Holiday Village Montenegro Review: New & Improved?

This year saw the (slightly delayed) opening of the brand new Holiday Village Montenegro so we thought we’d give it a go to see how it compared to our previous trips to HV Kos and HV Cyprus.

In case you’re super busy and only have time to read the first 61 words here’s a snapshot:

We loved it but it wasn’t perfect!

If you’re not quite that busy, and are a fan of details combined with lots of photos of our family then read on…

We booked Holiday Village Montenegro back in January as it looked new and shiny and we love Holiday Villages because of the variety of activities there for little ones.

And perhaps the cocktails.

We saw that it was due to open on 20th May so thought booking for 10th June would give it 3 weeks to iron out any problems before we arrived, but still be new and exciting. We certainly didn’t just pick 10th June because there was a free kid’s place that week.

No, no, no. As if we would be that tight…

As May came around and still no actual photos of the hotel had appeared on social media we got a bit jumpy, and as the opening got pushed back to 3rd June we were positively fretting that there may have been no hotel to actually go to!

But open it did, and from looking at the first batch of photos on the genuinely very useful HV Montenegro Facebook group it actually looked pretty nice, albeit not quite finished!

So the 10th came around and off we flew from Gatwick, after the obligatory hour sat on the tarmac due to the French striking about whatever the French are striking about. Arriving about 50 minutes late we popped on the slightly (!!) hot transfer bus and made the 1hr 30 trek to the hotel passing through some awesome views of mountains and lakes on the way.

Check-in was fortunately very smooth for us as they had actually built our room and it was ready to be stayed in. Other people were not so lucky, as a few of the terrace rooms never actually got built, which seems like a bit of an oversight when building a hotel! You could picture the planning meeting the week before opening between TUI and the hotel owners, Karisma:

TUI: So, how are those lovely terrace rooms coming along?

Karisma: Terrace rooms?

TUI: Um, yeah. The rooms with the terraces.

Karisma: Oh THOSE terrace rooms. There’s a funny story about them.

TUI: …

Karisma: Well it’s not THAT funny I suppose. They don’t technically exist.

TUI: Oh lovely. And what about the playground and outdoor gym and mini-market. And the bloody GRASS?!

Karisma: Another funny story there. We do have a couple of pink bushes though…

Anyway, I digress.

Once we had checked in we strolled past Jennifer Lopez to our block, Apricot, navigated the teeny tiny lift (can either fit you, or your bags, but not both at once) and strided into our room.

The Room

We had gone for a 2 bedroom balcony room and, as you would expect, it was all new and clean and looked pretty good. The balcony was OK but randomly the second bedroom had its own miniscule balcony which was no use to man or beast.

If you had brought a cat with you in order to swing it on either balcony you would have been sorely disappointed.

The ‘main’ balcony did have a small table and a couple of chairs on, but given the view of the advertised ‘lavish gardens‘ was actually just an unsuccessfully seeded patch of dirt and a shed, we didn’t spend too much time devouring that particular view.

Cat swinging strictly prohibited
‘Lavish Gardens’

The main bed was a decent size and the second bedroom had bunk beds and more storage than you could shake a stick at. The top bunk was a bit too high for us to feel comfortable having Joshua sleeping in so he was confined to the bottom bunk. There was an empty fridge, 2 wardrobes, a decent TV, hairdryer, kettle, 2 USB charging sockets and one complimentary bottle of water. I think the idea is that you refill the water from the fountains around site, but our cleaner threw our bottle away on day 2 so that didn’t work out too well!

If we had a choice we’d have preferred Cherry or Blueberry block as the walk to the main area feels a lot shorter, although Cherry seemingly has no lift so that would have been a ball ache.

The Grounds

The hotel grounds were very much a work in progress unfortunately. It looked as though they had chucked down a load of turf around the edges, ran out of time and thrown a load of seed everywhere else. They didn’t appear to have factored in any irrigation so the whole week we were there was spent with a couple of workers digging up most of the dying turf again to lay pipes and sprinklers. Strange order to do it in, but hopefully it’ll pay off over the coming weeks!

There were quite a few palm trees dotted about and a few pink bushes but that was about it in terms of colour – hopefully they’ll put some plants and flowers in as the place develops as it could look lovely with a bit of time.

Pink bushes ideal for profile pictures

As it was still quite new, every day something was being built or fixed or finished off. The seemingly mythical playground gradually appeared as the week went by, albeit by the time we left it was on pebbles, had no swing and had a fair few rough edges to iron out. The outdoor gym has since appeared too I believe.

Food

There was a main buffet restaurant that we ate in every day. Bizarrely it was up a flight of stairs meaning buggies had to be left downstairs and anyone with a mobility issue had to use a very slow stair lift. The place itself was nicely decorated and it was always easy to find a table.

There was beer and wine on self service taps which was handy, along with self service soft drinks. The alcohol was fine but the unbranded soft drinks were as ropey as a month old kipper.

For the first day there was Coke Zero in bottles but once that run out you were left with some generic cola which tasted like a glass full of freshly squeezed Haribo cola bottles and a ‘cola zero’ which tasted the same as the normal cola but with an extra bucket of sugar thrown in. You could feel the enamel melting from your teeth and your insides rotting as it went down. I guess the ‘zero’ referred to the chance of you successfully getting through a whole glass of the stuff!

The food itself was generally good, although compared to other HVs the selection in the kids’ section could be compared to the variety of a plank of wood laying on top of a pile of planks of wood, within a structure made entirely of planks of wood.

Every day there were fish fingers, spaghetti and green beans. Some days there were 3 types of spaghetti. A couple of times there were onion rings. Later in the week there were some sandwiches but there didn’t seem much attempt to get kids eating vegetables as the selection was so limited.

There was a section where meat was freshly cooked in front of you, which was quite nice if a bit plain. There was also a large meat joint that was cut up to order which was normally pork and pretty nice. Lots of types of salads were also knocking about, but none that really floated my boat. We managed to find stuff to eat fairly easily each day but it wasn’t exactly riveting stuff in terms of variation. A few themed nights would have been nice to liven things up a bit maybe.

To be fair, all-inclusive buffets are never going to be amazing, but out of the 3 Holiday Villages we’ve been to we felt this food selection was probably the dullest in terms of variety, albeit perfectly adequate.

The biggest surprise was that the ice cream fridge in the buffet restaurant ran out after 2 days and was removed! I’ve not been to a HV without ice cream before and despite Joshua trying to track down the missing fridge every mealtime it never returned! Considering he only agreed to wear his wristband as it entitled him to unlimited ice cream he was a bit miffed!

Aside from the buffet restaurant there were 2 speciality restaurants on site – a grill and an Italian, which you book in advance. One visit to each is included per week if you can manage to get a table. The Italian menu didn’t really float our boat. The grill menu looked pretty decent but we just never got around to booking a table unfortunately.

Drink

There are 5 bars around the site – Reception, by the main pool, by the entertainment stage, by the beach and in the Irish Bar. We spent most of our time in the pool bar during the day and entertainment bar in the evenings but only to pop in for drinks before heading back outside.

We would have liked an outside bar like in other HVs as it always felt odd having to walk indoors in your wet swimming stuff to get a drink to take back to the pool, but what they did have was fine. All staff were friendly, and the selection of alcohol was fine for us. Cocktails were limited to the 5 on the list – although once the Sprite had run out on day 3 that became 4 cocktails as the Blue Lagoon was no longer an option!

Before the Sprite ran out…

Cocktails were all fine and pretty strong, helped by the fact that the glasses were tiny so only a splash of mixer could fit in! You could pay extra for an upgraded wristband I believe, which allowed you premium spirits (but still not Coke or Sprite because of the fact they didn’t exist after day 2) but after 5 cocktails everything tasted the same anyway so it wouldn’t have been worth the extra expense.

Unfortunately the ‘cola zero’ ALWAYS tasted like a sugary, gooey mix of despair and anguish in a glass, however drunk you got.

We loved the beach bar where you could sit out on the wooden decking and watch the world go by. The beach bar also did made-to-order snacks and pizzas which were decent and all inclusive.

The Pools

There were 4 pools on site. The kids’ splash pool was about as exciting for our 4-year-old as a trip to the Co-Op. No slides at all, and just a gushing mushroom in the middle, a couple of dolphin-shaped hosepipes at one end and a spurting snake with the watery oomph of a urinating gnat at the other end. Probably fine for a 1 or 2-year-old but judged against the awesomeness of the kids’ pool in HV Cyprus it fell on its arse.

There were two low key quiet / relaxation  pools which looked fine for a bit of peace, but the highlight for us was the main pool which was a good size, shallow in parts for little ones, and where the daytime entertainment took place. Joshua spent a lot of time in there and therefore we spent a lot of time either in there or lying around there too.

There was a daily workout session in the pool, regular quizzes, different activities, a twice weekly inflatable obstacle course, splash bingo, motor boats and lots of other things going on, all led by the brilliant entertainment team, who are all professionals from the UK. More on them later.

We always managed to find sunbeds around each pool so that was handy, although I guess that will be harder during full occupancy and certainly when the next phase of the hotel is complete. We loved the pool layout – the only drawbacks were the slippery surface (pretty common around pools unfortunately!) and the umbrellas which had a habit of taking off and attacking bystanders when the breeze got strong!

I’m not sure whether it was the quality of the umbrellas or the weight of the base not being enough but we saw at least one umbrella take off each day taking out tables, sunbeds and (in one case) a child’s head on its path of destruction!

The Beach

The hotel has its own private section of beach with literally hundreds of lovely pink sunbeds on it. I think the most we ever saw in use at any one time were about 15, so if you love lying by the beach you’ll have plenty of room to do so here!

The one drawback we found was the breeze – the main time we tried the beach the wind was so stiff that within 2 minutes we had ruined 3 ice creams, 2 cocktails and 2 eyes through flying sand! I’m sure it’s fine most of the time but Joshua didn’t want to go back there after that disaster! I had a stroll along it a bit later and it was lovely, as you can see in the photos.

Retail Therapy

The website suggests a mini-market on site, but we didn’t find one. Perhaps it’s like Tracy Island whereby part of the complex opens up to reveal a shop, but if that’s the case we unfortunately didn’t manage to find the secret launch button on this occasion.

Mini-market mysteriously appearing from within a local mountain

However there are a few small shops less than a five-minute walk from site, which sell inflatables, beach clothing / equipment, food, drink etc, including the rather tasty Hell!

Hell. On Earth.

The nearest proper supermarket is a few minutes down the road in a taxi or probably a 30 minute walk.

Entertainment

We really enjoyed the entertainment, both during the day around the pool and on stage in the evenings. As with all HVs the evening started off with some Peppa Pig on the big screen, followed by 30 minutes of The Widgets. After that it was Live & Loud which is a bit like a Saturday morning game show with dancing and questions and games for children etc. There is a red team and a yellow team and they ‘compete’ each evening to be victorious. We enjoyed it and thought our entertainment team of Robyn, Johno, Cree, Georgia, Stephen and Polly were excellent. Singing, dancing, fitness-instructing, acting, presenting, furry-animal-operating legends every one!

Our friends, The Widgets. Accompanied by Georgia, Stephen and definitely not Robyn

 

Georgia, Stephen, Johno & Robyn waving goodbye to the last 330ml bottle of Sprite

 

After Live & Loud things varied each night. A couple of nights we had local Montenegrin acts performing, but other nights had talent shows, an 80s show and other bits and bobs. It’s probably best described as a mix of musical theatre, Britain’s Got Talent, Saturday morning kids’ TV and Top Of The Pops and does a cracking job of keeping the whole family entertained.

Kids’ Club

Joshua visited Kids’ Club a few times during the week. Sessions were all 1hr30m long apart from the parties which were 3hrs. Normal sessions are part of the all inclusive but the parties are extra. There was a cracking variety of sessions for each age group and you can pick and choose what you / they fancy through the First Choice app and just turn up at the start of the sessions you want to take part in. Safety and security was top-notch with signing children in and out and all staff are qualified UK childcare folks so we felt very confident. Joshua loved it and it gave us a bit of stress-free time to sit by the pool.

The staff at Kids’ Club were all excellent and really made each child feel welcome, remembering their names when they saw them across the complex and really sounding excited to see each child when they went in for each session.

There was also the Swim Academy and the Football Academy, both of which were paid for facilities run by fully qualified staff and really popular.

The football took place on the lovely newly built Astroturf pitch and the swimming in the main pool in a cordoned off area. Beth, the swim coach worked her magic every day we were there and lots of children were making real progress. She was also the kind of person that smiled and said hello to everyone she walked past throughout the whole week which I think makes all the difference on a family holiday.

Nearby Attractions

There were a few excursions bookable through the reps but we didn’t go on any of them. If Joshua was a bit older we definitely would have done but he’s just turned 4 and has a tendency to get bored on long journeys so we didn’t want to put him through another long bus trip after the lengthy transfers!

There was a wine tasting tour on offer and a boat trip and a general sightseeing tour on offer to Skadar Lake and Kotor, along with a trip to Budva water park so there’s plenty to do if you fancied a trip out.

All we personally did was took a taxi into Ulcinj Old Town, which is about ten minutes drive down the road. Some lovely views on the walk down the cobbled pathways to the small beach and some nice restaurants tucked around every corner so it’s well worth a trip out.

Flight Home

The airport at Golubovci is functional. On the plus side it has planes that fly to the UK, a shop, a cafe and a couple of toilet cubicles.

It reminded me of something sweary and made up that I read last year…

However, it was clean and tidy and we weren’t there for long as the transfer bus was delayed!

Overall Impressions

We loved the holiday as a whole. The hotel complex itself was a work in progress and will no doubt look better and better as the weeks go by, but even when we were there it was a really nice place to stay.

The food was normal all-inclusive fare – nothing extra special but certainly by no means awful either, apart from the somewhat lacking kids’ selection. The drinks need some work as I think people expect to have some half-decent soft drinks in exchange for the £1000s they’ve forked out for the privilege.

It was disappointing that the hotel opened without really being complete, with terrace rooms / playground / mini-market / outdoor gym / grass not being there but this is quickly improving. Based on some people’s experience if you were being witty and slightly harsh you could say:

‘TUI – forgetting to cross the T, running out of time to dot the I and dumping you in the middle’

The pools were lovely aside from the disappointing kids’ pool and the beach is stunning (if you can see it through the sand in your eyes).

For me I would say the hotel will look better this time next year but it will also get busier and busier once the next phase of the accommodation is completed. Some of the attraction this year was that it didn’t feel too crowded, so it’ll be interesting to see if this changes next year – and whether the restaurant staff can keep up with the extra demand!

Given the excellent Kids’ Club and the pretty naff children’s pool it’s probably best suited to families with children from age 3 to 10. If Joshua had been too young for the Kids’ Club we would have struggled to keep him entertained I think unless we paid for numerous sessions in the crèche.

We love the Holiday Village format and have already booked for HV Ibiza next year so although HV Montenegro isn’t perfect it certainly hasn’t put us off and we did genuinely have a great time. Hopefully some of the Kids’ Club and entertainment reps will be at Ibiza next year…

If you’re expecting perfection you’re probably not going to find it at HV Montenegro but if you’re up for a good time in a good hotel, surrounded by beautiful scenery and with excellent staff I would definitely recommend it.

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