Trip Report – Hotel Cala Di Volpe – An SPG Luxury Collection Hotel – Costa Smeralda, Sardinia…and perhaps the most expensive SPG property in Europe

I spent a weekend at the Hotel Cala Di Volpe in Sardinia while working in Rome.  This review is the final feature of a five part Italy trip report:

1)Alitalia JFK-FCO A330 Magnifica Business Class
2)Westin Excelsior, Rome x4
3)Hilton Sorrento Palace – Sorrento, Italy
4)Hotel Marina Riviera, Amalfi, Italy
5)Hotel Cala di Volpe, Costa Smeralda – An SPG Luxury Collection Hotel

Hotel Cala di Volpe- SPG Category 7 (SPG Rates Vary…details below)

Hotel Cala di Volpe is located on the Costa Smeralda, a coastal area in northern Sardinia which is about a one hour flight from Rome (remember to check the airport you are flying into as there are 3 on the island). The hotel is only open seasonally from May 16th – September 19th and has a high-season from July 1st – August 31st. If you’re not a millionaire and don’t have tons of SPG points, I’d recommend visiting during the off-season which includes all of June and the first two weeks of September (still gorgeous weather). I visited during the final week of the season and while the rates were somewhat reasonable, it did feel like I was starring in The Shining at times.

So just how bad are the rates during prime season? They run much higher than what I previously thought was one of the most expensive SPG European properties – Mystique. The single room will run you €1,145 per night, a suite is €3,360 per night, and the presidential suite is priced at a whopping €5,500+ per night depending on the week. The SPG rates are even worse! Whereas the Mystique can be had at a relatively low 60,000 SPG points per night, Hotel Cala di Volpe notes the following on their website:

Yes, that’s right the pay and points rates during high season cover a mandatory full board, another reason to think about visiting in June / September. Now, during the off-season the single room rates range from €450 a night to as low as €295 a night (currently available for several 2013 dates). However, if you can wait until a week prior to your stay you may be able to snag a non-refundable for as low as €209 a night, which is exactly what I did.

Check-In – I arrived at the hotel around 10pm at night on the final week of the season. I was booked for a single room but was hoping for an upgrade to a double, suite, or the presidential suite. I was the only person around in the lobby and was promptly checked-in by the front desk staff. I was warmly greeted and my SPG Platinum status was acknowledged, though I was given no upgrade or welcome amenity. I checked the room availability on my iPhone while in the taxi just 10 minutes prior to arrival and noted plenty of availability for doubles and even suites. I asked about this phantom availability before walking away and was told that the mobile app has invalid data and does not sync with the real-time inventory like the full SPG website. OK… I was escorted all the way to my room by a bellman and given a full tour of the property. Once in my room I didn’t touch my luggage as I wanted to check the SPG site and see if it too was showing the same availability. Sure enough I could book up to 9 double rooms and 4 suites. It was back down to the lobby with my MacBook Air in hand. The same friendly front-desk manager became a little surly after I called him out on his “mistake” but within five minutes I was given a choice of a corner double room or a regular suite.  I of course opted for the suite but the front-desk manager instructed the bellman to give me a tour of both rooms. The bellman profusely apologized for the inconvenience and soon my luggage was in my new room. Note, my SPG 500 welcome gift was credited automatically after the stay.

The Room – My first impression was that the suite was really nice in a quaint old-school Italian island-feel sort of way, but not necessarily modern (though flat-screens, Bose speakers, and DVD players do come standard in the suite). The best feature of the suite is the large private terrace with views of Cala di Volpe Bay and the Mediterranean Sea. The terrace comes equipped with lounge chairs and a full patio table. I even had a second smaller terrace with a mini fridge outside(not sure why?) and different views. Even when sitting in the living room, you still had an incredible view thanks to the arched windows located throughout the suite. While some may feel the room isn’t modern enough, the hotel’s website explains why others may appreciate the decor “exquisite Sardinian artistry is evident everywhere—from the cheerful hues of the ceramic tile floors in the living room to the baroque stylings of the wrought-iron headboards above the Luxury Collection beds in the bedroom. Each Luxury Collection bed is topped with lightweight duvets and feather or hypoallergenic pillows, and then covered with a pristine white bedspread, hand embroidered to match each suite’s design scheme.” The bathroom included a separate shower and bath, with generous full-size bath products and amazing water pressure. A bottle of red wine and prosecco were later brought to the room, as were two water bottles and a fruit platter. Water was replaced daily with over 5 or more bottles per room.

The Resort -Cala di Volpe features one of the largest saltwater pools in all of Europe, but be prepared to freeze! The pool is extremely cold even with the Sardinian sun “naturally warming it”. The pool does have a nice Mediterranean Sea view, though the same view can be had from one of the lounge chairs on the manicured lawn overlooking the bay and the sea. Instead, I recommend heading to the resort’s private beach. A boat pulls up to the resort’s pier every 30 minutes and transports you about 5 minutes away to Cala di Volpe’s exclusive beach. Attendants greet you as you step foot off the boat and begin preparing chairs and umbrellas for you. The beach features WARM amazing water, a lifeguard, bathroom, shower, beach cabana (towels and equipment) and a bar. The bar is normally open from 9:30am to 6pm every day but was closed the final two weeks of the season. I was fine with the lack of the beach bar as the prices were outrageous and there happened to be a nice local couple who pulled their truck up to the adjoining public beach each day. They made delicious mozzarella tomato balsamic sandwiches for €2 and sold beers for €1.50. What a life! I’d head over to their area, chat for a little (as best we could), grab one sandwich and a beer while sitting with them and then bring another sandwich and 2 beers back to my lounge chair.

As it was the final week of the season, there were several times when I was the only person on the Cala Di Volpe beach. I didn’t mind at all! Even in mid September the water was perfect and there was a hotel attendant present to make sure I could get a boat back to the resort. Even after the boats stop running you can utilize one of the nature trails to get back to the pier, which is an easy 15-20 minute walk in the brush along the sea.

Service – Service at the hotel was truly spectacular and I felt very well taken care of. The hotel has Audi vehicles available for your use. Just inform the concierge where you want to go and they reserve one of the cars for you. I used the cars to get into town for dinner/exploring and to head back to the airport (I believe the airport is not normally included but this was the end of the season and the cars were not in demand). Missed the boat? No problem, they started up a smaller one and took me over to the beach. At check-out the front-desk manager truly wanted to know my opinions on everything and had me fill out a huge survey. Since checking out at the hotel, I’ve received a birthday card, holiday card, 2013 calendar, and photo book of Sardinia back at my apartment in New York. I get a personalized message or present from them every few months.  I even receive updates on upcoming concerts at the resort which surprisingly include big names like Leona Lewis, Elton John, and Mika.

Food – Breakfast was included in my rate and that was the only meal I ate at the hotel. It’s served outside near the pier and is buffet style. All food is organically prepared and the property features “master chefs from around the world”. As I always arrived just prior to breakfast ending, I found the food average…though I’m sure it was good earlier in the morning. Choices included omelets, fresh veggies and fruits (these were great), pancakes, pastries, and a cheese and prosecco bar.

The hotel also features tennis courts and an 18 hole golf course (a few minutes away). I should mention that I was informed by the concierge that during prime season the hotel has a very different vibe including “international dignitary guests, Russian millionaires, famous weddings, and European celebrities.” As everyone must take a full-board package the resort is also a lot more lively at night. During my stay I headed to sister property, Cervo Hotel, which is located in Costa Smeralda’s shopping area and had several dining options and a more lively atmosphere.

Worth €209 a night for the private beach and amazing Mediterranean suite? Absolutely! I loved my outdoor terrace and gigantic living room overlooking the sea. I was able to sit outside, sip some wine, and read my book while looking out at the sea. I would say the hotel is more like a 4 star resort than a 5 star due to the aging rooms and interior area. Besides the rates being so high for the prime-season, I’d also stay away as I’m not one to enjoy eating every meal at the hotel (no matter how good the food may be). For those prices you could certainly dine at the best restaurants in town. Full SPG points were credited within 24 hours of my stay.

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