So exactly how did a middle class family get on at the new Ocean Hotel and Spa at Butlins Bognor Regis? (Butlins asked if A Modern Family would like to review the resort). Read on to find out… and if you don’t want to follow the blow by blow events … skip to the end for the net …
Butlins minus 7 days
Received a nice email with all kinds of tips on how to make the most out of our holiday. I printed out the 20-page colour document and poured over it at coffee. Made a mental note that the girls would like circus school, cheerleading, and possibly netball. The Angelina Ballerina Dance Class looked interesting too. I gave Emily, our 7-year-old, the brochure. She was impressed with the swimming pool and showed it to her sisters. I was pleased to see the non-smoking policy and free wifi, though I did think it a bit strange that they indicated that toilet rolls were included in the hotel room.
Butlins minus 1 day
Printed out driving directions and confirmation number. Decided to take the girls out of school an hour early to try to miss M25 traffic. Hubby will be in Leeds for a meeting and will make his own way by train. Info pack had a whole section on finding the resort — only a five-minute taxi ride from the station.
Butlins Day 1 (Friday)
10.55 All packed.
13.15 We’re off.
15.30 Pulled into the Butlins gate to unanimous cries of “this is awesome!” Variety of cars in carpark, including a few BMW’s.
15.45 Checked in (easy). Booked dinner (advised). Ordered hubby papers (Weekend FT and Times). Staff very friendly and helpful.
16.00 In room. Girls loved the disco lifts (blue lights and loud 70s music). Hotel is very modern and brightly coloured. Lobby has swimming fish projected from the ceiling onto floor and the girls loved chasing them around. Room is really nice (see video). Designer toiletries (Spa Find). Flat screen TV in both sleeping areas. But the best is a sweeping view of the Sea.
16.20 Off to check out the resort. Cleaners everywhere. Antibacterial lotion at entrance.
16.30 Eating mini donuts at fun fair. Tried the Carousel, but girls didn’t make height restrictions (surprised me too). Relieved to find out two can sit in a carriage and one can ride with me on a horse. Bounced on the trampolines a few times.
17.15 Seated for dinner at the Kaleidoscope restaurant. It’s buffet style, and the children’s food includes Annabel Karmel recipes. Girls went for the make-your-own-pizza (see video) and I opted for roast lamb and all the trimmings. The girls made their own sundaes for dessert and proclaimed this was the “best restaurant ever”.
18.15 Got a table in the Skyline Pavilion, mainly to see Hannah Montana (look-alike). Other option was Shaheen from Britain’s Got Talent in the Reds Lounge (yeah, I thought that was cool too). I live with the teen star’s Number One Fan so we would have to see Shaheen another day. Brought colouring for the girls, but they were more interested in Red Coat Sam, who chatted with us for a while. They spent the rest of the time passing him love notes.
19.00 Latino Circus. Was very good except when two women came out roller skating in nighties. Not appropriate family entertainment in my opinion.
20.15 Still waiting for Hannah Montana.
20.30 Hannah Montana. Well, it’s actually Kelly Brazil and she is absolutely fabulous! Girls are singing and dancing and whooping it up. Hubby appears in a suit, safely from Leeds. We both enjoy watching our little ones have the time of their life doing the “Hoe Down, Throw Down” (watch video, you even get a glimpse of Red Coat Sam).
21.15 Back to room. No kid’s channels but girls are happy to watch the news.
22.00 Lights out!
Butlins Day 2 (Saturday)
08.00 Woke up to sun (!) and the sound of seagulls. Turned on the kettle and snuck outside to relax before everyone woke. Nice view of ocean.
09.30 Breakfast at Kaleidoscope restaurant. Wide variety to choose from. Opted for a full cooked breakfast. Very impressed, especially the choice of fresh fruit — watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapefruit. The girls will get their five-a-day here.
10.30 Walked through resort to check out the seafront (five minutes). Gorgeous day! The Bognor Regis coast line is well kept and lined with recently renovated Victorian flats. Lovely. I can’t imagine why George V didn’t like it here.
11.15 Back in resort. Girls tried the Junior Driving School (£1 a go and no height restrictions).
12.00 Put on swim suits and headed back to the beach. Passed Splash Waterworld (swimming pool) and decided to try the next day when it opened at 10 (and before noon when day visitors are allowed). Got deck chairs and buckets (couldn’t see the point of getting spades to dig in rocks). Girls played in the surf. I basked in the sun. Hubby read the papers. Fish and chips for lunch. Closed eyes and pretended I was in the Med.
15.00 Hubby went back to room to rest and I took the girls to the Skyline Pavilion and did all the junior rides — ladybugs, cars, tea cups. Caught the Skyline Circus Show, a fun 30-minutes with the Skyline Gang dressed in bright colours. Rivalled any cBeebies entertainment.
17.00 Back to the room to recoup and then more fun fair before dinner.
18.30 Dinner at Kaleidoscope. Opted for mushroom soup and turkey in a whiskey cream sauce. Lots of options. Almost went for the three bean vegetarian chili and/or the stir-fry. Cheesecake for dessert. Made-to-order food is available for a small surcharge (i.e. £2.50 for crab cakes; grilled flat mushroom with feta and pine nuts £2). Alternatively you can use your dinner voucher in any of the restaurants, (up to £10 per adult and £5 per child), including Papa Johns and the Sun and Moon Pub.
19.30 Headed over to the Skyline Pavilion to see what was on. Reds Lounge marquee read “Circus Hilarious”. We walked in and were transported to the 60s — a sea of couples and families around small tables in the vast lounge-style club. You could slice the layers of history and I could just imagine the Cray brothers in the corner in a smoky fog. But no smoke here (thanks to the “no smoking policy”). No seats either, so we left a guy spinning plates to see what was on at the Skyline venue. Superstar Wrestling. Oh well. The girls had another go at the junior rides and the ginormous climbing frame. Happy as pigs in poop.
21.00 Bath and bed. Girls love the blue lights in the tub.
Butlins Day 3 (Sunday)
08.00 Coffee and free Wi-Fi on our balcony.
09.00 Breakfast at Kaleidoscope.
10.00 Splash Waterworld. A bit run down. Kids loved it.
11.30 Cheerleading school in the Pavilion.
12.15 Lunch at Sun and Moon pub. Hubby had steak and ale pie, I had BBQ ribs and the girls had a variety of kid pub food. Kids played in adjacent playpark while we waited for food (which was average and what I would expect in a chain pub).
13.15 I visited the Spa while hubby took the girls to Angelina Ballerina’s Dance Class. Hot stone massage with Sam for 75 minutes (£60 which is pretty darn good considering what you get). Fabulous. Spa has: snow cave, sauna, steam room. Better than the 5-Star spa near my house. Really.
16.30 Last go at winning prizes at fun fair. Last rides. Packed up and say good bye to Butlins. The girls saw a brochure with Santa and asked if we can go there for Christmas. They clearly had a good time.
Net: So how did the middle class family get on? Not bad, thank you. The new Ocean Hotel is fabulous and lots of fun and the Spa rivals the best in the world. The rest of the resort has some great family entertainment. Skip the swimming pool (there is so much to do this won’t matter).
Cost: £625 for three nights in an Ocean facing “Neptune” room that sleeps five. Includes breakfast, dinner and tons of activities, rides and entertainment.