Steve Sharpe goes all-inclusive at one of the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers
WE really didn’t know what to expect from an all-inclusive holiday.
We had friends who had been on them but they had been in pretty exotic locations like the Caribbean or Mexico, so it was likely they would be very different due to their location.
But the thought of it appealed – you turn up and everything’s free, what’s not to like?
Rather than that usual surreptitious checking of wallet before ordering another bottle of wine at dinner, you’d just raise an arm and the waiter appears, with a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio on a white towel.
“Oh, go on, then, blow the expense, we’re on holiday after all,” I’d say, as we all share the joke and our son Freddie tucks into his 18th bowl of ice cream.
Naturally, in reality, it wasn’t quite like that.
We’d booked a week in Alcudia, on the North East coast of Majorca, one of the island’s tourist hotspots.
The Club Mac is a huge complex in a quiet area of the resort, with three hotels – Saturno, Jupiter and Marte – sharing the same site.
It’s a one-stop shop for families, with seven swimming pools, a leisure lake and a Children’s Village area. It’s only a kilometre from Alcudia’s beautiful beach, too.
The list of activities on site is endless, and includes football matches, volleyball, table tennis, keep fit classes and a load more besides.
As a bonus we booked it as an Aquamania holiday, which gave us free and unlimited access to the waterpark across the road from the hotel, which is the biggest on the island.
But things didn’t start well for us. We travelled late in the evening from Newcastle airport and so arrived at Parma airport in the early hours of the morning.
After the 90-minute transfer from the airport we arrived at the resort tired, grumpy and dragging a seven-year-old by the feet.
After signing in we were asked to proffer our wrists, where a plastic bracelet was attached.
It had never occurred to me that you had to have some form of identification, and ours was the size of a small watch due to a chip which activated at the waterpark. We retired grumpily to our room.
But by the next day we got up, opened the curtains to blazing sunshine and the sound of splashing water six floors below, and the world seemed a better place.
The rooms are simple, clean and if you can’t do without the TV you can arrange to rent one.
It has to be said that an all-inclusive holiday isn’t for everyone.
The Club Mac is a large complex and so there are thousands of people on site. This isn’t a place for those seeking a quiet retreat from modern life or those looking to sample a bit of Spanish life.
English is the primary language here, both on the hotel complex and Alcudia itself. You have to cajole the waiters and staff into playing if you want to practice your Spanish, otherwise they’ll just talk English to you.
It’s ideal for families who want to just sit back, leave work and school behind and enjoy a week of food, drink and sunshine.
And there is no doubt that all three are in abundance.
There are three main restaurants, one in each hotel, in which you can eat breakfast and evening meals, and there are various other areas on the complex where you can graze on snacks throughout the day.
Every night in the restaurants there is a theme night, including Mexican, American, Indian and Italian etc, plus a selection of other dishes for those who don’t fancy the themed food.
And the eating is very good indeed by anyone’s standards. And because it’s already paid for you can return for as many helpings as you fancy – and many people do.
It calls for some serious discipline. The food is self-service so you are able to drift around the serving areas helping yourself, and it’s far too easy to stagger back to your table with a Desperate Dan-style helping.
At peak times the restaurant is packed and noisy, with a queue to get in.
Because of the sheer practicalities of feeding thousands of people the eating areas resemble more of a canteen than a restaurant. The efficient staff clear your table as soon as you’re finished and if eating on holiday is a leisurely pursuit then you are going to be disappointed.
But if you’re looking for genuinely good quality food, and as much as you want, then you’re in for a treat.
We managed to combine the two by venturing out to eat occasionally to some of the island’s restaurants.
Serving unlimited amounts of alcohol from 10am to midnight poses a few potential problems but this has been handled well.
You can help yourself to local wine and beer – both of which are good quality – in the restaurants but outside there are small bars which serve you.
You’re served both beer and wine in the type of plastic cups that are used in office water machines. It wasn’t quite a waiter attending with a white towel but sheer logistics dictates that approach. You soon get used to it.
During the evening most people gather on a piazza area in the evening to chat and listen to the entertainment, either local singers or occasionally a talent contest.
This is most certainly a holiday for families with children. There is a host of things for the children to do, including organised fun and a children’s entertainment stage, or just for youngsters to meet new friends and spend the evenings with them, all in a safe and well-run environment.
Many of our fellow holidaymakers were content to spend a week or two based almost entirely on the complex, soaking up the sun and enjoying the food and drink, but we decided to hire a car and see a bit of Majorcan island life.
There are plenty of things to do and see
One thing that is highly recommended is a visit to the Cuevas Del Drach, or Caves of the Dragon, at Porto Cristo.
There are excursions available but we decided to take the car and see a bit of the Majorcan countryside.
These caves are made up of a series of underground chambers, full of stalactites and stalagmites, all leading to a huge cathedral-like cave with a crystal clear underground lake.
It’s a stunning sight, made even more awe-inspiring when the entire cave is thrown into darkness as an orchestra travels the length of the lake on a boat playing classical music.
It very busy but it’s well worth a visit.
Another place which is a must is Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa, a couple of miles up the coast.
Pollensa is more international than the mainly British Alcudia, and has miles of beautiful beach, loads of watersports and a lovely port.
Pollensa old town is definitely worth a visit. It’s more of a traditional Spanish area with old houses and narrow streets, some lovely old shops and a wonderful square dominated by a 13th-century church.
If you’re feeling energetic and want to burn off some of Club Mac’s calories you can tackle the Calvary Steps. All 365 of them.
Legend has it that you atone for one sin with every step you take so you can probably get some sins in credit for the rest of the holiday.
It’s hard work in Majorca’s burning summer heat, though, so the sit-down at the old church at the top is very welcome
In the same vein, Alcudia old town is unmissable. You can wander around the old castle or in and out of the narrow streets, and there are regular markets throughout the week.
It’s a great place to enjoy a cheap and delicious paella sitting on the pavement outside a simple old cafe, watching the world go by.
And of course if you want some activities of the more thrilling kinds the Aquamania holiday gives unlimited access to the brilliant waterpark a stone’s throw from the hotel.
It has some great slides and the joy of the unlimited access is that you can avoid the crowds by just popping over during quieter times.
There are many more things to do and places to visit on the island, and the hotel has a free bus into the town, and also arranges excursions to many places.
One excursion I would thoroughly recommend is an evening trip called Pirates Adventure, a show and dinner featuring acrobatics, dance and more.
I have to admit this kind of thing doesn’t normally float my boat – excuse the pun – but we went along on the recommendation of our reps and to keep Freddie happy, he being a fan of all things piratical.
It wasn’t cheap but it was well worth shelling out for.
The show features professional acrobats and gymnasts, and some of the routines and stunts have to be seen to be believed. It is genuinely thrilling – jaw-dropping in places and extremely funny, too. There were standing ovations all around at the end.
This all-inclusive holiday is what you make of it and although not for everyone there are a huge number of holidaymakers who will have the best time.
The food is great and seemingly neverending, entertainment is laid on, the staff are friendly and the hotel clean and well-kept.
You can relax, eat, drink, soak up the sun and unwind, while the kids can either take advantage of the organised entertainment or go off and meet new friends in the safety of the complex.
And if you want to venture out you can always see a bit of the island by yourself, safe in the knowledge that waiting back at the resort is a feast.
For a no-worries, stress-free holiday it’s recommended – but prepare for a groaning set of bathroom scales on your return.
Thomas Cook Aquamania holidays include unlimited access to an onsite waterpark or free entrance to some of the biggest waterparks in Europe.
Seven nights on all-inclusive at the 4 star Club Mac Resort in Alcudia costs from £426 per person or £1,598 for a family of four, departing from Newcastle on May 11, 2013.
Brand new multi-activity kids’ club for three to 11 year olds, open six days a week included. Adult room packages available. Prices correct at time of issue and subject to change, inclusive of flights, transfers and accommodation.
Optional extras including in-flight meals by TV Chef James Martin may be applicable at the time of booking. www.thomascook.com.0844 412 5970 or visit the nearest Thomas Cook or Co-operative Travel.