Back in August the family and I skipped off to the First Choice Holiday Village Menorca for a week. If you're not familiar with holiday villages you can check them out on the First Choice website here but basically your holiday is centred around the hotel, quite often on an all-inclusive basis with an array of children's clubs, entertainment and activities on offer. Having never stayed at a holiday village of any type before myself, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect and I was a little apprehensive.
Our first impressions were good. The reception staff and the manager were really friendly and welcoming and this continued through the holiday. Our room, in Block 3, was pleasant although admittedly it was looking a bit tired in places. We had requested a quiet room as the pool area is very noisy during the day and night and our room was perfectly situated - close to all the amenities, but facing away from the hustle and bustle. Our accommodation was a one-bedroom apartment and there was more than enough space for the four of us with large double bed in the bedroom and a sofa bed in the lounge area. We ended up with the children using the bedroom and Mr M and I spent the week on the sofa bed (which was comfy) as we were second floor and balconies make me nervous. There didn't seem to be any way of internally securing the door that led out on to the balcony and whilst my children are pretty trustworthy, I didn't want to risk them mucking about out there.
The bathroom was spacious with a separate bath and shower but would have benefited from a refurbishment, however that was purely cosmetic and everything was clean and in perfect working order. There is a kitchenette in the room but we only used the fridge to keep some drinks in. There is no kettle provided however I believe you can hire one at reception, however we never felt like we needed it as drinks are pretty much available all day. My one niggle about the room was the air-conditioning, or lack of it! When we arrived in Menorca we were greeted with a heatwave, it was so hot even the staff themselves commented on it being 29 degrees at 6am in their homes! The air-conditioning barely functioned and it's probably the only time I've been hot in an apartment or hotel room abroad. As the week went on and the temperature returned to a more normal level it didn't feel so bad, but more powerful air-conditioning would have been welcome.
I've never been all-inclusive in Europe before so the food element was probably the part I was most apprehensive about. I needn't have been though as the food was better than I expected and it was quite varied too. Most nights there was a "chef's table" by the door that would have different things on it. One night it was Spanish speciality cheeses, another it was a tower of profiteroles! We never had to wait for a table even though it was peak time and the hotel was full, and the restaurant staff were lovely and helpful. All the food was buffet-style and there was lots choice as well as a dazzling array of desserts and ice-cream. There was even a food station for the little ones so that they could help themselves, although more often than not my two chose from the "grown-ups food". There are two other restaurants you can eat at, and on your all-inclusive deal you get to eat at them once per week. The first is a BBQ restaurant and the second is an a la carte Italian. We didn't try the BBQ but did eat at the Italian where the food was good and it was nice to be served dinner for a change instead of having to help yourself. There is a snack bar by the pool which is open all day and I'd read some dodgy reviews on Trip Advisor but my fears were totally unfounded. It's a great option if you don't want to get dressed for lunch and fancy just grabbing a burger or a sandwich. The pool bar was very busy (all-inclusive drinks, it's going to be!) but they were adept at moving the queue on quickly and they provided lovely cocktails and scrumptious milkshakes for the children!
The pool area itself was nice, it was kept clean and tidy, and the children especially enjoyed the pool with the kiddy slides. It was noisy though and not really the place to relax - however there's a quiet pool over towards Block 4 which would be far more suited to a doze in the sun. Sun loungers? Ah that old chestnut Well you could get a sun lounger up until about 11am if you weren't fussy where you sat i.e. in front of the very loud speakers, but if you wanted prime position or any chance of a parasol you really needed to be up and at them by 7am as sunbed-reserving was rife. There wasn't nearly enough parasols to go around and I think it's crucial to have a little bid of shade for the children. One thing I feel I must point out - the tiles around the pool area are VERY slippy and I saw several children come a cropper on them. There were a few black eyes and bruised cheekbones. I'd fortunately seen it mentioned on Trip Advisor before I left home so told my children umpteen times a day to be careful but it's definitely something that needs addressing before someone gets seriously hurt.
There were plenty of kids clubs and activities to join in with through the day like the high ropes, swim academy, stage academy and football academy. The kids clubs are split into ages and there are sessions available right up until 11pm if you want to have some child-free time. My children are not really joiners so didn't want to go to the kids clubs and that suited me fine as we were on a family holiday so I didn't mind having them around me all day! However, from what I saw of the clubs they were very well run and everybody seemed to be having a great time. There's no doubt that the children loved the First Choice staff and I think often the feeling was mutual!
You can also book excursions and day trips with through First Choice. As we were only there for a week we didn't want to over do it but did book a day out on the "Pirates of Menorca" trip. This was a boat trip down the coast from Ciutadella to a more, erm, natural beach (yes, we saw mens danglies) at Son Saura. On the boat there was face-painting, they played games on the beach, went on a treasure hunt and had a colouring competition and ice lollies on the boat on the way back. It was nice to have some time away from the pool and it's always nice to have a boat trip to see a bit of the island.
In terms of entertainment at night - there was lots of it! The First Choice staff work hard to put on a good show and it ranged from audience participation games to music for children to tribute acts and shows (often performed by the First Choice staff who are amazing singers!). The quality of the entertainment was pretty good although my children lamented the lack of a traditional mini disco and quite often it all felt a little bit too much of a showcase for the entertainers rather than something the little ones could join in with as the music was a bit too dancey and the dance moves were pretty impossible for a 4 year old to follow. Saying that though everybody seemed to enjoy it and be having a great time!
Cala'n Bosch itself is small but lovely and there is the choice of two beaches, Cala'n Bosch and Son Xoriguer. Son Xoriguer is a little trickier to find and we did get a bit lost on the first day, which in the blistering heat was quite unpleasant but it was worth it as it's a lovely beach. Cala'n Bosch resort is centred around a small harbour which is bustling at night - lots of inviting bars and restaurants to choose from if you fancy stopping for a drink.
All in all it was a good holiday and more than met our expectations! I've come away with a high opinion of holiday villages and am already looking at the Holiday Village Rhodes as a holiday option next year. I fancy me one of those swim-up rooms!
First Choice offers seven night holidays to the Menorca staying at the Travelife Gold Awarded, 4Sun Holiday Village Menorca, on an All Inclusive basis from £661 per adult, first child travels from £364 and from £514 for the second. Price is based on a family of four sharing, and includes flights departing from London Gatwick airport on 27 October 2012 and transfers. To find out more about this holiday or to book visit your local Thomson featuring First Choice travel shop, firstchoice.co.uk or call 0871 200 7799.
Disclaimer: I received a discount on this holiday from TUI UK. All words, thoughts and opinions in the above review are my own.