Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Mystique, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Santorini, Greece - August 2014

Scene from start of staircase to the hotel



The island on many postcards and vacation images.

Possibly the island in the legend of Atlantis.

The island is now sparsely populated and many hotels do not operate in the winter months.

Most of the staff is recruited from the mainland and work part-time during the summer months.

Why choose this hotel?

This is one of the hotels sited on the cliff wall just outside the picturesque village of Oia.
Which is where most of the iconic pictures of Santorini are taken.

The hotel has been recently listed as one of the Readers' Choice Award for Top 100 Hotels in 2014.

There were a few poor reviews which unsettled my trip just prior to my arrival. Thankfully I did not encounter much problems.

The Management

Starwood under Luxury Collection.

Getting to the Hotel

There are many cruises and flights from Athens to Santorini.

For this trip, we took a short 30 min flight with Aegean Airlines from Athens.

From the airport, the hotel arranged a complimentary transfer (just a token from the 650 Euro room rate! Well, I definitely appreciated it). The driver was from Albania and spoke basic English.

The Hotel

There is a formidable flight of stairs from the road to the hotel which is common knowledge if one reads the online reviews. It was bearable for the first few times but got rather tedious after that.

But before the stairs, one can enjoy the great view!

The colour scheme of the hotel is cream rather than white and blue.

The hotel is located really low on the cliff and has a relatively small number of rooms, which are named as suites, but most of them are probably junior suites at best.

The very end of the property towards Oia shows uninspiring rock.

The front desk is located in the first building with the Mystique sign.

There is a small lounge towards the upper levels to rest in and get a drink and some refuge from the blistering summer heat.

The tables outside the lounge offer a panoramic view of the caldera, and this shot is my current Facebook cover photo.

The Rooms

The smallest rooms are named Vibrant Suites (50sqm/540sqft) which were unavailable during my stay.
As it was the high summer season, the rooms were double the low season rates!

My pictures are of a Allure Suite, with minor differences ( perhaps the jacuzzi bathtub).

I heard some horror stories regarding the hot-tub in the (more expensive) room affecting the air-conditioning which was not very strong to start with, but a jacuzzi tub did not affect the temperature much.

The standing shower was a bit of a hazard for people above 1.7m/5' 7''. Water pressure was rather low as well, but considering the location it was understandably so.

The view from the room was not too great but in front of the room is a small terrace to enjoy the view of the caldera.

The room key was attached to a big piece of wood which was fun to hold until one ponders if it fits into the pocket.

Some of the other rooms have a tub outside the room.

The Food and Drinks

My room rate included a la carte buffet breakfast which was priced at 55 Euro per person!

Expensive that may be, the quality, range and service was really quite good, but I do not think I would pay that much when the hotel is just a few steps to Oia. 

On reconsideration, I would pay on remembering the daunting stairs out and back to the hotel.

And one shall have Greek Yogurt in Greece! With a view of course!

There is an Asian restaurant at the upper levels which we didn't eat at.


The Pool (2 of them)

A small infinity pool, which is next to the breakfast restaurant, which looks beautiful in pictures.

There is another pool at the upper levels of the hotel which was rather common and just as small.

The Service

Upon checking in, we were offered a welcome drink.

The process was a little on the slow side, and I suspected this was, in part, the allocated room not made up yet. The staff was polite and always warm whenever we needed help.
English was a slight problem likely due to accents and proficiency.

A welcome gift was laid out in my room as well. Sadly, I do not appreciate alcohol much.


Although my birthday had passed at the time of stay, I did indicate that this was a birthday vacation in the booking and the hotel arranged for a birthday cake to my room and the staff who delivered the cake sang me the birthday song!

The Gym

There is no gym for common use.The fiendish steps are bad enough.

The Spa

The prices are very high here, although I am sure the experience should be quite good out on the terrace.

 The Shops

A small gift shop selling mainly female attire is located near the infinity pool.


In Summary

This is a wonderful hotel for the view of the caldera and to explore Oia for the representative pictures of Santorini.
However, room prices are high especially in summer and the amount paid is probably for the location and view.

Service is very prompt and Ms Dragana was very good at answering or redirecting our queries.

Breakfast is very good but perhaps overpriced. A breakfast inclusive rate is definitely recommended.

Last but importantly, if one has a problem with steps and stairs, do not make a booking here.

A memorable stay without doubt!

Happy Travels,

Thursday, 13 November 2014

ANA Intercontinental Tokyo

 I visited Tokyo as my birthday vacation in July this year and was warned the weather was hot.

Compared to Singapore, the temperature was rather mild, but there was a strange discomfort of feeling cold air while experiencing hot rays from the sun.

 We traveled by the red-eye flight via Singapore airlines and arrived at the hotel at 9am.

We were unable to check into a room as it was too early, but given access to the lounge to rest.

The lounge is one of the better ones in Tokyo according to my online research.

For Intercontinental Ambassadors, the gift (package) is shown below. I still don't know what it (left upper corner) is...

Why choose this hotel?

 The hotel is located centrally and very near the Tameikesanno metro station which is a hub for several lines.

The rooms are considered large for Japanese hotels.


The Management

 Intercontinental Group or IHG

Getting to the Hotel

We had plans to take the bus which stops at the hotel but it was an hour's wait so we decided to take a taxi instead.

Taxi fares are rather expensive in Tokyo and the trip was about $80 sgd ($60 usd).

We took the bus for the ride back to the airport and it was really convenient.

The Hotel


The hotel is really grand with a large lobby and a giant waterfall.

The front desk is readily visible from the entrance.


 The Rooms

We had a basic room which was definitely sufficient to rest for the nights here.
At 32 sqm, the room is considered rather big by Tokyo norms.

The toilet is on the smaller side and I don't really enjoy seeing into the toilet from the room.

A traditional teapot sits on the minibar but stayed unused for my stay.

The Food and Drinks (The lounge actually)

We had a great time at the lounge which offered nice views and a good range for breakfast and cocktails.

The lounge breakfast is the best I have had so far.
The range is so wide and almost like a full buffet breakfast in other hotels.

 There was a selection of fruit, including the famous (read expensive) Japanese Musk melon!

And a good selection of soft drinks and tea as well.

Ample seats around too. There was never a need to flight for space.

The lounge also had a quiet area, which was the place where we rested while we waited for a room on the first day.

At other times, you can have cookies and drinks at the lounge. Ice for the drinks came in balls and I wonder if they were made in the way as the video after the pictures.

Food at evening cocktails were similarly impressive. (Forgot to take pictures while munching!)

The Pool And Gym

No time to visit the pool or gym! Tokyo is a city to explore and experience.

The Service

I have to really compliment the staff, especially those at the lounge.

Everyone was warm and helpful, although check-in was slow because of inexperience (which didn't matter much since a room was not ready.)

The staff at the lounge always greeted us and even made a birthday cake with fruit decoration and sang me a birthday song! That really made my night and the entire stay great.

In Summary

Definitely the service  is top-notch! Location is great for city exploration via the metro and the rooms are large and comfortable for Tokyo.

The lounge is a must-do.

In fact, I witnessed men bringing their girlfriends to the lounge to impress them.

Happy travels!