A vacation spot out of season always has a very special magic! – Max Von Sydow
It all started 5 years ago. And since then we kept going. Why? Tradition. Because it became a tradition to spend New Year’s Eve at the beach on the Black Sea, at our same spot. The first year was a choice, a wonderful choice to try the sea in the winter, the next years being out of habit or because we could not decide until it was too late (you will see this is a recurring theme when it comes to us). Of course, these last 5 years at the same place made us feel like it’s our Holiday vacation home, other tourists being our guests at the party.
Where was our vacation house? At the Iaki Hotel, in Mamaia, Romania, spot on the Black Sea. We liked the hotel from the first year, although we did have complaints every year, which were either resolved in one way or another, or we tried to get over them.
The hotel is beautiful, luxurious, deserving of its 4*, although it has room for improvement, maybe because we have been there so many times and we know it’s nooks and crannies, the good and the bad. Each year we purchased the Holiday All-Inclusive Package so that we can enjoy all the hotel has to offer.
What’s most attractive at this hotel during the Holidays it’s its schedule. Every year we were there for 5 nights, but neither was the same as the other. Every evening has a theme: Romanian, Mexican, Hawaiian, Moroccan, Masked Ball, Gatsby style, and so many others. The staff is nice, we even became friends with some of the staffers, but as a whole nowhere is the kindness or service of outside resorts when you’re accommodated at their hotel.
An important part of this vacation is the spa. Iaki is renowned for its spa services. The first couple of years, the “All-Inclusive” package included the spa costs at a discount, so we tried them all: four hands massage, underwater water-jet massage, bamboo massage, volcanic hot stones massage, reflexotherapy, facials, body scrubs, and numerous other professional facial treatments. Does that sound good? It is!
From the third year forward spa services stopped being included in the package, so we purchased the ones we liked most separately. An important thing to mention is that spa reservations need to be made much in advance, we’d say 2 weeks to be sure because it can get crazy busy.
The hotel also has a hair salon, but we cannot comment on service quality since never in those 5 years were we able to benefit from it because we could not get an appointment even 3 weeks in advance! Turns out they also offer services to outsiders (non-hotel clients). On a side note, we did not think that was in any way OK since they use the salon in selling their packages. If you promote that as a service, then you should probably make it available to the people you’re pitching it to. In our humble opinion.
With all this, if you’re not a massage lover (like Maria), you can choose to relax and spend your day at the inside pool, hot or wet sauna, at the jacuzzi next to the pool, or why not, at the sizable gym available.
You will say: spa during the day, parties in the evenings, but the beach when? Not quite so. The truth is you start your stay with a party, the next day you relax at the spa and the pools and recuperate for the next party and so on, for 5 nights… But of course we went for walks after lunch every year, but in every year (no exceptions) we froze our as*es off and regretted leaving the hotel. Don’t get us wrong, the beach and the sea are both beautiful, and you will want to take pics, have a glass of champagne on the beach because only then you will have the chance to see it devoid of people, in all its splendor, but it’s hellish cold. The breeze, the wind, and the scarce sun diminish the enjoyment in the experience. That has obviously been our experience, there are people out there who don’t seem to mind the cold, so to each its own.
Speaking of champagne, we tried it. No, not the champagne, the experience. We happily, and determinedly, went for a walk on the beach with a bottle of champagne, glasses, and a spring in our step. We even imagined ourselves like in the movies, standing on the beach, with the sand grazing our feet, sipping from a glass of champagne, in honor of an awesome vacation and a wonderful new year. But it did not happen. The real story involved a few people frosted on a beach, the intensity of the waves, a bag with champagne and glasses that was passed from one person to the other because our hands would freeze, and a circle back to the hotel after 15 minutes of walking. We love the sea, the walk, the breeze, but we preferred the warmth of the hotel.
The food. The warmth of the hotel and the food. Otherwise delicious and varied depending on the evening. Except the New Year’s evening, breakfast and lunches are buffet style with plenty of delicious options, but that does not mean you cannot order if you want to. We were in love with mussels in wine and tomato sauce with toast, so we ordered that every day. For breakfast and lunch, you have the usuals: vegetables, fruits, salads, chicken, seafood, different meats, soups, and cheeses. As for dinner, the food varies with the theme for that particular evening, as described above.
The food is always accompanied by music and cheer. The evenings would start with a live concert or a dance show, after which they were continued with a DJ. Good music, good food, awesome parties. Although it can become tiresome, if you have the disposition, every night can turn into a great party. There were nights where we danced like crazy until the morning, all barefoot and shaggy hair, but there were also nights when we sat comfortably at the table, enjoying the food and drinks, looking at the show and admiring outfits.
The New Year’s night is full of surprises, nice and not so nice. As we said before, after 5 years of spending our winter vacation here, we can also be critical. The nice surprises were the location – like the Casino Hall, which is the most intimate and luxurious of them all, or the Ballroom Hall, large and with enough space for the dance ring, the bands that have performed over the year, dance shows, magic shows, traditional music, customary carolers of the area and the extraordinary fireworks show at 12am. The not so nice surprises are related to the quality of the music itself. Especially last time, one of the bands they had was not to our liking. The music was unbefitting to the public and the occasion, and old.
The night ends late with a raffle. We all get a numbered ticket at the beginning of the evening. At the end, 4 tickets are extracted. The prizes consist of Holiday packages with wine and traditional cozonac cake, couples massages, an “All-Inclusive” Valentine’s Day package at Iaki, or a soccer/football ball autographed by famous soccer player Gica Hagi, the owner of the hotel.
But then if you don’t like the music, you return to the table and sip from a glass of champagne or whatever your drink of choice is… and start paying attention to the people around you.
Rather, at what they’re wearing. Speaking of which, we feel the need to comment on this particular topic because in one of our first years, not knowing exactly what we were getting into, we were not at all ready.
Before packing for your winter vacay at Iaki, we highly recommend you study their schedule, which we did not. So, you know, we had the Romanian theme, the Latino theme, and others where we did not dress properly for. Obviously, there’s no tragedy in that, we were not the only ones who didn’t, but it’s more fun when you’re going with the theme and you have your outfits prepped before hand. You also get rid of the dreaded “what should I wear” question. And maybe you also get a prize for best outfit.
What you need to know when vacationing or considering vacationing at Iaki:
- Consult their site to see their Holiday offers, prices, and gratuities.
- If you want to get your hair done at the salon, you should make an appointment as soon as possible. Same should be done for spa appointments.
- Take your hair dryer with you, you’ll thank us.
- If you plan to go out for walks, dress very well!
- Be equipped with whatever you might need, there aren’t really any close shops at walking distance.
- There are parties for kids every evening, in different halls within the hotels.
- Enjoy every day, you’ll miss it!
*Cover photo from easterneuropeanexperience.com.
Questions, comments or concerns? Leave us a note below or contact us, we’d love to hear from you!