At the start of May, Jet2Holidays sent me on an all-inclusive resort holiday. As you know, I’m absolutely not the sort of person who’d normally go on that sort of trip, so it was a very different experience for me. When I say ‘sent me’, I mean it was a Press Trip that they paid for, in return for me talking about it. I’m not sure they knew what to expect, sending me and my friend Laura to Cyprus for four nights, but TL;DR we had a pretty good time.
I want to answer a few questions about the experience – and as someone completely new to the idea of all-inclusive resort holidays, I wanted to write up a post about how that felt, so that you, if you have never been on one before either, have a better idea of what to expect.
We were staying at the St George Hotel and Spa, a couple of miles north of Paphos, on the western side of Cyprus, and very self-contained. Details about the holiday and resort are here. Obviously this being a press trip means you need to know I was paid to go on this trip. Also note Laura took several of the photos used in this post, for technical reasons.
The outside front of St George Hotel & Spa Hotel
What does an All-Inclusive package Include?
Jet2 offer a couple of levels of all-inclusive actually, but in simple terms the price you pay includes flights, transfers at the destination, hotel costs, and most food and soft drinks. You get free use of the pools and associated facilities, and at that level, all you would need to pay for would be alcoholic drinks, and any of the spa treatments offered by third parties on-site.
There is also a higher tier, the All-Inclusive Plus, which also includes unlimited alcoholic drinks, as well as a limited number of meals from the specialist on-site restaurants. Some very fancy cocktails are still extra to that, but the inclusive selection is wide enough for that to not be an issue unless you’re really wanting to push the boat out. The wristband you get given on arrival is colour-coded so it’s easy for the staff to see what package you’re on and what you’re entitled to.
Full disclosure: this is the package we were on, which meant we spent a lot of time drinking standard cocktails. Because why not. There’s not much in the way of local craft beer, but that’s to be expected and I’m noting more a me-issue for being a beer snob than anything bad about the package or resort.
What food and drink is offered? Is there a limited choice?
The resort we were at had several restaurants, open at various times of the day. A couple of them were open all day and required no reservations. They generally operated as a buffet style restaurant, with the options changing over the day – breakfast, lunch, and evening meals all being catered for differently. As the resort was in Cyprus, much of the available food was eastern Mediterranean, with ample amount of halloumi, lamb, dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and the like, however many major cuisines were represented. In general, the food at the buffet was very good, much better than we’d expect from buffet-style restaurants in hotels back in the UK.
The outside front of St George Hotel & Spa Hotel
Close-up of buffet food
The resort also had several more specialist restaurants, including Greek, Oriental, and an American style one. These mainly operated in the evenings, by reservation only. All-Inclusive Plus customers had one per week included in their tariff, otherwise you’d have to pay for it. We went to two of them, and I think they’d definitely be worth paying for, The Oriental restaurant vibed like a standard restaurant with an a-la-carte menu, while the Greek restaurant – outdoors, lovely in the fading spring sunshine – was a set menu where they kept coming over to the table and dropping more food off. It was so good but so much even we couldn’t eat it all.
Some of the food we had at the Greek restaurant on-site
For snacks and quick food, the resort had a couple of places you could get sandwiches, cakes, ice creams, etc. One was outside near the beach and pool, another served as a cocktail bar but where you could get divine chocolate cake and pastries.
Obviously all the restaurants served drinks, which for both soft and alcoholic (wine and beer) were available on a tap dispenser system like you’d find in a fast food restaurant. Yes this means you could have self-serve wine with your breakfast. There were a number of dedicated bars too, not just the one mentioned above, whose seating drifted out onto the patio, but also a proper bar with a piano and occasional live performances, with good high views of the sunset. There were also two pool bars, one of which you could actually swim up to and sit on stools at; the decadence of which had been on on Laura’s bucket list for quite some time.
One of the pool bars; someone is sat at the pool seating area
Note for non-swimmers; it was possible both to walk into the water and sit pool-side, or just sit land-side. Though the latter means you lose something of the experience.
Do I need to be able to swim to enjoy the resort?
No. Although the resort had two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, and was next to the sea, there was plenty to do outwith the water; indeed on our visit the pools were relatively quiet; the majority of people staying were spending their time either in the bars or lounging on the large areas reserved for deckchairs.
Another of the outdoor pools; pic taken at sunset
Both the outdoor pools are freshwater ones, and not artificially heated. This makes them cooler than you might expect on a hot early May day. But you soon get used to it. The indoor spa pool is heated but only over the Winter period.
Is an all-inclusive resort okay for allergies or religious/dietary requirements?
Honestly, I’m not the best person to answer that fully, as I don’t have any real needs on that score. What I will say is that as many of the restaurants work on a buffet system, and everything is labelled with what it is, for the most part it’s easy to ‘play safe’ and, say, stick to the vegetarian food for example – we were in Cyprus; this wasn’t a problem. I didn’t notice anything specifically labelled as halal/kosher, gluten-free, or containing allergens, but what I will say is the staff were consistently very friendly and attentive, so I would be confident enough to say if you asked them they’d be very happy to guide you.
Certainly that would be the case in the specialist restaurants with specific menus, where things like that would be listed specifically.
What kind of resort was it? Were there a lot of children?
When Jet2 gave us options for which resort to go to, there were seven or eight we could have chosen. Laura opted for the St George partly because it was described as an ‘Adults-Only’ Resort. Now, ‘Adults-Only’ just means ‘no children’, get your mind out the gutter, but that is something to bear in mind when booking. It just meant we were surrounded mostly by Gen-X and Boomer adult couples, and the occasional 30-something pre-wedding party. We slightly stood out, but that’s a discussion for another post.
Don’t we look absolutely *stunning*!
I can’t comment on the vibe of family-friendly all-inclusive resorts, but I know they exist, I guess one of the beauties of such a holiday is the wide variation of styles available. In Paphos we had a slightly older crowd; no doubt had we chosen to stay in a resort nearer Ayia Napa, we’d have been surrounded by more party-focussed holidaymakers. What it did mean is that it never felt ‘loud’. We weren’t disturbed by parties at 2am or anything like that.
What else was available at the resort?
Apart from eating, drinking, sunbathing, and swimming, the resort has a spa. I’ll go in to more details in a specific post, but there was a sauna, steam room, hot tub, and spa pool, but also a myriad of spa treatments available, from massages to pedicures to more intense beauty regimes. There’s also a multigym purely for guest usage.
The multi-gym. We didn’t use it. Because hi have you met us?
Also, for information, on check-in you get your room key (card) but also a ‘towel’ card. You then go to the spa reception and hand the card over in return for a towel which you can use in the spa or for the outdoor pools. When it’s dirty you just return to the spa reception to exchange for a clean one, then collect your card when you’re done.
There were several other entertainments available. In the daytimes there were fitness and sporting activities, including daily yoga. A list of them is posted for the week outside spa reception. In the evenings a couple of the bars had events including live music and allegedly karaoke, though I didn’t notice that happening. We were too busy sipping sundowners on the patio.
What time are restaurants and bars open?
It’s pretty easy to get something to eat and drink most times of the day.
The restaurants open at various times of the day depending on the food they offer, but for example the buffet breakfast runs from 7am until 10am. The specialist restaurants you need to pre-book open at 7pm. All the restaurants close at 10pm. The patisserie, for cakes and snacks, closes at midnight.
As for the bars, they open at various times in the morning, between about 9am and 10:30am. The pool bars tend to close early evening, but the inside bars stay open until late; the cocktail bar closes at 1am. It means you’re unlikely to be kept awake by party animals.
What are the rooms like?
We had a room on the lowest floor of accommodation (there were at least three). We had a twin room, obviously, and it was a good size – plenty of space for us to not feel cramped and ample room for the luggage. There was a large bathroom complete with shower; out only downside was at first the shower flooded the bathroom but the hotel facilities sorted that out without too much of a fuss. The room also had a sizeable balcony with table and chairs, and provided a good spot to sit with a bottle of wine and watch the sun go down over the sea. Or would have done if we weren’t in one of the bars doing that exact same thing.
The best picture of the room we took. You get the idea.
The beds were very comfortable, and the rooms are equipped with aircon which would be very useful in the height of summer, else you have to sleep with the patio doors open and then risk getting bitten to death by the mosquitoes that lurk in this part of the world. Reader: we are not very good at using hotel aircon systems.
Can you leave the resort?
Yes, you can leave the resort. This isn’t a remake of The Prisoner.
That said, St George’s Resort itself is a little way out of town – about 6km from the Paphos seafront. The road down has a wide demarcated area you can walk along, but regular buses do exist. At the time of typing they only accepted cash, but hopefully this will change soon. Halfway down the road is one of the important historical sites, the Tombs of the Kings, so you’re going to want to head that way anyway.
At the junction with the main road just outside the resort is a mini-mart that sells pretty much anything except The Sun newspaper. Across the road from it is a small shopping centre including a pharmacy, an opticians, and a cafe.
Did you feel pressured by the staff for up-selling or excursions?
Have you been watching too many sitcoms from twenty years ago? There were no trips to ‘local markets run by friends of the resort’ nor anything similar. There were a couple of Jet2 reps on-site but they were there purely to ensure that we had no admin or logistical issues, and the staff were there to run the resort, not get involved in ephemera.
Who needs excursions when you have deckchairs?
That’s not to say there weren’t excursions available. On arrival we were given a whole booklet’s worth of information, including a list of available trips, which was quite extensive. They covered a whole world of Cypriot adventures, from simple things like daily trips to Paphos Zoo and the Waterpark, to cultural and heritage trips around the island, to jeep safaris and sunset cruises. Most of these excursions were full-day experiences, and would be a nice way to get out of the sun-lounger and explore the region. We chose not to, because we’re both independent travellers at heart, and anyway it’s likely we’ll be back in Cyprus soon to explore at our own pace. On this trip we just wanted to make the most of the resort, as that in itself was a new experience for us.
How easy are the transfers?
The transfers were easy. On arrival at Paphos airport there was a Jet2 stall with staff around who took our names and quickly directed us to our assigned coach. Similarly, on our return we had both a txtmsg and an e-mail telling us when our transfer back would likely pick us up from the resort, and where to wait for it. Jet2 has a number of Paphos hotels and resorts, and our transfer coach stopped at several of them dropping other passengers off before reaching ours.
Your holiday does indeed start here.
Additionally, we were able to ‘check in’ to our flight at the resort itself on the morning of our departure – our flight wasn’t until around 6pm but we were able to check in around 10am. This meant both we had almost a full day at the resort without having heavy bags and we didn’t have to worry about getting to the airport several hours in advance so we had more time to enjoy it. I took the opportunity to have a back wax.
Our transfer picked us up about 3.30pm, and went around the same group of other resorts before getting to the airport, but it was still an easy ride.
What were the flights like?
So, Laura found it really unusual that all-inclusive holidays like this exist – the idea of a package holiday that incorporates flights and accommodation is weird to American culture. She didn’t realise that a flight to a Jet2 resort with Jet2Holidays would be operated by a Jet2 Airline with Jet2 staff both on-board and at either end.
Having a dedicated all-in-one service made things simple and quite personable. Check-in felt quick and efficient, with friendly and knowledgeable staff – Laura’s boarding passes always require additional admin due to her passport status but they seemed pretty clued-up on what she needed.
View of Cyprus just before landing.
The flights themselves were really smooth (not something Jet2 have any control over), but we did feel quite looked-after on them, with attentive crew and a decent selection of snacks. On the way out I had a middle seat – Laura always needs the window, for anxiety reasons – and at 1m90, I wasn’t looking forward to four hours crammed in to a small space. But in the event I had a surprisingly large amount of legroom and didn’t feel at all restricted. On the way back I sat in the aisle and the middle seat between us was free so that was the best of all worlds.
The only thing lacking on the flight was the pocket in the seat in front, but this seems to be the way of things these days, alas.
What were your expectations? Were they met?
It’s weird. I’d never thought of staying in an all-inclusive resort before, because it’s just not my style of holiday. I’ve always been someone who preferred to do their own thing, and book everything independently and usually very last minute. The idea of being in a place for several days and not ‘need’ to worry about things like food or travel is not one I’m used to. And of course my only reference point for all-inclusive holidays has tended to be what I’ve seen on TV and in the media.
Two of the restaurants inside the St George’s hotel & spa. The one below is one of the specialist ones.
One of the things that always irked me about all-inclusive resorts was the cost. They always seemed to be quite expensive. But when me and Laura sat down to work out prices, we realised that it’s actually much cheaper overall, relatively, than you think. That everything is included means the initial price looks like a big number, but if you break it down in terms of flights, hotel costs, food and drink, etc, it’s clear how the costs of travelling independently adds up. Those who budget might be more aware of this than I am. Return flights, especially with hold luggage, then a decent hotel, and it doesn’t take much extra spending on food and drink to make all-inclusive resorts genuinely affordable in comparison. Bear in mind St George’s resort is rated four stars.
My main fear was that I’d be bored, just sitting around doing nothing. But of course you get out what you put in, and there was enough to do (and enough to drink) for that to not be a problem. It helped that I was travelling with a good friend – I don’t know if I’d’ve had the same experience as a solo traveller. But even so, I didn’t feel rushed, I didn’t feel pressured to ‘do’ everything, and that’s another big change to my normal my travel style. And it was just nice to sit and relax and … do nothing.
I was, indeed, doing nothing.
I’d definitely be tempted to do this again, that’s for sure. Which is not a sentence I thought I’d say.