tips for the traveller
•    When checking in, request cards for beach towels; this will avoid you having to go back to reception later. As the distances between beach and main building are fairly large, this will save you quite a few footsteps.
•    Book for evening meals in the restaurants as soon as possible. This will give you a larger choice of times and can always be changed later. The booking procedure starts at 10:30 each day. Avoid the queue and don’t go to reserve until 11:00.
•    If you prefer a ‘quieter’ option than the main Spices restaurant for breakfast, this exists. We won’t detail it here, so as not to get too many people interested; just ask the staff and they will point you in the right direction.
•    Join the Melia rewards program before you leave home. This will give you access to free late checkout and free Wi-Fi Internet access in some public areas (the one in reception is the most reliable).

4 Suggestions for the hotel
These are not complaints, merely suggestions for making life better for guests:

•    Checking-in can be a bit of an unpleasant experience; as it is the first contact guests have with the hotel, it should be as painless as possible. A form needs to be completed for check-in, which could be done on-line before arrival (completing it on the journey from the airport is not really viable).
•    There is a tourist tax which is collected on arrival, in cash. It would be simpler to do the same as most hotels and take a credit/debit/charge card authorisation and add it to the bill.
•    The 2 bedroom apartments have blackout curtains in the double room but not in the two bedded room. If this arrangement were swapped, it might give parents a quieter night.
•    Next time the cutlery and/or crockery are changed, get someone to try the two together; the cutlery falls into the plates far too easily (not to say often).

The lack of a truly international ratings system for hotels will continue to provide surprises for travellers.

The best way to enjoy this hotel is to manage your expectations... the five star rating (and the explanation that it is a Cape Verdean 5*) is perhaps not what you would expect. Hopefully you will book through a tour operator (who may also claim a 5* Status) but, you will be paying a 3* price; this should set your expectations, and should ensure that you are delighted with your choice; it will represent excellent value for money.

As a matter of fact, rather than opinion, 24 hour room service is usually (in Europe at least) a prerequisite for a 5* rating. The Melia Tortuga (despite contrary information on its website) offers no room service; it was explained to us that this was "not yet available".

On the other hand, if you are used to the European expectation of a five star hotel having an all-knowing, all-fixing concierge then, the Thomson Rep, Elias will not disappoint you. He absolutely goes the extra mile... literally, even organising a weekly walk.
The acid test of satisfaction is ‘would you go back?’. The answer is “Yes”.

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