A Guest's Review of the Sensatori Tenerife Hotel Complex
I have just returned from two weeks staying in the five star Sensatori Tenerife Hotel through Thomson Holidays. This article is a review of the hotel itself, the services it provides, staff attitudes, and other general observations both good and bad. I will include a considerable quantity of photographs and some film footage in order for anyone considering booking their holiday there to be able to get a feel for what they can expect, and therefore make an informed decision as to whether this is the hotel that will fulfill all of their requirements.
I hope that this information will prove very useful, but if you do have any further questions you would like to ask, please feel free to ask them in the comments section and I shall do my best to answer them as quickly as possible.
When our coach dropped us off outside the hotel we were immediately struck by the beauty of the elegant building, delightfully designed in a salmon pink with eye-catching turrets and towers. Walking through the main doors into the lobby we were hit by a mass of gorgeous scent, which immediately demanded commenting upon. Everywhere we looked were marble floors, marble pillars, (frequently illuminated from within) and huge chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. There were copious amounts of leather sofas with masses of cushions and a beautiful water feature in the centre of vision as we entered the building. It was like walking into a combination of an Arabian Nights scene and a Hollywood Mansion. We all found ourselves smiling from ear to ear at the opulence we were now about to spend two weeks living in. I honestly can't recall a time in my life I have ever had such an amazing first impression of any hotel, (and I have stayed in some very good hotels over the years.)
Thomson's 'Sensatori Tenerife' Hotel complex (Gran Melia Resort, Palacio de Isora), is located near to Guia de Isora, in a small village called Alcala, and boasts the largest swimming pool in Europe, known as the 'Infinity Pool'. It was this swimming pool that was largely the original attraction for my parents, (especially my Stepfather who is a keen swimmer). However, this is not the only pool on the complex, and there are several other pools to choose from, including a 'Tranquility Pool' that does not allow children (there are plenty of other options that are child friendly on the complex). Anyway, I digress, more on the pools a little bit later on. My point is that this was the 'carrot on the stick' that drew us to choose this hotel, which had the additional advantage of being located in Tenerife, a place I had lived for two and a half years previously, (therefore I would be able to utilise my basic Spanish if required). In March the weather is generally already hot in the Canary Islands, and with all the terrorism going on in the world, the Canaries are a relatively safe destination to choose compared to most others right now.
We arrived in our parent's bedroom first, and we were immediately stunned by the size of the bed, the huge bathroom and the beautiful layout of the room. Our parents had paid extra for a sea view and a balcony, and they certainly got what they paid for, a beautiful balcony, decent sized with two wicker chairs and a table on it. Even the bathroom had two different large doors into it, (both sliding), a bath (big enough for two to share), a rain shower, a bidet and of course a toilet. The mirror had lighting around it, although later on we did find out that in both rooms the lighting was not ideal for things women need to do such as putting on make-up, (far too dim).
Still making 'Wow' noises, we dragged our parents a few doors up to our room (4101 if you want to duplicate our experience), and this was even better still. For a start we had a balcony double the size of our parents one, and therefore we had two wicker chairs, two small wicker tables, a wicker sofa, a wicker 'normal' sized table and two further wicker chairs. I would not recommend leaning on the balcony rail however as it appeared to be held on by four screws, and I wouldn't have trusted it to take the weight of anyone leaning against it. Inside the room we had all the same facilities, but an additional sink in the bathroom, and twice the marble areas around it to store make-up, hair brushes etc.
Extra points to note were the amazing range of free accessories provided in the rooms. We are all used to expecting free shampoo, foam bath and a shower cap in a hotel room, but this hotel had gone way further, providing all of the above, but in addition, a solid heavy duty plastic sewing kit (daily if you removed the previous day's one), a proper toothbrush and small toothpaste it (again, daily if you removed or used the existing one), a female hygiene kit with both tampon and sanitary towel, a shoe cleaning mitt, a plastic hair comb, a nail file and a pack of three cotton buds (again all daily if you removed them).
The rooms had an incredible, if somewhat complicated range of lighting. There was 'mood/relax' lighting above and behind the bed, consisting of a circular sunset type effect above the bed, and an illuminated marble panel behind the bed. Then there was the living room area lighting where the sofa and TV were at the opposite end of the bed, additionally there was lighting for reading, lighting (basic) on the balcony, lighting for the shower and toilet, lighting for the rest of the bathroom (separate), automatic lighting in the wardrobes and lighting in the corridor between the bathroom and the bedroom areas. It was weird, as there ended up being so many combinations of all of these lights, that the room was equipped with no less than 15 light switches, many of which seemed to work only when it suited them, (our parents experienced two nights where they turned their lights off, went to sleep, only to be awoken at about 03.00am by all their lights turning themselves on, and refusing all attempts to be turned off). The hotel 'electrician' fixed them by walloping one of the fuse casings with the back of a screwdriver, fuse case flew off, but the lights behaved afterwards
The beds were so comfortable they were 'to die for'. Okay, they put way too many cushions on the bed, most of which we had to hurl off the bed in order to sleep, but the two huge 'marshmallow style' pillows on each side of the 6' 6" + beds were easy to sink into and get an excellent and relaxing night's sleep.
Air conditioning was in each room, but my Sister and I chose not to use it in order to avoid being too 'dried out'. It really wasn't necessary and having the balcony door open a foot or so was more than adequate.
I should add that the rooms both had stunning views over both the 'Infinity Pool', the sea and the neighbouring island 'La Gomera'.
Each room had a mini bar that could be stocked to your requirements by the hotel (for extra fees per drink of course), although we opted to simply buy the soft drinks we wanted from local shops and use the fridge to keep them cold until we needed to drink them.
Our parents did have some problems getting their room key to work on a couple of occasions, and they did get the technicians in to fix the problem, but ours did behave itself thankfully. Our parents also had a leaky bidet, but the 'plumber' walloped that with a hammer, and the leak stopped!! LOL. It reminded me of when I lived out there, if it doesn't work, hit it, that solves all problems.....!!!!
Each room also had a wall mounted flat screen TV with UK televisions stations including BBC1 and ITV.
The telephones were somewhat of a nightmare, seeming to only work when it suited them, and often often not connecting you when you answered them. We also strangely had names programmed into our phones that didn't correspond with who we were, i.e. on our phone display it said we were 'Natalia Popova' and on our parents phone it said they were 'Mrs McDonald'! A phone was also provided in the toilet/bidet part of the bathroom, although at a rather inconvenient height where you could easily bang into it as you stood up from the toilet.
Wi-Fi was free in the hotel, and the internet speed was excellent, allowing my sister to use Skype back to the UK without any problems. We only used it in the bedroom, but I believe you could actually use it anywhere in the building.
Finally each room had an electronic safe, although ours refused to open on two occasions and we had to call in the bell porter and get the safe unlocked in order to access our money and other essentials such as our notebook computers.
The View from our Balcony
The Public Areas
Going away from the rooms the public areas were breathtaking. Outside of the rooms the corridors were airy and clean (although one or two needed way more lighting as they were all but pitch black at night). Certain areas are open to the gardens, so a natural airflow travels through the passages, (whether hot or cold depending on the weather). One problem is that when it does rain (which is incredibly rare), the corridors with their marble floors become very slippery, and as we had two days of wet weather whilst we were there (the worst weather for March they have had in 20 years), our Step Dad did take quite a nasty tumble on his way to the lift, resulting in a severe bruise to his arm. He is too proud to complain, so had to live with it, but was extra cautious about our Mum afterwards as she has had a knee replacement and is not as steady on her feet as a result.
The lifts were way too dark, and it was a very bad design flaw as well as the dark corridors where relevant. It sometimes felt like an interior designer had been given too much of a free reign, but hadn't really thought his ideas through properly, and no-one had gone back to him with any criticisms as to the errors in his plans.
The outdoor areas were truly out of this world. It was like being in a tropical oasis, a large ornamental Koi pond complete with quaint wooden bridges where people could throw bread out from the restaurant to feed the Koi. This entire area, as well as most others was surrounded by date palm trees, fantastic bushes, plants and shrubs and generally wonderful greenery.
The central area of the hotel was essentially an outdoor plaza, full of the marble pillars, but as a delightful bonus filled with various fountains. Many of these were not 'active' during the day, (which is a mistake if you ask me), but come the evening these fountains (of which there are many), spring into life, complete with superb lighting effects. At 9, 10 and 11pm there is a light show for several minutes where the illuminated fountains perform acrobatics to music such as 'The Blue Danube'. Very romantic by anyone's standards.
Outdoors is also the 'Club Ocean' where they have an outdoor padded wicker seating area, complete with an evening D.J. Very nice if the sea breeze stays down, but in Summer this would not be an issue as any breeze would be warm not cold.
Sensatori Tenerife Gardens and Koi Pond
The Fountains at Night
The Swimming Pools
There are four swimming pools on the complex, three of which we had access to on our 'full board' package. The fourth pool is only open to 'Red Level' guests, who are entitled to a number of extra privileges for an extra daily fee, (apparently you get a better deal on this if you wait until you arrive at the hotel and then ask to upgrade. It might cost £70+ more per day, but the perks seems very good, e.g. you get drinks and food whenever you want them, and we were told by another couple of female guests 'far better looking waiters' LOL).
The main 'Infinity Pool' is saltwater and incredibly impressive by anyone's standards. It has partially submerged sunbeds that you can 'sunbathe' on within the pool (although we didn't try these out). Because the sea is on the horizon behind the pool, the impression of this already huge pool is that it goes on forever. Jacuzzis and showers are built into the pool in various areas and it is warm in spite of being unheated.
The other pools are freshwater and heated, one of which is the 'Tranquility Pool' where children are prohibited, (nice if you don't want the shrieks of young children). The other heated pool does allow children, so everyone is happy.
I should add that there are two small villas on the complex with their own pools, outside dining area and external door and doorbell, great for a private romantic break or honeymoon.
The Infinity Pool
In fairness we only ate in 'Pangea' (the main restaurant) and 'Club Ocean' (the Italian restaurant), as we just weren't attracted to the Asian, Mediterranean or Andalusian style cuisine available in the other restaurants. The food in 'Pangea' was out of this world for every mealtime, be it breakfast, lunch or an evening meal. I defy anyone to struggle to find something they liked to eat there. They have raw fish you can choose and the chef cooks it in front of you, stir fry ingredients on the same basis, various paellas, gorgeous soups, ice-creams to die for (try the Mango for a really 'Wow' reaction), roast meats, currys, salads, divine deserts, sushi, shellfish etc. All of this was most nights, (apart from the sushi that was about twice weekly). I simply can't fault the food here, it was amazing, and the soups were worth having every mealtime, (although two soups we didn't enjoy were the 'creamed corn' and the 'cauliflower', both of which were quite bland and tasteless).
Club Ocean was another fabulous restaurant, partially open to the elements as the top third of the restaurant is not covered by the 'glass' walls the rest of the venue is. This restaurant offers an Italian cuisine we loved, (try the lamb, delicious). You do need to book in advance, but there are several machines around the hotel reception level where you can book automatically. Don't get stuck in the queue near to the reception machine, walk across the lobby towards the theatre and use that machine where few people realise it exists. Make sure to get to the machines by about 08.00am if you want to get a booking two days ahead, this restaurant is very popular. The real flame heaters in the restaurant are lovely, and the atmosphere is wonderful.
Do be aware that not all the menu is covered by the all inclusive tariff, and it is not clear on the menu what is and what isn't covered, which can catch you out if you don't know (it cost us 19.50 euros one night because of a seafood tagliatelle not being on the all inclusive menu without our realising until the end of the meal).
The Club Ocean Italian Restaurant
Hmmmm, very hit and miss this. I did make the effort to go to a number of the so called 'entertainment' nights in the theatre, and I have to say they were for the most part rubbish.
The first night was an awful act called 'Brian Childs', billed as 'The Voice of Wales' and 'The Fastest Selling Solo Artist in Wales'. God, he was terrible, no idea of how to use a stage or a microphone. He relied on a largely 'vibrato' (Tarzan type effort to hold a note, i.e. hollering) and my parents (Mum having been a professional recording artist with Columbia records), plus my Sister and I, left after about four songs. Really, he was clueless, and we later found out (from a Welshman) that he is pretty well despised in Wales as a basic 'Club Singer' who only got a gig at some football stadium because Katherine Jenkins cancelled her appearance, and he luckily got the spot instead.
Many of the nights featured the 'Sensatori Show Cast', who are not bad, but a bit dull when you want a specific and exciting act. Yes, they do have great costumes and seem like lovely people, but they try too hard to turn things into 'West End Musicals'. A classic example of this is the 'Take That Masquerade Ball', which bore a basic resemblance to 'Take That', but kind of ruined 'Take That' for me, as it wasn't close enough to be enjoyable.
The night that included the Sensatori Show Cast and the 'Cirque Revolution' was also boring, as it consisted of a few 'circus' girls swinging around on a hoop behind the Sensatori cast to Beatles music that were not the Beatles best numbers.
On the plus side the Robbie Williams tribute (Paul Reason) was top class, and had a live band. I really enjoyed his performance, and so did many others as they were dancing at the front of the massive theatre as he sang.
Another excellent act was 'Monarchy', the Queen Tribute Band, again proper musicians who knew how to use a stage and a microphone. I don't know what the lead singer's name was, but he was amazingly good.
I would seriously criticize the volume in the theatre though. It was way too loud during all acts, and it drove people away. Why oh why do people feel that it is necessary to blast out people's eardrums in order to get them to listen? If an act is any good people will stop talking to listen. The sooner the people who perform, and the so called experts who control these mixing desks and the sound work this out, the sooner people will start to enjoy public concerts again.
Now on to 'Nemo's Piano Bar', where female artiste 'Charlie Green' performs nightly. Sadly she isn't great, and misses the point that a piano bar musician should be 'background' music, not giving a performance! She seems a lovely lady, but her music is too loud, mostly tracks no-one knows and performing seems to be an ego trip for her, as opposed to being an effort to provide what the audience might want. We seriously doubted she would know any music we might have requested. Her piano playing is good, and I would happily listen to that, but it would be better if she stuck to instrumentals as opposed to singing, (which is mostly normal in a piano bar, certainly Rod Stewart music is not).
There was the 'Lava Disco' on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but I confess I didn't go to this. It sounded somewhat unusual for a disco as certain nights it focused on waltz, quickstep, salsa, soul etc, which wasn't really 'Disco' to me.
The Queen Tribute Band 'Monarchy'
Stars of the West End
The staff are impossible to criticize, and I genuinely mean this. They all smile 'sincerely', whether they are cleaners, waiters or receptionists. They say hello, either in English or Spanish, they carried food for people such as our Mother (due to her knee problems) back to our table from the buffet with no prompting and they all bend over backwards to be the best staff any hotel could ask for, (although I do wish the maintenance men relied on skills rather than walloping things with objects to fix them LOL). Once they get to know you, and you are pleasant to them there is no problem with getting top ups of wine in the restaurants. They appreciate you being nice, and they return the compliment. We were booked on 'Full Board' and getting our wine topped up during meal times rapidly became easy once they saw we smiled at them, made an effort to use Spanish, and generally behaved in a polite manner towards all the staff (even though they spoke great English and the service was excellent even beforehand) .
The staff were the best I have known in any hotel, whether they were English, Spanish, Scottish or otherwise.
The Local Area
Okay, the high street isn't really worth the effort, very tacky basic stores and bars. However, if you want to experience a nice small market, go to the Plaza square in Alcala village on a Monday from 09.00am to 14.00pm. The square can be found by leaving the hotel, walking to the end of the road, crossing over, walking down the road opposite and following it until you see the the pedestrianized precinct on the right by the sea front. If you follow it round you will end up in the square, and even if it isn't market day there are several lovely street cafes where it is lovely to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine. The additional beauty of this is that the glasses of wine are only about one and a half euros, instead of the four to five euros you pay in the hotel. A classic example of the costs outside of the hotel can be illustrated by when I met up with my former lodger (and current friend) Steve (aka Bardofely). He had three bottles of Dorada beer, a large hand-made pizza, and I had three glasses of red wine. The entire bill was twelve and a half euros.... a total bargain as even the drinks would have been about thirty euros in the hotel (outside of mealtimes where full board covered everything), and no doubt the pizza would have been another twenty if we had to pay for it outside of mealtimes.
We did look at the tours, but they were very expensive (as per most holidays). The cheapest trip was 19.50 euros, and that was simply a 25 minute bus trip into Los Cristianos to visit the 'largest market in Tenerife'. Considering that a bus would only be about five euros each way, we felt this was expensive. My parents and my sister went on the Los Cristianos trip after some deliberation, but I chose to meet up with my friend (and former lodger) Steve (bardofely) instead, which I am guessing was far more fun! Other trips included places like 'Loro Parque' which is an impressive animal park featuring performing parrots, whales, aquariums etc.
I was impressed to find out that Internet access was free. I had been on an NCL cruise in the past where the Internet access was cripplingly expensive, so finding out I only had to fire up my notebook computer and I could check emails, go on Skype etc was fabulous.
Do not drink the water, although cleaning your teeth in it is not a problem. The water tastes like stale urine might taste, and from my knowledge of Tenerife water pipes I really don't think you want to drink it! Even boiled it will taste awful, so for the sake of 9 euros for 6 litres of bottled water in the hotel shop (much less outside the complex), it is well worth buying.
There is the Yhi Spa on the complex if you want to pay extra for massages or special 'hot stone' therapies etc. The area is beautiful, with small fountains behind a long pool, each fountain featuring a small statue above it (Buddha style etc). We didn't use the facility however, but I am sure it would be wonderful.
A gym is also available although we opted not to use it, and actually never sought it out in order to take photos sadly. There are also other sporting facilities on the compex that we didn't seek out, although I do wish I had found out about (and tried) the archery that I saw in one of our original pieces of paperwork.
There is a nice little shop on the reception level that sell basics such as wine, suntan lotion, water and souvenirs. Wine there is about 10.50 euros per bottle, (not too bad) and worth having a bottle or two of in your room. Wine is still much cheaper in the Alcala viallage plaza, and only 3-4 euros a bottle, (try 'Sangre de Torro', or translated into English 'Bull's Blood', for a really nice wine either in or out of the hotel). Another fabulous drink to buy from the shop by the bottle, is 'Ron Miel' (rum and honey), a Tenerife drink that is a must for any sore or dry throat, and a favourite for the singers in Tenerife. I introduced my family to it based on my time living in Tenerife, and they all immediately loved it, and between us we came home with about three and a half bottles of it. Ron Miel costs about 12 euros in the shop, but only about 8 euros in the village.
One major criticism would have to be the Thomson plane on the way home. No leg room at all, which nearly caused 'air rage' between my normally calm Step Father (a retired Fire Chief), and the selfish woman in front of him who insisted on putting her seat back even as early as 8.00pm. He politely asked her if she would keep her seat up until normal 'sleeping hours' and she got stroppy, then her Husband got involved, and then about half a dozen other passengers joined in (all on 'our' side). It really got very aggressive, and we found out from other sympathetic passengers that the woman had caused a similar problem on the outward bound trip too. Of course the solution is easy, either lose 12 seats (two rows of six) and spread out the other rows, or enforce a rule that says passengers cannot recline their seats until after 10.00pm (i.e. bedtime) in order to avoid inconveniencing other passengers who not only want legroom, but don't want the back of the person in front's seat virtually wedged up their nasal cavity! The steward could do nothing, and his best (but unhelpful) suggestion was that our Step Father put his seat back too, but he refused as he didn't feel that was fair on the person behind him. In the end he had to all but 'prise' himself out of his seat and swap places with my Sister who was willing to swap in order to make him more comfortable. We all ended up angry, and whilst the problem was largely the selfish people and their bad attitude, Thomson are the biggest problem with their greed for cramming as many people as possible on to their planes with no thought for the problems this can cause.