It was about 10 years ago when I visited the Romanian sea side and since I was in college back then, I didn’t really care about the quality of services, the views and everything else that matters for a grown-up with a family to take care of. The general consensus is that a vacation in Romania won’t turn into a dream holiday, that customer service is poor, that beaches are dirty, the people don’t know how to behave and the hotels are old and outdated. This was actually the reason why I haven’t visited the Romanian seaside for so many years.
But in 2014, mostly forced by the birth of Baby Romanian, who we decided would be to difficult to be taken in an foreign country, we decided to test the Romanian waters and food and hotels. Read on for my impressions about our vacation in Romania.
After a lot of research, we have decided to choose Hotel Dana in Venus, Mangalia in what we hoped would be a peaceful area, away from the clubbing and the noise and the parties. A four star hotel, a bit far from the beach (there’s a 10 minutes walk to the beach from the hotel), with a nice garden and fresh air, this seemed like the best choice for us. And fortunately it was: the fact that it was a bit secluded meant that we got our silence and fortunately both the hotel and the customer service were a pleasant surprise for us.
But since looks give you the first impression, here are a few photos of Hotel Dana in Venus, Romania (please note that most of the photos in this article were taken with my cell phone because our SD card was instantly filled and I didn’t bring my laptop with me because I wanted a vacation away from technology and work… so the quality of the images isn’t the best):
The rooms were pretty large and nice, even though they were highly unimpressive. The lack of color, the lack of some better quality furniture… these all add up, but overall we were very satisfied with the rooms because they were in a top notch condition and always kept spotless clean.
The hotel also comes with a really nice pool – not huge, but it was never crowded. There’s also a very small children’s pool nearby which was always overcrowded. Actually, it is so small that 10 kids inside make it look overcrowded. But I really loved the view and all the trees and the fact that you could easily find an easy way to hide away from the sun. Plus, the bar was just steps away with all the cold drinks you could’ve wanted!
The Hotel Dana restaurant was really small and friendly, but again never crowded. I don’t think that it was visited by other people than those who had a room in the hotel and clearly not all of the people there visited it. It was a bit expensive by Romanian standards and Venus had a pretty large share of cheap alternatives which most of the tourists preferred. However, service was extremely fast (there was 1 waiter for every 4 tables, but they were rarely full) and the waiters themselves were extremely well trained, polite and friendly. They always had a little gift for Baby Romanian and in the end, they were all best friends, playing around behind the bar and laughing.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with Hotel Dana and I am generally happy to see that Romania is turning into a solid destination for those willing to visit. Every bit of the hotel was extremely clean and you would always see a couple of ladies cleaning around, the personnel were well trained, were polite and always smiling, were helpful and really nice. It was a huge and pleasant surprise for me, especially noticing that everybody in Venus tried to smile and offer a good service. I was really expecting something much worse and it was my most pleasant surprise!
Venus itself is a small family destination built during the Communist era and unfortunately it hasn’t improved much since. Even our hotel – which was our dictator, Ceausescu’s vacation villa – holds the communist smell, even though it has been upgraded and improved. Unfortunately, not the same can be said about most of the other hotels: walking through Venus, you could see abandoned hotels, grass that was not cut, trees that were not taken care of, roads that are in a major need of a repair and overall feel that you’re visiting a small city in the late 1990s.
And that is pretty sad, because the beach itself is extremely beautiful with fine sand and no rocks, and the sea is even better: you could easily walk 50 meters into the sea and still touch the bottom! Everything around was a bit dirty because many tourists still leave cans of beer and napkins and cigarette bottoms instead of throwing them into the trash cans (which are anyway few around the beach), but it was better than what I was expecting.
For a family vacation, for somebody that’s looking for a silent area, Venus remains a good option and one that you can visit without spending too much money. There’s not too much to do in the area except for soaking the sun and being lazy, but that was exactly what we wanted. If you want noise and younger people and way more fun, Mamaia is the flagship destination in Romania, but we weren’t curious to visit it.
How much did our vacation cost
Hotel Dana is a relatively expensive hotel: our 10 nights cost us $765 with breakfast included. We were pretty late with the reservations and if we had decided earlier – say January or February – we could’ve paid 20 or 30 percent less.
Eating out at the Hotel’s restaurant usually cost us about $25 (tip included). That’s a meal for two, with drinks, without dessert. Eating out in a different location would cost as low as $16, but you were not served by a waiter – instead, you have to choose your own food and drinks, similar to a canteen.
Overall, our food expenses were the biggest (choosing an All Inclusive option would’ve saved us A LOT of cash), and even though I didn’t keep an exact track of our spendings, I do know that we did spend an extra $800 (out of which about $130 were transportation costs)
So the total costs of our Romanian Vacation in Venus at Hotel Dana: $1,565 for 10 nights, with us being on a “buy anything that we want” concept. Which was not necessarily good, because I gained almost 5 pounds during our stay there, ha!