Regular readers will know we’re big fans of Mark Warner here at NappyValleyNet.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, they’re so very good at what they do because they understand that for parents to have a great time, children need to have a great time. As a result, their amazing childcare and activity “machine” isn’t just about keeping the little ones happy, it’s about giving shattered parents a chance to recharge their batteries.
In the past we’ve visited Prai da Luz, Lakitira and San Agostino (sadly now closed) but this was our first visit to Levante on the Greek island of Rhodes which, if I’m reading their marketing blurb correctly, is a slightly more upmarket resort than their other offerings.
It certainly felt that way on arrival.
The BA flight from Heathrow arrived bang on time and after a very short transfer, which was used by most passengers to fill in childcare and sailing course forms, we found ourselves in a bright and airy lobby. Comfy sofas were scattered throughout, more often than not draped in children wearing school leaver hoodies playing cards and chatting. Both the large bar and dining areas, which lead directly from the entrance, have inside/outside seating and are raised so as to overlook the main family pool. This is surrounded by low-level apartments with sliding doors opening up onto small grassy lawns before one reaches the sun loungers and the pool itself.
We stayed in one of the large poolside deluxe rooms with one double bed separated from a set of twins by a solid looking divider. We had tons of storage space, the quality of finish was high and we could slide open the doors and run straight out into the pool. I particularly loved the bathroom. A big powerful shower sat beside vast double sinks and a bath. It was just what was needed to reinvigorate tired muscles after hours of sailing and tennis.
As opposed to Lakitira which felt like a wide but shallow resort, Levante Rhodes is the opposite, stretching out in a deep but narrow ribbon towards the waterfront. That doesn’t, however, affect what’s on offer. As one moves towards the sound of the sea there is a further adult pool, a snack bar, another more formal restaurant nestling next to a beach bar and that’s all before one gets to the volleyball court which sits directly on the beach next to the sailboards and boats.
In a similar set up to their other sites, space hungry tennis courts are in front of the hotel alongside the cycling shack and an exercise hut. There is even an indoor pool, gym, spa and table tennis table in the main building’s basement but spa aside; we spent most of our time outside.
So if you’re a regular Mark Warnerite, what’s different?
Straight off the bat, Levante feels much more of a Greek holiday resort rather than a self-contained holiday centre. OK it’s not Praia Da Luz, which is actually part of a working village, but it’s a short hop to Rhodes town and we often popped out for shopping or dinner and felt we’d had a taste of Greece, which couldn’t be said of San Agostino.
And sticking to the subject of taste, the food is great.
One area where resorts of this size can struggle is the sheer logistics of feeding so many hungry and demanding holidaymakers.
The self-service approach, almost an industry standard for this size of resort. lends itself to a quick table turn around making it all the harder to loiter over a glass of wine and swap holiday war stories after dinner.
In Rhodes that self-service approach is still here, along with the familiar MW waiters and waitresses to bring drinks to your table, but the whole situation feels much much more relaxed. I’m not sure if it was the bigger space that put less pressure on their logistics or a function of increased staffing but as the large bar sat right next door to the dining area most evenings we “went soft” by hopping over the dividing rope for a post-dinner game of cards and to continue drinking and chatting. The smiley table service kept the Prosecco flowing and for the younger ones, who preferred to socialise with a hipper vibe, the beach bar was a quick slouch away.
In addition to the main restaurant there are more formal Asian and traditional Greek taverna eateries if you fancied a change but we only popped in on one evening as we missed the buzz of the main bar.
The childcare, as already mentioned is comprehensive and excellent. Effectively a full time nursery for babies and toddlers, older children have their own “play scheme” and a youth club for the “tweenies”. In this respect MW are all things to all kids: I used to love sitting on my sun lounger watching crocodiles of beaming toddlers, slathered in sun cream and sun hats jump into the pool while “cool” teenagers longue about the beach café shooting the welcome onshore breeze.
There are kids clubs in the evenings and monitored sleeping in their nursery for babies and toddlers who need to go to bed before their parents. The care isn’t quite all-day, there is no lunch cover, but it does mean that for parents exhausted by the rat race you can reclaim some “couple” time for huge chunks of your vacation.
Activity wise there was the MW trademark sailing and tennis but cycling was, surprisingly, a very big part of the Levante offering, both on and off the road. It wasn’t unusual to see gaggles of MAMILs at breakfast and speaking to Sue, the manager, she explained that the local mountains are a big draw for road cyclists. With this is mind they’d recently bought in a range of carbon road bikes for hire. This meant nothing to me but brought shrieks of velo-rapture from one of our party, a committed Sussex Downs peddler.
Bicycles aside, the day trips were also something I hadn’t tried before.
Our children adored their half-day canoe safari whilst my favourite was a morning snorkel trip from a large wooden motor yacht which picked us up directly from the beach. As we chugged off to Anthony Quinn Beach the gnarly Greek captain chatting away over the intercom almost convinced me I was starring in Mama Mia.
And, finally, that brings me on to the staff.
It’s a sign of how much loyalty is demonstrated by both clients and employees alike that the first few days felt like a university reunion. My children squealed on recognising at least five of the waterfront staff from previous seasons, Mr NappyValleyNet ‘s favourite waiter from San Agostino was on duty in the beach bar and I met one adult couple who had met Sue the manager when they were both teenagers, holidaying in the very early nineties and she was a at the start of her MW career.
Why does this matter? I think it sums up the X Factor that made the fortnight so much fun. Any company can plonk a hotel on a beachfront and hire some staff but the girls and boys at all the Mark Warner resorts have been, pretty much without exception, great fun to be around. On our last evening, along with a family we’d met in resort, we hosted a dinner for a bunch of waterfront staff. The wine was flowing, the wind and waves in the war stories were getting taller by the minute and my youngest was surrounded by instructors who were patiently listening to her tales of derring do. Much later, as we carried one very tired daughter to bed, all she had the energy to mumble was “how do I get a job here when I’m older?”