Royal Island is the leading property of the Villa family of resorts - the others being Sun, Fun, Paradise and Holiday.
It is built along the same straight, solid lines but uses more luxurious materials - lots of dark wood and rich textiles - and offers an even higher quality of facilities. It's a pretty island inside but the beach and snorkelling are disappointing for a top class resort.
Two Presidential Suites take over the sunset and sunrise tips of the island, while the other 148 identical rooms stretch around the perimeter between them (of these 10 are interconnecting family rooms). Though they are close to each other, decent foliage and a solid build mean neighbours are unheard and usually unseen. These are not large rooms but they are expensively furnished. Dark wooden furniture with carved decoration, wood panelled walls, heavy marble table tops and thick covers and drapes in gold and maroons give them a distinctly aristocratic look and feel.
The large, two-bedroomed Presidential Suites are more of the same, and some – an expensive confection of 'chandelier luxury' – well suited to the Russian and Arab markets. The spacious veranda and swimming pool are certainly pleasant and lead out through a gap in the enclosing tree line to what amounts to a private beach and lagoon. The sunrise suite enjoys the best beach on the island but serious erosion has destroyed the beach on the sunset side (a sea wall is planned to deal with this).
A good 20 rooms on this northwest corner (numbers 211 to 235) are similarly without a beach and are consequently the very last to be given out. The rest of the island enjoys some degree of beach, although it is often rather narrow and, with tree cover, it is not always easy to position the sun lounger to catch the rays. Being at least partly man-made (that is, pumped from the lagoon) the sand is also not of the finest.
The quality of the build, furnishings and facilities are the real strong points of this resort. The free-form swimming pool with its bar and decking is an attractive focal point for much of the day, surrounded on one side by the beach and on the other side by the main bar and lounge. A separate Fun Pub has been built for those crazy karaoke and disco nights, leaving this bar undisturbed for long social evenings.
Racquet sports fans will be delighted with this place. The pair of floodlit tennis courts, the squash court and the indoor badminton court are all first class facilities. The gym, too, can't be bettered. And the watersports centre has all the kit, from canoe to wakeboard and kitesurfing.
The best facility of all, though, is the spa. Built by a team of Indonesian craftsmen, with lots of bamboo, rope and thatch, it is a delightful retreat within the retreat. Green plants and flowers abound, water trickles and tinkles off walls and fountains. The only way to improve the atmosphere is to take one of the massages – then sit back with a cup of green tea. The six pavilions each have a pair of treatment tables, which couples seem to thoroughly enjoy. A few other rooms are devoted to ayurveda, with dedicated Indian practitioners. With a long menu of treatments, whether you wish to deal with a long-term condition or just enjoy a romantic massage for two, this is a professional and charming set-up.
The à la carte restaurant enjoys a pleasant position by the water's edge, on the far side of the island from the main buildings. Specialising in barbecues and lobster meals, it's a potentially romantic getaway for the occasional evening meal. The food in the main restaurant is the usual mix of buffets, and uninspired for this class of resort.
Diving in the region is mostly about thilas, the channels being too wide for the strong currents that attract the sharks and pelagics. Schooling fish are in abundance and there are a couple of Manta points, offering an excellent chance of sightings from May through to November. The dive school is well set up for the beginner and the average diver.
Sadly, much of the house reef was reconstructed around the time the resort was built. It is not used for diving and is not in good shape for snorkelling. Both the resort and water sports centre do snorkelling trips to nearby reefs.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville