Saturday, 8 June 2019

Kos with Kids - Ikos Aria - Our Stay

Ikos Aria, Kos, Greece

In May 2019, we travelled to the newly opened Ikos Aria for a week long holiday, it was a wonderful week filled with food, lots of family time and relaxing in the sunshine.

Journey

Holiday Excitement

Leaving Home


Our flight this time was via Easyjet from Gatwick but not until the late afternoon, which meant a nice lie in for all of us in the morning before setting off to the airport; it was actually really nice not having to wake up extra early for the kids and for me it meant I could have quick tidy, and do all the laundry the night before we left. It is so much more relaxing going away when you know you have no mess or full laundry baskets at home. My parents came over to say bye to us and the kids and helped load up our car before we set off to the airport.

Gatwick Parking

Sunglasses at the ready

Last time we flew from Gatwick we use the valet service for parking but I found there was too much waiting around when it came to collecting our car and also last time they damaged my brother‘s car so I was put of using this company and service again. After checking a few online reviews Cophall Parking came out on top so I booked to leave our car.



Cophall was easy to find using the postcode and detailed instructions. You could tell from the outset that all the staff were very professional and the main plus point for me was the no rushing especially when travelling with kids. You park up outside reception, check in and are then assigned a minibus where you can load up all your luggage on with the friendly drivers help and then it’s around a 10 minute transfer to the terminal building when you arrive at Gatwick. On our return, I called up just after we had collected our luggage and a minibus was already waiting for us at the bus stop ready to take us back to our car. I love the fact that there was less waiting time than when using valet, Uber or pre booked mini cabs. Anything I find to make travel less stressful is worth it when you have to also look after two children, a pushchair, multiple small toys and normal a beaker of water all at the same time.

Gatwick airport


All fuelled up 
Kids playareas
Softplay fun

Gatwick terminal is having quite a bit of work done to it, so a lot of areas are sectioned off. Food wise there are quite a few options still open, we choose to have Wagamama, a family favourite. The airport also had a small pair play area which has enough to keep them entertained for 20 minutes whilst I did a quick pop in to duty-free to pick up a few products from Nars.



Plane Spotting
One annoying thing though about Gatwick, there is no step free access to the plane and obviously this was also the exact time that the Little Bubs decided to have a proper meltdown. She wanted to eat her strawberries instead of boarding the plane so she literally lay flat on the floor as she was not getting her way, thankfully strangers are really helpful in helping out when juggling screaming toddler, pushchairs and a trolley. As soon as she got on the plane and got hold of her beloved strawberries peace was restored.


It was our first time fly EasyJet with kids and although the seats are smaller than other planes, overall it was fine and for four hours they ate lots snacks and played with their toys, check out my Instagram post for the type of toys I take when we fly.



Kos

Lobby at Night

Arrival



We arrived at Kos airport slightly later than expected and with only two custom officers it meant a long delay in the small arrival area for everyone. Luggage trolleys are available and free to use and once we collected our luggage, the transfer coach was ready and waiting for us. On our flight there were a lot of family staying at the Ikos Aria so we had our own coach for the transfer and it took around 20 minutes to arrive at the hotel.




Check In

Check In Desk 

As soon as we stepped off the coach several members of staff were ready to help with a friendly welcome. Once inside the stunning lobby were given wet towels and after a few minutes of taking a seat one of the managers Irakis, informed us due to the large number of guests arriving late they had kept one restaurant open and asked if we would like to eat first and then check-in at our leisure. I love the feeling of walking into a hotel lobby after travelling, it always feels so clean and luxurious compared to the grey of airports and planes and Ikos certainly did not disappoint on lobby appeal. All white (my favourite interior colour), shiny and new with lots of big comfy sofas dotted around. After I managed to pull myself away from the beautiful interiors we headed downstairs with Irakis for dinner.


Lobby Lagoon Bar

 
It was lovely to be sipping a cold glass of wine, less than an hour after landing and was the perfect way to start our holiday. Dinner at fresco was good and the kids really enjoyed their pizza and pasta.  We then came back up to the lobby to resume my seat of one of the many sofas, with a glass of bubbly, After a quick, easy check-in and explanation of the resort and where everything was located; we were escorted to our room to find a delicious cake and champagne awaiting us.

Garden Views


For full details on our room - check out my additional post.




Hotel and facilities.


The decor at Ikos Aria is just stunning, I loved the colour palette used with lots of white and neutral tones all enhanced by the natural wood and green tones from the foliage. Every corner has been given a bit of love, including all of the hallways which are lit by tiny tealights every evening. The walkways around the grounds have all been landscaped and highlighted with great lighting in the evenings. There are lots of sitting areas around and staff are always quick to come by and take your order if you do choose to take a seat.


The whole vibe is serenity with high quality materials used giving a laidback luxury feel to all parts of the hotel. Each restaurant has also been dressed to impress, for more details on where we dined during our week click here.

Other facilities available which looked great but we did not use included the spa, indoor pool with waterfall and gym. We did however use the hotel buggy service very often and it was always prompt with a friendly driver arriving at your door within a few minutes of calling it.

Mini adventure.


As part of the all-inclusive there is a chance to drive a mini around the island for the day. Unfortunately even though I confirm this four times with four different members of staff before and after we arrived at the hotel, when we went to collect our Mini on the day there was no booking to be seen however Irakis the general manager stepped up again and resolved this for us by giving us a Mercedes A-Class to drive around for the day instead. The hotel is great at providing car seats for both the kids and also lunchboxes which we pre-ordered from reception to take with, which include drinks, a wrap, cakes and fruit. Staff also help you point out a few areas of interest to visit such as Kos old town and where to park your car.


Kos as an island is very quaint, only around 45km long it takes around an hour to drive the full length, there is one main road that runs the length of the island and despite having to use a sat nav with the Greek alphabet we managed to navigate around. Kos Old Town is a typical sleepy tourist town, as it was the start of the summer season, most places were still quiet but we enjoyed a walk around and picked up a few souvenirs before heading back to Ikos Aria.



Beach




Although the hotel states they have golden sands, I was not quite convinced on this. You can see the clear evidence of the beach having been cleaned up, as there is also a section in the middle of the hotel which is a public beach and there is a big difference in the sand quality and colour. The top section of the beach has the best quality of sand which looks like it has been imported in but several large boulders separate this from the lower section of the beach near the sea. This part has lots of small stones, sticks and shells in it and the sand seems more volcanic in parts. The actual sea bed has lots of large stones, sandbags have been placed down to create waterways if you wish to get past this section to swim but be prepared as the sea is cold. The water is crystal clear and calm though.





 As part of the Ikos service they also offer BabeWatch on the beach, a free babysitting service which we did not use, however the kids did play with some of the toys available. The sun loungers were all very comfortable and of great quality, and the attendants were very quickly to help you with finding one and setting up towels. Also once you were settled it was lovely being able to order drinks and food from your padded comfort, especially the Ikos Burger which was hands down one of the best burgers I have eaten, towards the end I was sooo full but it just tasted so good I found it hard to put down. In addition to the sun loungers there are also several beach cabanas to use. To see more details on what is available for kids whilst at Ikos Aria - click here.




Kastri Island


For me, one of my favourite things to do on holiday is to look out to the shimmering blue sea whilst relaxing on the beach, the beach at Ikos looks directly out to the beautiful Kastri Island. A tiny jagged rock complete with picture perfect blue church, which after I googled discovered that you and ten guests could use for a wedding. At night the church and island are lit up, providing further drama to the starry sky. 


Water Sports

Poolside Chills 
The hotel does offer water sports, and despite trying several times during our holiday to use this service it was unfortunately unavailable due to no license being received before the hotel opened, it would be lovely to use the pedalos to go across to Katri island once up and running.


Pool 



Post Swim Milk 
Ikos Aria has two main pools, one kids pool, one splash pad and two further pools in the deluxe section. Similar to the beach, great service on setting up, clearing wet towel and poolside food and drinks. Around mid day each day they will often walk around the pool and beach offering a taster sandwiches from the menu and later in the afternoon will often have fruit kebabs served. All the pools and splash pads are heated to around 30 degrees so lovely and warm to use even on the overcast days.
The pools are not far apart with the kids pool closer to the deluxe section and the other closer to the Ice Cream Gelateria and with an adults only section. This main pool is also where any pool view rooms are located, such as ours and also the best place to be for the the famous Paris Pool Bar. Paris is the manager at the pool bar and is one of Ikos Aria’s shining stars, always going out of his way for guests. Twice our room key stopped working and he rushed to reception himself to get a new copy made, when the food ordering system went down again he personally went to the kitchen to wait and order my food, just before we checked out and were busy packing up he came over with two farewell cocktails.




Ancient Ruins



One pleasant surprise I did not know about at the time of booking, is that the hotel is built around the Ancient Basilica Ruins, sections within the hotel grounds have been glassed off, showing of some of the findings and right in the middle of the hotel is a large site where you are able to explore, Big Bubs loved this and climbing over the walls was one of his favourite things to do, after the pool, kids club and beach that is. Check out my video  on instagram to see more details of this. 



Staff


Birthday Cake
Breakfast 
For me, a 5* hotel is not about how many pools they have, which toiletries are in the bathroom or the size of the business centre. It is about the level of service you receive, that is why we always pay a premium to stay at 5* hotels. The only thing that stands a hotel apart is this, from what I had heard from family and friends before going Ikos was a fabulous brand with exemplary customer service and after hearing about their infinite lifestyle approach to holidays I was expecting great things. I do think that our we set our standards quite high when it comes to service, so Ikos had a lot to live upto especially as we arrived the day after it officially opened.


 All the managers at the Ikos are very approachable, hands on and involved in not only the running of the hotel but also very willing to speak to guests and take feedback on board. From the room managers, for example on our pool view garden there was a low gate with no latch on it, so technically any child could open this (even my 1 year old) and run out into the pool area, but they were very quick to respond and order latches for this gates to prevent any accidents from occurring. Irakis, was great at resolving the issue we had with the car booking and passing all of our comments onto Effie the Hotel Manager. She did her best to reassure us that we would not have any further issues going forward, but unfortunately the next day was actually my birthday and another mishap happened. Mr S and Big Bubs, always woke up early and went for a walk most mornings whilst the girls had a lie-in. On the morning of my birthday Mr S, went over to reception to request a cake for dinner that evening with a candle to celebrate and they assured him at around 7am that this would be done without a problem. At around 3pm he had not heard anything back so after dropping Big Bubs to kids club he passed reception again and was informed it was all at hand. We dined at Anaya that evening, and after our meal we ordered desert but to his surprise no cake came out, in the end he had to go and speak to the restaurant manager who said she had seen a note about a birthday and cake on the booking but no cake had been delivered. Since we had been at dinner for over two and half hours by this point the kids were getting restless. In the end Mr S had to tell me about the surprise he had organised as I was ready to go back to our room, the restaurant manager explained the cake was on its way but at this point I just wanted to go back to the room and get the kids settled. It was the night of the white party on the beach so on the way back we stopped to check this out, and once we arrived back to our room around 11pm the restaurant manager was waiting at the door with the cake and a bottle of champagne. It was a beautiful personalised cake, so it was just a shame it did not arrive earlier in the evening.



None of the issues we experienced were major, and they were all resolved, it was just a shame that examples like the above kept happening each day on holiday. I really wanted them to succeed but every time they made a mishap I was like not again. And unfortunately when things did go as planned we were normally pleasantly surprised. 
The Famous Paris
As mentioned some staff members were fab such as Paris at the pool bar and Anne-Marie at Seasons who always did so much to make the kids feel welcome.  
DinnerTime 
All the staff do try really hard to do their best and I think a lot of it is just teething issues, most staff are from other Ikos and Sani properties so although not new to the industry they are new to the hotel. 

By the time our holiday came to an end I did feel really close to all the staff we had interacted with and really do wish them all the success, it is a magnificent hotel they have with all the right ingredients to make it a winner.

Return

Relax Mode Switched On

Check Out


Game of Chess

We had a very late flight on our last day at the hotel, however they kindly allowed us to stay in our room until the evening which made things so much easier with the kids and meant we got a full day to enjoy the hotel. After packing up and requesting for our luggage to be taken to the lobby, we went for a quick dinner at Flavours, the only time we actually went to the buffet at dinner and then made our way upto the lobby. Check out was very quick, with just a small tourist tax that you need to pay per day - €4. Effie had informed me that she would have a surprise for the kids at check- out and they were very happy to receive their toys, a submarine and cuddly unicorn from the hotel as we were leaving. It was a very generous parting gift, that made the kids so happy, they had one of the best weeks ever and this was the icing on top for them. We really appreciate the care the hotel took of us for the week we stayed with them, and I now do understand why people return back to Ikos again and again.



Kos Airport.


Nightflights

After such a memorable week, Kos airport was terrible, one of the worst I have ever been too. No step free access, no lifts - so you have to carry the pushchair upstairs. A really tiny and warm terminal building with a small shop where I brought some milk, crisps and drink for just under €10. After you board you wait outside on a raised walkway which was actually lovely as it was cooler than inside, however our plane was delayed and their is no seating outside so my advise is to go into Kos airport as late as you possibly can. 



Pre Dinner Photoshoots

Additional posts for more details on our stay at Ikos Aria:




1 comment:

  1. Hi Rupreet. Excellent review! I am off in October 2019 with my other half and 9 and 7-year old. We have booked each of the seven dining restaurants (not buffet )for dinner but need to swap one out as I wanted us togo to mylotopi. any suggestions which of the 7 restaurants I could leave out? Thx. Kit

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