Hans D. Baumeister

Hans D. Baumeister

Castello Village Resort in Sisi, Crete, Greece ***1/2

Stayed: October 2016

Important: The bartender informed us that the hotel will be renovated once it closes for the season this year. So some of the things I’ve written about in this review may not apply anymore for the vacation season of 2017.

Arrival
The village of Sisi is about a 45 minute drive from Heraklion Airport; it would be faster (it isn't far), but unfortunately a lengthy portion of the highway is under construction and speeds are frequently limited to 70km/h.
We arrived in the evening, having found Sisi using Google maps and the hotel by just following the road to the beach (pure luck, really). Google maps acts pretty oddly along the route, but apparently the highway is - in part - quite new. At one point you could still see the markings of a roundabout that the highway now went across. Maps was a bit odd along the country roads to Sisi coming off the highway, indicating a left turn that didn't exist and immediately indicating to turn left in 1.x km. Very odd.
The guy at reception was very friendly and asked us to go straight through to the restaurant before doing the registration, as it would close shortly - very forthcoming. The people working at this hotel are all very friendly and helpful, as it turns out. Five stars for the service!

Room(s)
Our room (number 353) turned out to be a bit of a letdown. For one thing, it looked quite lived down, for another it was along the eastern side of the hotel, so the small sitting area looked over an empty lot on the one side and up at a side of balconies that were in parallel to the empty lot.
All the shutters for windows and french doors - both in the bedroom as well as the living room (with two sofas converted to beds for the kids) were extremely tight, which left little space for light or air to get through. AC would have cost 5$ per day, which we didn't think we'd need in October.
As it turns out, it would have been very good to have; for one thing, the room was very warm and just didn't cool down, even with shutters wide open (as it turns out, it had some sort of warm water pipe running the entire length of it, essentially providing a heated floor) and because you definitely didn't want to close the windows at night (it would have gotten even warmer), you were blasted from all sides by AC compressors hung from walls outside adjoining rooms. Needless to say, we didn't sleep well that night, despite being very tired.
The next day, we checked with management to see if an upgrade would be possible and, after waiting for that room to get cleaned after a late departure, we moved into room 403 at 5PM.
This room is diagonally across the hotel campus and has a partial sea view (you get the noise from the ocean at night, really nice!) and a better floor plan. You also get a cool breeze from the sea (yea) and there are no compressors anywhere to be heard at night!

Neither 353 nor 403 have what you would call ample storage... there is about 2m of hanger space in a wall closet, with two small drawers. Then there is a two-drawer cabinet in the bedroom. 403 also had two nightstands with one drawer each that 353 didn't have. There are no drawers or hanger space for the kids sleeping on couches, which is pretty silly at best, especially because there is enough space along the walls to place a cabinet of some sort.
We met some people that started out in the very same room we had started in, and also were able to upgrade it the next day. Perhaps the room is the "90% will upgrade from here" cash cow, I don't know. The upgrade was €15 per night so I'm not complaining.

You do hear the pool bar music in the bedroom of 403, even if you close the french doors to the „patio“. The bar closes at 1AM, so if you're the type to go to bed early, you may need ear plugs.
Both rooms had a small kitchenette with a two-plate "stove", but no pots or pans to use on it. The bathrooms are functional (353 has a bathtub, 403 a shower). The beds are almost comfortable, though a bit hard for my taste.

All in all, I would recommend the rooms at the lower pool, as they are likely to have the least issues with noise - the lower bar closed early (at least while we stayed there). If you get a room facing the upper pool / bar, be prepared not to sleep before 1AM!


Food
The restaurant is quite quaint - there is an outside seating area (quite small), a main eating room (too bright) and a section towards the front of the hotel that was our favorite. It isn't as bright and canteen-like but more like a restaurant.
The buffet consists of several cooler areas in the center of the buffet section, with some more buffet (with warm food) along the walls. The choices are less than other hotels I've been to, but then this is a relatively small hotel. The food is good for the most part (matter of taste, of course) and you'll always find something local amongst typical western European foods.

Two complaints I need to voice are that the Zaziki was sub-prime every day I tried it. I love Greek food and have had it both on various Greek islands, on the mainland, on Cyprus and of course in Greek restaurants in non-Greece Europe. I've never had Zaziki this horrible anywhere before. I have no idea what is wrong with it - maybe it is the yoghurt used or some spices missing, it is unrefined and offensive to the tongue. The second complaint is the choice of fresh fruit for breakfast, which usually consisted of Watermelon (which I don't like) and nothing else. They usually had two more fruit out of a can, which is a shame - considering the diversity of fruit that grows on Crete.
We had the Breakfast+Dinner Buffet package and drinks are charged for dinner. I found the prices to be a bit high: a bottle of water, a beer and half a liter of local wine for 18€ doesn't fit to the level this hotel is at.

Pools
There are two pools and two pool bars at this hotel complex - one at the top, one at the bottom of the hill. The pool at the bottom is quite a lot smaller, but the bar is spectacular as it looks over the ocean. There is also a playground and a volleyball court (sand!) down there - really quite nice. The bottom pool has a kiddie pool next to it.

The top pool is large enough, about 10x10m in an L-shape. It was surprisingly warm for October, but as I found out the hard way (sunburn), the sun packs a lot of punch down here even this time of year... after all, you're on the same longitude as northern Africa.

Both pools were very clean.

Wifi
There are three Wifi networks available nearly anywhere on "campus": one for Castello Village, Appartments and _. While one might think these are localized to the individual locales, this isn't the case - apparently, all three are broadcast everywhere. You also see access points frequently, so coverage is good. Unfortunately, performance is a disaster. If you're dependent on a fast Wifi connection while on holiday, then this hotel is NOT for you! Depending on where you are (likely an access point issue), connecting to one or more of the networks simply doesn't work; even though you very carefully enter the (correct) password, a message comes back stating that the password is incorrect. Use the same password at a different location and you get connected.
I did a Wifi speed test via an app on my iPhone and the results are actually not that bad (19ms ping, 3.24Mbps down, 1.06Mbps up), so I'm assuming that there is some issue with either a filtering software or the firewall. In any case, it is quite frustrating. The really odd thing is that you mainly wait for your requested URL to start loading - once it has started, it actually loads quite quickly.

Surroundings
The hotel is - luckily - about 500m away from the center of Sisi. Luckily, because there are lots of bars and restaurants down there and the noise level might be annoying if the hotel was right next door. This way, you have a good compromise of being there in 5 min. on foot if you want to party and not being bothered too much by loud music.

Towards the east, you have about 500m to beautiful Boufos Beach that is - at least partially - sand. The sea actually has a lot of rocks in it (most of them rounded), so beach shoes that stay on your feet in heavy waves are absolutely required. The first time we visited the beach, wave action was heavy, but this was really cool, even for the kids. The waves would throw you down, but since there is a plateau in the ocean you can stand on that isn't jagged, you don't hurt yourself falling down. The beach also had a nice bar on it where you can sit in the shade and enjoy a food/drink special for prices that make it fun to be on holiday.

Summary
All in all, a hotel to be recommended. We enjoyed staying here once we changed rooms.
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