So, talk to me about CenterParcs… What’s your view?

My impressions of CenterParcs are not entirely positive. They’re formed over a lifetime of experience — and before I go any further, I should point out, I’ve never been. What follows is an entirely ignorant perspective based on what other folk have told me.

For a while my parents muted the idea of going.

I think we, the children, were privately horrified at the idea.

All the stories I’d heard from friends of mine at school who’d gone, especially from the European locations, were shocking.

It sounded like camping — but worse. Or ‘Camping Lite’. You get a chalet. There’s some big swimming pool dome thing. There’s a rubbish shop on-site that sells over priced Cornflakes. There’s often hot water. You can hire rubbish bikes. What else? Oh yeah, and everyone wears sandals.

That last bit was the nail in the coffin for myself and my brothers. Sandals? Euuuugh.

For the longest time, CenterParcs has been completely off my radar.

When it comes to holidays or vacation, I want quality.

The last decent break away was business class and first class all the way. Think: Maldives, island hotel, ridiculously brilliant service.

I am not at home, traditionally, to a damp weekend in Wiltshire.

Apologies to the brand manager at CenterParcs. Stay with me, there’s a pivot point coming shortly.

This viewpoint changed dramatically when a colleague — a senior, senior executive at one of the companies I’m working with — explained that he and his wife regularly take the children off to CenterParcs.

I began to evaluate the brand somewhat differently as a result.

Our children are aged 2 (almost) and 2 months. At a Christening this weekend my wife bumped into one of her friends who’s going to CenterParcs with their 2 year old. They’re regulars as well.

I think that clinched it for us.

We looked up the website when we got home.

We began thinking about the whole experience in more positive terms.

I have just returned from a transatlantic visit to Orlando (visiting BlackBerry World) and I can tell you that from direct experience, taking children on planes and doing the hotel thing doesn’t really look that fun at all. My experience stems from sitting witnessing screaming, tired, upset toddlers not really handling timezones, 30,000ft flights or confined spaces very well.

Put bluntly, taking children abroad for a traditional hotel experience at ages 2 and 2 months seems a bit … limited.

There’s two off them. They can’t really interact much. The 2-year old can just about get a few words out. He’s into mummy and daddy and a bit of lego. He can’t exactly run off and play on the beach for hours on end. The 2-month-old is obviously joined at the hip to either me or my wife. So. Limited value, I feel, in heading to some luxury island in the middle of nowhere.

CenterParcs all of a sudden sounds sensible.

You get your own chalet/apartment. Your own space. So the children can scream and run about as necessary. You can cook whenever you want. Or you can access restaurants immediately. There’s shops. Or, er, a shop. That’s apparently pretty good.

At this point I don’t give a hoot about cash. Not when I was previously evaluating whether or not little Archie should have his own business class seat. Yeah. I know.

If the Corn Flakes are an extra 50p in the CenterParcs shop, I really don’t care. It’s all about utility.

My wife is relishing the opportunity of being able to take little Archie on a bike ride. In fact we can take both of them on a bike ride through ‘the forest’. Presumably. That sounds promising.

Then there’s the water dome thing. Theoretically Archie should want to spend hours there. The little one — Freddie — should quite enjoy the water too.

I think that’s about it so far. Maybe Archie might like the animal things you can do — apparently there’s the ability to get up close to an Owl. This, coincidentally, is one of his new words.

So the whole CenterParcs thing is growing on me.

The ability to ‘chuck everything in the car’ (as my wife’s friend described her approach) and avoid the mundane annoyance of airport security etc., is highly appealing.

I’m not sure if my wife and I will be up for I term as a proper holiday (6-star luxury, somewhere shockingly nice) for a long time.

It is all about the children, you see.

I don’t want them staring at the wall whilst my wife and I enjoy the opulent surroundings and service of [insert venue name here]. I want to make sure they’re having fun.

If anything, the ability to plug Archie (and Freddie) into a series of activities that, come 7pm, result in both of them being absolutely shattered and sleeping through until 8am… yeah, that’s definitely the way ahead.

My wife and I were on the website earlier.

I did my usual quality barometer approach — and insisted she look for the most expensive option.

Sold out over the bank holiday weekend. But you know, that’s not a killer. We could go another time.

The best accommodation appears to be a ‘treehouse‘. Looking through the promotional photos, I thought to myself, “Err, yes, time to update my image of CenterParcs”. The treehouses do look rather amazing. They’re described as delivering the ‘ultimate CenerParcs experience’ and feature:

  • 4 Bedrooms with en-suite bath/shower rooms
  • Fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher
  • Open plan lounge
  • Games den with pool table, bar and games console.
  • Sauna
  • Outside hot tub
  • Daily maid service
  • Free WI-FI

Now then, now then. Sauna? Hot tub? Come ON!

Here’s a photo (more of the treehouse below):

I had a look on the site and couldn’t find some example pricing for a treehouse. The ‘New Style Exclusive Lodges‘ look nice too. They seem to be about £1,000 for the week (based on 2 people). So that kind of pricing region.

I have to say that after spending a little while perusing the CenterParcs site, I’m rather impressed at the features and possibilities. I think I need to seriously update my ‘brand image’ for them.

So. CenterParcs. We’ve never done it. We’re total newbies. Any suggestions? Any alternatives we should be considering.