News & Reviews Europe Greece Review: Amanzoe, Greece

If there was a prize for Blog with Most Drafts That Were Never Finished, I’d probably start applying and then give up.  I have repeatedly tried to write follow-up reviews of Amanzoe, but every time got stuck in creating some terrible comparisons that resulted in inevitable failure.  Making Dickens and Zeus puns is, regrettably, not something they teach you in school.

Ya see, Amanzoe is quite popular in this household.  I’ve stayed eight times, which is eight times more than I would have liked to have visited Soneva Jani.  My first failed attempt at a review was in 2017, where the stay was frankly disastrous.  I had so many complaints that I’d have needed a Fox News moderator to listen to them all.  Toward the end of my stay, I met with the GM to express my displeasure and left thinking he gave zero defecations about it.  A few weeks later I receive an email offering deepest apologies and an invitation to return, their compliments.  Never being one to throw freebies in the bin, I returned in 2018 to find there was life in the ol’ gal still and things had returned to normal at Amanzoe.  Which is to say basically perfect.

Which takes us to 2020.  As if the world wasn’t crazy enough this year, I’m now going to tell you how much of a bargain it was to rent a five bedroom villa in Amanzoe….for two people.

Research

Whilst Amanzoe has become my de-facto choice for a European beach holiday, I still wanted to explore other options.  I wanted a villa, and Amanzoe set the criteria:

  • Within a resort, so benefits from everything available such as their spa, restaurants, beach club, gym etc
  • Private, exclusive and peaceful surroundings
  • In Europe
  • Modern design
  • Near the water
  • Priced that I’d still have both kidneys after checkout

Feel free to tell me where I went wrong in my search, but I found the options to be as low as a politicians empathy.   The best alternative was Vila Vita Parc –  their ocean view villas looked spectacular, but the rest of the resort didn’t scream luxury.  Too risky.  La Reserve Ramatuelle came up, but their villas look like they haven’t been refurbished since the 1960s; Porto Zante lacked any facilities and I didn’t fancy Borgo Egnazia as it felt unreassuringly cheap.

Amanzoe started offering 4 bedroom villas with the option to just take two or three of the rooms at a discount price. Seeing that the pavilions had increased almost 80% in price since my September 2018 stay, the maths started to look quite attractive to take the villa rather than two pavilions. When you include that you have a dedicated chef and villa host, I dare say it, it started to look like a bargain. Just as I decided to book it, some troll clearly took his vengeance on me by booking the last villa. Those Russian bots are well funded.

Not to be deterred, my persistent chasing Amanzoe reservations eventually paid off and they either made that other booking homeless, unplugged it, or the guest did actually cancel. It took some back and forth to negotiate payment terms, as during covid times when my government just stops flights because they read it on a tarot card in The Daily Telegraph, I was not prepared to pay 100% upfront, 30 days in advance.

I’ll pay in photos and I’m not coming unless you guarantee unlimited sunshine

Getting there

This wasn’t my first rodeo when it came to flying during the covid-19 era, as we had already been to Czech Republic and Switzerland back in June.  I don’t think there’s much I can teach you that you haven’t read elsewhere.  Just wear a mask, don’t travel if you’re on a ventilator machine and definitely don’t ever cough, as you will get an immediate deadeye from everyone nearby.  This applies to all situations, so if you’re choking on your food you’re best to wait until you’re off the plane, out of the airport, and in a private place where no one can see you, before you try and dislodge it from your throat.

Lucie banned me from flying helicopters since Kobe, so it was either walking, driving, sailing or horseback.  I decided traveling via horseback over 4 nights was the best alternative, but I was once again outvoted and we ended up driving.  Getting to Amanzoe really is a pain.  Unless you’re in a helicopter, of course….which I wasn’t.  A 6am flight, ergo a 4am wake-up; arriving into Athens at 12:30 and then driving for 2.5 hours.  The total travel is pretty similar for me to get to Amanzoe as it would be to get to the Bulgari Dubai or get the train to Glasgow and have a night out in the town, as long as I’m tucked in by 10pm.

A few days prior to arrival, Amanzoe’s Villa team reached out to discuss preferences.  I really don’t know why I always approach Amanzoe with wide-eyed wonder; a new sense of expectation that maybe, just maybe, this time there will be some activities worth doing.  I lay in hope that I somehow missed the news that Disney broke ground and have a new theme park open.   Nope.  It still varies between starring at some bees or starring at a statue – currently unknown whether said statue is of a bee. I’m like Oliver Twist, always asking for more, but getting told by an oppressive authority that I can’t have everything I want in life.  Totally the same.  Not to worry, doing nothing is something I was born to do.

After deciding to continue the tradition of not stepping foot outside of the resort, the Villa team exchanged WhatsApp numbers and started to get down to the tough questions that we’ll remember 2020 by.  Like what food do we want waiting for us on arrival and who was having the Master Suite.  They followed through with everything – when we arrived everything was setup perfectly, although the pool was so large that it took almost 4 days to be heated to my desired temperature.  Those were the toughest four days of my life.

I said more sunshine, damnit!

Villa

As we were directed to our villa’s car park, which could comfortably host 8 cars, it was clear that space was not going to be an issue.  Maybe it was because there were two of us staying in a villa and at times it felt like our very own version of 28 Days Later, with the vast emptiness of people.  And it probably wasn’t helped by the fact that they upgraded us. But were there 10 people here, it would still not feel cramped.  Well, it would to me now – I’ve set a standard and expect to abide by it my entire life.  When there’s 3 of us next year, we’ll have to take 2 villas. There is just so much space available; so many places you can be.  After two days I was still getting lost and walking down the wrong corridor.

Why they thought a 5 bedroom villa was better suite for us, I truly do not know, but I suppose I should not complain that for the first time in my life someone thought so kindly of me to think I might have enough friends to fill those rooms.

Sure, the sheer size of it stands out; the 25m swimming pool surrounded by 10 loungers; 4 separate dining tables; 2 kitchens; the spa/yoga room, as well as a library.  And the bar.  But it’s so much more than that.  It’s the quality.  It’s the absolute privacy.  It’s the joy of being content, just by listening to the near sound of silence.

Spectacular is the word to describe this oasis.  Whilst I had toured a villa a few years ago, it clearly felt like a dream, as the reality of staying in one was quite different – it was much, much better.  Whilst the focus is entirely around the stunning indoor/outdoor lounge, with large, sliding glass doors, you’re not going to be too upset if you’re forced into your room.  Each one is similar to a standard Pavilion, just without its own pool.  There are 4 identical bedrooms, located down a corridor heading away from the pool.  At the end, the master suite, which naturally I took.  I did start to have buyers remorse, as the distance to walk back to the room after every splendid meal became harder and harder as my waistline grew.

Living area

The master bedroom was perfectly pleasant, with two vanities, bath, shower, outdoor lounging area and huge amounts of wardrobe space.  It also had a floor-to-ceiling mirror in the toilet, so if you’ve ever wondered what you look like whilst taking a dump, worry no more.  The amount of mirrors did feel like being in a House of Mirrors, where I’d frequently try and turn left and just walk into a wall.

The only other point that I’d raise is the tech.  Now this is something I raise on most properties, particularly as I can only assume hotels only consider upgrading every 8-10 years, whereas tech can dramatically change every 3-4.  At least Apple is telling us every year that a slightly better camera is the equivalent of landing on the Moon.  Just plugging in your phone to a small Bose system, or spending countless hours trying to either connect it to a TV, is just a pain.  Or, as my Dad found out, actually turning the TV off.  I think they sent an army of engineers, but every night it would come on, get lairy and then not shut up until it was unplugged.  The TV in the library was missing, but it’s likely harder to find one that size anymore, as they’re so small.  Really, just implement AirPlay, add surround sound speakers and be done with it.

For all their facilities on offer, I did find it rather weird the villas don’t have locks on them, only the bedrooms.  You do have your villa host there all day, so I suppose you might not need to, and seeing that you’re within Amanzoe that is gated already it may not be necessary, but if you do happen to carry around your Monet painting on all your trips, perhaps leave it in your room.

Whilst, as always, my pictures and description are indeed nothing but 100% truth, you should be aware that every villa is unique.  I only found out on the last day that two of the 4 bedroom villas have hot tubs, which seemed just mean to rub in my face.

Service

The legendary Aman service was on show throughout the entire property, with preferences (almost) always being remembered; never a room number requested and everyone being incredibly attentive without overbearing.  That’s standard, regardless of what room you’re in.  We, as I will like to continue to rub in your face, were in a villa, so received the Super Duper Deluxe version of service, with our own dedicated host and chef, as well as regular catch-ups with the Villa’s Manager.  Absolutely everything was taken care of, often without asking.  I’d ask about the spa menu, and just to be safe they’d reserve some slots to make sure I had availability, therefore ripping it out of the hands of those in the normal rooms – pah, peasants; I’d mention a dish I liked, then the chef would make the other restaurants aware of my preferences so they would change the ingredients without me asking.

The food was incredible.  I was disappointed to see some of my old favourites gone, but the replacements were just as good, if not better.  Your chef is there to work to all your preferences – there were no menus, just endless suggestions and endless portions.  I barely even registered the bill at the end of the stay, as the food was so reasonably priced.

An occasional twinge of guilt would kick in at being sat by the pool all day, so occasionally we ventured outside to see what else was going on. I booked myself for a massage at the spa, which was so good I went back the next day for a repeat.  Once again, perfect.  With my new found love of fitness, we started a regime of going to the gym every single morning.  We may have seen one other guest there the entire time, so it felt like our gym.

Whilst we tended to eat lunch at the beach club, simply for the exercise of cycling there and back, I could have easily stayed in the villa, eating whatever the chef decided to serve up.  It did not matter what we asked, it was amazing: fish, meat, vegetables, desserts.  It’s rare that I can have something like a steak without feeling compulsory to douse it in sauce like I’m extinguishing it, but not here.  Every dish was perfect.  The portions were so massive that we had to reduce ourselves to one course per meal, but that is just another reflection of the value for money.  I can still remember having a BBQ dinner in Amanzoe for my Dad’s birthday in 2014, as the portions were so massive it could have comfortably fed half of the resort.  That BBQ chef is legendary, but he may have finally been surpassed.

I loved bumping into some of the familiar faces.  I cannot even imagine what must have been going on behind the scenes when the hotel was shut for over 3 months. This would have been an incredibly hard time for all the staff here, yet you would never have known it as they all shined.

Covid

The only time it ever felt like there was a global pandemic was that the watsu pool was closed, the menus were all available via QR codes and the staff were wearing masks that made some of them look like Hannibal Lecter.  Yet Dr. Lecter fans rejoice, as their masks were far better than anything else I’d seen elsewhere – a piece of see through plastic that covers only the mouth and nose, but doesn’t muffle all the noise out so I’m left just assuming everyone is complimenting me all day.  It’s so hard to gauge someone without seeing their mouth and understanding if they’re smiling or just angry at life, so this overcame it perfectly.

The Good

  • Excellent value for money.  Yes, you read that right, €6k/n is now value for money.  Please don’t burn my house down during the upcoming revolution.

The Bad

  • The tech could do with an upgrade – whenever you see any form of machinery that asks you whether you want to plug in your iPod, you know it’s time for a change.
  • Some bastards at Athens airport stole my Aman skincare from my luggage.  That just goes to show how popular it is.
  • I’m struggling here

The Luxurious

  • Best accommodation I’ve ever stayed in
  • Amazing service; amazing food; amazing attention to detail

Conclusion

When you’ve stayed somewhere eight times, it will never be perfect.  I’m typing this from The Connaught, where I must be close to my 200th stay, and I’ve had my fair share of disappointments along the line.  We’ve had our little hiccups before at Amanzoe, yet this really did cement Amanzoe as one of the finest properties on earth.

I’ve already booked to return next year.  Unfortunately they may not offer the 4-bedrooms-as-2 bedrooms again, so for now we’ve booked their 1 bedroom villa.

The GM did mention some of the upgrades that were due, but inevitably delayed as a result of Covid;   Sonos sound systems, to replace the old Bose; newer gym equipment; new TVs; electric bikes.  With all these in place, I’ll be absent from writing another review of Amanzoe for a good four years, as it’s so hard just to write a gushing review of somewhere.

I can still remember my first time at Laucala, where I spent the first few days saying out loud “this is ridiculous”.  That wide-eyed wonder returned to me here.  In fact, I didn’t lose it at any point.  On the last day, for the last meal, I walked around the villa, said “ridiculous” and left.

Amanzoe has set the standard for me.  I am now fully behind the idea of less travel, just a higher quality of it.  Vive la Upgrades.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 20th Oct '20

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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