As a firm favourite of British tourists throughout the decades, it’s unsurprising my personal experiences of Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, are ample. Starting with the classic 90’s staple, the all-inclusive package, as favoured by my exhausted parents burdened with two children, and complete with non-negotiable ‘Agadoo’ at the Wednesday night children’s disco – through to the bargain basics self-catering villa rentals of my university years, woeful 2 star rated barren spaces, perfect for screeching slightly sunburnt girls sharing brightly coloured alcho-pops and endless packets of crisps.
However, now as I am speeding towards my fourth decade I like to think my tastes have matured ever so slightly. (I am sure my friends would wholeheartedly disagree, but that’s beside the point). When it comes to holidays, having spent the last five years lucky enough to travel the world and tell people about it, I have developed quite a distinct criteria of what I am looking for from a hotel. My parents scoff openly at the fact I have well informed opinions on the pros and cons of private butler service (I find it makes me squirm with awkwardness, if you must know). So as I started the familiar descent into Heraklion airport, I couldn’t help but hope to find that Crete had upped its game and matured with me so we could continue our long-standing love affair.
On the north of the island in Chersonissos, perched majestically atop of the mountainous coastal terrain is a vision of glass and steel with which the Nana Princess announces (with ever so tasteful fanfare) Crete’s arrival as a luxury player. No longer content with being overshadowed by its traditionally more extravagant cousins, Mykonos and Santorini, Crete is reaching out to a new crowd, the stylish jet set (to whom I aspire desperately to be affiliated with), those that expect every corner and dish to be insta friendly, whilst relishing the privacy provided by suites.
New hotels are a travel writer’s version of Christmas Day, you get the chance to figuratively (and sometimes literally) tear off the wrappers of a brand new hospitality plaything before anyone else has had the chance. How spoilt we are! Having opened its doors in June, during my visit in July I was happily surprised to see such a smooth running establishment so early on in its first season, a good sign of things to come as it matures. Thoughtfully the resort is set out on parallel levels from the godlike heights of the reception and main restaurant, through the rows of suites, down to the larger pools and picturesque private beach, affording a sea view from whatever your stand point. And of course masterfully ensuring no dud rooms so no risk on booking.
Guests can chose from 112 luxury suites and villas. I stayed in the Ambassador Wellbeing Suite, a vast space of neutral modernity with dark wood and blue accents that artfully bring the blue sky and sea views into the room with you – not to mention spoiling me with my own private gym, sauna and infinity pool. I thought it would never happen, but thankfully I have finally found a way to eschew holiday sloth behaviour. If you can see the gym from your bed and there is no one else around to judge your beetroot face and weight lifting faffs, then there really are no excuses! The suites provide your own mini luxury resort with all the amenities you could desire, perfect if you are the type of holiday-goer that likes to shut out rest of the world. Or Beyoncé.
Ever the glutton, I relished putting hotels three restaurants under intense scrutiny. The main restaurant, Carpe Diem, is a majestic open air affair – I would recommend making the most of the endless sunshine during the day and then taking a late dinner. Chose the far side of the restaurant to secure the best seat in the house to watch the sun disappear over the ocean whilst supping from the rather extensive wine list. Considerable care has been taken by the head chef, the award-winning Greek Michelin star holder, Lefteris Lazarou, to monopolise the freshest local ingredients in innovative modern ways. I am a great believer that true holiday dining should involve (copious amounts of wine, that goes without saying but also) long languid meals consisting of multiple small courses of delicious local samplings, so this ticked the right boxes for this diva.
Meat-In Point, the poolside offering, will, as the name suggests, be a firm favourite for any carnivores in your group, but not to fear – the fresh pastas and salads on offer meet the same high quality you come to expect of the Nana Princess team. The final culinary offering is Eternal Blue, sitting on the private beach, providing exquisite seafood and sushi and as everyone knows no international luxury spot is anything without a decadent sushi offering.
A special shout out goes to the spa, the aptly named Royal Wellness Club, which is quite possibly the most impressive hotel spa I have ever seen (and as an avid sun avoider due to my English rose complexion I like to think myself quite the connoisseur). A vast 1,400 square meters of pure luxury spa-y goodness, and the proud home of the only Spa System by Starpool in the whole of Greece, an all-encompassing personalised experience that harnesses the wellbeing powers of steam, colours, warms baths, tropical storm, cool mists, fragrances and music – not to mention the purest products from spa pros Germaine de Capuccini for ultimate skin spoiling. With facilities like this, I doubt it will take long for it to become a destination of choice for the ever dedicated spa travellers so go soon and enjoy the solace to yourself.
Without doubt the Nana Princess heralds new heights of luxury and hospitality to such a well-established destination. The combination of modern luxury and effortless VIP service, has secured Crete’s place on the fly-list of this increasingly fussy (Nana) princess for decades to come, and so my love affair with Crete continues to be my longest-standing to date.
Nana Princess rates start from €155 /£135* per person per night in a Superior room category. Visit www.nanaprincess.gr or call +30-2897030100.
*Price in Pound Sterling is according to today’s exchange rate.
Review by Lucy Coghlan