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Being a dutiful son (on occasion…), when I spotted an offer to stay at Vila Joya – ‘Europe’s leading boutique hotel’ for the last 3 years according to the World Travel Awards – for 10% of the usual price, rather than booking it for myself, I thought it would be a nice treat for my parents.
They kindly agreed to write about their experience and I hope you enjoy the following review of Vila Joya.
I’ll explain how I managed to book such an incredible deal briefly at the end of the review, but will publish a more detailed post about how you can take advantage of similar offers very soon.
Review of Vila Joya
(Hello InsideFlyer UK readers! Apologies for the quality of the pictures – as you will see, photography unfortunately isn’t one of our strong points!)
After a 30 minute drive from Faro Airport, our taxi driver was speaking into the intercom of Vila Joya’s discreet electric gates. The gates slid open to reveal a very pretty garden, subtly floodlit – but strangely intermingled with rather ghoulish modern tree sculptures.
Certainly an unusual, but overall pleasing, first impression, made even more so by being whisked into the candlelit piano bar and given large glasses of deliciously chilled Champagne. That’s the way to do check in!
The bar led through to the acclaimed and even more enticing 2 Michelin star restaurant, with its French doors overlooking cliff top gardens and the bay.
Our charming (if slightly diffident) ‘welcomer’ showed us to our room, which turned out to be an upgrade to a Suite with living area and 2 terraces with fabulous views.
The room was, perhaps, slightly dated but fresh roses (from the hotel rose garden), fruit and handmade nibbles added to the ambience of luxury.
The Moorish tiled bathroom was exquisite, with a single rose and array of Molton Brown toiletries, really thick soft towels, robes and slippers – most inviting.
This was a fantastic start to our mini break at “Europe’s Leading Boutique Hotel”!
After an extremely comfortable and peaceful night, made even more soothing by the gentle lapping of the ocean, we realised that there were no tea/coffee making facilities in the room. Not a problem we were told, just ring room service any time.
So what to do at Vila Joya? After donning our luxurious bathrobes, we explored the beautiful wooded grounds which surround the enticing swimming pool – but where were the other guests? Perhaps the exotic Spa we’d read about?
And what a spa it was! Built in a Moorish style with hints of Buddhist tranquillity, welcoming water features and tinkling wind chimes! We checked out the range of facilities including saunas, steam rooms, outdoor gym and jacuzzi facing the ocean. Apparently, “the Vila Joya Spa focuses on water, air and light, as well as sound and touch” – and it actually really does feel like that!
But still no guests, despite the hotel being fully booked! Not a complaint at all – we loved the privacy and peace.
Overall, we had a splendid stay at this “House of Joy”.
Not to overstate the negative, but there were one or two chinks in this paradise…
Arriving in the evening, it was a great shame that we couldn’t appreciate the wonderful sweep of garden and pool leading down to the ocean as all was in darkness. Having been assured that the lighting would be fixed, nothing at all was done by the time we left 3 nights later.
Using the overhead shower in the lovely bathroom was less than luxurious due to the very narrow bath – and we are not exactly giants!
Requesting tea and coffee worked well some of the time, but a 40 minute wait one morning was unacceptable -especially after a number of phone-calls, a visit to reception and the restaurant! By the way, our room was just steps away from the reception and restaurant. On the plus side, the tea and coffee were both very good and served on lovely china (different every day).
The whole ethos of this hotel is indeed discreet but a little more information would have been helpful. For instance, we never saw a restaurant menu or price list during our stay.
An invitation for drinks and nibbles in the Kitchen was a lovely surprise but lacked any information about what the chefs were actually doing, which would have enhanced the visit a great deal.
Small things certainly, but remember this is a top hotel and charges accordingly (if you are paying full price)!
The only real negative was on our return – we were surprised to receive bills for breakfasts and room service amounting to 300+ Euros, which we had never ordered, received or signed for! We pointed this out, but have not received an apology or any response at all yet (now months later) – remember this is a 21 room boutique hotel, not a giant chain where things can more easily get confused.
A final word to Vila Joya, overall a wonderful time was had and you were all exceptionally sweet and smiled a lot – but a refresher course in consistent service and information for guests might help make things even better!
I booked 4 nights at Vila Joya for my parents through a site then called Sheradill (now HipEscapes) for ~£115 in total (£28.75 per night), which was a 90% discount on the lowest rate available elsewhere (~£1,150, so £287.50 per night). They were upgraded to a suite, meaning that the standard retail value would be even higher.
I’ve used Sheradill/HipEscapes myself too (again with a 90% discount) and, astonishingly, it really does work. The basic premise is that by engaging with a bit of social media sharing of the deal etc, you earn credit towards the stay (capped at a maximum of 90%).
Availability is usually extremely limited but some of the hotels offered are incredible – like Vila Joya, and the prices are unbelievable.
I will publish a post very soon with the details of what is currently available on HipEscapes and how you can take advantage of similar discounts!