Coaxing the shiny blue Mini Cooper through the narrow streets of the hilltop village, the twisting road leads to the west coast of Corfu. As my daughter’s excited voice calls out – “I can see the sea!” – I reflect there aren’t many all-inclusive resorts that are so keen for you to explore beyond their gates that they will lend you a car to do so.
But then Ikos Dassia is rather different. Staying on the island’seast coast, less than half an hour from Corfu Town, there’s plenty of temptation to stay put: six a la carte restaurants plus buffets, 24-hour room service, seven pools, a kids’ club, loungers stretching along the 600-metre beachfront, and never a need to count the cost of the ice creams from the gelaterias.
Unlike the all-inclusives of old, the “Infinite Lifestyle” ethos from Ikos Resorts includes the chance to dine out at three local restaurants, free entry to three different attractions on Corfu, plus hire of those eyecatching Mini Coopers – with only petrol to pay.
“At Ikos Resorts, we have redefined the all-inclusive concept across the Med, ensuring each family member is kept appropriately entertained throughout their stay at our luxury resorts while offering amazing value for money, without any limitations or hidden costs,” says Daisy Modiano, marketing and communications manager.
“This includes complimentary kids’ clubs with an exciting ageappropriate activities programme and 30 minutes’ free beach childcare for kids over the age of four. We offer special kids’ menus and snacks across all our a la carte restaurants featuring menus curated by Michelin-starred chefs, and complimentary on-site activities including bike rides, tennis, football, beach volleyball, basketball, paddle-boarding and much more.
“The all-inclusive offering also provides an immersive approach to the destination by giving a complimentary Mini for a full day to all guests, and the option to dine at local restaurants at no extra cost.”
Add in a free shuttle bus running to Corfu Town throughout the day, and we’re all set to explore. Starting with the sprawling resort itself.
Divided into two sides – Sea and Sky – each acts almost as a mirror image. Both have a main and adultsonly pool, buffet and beachfront restaurants, spa, bars and rooms, plus a few individual touches. In between sits the kids’ club, play area and splash zone, with everything open to all guests, and additional areas for those staying in Deluxe Collection rooms.
Weaving between the white buildings, through a small herb garden or along the beach decking, even the far side is never more than a short stroll away. Buggies whisk you from one side to the other if you want, plus there are bikes for all ages to borrow if clients are determined to see every corner of the 26 acres.
Pancakes, fruit and sea views at Ouzo restaurant become our breakfast staple, after coffee on our balcony, courtesy of the room’s Nespresso machine. Freshly baked pizza at Fresco for my daughter’s favourite lunch – though she develops a taste for sea bass from the kids’ menu at dinner – and I enjoy Corfiot specialities at Kerkyra, which is also the Greek name for Corfu.
With subtly divided family and adults’ areas in many restaurants, there’s no fear of a small excitable girl ruining someone’s romantic evening as I attempt to find my favourite of the 300 wines on offer.
Similarly, the adults-only pools are little zones of blissful tranquillity, only broken by polite enquiries from staff to see if they can bring me anything, as my daughter happily entertains herself at kids’ club. Coaxed into her first session by friendly staff, my six-year-old’s nerves soon vanish and, three hours later, she emerges with a dozen new friends, demanding to know why she isn’t booked into the football academy too.
With two-hour sessions daily for ages 5 to 14 costing €35, I’m not sure how we’d fit football in around the packed schedule of eating, lounging, swimming and exploring. The littler ones get their own tots’ football academy too, at €15 per 45-minute session for 18 months to four years.
The kids’ club itself is free for ages 4 to 12, split into two groups with the UK’s care ratios. There are two separate creches for babies and toddlers aged four months to three years, with varying charges, while the resort has baby sets on request.
Teens don’t miss out either, and not just because there’s Wi-Fi everywhere. In peak season, the Just4Teens club runs for ages 13-plus, with activities including watersports in peaceful Dassia Bay.
But the island beyond the gates is calling. The shuttle bus to Corfu Town cruises along the coast from quiet Dassia to the capital’s shady streets, its elegant balconied buildings and pastel-coloured houses recalling the island’s Venetian past.
Another night, we hop back onto the shuttle for our Dine Out meal at Rex restaurant, not far from the Venetian Old Fortress where St George church is styled like an ancient temple. Then it’s time to fire up the satnav and venture to the other coast, via quiet roads and the hilltop village of Pelekas in that gleaming Mini Cooper, nicknamed “Bluebell” by my daughter.
We toy with the idea of visiting an empress’s summer palace, looking for flamingos by the lake or venturing into the wilder north. In the end, the beach with its dunes and golden sand wins out. For once, I need euros for our ice cream, but from family time to indulgence and exploring, this is one holiday that includes all the essentials.
Book it: Jet2holidays has a sevennight all-inclusive stay at Ikos Dassia from £956pp based on two adults and two children sharing and departing from Stansted on May 8, 2019. Price includes flights with 22kg baggage allowance and transfers.
■ Recommend downloading the Ikos app. This can be used to arrange and keep track of bookings for restaurants and kids’ clubs.
■ Book ahead. Guests can make reservations for dinner at three a la carte and Dine Out restaurants before arriving, with tables getting booked up fast. Additional bookings can be made on arrival, subject to availability, with a concierge to help those staying in the Deluxe Collection rooms. Kids’ club sessions also need to be booked as early as possible.
■ Plan clients’ time out of the resort. It’s advisable to prebook one of the fleet of 20 Mini Coopers, especially in peak season. The Ikos app also has suggestions of places near Ikos Dassia to discover.
Ikos Resorts has two new properties planned – Ikos Aria on Kos, opening in May 2019, and Ikos Andalusia in Estepona for May 2020, the first property outside Greece.
With 373 rooms and suites compared to Dassia’s 411, plus eight restaurants, Ikos Aria will sit in a spacious 47 acres on Kos’s south-west coast – about 45 minutes from Kos Town and 20 minutes from the airport, connected by direct flights to London.
The group’s first Spanish property will see a €150 million transformation of the former Costa del Sol Princess, with 411 rooms and suites planned, seven restaurants and 3,100 square metres of pools and a spa.
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