A Trip to Crete
We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 and I was pleasantly surprised at how busy it was. I was under the impression that it would be eerily quiet. Our taxi driver had the usual 5 minute wait before he could find a space in the drop off area. Once in the terminal we proceeded to the British Airways Check in area as we had been unable to utilise the online check in service for this flight as the BA staff needed to check that we had completed the obligatory passenger locator form and received the QR code that is currently required for entry into Greece. Social distancing was clearly in place in the queue and everyone was wearing a mask. Security was fairly painless, we had to remove our shoes, but somehow I still managed to set off the alarm and had to stand in the X-Ray machine.
Once airside I wasn't really expecting many shops or eateries to be open, but Starbucks, Pret A Manger, Plane Food, Wheterspoons and The Duty Free shop were all open along with Boots, 1 branch of WH Smith (instead of 3) and a handful of designer shops, although it was still early on a sunday morning so maybe more stores opened later in the day.
BRITISH AIRWAYS GALLERIES LOUNGE SOUTH
We were lucky enough to have access to the British Airways Galleries lounge. Upon entry I could see straight away that things had changed. All the self service food buffets and drinks have been removed. There were social distancing signs everywhere and plenty of hand sanitizing stations. The seats had been arranged so that social distancing was observed. Once seated at a table we were told that we could order food and drinks using the QR code on the table. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I have never used a QR code before and had no clue what to do. I asked one of the Galleries staff to help me and 3 very attentive staff members immediately came over to talk me through what to do. I aimed the camera on my phone at the QR code and entered the password of the day and the menu appeared immediately. Once we selected what we wanted to eat and drink, it was served to us within a few minutes. I chose the bacon and potato rosti roll ( that was the low carb diet out of the window), and although it seemed like a strange combination, it was delicious. I have to say I was very impressed with the service and I imagine this new style of service probably saves a lot of food and drink wastage, which can only be a good thing.
Once on board the British Airways flight to Chania , I was glad of a few things:-
- I had purchased a sandwich and a bottle of water in the terminal. BA are no longer able to offer their ‘Buy on Board” service in the economy cabin, but instead provide everyone with a complimentary packet of crisps, a biscuit and a small bottle of water.
- I had invested in a light weight cotton mask. I had found the prospect of wearing a mask for 4 hours on a flight quite daunting, but with a cotton mask and the air conditioning above switched on, I soon got used to it and it wasn’t as bad as I feared.
- Our seats were 2 rows from the back of the cabin where the 2 toilets were located. It is not allowed to queue in the aisles for the toilets, so you have to wait for the green light to come on and then make a mad dash down the plane for the toilets before someone else does!
Our arrival into Chania airport was a bit tedious. Our British Airways flight landed at almost the same time as two Ryan Air flights, one from Stansted and the other from Dublin, There was a queue to get into the terminal and the sun was scorching. Once in the terminal there was a snaking queue for passport control , a bit like you would find at a Disneyland attraction. The masks were still on, but at least there was air conditioning. Once we finally passed through passport control we proceeded downstairs where a policeman asked to see our QR code for our passenger locator form. I had been a bit worried about this for a few weeks prior to our arrival as the Greek government information stated that dependent on your QR code, passengers would be randomly tested for Covid-19 and if you were tested, there would be a requirement for you to self-isolate for 24 hours until you received the results. Thankfully this information changed a few days before we travelled and if you were selected for a random test, you would just need to observe the normal social distancing rules. I needn't have worried as apart from the policeman checking we had the QR code, no one was scanning it and there was no sign of any random testing taking place at this time. Prior to my departure I had signed up to the UK government's travel advice alerts for Greece, which meant I received a daily email that highlighted any changes to travel advice and local restrictions. You can sign up for the alerts at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
Once we were finally through and had collected our luggage we were met by our driver for the pre-booked private car transfer to our accommodation, so there was no need for us to queue for a taxi, and our holiday could begin. Private transfers is a service that can be booked by Detonate and all departments within Eton Travel.
I wanted to experience a cross section of accommodation types and see for myself what post lockdown changes had taken place, so we booked four separate hotels.
Our first accommodation was the charming Pandora Suites, which is located in Chania town overlooking the Venetian harbour and lighthouse. We were met by a very helpful lady who was waiting in the courtyard area for us to arrive. She put on a full face visor and took us through to reception to check in, which was very clean and there was plenty of hand sanitizer.
We were allocated a lovely room with amazing views.The room had a separate bedroom, a living area and kitchenette with a full size fridge, along with air conditioning and complimentary WIFI. Greek breakfast was served on the roof terrace which overlooked the harbour. It is also possible to take a glass of wine up here in the evening and watch the sun go down.
The location was perfect, just a few steps from the harbour and moments from the labyrinth of winding streets, with bars, restaurants and plenty of shopping for local products, shoes, leather goods and amazing handbags. It is also within easy walking distance of the historical Agora market.
Domes Zeen Chania
Our next stop was the Domes Zeen Chania, a Luxury Collection Resort that has recently been taken over by Marriot.
Upon arrival we were taken through reception to a balcony overlooking the resort and the sea. I was given a glass of sparkling wine and my husband had a beer, whilst we completed the check in forms and had our temperatures taken. I noticed that our bags were sprayed down with sanitizer before they were brought into the hotel reception area. We were then whisked to our room on a golf buggy and our luggage arrived a bit later on a separate buggy. The room was sealed with a sticker to say it had been sanitised. We had a Sapphire Family Pavilion with a private pool and sea view. This is part of the hotel's Haute Living Selection and as far as I can tell this means that breakfast and evening meal is included with your stay. None of the hotel staff are allowed to enter the room whilst you are in it and we were advised that due to Covid-19the room would only be cleaned every two days. There was no water in the room and the minibar was empty, so we asked for it to be stocked. A pleasant gentleman arrived with 2 bags full of drinks and water and paper cups and left them on the doorstep for us to stock the fridge ourselves. There was a Nespresso machine in the room, but due to the pandemic the china cups had been removed and the paper cups provided didn’t fit so we were unable to use it.
Both dinner and breakfast were served in the Beach House restaurant as the Enino restaurant was not opening for another week or so. The menu was accessed via a QR code on the table and there were lots of delicious dishes to choose from and we were not disappointed with anything we ate there. I have to mention the lavish breakfast. On the first day we both chose to have an omelette, but what we didn't realise was that the “Day Start” breakfast also comes as standard. This comprises fresh baked pastries selection, traditional Cretan pies, bread, homemade Jam, butter and honey and a Charcuterie platter. I have never seen so much food and it was difficult for it all to fit on the table along with the tea, coffee and fresh juice.
The hotel is within walking distance of a couple of independent bars and restaurants along the seafront. The hotel description says it is within walking distance of Chania Old Town, but I would say it would take at least 45 minutes and not something I fancied doing in the heat.
Creta Palm Hotel
This aparthotel is located in the village of Kato Stalos. The check in process was what we had come to expect. The receptionist was wearing a full head visor and there was a screen between her and us. We were allocated a large apartment which had two balconies, a separate bedroom and large dining and living area, with a kitchenette and full size fridge. The apartment smelt very clean and fresh and was cleaned on a daily basis. The hotel has two swimming pools with plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas and both feature a snack bar that serves very reasonably priced refreshments and cocktails. The hotel is within easy walking distance of restaurants and bars both along the road and beach which is located across the road.
Buffet breakfast was served in the upstairs restaurant which overlooks one of the pool areas. Gloves and sanitizer were provided and guests were required to wear a face mask and queue in a socially distanced manner. This hotel is a fantastic reasonably priced accommodation suitable for families. The only downside I could say about this hotel, is that if you want to use the safe in the room, you need to rent a key and they don't provide complementary use of beach towels, although you can rent a towel that you could change every other day . As this is not something I fancied doing, I purchased a beach towel from a nearby shop.
Atlantica Amalthia Beach Hotel - Adults only
This was probably my favourite of the hotels we stayed in. The hotel is located in the
Village of Agia Marina. Upon check we were asked to wear our face masks in
the reception area. Our temperature was taken and recorded along with our contact details. We were allocated a room in the new part of the hotel that had just opened that day and we were told that we were the first guests to use it. First of all I was disappointed not to be in the main hotel nearer to the beach, but the new part of the hotel was accessed via a footbridge over the road and this meant not only did our room and balcony have a sea view, but we had access to a swimming pool and jacuzzi pool that had its own bar, that was a lot quieter than than the main pool by the restaurant and the beach.
The room was very clean and new and featured an in room safe and mini bar. Due to Covid-19 the minibar was not stocked but we filled it ourselves from the local supermarket. We were advised that due to the pandemic the room would only be cleaned every other day.
Breakfast was served in the restaurant by reception and tables were located outside. It was necessary to have your temperature taken before entering the breakfast room and gloves and face masks were mandatory whilst in the buffet area.
This hotel was in walking distance to many beach bars and restaurants as well as a variety of eateries and shops along the road.
The staff at this hotel were fantastic and could not do enough for you. The manager walked around each day speaking to all the guests to check everything was OK.