We (Aged 50, 43, 14, 11) stayed for the Christmas break (23 -27 December 2009) at the New Ocean Hotel, Bognor. We had never spent Christmas away from home but due to recent family bereavements and a not too pleasant Christmas 2008 we decided to 'get away from it all' this year and chose Butlins primarily for its location (only 2 hr drive) and the expectation of an alternative Christmas experience.
Upon arrival and greeted by happy helpful staff we were guided to the car park which is at the rear of the Ocean Hotel and immediately on your right as you enter the resort. First impressions were that it was new, very new and not at all like Butlins. The lower round area with access to the resort and car parks was airy, clear and bright with two 'disco' lifts that play 70's dance classics as you travel up and down the floors. The Reception is on the Ground floor and after a short wait, during which there was the offer of complimentary tea/coffee and mince pies we were given our two credit card room passes for our chosen room on the top floor (level 5). After a couple of trips in the lift joining the multitude of other arrivals ( 2 lifts only proving to be inadequate) we arrived at our room.
Children’s den with flat screen TV, lights under the bed, colourful 'POW' & 'WHAM' slogans on the walls - what can I say they loved it. Plenty of shelving around the room and a plastic 'Stuff' box for under the bed. The only down side would be that there was no additional drawers or wardrobe space.
Double bed with wardrobe space either side. 2 stylish but not very comfortable chairs, coffee table, mini fridge, Flat screen TV (Freeview) and mirrored vanity area with tea/coffee making facilities - all very contemporary with garish white, blue and purple walls. There is switch panel on the wall at the rear of the bed which controls main room lights, downlighting above the bed for reading and three colour changing……………… disco lights!
Biggest shower head I have ever used over bath, and yes!, you've guessed it - disco lights over the shower!!!!
Patio doors lead you onto the glass fronted balcony with a small plastic table/2 chairs. We had chosen a top floor/sea view in our room selection and paid a supplement of £20 for the privilege. We were able to view the sea, beyond the vast car park and the lovely landscaping at the front of the hotel.
All beds were made up on arrival with a maid service each day. The Tea/Coffee/Biscuits were replenished each day and the room generally tidied.
The Kaleidoscope Restaurant.
The Restaurant is integral to the Hotel and saves those visits to the Skyline or restaurant areas, particularly when it's raining (although your Dinner ticket did give you the choice of dining elsewhere on the resort up to a maximum £30 per family of four). It was again very bright and contemporary with a number of seated areas affording different designs and decoration. It was Christmas although apart for some snowflake decals on the windows and the odd red/white bobble hat - you would never have known. Breakfast and dinner are buffet style and drinks (other than soft and juices) were sold at the table. Typical cost £1.70 for a glass of lemonade - £11.95 for a bottle of wine. Staff (mainly Baltic persuasion) were extremely friendly and efficient.
Granted that this was the first Christmas for the 'virgin' hotel, however Butlins have been entertaining and serving people for generations and this should have been a 'walk in the park' however read on.......we were initially allocated a 3.30pm slot for dinner, but following a late afternoon call from reception were advised of a short delay to 4.00pm - no problem we thought, we are on holiday!! After arriving at the Restaurant just before we were greeted with glass of sparkling white/rose wine and soft drinks for the children and after a short wait were taken to our table (unfortunately the table that on the previous evening had been covered in projectile vomit from a young child and had required deep specialised cleaning to prevent closure!!). Still, I digress - the restaurant by now had now been transformed with the addition of balloons on every chair, table decorations, hats crackers etc. After a 1 hour wait, several drinks and confirmation that the 290 diners were now all seated the process of serving the 5 course dinner at each table commenced. 3 hours later the experience was over. An experience that included the timely delivery of melon and hot soup, followed by a generous helping of sliced turkey, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets , sprouts and a lovely cranberry sauce. The choices of desserts were paraded so that you could bid for your choice and the cheese and biscuits (although not informed) were available in the buffet area. The vegetables then arrived on a silver platter comprising new potatoes, parsnips and carrots – all piping hot but embarrassingly late as we had already finished our dinner. This was finished off with Coffee and After Eight mints (if you were lucky as unfortunately these were tabled near the cheese and biscuits and were e consumed early and at an alarming rate).
The experience was still a good one, spirits were high and I did not hear anyone complain about any of the obvious shortfalls in the service, although I am sure there were undoubtedly some. The waiters and waitresses were as always, helpful and efficient as they could be given the massive organisation involved in feeding 290 diners – having already served 265 previously that day. The experience was probably made more enjoyable by the odd diner still waiting for his main and the vegetables being served after the dessert , it was not perfect by a long chalk but executed professionally and with the guest’s interests at all times. I ended up with a free Brandy to cap it all – so all in all not a bad day after all!
The Ocean Hotel is new, contemporary in design, bright, colourful with friendly attentative staff (mostly foreign – some language problems but easily overcome with some amateurish mime) throughout. It does not feel like Butlins and is just far enough removed from the main resort area to feel like you are somewhere completely different. The design is a little superficial and I cannot help wondering what a couple years of intense family holidaying will have on the hotel structure and appearance. Although only opened in August this year, signs of wear and tear are already evident – in our room the Cold Tap on the sink kept coming off (fixed immediately when reported!), the pelmet housing the lights above the bed had dropped (not fixed when reported!) to name a couple. I guess Butlins already anticipate high maintenance to protect their lavish investment so it will be interesting to see if it stands the test of time or was just a little too ambitious. Not sure about the Spa. We did not visit and there were not seemingly much interest while we were there. It was Christmas and it was cold so maybe a seasonal thing, although in my opinion this is not what I would have thought your typical Butlins guest would have in their top ten – time will tell! Bit pricey in my opinion…..but only my opinion. Entertainment is flawless and in our break we enjoyed fireworks, George Michael (not the real one of course), midnight mass, quality shows on all days and a Pantomime to rival any High Street and without the need for ‘has-been’ celebrities. The Restaurant meals were a little lacking in my opinion and choice was limited – that said it was good well cooked food, well presented and in abundance – I particularly liked breakfast but only because I pigged out on Full English every day (must find out where the locally sourced sausages come from – they are lovely!!).
Overall I would say that we enjoyed Christmas at Butlins. We were fed, watered and entertained at all times. I stress, I am no snob but certain loud, irritating and ‘Chavvish’ types will always be the ‘stable diet’ at Butlins and ‘up market’ hotel or not this does sadly, remain the case. Loud expletives, uncontrolled Rugrats and open conversations on mobile phones at every opportunity is rife. Try and ignore this invasion on your senses and the experience will be an enjoyable one. Do it once would be my recommendation – but it is warmer climes or stay at home for us next year.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bognor Regis is officially one of Britain’s sunniest locations, sitting right on the West Sussex coast. Within just a couple of hours drive from London, Butlins Bognor Regis is the perfect getaway. Known as a traditional seaside town, we’ve given it a modern ‘twist’ with two funky hotels; the Ocean Hotel and the Shoreline Hotel. There’s a relaxing spa (ideal for grown-ups) and if you feel like discovering the area around the resort, the South Downs National Park and heritage sites are right on your doorstep. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Butlins Bognor Regis Hotel Bognor Regis
- Butlins Hotel Bognor Regis
- Butlins Resort Bognor Regis
- Butlin's Bognor Regis Resort West Sussex