Forget preconceived ideas about all-inclusive resorts, this luxurious hotel in mainland Greece will cater to your every whim, as Jessica Jonzen discovers
The term ‘all inclusive’ doesn’t immediately summon images of luxury. For those of us who have fallen foul of mediocre Mediterranean resorts in the past, the phrase is synonymous with bad buffets, wristbands, queues for cheap alcohol and an unexpected – and high – bill at the end of your stay.
Which is why Ikos Resorts – the small group of three luxury hotels on the Halkidiki peninsula and on Corfu – want to position themselves as far away from that image as possible, with the marketing bods instead coining the phrase ‘infinite lifestyle’ to summarise what they offer.
And that is a truly five-star holiday experience, paid for in full when you book, with everything covered in the price (only spa treatments and motorised water sports attract an extra charge). It has to be the easiest and most spoiling holiday I’ve ever had.
My group and I stayed at Ikos Oceania in Nea Moudania, which is just a half-hour drive from Thessaloniki airport. Originally part of the Ikos’ sister hotel group Sani’s portfolio, it rebranded as Oceania and opened in March 2015. It had a 25-million euro refurbishment across the winter and re-opened in April as a serene and luxurious resort.
Once you arrive, everything from fitness classes to beach cocktails to childcare is covered. Want to order room service at 2am? No extra charge, and always accompanied with courtesy and genuine enthusiasm.
The main building housing the entrance lobby is built into a cliff face and could look a little severe, but the clever use of cascading waterfalls and living walls soften it, and it made me think of a modern-day Tracy Island.
The 290-room resort boasts four restaurants with menus designed by Michelin-star chefs; six swimming pools; a kids’ club; tennis courts, and a 350-metre private beach with views out to Mount Olympus.
My room, with its balcony overlooking the impossibly blue Aegean, was spacious and tranquil with plenty of storage and thoughtful touches, like a Nespresso coffee machine and British plug sockets in case you’d forgotten your adapter. The en-suite bathroom was stocked with the same Anne Semonin products carried in the spa and had a wonderfully powerful shower.
The ‘infinite lifestyle’ takes a bit of getting used to when you’re usually accustomed to constantly rummaging around for your credit card when on holiday. Ordering an Aperol Spritz from my poolside sun lounger felt impossibly decadent at first, but by our third night, my party and I were blithely ordering every dessert on the menu, just so we could try each one. It’s all included, after all.
In fact, you could quite easily leave Ikos Oceania with the same number of euros you arrived with, even after hiring bikes or pedalos, and eating out at a local partner restaurant for an authentically Greek meal.
We also paid a visit to Ikos Olivia, just 20 minutes round the bay at Gerakini, which opened in 2015 and is slightly more expensive than Oceania. I preferred the layout at Olivia which, once you get past the rather foreboding main lobby, is made up mostly of stone bungalows, naturalised by 22 acres of landscaped gardens. Olivia also has the added benefit of having restaurants directly on the beach with terraces for al fresco dining, which is an opportunity missed at Oceania.
And so on to the food. With four à la carte restaurants to choose from (and which you must remember to pre-book, one minor drawback), there’s no need to see a buffet at all. But to do that would be to miss out, for the one at Flavors restaurant is something to behold. This restaurant appeared to be the biggest hit with families with young children, whether that appeals or not.
Ouzo, the Greek restaurant, with its fresh and contemporary décor, offered a modern take on traditional Greek cuisine. We feasted on crispy calamari; fresh sea bream and octopus; lamb kleftiko; lemon chicken thighs and every salad you could think of before tucking into crème brûlée; poached pear and halva mousse for pudding.
The French restaurant, Provence – overseen by the Pourcel twins – provided a quieter setting next to the adults-only pool. With a menu including tuna tartare with hazelnut vinaigrette; moules; sea bream carpaccio; veal noisettes and duck fillet, all beautifully cooked, it’s a real gastronomic experience. The wine menu, with 300 labels presided over by experienced sommeliers, provided an excellent amount of choice.
All this over-indulging in the ‘infinite lifestyle’ meant that the option of exercise classes and a state-of-the-art gym were a welcome bonus. In reality, an evening bike ride along the coastal path and a pre-breakfast swim in the deserted infinity pool was all I managed.
Instead, I decided to put the spa through its paces and had a very effective massage. My therapist managed to completely unknot by desk-bound back in just 30 minutes, which was no mean feat.
Having your every whim catered to makes for an extremely relaxing holiday. The only downside to Ikos? Having to readjust to the reality of a decidedly ‘finite lifestyle’ back at home.
Destinology offers a seven-night stay at Ikos Oceania starting at £1,379pp, based on two sharing a Panorama Junior Suite Sea View on an all-inclusive basis, including return flights from London Gatwick.
A seven-night stay at Ikos Olivia starts at £1,539 per person, based on two sharing a one-bedroom Bungalow Suite Private Garden/Garden view, on an all-inclusive basis and including return flights from London Gatwick.
For further information or to book a holiday, visit destinology.co.uk or call 01204 824619.