All Inclusive – the reality

The ‘economy drive’ seemed like a good idea last week when I booked it. I chose the hotel because it is on one of the beaches widely renowned as ‘best in the Caribbean’, and I did know that this is ‘hotel land’ and I figured ‘how bad can it be?’ Now it has turned into all the things I knew I always hated about all inclusives.

The beach is FABULOUS – miles and miles of white soft sand, and beautiful blue sea, so the objective is fulfilled at least from one point of view. But these hotels seem to be all about the food and drink, and nothing else. This one has one massive scrum buffet, plus five or six ‘a la carte’ restaurants including Argentinian and Japanese. All you see are people rushing around with plates filled with every type of food imaginable and when they leave the tables, the plates left behind are still filled with enough food to provide them with dinner all over again. And no one has a drink in just one hand, they have one in each hand.

Breakfast finishes at 10 am, lunch begins at 12 and finishes at 3, dinner begins at 6 and finishes at 10. In between there is a ‘Mac’ snack bar, just in case anyone gets peckish. The rest of the time you spend walking the miles of pathways from the rooms to the beach and to the restaurants – there isn’t time to do anything else. And of course, having said that, there isn’t anything to do except go on excursions offered by your tour company. The minute you step outside the hotel you are pounced on by salesmen of everything from cigars to paintings, plus a limited range of the kind of souvenirs you find everywhere. Still, they are the only kind of local enterprise so you have to admire them.

In the tour operator’s local information guide you are told not to rent a car because there are potholes in the road (remind you of anywhere?) and it is much safer to go with a guided tour – all of which seem to cost an amazing amount of money – i.e. $100+ per person minimum.

Funny that, I bought a Lonely Planet guidebook which is usually quick to say if they consider anything to be potentially dangerous and they say ‘the best way to see the island is by renting a car’! If you go with your tour operator just a couple of times the ‘cheap’ holiday suddenly is not quite so cheap, unless you really plan to spend your whole time in the hotel resort, and I suppose a lot of people do just that.

I bought 12 books with me and today I finished last Sunday’s papers. I am beginning to worry I will run out of things to read and then what will I do? The bulk of clients are Spanish speaking (apart from the Russians who are here in their hundreds) so papers etc. are in Spanish – I guess a quick course in Spanish is on the cards (in fact they do Spanish lessons by the pool each morning, before morning aerobics).

It is all so different from the way tourism works in Greece, where our tourists are visitors who become a part of everyday life virtually the minute they arrive and who, if they finally buy a property in Corfu, become an immediate part of the community in which they live. I guess we will leave here knowing nothing more about daily life than I read in the Lonely Planet guide, which seems such a pity, although it makes me appreciate even more the way our visitors join us and get to know the people in the villages, the bars and the restaurants they visit. They take a little bit of Corfu with them when they leave (which of course is why so many come back and buy their homes from us!)

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