If you’re going to have another birthday – and you probably should – then do it in a hotel. And if you are going to do it in a hotel, make sure it’s Nana Princess in Crete. Not only do they surprise you with bottles of wine throughout the day but they surprise you with a complimentary gazebo on the beach (an upgrade from the perfectly lovely beach umbrellas and usually reserved for people who have splashed out on a villa) and they fill that gazebo with platters of fruit and, yes, more wine. Oh and when you get back to your room, you’ll find it’s filled with balloons and, yes, more wine, this time sparkling. It’s called amazing service, people, and you don’t get it everywhere.
When it comes to size, there are conflicting ideas. It‘s big-is-beautiful vs small-but-perfectly-formed. Somehow the Nana Princess – and let’s just say here there is nothing nana about the Nana – manages to have it both ways. The footprint of the place is nothing short of lavish starting up by the road with the sleek modern concrete and glass of the main reception, library and breakfast room in architecture worthy of a Neutra or a Meier with way-up-there ceilings and barely-there glass walls looking down to the sea.
And as you look, all you will see are gardens as the rows of suites and villas that cascade down the artificially created incline have all had planting on their roof, not only to create this unbroken view of greenery until you get to the Sea of Crete, but because it helps insulate the spaces, meaning less fierce air conditioning. We barely had ours on and it was in the mid-30s out there.
Each of those suites – even the junior ones – come with their own sea-facing pools, little squares of blue mosaic-ed loveliness that stretch the entire width of the space overlooked by a pair of loungers and a table and seating for breakfast in your room, should you not want to go up to the sun-splatted breakfast area. And the water in that pool is salt water, brought up from underground, meaning that it’s not just a dipping pool but your own personal floatation tank. Just think of the tan!
But despite these amazing dimensions – and you really will need to call for a golf-cart to take you up, especially when that sun gets going – the place has been designed for intimacy. The suites may be side by side but signature walls of hewn rock (the process was so intensive, there were, in the last days before opening, 300 people lining the entire property with edge-to-edge stone done in the traditional style) keep you private enough to pretty much do what you like even out on your terrace.
The villas, meanwhile, are a whole world apart. Set over two floors with their own private gyms (plural!), walk-in dressing rooms with Hollywood round-mirror lighting, showers that step straight out onto the terrace and, of course, huge pools, you could sleep four, maybe even six, and still never have to wait to brush your teeth.
And with a couple of beaches – ‘be careful as you go in: there are ancient monuments under the water which can be a bit rocky’ – and a brace of pools, it always seems like you have the place pretty much to yourself, never mind that they seem to be at capacity, even late in the season. When you go to breakfast, you really do wonder where all these people came from. Oh, and in case you were wondering, there are plenty of gays, mostly couples, who feel comfortable enough to smooch on the terrace over sunset while what few children there are get exported to the hotel next door for the kids’ club.
The restaurants – two of them, housed in pavilions down near the beach, one specialising in fish, the other in meat, both with veggie options – also feel intimate, mainly because they have used the huge space to seat everyone way away from each other. A couple can hold hands across the table with the beach right there, close enough to get in your bag, and not feel the eyes rolling in their direction.
And size certainly matters when it comes to the extraordinary gym/spa set up called the Royal Fitness Club and the Royal Spa Club. Housed in another pavilion, invisible to the naked eye because of that planting – until you roll up in your golf cart outside it, that is – it goes on for days. The gym, manned by a very big man indeed, has everything from TRX to Matrix weight machines, all spaced out, while the spa is the most lavish you can imagine with treatments you didn’t even know existed.
Beds for floatation, beds for being water processed with jets overhead, regular treatment rooms for massage, steam, sauna, Mediterranean rooms, which are halfway between steam and sauna, a huge heated pool with views of the sky, a Himalayan salt wall to clear the sinuses, hair, make-up… You really will come out shinier than a pebble and so relaxed they may have to pour you from the golf cart back into your suite.
But even with all that – the huge evening terrace with live music, the spacious reflecting pools just to cool down the atmosphere, the sheer beauty and quality of every wall and floor and piece of furniture, the Hermès booty in the bathrooms, a heli-pad should you fancy popping over to Mykonos for a quickie – it’s the people that make a resort like this. Staff so delicious and fun and funny and delightful they should mark them up and sell them on. Only they wouldn’t, ’cause they’re just too nice. From the minute you arrive and they give you three refreshing mocktails to get you through check in, you immediately feel part of the family – but a part of a family where you don’t have to do anything. A teenager, for instance.