This trip to Center Parcs was paid for by me (well by the family!), I have received no payment from Center Parcs to visit their park or review it!
UK holidays, weekend breaks and short breaks from Center Parcs, we operate four Holiday Villages in the UK; each is set in a forest environment, providing high quality holiday accommodation in fully equipped villas, apartments and holiday lodges. Each Village offers an extensive range of sports and leisure activities plus numerous restaurants, bars and retail outlets and superb Aqua Sana Spa facilities. Whether you are looking for a family holiday, activity holiday, short break, weekend break or even a spa break, Center Parcs has all the essential elements to make the perfect UK holiday.
Our First Impressions: We have visited Center Parcs a few times now, we have been to Elveden, Sherwood and Whinfell. This was our 2nd visit to Sherwood after a great holiday there in 2009. We were very excited to visit Sherwood again but this time with both children and Grandma and Grandad.
In Reality: At Sherwood there are 8 different levels of accommodation. We choose the New Style Executive Lodge (3 bed). Externally the lodge was a bit disappointing, having stayed in a 4bed two-storey lodge last time it didn’t compare! Also its here I should add the worst thing about our stay. Center Parcs did not advise us when booking our stay that the accommodation location was completely unsuitable for small children. As you stepped out the patio doors there was a small patio then a little path straight down to a stream so we could not sit outside safely all week, as it would have only taken a couple of seconds for C to reach the stream. I would have not chosen this accommodation had I have known about this issue as it meant we could not use the patio or BBQ. On that same note I think that Center Parcs NEEDS to improve its website to provide information about each lodge so that you know exactly what it involves, maybe even down to as fine detail as what type of visitor the lodge is suitable for!
Internally, although on the surface everywhere looked clean underneath all the units, the shelves etc were all dusty. From our bedroom into the en-suite was a small step that proved a trip hazard, especially at night! There was no way of sealing off the kitchen so we had to be very very careful that C did not enter the kitchen, I felt that a safety gate or similar should have been provided for his safety. There were no socket covers in the accommodation either, but Guest Services provided us with an unopened bag of them and told us to keep any remaining! Towels are only changed a couple of times which isn’t a problem, except we didn’t realise this until after we had used the towels and so we hadn’t hung them up well to dry and they were still damp the next time (YUK!)
We were disappointed that the large external bins were left overflowing all day and over night one night and the village in general seemed dirtier than it has done previously. We had to ring security 4 times to ask for cars to be moved from outside our Lodge that shouldn’t have been left there by other guests, this seemed unacceptable given that some guests have paid extra for a lodge with parking!.
The main reason we keep going back to Center Parcs is the facilities. The beach at Sherwood in particular is brilliant for the under 7’s, it has a climbing frame with slide as well as a large water toy that proved extremely popular with C, he went a couple of times and it was difficult to tear him away when it was time to leave! It was popular with all the children we saw and parents enjoyed the views and the sunshine.
The adventure playground also was a hit, C loved the big swing and little wooden playhouses
Activities, just in brief…..
Canopy Capers – rubbish, unimaginative, boring and could really have done with some background music and some new ideas!!
Keep Fit with Rupert Bear – well worth the £2.50 we paid, fun little session, didn’t matter that C didn’t join in properly, all the children enjoyed it.
Messy Play – lots of great messy activities such as painting, sand, water, play dough, food stuffs etc but very uninterested member of staff who cared more about talking to her friend and whining about cleaning up than making the session fun, didn’t replenish the paper stocks leaving parents to figure it out themselves!!!!!
I’ve already reviewed our favourite restaurant (Cafe Rouge) click here to See More
The swimming facilities are great at Sherwood, C loved the toddlers areas and Pirate Ship! They have small paddling pools and a couple of slides for the little ones as well as the proper slides/rapids etc. LissyLou enjoyed swimming so much that she actually fell asleep in the water one day!!
The changing facilities are somewhat dated and they are poorly sign posted as most people did not know about the communal areas that would have been suitable for teens etc who did not need a family cubicle but used them as they thought there was nowhere else to change when it was busy. There was also no toilet facility to use if you were alone with a baby, something that occurred a couple of times for me and proved very awkward! Getting out of a wet cossie holding a small baby is difficult let me tell you. Although in principle the locks on the changing room are a good idea, they are very awkward with a toddler who wants to try and open them when you are changing!
The lifeguards who ran the Little Dolphins sessions were great, lovely guys who really seemed to care that the children were enjoying it. I cut my toe on the poolside and the lifeguard on the desk gave me a plaster and checked I was ok. All the staff in the Pool were helpful and polite.
The little float jackets that you can borrow for small children as great they gave both us and C a little more confidence while he swam and played. Starbucks within the pool area is a great idea but why it closed at 5.30 when the pool was open until 9pm I don’t know, while I was sat nearby about 10 people tried to go and buy things but were disappointed and confused by the opening hours!
The little supermarket closes at 8pm and I felt it could open later as after people have been out for a meal they might want to go and get something like more wine/beer or snacks etc but everywhere is closed!
We saw what we think was management a few times and R saw some leaving one of the restaurants a little worse for wear and smoking which seemed to set a poor example in our eyes!
The main other thing that bothered me was some visitors on bikes. When paths are clearly labelled as no bikes, why do some people think its ok to ride down them anyway? Center Parcs is great for bikes, there is lots of riding, so why do some LAZY people ride down the paths that are meant for pedestrians, putting both us and them at risk?
We will probably visit Center Parcs again as it is good for families but I would be demanding assurances that the accommodation was fit for purpose and would expect better levels of service throughout the park! It would also be reassuring if Center Parcs could provide a ‘toddler package’ including safety gates, socket and corner covers etc when you book with under 3’s!! But on the whole its a great place, the activities and facilities are good and C will be raring to get back to the beach!
The best tip I can give you? Ring the call centre instead of booking online, maybe they will have a better idea of the suitability of the accommodation and take a bicycle lock to secure your buggy outside the pool, the ones you can buy there are a bit small!
Center Parcs named winner of Best UK Holiday Provider at Tommy’s Let’s Get Baby Friendly Awards
Feel like they have let themselves down this week!