Welcome to my multi-part review of our summer vacation. We spent 12 days abroad, predominately in Athens and Paris. We did squeeze in about half a day in Amsterdam before heading home. While I’m writing the series, I’m happy to answer any questions you have ahead of time. We traveled in mid-July, so right in the middle of the Athens financial crisis. Here’s most of what I expect to cover, including links to posts I’ve already completed:
- Planning Our Summer Vacation!
- British Airways First and Business Class Lounges at Philadelphia Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Philadelphia to Athens
- A Speed Bump Upon Arrival At Arion
- Arion Guest Room Review
- Arion: A Luxury SPG Resort (Various Posts)
- Flying From Athens To Paris
- Hyatt Regency Etoile Paris
- Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- Disneyland Paris
- A Study of Macaroons
- Various Restaurant Reviews
- Taking The Train From Paris To Amsterdam
- Sheraton Schiphol Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Amsterdam to Philadelphia
Even though the view from our balcony at Arion was awesome, there’s plenty to see around the rest of the resort complex. Both hotels are behind a gate house, and there are plenty of walking paths in between the Arion and Westin. Though I didn’t get a chance to see the rooms at the Westin, I’ve heard good things.
There are a number of seating areas inside the hotel in multiple lobbies if inside is your thing. But, being outside is really the name of the game if you’re making a trip here.
If WiFi is your thing, coverage inside both resorts is excellent and the speeds are reasonable. The service was free for us as SPG Platinum guests, 15 Euro if you’re not an elite member. Coverage was spotty at the beaches but we were still able to check e-mail and pull up the occasional website while poolside.
The Arion sits on the side of a cliff. Just one flight of stairs down from the lobby is a pool that overlooks the Saronic Gulf. We hung out at this pool shortly after we got situated at the hotel. There was nobody else poolside and there were a number of lounge chairs and umbrellas if you didn’t feel like swimming. The water, surprisingly, was a bit on the cold side (colder than the gulf, we would find out shortly). Still, a nice place to consider hanging out.
It’s a short walk from there to an elevator that will take you down to the beach. You can get to this elevator from the front door of the resort, a back staircase from the lobby or a secondary elevator inside the hotel that will take you down to the same level as the spa and health club. The short elevator ride takes you down to a dock where there’s a bar as well as some shaded areas for lounging.
Just past this is one of the hotel restaurants, Taverna 37. We had a quick bite for dinner here on our first night (more on that later). A short walk from there and you’ll find yourself at the beach. It’s an inlet of sorts with a jetty built on the far side. There’s very little in the way of waves and the bottom of the sea is soft enough in most areas for kids to walk without any problems. The water temperature in July was a bit chilly for me, though I’m reaching that age where the difference in blood circulation between me and my children is significant. They were just fine with the water temperature.
The beach area has a few dozen umbrella stands and was never full during out time there despite the hotel being mostly full. It certainly didn’t feel overcrowded. There was no charge for the umbrellas or chairs. In fact, for the most part the hotel didn’t nickel and dime us like some of the larger resorts can.
The staff was quick to help us put up an umbrella and arrange chairs. They quickly responded to our order for drinks and snacks as well. The drinks were a little bit pricey poolside, but nowhere near as bad as some I’ve seen. And, considering this property didn’t charge us a daily resort fee, I couldn’t be more pleased here.
The private villas form a ring around the beach and, for the most part, were secluded. Some were fairly open with us being able to easily see inside from the beach. They did look like a great place to stay for a couple (though, apparently not on Starpoints).
If you’re looking for a more secluded area at the beach, there are some pockets amongst the trees, and there was nobody out on the jetty during our visit, where there are lounge chairs and plenty of sun.
There were some rocky areas in the water that the kids explored for a bit. That yielded some sort of creature we never saw who definitely saw Catherine. Feeling threatened, it decided to put a little sting into Cat which yielded a few tears. Just a few minutes later a member of the hotel staff came down from the health club and applied some ointment to the sting area. They gave us the tube of ointment to deal with the pain later on. The tears dried up not long after and we couldn’t have been more pleased with how attentive the hotel was.
The Westin is a short walk from Arion. Along the way we discovered a large play area for kids. There’s a set of swings, a seesaw/teeter-totter (remember those!) and a large multi-purpose play structure. There’s plenty of other things to do around the complex but the kids did enjoy having an area that was totally focused on them. Additionally, the Westin has a full-blown kids program if you’re interested.
Walking into the Westin we could immediately see we weren’t their target demo based on the cars parked out front. And, if that didn’t do it, a quick peek into one of the retail stores did. My bathing suit blew off our balcony during the stay so I stopped by to see what a new one would cost. That was the first time I’d seen a standard men’s bathing suit for more than $100.
The lobby of the Westin is on the top floor, with the guest rooms below. A short elevator ride takes you to the beach/pool area there. Again, there were plenty of umbrellas and chairs at both the pool and beach. To make service more efficient, each umbrella had a button to summon the wait staff to place orders. The pool was salt water and a bit on the chilly side. The beach was smaller than at Arion but, again, not overcrowded. There was also a dock to jump off with some modest snorkeling sights. As the Westin is closer to the open gulf, the waters weren’t quite as peaceful here. While it was fun jumping off the pier, the current was a bit stronger than our 9-year old felt comfortable in.
Both hotels have health clubs and spas. While I didn’t take the time to exercise in the gym during our stay, I did take a peek at the Arion gym and everything was fairly new. I also think the club was a good size given that the hotel isn’t overly large.
There’s plenty to do in neighboring Vouliagmeni and the surrounding areas (more on that later) but Arion and Westin can definitely provide a variety of activities on-site if you’re not in the mood to leave the property. It’s a beautiful complex, and the sizable boats and helicopters will remind you there’s a lot of money on this little peninsula.