Tales from the Disco Lift; Butlins Ocean Hotel Review

14th August 2009 9 Comments

So I am the ultimate ligger! Can I have a prize? Not only did I get to go on the BMB Butlins trip, (just realised with a bit of mistyping that could be called the Butlin Strip). Not that anything untoward occurred I’ll have you know. I’m trying to say that I wasn’t even obliged to write anything up, as I wasn’t actually the person invited. I just attached myself to Daddacool and yes I realise I did that 5 years ago, I’m just really organised. The image left contains some other well known mummy bloggers, their faces are covered to protect their identity, or perhaps because they were watching something.

Saddled with a horrid cold, which I did my best to stifle in case anyone caught anything, or spoilt their holiday worrying about Swine Flu, I struggled along for the champagne reception and the complimentary trip to the Spa. It was tough. But what did I really think of it all?
Well, I have to admit that I’m the terrible snobbish sort of person that would never, ever in a million years even dream of setting foot within 5 miles of a Butlins resort. This was for my own personal safety. I was worried I might get squashed by all the fat, candyfloss with chips eating, union jack clad tourists all of them keen to have their picture taken with Shane Richie or someone similar. Despite this, on this occasion, I thought to myself that I should keep an open mind. T’is better to experience than not to experience. The only cost to me was time, what was there to lose?
Driving down to Bognor I was a bit nervous, then we got lost and I thought Daddacool might lose his cool. I resigned myself to the inevitable. Imagine my surprise when we drove up to find a really plush swanky hotel. We were directed over towards the amusements and I looked around, there wasn’t a union jack in sight. People looked respectable. Perhaps this wouldn’t be quite so bad after all.
The champagne reception was very nice, I haven’t had Bucks Fizz since before Fifi was born. I went down nicely and it was great to see some friendly familiar mummy blogger faces. Then Toddler boy and Daddacool encountered the swimming fish projection. That shut them up, hooray! I wish they had these everywhere. Can we have one at home? Pleeeaseeee!
Checking into the hotel was smooth, if a bit colourful, then we entered the lift. The hotel has Disco Lifts. Now, this is real evidence for me being a total misery. Daddacool and Toddler boy stood in the blue light and danced away to the cheesy seventies disco music. I felt faintly irritated by it. Then I considered how I would feel being stuck in the dark with a stranger dancing away. For me, the horror of that thought is frankly frightening. Lifts like this need to have a warning on them.
The rooms are plush and lovely and cannot be faulted. We loved the balcony where you could spy on people. Soundproofing must be good, as no-one complained about the racket we made. Or perhaps Joner is just very polite. The bed was comfortable and Toddler boy was safely away in his own room which had special under bed lighting. I have to admit, I like to read my book in bed and I did find this quite hard to do. I could either have BRIGHT light or a rotating series of lights which just gave me a headache. They looked cool though. These lights were also available in the bathroom, so you could have a bath where the water sort of changed colour. This was brilliant to look at, but when I relaxed in the nice big bath bath I was rudely un-relaxed every minute or so; nice dim light, arghhh bright light, relax, nice dim light- arghh bright light…..
The food was good and plentiful. The restaurant and bar look cool and trendy. It was up to the standard of some of the other posh hotels I have been to and the sort of place you might like to get dressed up for. The breakfast was certainly filling. I had to restrain Daddacool in case he exploded and Fifi did her best to eat 4 slices of toast and cereals. There was a lovely Balearic feel to it all. I felt like I really was on holiday, a rare thing for the UK and for me, generally.
Time without the kids is a rare commodity and spurred on by Daddacool and Antonia, I had the pleasure of going to the spa. Unfortunately, it was literally alone, that was a shock to the system in itself. Being alone was a bit boring, as even the most miserable of us like to have someone to chat to. I think the main issue I had with the spa, was that it really was a bit too bright for me. It’s nice to relax and the colours are not really congenial for that. But Butlins isn’t really about being calm, that so the atmosphere fitted the ethos well. Personally, I didn’t think that the brightness translated well in the changing rooms which had the air of Council swimming pool about them. Overall, the spa was quite small, I’m not sure how it will fare when there are lots of people there.
Oh, how I liked the irony of sitting in the hot tub outside in Bognor Regis. I also enjoyed the jet pool, if I sat at the right angle I could increase my chest size by about 4 cup sizes! The snow cave in the spa was frankly too cold for the likes of me and I stood there like a lemon wondering if I was meant to sit down on the floor. No, it wasn’t deep enough to make a snow angel. What I needed was a good swim, but there wasn’t a pool! I have to admit I’m still a fan of the Spa at The Grove, just as well its just down the road from me.
Butlins really comes into its own with the amusements and entertainments on offer. We had to sit through Bob the Builder, Pingu’s exercise class and the opening ceremony with all the characters. Toddler Boy loved it. He wants more. We spent two whole mornings watching him go round and round on the Noddy cars, the airplanes and the ladybird rides. He also met Dino, Billy Bear and Fireman Sam. He had the time of his life, we were happy because he was enjoying it. The Redcoats really were like they are supposed to be, bright and cheery. I was in awe, I realise now why I work in a museum where I can wallow in my own misery. I would be the Victor Meldrew of Redcoats. Perhaps that could be my unique selling point at interview.
Seriously though, I didn’t realise that Butlins did all of that stuff for kids and I can see why people go. You really do have the time of your life, if you are little. Now with the opening of this hotel, it is possible for adults to have a pretty good time too. Imagine; you can sit in the spa and dine at a nice restaurant safe in the knowledge that the kids are entertained and amused by others in a supremely safe manner. So much so, that you are fairly guaranteed of a good nights sleep. Now that’s what I call a holiday. I am imagining working there being a bit like Hotel Babylon, full of gossip and intrigue. I am a convert and yes we will be back. It was a few days full of memories I won’t forget!
Claire Walsh

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  • Maternal Tales 14th August 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Was exactly the same as you about Butlins – didn't quite know what to expect – but really enjoyed myself. Sounds like you did too. Never easy with children and I'm currently still struggling with exhaustion after over-doing for two days – so I hope it didn't set you cold back. Thanks for the loan of the sun cream. Couldn't believe it got so hot! Here's to doing it all

  • Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? 14th August 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Looks like you had a good time. <br><br>I&#39;m surprised that Joner didn&#39;t keep you guys awake …<br><br>Loving toddler boys dancing over at Daddacool.

  • A Modern Mother 14th August 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time, sorry I missed it! I have to admit to being a little afraid of Butlins, glad to hear not to worry.

  • clareybabble 15th August 2009 at 9:54 am

    Great review. Is it expensive to go if you&#39;re a paying customer??

  • Chic Mama 16th August 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Really interesting …I have to admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to holidays/hotels too so the thought of butlins- never!!! <br>But I have to admit after reading everyones experiences I looked on their website!!! Yes, I did! I wonder how long I could put up with the bright lights and constant joviality for though? <br>Worth a try.

  • Metropolitan Mum 17th August 2009 at 9:25 am

    Eeek. Bright lights in a spa? But why, oh why? To examine potential orange skin? Compare wrinkle depths? This sounds just wrong. I like spas with dimmed lights, maybe even a bit of an amber filtre over the light bulb, to give you that sun kissed look. Who cares if it is an illusion – spas are supposed to make you feel good about yourself.<br>But the lift sounds like great fun!

  • Hot Cross Mum 18th August 2009 at 9:38 am

    Certainly sounds like they&#39;ve come a long way from Des O&#39;Connor and Lovely Ladies contests!

  • Insomniac Mummy 18th August 2009 at 9:54 am

    We holidayed at Butlins when I was a kid and although we had great fun at the kids clubs etc the chalets were damp and certainly left something to be desired.<br><br>Also, me and my brother were &#39;kidnapped&#39; by the &#39;lost children&#39; staff because they didn&#39;t believe we knew where our chalet was. By the time we persuaded them to take us back to it for some reason WE got in trouble

  • Linda 2nd September 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Claire, I&#39;ve just done a mammoth round-up of Butlins post and have quoted you and linked to you here:<br><br>http://www.havealovelytime.com/2009/09/butlins-bognor-regis-launch-of-ocean-hotel-bloggers-round-up.html<br><br>I'm only just back from various travels (nothing exotic) and we had a great time at Butlins, we went to West Wittering one of the days – fab.

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