Advantages More comfortable than a hotel room - good with kids
Disadvantages Not your apartment - can't leave anything there - do you want to keep going back?
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
As well as the hotels for the short stay visitor and the villas and apartments for the longer stay guest, there is a demand for a cross between the two, and this demand is the reason for the Marriott Playa Andaluza, a Marriott Vacation Club property.Whisper it quietly (the words are not welcome) but there are elements of timeshare here. You can buy the right to use one of the apartments for a week or more, and you can swap the time you have there for equivalent time at other locations pretty much world wide, you can let others use it, you can rent it privately or you can let the Marriott team let it out on your behalf. The time slot you buy is yours, you can give it away or leave it in your will or sell it (although it does eventually expire, like a lease - and it is only yours as long as you pay the annual charges).
**Location and how to get there**This hotel/property is on the Estepona side of Malaga, between Marbella and Gibraltar. They give the address as Marbella, but it is actually outside Marbella proper. This is the Costa del Sol, and this is a beachfront hotel near to Puerto Banus. Easiest flights are probably Malaga or Gibraltar, with journey time from Malaga Airport 45 minutes in reasonable traffic (unless you get lost, as I did, when it took quite a long time because I found the supplied map very confusing).
**Accommodation**When I visited, there were more than 150 apartments finished with more still under construction. These are not hotel rooms nor are they quite apartments, but somewhere in between - more like a serviced apartment, I suppose. These are rooms of the international Marriott standard with superb, comfortable beds (either one King or two Queens per room) with super smooth and welcoming white linen. The bedrooms are arranged off a central open-plan room which features a fully fitted (American) kitchen, bar/breakfast bar area, dining area and sitting area with access to a balcony or terrace. You could not fault the standard of this, although you might not have fittings you would have chosen yourself they were quality, in good condition, well maintained and it all felt good. There was a utility room with washing machine and so on - these are set out as high specification holiday apartments, although of course as you only use them for a week or two per year, you can't leave items in the apartments as you could if they were your own and you don't get to choose the décor. On the other hand, it is all maintained to a high standard.
My room has a double bedded room with a huge bed and with an en suite which featured an enormous oversized bath (took ages to fill). Behind that was another room with a loo and a shower. On the other side of the apartment was another bedroom, this one with twin beds, and another bathroom. Both bedrooms had large televisions in them and there was another TV with DVD player (played Region 2 Europe discs) in the lounge/seating area, as well as a CD player.The kitchen is American spec (e.g. coffee filter but no kettle) and was well fitted. Everything worked and everything was of a decent standard. You could live in the apartment, you could cook and serve anything from tea and toast to a roast dinner and there was enough space for a family to eat, too. The whole apartment has heating and air conditioning.
In an interesting and useful feature, a lot of the units in the hotel actually feature a two-bed apartment as I have described with a separate studio apartment right next door but with its own front door - you actually get both units if you buy the week but you can use them separately, rent off one of them or use one like a Granny-annexe (or a teenager annexe), putting part of your group in a semi-independent space and giving them and you more privacy. This was a nice idea.There is a daily housekeeping service.
The room look out over landscaped grounds, although it was much manicured - a bit too perfect for me (( know - there's no pleasing some people). The units are arranged in quasi-Spanish, Moorish-inspired apartment buildings separated by Disney-Spanish plazas with little fountains and tiled areas. Sorry if I sound snobbish about this, but the pretend-Spanish frills do get on my nerves somewhat. It was all clean and of course it all worked - the fountains had water and the benches had backs. It was all OK.**Cost**
You can get a quote direct from Marriott (just Google Playa Andaluza) and the prices will change as the resort sells more fully. It also depends on how much space you want (two or three bedrooms) and of course on when you want it - the Costa is pleasant but not hot from October through to April or so. As a working figure, estimate £10,000 per week - it would be a good starting point.**Arrival and departure**
As standard, check in is a 4pm and check out at 10am - I suppose to give the staff longer than in a hotel, as this is a full apartment to service and clean. Reception was fine and the staff were approachable and knowledgeable. There is parking near by but you can not take your car to your apartment building - the cars have to stay in the car park at the 'top' of the development (it slopes down to the outdoor pool and the beach.Say it very quietly, but for some reason I found the reception and its little shop very much like being at Butlins: Is that good or bad?
**Activities and things to see and do around**This falls into two main categories - within the hotel complex and outside it.
Within the complex, there are outdoor swimming pools and one indoor pool - the outdoor ones are closed in the winter months. When they are open they are pretty child friendly and they are open from about 8am to sunset - about 7.30pm. There are similar facilities in the indoor pool, with little Jacuzzis round it and a gym and his'n'hers saunas too.After the pool and the sun bathing area is the beach and the sea. I visited in low season and there was nothing going on at the beach although I could see a (closed) beach bar and I am sure that there will be items such as little peddle boats to rent. transport to get anywhere, either a hire car or a taxi - or the reasonably priced buses, if you are not in a hurry.
Marbella is only 10 minutes drive away (plus the time to find somewhere to park…) and has a large supply of restaurants and shops, bars and boutiques.**Restaurants and the shop**
There is basically one shop which is a sort of mini market come bakery come corner shop and sells things from bread and butter through tins of beans and tomato ketchup to garlic mayonnaise and hot chilli peppers. It was OK. There are better shops in Marbella.The restaurant was uninspired but OK Mediterranean fare, priced at the higher end of the range.
**Vacation ownership**You don't have to revisit this resort to 'spend' your week or fortnight or however much you have bought. You can swap the time for an equivalent period in one of a number of other top-class resorts elsewhere. This is one of the most attractive features of this deal and I hope it is as easy as it was described to me.
**And finally…**This is a good base for exploring. For a family with kids, you can actually 'live' here, it is pretty safe and the kids can run round and in and out of the pools - but with Spanish weather. If you prefer to cook for yourself on holiday, this is a pretty good place. It has some of the advantages of an apartment (the space, a DVD player, enough bathrooms, some privacy) without some of the disadvantages (someone else fixes the dripping tap, makes the bed and cleans the floor).
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