We love a holiday to Center Parcs (we always go to Longleat as it’s not too far away). I’m not sure how many times we’ve been, but it’s probably at least eight or nine, going right back to when my eldest was a toddler and I was pregnant with my younger son. But it’s been over three years since we last went.
We made our return to Center Parcs recently with my whole family for my mum’s 70th birthday. We found we loved it as much as ever, but a few things had changed – and for the better!
Tropical Cyclone and Typhoon
Best of all for us was the addition of two amazing new slides/ rides. The Subtropical Swimming Paradise has had a big extension to incorporate Tropical Cyclone and Typhoon. These two rides are definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Typhoon is the smaller and less scary of the two rides. You ride in a two person inflatable boat and it is a very quick, very fast tube slide. Twice on your journey to the bottom, the route widens and the water gets really choppy – splashing up in your face so you can’t see and sending you off in all directions – to the point that you sometimes end up coming out of the end backwards.
Tropical Cyclone takes things to the next level. For this one, you ride in a four person inflatable boat (although you can ride in groups of two or three on the boat). Initially, it’s not quite as fast as Typhoon as the tube is much wider and you move around from side to side a bit more. After a few seconds, you come across a drop. It feels like you are in freefall. And I screamed every single time! After the drop, the tube opens up into something resembling a cave and your boat is buffeted from all angles by powerful currents, which send it right up the sides of the cave. And then you’re back on course, to arrive at your destination feeling shaken, dizzy and exhilarated. After my first go, I wasn’t sure I would do it again as my legs were so wobbly. But I did it four more times as I really grew to love it!
Both slides have lighting effects, which you select as you get on. They’re all pretty similar, to be honest, apart from the ‘Thunder’ effect on Tropical Cyclone, which is much darker.
The rides are open 11am until 7pm (the pool is open 10am until 9pm) and the queues can get quite long, but it’s really worth the wait!
Below the two new slides are new water play areas for children – Venture Bay for very young children and Venture Harbour for older children. Even my teenagers were briefly amused by Venture Harbour, so it must have been good!
There’s no more keys at Center Parcs for either your lodge or your locker at the swimming pool. Center Parcs has moved into the 21st century with digital wristbands. They allocate one for each bedroom in your lodge – so two wristbands for a two bedroom lodge, three for a three bedroom etc. They’re very handy for unlocking the front door, but mine was very big on my wrist, which I found slightly irritating. You also have to remember your locker number in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, which I’m sure anyone over the age of 30 will appreciate is easier said than done!
We always stay at the Original Executive accommodation at Center Parcs. Last time we went, it was looking decidedly dated, so I wasn’t at all surprised to see that it had been updated. Everything had changed – from the furniture to the flooring, the decor, the colour scheme and the TVs. And I was so pleased to see it! It looks very modern now and it is very comfortable. You still get the same great service, with maids coming in to clean and tidy every day. I can’t fault it!
The last couple of things aren’t new to Center Parcs, but they’re new to us…
Cabana in Subtropical Swimming Paradise
The cabanas have been in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise for a few years now and I’ve always fancied trying one. It’s your own private space that you book out for three hours. There are cabanas for six people or eight people. Each cabana has a TV, seating, towels, cold drinks and a small safe for valuables. No more desperately traipsing round the outskirts of the pool looking for somewhere to sit to eat your lunch!
I booked one as a birthday treat for mum. I thought it would be nice for her, especially as she doesn’t spend that much time in the water!
To be honest, it didn’t really work for us, though. We’re an active family. We spend our whole time in the pool and rushing around between the slides and the rapids. We’re not the sort of family who sits and reads. (Yes, I love reading, but when I’m in the swimming pool at Center Parcs, I’m going on the rapids, not reading.) Even though my mum doesn’t get in the water much, she still likes to be at the edge of the pool, seeing what the rest of the family are doing.
So it was a lovely idea, but I don’t think we will do it again.
Dining In takeaway
Center Parcs has a fair few restaurants and they’re all pretty big. Luckily we booked one in advance for my mum’s birthday, because we were totally unable to get in anywhere the following day. So we decided to give the Dining In takeaway service a go – and we weren’t disappointed!
The menu includes pizzas, Indian and Chinese, although the only children’s portions they do are pizzas. You can phone your order through any time from 3pm for delivery from 5pm – you choose your own half hour delivery slot. My sister phoned our order through. She was briefly in a queue before getting through to a human being. The first thing they did was check for any food allergies (my eldest has a peanut allergy, so they checked his order for allergens).
She successfully ordered 13 meals, some of them with side dishes. The food arrived, fresh and hot, right at the start of our half hour slot. And it all tasted delicious! Prices were pretty good too, at around £8 for a main course. I would have happily eaten from the Dining In menu the next day too.
So that’s what we discovered on our return to Center Parcs. Have you been to Center Parcs? What did you enjoy?