By now you’ve no doubt seen the pictures of the epic water slides that run down a cliff and deliver you right in to the Mediterranean Sea. Travel + Leisure even named the slide one of the world’s craziest when the pictures began circulating back in 2012. The slides are real and they’re located at the Citta del Mare Hotel Village in the province of Palermo, Sicily. And if you’ve already discovered that and read Citta Del Mare’s reviews on TripAdvisor, you might be wondering if the slides are actually worth it.
I wondered the same and put it to our Facebook community. With a resounding yes, I booked my last night in Sicily at Città del Mare to check out the situation for myself. I have to admit that the slides are a lot of fun and worth enduring the rest of the frustrating experience at this resort.
The Slides and Pool
The slides are the best part of Citta del Mare Sicily, but they are smaller than the infamous aerial photos make them look. We stayed mid-week and blissfully only had to share the slides with two little boys. There are only two slides and you can’t really just hang out in the pools between the slides because they are small. I would not want to be here when it’s busy because it could get too packed to really enjoy.
Though the slides aren’t quite as big as they look in photos, I thought they were actually the perfect size. These slides are work! You can get in from the first or second level. Otherwise, after each slide, you swim across the little pools, climb up the ladder to the next one and repeat all the way until you shoot out in to the Mediterranean Sea.
Climb back up a ladder from the sea and then climb the stairs all the way back to the top. We did the slides four full times and a couple times from the second level.
Be aware that the slides do close for riposa (Italy’s siesta time) from 12:30pm – 4pm. They are open 9am – 12:30pm and 4pm – 6pm.
There is also an Olympic sized swimming pool located at a different part of the resort and there were people both swimming laps and playing.
The Club Card
One of the most important things to understand, which I’m frankly still confused about, is Città del Mare’s club card. You can’t eat, drink or purchase anything at the resort with cash or a credit card. The club card is mandatory and they charge you at check-in for it. I paid €20 and I got a different response from every staff member that I inquired with as to what I was actually paying for. It seems that the pool, slides and activities are not actually free for guests and that is what the “cost” of the card is for.
At reception you can put money on your card and use it to purchase drinks and snacks at the bars located around the resort. Any credit that you have left on the card is refunded at check-out.
If you chose the full-board option when you booked your room, you also swipe the card to access the buffet at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hotel Città del Mare is located in the middle of nowhere in the province of Palermo. The closest town is Terrasini, which is 7 kilometers away from the hotel village. That’s fine if you’re renting a car to get around Sicily, but if you’re using public transportation then you’re stuck with Citta del Mare’s restaurant.
There is only one restaurant and depending on the type of booking you made, you’ll have all your meals included (full board) or you’ll have to purchase meals (half board). We were staying in a superior room, which gave us access to a private dining area of the restaurant called Belvedere. The buffet part of the restaurant is €7.50 per person per meal and Belvedere is €12.50 per person per meal.
Our booking was the bed and breakfast option, so we purchased dinner and lunch since there were no other options for meals during our stay. We took our ticket to the restaurant and were seated in a section of the buffet that was separated with a screen from the larger portion of the buffet. It reminded me of a cruise ship as another two people were immediately seated with us at our table for four.
The food was just okay. Do not expect any spectacular Sicilian meals at the buffet. There were a variety of salads, hot dishes, a very small citrus mousse for dessert and wine and water on tap. I didn’t like the selection and a bowl of pasta with vodka sauce just didn’t leave me feeling satisfied.
After we’d eaten at the buffet, we noticed the Belvedere section as the guests seated there were being served meals and had bottles of wine and water on the tables. Back at the reception desk for about the tenth time in only a few hours since we’d checked in, we found out that we had actually paid for Belvedere but the staff did not seat us there.
Lunch in the Belvedere section was definitely higher quality than the buffet we’d had for dinner the night before. The food is served and you have a selection of first and second courses, as well as a small salad buffet. I had a pasta with mushrooms, calamari and roasted potatoes. I also sampled eggplant parmesan, green beans and a bread with tomatoes baked in it. Everything at lunch was delicious, so it’s well worth paying the extra couple Euro for the Belvedere.
Citta del Mare’s website clearly states that the rooms are basic. I wasn’t expecting much and the room was basic with a bed, desk, tv, bathroom and a balcony. The room was clean, but could desperately use some refurbishment. Many of the tiles in the bathroom were cracked or chipped, as was the stucco on the balcony.
There is air conditioning, but even on full blast at the coldest temperature it just seemed to blow warm air. Not surprisingly, the bed was like sleeping on a rock. I spent an uncomfortable night tossing and turning while I tried to find a way to get comfortable.
Most frustrating were the lack of outlets. We had to unplug the refrigerator in order to charge our phones as it was the only outlet in the bedroom. There was also one outlet in the bathroom.
The worst part of this resort was the customer service…or lack of. It literally took us 45 minutes to check in, and I mean 45 minutes from the time we stepped up to the desk and began the actual process of checking in. First, the receptionist tried to charge us the full rate when we had pre-paid online. We only had the balance of the club card due, which we knew had to be paid upon check-in.
Their system also does not allow for the resort to make a bill and make one charge on your credit card. After the receptionist ran the charge for the club card, she then wanted to individually charge us for the extra meals and the airport transfer service we booked.
If you’re an international traveler, you may incur a service charge called an international transaction fee every time you use your credit or debit card abroad. So running multiple charges meant we’d be paying an international transaction fee per each charge instead of just once.
We had to argue and finally a manager came and added up everything in order to make one charge on my debit card. It was ridiculous.
I already mentioned that we weren’t seated in the Belvedere section for dinner as we should have been. I spent another 30 minutes arguing about this with reception and trying to find out if there was a price difference between the two different areas of the dining room. There is: Belvedere is €5 more than the buffet. I asked for a refund of the price difference and was told no because “I still ate dinner.” After standing my ground, I was finally offered a €5 credit for each of us to use at the bar.
We booked the hotel’s airport transfer service and that was another fiasco. After arguing about something or other after dinner (honestly, we had to complain about so much that we can’t even remember all of the issues), the receptionist asked to verify what time we wanted the airport transfer for. We told her 3pm on our checkout day when we checked in and had received a ticket for the transfer. The receptionist then explained that she had marked the wrong time on our ticket earlier and changed the transfer time on her list.
When we got back to the room and double checked, I saw that our carbon copy of the ticket actually did have the correct time we requested on it. So she obviously had us confused with another guest and she’d just changed someone else’s transfer time on her list.
The next morning we mentioned this to reception so someone else wouldn’t miss their transfer to the airport. Imagine our horror when we discovered we weren’t even in the book!
To make up for all the inconveniences, the hotel did give us a late check-out and we were able to use our room right up until 3pm when we departed for the airport.
The location is very pretty and the grounds are well kept. Citta del Mare was fine for one night and to enjoy the water slides for an afternoon before flying home. We would not want to spend more than one night and we recommend booking a stay during the week. Book a superior room and opt for the Belvedere if planning to dine at the resort.
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