вторник, 8 октября 2013 г.

Family Vacations: Antalya, Turkey - Delphin Diva (September 2011)

In my pre-parenthood life I traveled a lot but, somehow, I never visited Turkey. Friends would ask why I'd never been and my answer was always that I would go when I had a child.
Turkey seemed, to me, to be a place where there were lots of loud kids running around, lot of Russian-speaking tourists (famous for their 'politeness'), and huge overcrowded hotels. Terrible! Clearly my image of Turkey was not the best.
Then, after starting a family, I thought – why not go to Turkey to celebrate my daughter's birthday? Maybe now, with family in tow, was the right time to visit.

My daughter has just turned four, she was still in kindergarten, and so we were pretty flexible in regards to traveling outside of peak season (mid-September).

When I was planning the trip my main selection criteria included:
- A short transfer time from the airport
- A nice beach (sand, not pebbles)
- Entertainment for children (access to a kids' club, water slides, etc.)
- An 'all-inclusive' package (you cannot avoid it in Turkey :)).

I took my time so as to thoroughly explore the available options for something really good. As usual, the reviews and ratings on TripAdvisor and other sites helped me a lot. Unfortunately, it was not easy to find a high-quality kid-friendly hotel that met all of the other criteria I had in mind.

In the end, I chose the hotel chain
Delphin in Antalya, as it appeared to satisfy my family's needs.

Delphin had two hotels in Antalya back in 2011: Delphin Diva and Delphin Palace. Recently they opened a third hotel, Delphin Imperial, which is where I would go next time. All three hotels are located on the same coastline and, at a certain time of the day, you can move from hotel to hotel and take advantage of the 'all-inclusive' system that allows use of each hotels' facilities by guests of the hotel chain.

Although all three hotels offer more or less the same services and entertainment for the kids, we decided to stay at
Delphin Diva (5 stars). Based on all of the reviews I had read, it appeared the best fit for our family. Delphin Palace seemed to me to be a huge and impersonal hotel, while Delphin Imperial was the newest of the three. The reviews suggested that Europeans preferred Delphin Diva and that Russians preferred to stay in Delphin Palace (this may now have changed to Delphin Imperial).

We took a direct flight from Vienna, where we now live, to Antalya on Turkish Airlines 'Sun Express', largely because there was a convenient scheduled flight available. We were a little sceptical of the quality, but we were very happy with them, despite of our initial skepticism.

Things started well and we were looking forward to exploring our hotel...
Airport to hotel transfer took about 10-15 minutes by bus (or taxi), and our first impression of the hotel was that it was huge! A beautiful building with lots of lights, quite a spectacle.

We booked a Duplex Family Room with a sea-view for four (myself, my husband, our daughter and her grandmother). The Duplex Family suite had two rooms over two floors, connected by a staircase. The two rooms were identical and each floor had a bathroom, WC, TV and air-conditioning. It was very comfortable and the rooms were spacious, although the décor was a little outdated. This hotel appears to be the oldest of the three and is still in good condition if a little worn.
The rooms had a sea-view which was wonderful from our balcony. If your budget stretches then you should definitely pay the extra cost as you won't regret having these beautiful sea-views!
The only downside (which is probably an issue in all of these Turkish hotels) is the noisiness of the bar below, near the pool. As we were on the upper floor, it didn't bother us much but it is a consideration.
We had to pay extra for internet access in the room (in 2011), although this may be included in the room's cost now so be sure to check.
Moving on... to food!
Such a variety of colours and foods I haven't seen elsewhere! They even had a separate room simply to house baklava! And, this was in addition to all of the other desserts. By the end of your trip you might, like me, want to resort to eating the healthier, diet-friendly, foods as your waistline and digestive capacities may not be able to cope with such an amazing variety of foods.
The hotel has several restaurants but we ate in the main buffet, where there was a great choice and everything was very tasty.

The main restaurant had a small kids' corner/play area with toys for small children. It is really practical and helpful when there is this kind of set-up for kids to have a place to play during meal times. And, rather wonderfully, the hotel also had the great option of having the entertainers from the kids' club collect all the children (well, at least those who want to go!) to take them to the hotel's amusement park in the evening. That way, parents get to enjoy a more relaxing dinner, and we certainly needed to concentrate as I have not seen such an abundance of food in any other country in the world!

We celebrated our daughter's birthday in a Turkish restaurant (a la carte). The staff were so nice as to decorate our table with rose petals and even find a golden chair for her to sit on; they did their best to make her birthday special.

The highlight, of course, was a cake with candles - it was very tasty and our daughter was very happy!

A pleasant surprise was waiting for her after the birthday dinner. When they finished the mini disco, which was held at the amphitheater, the entertainers, the kids and the parents stood up and sang "Happy Birthday." Our daughter got the presents from the hotel and a lot of attention and applause :). It was very touching!

I cannot say enough good things about the entertainment for children:

Kids' club: You can leave a child under the supervision of the entertainers who speak a range of different languages including English, German, and Russian. There is a daily program for the children that includes outdoor games, T-shirt painting, making crafts, and movie time. There is a small outdoor playground where the kids can climb, and an air-conditioned indoor room. Snacks, drinks, and fruit are available throughout the day so the kids stay well fed and hydrated at the club.
It really is a great service with the one exception that some of the entertainers seemed not to work with much enthusiasm and passion, while others clearly saw it as more than a job and really appeared to love entertaining the kids.

Mini-disco: This was every evening on the amphitheater’s stage, complete with loud applause from proud parents. A lot of fun for kids!

Water slides: Some smaller slides safe for little children, and other slides that were bigger and suitable for older kids and adults.

Playroom/lounge:  This catered more for older children and teenagers, including bowling, and other activities.

Amusement park: A small, but nice amusement park with rides for all ages! This included a small train, small Ferris wheel, and a large swing (Pirate ship), etc., making it a real delight for children. There was also cotton candy, popcorn and ice cream... what more could we need to make our daughter happy!?

Movie-theater for kids: Showing movies in different languages, and with the option of getting popcorn at the entrance, this was a great way to keep the kids entertained.

The hotel also has several swimming and activity pools to keep the adults entertained. Activities included aqua aerobics, water polo and other sports for adults.

There is a café near the large pool where you can drink Turkish tea and have some delicious Turkish bread, which is baked by the older local women.

A smaller pool has a number of water slides for older kids (like our daughter), while a  paddling pool is also available for smaller babies and toddlers. Nearby, there are sun loungers for parents to relax whilst keeping any eye on the kids. We could not get out our daughter out of the pool with the slides - "Mom, one more ride...". Sound familiar?

The indoor swimming pool was empty practically all the time as everyone was outside enjoying the sun in the outdoor pools.

We didn’t have a problem getting sun loungers but things might be different in the high season.

The beach and the sea: The beach is clean and long and houses a lot of sun loungers. You can walk along the beach to the other hotels in the Delphin chain (remember that it's all-inclusive!).

We enjoyed swimming in the sea with our daughter, and it's nice and easy to get into the sea from the beach (no need to clamber over any rocks or pebbles).

Every evening after the mini-disco, the hotel offered an evening entertainment program for adults too. The most remarkable was a Brazilian show featuring capoeira and real carnival dancers.

There was also live music at the pool bar each evening, and the hotel has a night club too, although we never went in (parental duties called!).

A stroll along the beach brings you to the sister hotel, Delphin Palace. In the afternoons guests of any of the three hotels can enjoy the services of the others in the chain. While the Delphin Palace was nice, we liked our cosier hotel, although my husband and daughter enjoyed the water slides better at the Palace for some reason!

The hotel's guests were mainly Europeans, predominantly German it seemed, with some Russians and English.

The staff were nice and friendly and polite, and we have no cause for complaint about the level of service.

I think we chose the perfect time to travel to Turkey - the middle of September, when the summer heat of August has dissipated, and peak season is over. In August it is simply too hot for me, sometimes being over 40 degrees Celsius. June or early July would also be fine but September seems an ideal time to visit.

Conveniently, there is a large shopping center just 5 minutes walk away from the hotel, although we didn't visit.

Overall, our stay was memorable, especially my daughter's birthday celebrations! My perception of a holiday in Turkey has certainly improved :).
Would I go there again? Yes, yes and yes!
With the only caveat that I would be sure to choose my dates carefully so as to avoid the high season of August and go earlier or later in the year to avoid the heat and the crowds. I would also like to try out the newer hotel in the Delphin chain, the
Delphin Imperial, which is getting some great reviews from guests.
The Delphin hotels are very good for families with children young and old! For couples, honeymooners, and younger travellers, this hotel may be a little too 'all-inclusive' and boring.

Bon voyage!

Let me know about your Turkish holiday!


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