A few weeks ago we stayed at The Ocean Hotel in the Butlin's resort in Bognor Regis. This four night mid-week break was courtesy of Butlin's as a result of our role as Ambassadors for them this year, where we were invited to review the hotel and resort's facilities. There is so much to write about that I can't do it all in one post, and so I will review several aspects; The Ocean Hotel, the entertainment, and the restaurants.
We'd stayed in The Ocean Hotel before and so I knew what to expect upon arrival. There is a car park attached to the hotel with easy access to the ground floor of the hotel, an additional car park is situated on the other side of the hotel and to the left. As we arrived nice and early on the Monday, we were able to park in the main hotel car park. There are two lifts inside the hotel opposite the entrance which run throughout the top of the hotel, Reception is on the first floor along with the Kaleidoscope restaurant and the Ocean Spa; the accommodation is on the second floor to fifth floor.
Check in was easy because of the time that we arrived (1pm). The Reception staff were friendly and helpful, something that goes for every Butlin's staff member we encountered throughout our entire stay. We went up to the room to settle in, while Mr. TBaM was sent down for our luggage.
There are four styles of rooms in The Ocean Hotel; Compass, Atlantis, Mariner and Neptune rooms. We stayed in a Neptune room which has a twin room and king-size bed, like the Atlantis and Mariner, therefore sleeping four people (the Compass has no twin room, ideal for couples sharing). The Atlantis room has a sea-view, the Mariner overlooks the town and South Downs. The main difference between these two rooms and the type we were in, is that the Neptune has a sofabed (creating sleeping space for up to five people) and it overlooks the resort with sea views.
The twin room was on the left as we went in, followed by the bathroom and then the main room which has a king-size bed, sofabed and a chair. On the left of the bed is a tall wardrobe with an ironing board and iron in it, along with approximately ten hangers. The unit on the right has shelves and contains a safe which is large enough to take a laptop! There is a desk unit with a kettle and various hot drinks sachets, and a hairdryer and small fridge underneath, perfect for whole milk and a bottle of wine. Opposite the bed is a wall-mounted television with a small chest of drawers underneath.
We've stayed in other family friendly hotels before and have always had The Boy sleeping on a single bed in the corner of the room. I like the way that Butlin's has designed the rooms in The Ocean Hotel as there is a separate twin-bedded sleeping area for children, it doesn't have a door on it which wasn't a problem for us (the Wave and Shoreline both have bunk beds in the children's bedrooms, The Wave has a closing door) as it made it easier to check on The Boy. The fact that the children's bedroom is separate does mean you can have a bit more privacy and watch television in the evenings without disturbing exhausted children.
In the children's sleeping area is a wall-mounted television, a shallow shelf (wide enough for a cuddly toy), a 'stuff box' under each bed with space for their suitcases, and a shelf above the head of each bed. They were able to provide us with a safety rail for The Boy with no extra cost. The Boy adored his bedroom, and when he woke up in the morning (later than he ever has before), Mr. TBaM and he would snuggle down for some cuddles while watching a little CBeebies magic. Unfortunately there is no storage for clothes in the children's bedroom, so we ended up putting his luggage in our wardrobe and drawers which was already minimal.
The bathroom is in between the children's room and the main room. This is the only thing that niggled me about the layout of the room; I would have preferred the bathroom to come first as it puts more distance between the children's room and the front door. However that's a personal thing, and we could have chosen the Wave which does have that layout. As the front door is a heavy fire door with the standard hotel room safety lock on it, it would have to be a pretty strong child who could escape without being noticed. The Ocean Hotel is also designed for teenagers, while The Shoreline is for younger children with added safety features, and The Wave is for 5-11 years olds.
Daily housekeeping is one of the features of the hotel, and the staff are excellent and efficient. A new towel sculpture was left everyday, which amused The Boy immensely, and beds were always freshly made. Often his cuddly toys could be found tucked into his bed, having a sneaky forty winks. The cleanliness throughout the stay was excellent; I know from past experiences that if I had felt something was insufficient that housekeeping would have been sent up pronto. We actually returned to our room early one day and disturbed the housekeeper, we waited on the balcony while she finished and less than five minutes later a supervisor had knocked at the door to check the standard.
Other points to note:
- really thick floor to ceiling curtains which are virtually black out and excellent double-glazed doors mean a very sound night's sleep.
- During the 'Winter' months (although it was technically Spring when we were there) the air-con is set to heating; it's very warm indeed even on the lowest setting. We nipped down to Reception and they changed it to air-con for us with no quibble. It is so quiet and regular that we slept with it on and weren't disturbed once (Premier Inn, take note!)
Breakfast was included in our stay (with the 'hotel dining' package) and was available at the Kaleidoscope restaurant, on the first floor of the hotel. Each of the hotels has a different restaurant assigned for breakfasts and that's the only place you can eat it, unlike the dinner package. If you stay in The Ocean then you eat breakfast in the Kaleidoscope, in The Shoreline you eat in the South Coast restaurant, and for The Wave the restaurant is The Deck which is not within the hotel.
There is a guide in the rooms indicating the best times to eat breakfast in the restaurant based around the busy times. We did try and avoid the peak time on the first morning, but even at the 8.30-9.30 slot the wait was only usually five minutes. Once seated at a table in the busy restaurant, I was impressed that butters and preserves were already on the table which is laid with plenty of crockery, cutlery and the thickest disposable napkins I've ever seen; perfect for mucky three year old children! Waiters and waitresses attend the table within a couple of minutes to pour coffee and ask if pancakes or toast are required. I heartily recommend trying the pancakes! They also readily accommodated the request for a few slices of plain bread to make The Boy his sausage sandwich; nothing was too much bother for them.
Aside from this initial greeting, breakfast is entirely self-service. And there's a plethora of options, enough to accommodate all tastes:
- whole fruit (aside from bananas which I found strange. No bananas in a family resort? Bananas are the staple fruit of all children);
- breakfast meats and cheeses;
- semi-skimmed milk (no full-fat is available which again surprised me) and juices;
- fruit pots (grapefruit, prunes, melon, mango, pineapple, plums, pears);
- Müller yoghurts;
- baby food jars and a microwave for warming;
- pain au chocolat, croissants and muffins;
- cooked breakfast including scrambled eggs, fried eggs, sauteed potatoes, sausages, bacon, black pudding, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. Items were frequently replenished (vegetarian sausages were available upon request);
- an omlette station – prepared fresh with a variety of fillings. (As a vegetarian I had reservations about having one as the same pan seemed to be used for all omlettes, and I couldn't risk being ill from cross-contamination from the meat.)
Breakfast everyday was a real joy to eat, and we spent a decent amount of time enjoying our start to the day without feeling rushed or unaccommodated. It is definitely one of the bonuses from staying in the hotels as opposed to the self-catering apartments. We also found that we only needed a light snack at lunchtime as we were still full from the breakfast. Good quality items, well cooked and well planned for.
The 'Hotel Dining' package that we had allowed for us to eat in one of five different restaurants around the resort. More on that in another post!
Overall, was I happy with our stay?
- YES! We had a brilliant stay in the hotel, the facilities are excellent, the room is spotless, staff are friendly, and we all had the best sleep we'd had for months! We all enjoyed every moment of our holiday, even though it was freezing on the coastline and snowed a few times, it is difficult not be infected with the cheerfulness of Butlin's.
Would I pay £809 (accommodation and dining package) of my own money to stay in Butlin's?
- YES! There is an Ambassador's weekend soon which we have a discount for. I had decided before our stay that we wouldn't be going as it would be too much too soon after. The Boy cried as we left, both Mr. TBaM and I glanced at the hotel and sighed. Once in the car, I phoned up the Butlin's team and booked us in to stay again. Yes it's another discounted stay, but the Christmas breaks I've been looking up aren't.
I received a holiday in Butlin's as a member of the Butlin's Ambassadors programme. This included accommodation, dining packages, leisure passes and a character lunch. My opinion is honest and unbiased, as always.