As we mentioned last week, Butlins has just opened a new £20 million hotel and spa at its Bognor Regis resort, and they invited the Mummy Bloggers along to share the fun. Kudos to And 1 More Means Four, who seems to have been the first blogger to review her stay. So now, fresh from having sampled the delights of the hotel, here's my review of the facilities for anyone who's considering a stay.
I must confess that I practically had to drag my children out of this hotel by the ankles when it was time to leave - and that was only the lift. Yes, you heard right, the lift.
Forget all the fancy design elements and luxurious spa, the star of the show as far as my family was concerned was the disco lift. When you arrive and check in at the hotel, you may assume that you will only use the elevator to get to your room. But no - this is no ordinary lift, it's a Butlins lift. So as soon as the doors close, the lights start to flash, the music's pumping, and before you know it you're in a disco inferno. We were only on the 4th floor, so it was a bit of a mini disco, but we boogied all the way. You know you're in a different kind of world when even the lift is having a party, and you're invited.
What I really liked about this hotel are the little details - not just that there are tea and coffee facilities in the room, but that the supplies are all Fair Trade. The colour change mood lighting in the bathroom means you can have a muted disco bath if you want to, and turn it into your own little mini spa. There's ample storage space for all your family's bits and bobs, and even soft glowing lights under the children's beds, enabling the hotel to offer a guarantee that there are definitely no monsters under the bed.
Many of the Ocean Hotel's 200 bedrooms feature balconies where you can enjoy a view of the sea or the South Downs. Yes you will also have a view of the not inconsiderable car park, but this is really no big deal.
Great for families is the fact that the children's room is a self contained den (see picture below) with its own flatscreen TV, so all the family has their own space. If you've ever stayed in a hotel with your family, and had that experience of having to sit in silence at 8pm, this is an infinitely superior solution.
Another highlight of our stay was the Stars of the X Factor live show. The DJ made a huge deal out of not saying who was performing, aiming to build up the crowd into a crescendo of anticipation. Clearly no-one had pointed out that there was an enormous poster of teenage X Factor moppet Eoghan Quigg just to the right of the stage. Still, we enjoyed the well produced show with Have a Lovely Time and Single Parent Dad, leading the applause when Chico bounded on stage. So it's Chico time, is it? I think you'll find it's blogging time, on this particular table.
The ever helpful Butlins staff are a real credit to the organisation - I want some of whatever they're on. I've stayed at family holiday resorts before, and it can be a bit offputting being surrounded by people screeching at their kids all day. But at Butlins the atmosphere was upbeat and light with both staff and guests simply having a good time.
I spent a morning sampling the hotel's spa, which once again had its own Butlins twist on things. No tranquil candles and whale music here. Instead, the disco lift had a rival in the disco shower. Alongside the (disco) sauna and steam rooms, there was also a snow cave, which was simply a room full of snow.
Imagine being in your own freezer when it's due a defrost, but without the random packet of fishfingers glued to the back. I did find the cave slightly claustrophobic, but also slightly hypnotic, so I kept going back in, 3 times in all. Never did find that packet of fishfingers though.
I also lounged in the outdoor hot tub, made extra relaxing by the fact that my children were Elsewhere. The spa costs £19 for two hours of relaxation and is well worth it. You can also book a range of extra treatments, including a marshmallow facial and a special treatment for pregnant women which includes a "tummypod" which plays music to your unborn baby. Just because you've not been born yet, is no reason to miss out on this particular party.
The standard of the food was pretty good where ever we ate, both in the hotel and the park. The place as a whole was very clean, though I think someone needs to keep an eye out for discarded nappies and plasters in the pool changing rooms. But this was only noticeable because the place as a whole is very spick and span.
There were a range of acitvities for every age on offer, making the resort a good choice if you're holidaying with a family group. Everyone from babies to grannies will find something to do, though I would keep Grandad off the climbing wall until he's secured his dentures. And be sure to pack your dancing trousers - you'll need them.
You can find out more or book the Ocean Hotel via the Butlins website. Prices start at £366 for a four night mid-week break for a family of four.