FANTASTIC FUN-FILLED BREAK FOR THE FAMILY
Contact: Center Parcs, Port Zelande, Holland.
North Sea Ferries: www.poferries.com
Center Parcs: www.centerparcs.com/EN/GB/villages/port_zelande
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Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Simon Kench and family visit Holland
I t must be one of the most relaxed ways to visit Holland. An overnight cruise on the excellent North Sea Ferries from Hull to Zebrugge, a steady drive through the Belgian and Dutch countryside to the seaside seclusion of Port Zelande, then, despite some bad weather, plenty of activities indoors – and some out, to keep all the family happy.
As a Center Parcs newbie, we really didn't know what to expect. Friends had raved how good they were, but others said they were very expensive within the UK. We found the perfect compromise.
Travel a few hundred miles over the North Sea, drive for a couple of hours, then hit the Dutch coast and relax, at almost half the price of the home equivalent, and that was including the North Sea Ferries return travel.
Our Ferry crossing was superb – the Pride of York was welcoming and comfortable. We ate like kings in the Brasserie, with personal table service from the attentive and friendly waiting staff, followed by good entertainment from the resident band and disco.
Fully fuelled the next morning after a sumptuous breakfast in the ship's Four Seasons restaurant, we drove our car off the ferry at Zebrugge and hit the road north to our destination of Port Zelande.
A couple of hours later, and no wrong turns, we were checking in at the reception of Center Parcs. Unfortunately, we were so early we couldn't check in to our cottage. We headed to the Adventure Factory indoor play centre to shelter from the chilly wind and found a cornucopia of kids activities, such as sand pits, crazy golf, amusements, a café and a bar.
Mid-afternoon and chaos prevailed as every visitor in the park descended, with their cars, onto the narrow roads around Port Zelande. Here, everyone threw out their luggage, food, kids, dogs, grannies and bikes toward their accommodation, and then duly got stuck in the resultant traffic jam on the way out.
We had been warned about this migration, and waited an extra hour to drive our belongings to our weekday home, and encountered only a few dozen other cars and none of the traffic.
Unpacked and hungry, we headed for a snack at the on-site burger bar. Big mistake – the queues were enormous, with a 20-minute wait. I must admit the food was good when we got it, but with two hungry children, it was a bit fraught.
Topped up, we ventured into the on-site Aqua Mundo indoor water park. This is the real attraction of Center Parcs, and even though it was busy, we managed to find a couple of seats as our base and spent the next four hours riding the outdoor rapids, screaming at the thrills and spills of the Turbo Tunnel, enjoying steaming jacuzzis, swimming in the outdoor heated pool in the cold evening air, and generally having family fun.
As the next day dawned bright, we decided to take the bikes and head toward the huge expanse of seaside about half a mile away. The lovely yellow sand-duned beach was fantastic, with the usual activities of sandcastles, kite flying, shell hunting and paddling all ticked off.
Back to base and more swimming and water slides in the Aquamundo, then tea in the nearby Market Place restaurant, which was lovely and reasonably good value considering the stacks of quality food on offer.
Cycling was the order of the following day, with a short but energetic trip around the area taking in the picturesque marina, cycling alongside the Grevelingen lake, finding more beach views and a stop at a café for traditional pancakes and hot chocolate. We again ended up in the pool, noting that later is better as it seemed less crowded.
Last day and adventure for the kids in the indoor Adventure Factory. The boys had been booked in on an adventure high climb rope course and loved every minute of swinging through the rafters and following the rope bridges and obstacles under close and helpful supervision from the play leaders.
A short drive back up to Rotterdam and our returning North Sea Ferry back to Hull rounded the afternoon off nicely.
With another classy dinner in the Brasserie on board, plenty of walks around the decks instigated by our ship-mad children, and then an hour or two watching the band in the entertainment lounge, our journey back was as much fun as the one outward.
On our first full visit to a Center Parcs on the continent, we must say we quite enjoyed the experience. It left us with an appetite for a further visit, this time hopefully when the weather is warmer.