Monday, 17 August 2009

Butlins New Ocean Hotel with Spa

We spent the early part of last week being entertained, both figuratively, and actually, at Butlins' new Ocean Hotel. This being at the launch of their brand new £20 million investment, situated within their Bognor Regis resort site.

Butlins was not completely alien to me, as although I had never stopped at one of their facilities before, I used to get ferried to one of their sites as a rainy day activity when my felt tip pens had lost their allure in my parents' static caravan.

However I was happy to accept an invitation to the launch of this brand new spa hotel, and sample the latest delights that they have to offer.

The hotel is a genuine quality spa establishment, with excellent facilities. I have been on, and have certainly paid for, a few short breaks to hotels of this type before, but they have all been in much more sedate settings, and I would say generally child unfriendly. So, this hotel, certainly is, and offers, something different.

In fact I spent a lot of time pondering who the target audience for this facility would be, but with one million pounds worth of bookings to satisfy in the remainder of 2009, I would suggest that Butlins already have a great idea.

It is a bold move by Butlins, and one they hope will pay dividends in the form of attracting new customers, to the 1.5 million guests they currently entertain each year.

This new 200 room hotel boasts spectacular sea, or South Down views from every floor, and that is totally true if you choose to omit the generous sized car park to the rear, and the busy island and roads to the front.

The reception area, and thus check-in, is situated on the first floor, as is the restaurant, bar and spa, and they recommend that you book your party in before bringing your luggage from the car. Probably a good idea to save lumping stuff up a flight of stairs and back again. I would not be surprised if there eventually was a way to check-in without going to the reception, to save on the minor irritation of walking upstairs, or waiting for a lift, to get your room key.

Dancing in the lifts, and being caught when the doors open is also mandatory, in the disco themed vertical motion enablers. I did ask our tour guide if the music and lighting played all the time, like during the-morning-after-the-night-before, and was assured that it will, which I am sure will be loathed and loved in equal measure.

We both enjoyed the rooms, well we actually had a friend with us, which worked out rather well, and meant that we got full use of the room, no, not like that, but it meant the boys used the brilliant den area, and the stinky girl got free reign in the adult quarters.

I had never seen a family room that had a properly separate area for the children to sleep in, one with funky lighting and decoration, even a TV and DVD player on the wall.

Max spent most of his time hiding under the bed, between, and inside, the 'my stuff' trays provided for your youngster's stuff.

The d├ęcor is very modern, and won't be to everyone's taste, and I would be concerned how these rooms may look in a season or two's time, when they have been subject to children climbing all over them, and whacking balloons off the walls, for example.

Granite worktops in the bathroom, quality fittings and interesting lighting, however as someone who has designed and built his own home in the last couple of years, I think they have potentially missed a trick by not squeezing in a separate shower cubicle.

Was not a problem for us, as we were all using the bathroom at different times, but if you were limited to time, and perhaps had two older children, I could see the single bath and shower combo being an irritation.

That typed, this is a spa hotel, with Disco Showers no less, so perhaps your personal cleaning need not be confined to your hotel room.

The tour of the spa revealed some excellent facilities, and some interesting treatments. There was a lady stood on a girl in one of the rooms, however my enquiry to the cost of spectating got the short-shift, and I was surprised they did not send me to the snow cave to cool down.

But men and children are certainly not ignored by the spa, and as well as just being able to relax in the multitude of facilities, there are treatments specifically designed for those groups. A marshmallow facial for teenagers, and a deep massage for the men, coupled with watching your favourite sport too.

Eating in this hotel was fun as well, and the food was excellent. Lots of choice in the Kaleidoscope restaurant - especially for the adults - and devised in a way that you can enjoy eating in a rush, or at a saunter. The bar and terrace were very nice areas, and I would suggest if you visited the hotel with other families you could have a nice sit on the terrace while watching your children play outside.

Entertainment in the resort was vast, but generally not to my taste, queuing for an hour for a seat to hear some child sing someone else's songs reasonably is not my idea of fun (it is a good job I knew someone else daft enough to do that for us). However I did enjoy giggling at Chico, and appreciate my requirements will change as my son gets older.

As well as a nice stroll for an ice cream on the beach, we had a blast in their Splash Waterworld. This again something I had not previously done with my son, although we do go swimming most weeks, the most adventure we find at our local pool is jumping in off the side, or me pushing him off a float, so this was a very welcome first.

This is definitely a place I would recommend, for short spa breaks with a twist most definitely, though I would say a week would be too long for us.

Prices start from £366 for a four night mid-week off-peak break for a family of four, including breakfast.