Tuesday, 27 October 2015


I've named this article thus after the song I sang at karaoke the last time I was here at Clube Praia da Oura for any length of time. And although I chickened out of doing likewise last night, it seems an apposite title for any article reflecting upon the very major changes which have taken place at CPO at the behest of the new management style introduced by MGM Muthu Hotels.

When I first arrived here at 11.00pm on Saturday night I was quite surprised to see the Piano Bar packed to the rafters, to the point where my family and I couldn't find a seat until the bar began to clear shortly afterwards. Even when I visited the resort in July last year, at the height of the holiday season, it wasn't like this.

Similarly, the pool area during the day is to all intents and purposes fully subscribed. Not everybody is prepared to brave the chilly autumn water, but many do and many more still spend a great deal of their day sprawled out upon the ample sunbeds around the pool. In the evenings the M&M Bar (formerly Amanda's) is invariably full, whether there is a staff show, karaoke or visiting entertainment.

What is happening is that MGM's new all-inclusive option has kicked in with a vengeance. Holidaymakers who pay a set amount for their meals and all they can drink tend, not unreasonably, to make every effort to get their money's worth. The autumn throng at CPO probably makes little impact upon the local economy beyond the walls of the resort, but it has transformed the resort itself into a bustling hive of activity.

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends very much upon whom one happens to be speaking to. Many of the staff whom I have come to know over the years seem suddenly to have moved on, and those with whom I am still in touch generally tell an unhappy story.


This has the effect of rubbing off on long-time regular users who, like myself, feel that part of the CPO experience has traditionally been about the sense of belonging which comes with continuity. It feels good to be greeted by bar staff and entertainers who, not only do I remember, but who remember me. The team MGM has at the moment maintain the excellent standards set by those who have moved to pastures new. But the arrival of so many new faces still leaves me feeling like a newcomer at a resort that I've been using, and using well, for over a decade.

On the other hand the business case for the present approach does appear unanswerable. CPO is a holiday resort, and it is not unreasonable that the management should aspire to fill it with holidaymakers, and to apply whatever strategies are best equipped to achieve that objective. There can be nothing wrong, surely, with having a bar and reception area which is buzzing, a pool which is popular and entertainment which is well supported?

Memories are a wonderful thing, but progress is the life-blood of any successful business venture. And it is not as though the current set-up actually lacks ambience, it is simply not my ambience, at least in the way that I remember it.

If the management is smart it will endeavour to marry its new strategy with an attitude towards long-standing and loyal users of old which is sympathetic. To consciously drive away one's most faithful and dependable clientele is silly. CPO is a big resort, there is room for both - and for a business strategy which incorporates both models with a flexible approach to membership and to service provision.

I will continue to come to CPO, as and when I can afford to do so and work permitting. I'll adapt to the new approach, I'm sure, but if it can adapt to me also, and to others like me, that will be a bonus.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

You Read it Here First!

Back in January I advised that former CPO entertainment supremo Bruno was now plying his trade as lead singer with local rock group DiéB Band, who have been taking the Algarve by storm.

At the time I wrote: "It would be great to see Bruno and his band performing back at the CPO some time - and if the management team are reading this, I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to the day".

Well, you read it here first and last week DiéB Band rocked the CPO with a lively gig at the resort's big open air Ocean Bar at the old bowling green, in front of a huge backdrop which doubles as a giant TV screen (hope you didn't mind me borrowing your fine photo Pedro) which is rumoured to be the biggest in the Algarve.

Sadly I'm not in the wage bracket for impromptu continental junkets, not even to see the DiéB Band, so I wasn't able to be present at this memorable event and therefore cannot give a first-hand report. But hopefully there will be more. Welcome home Bruno!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Infiniti Beach Resort - Almería, Spain

We ended up at the Muthu Group’s Infiniti Beach Resort in Spain as a result of our having been falsely advised that there was no room this week at our preferred venue – Clube Praia da Oura. This frankly disgraceful episode has been related elsewhere, so I’ll not dwell upon it here. It has, at least, provided us with a useful opportunity to gather some information on this other resort.

What struck us at first about the IBR was its sheer smallness. When the driver told us we had arrived at our destination we were surprised, because we were half way along a street with no obvious sign of a holiday resort in evidence. Then we noticed the word “Recepción” inscribed modestly over the door of what appeared to be a house, and a sign bearing the MGM logo upon the opposite wall.

At the reception we were greeted by a friendly chap who gave us a map, and issued us with a key and a swipe card. The key provided access to the site itself and also, we later established, to both swimming pool areas. Infiniti Beach Resort is strictly off limits to all but its own staff and guests. The swipe card gave us access to our apartment, and is also need to enable some of the internal lights to be switched on. As there are two of us and we only had one key and one card this presented some obvious problems, but for a small deposit we were able to acquire a second key and card which resolved these issues.

The apartment is comparable to those at CPO, with the welcome pack arriving an hour or so after us, along with our towels and other sundries. It boasts all the usual mod cons including a tall fridge-freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, cooker, toaster, kettle, microwave, iron and of course flat screen TV.

On site there are two pools, both of them ample and both of which are well-used and popular without becoming crowded. One includes an appealing bar-restaurant at which one can purchase a wide range of food (during certain hours which are not noticeably specified), drinks including cocktails, ice creams and bar snacks. The staff are not English-speaking but are patient and helpful.

Other than the above there is nothing on site to compare with CPO’s extensive programme of activities and entertainment. It is simply not that kind of site, and as such any comparisons with CPO would be unfair. IBR provides a restful, family-friendly, holiday environment. Anything beyond that should be sought outside the site, and there are in effect two places to look – at the beach and in town, both of which are just minutes’ walk away. Restaurants, supermarkets, a bank, bars – some with evening entertainment – it’s all here, just not provided by MGM itself.

As said, comparisons with CPO would be inappropriate. As a holiday destination in its own right IBR has great appeal. Whether I would choose it over CPO is entirely another matter, it is really a question of horses for courses. But I would certainly come back.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Share Your CPO Experience

Do you have any stories or photos to share from your time at CPO or any of its sister resorts? How about any interesting or amusing pics from the resort or about town?

We would love to feature them on this blog. Don't worry if you don't have the technical know-how - we'll do all the necessary cutting and cropping. Just send them to us at cpoblog@hotmail.com and we'll do the rest.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Weekend with MGM in England

Albufeira it isn't, but having Infiniti Exit points to use up before 2015 ends we decided to spend a weekend at Muthu Hotels' solitary resort in the UK, at the perhaps unlikely location of Belstead Brook, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk.

It's not a place we would usually have visited. No personal issues with East Anglia, of course, but a horrible 115-mile drive, half of it around the M25, coupled with its lack of proximity to the sea renders it a slightly inhospitable alternative to the many coastal resorts from which we have to choose due south.

Nevertheless at a little over 10,000 Exit points for a long weekend we decided to go for it, and arrived here at about 6.30 in the evening after a long and windy day pounding the streets at work.

The first impressions were favourable. After parking up we descended the steps to the Reception, where we were assisted by a very pleasant and helpful young man for whom nothing was too much trouble, and who answered our last question with as much patience and enthusiasm as he had the first. We took a look around - at the pool (which was self-evidently popular even at that time on a Friday evening), the spa, the gym and the restaurant and bar facilities. We were offered a table for lunch, which like breakfast was ever so slightly on the expensive side, but declined as we had already eaten, although we promised ourselves we would give it a try on Sunday.

The room is nice - quite spacious, all the necessary facilities, clean and smart. The double bed is at the small end of acceptable, but adequate. A good selection of television channels, and of hot beverages. The pictures on the wall captured my wife's interest.

Down at the bar in the evening, once again one was struck by the polite helpfulness of the staff. By hotel bar standards there was a good range of beers, including the weakish but tasty local brew Adnams Southwold, which were decently priced. We enjoyed a few in comfortable surrounds, along with some tasty hot bar snacks.

In the morning we used the swimming pool, which it seems is also visited upon by the locals as Belstead Brook is a leisure centre as well as a hotel. The water was nice and warm and there were lots of good facilities - sauna, jacuzzi, ample lounge area with comfy chairs, a selection of reading material and a coffee machine. The changing rooms were decent and the showers warm, something which ought to be a given but is not always so at holiday resorts. This was followed by a leisurely walk around the hotel's substantial grounds, and a venture into the pleasant town of Belstead where we found a great local pub and restaurant, the Belstead Arms, which is worthy of a mention in its own right.

The Belstead Brook Muthu Hotel is a great place for a stay, to relax and to chill out. It is difficult to reconcile it with the Clube Praia da Oura, which is my unlikely connection with this resort and indirectly my reason for being here. It is a typical, quality English hotel, having little in common with the sunny poolside apartments and ambience of CPO. But I'm glad of the experience and it is a change as well as a rest.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Infiniti Exit Concerns

This blog exists to publicise and promote the Algarve region in general and the Clube Praia da Oura in Albufeira in particular, for the simple reason that I as author have great affection for the resort, its staff, the people who visit and the ambience that all these elements combine to create.

But as is stated in its “Disclaimer” this blog is not under the ownership or influence in any way of MGM Hotels, Infiniti, RCI, Petchey Leisure or any of the various entities which seem to have a stake in the resort and/or in its marketing as a holiday destination. This humble blog is solely the property of its author and when something gives me cause for concern I feel I have a right and a duty to comment on it. I am nobody’s shill.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had an unpleasant experience which I feel obligated to share, if only for the benefit of others who may be labouring under misapprehensions about their membership.

Having been given a timeshare at the resort back in 2006 I was a regular visitor to CPO, and I always enjoyed my stay at the complex whether I was in the company of my family or, as was often the case, I travelled alone. However the relentless annual increase in maintenance fees under the old regime, coupled with changes in the whole dynamic of European travel, meant that the arrangement became increasingly unviable, to the point where I was paying more than twice as much for my timeshare as a cash customer would have paid for the same service.


Something had to give. It is one thing a timeshare company demanding unrealistic payments with menaces, but at some stage the point is reached at which customers just will not and in some cases cannot pay. Seeing the writing on the wall, the new management offered a new approach via the points scheme. One option was the Exit program involving the payment of a rather substantial sum as a “buy out” from the timeshare contract, with the blow softened by the inclusion of a generous points allocation over a two year period, enabling the customer to travel to CPO and other resorts within the group for a total of several weeks during the remaining period of the contract.

This was the option I took. At a cost of £4,800 I was awarded 80,000 points for each of two years, which enabled to me to travel three times in 2014 with a similar allowance for this year. Last year I used these to good effect, visiting my beloved CPO on three occasions – for 12 nights in February, 9 nights in July and a fleeting 3-night visit in December – on each and every occasion, I should add, as a high-spending customer.

This year however I was in for a shock. When a few weeks ago I attempted to book a July holiday at the resort I was told curtly that there was no availability whatsoever throughout the months of June, July, August or September. Everything was fully booked.


Having promised my daughter a holiday I settled for a week at the Infiniti Beach Resort in Almeria, Spain. I’m sure it’s a very nice resort, however I am something of a “homer” and when I find a place and get to know it I tend to plump for it rather than for the uncertainty of something unfamiliar. No matter, I’m sure we’ll enjoy it.

I did though harbour a nagging feeling, call it a sixth sense, that I wasn’t being told quite the truth. And so I contacted MGM Hotels via the Customer Chat mechanism on the company website and asked whether any availability existed for CPO on my chosen week in July. This was the reply I received:

It is self-evident that MGM, having my money and that of others like me securely in the bank, had decided to reserve the high-season slots for cash customers and to offer the loyal but already committed points customers the off-peak slots which were left over. In other words I have paid nearly £5,000 to be a second-class customer.

For a while I felt so incensed by this that I seriously considered never returning to the resort, as I was reluctant to give my money to a company with such a poor ethic. But CPO is my “home” – I feel welcome when I visit the restaurant, the bars, the Reception area, and the sister resorts. I know many of the waiting staff, the entertainment staff and the visiting acts. This is my holiday home and I’m not going to be driven away by the anonymous faces who manage from afar, but it leaves a bad taste all the same.

Next year, health permitting, I will return to CPO as a cash customer. But I wouldn’t like to be the poor sales rep who comes to my apartment in Spain in July, or at the CPO in October (when I did manage to secure a booking) and tries to sell me an extension of their points scheme!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Learning the Lingo

The CPO, or for that matter the Algarve in general, is probably not the best place to go if the object of the exercise is to properly learn the Portuguese language. Indeed, in the writer's experience some of the locals can actually become irritated by an English-speaking visitor trying to speak Portuguese badly when they themselves can speak English relatively well anyway.

Nevertheless it is surely good manners to make some kind of effort. Indeed some might consider it rude, or at least embarrassing, to return to a place year after year and simply expect the locals to converse with them in their own language rather than the lingo of the land.

As such it is worth learning at least the basics, if only to demonstrate that some kind of attempt is being made. Most people know to say "obrigado" (or "obrigada" if you are female), meaning "thank you". But how many English visitors would even know how to ask the time, or directions to a café, in Portuguese? Or to count to ten? Or say "good morning"?

Fortunately there are a number of excellent free resources available online which can be used to learn and familiarise oneself with key phrases. With a bit of effort these can be picked up within a few weeks, and for those who wish to progress further they provide an excellent foundation for moving on to more advanced learning.

For one of just many examples take a look at this one from the BBC. Or just Google something along the lines of "learn Portuguese" for a choice of many.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

News from Bruno

Friends of Clube Praia da Oura has recently heard from Bruno, former singer, entertainer and all-round good guy at CPO, who has given us some news and info about his present work.

Bruno is currently the front man for the DiéB Band, who have been playing gigs at venues around Albufeira, as well as singing and entertaining in his own right. You can keep up to date with the group's activities by visiting their well-supported Facebook site.

It would be great to see Bruno and his band performing back at the CPO some time - and if the management team are reading this, I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to the day. But in the meantime, I'll leave you with a little DiéB:

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Does Anybody Know This Man?

"I've know this guy since he was this high"
Striking a pose in his fetching new cerise shirt, our intrepid Algarvian superhero demonstrates how he maintains his cool by keeping one hand on the ice bucket whilst doling out canecas and peanuts to the multitude.

The legend that is Miguel has been bartendering to the CPO faithful since time immemorial, forever with a smile. If you see him when next you are at the resort, say "hi" (or "bom dia") from the Friends of CPO and tell him that the Fat Bloke at the Bar will be returning in earnest for laughs and lager before the summer is done.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Big John and Cláudia - Live Music Duo

One of the most popular and long-standing entertainment acts serving CPO and its sister resorts is the musical duo Big John and Cláudia, a.k.a. João Nave e Cláudia Rocha.

Those who have heard John and Cláudia invariably comment on the harmony and the chemistry that they exude as they ease through soothing medleys of Simon and Garfunkel, Eagles and other songs from the genre.

Take a moment to Like their Facebook Page, and maybe listen to a few of the clips from their musical sets that they have posted up.