Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Weekend with MGM in England

Albufeira it isn't, but having Infiniti Exit points to use up before 2015 ends we decided to spend a weekend at Muthu Hotels' solitary resort in the UK, at the perhaps unlikely location of Belstead Brook, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk.

It's not a place we would usually have visited. No personal issues with East Anglia, of course, but a horrible 115-mile drive, half of it around the M25, coupled with its lack of proximity to the sea renders it a slightly inhospitable alternative to the many coastal resorts from which we have to choose due south.

Nevertheless at a little over 10,000 Exit points for a long weekend we decided to go for it, and arrived here at about 6.30 in the evening after a long and windy day pounding the streets at work.

The first impressions were favourable. After parking up we descended the steps to the Reception, where we were assisted by a very pleasant and helpful young man for whom nothing was too much trouble, and who answered our last question with as much patience and enthusiasm as he had the first. We took a look around - at the pool (which was self-evidently popular even at that time on a Friday evening), the spa, the gym and the restaurant and bar facilities. We were offered a table for lunch, which like breakfast was ever so slightly on the expensive side, but declined as we had already eaten, although we promised ourselves we would give it a try on Sunday.

The room is nice - quite spacious, all the necessary facilities, clean and smart. The double bed is at the small end of acceptable, but adequate. A good selection of television channels, and of hot beverages. The pictures on the wall captured my wife's interest.

Down at the bar in the evening, once again one was struck by the polite helpfulness of the staff. By hotel bar standards there was a good range of beers, including the weakish but tasty local brew Adnams Southwold, which were decently priced. We enjoyed a few in comfortable surrounds, along with some tasty hot bar snacks.

In the morning we used the swimming pool, which it seems is also visited upon by the locals as Belstead Brook is a leisure centre as well as a hotel. The water was nice and warm and there were lots of good facilities - sauna, jacuzzi, ample lounge area with comfy chairs, a selection of reading material and a coffee machine. The changing rooms were decent and the showers warm, something which ought to be a given but is not always so at holiday resorts. This was followed by a leisurely walk around the hotel's substantial grounds, and a venture into the pleasant town of Belstead where we found a great local pub and restaurant, the Belstead Arms, which is worthy of a mention in its own right.

The Belstead Brook Muthu Hotel is a great place for a stay, to relax and to chill out. It is difficult to reconcile it with the Clube Praia da Oura, which is my unlikely connection with this resort and indirectly my reason for being here. It is a typical, quality English hotel, having little in common with the sunny poolside apartments and ambience of CPO. But I'm glad of the experience and it is a change as well as a rest.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Infiniti Exit Concerns

This blog exists to publicise and promote the Algarve region in general and the Clube Praia da Oura in Albufeira in particular, for the simple reason that I as author have great affection for the resort, its staff, the people who visit and the ambience that all these elements combine to create.

But as is stated in its “Disclaimer” this blog is not under the ownership or influence in any way of MGM Hotels, Infiniti, RCI, Petchey Leisure or any of the various entities which seem to have a stake in the resort and/or in its marketing as a holiday destination. This humble blog is solely the property of its author and when something gives me cause for concern I feel I have a right and a duty to comment on it. I am nobody’s shill.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had an unpleasant experience which I feel obligated to share, if only for the benefit of others who may be labouring under misapprehensions about their membership.

Having been given a timeshare at the resort back in 2006 I was a regular visitor to CPO, and I always enjoyed my stay at the complex whether I was in the company of my family or, as was often the case, I travelled alone. However the relentless annual increase in maintenance fees under the old regime, coupled with changes in the whole dynamic of European travel, meant that the arrangement became increasingly unviable, to the point where I was paying more than twice as much for my timeshare as a cash customer would have paid for the same service.


Something had to give. It is one thing a timeshare company demanding unrealistic payments with menaces, but at some stage the point is reached at which customers just will not and in some cases cannot pay. Seeing the writing on the wall, the new management offered a new approach via the points scheme. One option was the Exit program involving the payment of a rather substantial sum as a “buy out” from the timeshare contract, with the blow softened by the inclusion of a generous points allocation over a two year period, enabling the customer to travel to CPO and other resorts within the group for a total of several weeks during the remaining period of the contract.

This was the option I took. At a cost of £4,800 I was awarded 80,000 points for each of two years, which enabled to me to travel three times in 2014 with a similar allowance for this year. Last year I used these to good effect, visiting my beloved CPO on three occasions – for 12 nights in February, 9 nights in July and a fleeting 3-night visit in December – on each and every occasion, I should add, as a high-spending customer.

This year however I was in for a shock. When a few weeks ago I attempted to book a July holiday at the resort I was told curtly that there was no availability whatsoever throughout the months of June, July, August or September. Everything was fully booked.


Having promised my daughter a holiday I settled for a week at the Infiniti Beach Resort in Almeria, Spain. I’m sure it’s a very nice resort, however I am something of a “homer” and when I find a place and get to know it I tend to plump for it rather than for the uncertainty of something unfamiliar. No matter, I’m sure we’ll enjoy it.

I did though harbour a nagging feeling, call it a sixth sense, that I wasn’t being told quite the truth. And so I contacted MGM Hotels via the Customer Chat mechanism on the company website and asked whether any availability existed for CPO on my chosen week in July. This was the reply I received:

It is self-evident that MGM, having my money and that of others like me securely in the bank, had decided to reserve the high-season slots for cash customers and to offer the loyal but already committed points customers the off-peak slots which were left over. In other words I have paid nearly £5,000 to be a second-class customer.

For a while I felt so incensed by this that I seriously considered never returning to the resort, as I was reluctant to give my money to a company with such a poor ethic. But CPO is my “home” – I feel welcome when I visit the restaurant, the bars, the Reception area, and the sister resorts. I know many of the waiting staff, the entertainment staff and the visiting acts. This is my holiday home and I’m not going to be driven away by the anonymous faces who manage from afar, but it leaves a bad taste all the same.

Next year, health permitting, I will return to CPO as a cash customer. But I wouldn’t like to be the poor sales rep who comes to my apartment in Spain in July, or at the CPO in October (when I did manage to secure a booking) and tries to sell me an extension of their points scheme!