The day you have children is the day your holiday requirements change, if not forever, then at least for a very very long time.
Infinity pools, swim-up bars and room service are all wonderful in your hedonistic days of lazy coupledom but as soon as the little ones turn up then the rules have changed. If they’re not having a great time you’re not having a great time and that means families up and down the country plan their holidays with one question in mind: what is in it for the children?
Mark Warner Holidays realised this a long time ago and have successfully carved out a niche for holidays which not only offer a boatload of activities for the entire family (pun intended) but a vast range of day-care options for children of most ages. From crèches to kids clubs, teen groups to baby-sitting; if you used everything on offer it’s possible you might never actually see your children.
They operate a number of resorts across the Mediterranean in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Egypt. We visited San Agostino, their centre in the Greek Peloponnese (click here for map) which sits right on top of a large private beach, a 15 minute coach trip from Kalamata airport.
Accommodation is both in a low rise hotel and a series of family “suites” spread throughout the grounds in regimented rows which are spotlessly clean, if a little basic.
For this family that didn’t matter. The air conditioning worked wonderfully and we had two spacious inter-connecting family rooms. But if you’re used to room service and marble wet rooms, then you’re not going to find them here.
Some of the reviews I read before setting off likened San Agostino to the Truman Show. There is an element of truth in that label. The complex is surrounded by farm land and sea, so there is no quaint local village waiting to be explored or local bar to while away an evening.
That doesn’t matter; however, because what you will find are an incredible range of activities.
The waterfront team will set you up on anything from a catamaran to a canoe. At one point I counted almost 50 craft messing about in the waves. There are water-skiing lessons in the morning and dingy races every afternoon. RYA courses run weekly and both my little ones passed their level 1 and 2 sailing courses with instruction from the hunky beach crew.
Moving up the beach, and away from the sand, the “Activities” team run daily sessions of Pilates, yoga, beach volleyball and aerobics. Most afternoons budding scuba divers can “try-dive” in one of the two pools and, if that wasn’t enough, there is even a resort wide triathlon every Friday.
For the mini Andy Murrays there are ten tennis courses where competitions, social play and lessons are on offer pretty much every day.
Whilst Mr NappyValleyNet revelled in all this activity I was quite happy to spend a lot of my time by the pool. Although I did feel a twinge of guilt that I wasn’t “doing” something in every spare minute there were enough of us on the sun loungers to keep those twinges pretty small. And with so much going on it was easy to fall into a daily rhythm: mornings spent by the pool whilst the children were in kids’ clubs and afternoons taken up with “family time”, mainly sailing and swimming. As the sun started to sink, and the temperature dropped accordingly, we’d head over to the courts for an early evening game of tennis.
For any self-contained resort of phpaide.com this size feeding everyone is a major logistical issue and San Agostino solves the problem with a buffet service. Waiters bring drinks to your table, and you’re never rushed to leave, but it can feel a little like you’re eating in a canteen. It’s a gorgeous open-sided canteen with views of the beach but you’re still queuing for your food and filling your own plate.
If you fancy a change, and bearing in mind you’re eating breakfast and dinner in the same room every day this is pretty likely, for a ten euro premium you can try their smaller a la carte restaurant on a breezy sun terrace, also overlooking the beach.
If Mark Warner viewed their responsibilities towards their guests as over once dinner was cleared away and we were safely ensconced in one of their two bars then we’d have had a great holiday, but what turned great into fantastic was what happened next.
Every evening the staff put on entertainment. Really, really good entertainment.
Now if this has your eyes rolling with English reserve whilst you conjure visions of Hi-de-Hi with sunburn then please put those pre-conceptions to one side. One of the upsides of a relatively small self-contained resort is we quickly got to know the other holiday makers pretty well pretty quickly. As a result the family orientated evening activities were a real highlight of the holiday. From talent shows to a staff “revue” plus quizzes and table tennis tournaments, there was a very strong community feel across the whole centre which the staff absolutely threw themselves into.
We would finish most evenings in the bar, with our fellow holiday makers, talking about the latest sailing regatta or tennis tournament whilst the children watched a show, took part in a show or played volley ball on the beach with their friends waaaay past their bed times. All the while we knew they were safe, having a lot of fun and being looked after by great staff.
And that for me is what makes these Mark Warner holidays so special. The accommodation isn’t five stars and you won’t get silver service, but what you do get are a never-ending stream of great facilities and wonderful staff who are all prepared to go the extra mile.
If you have children and you’re looking for a holiday where they’ll be busy, happy and at the end of every day ready for bed, then I don’t think you can get much better.
We’ll certainly be coming back.
How we got there
We booked with Travel Designers based in SW4
Nick, who is the owner, was fantastic at explaining all of the options that were available across the kids clubs, sailing lessons, room permutations etc etc. It doesn’t cost any more to go through Travel Designers and it made the booking process that much easier.
You can also book online at Mark Warner Greece Holidays