The fire alarm is going off in the Mitato al la carte restaurant at The Royal Senses Resort & Spa in Crete, but no one is worried.
It’s been set off by a slightly larger than usual puff of smoke that’s just been released from the traditional Cretan antikristo grill at the heart of the eatery and it’s a sign that the salted lamb that’s cooking over open flames there is especially juicy tonight.
The sound quickly stops, the musician playing the Cretan lyra in the corner plucks a few chords to mimic the noise, the diners laugh, and everyone returns to eating in the golden glow of the restaurant’s lighting.
The 178-room Royal Senses Resort & Spa Curio Collection by Hilton trickles down a hillside in a sheep-strewn swathe of countryside in the centre of Crete’s north coast
The entrance of The Royal Senses is shown in the picture. This hotel was opened June 20, 2021. It is only the second Hilton Hotel in Greece and the first Hilton on the Greek Islands.
This photograph showcases one of the two landing-strip-long infinity pools that feature in the Royal Senses’ sea-view pool area and some of the sun loungers, with their crash-mat-thick mattresses
I discover during my stay that the antikristo restaurant is just one of several USPs at this new hotel – which opened in June in a sheep-strewn swathe of countryside in the centre of Crete’s north coast.
It’s the first Hilton to grace the Greek islands and only the second Hilton in Greece, so its designers have gone to extra lengths to impress.
The hotel’s funicular is another talking point. The resort, which has 178 rooms, is located on the hillside. You can reach the top by taking a cable railway that runs 100m (328ft).
The Royal Senses Spa covers 1,000m2 (10,763sqft). This is The Royal Senses pool terrace with infinity pool, inwater whirlpools, and Bali beds.
The Royal Senses has two pools with a dizzying array of Bali loungers, deckchairs, cuddle chairs and sofas.
You can also write about the stunning sea view pool. The two pools, which are approximately a mile long and surround by an array of Bali-style loungers and beds with thick crash-mat mattresses, can be found on the landing strip.
Then there’s the spa. This spa covers 1,000m2 (10,763sq ft) and includes an outdoor terrace pool as well an indoor hydrotherapy area. Jenny, a skilled masseuse, gives me a Cretan and olive oil massage that leaves my muscles feeling as soft as a chamois.
You can find the local-twist in every part of my hotel spa treatment. All terracottas, stone, wood, rattan and rope, the décor of both my Deluxe Room and the shared areas reflects the earthiness of the hotel’s hillside setting.
The lobby at The Royal Senses (pictured) is a grand place decorated with lots of wood, stone and earthy coloured textiles to reflect the hotel’s hillside setting
The Royal Senses lobby bar and check-in desks are pictured here. The shelves feature ceramics by local artists.
The Royal Senses’ rooms feature the same earthy colors as the rest of The Royal Senses.
The outside view of one private pool room at The Royal Senses is shown in this shot. The hotel has nine types of rooms, and there are five different kinds that have their own pools.
I discovered that many furniture, lights fixtures, and ceramics were also sourced from Cretan artisans.
The Cretan-inspired food at Platia’s buffet restaurant, and in its lunchtime cafeteria, is also available. Think dishes like dakos – Crete’s answer to bruschetta – and Cretan-themed pizza with feta.
Nowhere is the Cretan influence more present than in the hotel’s second a la carte restaurant, Cretamos, though.
This is the Cretamos a-la carte restaurant at The Royal Senses. Some of the dishes are historical. This stone booth seats looks over the ocean (file image).
The image below shows a Cretamos al-la carte dish at The Royal Senses. Dishes here include petimezi-glazed pork – a dish with origins that can be traced back to Byzantine times
This photograph showcases Platia, the lunch restaurant at The Royal Senses that’s been designed to resemble a Greek village square. The menu features dishes like dakos – Cretan bruschetta – and Cretan pizza with feta
The Royal Senses has a chic bar. Sarah recommends the Cretan Moschato Spinas white wine
The Antikristo Grill is located at the Mitato a la carte Restaurant of The Royal Senses. Antikristo cooking involves slow-cooking salted lamb over open flames
The Byzantine era is the origin of some dishes, such as the petimezi-glazed meat. The talented chefs Stelios & Moses bring them back to life with modern elements such as infused oils and flavoured crumb.
The slightly modernized beef fillet, with pickled apple and parsnip purée, is a favorite of mine. It’s served in a generous portion that I find just as appealing as its presentation.
If the thought of being stuck on a hillside puts you off this place, don’t worry. The hotel has a wow-worthy newly renovated sister resort called The Royal Blue that’s less than 300 metres (984ft) away and right on the water’s edge.
Every half an hour, shuttle buses provide free transportation between the hotels.
Royal Senses guests can make full use of the facilities at Royal Blue, and they should – I certainly do.
The hotel’s statement saltwater pool is worth a visit in itself. It’s lake sized, deep enough to sink a double-decker bus, and you can hear the waves crashing a few feet away as you swim. My fingertips never crimp as I swim here.
Another reason to visit the adult-only bar is its little beachfront garden with wooden swing chairs and whitewashed roof. One evening, I sit down here with a glass of Cretan Moschato Spinas wine as I watch the sun set and the sky turn black.
Pictured is The Royal Blue – sister hotel to The Royal Senses. Both hotels were designed to be complementary, but completely separate in style and looks.
This shot shows the entrance to the huge saltwater pool at The Royal Senses’ stunning sister hotel Royal Blue. The moment you step off the steps, you can’t touch the floor of this pool
Guests at The Royal Senses can catch the shuttle bus or walk down to The Royal Blue to use the hotel’s private beach (pictured), which is sheltered by an arm of rocks
Like The Royal Senses (pictured), the Royal Blue also offers a variety of private pools. Some look over the ocean.
Then there’s the hotel’s beach.
To make it safe to swim, a protective arm of rocks is placed around the beach sand. The Bali loungers and beds come equipped with buttons that can be pressed for waiter service.
I’m always a bit ginger about pushing buttons like this, worried about looking lazy. There’s no judgement from the staff at Royal Blue, though.
Each member of this team has a smile on their face. Cretan hospitality is exemplified by them.
The rooms, with their lullaby-soothing white and pebble colour schemes, are special, too, and I’d recommend booking a twin-centre trip that includes both hotels so you can experience the very intentional yin and yang of the two.
It’s also worth coming down here for an additional spa treatment.
As with The Royal Senses treatment menu, the therapies reflect the hotel’s setting. I felt as loose as an unmanned marionette after the hot seashell massage.