Our family holiday rules have always been strict – no room service, no snacks by the pool and the door of the mini-bar stays firmly closed. So you can imagine the look of incredulous delight on my son’s face as I ordered champagne on room service, raided the mini-bar for treats and asked him if he fancied an in-room burger or pasta as a follow-up to poolside nachos.
No, we hadn’t won the lottery, but we had discovered Ikos, the Greek hotel group where these things are included in the price, along with a whole raft of offerings.
It meant all thoughts of an everlasting buffet and cheap plonk were banished.
At Ikos, menus are devised by Michelin-starred chefs in a handful of superb speciality restaurants, and there’s a 300-strong wine list with premium spirits and Taittinger on tap. If you’re staying in the upgraded deluxe collection, they even include car hire for a day so you can explore the area, along with museum tickets and the chance to eat in a local restaurant at no extra cost.
Unlimited luxury: Jane Knight presents the hotels around the world that offer luxury all-inclusive packages, including all five Ikos hotels, where menus are devised by Michelin-starred chefs and there’s a 300-strong wine list with Taittinger on tap. Above is Ikos Oceania in Greece
Our love affair with this new breed of all-inclusive hotels has in fact lasted the best part of a decade and has taken us around the world from the Caribbean to Borneo, with plenty of Europe in between.
Every year, a greater number of offerings are added to these ‘more inclusives’ – I’ve enjoyed everything from complimentary daily excursions in Dominica to free-flowing Veuve Clicquot in Crete.
I’m not alone in appreciating these hotels. According to travel association Abta, almost a third of holidaymakers are planning an all-inclusive holiday this year. Meanwhile, Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, says 65 per cent of its bookings already made for 2024 are all-inclusives, up from 50 per cent in 2020.
View included: If you’re staying in the upgraded deluxe collection with Ikos, they even include car hire for a day so you can explore the area. Pictured is Ikos Andalusia
Of course, taking such a holiday doesn’t mean less expense – booking an Ikos resort will set you back a hefty chunk – but it does mean you can control your costs, knowing exactly what you’re going to spend.
Every time we stay at Ikos (we’ve been to all five of its current resorts) I’ve returned having spent little more than a few euros.
At Ikos Andalusia in Spain, for example, during a week of feasting and fun, as well as a round of golf at Los Naranjos Golf Club, I spent a total of €3.50, which went on drinks in a cafe after we had cycled on the hotel bikes for 40 minutes along the seafront to Estepona. This is perhaps the Ikos property that will spoil you the most, and I can happily report that the concept travels well outside its home of Greece, with superb tapas included in its varied restaurants.
This year sees the opening of an Ikos resort in Majorca as well as a second in Corfu.
‘This is perhaps the Ikos property that will spoil you the most,’ Jane says of Ikos Andalusia
Superb tapas is included in Ikos Andalusia’s varied restaurants
Among its other hotels, Ikos Aria in Kos has perhaps the most scenic setting, looking out over Kefalos Bay to the tiny island of Kastri.
We used the complimentary day of car hire to drive to the thermal beach of Agios Fokas, where hot springs mix with the sea, and explored Kos Old Town, feasting on delicious kebabs and halloumi at the Ali family restaurant. The bill? Zilch. The restaurant is part of Ikos’s dine-around scheme.
In Corfu, Ikos Dassia has smaller rooms than the other hotels but it sits on a beautiful bay looking out to Albania. Just round the promontory lies Corfu Town. Boats leave from the jetty for Vidos island, where you can sup at sunset, gazing at the elegant architecture. Again, it’s all included.
But it was to Halkidiki on the Greek mainland that my son wanted to return as a post-GCSE summer treat.
Ikos Dassia, located in Corfu, sits on a beautiful bay looking out to Albania
His choice between Ikos’s two amazing properties here – Oceania and Olivia – was the latter, with many of its sleek blue-and-white rooms spaced out in low-lying buildings throughout its beautifully landscaped grounds.
We spent our time on pedalos, bouncing between table tennis and giant chess, and doing our traditional pool crawl.
There are five pools at Olivia, some with bridges across to islands that are perfect for circumnavigating on giant inflatables (and no, you can never be too old for this). Back on land, I tried some of the complimentary classes that span everything from Pilates to yoga, and we visited the gym daily.
Sleek blue-and-white rooms are spaced out in low-lying buildings throughout Ikos Olivia’s beautifully landscaped grounds
Meats and cheeses at Ikos Olivia. ‘No one bats an eyelid if you want four starters and three mains between the two of you,’ says Jane
We needed to do this to offset some of the incredible food – from the gyoza and spring rolls in the Asian restaurant to the tiramisu in the Italian and croissants for breakfast in the French one.
At the Greek restaurant, we found it hard to pick a starter and main each, so ordered a feast of different plates. Our waitress nodded approvingly and told us to add fried feta to our list. Ikos is perfect for would-be gourmands as it gives you the opportunity to try everything and, if you like it, to order more.
No one bats an eyelid if you want four starters and three mains between the two of you, nor if your teenager with hollow legs picks up the phone for room service a couple of hours after dinner or fancies ice cream for a late breakfast.
Seven nights’ all-inclusive at Ikos Olivia in May costs from £1,634pp
This isn’t just a family-friendly place, either. There are plenty of adults enjoying the afternoon gin trolley around the pool or sipping sedately in the bar.
Seven nights’ all-inclusive at Ikos Olivia in May costs from £1,634pp, including flights from Gatwick (sovereign.com).
MORE OF EUROPE’S TOP ALL-IN RESORTS
Turkey is a superb source of good-value, good-quality resorts. One of the best is The Residence, an adults-only hideaway on the Sensatori Barut Fethiye resort which has an enormous lagoon-style pool and swish rooms with free-standing tubs. If the three restaurants and four bars aren’t enough, you can pop into the main resort for another five restaurants and six bars, although some carry extra charges.
A week leaving Birmingham on May 9 costs from £1,279pp (tui.co.uk).
At Daios Cove in Crete, you can order Veuve Clicquot as part of the complimentary room service or sip it on the beach and in the restaurants built around one of the island’s most scenic bays.
Be sure to book your slots at the five speciality restaurants before you arrive, otherwise you’ll find them hard to get into.
At Daios Cove in Crete (above), you can order Veuve Clicquot as part of the complimentary room service
Be sure to book your slots at Daios Cove’s five speciality restaurants before you arrive, otherwise you’ll find them hard to get into
Seven nights in May costs from £1,632pp, including flights from Gatwick (loveholidays.com).
If you’d rather steer clear of family-friendly resorts, try the Palladium Hotel Group’s TRS Ibiza. This adults-only hotel, bang on the beach, features live music in its sky lounge and comes with a rooftop pool. Stay in a Signature Level suite and tickets are included for a selected event at one of Palladium’s other hotels: Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza.
Guests can also dine in these hotels as well as at TRS Ibiza’s trio of a la carte restaurants. Six nights from May 13 in a Signature Level junior suite with sea view, including flights from Stansted, costs from £2,084pp (jet2holidays.com).
… AND THE BEST OF THE REST OF THE WORLD
Where the jungle meets the sea in Kota Kinabalu, in Malaysian Borneo, you’ll find Shangri-La Rasa Ria, a beautiful hotel with its own nature reserve and miles of beach.
It offers a great-value all-inclusive package, plus access to the reserve for guided nature walks with local rangers, golf on the 18-hole course and a kids’ club. There is all-day dining, but in the evening you are limited to buffets in only two restaurants, with a la carte options and other speciality restaurants charged as extra. Beverages are complimentary from noon to 10pm.
Seven nights in May, including flights from Heathrow, costs from £1,699pp (kenwoodtravel.com).
Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi has an impressive waterpark and wave pool as well as a beautiful beach. And should you want to explore the Louvre, the art gallery is just across the bay.
Eat in any of six restaurants and lie back by the pool as waiters on skates deliver cocktails to your sunbed.
Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi has an impressive waterpark and wave pool as well as a beautiful beach
Should you want to explore the Louvre, the art gallery is just across the bay from Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island
At Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island, you can lie back by the pool as waiters on skates deliver cocktails to your sunbed
Seven nights at Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island, including flights, costs from £1,589pp
Seven nights, including flights, costs from £1,589pp (destination2.co.uk).
At Fort Young on little Dominica, they encourage you to explore the lush, wild Caribbean island by including daily excursions in the price along with meals, snacks and alcoholic drinks.
Hike round Freshwater Lake, take a guided tour of the city of Roseau, where the waterfront hotel is located, or go lionfish hunting in the sea. Unlimited diving is included. Seven nights in May costs from £3,385 per adult and £1,978 per child, based on a family of four, with flights from Gatwick (livand.travel).
In the Maldives, holidaymakers have traditionally been held hostage to the fact that most resorts are on their own islands, meaning they have to fork out a fortune for bottles of water or lunch by the pool. Now an increasing number are all-inclusive.
At Sun Siyam Iru Veli, the 125 beach and overwater suites all have their own private pool plus complimentary mini-bar. You can dine at the Mediterranean restaurant, the beach grill or the buffet and enjoy champagne, wine and branded spirits. Seven nights in May costs £3,209pp, including flights from Heathrow and diving, windsurfing and other activities (travelbag.co.uk).
For a less expensive family-friendly option, sister property Sun Siyam Iru Fushi includes an excursion to another island as well as use of paddleboards and non-motorised watersports. Dine in any of five a la carte restaurants or hit the buffet.
Save up to £1,800 per family of four, with prices from £1,929pp for seven nights, including flights from Heathrow (travelbag.co.uk).
At Sun Siyam Iru Veli in the Maldives, the 125 beach and overwater suites all have their own private pool plus complimentary mini-bar
Sun Siyam Iru Fushi (pictured) is a good family-friendly option in the Maldives, Jane reveals
A stay at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi includes an excursion to another island as well as the use of paddleboards and non-motorised watersports
In Mauritius, the Shandrani Beachcomber Resort offers two all-inclusive packages: Serenity and Serenity Plus. Both include water-skiing among extensive activities, as well as the option to dine in six restaurants, book a picnic and enjoy drinks in two bars.
The Serenity Plus option includes a 30-minute massage, a round of golf, a guided bike tour and a sunset glass-bottom boat trip. You also get a choice of premium alcohol plus champagne in the evenings. The resort has three beaches as well as a kids’ club.
Seven nights in August for a family of four costs from £6,820 on the Serenity package, with flights included, or an extra £550 for Serenity Plus (beachcombertours.uk).