Here at Olympic Holidays we wanted to give you an insight into our Resorts team and the wonderful work they do to ensure you have a fantastic holiday with us. We spoke to Sandra Marong, Kelly Hayes and Joanne Divito to find out more about what they do.
Sandra covers the Dodecanese, Kelly manages the Preveza region (Parga, Lefkas and Sivota) and Joanne liaises with holidaymakers in Crete. Read on to find out great tips for the best restaurants to go to and places to explore.
What is a typical day like for you?
Kelly Hayes (KH): I go to the office first thing in the morning, check the system for any new bookings and advise the hotels if there are any. I check my flights for the day (arrivals and departures) and confirm any queries with the transfer department in my office.
I take welcome packs to the hotels for the arrivals that week and notes to advise of departure times. Once a week I update the Hang out on Holiday app with departure transfer details.
When I receive emails, WhatsApp or Live chat messages from customers I ensure they are acknowledged, either answering the query straight away or where necessary advising that I am looking into the enquiry and will respond with further information asap.
I try to visit my main hotels to make sure that everything is ok and that customers and hoteliers are happy with everything. I cover 3 resorts in my region- I spend one day in Lefkas, one day in Sivota and the rest of the time I am centrally located in Parga.
What’s your top tips for holidaymakers?
Sandra Marong (SM): See all you can - don't just sit by the pool or the beach - get out there and explore. There is so much history in all the Greek islands especially the Dodecanese, and it's just waiting to be explored. If you can, hire a car and go watch the sun set over Halki at Kritini Castle.
Leave early and watch the sun rise at the Acropolis in Lindos, then throughout the day visit some of the many beaches that hug the edges of this beautiful island.
For more of an adventure visit the neighbouring islands of Symi with its neo-classical Italian influence or the slower paced Halki. You can't visit Kos in a day from Rhodes but you can island hop there so go spend a few nights of your holiday on the island that was the birthplace of Hippocrates and visit the Plane Tree where he sat and wrote the ancient oath that doctors of medicine still work to today. Visit Zia, reputed to have the best Greek night in all the Dodecanese. So many things to do and see in the Dodecanese Islands.
Joanne Divito (JD): You cannot see Crete in a week, break it down and visit the east during a Heraklion flight holiday and come again to the West (Chania flight holiday). After travelling a lot in Greece and island hopping I was shocked by how big the island was when I first visited Crete.
There is so much to see - some of the best beaches (Elafonisi -pink sand beach) - Balos and Vai beach are spectacular. Crete has something for everyone with history, beaches, culture, mountains and tradition. I recommend holidaymakers get out and explore. If you don't want to drive there are buses and jeep safaris.
KH: There is a lot of history in the Epirus region so there are some places that I would say that you have to see!!! If you are staying in Parga or Sivota I would definitely recommend the boat trip to Paxos and Anti Paxos - it gives you a chance to check out another destination that otherwise you may not see.
Another place I would recommend to visit from the Parga or Sivota area would be the River Acheron (also known as the river Styx). Greek Mythology says that the gates to the underworld are located at the river!! It is said to be the river where Achilles was dipped by his mother, Thetis, to make him immortal. Legend says that she held him by his heel and dipped him into the river, as his heel was never dipped this became his weak spot which ultimately led to his death.
If you are not into the mythology side of things you can also visit the monasteries of Meteora, this means “suspended in air” - it gets its name because the group of monasteries are built on top of sheer rocks. In the past the only way to access the monasteries was to be winched up in a basket by monks up in the monasteries. It is an amazing sight to behold and amazes me more every time I visit.
For holidaymakers staying in Lefkas I would definitely recommend taking part in one of the boat trips from the harbour which takes you around the surrounding islands. There is also a ferry over to the island of Meganissi where you can enjoy a day in a beautiful traditional village.
In all of the resorts in my region you can also rent a small boat to go and explore the beautiful coastline at your leisure.
How do you help holidaymakers whilst they are on holiday?
SM,KH and JD: We are here to make guests feel supported and can help them if they have any questions about things to do, transfers, anything really. We help from before holidaymakers arrive by checking and giving correct information to make their arrival smooth. We can book excursions or car hire for customers if they want us to. If holidaymakers would like us to go to the hotel and have a chat about the resort and what there is to do in the area we can also do this.
Customers can contact us on the Hang out on Holiday app/Whatsapp/email/phone. We want them to have the best holiday experience so they go home with memories that last a lifetime. We want holidaymakers to get the most out of their time. Many do go home with a feeling that they must return. That's when we know we have done a good job.
On the other hand if something goes wrong we are here to help put it right. For example if there is a medical emergency guests are able to contact us. We can support in difficult situations, help clients return early if they need to get home for certain reasons, assist with hotel issues, transfer problems, and with island hopping planning for the next place they will hop to. The list is endless to be honest, we help with whatever we can. The one thing that is certain is that no two days are the same.
How does the Hang out on Holiday app work? What are its features?
SM: The app is a great tool for me as it keeps me in constant touch with guests. If there are any urgent messages I need to advise the guests of I can add a message to the groups page which keeps everyone instantly informed. The departure info is also uploaded on to the app which means that guests can just check from their sunbed when their pick-up time is, saving them the hassle of asking reception or calling me. This works really well in the islands that I manage remotely as the guests feel secure that there is someone there should they need it.
KH: Customers can sign into the app before they even travel. It gives them a contact in resort that they can ask questions, they can see information about the area, excursions and also their departure transfer details for when they are going home.It has a live chat function available to the customer so they can send a message and it comes through to me so I can answer them quickly.
Do you have any recommendations for good restaurants to go to?
SM: To be honest there are too many to mention. Greece is known for its gastronomic delights and you will always find a small taverna that can cater for your needs. The only thing I will say is you can't come to Greece and not try a Pitta Gyros.
Personally I do favour Nefeli's Restaurant in Lindos as every time I go I have the Zucchini balls and feta in honey and it never fails to hit the spot!
JD: I personally always try to get off the beaten track and head to the local villages when I go out. Having a Greek partner who is a foodie means he is only happy with traditional, local cuisine and I have to agree. The best is the tavernas which are family ran and some of my favourites are in Cretan villages such as Rogdia (with amazing views of Heraklion), Mochos, Archanes and Skalani. Cretans are very proud of their food and generally the portions are much bigger than what I have experienced in the rest of Greece.
KH: In Parga I would recommend a few different restaurants. For a traditional Greek night where the customers can join in the dancing and smashing of plates (plaster plates specifically made so that they are not sharp/dangerous when smashed) I would recommend Dokos Taverna. It is a little out from the main harbour of the village. Make sure you book this in advance as the Greek night is only once a week and gets full very quickly.
For a relaxed atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle with amazing Greek food I would recommend Perivoli. Set amongst lemon trees (the name Perivoli actually translates to mean “orchard”) it is nice and shaded for when it is extra hot and is another family run restaurant with fantastic friendly service.
For a special occasion there are two restaurants that I would recommend in different areas depending on what you like (also in Parga).
Med Bar has a relaxed atmosphere overlooking Valtos Beach. The restaurant is made of glass and offers a panoramic view over the Valtos area and out towards Paxos. It is the perfect place to have a nice cold glass of wine and watch the sunset.
Castello Restaurant is beautiful - tucked away in the small back streets of the village close to the harbour front. It is quite a small restaurant which offers tables both indoors and outdoors. If you have a special occasion they also has tables down in the wine cellar of the restaurant offering an intimate and unique experience.
In the harbour area there are many different types of restaurants and cuisines on offer with beautiful views out to sea. No matter what the craving for dinner you will definitely find a place for you.
What is your favourite island/resort and why?
SM: This is a tough one as all the Greek Islands are fantastic in their own way. Each island has its own idiosyncrasies which is what makes each one unique. If I really had to choose it would be Corfu out of all the islands however out of the Dodecanese it would be Halki - it really is such a slow pace of life and after all isn't this what most people want from their holiday, to just sit back, relax and let the strains slip away? Time has definitely stood still on this Island, but not progress, as it is considered to be a UNESCO Green Island where even the police cars are battery driven.
KH: I am biased with this one and I do have to say that Parga is my favourite resort. It is also my permanent home now - the people here are so kind and will do anything to help people if they need it. It is like being in a little bubble when you are in Parga and I think this is what makes it have that island feel. Everybody knows each other and if they can’t help you with something they will know exactly who can.
Choosing a single island can be hard, what would you say are the biggest differences between the islands?
KH: Every Greek island is different. I think the main difference I would say is between the larger and smaller islands. The bigger islands are gradually moving in a more modern direction with the bigger hotels and hotel chains, whereas the smaller Islands are more about the traditions of the Greek people and the small family run, usually more basic style of living.
JD: Santorini, although not famous for its beaches it is known for its instagramable views and the volcano. Some islands you can explore very easily and others like Crete are huge and you can not just pop to the Samari George for the day if in Elounda etc. Every island needs to be specifically picked depending on your needs and wants as each one is unique.
SM: Rhodes itself is steeped in history, from the Knights of St. John to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World the Colossus of Rhodes. I find nothing better than watching the sunrise over the Acropolis in Lindos and walking through the streets during the golden hour, feeling the ghosts of the Greek heroes walking past as you stroll through the ancient streets, and get a feel of what life must have been like thousands of years ago.
Lying approximately 34 nautical miles from Rhodes is Symi however it is a world away from Rhodes! The pace of life is slower and life is centred around the bustling harbour. Ferry boats arrive between the hours of 10 - 5 and after that you get the island to yourself. Famous for sponge diving this industry is slowly dying out but here you can purchase many of the sponges collected from around the island. If you wish for a more chilled island, then both Halki and Tilos are for you. No big all inclusive, all-encompassing hotels on these Islands just small, traditional family run accommodation where life just passes by quietly and effortlessly. This is where you will see the fishermen mending nets and chatting under the olive tree whilst putting the world to rights. You can walk between beaches as there are no scooters buzzing past you in a hurry. There is no rushing on these Islands just slow relaxation and pure peace and quiet.
Are there any Greek customs and etiquette a traveller should be aware of?
KH: Greek people are naturally very friendly and tactile, this means that most of the time when they first meet people they will make sure to shake hands or kiss on each cheek, it is also very common for them to keep eye contact when talking with someone. Greeks are very giving people and often they will give Meze with drinks or cake with coffee, small things like that and it can sometimes be considered an insult to refuse the offered gift.
JD: I would say if someone offers you food to try that they have made, or gift you with fruit etc, its polite to accept and show you are enjoying it. Greeks show their kindness through food and drink and are often trying to feed people.Cover up if you are visiting churches or monasteries. Tipping is always welcomed and although there is no set amount it is normal to tip after a drink or meal (even locals do and also do so when ordering delivery).
SM: Greeks are not known for their punctuality - this is where GMT time comes in (Greek Maybe Time) it is often customary to be at least 30 mins late for a meeting. You will hear the word Malaka, branded around quite a lot, it means jerk (idiot) it's not really offensive as it is more often heard in jest these days. I think just act anyway you would anywhere in the world, with respect and politeness, learn a few of their basic words like “please” (Parakalo) and “thank you” (Efcharisto) as these always go a long way. In general the Greeks are a very polite and friendly nation and you will arrive as a stranger but leave as a friend.