H10 Rubicon Palace, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
I stayed here from Thursday 1st December to Thursday 15th December 2016.
When I arrived at the H10 Rubicon Palace it was a lovely surprise to be greeted by a smiling lady with a glass of champagne. There’s a lot of information for staff to pass onto guests so queues are inevitable, just be patient.
I’d been given room 6064, on the same level as reception so no lifts or stairs to negotiate. It’s a bit of a trek but you have to expect it when you holiday at a massive complex.
I did have issues with my door key (credit card type) but only because there’s a ‘knack’ (a quick in & out rather than leave it in). However, if you don’t happen to have the ‘knack’ you might be standing there for quite some time; one night I made 27 attempts! (And no, I didn’t have it next near my mobile phone). Thankfully, after a few days I managed to suss out the timing.
Once inside I was very pleased to see a large sofa-bed, round coffee table, flat-screen tv with remote (there are 5 English channels, BBC World, Sky News, Disney plus 2 movie channels). There was a huge bed (with more pillows than you could ever need) and although the bed was comfy I’m used to a slightly softer mattress, so the next time I was walking through reception I asked for a mattress topper. When my room was cleaned in the afternoon the topper was put onto my bed (excellent).
The bathroom was spotless, like the rest of the room, along with more toiletries than I’ve ever been offered at any other hotel I’ve stayed at. I’ve never seen bathroom scales provided at any hotel I’d been to previously (I chose not to open that particular can of worms!) It was lovely to have the option of a bath as well as a shower.
The coffee / tea machine was a nice addition (once I worked out how it worked). I felt that a few basic instructions would have been useful as I’ve never used a coffee pod machine before. I loved the bathrobe & slippers, and the very large balcony with fantastic views of Fuerteventura and Los Lobos, although it might’ve been handy to have had a small clothes line on the balcony for hanging out wet towels and swimwear. I ended up using the towel rail over the bath when I wanted to dry anything. (Tip: if you’re short, like me, if you drag the padded bench seat from the end of the bed onto the balcony, and throw a towel on it, you’ll have a comfy place to lay face down getting your back tanned).
There was plenty of space for all my clothes and enough hangers for one person (2 people may well want more). The giant mirror in the hall ensures you see yourself from top to toe in all your glory. I quickly sussed out the free WiFi, which was very useful, and I was easily able to connect two devices at once (unlike other hotels that restrict you to one device per room). There were 3 electric sockets (4 if you unplug the lamp by the tv) which was plenty for me.
One niggle was that if you actually want to see anything after dark you’ll have to take it in the bathroom as the lighting in the main room is very dim. Even with all of the lights and lamps on I still couldn’t read a brochure very well.
There are lots of steps (as well as lifts to use) in the main building so it can be a bit disorientating, although you will eventually get used to it. The main restaurants are down 2 flights of stairs (under the main reception). Each level is beautiful and has it’s own pond (fabulous); two have fish in them.
A note regarding the pools; I did venture a dip on one occasion in the big pool but only for 5 minutes. One of the handrails for the steps was very wobbly and once into the icy cold water you realise there’s quite a few broken / missing tiles on the floor (be careful where you tread as there are very sharp).
With a site this size there’s always bound to be maintenance, so you just have to accept banging and having areas roped off so the workmen can get on with their jobs.
Janubio Restaurant, Breakfast 7.30-10.30am, lunch 1-3pm, dinner 7-10pm.
Went here for my first evening meal and it seemed adequate. Vegetarian options are available although you may end up with a few interesting combinations if you want to fill your plate sometimes. I ended up with pasta, rice, potato and a slice of mushroom pizza one lunchtime, but I was hungry and it filled a hole (there was also salad). There were plenty of plates, bowls, cups and glasses (maitre d was checking stock regularly). The wine was drinkable and the cakes/gateaux were delicious.
I returned for my first breakfast, which in my opinion is the best meal of the day in this restaurant. Coffee was available however you’ll need to be creative if you want to stir it as when I asked a waitress for a teaspoon she directed me to the dessert spoon on my table; a minor irritation. (Tip: take one of the teaspoons from your room with you, or from the piano bar). It’s surely not rocket science to put some teaspoons next to the coffee machines?
I usually opted for cereal and there were several to choose from. There were also cheeses, meats, fruit and an array of other foodstuffs to try out if you felt the urge. I have to say though, that yoghurt should not be served at room temperature in my opinion. Fruit juice is available from the Children’s Buffet and isn’t very well labelled, and there doesn’t appear to be much choice.
I also found that food labelling was ambiguous; there was often rice / pasta / sauce with ‘things’ in but it wasn’t always clear what it all was. There probably were more veggie options available than I realised but without labels it’s impossible to know; ‘pasta salad’ could’ve had meat or fish in it, but might have been ok. One lunchtime there were just two food labels covering more than 6 different trays, so I had no idea what the other 4 dishes were, and staff are so busy you feel awkward about asking all the time.
I never did figure out why on some occasions this restaurant was excellent and others it was average. The evenings with hot couscous, large veggie vol-au-vents and hummus were far superior to the times when there was mashed potato that you could pour onto your plate, boiled-to-death broccoli and cold pizza slices. The 4-cheese pasta in watery lukewarm sauce was definitely not my favourite dish.
However, credit where it’s due so bravo for the Asian evening as the food was exceptionally good. I loved the spring rolls, all the different types of vegetables and those lovely mushroom tarts. Everything was hot and delicious; it was by far the best meal I had in there the entire two weeks. Now why can’t the food be of that high standard every night?
Tabaiba Restaurant, breakfast 7.30– 10am, lunch (privilege only), dinner 7.30 – 9.30pm. I had high hopes for this restaurant, but sadly it was a bit of a let-down for me (personal taste). It’s much smaller inside and there’s a lot less choice; although the ambience is calmer than the chaos in the Janubio and there are fewer small children running around.
Food is decent quality and usually hot, but as a vegetarian I was left with even less options than in the Janubio. I looked at the rice one evening but that had egg in it although the pizza slices were good and the desserts delicious. Also, I had rubber soled sandals on one evening and for some odd reason the floor surface in there is so slippery I had to be careful I didn’t skid. On subsequent visits I made sure I was wearing trainers.
In the area between these two restaurants, apart from the stunning fish pond they often have market stalls, which is a nice addition.
The poolside snack bar was really useful for a quick bite to eat and a drink, as long as you’re not vegetarian. Sandwiches are pre-packed, so ideal to stick in your bag for later (warning – the vegetable sandwiches contain eggs!) The pre-packaged salad has chicken in and the pizza slices have sausage on them. The fruit pots are delicious; just mind the pips (especially in the grapes). There’s pre-prepared containers of nachos and a variety of chips, onion, burgers, sausages and so in paper wraps. After several days I ended up asking the chef for a plain baguette and making myself a chip butty for lunch, which actually tasted really good (there’s sachets of ketchup on the counter). There’s also yoghurts and pre-packed small cakes. I did notice it open for meals in the evening but you have to book ahead.
In order to pre-book the 3 a la carte restaurants you need to be downstairs (between the two main restaurants) between 9-11am and be prepared to queue. You can have 3 a la carte meals per stay whether you’re there for 1 week or two. I really didn’t fancy the Steakhouse (despite reassurances there’s a veggie option) so I was able to swap my Steakhouse meal for another Italian as I was there for a fortnight. These restaurants all open from 6.45pm.
La Dolce Vita (Italian Cuisine): This was fantastic. I was given a glass of cava on arrival at 6.45pm and shown to my outdoor table close to a heater. Service was prompt and consistently friendly. I chose the goats cheese salad as a starter, tagliatelle in pesto for main and tiramisu for dessert. There was already fresh bread and a bottle of water on the table, and the waitress filled up my wine glass for me. The food was delicious; I can’t fault this restaurant at all.
My second visit was just as good. Cava on arrival, water on the table and wine glass frequently topped up. This time I ordered the tomato soup for starters (veggie version / no ham) and I dipped my fresh, warm rolls into it. That was delicious, as was my massive pizza bella vita with sun dried tomatoes. I have to admit I couldn’t finish it all and had to take a 10 minute break before I could tackle my dessert. This was the mint and lemon sorbet, which arrived rather like a slushie in a champagne glass with a straw. It was actually really refreshing. I honestly can’t fault this restaurant.
Sakura (Asian Cuisine): I was given a glass of cava on arrival, which is always welcome. I was then offered wine along with the bottle of still water which was already on my table. The menu seemed a tad lacking in veggie options. The only starter I could have was tempura. I’d never had that before and to be honest I don’t care for it (greasy, battered strips of veg).
For my main I chose the tofu option. What arrived was the biggest bowl of rice I’ve ever seen, topped off with a few small pieces of unseasoned and frankly unpleasant tofu. The rice was also sadly lacking in any seasoning. I then bit into one of the two wedge-shaped crisp-breads supplied with the meal and I apparently found all the salt!
Dessert was ‘exotic cake’ but although it looked spectacular (and huge) it was basically sponge with cream topped off with a couple of fruit slices. Staff were polite and the décor pleasant, but I wouldn’t want another meal there.
Gala Dinner (Mondays) Teatro Del Mar: You have to book this at the small guest services desk to the right of the main reception desk. It’s on Mondays and there’s a vegetarian option; you just have to ask. If you have small children on holiday with you they apparently take them elsewhere and feed them so you can enjoy a grown-up evening. You meet in the small square outside the cinema at 8pm on the evening, where you’ll find it beautifully decorated and there are waiters handing out cava / orange along with ‘amuse bouche’. It was fabulous to be outdoors under a lovely moonlit night, especially when one of the waiters began singing.
Then, out came some ‘entertainers’ before we were herded into the cinema to be seated for the 5-course meal. Everything looked stunning and I was given a front row seat for the cabaret. Now, it was a very adult show and might not suit all tastes. If you’re offended by drag queens, ‘exotic’ dancers, belly dancing, and scantily dressed males then you probably won’t enjoy it – however, I absolutely loved it.
Three male and three female artistes presented a whole night of short performances, compared by a very capable drag act, while waiters raced around ensuring glasses remained filled and food was served to a packed house simultaneously. As I’d stated I needed a vegetarian option the manager, who was personally overseeing all special meals, made sure that I had the correct dish for each course. The event ended around 10.30pm and I have to say it was one of the best nights out I’ve ever had.
Mike’s coffee shop was a joy. You do pay extra for the cakes but there are menus on tables and it’s clear what’s free to AI and what’s not. Service is always with a smile and milkshakes are fabulous (vanilla, chocolate and cookie flavours available). I was marooned there during a heavy downpour but I didn’t mind a bit.
The Disco Bar is where the entertainment happens. Quite why there are only ever a maximum of two members of staff to serve here is a mystery as it clearly needs at least 3, if not 4. Be prepared to queue or to do the very un-British thing of barging in. (Tip: Get as many drinks in as you can carry to avoid spending half the evening with your back to the shows).
I don’t have small children so wasn’t interested in the evening shows aimed at kids (reptile show, bird show etc with the usual ‘photo opportunities’ afterwards). The main entertainment starts at 10pm. I have to say that Il Divo were utterly superb; the best act I’ve seen in many years, and ‘Downtown’ (two female singers singing 60’s songs) were very good too. Movie Night, with the animation team putting on a show, was also good although a little less smoke would’ve meant we could see more of the dancing. The juggling/balancing act wasn’t my cup of tea and wasn’t well attended (just as well as there was just one poor barman on duty that night). I didn’t bother with the magic show, tango thing or variety show.
One day it poured with rain when both main restaurants were closed, so the only sensible thing to do was to pop along to the piano bar for a coffee and a chill. (This is where you go to get your bottles of water for your room, as are the other bars). This is a large area full of comfy chairs and small tables, where you can just relax with hot drinks, soft drinks or booze. Despite the fact it was rather obvious there’d be a lot of people going in there, it was severely under-staffed and queues were inevitable.
However, in the evenings, when you’re relaxing while watching the entertainment, waiters walk around clearing tables and fetching you drinks, so the queues at the bar are minimal. They should do this in the Disco Bar. I have to add that the Piano Bar does seem to be very much geared towards a more mature clientèle (Saga have reps at this hotel).
The piano bar also has a lovely outdoor balcony area overlooking the pools and it a wonderful place to sit in the mild evenings (you can also see the sunset from up there).
Just behind Mike’s coffee shop there’s a very small shopping area with a high-end clothes shop, cheaper ‘tourist’ shop, dive shop and a cinema (where you have the Gala Dinner) as well as a restaurant for Privilege Guests and the Beefeater sports bar.
There’s another small tourist shop beside the piano bar.
There’s also a spa, and a gym behind the main pool, which I didn’t use. I walked through the children’s section one afternoon and it seemed very well thought out with tons for little ones to do.
Grounds are extensive and kept clean and tidy. I loved all the flowing water around the site and little bridges. There’s only one gate in and out of the property which leads onto the promenade. The second gate a bit further along is no longer in use. You need your room key to get in and out.
Once out of the back gate, onto the promenade, turn left and Flamingo Beach is around a 20 minute walk. If you want a beach holiday you’d be better off staying in one of the many other hotels that are nearer to the town.
Walk for about 30 minutes and you’ll find a small port. There are some shops along the route, along with bars and restaurants as well. Five minutes from the port is Playa Blanca town, and just keep on walking and you’ll eventually find Rubicon Marina. It’s a long way so bus/taxi is probably a better option unless you really like walking. I have to say that in my opinion it was well worth the blisters as it’s fabulous.
Although the promenade along the seafront is ‘flat’ (ie: ok for prams and wheelchairs) there are a couple of fairly steep hills en route to the beaches and town, so be mindful of this when setting out.
If you turn right out of the back gate and walk for about 20 minutes you’ll be at the lighthouse. You’ll need sturdy shoes as it’s a bit rocky the closer you get. Apart from a small café and a diving place just around the corner from the Rubicon Palace, there’s not much else along the route other than great views. If you like watching the sunset, look towards the lighthouse to the right of the back gate in the evening and you’ll sometimes see it (if it’s not too cloudy).
After 4 days I actually discovered a short-cut to the small pool that you can see from the balcony, as long as you’re ok with steps. Instead of turning right out the door, and along the covered walkway to reception, turn left. Just around the corner are stairs that go down. Walk down 2 flights, following the sign for swimming pools. This will bring you out at the small pool.
If you carry on walking parallel to the apartment block, through the gardens, it’ll bring you out at the steps next to the Asian restaurant, where the outdoor chess is situated. From there it’s just around the corner to the 2 main restaurants. It’s the same distance from the room to the restaurants downstairs as it is if you go via reception, but it’s more scenic than that long corridor.
The theme days are great fun, especially the Spanish one, and there always seems to be something to watch and/or listen to around the pools.
If you buy a 15 euro water-bus ticket at the kiosk at the port you can go to Papagayo beach via Rubicon Marina (be warned – there’s no jetty at the beach so it’s a dinghy for the last few hundred yards and then wading through several inches of water). The beach is stunning and there’s cafes / restaurants up steep steps. Just before you get there the captain will drop anchor and take you downstairs to watch fish being fed (underwater glass windows). There’s several pick-up times. You can get off at Rubicon Marina en route back to the port and spend a couple of hours there (or you could do the Marina first, or not at all – up to you). You can easily make a full day of it so it really is excellent value for money.
If you buy a 27 euro return ticket at the kiosk you can go across to Fuerteventura for several hours (Corralejo). The first one out leaves at 9.30am and the last one back leaves at 5.15pm (there’s the option to return at 1pm if you wish). This, again, was great value for money as Corralejo is very pretty with several small beaches and loads of shops and restaurants. I spent a further 5 euros and had a 30 minute trip around the whole town in the little road train; great fun.
A word of advice: do NOT stop for people with clip-boards who pretend to be deaf / dumb, just ignore them and carry on walking (and definitely don’t sign anything or give them money!)
After numerous trips to the Canaries, and hearing about the free ‘blanket trips’, curiosity got the better of me and (after reassurances by the First Choice rep that I’d be back by 1.45pm and that the presentation would last about 40 minutes), I decided to go for it. Firstly, you’re picked up at 8.45am and you don’t actually get dropped back until 3.30pm! (So much for it being a ½ day excursion). Secondly, the presentation lasts over an hour and then you have to hang around waiting while various members of your party discuss purchases.
Donna, our guide for the day, was extremely knowledgeable about the Island and I enjoyed learning all sorts of facts, and once we’d endured the blanket part of the trip we were taken to Puerto Calero (“Millionaire’s Marina”) and we had 90 minutes of free time to enjoy all the lovely sights and buy some food and drink (had we known how long the trip really was we would’ve packed sandwiches).
Then it was onto the Aloe Vera Museum where we had a good-humoured demonstration and were able to test out products (obviously also buy them if we wanted to). I did enjoy myself but probably wouldn’t have gone had I known how long this was really going to take.
I would suggest you join the H10 Hotel Group Membership Scheme before you arrive (free, and you can do it online), and email the hotel well in advance to let them know that you’re a member, especially if you have any special requests such as a ground floor room.