BUTLINS boast that they have been putting smiles on faces since 1936 - and those smiles are even broader now because Britain’s best known holiday centre has changed with the times.
My wife Heather and I enjoyed the modern accommodation, entertainment facilities and wide choice of food at the Bognor Regis resort so much when we went for a weekend break that we returned for a second visit.
The old fashioned chalets are no more, and we stayed in two imposing hotels, the Shoreline on our first visit and then the Ocean Hotel. Both have been built in the last six years, and there is a third opening soon.
What impressed us most was the helpfulness of the staff. Both those on reception – especially the charming Amy at the Shoreline and Becky at the Ocean – and those in the restaurant demonstrated that the Butlins staff training courses are on the ball.
On one occasion we were the last in the Shoreline restaurant and were politely asked if we had everything we needed, instead of being encouraged to leave. And when we required a table in a hurry at their peak dining hour, a very obliging Karmel came up trumps.
Similarly, when we had a problem with a temperamental photo booth that burnt DVDs after superimposing our heads on gyrating singers, Alex quickly appeared to put things right.
And if we had any concerns they were swiftly dealt with by hotels’ general manager Gail Jones or concierge manager Gail Sellers and her colleague Rikki. The service these three gave was first class.
The Butlins highlight for us was the Ocean Spa where Heather and I both had the two-in-one facial and massage. A luxurious and soothing back massage was followed by a relaxing mineral mud facial that cleansed the skin and improved the texture.
Skilful treatments provided by Chaliya and Hannah, who used skincare products to suit our specific needs, left us with a complete sense of relaxation and freshness.
The Ocean Spa, managed by Lisa Franklin, also provides a hydrospa, heated loungers, Crystal steam room, traditional sauna, disco showers and a snow cave.
There was plenty of entertainment at Bognor, not all of which was to our taste, but we enjoyed the panto, the wrestling, Abba :and Lady Gaga tribute acts and comedian Tucker. The only downside was that the two theatres attracted so many people we found late-comers like ourselves sometimes had to stand.
Our second visit was on a theme weekend featuring Clowns International, whose members in colourful costumes and grease paint, entertained on stage as well as wandering about the centre and taking part in a parade. It was great fun!
Guests can pick where they eat from a choice of several restaurants, including celebrity chef Brian Turner’s eatery. But we preferred the wide variety of selections provided by the buffet at the Shoreline and Ocean hotels.
Other attractions included the Splash Waterworld, various sports activities, an amusement centre, a funfair, a cinema, a visit to Santa’s reindeer and a huge polar bear called Bjorn. Sporting activities such as cricket and football depend upon enough guests turning up to play.
With the new Wave Hotel and apartments due soon, incorporating quirky under-the-sea design features and a Kindle Library, the Butlins Bognor centre should attract even more families this year.
By Tony Flood