WE’RE A bit behind our British counterparts, but Irish holidaymakers are warming to the idea – and value – of all-inclusive holidays.
Across the water, some operators now only offer such holidays, as sun-seekers have moved en masse from the days of self catering or B&B. And there’s good reason. With a low initial deposit, you’ve got time to pay off the remainder of your holiday.
And once you’re booked, you know your budget – and, if finances are stretched, you needn’t put your hand in your pocket from the time you board your transfer bus to the time you arrive back home.
I travelled with Sunway, who have a good reputation for service and standards, and picked Lanzarote, an island where you’re more or less guaranteed decent sunshine and a more laidback experience than on any of the other major Canary Islands.
The Sandos Papagayo Beach Resort is aptly named – right beside a beach. By night, with a glass of wine in my hand I could hear the waves gently crashing along the shore as I looked out at the twinkling lights of nearby Fuerteventura and the passing cruise ships.
The resort is big – so big that you could spend a week here and never have to venture outside. And if times are tough, why would you?
The main terrace bar has spectacular views over the shimmering ocean. You could happily spend a dazed afternoon here, brain switched off, admiring the vista and soaking up the sun’s winter rays.
Better still, the drink’s free in the resort’s four bars and disco, with wines, beers and spirits all available from 10am (a bit early for my tastes) till 11pm. And if you want to keep going, the snack bar has drinks and food available by the pool from midnight till 8am.
One of the nicest bars is on the roof terrace, with cool white furnishings and DJ sounds giving it a Miami beachfront feel. It’s the perfect start to a night in – or a night on the town.
My seaview room, though a standard one, was Americansized in space (think vast), with an enormous balcony space too.
The food is plentiful too. I would have liked an al fresco dining area, but thumbs up for the food nonetheless.
The buffet area has an array of local and international dishes, while the adjacent Italian restaurant is perfect for families, with its layers of pizzas, pastas and other favourites.
And children are well catered for at other times of the day. The resort boasts three immaculate pools for adults, one of which is heated in winter, and there are two dedicated children's pools (one heated in winter).
There’s also a playground for children aged from four to 12, and the Sanditos Kids’ club, which organises fun activities for children, including a nightly mini disco.
Parents can enjoy some pampering in the competitivelypriced spa, take a dip in the Jacuzzis or saunas, or hit the gym or outdoor sports court.
There’s plenty to do outside the resort too. If you want to work off some of that free food, take the trek along the cliffs to the beaches of Papagayo.
If you think you’ve seen them before, you probably have. One of the most picturesque (they’re voted the best on the island) was the setting for the final scene in Planet of the Apes.
Here, Charlton Heston banged his fists and overacted in front of the Statue of Liberty as fate made a monkey out of him. Nowadays it’s an oasis of calm, an undeveloped national park.
A free bus service brings you from the resort to the centre of town in Playa Blanca, with its duty free stores and bustling nightlife. And take time for a trip to Marina Rubicon, lined with luxury yachts and bars and restaurants that won’t break the bank.
And that’s the point of all inclusive – you can stay on-site or spend a few euro outside if it takes your fancy.
Either way, you’ll come back with great memories and a great tan – not a whopping great credit card bill.
Mark Evans travelled with Sunway Holidays and stayed at the four-star Sandos Papagayo Resort in Playa Blanca. Sunway has a special offer of €799 for a week there on an allinclusive basis (all meals and drink). The price also includes flights, transfers, 20kg baggage allowance, resort representative service and all taxes.
This price is valid for travel during February and March and must be booked by January 31.
For this and offers to over 70 destinations worldwide check out sunway.ie, or phone 01-2886828