To give a little bit of background before writing this review, my wife and I were travelling with our 3 year old daughter and unknown to us at the time of booking a couple that my wife and I know in passing also booked the same Hofesh trip, although neither pair knew the other was going until much closer to the departure date when a discussion on a Facebook group occurred.
The review listed below, both positive and negative aspects of it are a cumulative list of issues that were experienced. Initially, such was the number of problems I resorted to listing the problems chronologically to be able to tell which day a particular thing was an issue, but given that the trip has now concluded, I will be speaking in general terms about the issues that we feel we need to raise unless that particular thing was on a specific day only.
As the organisers of the trip, Hofesh were of course our first port of call (and specifically our ‘Under Persons in charge for English [speaking] clients who after a few days of pointing out issues just stopped replying to us or was rude) for any issues although there were some issues that were not directly under their control and to which the hotel must be culpable.
One of these was the fact that the air conditioning system of the Hotel was set for warm air (as the majority of the clientele were visiting from warm countries and so the poor weather was cold for them), however coming from the UK where the temperature is considerably cooler, the reduction in temperature for us was not noticeable and so the very well insulated bedrooms that the Hotel Oasis has were still very stuffy as far as we were concerned. It should be noted that sound carried between the bathrooms. The system seems to be hotel wide so you either have the option of hot everywhere (or off) or cooling everywhere (or off). When I initially asked about the temperature in the room I was told that the system was 'still' on heat as it was 'only April'. Further investigation found that the hotel was in fact closed for the season and that Hofesh have taken over the hotel before it opens for the season. A suggestion to open the balcony window to let air in were utilized during the day by necessity, but at night time not as both my wife and daughter have got colds from doing that in the past elsewhere and that was not something I was prepared to accept and that is before the fact that our 3 year old might with the door open gone out onto the balcony. So we had broken sleep because of the heat in the room overnight for the majority of the trip. That in turn led to some days where one or more of us were tired. I subsequently asked both the hotel and Hofesh about the possibility of getting a fan in the room as a substitute measure and was told by both that no fans existed so couldn’t have one. We ended up not getting back a T-Shirt and toy that were dropped over the balcony.
Things not as advertised
The Thursday arrival at extra cost included a barbeque which was meant to be a hometz one, but no bread and this was very disappointing and was despite being outside with everything being served on plastics). Mention was made of the hotel being secure 24/24 yet there was no discernible security that I could see and I appreciate and concede that they might have been doing their job very well.
The biggest thing as far as we were concerned with a view to actually getting what we paid for is the fact that the website listing this program makes special and specific mention of a 'special program for English speakers'. Having now returned, I can safely say that this is a lie. There was nothing that was specifically for English speakers with even the 'American Evening' consisting of a French-Language Comedian (ended up being on a different night) and when I queried this I was told that the evening had started and that 10 songs had been sung in English. We had counted 4 English language songs and 2 were Queen songs, so in fact British. This, along with the juggler/acrobats act (which didn’t need to be specifically in English, was the only attempt at anything in English and I did not feel it satisfied the 'special program' aspect of the program. Given that entertainment is important as during this program we are largely hotel-bound, to find that there was only this was distressing. Indeed, we decided to come on this program instead of others because they made a big point of there being this special program for English speakers. There were also many examples of poorly translated English language text with seemingly the brochure having been translated from French to English and implying that more was in English than was actually planned. I don’t expect English to be perfect for non native speakers, but to have a comedian on 'American Evening' who then only speaks French seemed as if their English speaking clientele was being ignored..
The kids club (our daughter would have gone into the mini-club being 3 years of age) was difficult to get into for us for a variety of reasons. Having arrived on Good Friday and with Shabbat and the beginning of Passover fast approaching, we didn't deem the mini-club a priority at that particular time. When we tried to enter our daughter into the mini-club the next day we were told we couldn't as a form needed filling in and of course there is no writing on the Sabbath or Yom Tov, which knocked out Sunday as well. We came back on Monday to try and enrol our daughter into the club to find that no one spoke English and no one would get anyone who did to give us the form. We tried again on the Wednesday before deciding not to bother anymore. This was especially disappointing as a viable and usable children’s club had been one of the descriptors used to decide which program to go on. To find that we now wouldn't be making use of it in any way shape or form felt that we'd lost out on something we were paying for. There was also a situation where because our daughter hadn't been in the mini-club all week, we hadn't been told that despite what the paperwork said about exchanging the play money the children were all given and that this needed to be done at the end of the stay, when we did so, we were told that this should have been done during the week each day between certain times despite the booklet we were given clearly stating that it should be done at the end of the trip. The same advert also wasn't checked for context as the English version was presumably meant to say “Spoil your children” but instead said “Your spoilt children”. As said elsewhere I don't expect the translations to be perfect, but there were more than enough English speakers at various points to be able to sort that one.
Whilst I would accept that the advertisement of hot and cold drinks is vague and gives Hofesh some wiggle room as to what to provide, there was no normal unflavoured tea, only black tea with lemon or mint tea were available. Considering that tea with [real] lemon is a thing, but not flavoured tea (so that milk can go in) this seemed a big omission.
Another thing not as advertised was the entertainment which aside from ‘Special program for English speakers’, as mentioned above had a specific ‘American Evening’ on the Sunday which we were all looking forward to as the expectation that having had very little up to now, this at least would surely be in English. A comedian was due to be performing this evening as well which we were also looking forward to. In the end the comedian was postponed to another day and some English-language songs were played. When I asked our English-language person, he said that the band had told him that 10 songs had been played in English, I said we’d been present most of the evening and had heard 4 songs in English and two of them were by the band Queen, who are an English/South African Band not American, but that presumably there was more to an American Evening than 4 songs. A shrug of the shoulders greeted me and I later confirmed that this was the entirety of the plans for the American evening
“We offer 3 sumptuous meals per day”, as you will see elsewhere, there were many occasions where this was not the case. The “splendid Mimouna” was some doughnuts, some plates of pasta and freshly made flat bread with some entertainment. It was on the whole very disappointing.
Breaches of Jewish law
Despite being told and being in the advertising that this program was both no kitniyot and no gebrochts there were a few occasions where Kitniyot products were found to be being used. There was a dark chocolate spread available in the foyer and at breakfast that was not kitniyot however there was also a milk chocolate spread as well that stated it was Kitniyot.
Whilst the male toilets on the ground floor (near the synagogues) had the urinals covered over with black bin bags to stop them being used, weirdly the official handwashing spot which was signposted on the 1st floor (the restaurant) used the bathrooms behind the food hall, but the urinals there were not covered. Hofesh declined to comment.
Review by Irini6 months ago
Dear Brothers Yaacov and nessim from hofesh holidays ,
We had B”H an amazing pessach together and we feel like sharing our experience . We would like to thank you personally for having in mind not only the great food and comfort ability but till the smallest detail from 24/7 coffee and cake , to toothbrushes and toothpaste, to naigel wasser and chocolates and all kinds of thoughtful surprises including a very pleasant warm welcome and a separate Ashkenazi and separate sefardi minyanim to make sure we all felt at home .
We still feel the warm shiyurim on a daily basis that we received from the sfaredi Rabbi and the Ashkenazi Rabbi inspired us with warm shiyurim and chazan Baal tfile thru for all services .
Definitely recommended to anyone who is looking for a top quality holiday filled warmth kindness and large in all aspects !
Thank you achim Yaacov and nessim
We hope to see you soon again
Wishing you all the best!
Kol tuv ,
Hershi & Miri Steinmetz
Review by Designform Vermeyen6 months ago
What a beautiful away from home vacation this was!
Thank u for the wonderful hospitality,service, harmony, abondance of food, full program for kids and for adults, always caring for our needs!
We had our seders in English and we were given all that we need to make sure it feels just like home!
You felt that they are very family oriented and their warmth! To have such a beautiful pessah away from home and basically nothing for us to do such as cleaning or worrying about anything other then enjoy a nice hotel nice company and yummy food!
Thank u to the organizations thats not an easy job, making sure were all taking care of!
Bravo! Thank u see u again next pessah! BH
Review by Alwyne6 months ago
Let me preface by saying that the following is meant as an honest feedback from our personal experience this past year (2019) at Hofesh's Pesach Program in Lloret De Mar. But before I begin, it should be made 100% crystal clear that despite any of my critiques, Yaakov and Nissim, the owners of Hofesh, give their heart and soul to their program working tirelessly for no less than 6 months and literally 24 hours daily right before and during Pesach itself. This effort is borne out by the ruach and many satisfied guests who seem to return form year to year to this family's generally well-runned Pesach program.
This Pesach Program is excellent for the French speaking and Sfardic community, mostly from France and North Africa and Israel. It needs some adjustments, though, regarding Anglos or Ashkanazic Jews inasmuch as the majority of the programming is geared to the French speaking Sfardic community. To be clear, Yaakov and his brother Nissim, have and continue to work very hard to please ALL their guests, including their Ashkanazi contingent and as I understand it they are continually working hard to tweak their program to better cater to their Ashkanazi guests so as to to better address Ashkanzi minhagim and traditional Pesach foods to make their program somewhat more varied.
Personally, I need to publicly express my Hakarat HaTov to Yaakov who went out of his way to accomodate my extended family by providing us a private dining room for the first two days of Chag which experience was outstanding. We felt like kings and queens during Seder and the service during those first two days (four meals) was incredible (so much so that I felt compelled to give a generous tip to our designated waiters for their unusual service during those first two days of Yom Tov). Yaakov also worked very hard to give us superior rooms and suites which again was most appreciated.
One significant issue I had with the Hofesh Program was that they served a Chocolate Spread product that contained Kitniyos (the ingredients had soy in it) with no sign or warning. I also found some bugs on their Romaine Lettuce. Yaakov assured me that this was an error that it slipped through the cracks and would never happen again. I do give a lot of credit to Rabbi Betzalel Grossnass who politely and respectfully pointed out these issues as well making sure that our Ashkanazi chevra was aware of these two issues and deal with it appropriately and respectfully. Once again, from my understanding of all Pesach Programs, and to be clear in a program of this size, if these were the only mistakes made, they are doing pretty darn well. These kinds of issues come up in many, if not all the Pesach Programs out there (as much as people would like to believe otherwise). If you want perfection, then stay home for Pesach and even then dare I say that private Baal Habatim make their own errors from time to time - no one is perfect.
A major asset to the English-speaking program was Hofesh's choice for the Ashkanazic Rav who as mentioned above was Rabbi Betzalel Grossnass from London (Golders Green) who is young, outgoing, very friendly, accessable, and most importantly a real Talmid Chacham who spoke beautifully and thoughtfully throughout Yom Tov and Shabbos. His shiurim were inspiring and well prepared and I was truly happy to have made his acquaintance - I hope to stay in touch with him in the future. He was an excellent choice by Yaakov and Nissim demonstrating their sensitivity to their Ashkanazi guest's desire for strong spiritual guidance and leadership.
All the daily /nightly entertainment and programs other than Rav Grossnass' shiurim were in French and seemed designed to cater to Sefardic culture and minhagim - there was virtually nothing directed towards the smaller Ashkanazic group and or English speaking guests. Again, this was brought to Yaakov's attention and I believe he will do better with that issue in years to come. The food was primarily Sfardic/Moroocon in style as stated above with some, but, not enough, variety on the entrees - veal seems to be a favorite of this program and is a wonderful and expensive cut of meat, but it may have been an idea to mix up the meat dishes with some other types and varieties of meats and the manner in which they were prepared. Traditional Ashkanazi food like gefilta fish, kugel, latkes, Chremzlach, Chicken Soup, potato starch Matza balls (kneydlach), roast chicken, etc. are not typical fare in this Program, but Yaakov assured me that he was going to, once again, tweak his menu in future years to adopt some more Ashkanzi style foods to accommodate his multi-cultured clientele, particularly the Ashkanazim.
To Hofesh's credit their pastry chef was absolutely excellent. The deserts were all out of this world, presented beautifully, creatively and were different at each and every meal (It would have been great if the main chef would have followed the pastry chef's example in terms of variety and presentation, not to say that the food was ever bad or inedible, it was perfectly acceptable, just lacking in some degree of creativity and variety).
The rooms were fine and comfortable with nice size balconies (and recently renovated as per Yaakov) in this 3-4 star hotel in the town of Lloret De Mar in Costa Brava Spain, but not directly facing the beach - it is located a bit inside town but only a short walk to the stunning beaches and cliffs overlooking the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea.The crowd was approximately 60% French/Sfardic, 25% Israeli Sfardicand 15% misc. Ashkanzim French, Israeli and American. A relatively small number of the crowd were not shomer shabbos/chag. You could see some guests using there iphones on shabbos and chag without regard for the predominantly religious crowd. We have come to learn that this phenomenon is not uncommon in European programs and these Jews are referred to as "Pesach Yiddin" who feel compelled to celebrate and pay for an Orthodox Pesach program but who personally are not very observant (One might call these folks "Traditional Sefardic Jews"). This is not to say that the vast majority of the guests were indeed frum and properly attired - they certainly were!
The food (mostly Sfardic in style) was ok in general although it was not presented in such gourmet style as the Hofesh video would suggest. While there was generally enough food to go around, there was, as explained above, a lack of creativity and variety in what was served throughout the 8 days of Chag. The salads and meat dishes were very similar throughout Yom Tov which took away from the culinary experience that I was anticipating, but again, to be fair the food was perfectly good, flavorful and plentiful. The Dining Room is a bit crowded and noisy, which as I am told is typical of a lot of Pesach programs with large numbers of guests - I don't know if it is any better elsewhere. If you can afford a private room for meals it is in my humble opinion well worth the upgrade, however there are many people who specifically enjoy the interaction with many other guests and eating and meeting with Jews from all over the World (which no doubt provides its own kind of charm and warmth). I will say that the Ruach exhibited in the Dining Room was in high gear with some families breaking out into spontaneous singing and dancing (a sight to behold). One complaint I did have was that there was smoking (including cigars) in public areas like the dinning room and lobby which was inconsiderate to other guests like my family who have a hard time in such environment. This was mentioned to our hosts and although there are no smoking signs throughout the Hotel, Yaakov did say that he would be working much harder next year to enforce that important no-smoking policy. Please note that there is no Tea Room per se'. Outside of meals there is virtually no place to get food other than some tea or coffee ONLY and that is self service. Hofesh will serve some cake at around 5:00PM each afternoon but if you are not there quickly enough there is usually nothing left. They can work to improve that situation and Yaakov has taken that critique seriously and intends to remedy that for next year.
In summation, Hofesh's price point is certainly one of the lowest, if not the lowest, of all Pesach Programs that we researched (and certainly in Europe), so if expense is an issue you certainly want to choose this program where you are getting incredible value for your money. I know that was a serious consideration for me because I was paying for my large family of nine. But I would suggest though that Yaakov & Nissim increase their program by a couple of dollars/euros to address some of the matters I raised above which if dealt with properly would likely make their program heads above all the rest.
At the end of the day it is easy to criticize when you are looking from the outside in, so while I have tried to be candid in this review, please understand that running these kinds of large Pesach programs is exceedingly difficult, confronted with all kinds of issues and significant logistical challenges. I take my hat off to Yakov and Nisim who by and large have met these challenges and constantly are working to ever accommodate/please their guests and continually striving to improve their program. They are honest and hard-working and do care about their Program and guests. If they take to heart and address the points I have raised in this review, they will be one of the top value and nicest programs out there for a fraction of what many other programs charge and deliver far less.
Yaakov & Nissim - Kol HaKavod VaChazak Baruch!!
Review by Harrimac7 months ago
The program is not as expected.
Review by Nez9 months ago
Thank you for the hospitality over Pesach. The atmosphere was magical and all aspects of the hospitality had clearly been nurtured with affection and attention to detail. The waiters were in high spirits on motzei shabbos and I feel they understood that they had helped be apart of yom tov simcha.
Review by Veit2 years ago
There is only one word to describe Pessah 2017 with Hofesh FANTASTIC!!!
The food was a culinary sensation! The pastries was like a wedding!
The location great!
Can't wait till next year.
Nate and Phyllis
Review by Amangeldy Gurmin2 years ago
Pesach was great, beautiful tefilot, non stop food and lot of exciting events, touring and best of all a lot of achdut. The kids BH had so much fun, they were crying when it was time to leave. Great staff very attentive and caring. Delicious and fresh food from start to end. Excellent ruach. The program was well very well organized and thought out. I highly recommend! Kol haKavod to the Assayagh family.
Review by Ojel2 years ago
We had a marvelous time with Hofesh in Lloret del Mar.The whole staff with Nissim and Yaacov heading them, were helpfull and did nights as days to fulfill any request or need of the guests.
כל הכבוד - היה פשוט יוצא מן הכלל.
Family Halperin - Modi'in, Israel.
Review by Chrysalis Tenace2 years ago
Great service! Special thanks to Yaacob, we had an amazing time!
Hofesh - Pessah 2019 / Passover 2019 / Pesach 2019 is rated 4.0 based on
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