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Domes of Elounda and its link to the history of British Airways

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In October we headed down to Domes of Elounda in Crete for a week. This hotel has been covered on HfP – most recently in this ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review – and I don’t want to go over old ground by reviewing it again. We paid the standard rate so I have no obligation to the hotel.

To summarise quickly, Domes of Elounda is – as readers have reported in the past – one of the highest quality family hotels in Europe.

Bay of Elounda from our private pool at Domes

Note the ‘in Europe’ caveat, of course, as there isn’t a lot of competition for that prize. Whilst it can’t compare with the glitzy resorts of Asia or the Middle East, Domes is only a short haul flight away. You also get the pleasure of walking or taking a speedboat down the coast to visit the nearby towns and villages.

You can book Domes of Elounda on Marriott Bonvoy points and, despite steep points price rises, remains decent value in peak season, especially as you get 5 nights for the points of 4.

Bay of Elounda from the resort grounds

Where does British Airways comes into this?!

Domes overlooks the Bay of Elounda. A five minute speedboat ride from the hotel is the derelict island of Spinalonga, occupied for centuries but used most recently as a leper colony. To my great surprise, one of the old stores:

The old shopping street on Spinalonga

….. has been turned into a small British Airways exhibition.

Here is the story. Note that the images are photos of photos which accounts for the quality.

The bay of Elounda was, at one point, used as a supply base for Imperial Airways (one of the predecessors of British Airways) flying boats.

Imperial Airways flying boat in Elounda Bay

During the 1930’s, Imperial Airways had a base ship MV Imperia moored in the bay:

MV Imperia

In August 1938, as an example, there were eight weekly flights from the UK to Egypt which landed in the bay to refuel. From Egypt, the flying boats would continue to Calcutta and then Sydney.

London to Sydney was a 10 day trip at a time when the equivalent boat journey would take 30 days.

Imperial Airways flying boat in Elounda Bay

The exhibition includes a card from the Lambert & Butlers ‘Imperial Air Routes’ cigarette card series. (Young readers should ask their grandparents about cigarette cards ….) It shows a flying boat called Scipio passing over the Acropolis. The notes on the back say:

“After having taken fuel aboard at Athens, the Scipio starts on the crossing of the Mediterranean, passing down the islands on the east coast of Greece via Crete, where the Imperial Airways motor yacht Imperia is stationed. She is used as a wireless station and refuelling point.”

On 22nd August 1936, an Imperial Airways flying boat crashed in Elounda Bay:

There were fatalities but no details are given.

The exhibition has a lot more photographs in it, although there is little more of the story behind Elounda. We are not told how long Imperial Airways operated from there, when it began or why and when it ended.

If you visit Domes of Elounda, take a trip over to Spinalonga and see for yourself. Some resort packages include, as ours did, a free speedboat trip and private guided tour.

The resort website is here if you want to know more.

Get extra bonuses when booking

If you are thinking of visiting Domes of Elounda, our hotel booking specialist Emyr Thomas can get you extra benefits as he is a member of Marriott’s Luminous programme for luxury travel agents.

All bookings via Emyr come with:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
  • Early check-in / late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary wi-fi

You would also receive Marriott Bonvoy points as usual.  You can contact Emyr via this form.


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Comments (17)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dominic Barrington says:

    I must have had too much festive cheer and be seeing double – the ‘two engine’ flying boat looks to me as if it has four engines!

  • Michael C says:

    I always think Domes of Elounda sounds like some new dodgy Sky sci-fi series ;o))

  • Nick_C says:

    Love these historic links.

    In Kenya a few years ago I stayed at the Lake Naivasha Country Club, which was where flying boat passengers would stay overnight. Full of character. I wonder how many of the original staging post hotels remain?

  • Matthew says:

    Hope you had a fab time Rob. Not done the private villas yet with HL benefits and dine around. We love it there though and hope to go again in 2021. What was the weather like in Oct?

    Also, free breakfast here is given with every booking. If you’re not dine around like you were then you can negotiate half board upgrade for a nominal fee whether booked on points or cash room. Prob different options in Covid times.

    • Rob says:

      Lounge had very little food in it and you could not serve yourself (and no staff were around).

      It is struggling with Covid, as are all hotels which were buffet driven. They do not have the capacity to feed everyone via waiter service. Imagine how hard it is to go from a breakfast buffet to 200 cooked to order breakfasts per day.

      They should scrap half/full board to encourage people to leave the premises. Plaka is 15 mins walk at most.

      • Matthew says:

        Good point. We like Plaka too. Nice little village, a couple of fab restaurants and bars and by far the easiest and cheapest way to get to Spinalonga.

        Tempted to try the new curio collection hotel when open in 2021.

  • Paul Mallinder says:

    I’m a regular visitor to Elounda and fascinated by the story of the Imperial Flying Boats. I can recommend an excellent book about Imperial Airways in Elounda during the 1930’s, written by Dave Davis ( who also hosts walking tours of Elounda in the Summer). It’s available in the bookshop in Elounda town but you might also find it on the internet.

  • RussellH says:

    Surely they could have stretched to a full set of Imperial Airways cigarette cards?
    And how many other readers played cigarette cards in the playground at primary?

  • Geoff says:

    Interesting times – even the big ones, like the Empire flying boat in picture 1, could only take 24 pax – but in some style.

    ‘Scipio’ was one of only 3 ‘Kent’ flying boats produced and was the one which crashed, in picture 7, with the loss of 2 pax. And, for the purist, the Valetta in pic 6 is a float plane rather than a flying boat – it has floats rather than a boat hull/fuselage. 😉

    Domes is on the radar so that would be an interesting visit – thanks for the heads up.

  • Voldemort says:

    You were there the same week as us Rob, I saw you and your family go past our villa on the buggy and one day sat around the pool. Seems like you had a nicer room though! Interestingly we booked via BAH as a car and hotel package and still earnt the Marriott points.

    • Voldemort says:

      Incidentally though the staff did a reasonable job with the al la carte service. Breakfast was a bit manic at times.. certainly one of the, if not the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at in Europe. I’d go back, but not a great deal of things to see or do near the hotel. Interested to try the other Domes hotels or the new Curio Collection coming soon up the coast.

      • Rob says:

        Sinead went to Zeen, hopefully she will get around to writing it up.

      • Chelseafi says:

        We did Elounda June 19, looks like we stayed in same room type as Rob, went as family with our adult boys, we all absolutely loved the luxury and service. Stayed at Miramare HL this Oct just as couple, loved it, thought they did brilliantly with Covid restrictions but some weren’t so fortunate with reservations, others were given extra ‘Dine out evenings’ which was a poor swap or reservations very early or very late for dinner and breakfast.

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