Richard Ferrer and his wife Jenny took their nine-month-old on her first holiday to one of Cyprus’ most luxurious five-star family hotels – and discovered that ‘child friendly’ doesn’t have to mean waterslides and chicken nuggets for tea
Baby days are sooooo much longer than normal days. You cuddle, feed and dress the little cherub, establish meaningful eye contact, clap, sing, make a funny face, wipe away a tear (there, there), change another nappy… and it’s still only 7am. Baby days must last 48 hours.
Well, whisper it quietly (you wouldn’t want to wake the munchkin), but those clever people at one of Cyprus’ most luxurious five-star family hotels will make you wish baby days could last an entire week.
Before checking in to the Almyra Hotel in Paphos with our nine-month-old daughter Lyla, my wife Jenny and I were braced for the usual lowest common denominator “fun” synonymous with child-friendly resorts – waterslides, riotous pool games, adults in animal costumes and chicken nuggets for tea.
Turns out we needn’t have worried. At the Almyra, unlike like virtually every other family hotel, child friendly doesn’t mean mummy and daddy unfriendly. This place delivers five-star sophistication, without a sandpit in sight.
In fact, the only childish entertainment around the resort’s black slate pool during our four-night stay was the sight of Lyla with her potbelly being chased by her daddy with his. Half of that image is adorable.
What makes the Almyra a unique family hotel is that you’d never guess it was one. Strolling through its plush marble reception, it looks anything but child-friendly. In fact, it seems the sort of place where the manager might evict anyone leaving fingerprints on his gleaming glass walls.
This pristine property carries all the hallmarks of its Coco Chanel designer, Joëlle Pléot. It’s the only Cypriot member of the exclusive Design Hotels Group – and you don’t earn an accolade like that with hand murals and inflatable ducks.
Look beyond its boutique facade and the property reveals discreet child-friendly touches, from door stoppers and buggy ramps to high chairs of all shapes and sizes and an idyllic children’s garden, where little ones plant and harvest fruit and vegetables that are served in the restaurants.
Child-friendly options are available before you fly, with resort’s ingenious Baby Go Lightly service. Parents can order baby supplies online from milk and food to buggies, nappies and car seat for airport transfers. Everything will be in your room on arrival, albeit at a decent mark up.
Parents feel like they’re running a hotel most of the time. What a joy to find a hotel that does all the little things so well.
The resort is nestled in eight lush acres of landscaped gardens overlooking picture-perfect Paphos Bay. All 189 rooms and suites have a breezy Mediterranean feel. Our seriously spacious two-bedroom suite included three balconies, two swanky walk-in showers, custom-designed oak furniture and three (three!) TVs.
Guests can make use of the Almyra’s two sister hotels next-door – Annabelle, with its six-acre tropical garden and waterfalls and the world-renowned Anassa, where Prince Rainier of Monaco checks in for some royal R&R.
We left Lyla at the nine euros an hour crèche for our appointment at the serene Almyraspa, where it’s more about pampering than Pampers. (Turns out you can’t just invite anyone to join you for a couple’s massage, so I took Jen). We then went for a light post rubdown bite at the Eauzone spa restaurant next door.
Four further restaurants dish up al fresco à la carte, Mediterranean and Japanese food, barbeques and lavish buffets. Our favourite was Ouzeri on the promenade, serving the island’s trademark mezes as waves splash your feet.
The hotel has four swimming pools, floodlit tennis courts, table tennis and gym and offers diving lessons, windsurfing, kite surfing and waterskiing. Four golf courses are within easy reach.
Half the island’s annual visitors are from our island, thanks to spring and summer temperatures exceeding 30c and colonial home comforts like UK plug sockets, widely-spoken English and left-hand driving.
The Almyra offers excursions and day trips, from jeep safaris into the Akamas peninsula to tours of the Roman mosaics of Dionysos and Paphos’ age-old fort and fishing harbour. Little wonder this mythological idyll – birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love – has been named 2017 European Capital of Culture.
But for all Paphos’ rare and ancient beauty, our enduring memory of the Almyra will be running out of baby milk before the flight home. In the time it took Lyla to flash her toothiest grin, the barman at the hotel’s Helios Lounge whisked up a warm bottle of formula – and one of her dad’s favourite whisky sours for the road.
For young and old, from start to finish, this five-star gem effortlessly delivers the very best of both worlds.