Advantages Most villas are comfortable and you can have a relaxing, fun holiday, easy to book,
Disadvantages Access to some properties can be bad, read the review for the rest
|Where did you book|
|How often have you booked through them|
|Value for Money|
|How good were the guides?||Not applicable|
|How satisfied were you with the Hotel/Appartement||Quite satisfied|
|Quality of the tour in general||Not applicable|
- Introduction -I've been with my parents on a number of holidays that were booked through James Villas and so I feel I am quite familiar with the company, certainly in terms of the type of holidays you get through them anyway. We've been to a number of different places through the years, from a small town in the Algarve (Portugal) in 2002 (which was eye opening to put it that way), to this year when we went to Malta (which ive done a long review of) and other places such as Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, on the Canary Islands and Cyprus.
We have encountered a few problems during these holidays and my parents had contemplated complaining to the company but eventually they backed down and I would like to make others aware of the sort of problems we have had to deal with, while also explaining the better side of the company and the kind of holidays that this company offers.
The list of places that James Villas offers accommodation in, seems to be added to practically every year. The company has a website which lists the current destinations, so if you want to know where they can sell you a holiday in, rather than me typing out all the resorts/countries here, as it may change, I'll give you the link to their site and you can check for the latest destination information there. See:- http://www.jamesvillas.co.uk/destinations/all-destinations.cfm?CTA=secondar y_nav_all_destinations&id=37468383,187535298They offer accommodation in many popular countries, such as France, Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands), Portugal, Greece and so on and also in some more exotic places, such as Barbados but as I say, I recommend you check their website first for the most up to date information, as they may add or take out destinations.
Obviously, as the name would imply, James Villas mainly deals in Villa holidays (ie renting out private detached villas to customers, who have self catering holidays in them). However, they do also have a selection of apartments and townhouses.
- Do James Villas only offer villa accommodation? -
James Villa also offer leisure resorts in some areas, which offer golf courses, tennis pitches, gym, kids clubs and/or spa facilities. Again check via the company website for a list of which places offer these and what facilities are available at each resort.
No, actually James is quite flexible, in that it allows you to book the accommodation but also the flights and car hire as well, although you don't have to book the flights or car hire through them but they can provide those for you. We tend to book everything, apart from the travel insurance for personal reasons, through the company, to keep things bit simpler and also as the prices, as far as im aware, are reasonable enough. Its good to know that you could just book the accommodation and try and find better flights elsewhere, if they were to quote you a particularly bad price for flights or for car hire but its not been too bad, so far.Also we got a voucher offer with the latest brochure that gave us some money off the car hire, if booked through them before a certain date (something like if booked before April or May 2008 for a holiday until October), which was quite good, as my family do tend to book holidays somewhat late on, usually booking around February or March time.
Well, I wouldn't say that its the cheapest company around, neither is it the most expensive. I'm no real expert in prices as far as this kind of holidy is concerned, to be honest, though I know that what with the credit crunch and the general economic situation, prices aren't great. My mum had mentioned over the last year or so, that she's noticed the prices increasing (funnily enough, this seems to happen as I notice more TV advertising for the company, I can't say I'm all that impressed if we're helping to pay for glitzy expensive TV ads - whether this indicates that their actively looking for extra customers, I dont know. I have also heard my mum mention that a colleague of hers at her work tried to find a villa in Greece as a last minute holiday this summer and they were all booked out, so they can't be *that* low in sales but who knows for the rest of the year?), but there again, im sure prices are increasing across the board anyway, with the price of flights going up generally.
- What are the prices like? -
Again, check the website where you can find prices for a weeks stay in each villa/apartment/town house and judge for yourself but I feel that the prices are neither outrageously expensive or bargain cheap either. I think for the places we've been staying at (villas that sleep up to 4 people normally, for the 3 of us), they've cost somewhere around £800 or £900 a week and thats per week for the end of June and the beginning of July, as a rough price indicator but it can vary a fair bit, so check the website for up to date prices.
In a word, yes. As I say, I haven't done the full booking process myself but I know how it works, as I've watched or heard from my parents about the process (I know im lucky to be able to go on holidays with them and yes I do contribute to the cost nowadays, incase you wondered). I've always thought its quite handy, that you can find out most information through the website, such as which dates the accommodation is available for, the prices and you can find information on what facilities are available in the accommodation, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, whether car hire is recommended, essential or optional and so on.You can register your interest in a property and request to book it through the website too I believe and then the company phones you back to confirm your details and confirm that it is indeed available and confirm the prices etc. and you can book it there and then.
We've booked accommodation on a Saturday (which must be a busy day of the week for them) and had registered interest in a booking on the morning or afternoon and had it sorted and booked by late evening, so its pretty quick and I have no problems with this. Its also good that its not entirely website based and you can phone them up if you have any queries etc.
Your sent a confirmation to, obviously, confirm the holiday booking after its been confirmed on the phone and if you wish to book any extras, such as to upgrade the level of car hire or to pay for meals on the flight or to pay for adjoining seats on the flight (so that your family sits together across two or three seats etc.), then you can always phone them and add those later, like we sometimes do and they will adjust the booking and send out an adjusted booking confirmation invoice/receipt. You pay a deposit and then the rest of the balance later, thats about all I know as far as payment is concerned.Once it reaches about two or three weeks before the holiday, James Villas sends you a wallet (a small folder/holder thing) which contains your flight tickets (if applicable), some labels to write your name and address etc. to attach to the main suitcases etc. and travel documentation that gives you directions on how to find your way from the airport to the villa/accommodation your staying at. Normally, most people book car hire, so they have a bit of an adventure following the travel directions while driving on whats, to us, the wrong side of the road(!). The wallet/folder is handy for keeping all your documents and tickets in, its a pretty distinctive blue colour (which seems to be the official James Villas colour), so its fairly easy to find inside a back pack. Once you've got this, you know its not long until the holiday, so you can really start to look forward to it!.
For this, James Villas scores well in my books. All of the villas we've stayed in have been pretty spacious and comfortable, most will sleep at least three or four and some others I've seen advertised can sleep up to six (with some villas in Italy I believe able to sleep up to ten).
- How spacious & well equipped re the villas? -
As far as equipment and appliances are concerned, pretty much all villas we've stayed in through James Villas have contained a washing machine, dishwasher, toaster, microwave, fridge/freezer, pretty much all the basic things, with usually at least one bathroom with a bath as well as a shower and the master bedroom usually has an ensuite (with a second bathroom to go with any extra bedroom(s)). Plus practically all villas have cable TV (although you only get access to the free channels, like the foreign equivalent of Freeview, you dont get access to pay channels so no Sky Movies equivalent im afraid) and nowadays many also have a DVD player, so you can bring some DVDs with you to watch at night, when its dark outside but too early for you to want to head off to bed.Some villas also offer air conditioning, like the villa we stayed at in Malta this year. They didn't charge us any extra for using it, which was a big plus, with air conditioning units in each of the bedrooms as well as in the main living room, it helped make it more comfortable during very humid afternoons.
As well as this, of course most villas have their own private pool too, which is also a bit of a luxury. Its nice to be able to relax in the pool without having lots of kids diving and splashing around you and you usually get a good divider between the villa your in and the one next to you, if they are semi detached properties, so that you don't feel as if the people next door are watching your every move. The pools can vary in terms of deepness and some have access by built in concrete steps (which I find easier to use), whereas some have those rather creeky metal ladders, which I don't much like to use but there you go, I guess im pretty picky lol.Sometimes, depending on when the flights are, you might end up arriving at your villa/accommodation quite late in the evening or at night and be quite hungry and/or thirsty, when you just want to flop into bed and the shops are closed. Also worth baring in mind is that as these are self catering holidays, you want to have some fresh food and drink around, so you have enough for your first breakfast the following day. Its for these purposes that James Villas offers a 'Welcome pack' as an optional extra for about £15. The welcome packs are a good idea and usually you get at least one loaf of fresh bread, a pint of milk, perhaps a yoghurt or two and a pack of biscuits, plus one or two other things that I can't quite think of right now. Ok the price is perhaps a little much but it is worth it, if you can afford it, just for the peace of mind that you don't have to go out and shop again as soon as you get there, as usually we're pretty tired after a flight and travelling to the accommodation, its good to know the basics are there for that evening and breakfast the following day, when you can venture out and find the closest supermarket (usually a Spar or somewhere similarly sized, is located around 1km or so away from each villa).
Also in each property you'll find an information folder, which contains handy information about the location of fuses and other things around the villa, it also lists emergency phone numbers and the local reps phone number, as well as providing lots of information about the resort/destination your in, which makes for good reading and can help you plan what to do, where to go the next day.
Ok so it all sounds pretty reasonable so far, I think you'd probably agree, right? right. Thats not to say that the company is perfect though. We have had a couple of holidays where there were hiccups, to put it one way. Infact, our first holiday booked with James Villas back in 2002 was less than perfect, due to the pretty awful access (or more, lack thereof!) track to the property. I later heard that the property wasn't listed in the next years brochure, so I can presume they stopped renting that property due to peoples complaints, however we had a similar experience with another property a year or so later, so it clearly is an issue.What happened in 2002 is that we stayed at a villa in a small hill top type town called Estoi, in the Algarve in Portugal but accessing it was very difficult, you really needed to be quite a professional driver to get through the dirt track without burning out the clutch or letting one of the large boulders smash the exhaust out(!). Your probably thinking that im over exaggerating but trust me, im not. We had to drive at about 5mph for half a mile or so to reach the property and then we had a similar problem driving down the other side of the hill, where we once had to wait quite a while as a shepherd herded his sheep down the hillside (not that I blame the shepherd but it was rather surreal). Due to this, it put us off travelling much at all and we constantly worried the car we had hired would get badly damaged by the rubble we had to drive over to get to and from the property, it put us off going out in the evening.
Another thing that put us off going out in the evening on that holiday was the fact that although the brochure and information James provided, claimed that the nearest town that offered bars/cafes/ restaurants, shops and so on for meals and what not was only about a 10-15 minute drive away, it turned out to be more of a half hour drive away, involving driving along the main motorway, where I think the driving was pretty fast and a bit dodgy! so, to put it lightly, it wasn't the best holidy we've ever had. There was even a guestbook in the villa, where practically every other family who had stayed there, complained about the access (or lack thereof) to the villa and begged for them to make a proper road, so it wasn't just us who didn't like that, thats for sure.It was in 2004 when we stayed at a villa in Nerja in Spain, when we had a similar problem, with access to it also involving a pretty bumpy and uncomfortable ride. It wasn't as bad as it was in 2002 but it wasn't what you would hope for either, especially as the price for such a holiday isn't the cheapest around. If I were you, I'd be sure to specifically ask on the phone and double check what the access to the property your interested in, is like, to be on the safe side.
The other holiday worth mentioning, where we weren't best impressed with James, was last summers holiday we had in Gran Canaria. What happened there was that we were given travel directions as normal but we got lost and we had to phone somebody to get them to come out and hand us the keys to the property. The person on the other end of the line didn't speak very good English and although we ended up getting a taxi ride with the taxi driver having the keys, he himself didn't know for sure which property in the area was ours and they didn't have very obvious villa names or numbers displayed outside the properties, which didn't help. We eventually discovered the right villa but by that time, though we arrived on the islnd at around 8pm, it was nearly 11pm, so we were pretty tired! I don't blame the taxi driver all that much as he was just told to deliver the keys and take us to the property and he didn't work for the company as such but it wasn't particularly fun, especially when we realised we were lost and we weren't sure if the taxi would even find us, as it was pitch dark outside by this time!.The other problem, or more the main problem, with this holiday became clear when we later dropped by the address given to us, which is where the local representative(s) were supposed to be based, incase we had any problems or incase of an emergency. When we went to have a look, it quickly became clear that the place we were told to go to incase of emergency, was actually closed. The lights were out, the door was closed and the sign seemed to indicate that summer was their off peak or low season and that the building wouldn't be open again until September or October(!). Now whether James Villas was aware of this, I dont know, it was an outside company that was supposed to deal with the property and act as reps on James Villas' behalf, I believe, so it is slightly complicated.
Anyway it was alright for us as we didn't have an emergency, there were no nearby forest fires and none of us suffered from an injury or illness or anything bad like that, in fact the villa itself was very nice and spacious and we enjoyed discovering the island and had a good time but knowing that essentially we were on our own and the company appeared to offer us no rep or extra service, well its not good. You would expect more for the price really, its not a good thing and I was less than impressed.However, it is also true to say that we've only experienced this on Gran Canaria, I don't know whether its still the case and we have had reps come and visit us on the first day or two of our stay at other resorts/destinations, so this is hopefully just a one off thing.
I would also point out that we always have car hire for the duration of our holidays (I dont mean to boast, I know we're very lucky to be able to do this) and I've noticed that some properties have car hire listed as 'recommended' or 'optional', compared to 'essential' and we've wondered how anyone could manage to walk the long distances to the nearest supermarket or cafe (with the main exception being the property in Lanzarote, which was in easy walking distance of a supermarket and cafe etc.) so I would be careful with that and instead, I'd presume that no matter what it says, you should try and have car hire, to be sure to be able to get to such places without drenching in sweat and suffering from heat stroke.
Well, its kind of hard to decide quite what to make of James Villas. One side of me feels I'd be crazy to rate them as anything but poor, given what I've said above, yes access to some properties can be tricky at best, sometimes they say your nearest town or shop or bar is closer than it is and they'll claim you get cable TV but only if you read through any small print will you find any reference to the fact that they don't guarantee access to many, if any, English languge channels. I feel that this proves that, at best, they can be pretty cheeky and we have had bad experiences but the thing is, we have stuck with this company and while we have had these experiences, these only account for a few of our holidays. We've been to more than three places through this company and some properties have been fine, more than fine, in Cyprus, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, the access to the properties have been no problem at all. In Lanzarote, we were close to a shop, supermarket, places to eat and it was nice and quiet and private too, it was one of the best places I've been to, I loved it there (I hope we go back sometime, though I love to see new places too).Apart from the holiday in Portugal, I wouldn't say that the bad experiences made our holidays a write off or that it meant our holiday was completely spoilt. What happened last year in Gran Canaria, that was unsettling to know the reps weren't there but we didn't have any problems, we didn't need a rep and the villa itself was fine, once we found it lol it was very comfortable.
I guess the thing is you have to be prepared, you have to know to ask the company, to assure you that the access to the property you want to book is bearable and its worth checking if the nearest supermarket and possibly cafe is close by, to be sure. Once you've had that confirmed, it should be ok. We have had some very memorable (in a good way!), fun, relaxing holidays that I appreciate, through this company. The villas are well equipped and usually pretty spacious, so it could be worse. I just can't help but feel like every year, if we use this company, its a bit of an adventure, trying to find the property itself and everything else but its definitely possible to have an enjoyable, relaxing holiday at one of their properties.So, if you feel that you'd like a bit of an adventure, if villa holidays interest you, your able to drive abroad and see somewhere new and your happy enough about double checking the details mentioned numerous times already when booking, then I say go for it because as much as I've experienced some bad stuff from the company, if you choose a good property, you can have a very good holiday... so I think its a case of insisting they give you the correct information and if anyone else has a particularly bad experience, report it to them so they might be discouraged from offering such holidays in the future. Also a tip is to try using Google Earth to check the location of the property your interested in booking, as it could help you figure out what access might be like, if its on a hill side etc., plus you could ask on holiday forums if others have been to the property or if anyone there knows the area, who might know what the roads are like there. So you should have a good idea what to expect before booking or/and before you get there - technology, isn't it marvellous(?!). I hope the review title makes sense now too lol.
Thanks, as ever, for reading my review and for any and all r/r/c's. I hope you found this a useful review, it was based on what I found on the James Villas website and also on my experiences having gone on numerous holidays with my parents, which they booked with this company.**Side note about customer service - Yes the company seems to be bad at claiming some things are perhaps better than they are but from what my parents have told me, if you phone and ask to double check details, they have always been friendly and helpful and able to honestly answer any questions you have, so from that point of view, the customer service isn't too bad, though the lack of rep service on Gran Canaria obviously doesn't say a great deal for customer service from that POV but that does appear to have been a one off situation, we hope!**
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