Sunday 5 October 2014

Review: Park Resorts - Camber Sands

This weekend we have been away for JJ’s 11th birthday, we opted to stay fairly local as it was a school weekend and thus we headed an hour down the road to Camber Sands, East Sussex.  Situated next to the wonderful historic town of Rye, Camber has an amazing sandy beach and is a beautiful tranquil place to visit.

The Park Resorts Camber Sands caravan park is situated directly opposite the famous white sand beach and sits in an excellent position for access to the beach.

As I was booking this weekend for a review I was given a special code by the PR company but sadly the guy in reservations had no idea about this. He could not find me any accommodation to suit the specification they had given for reviewers to stay in.  So I asked if the next grade of caravan was available and he said he would have to check about supplements and someone would come back to me. Sadly I never heard anything back and even calling again and speaking to two different people on other occasions I was not given an answer. Then in the post came a confirmation saying I had to pay £50 for a stay that weekend coming.

I got in touch with head office and luckily a lady called Denise had some common sense and helped cancel this booking and booked this October break for me, she was the first efficient person I spoke to and perhaps the last as well!

The email confirmation and communication I received before arrival on the park was adequate and as I’d expect.

First Impressions of the park
We arrived on site at about 8pm on the Friday night and it was already dark so it was hard to see much. Reception was already closed by this time so I had to go into security and this was possibly one of the most disgusting public- facing rooms I’ve ever been in.  Think of a taxi office at 1am on a Saturday morning, over flowing bin, coffee stains on the wall and filthy carpet. The security guard was very friendly and helped me with what I needed but it was not the greeting I would expect. Apparently reception closes at 7pm on a Friday and this just seemed ludicrous, I saw at least 25-30 envelopes with arrival information for guests still to arrive.

The drive to our caravan was interesting as there is minimal lighting on site and the roads are not named, so we were in W231 and the W stood for Willow Way but no-where did it say this to help us locate the caravan.

The caravan
We stayed in a Gold standard caravan, this is two up from the basic bronze and in general it was OK. I imagine when it was new it was considered quite fancy but now it isn’t. It was also very strange that the chairs were up on the table when we arrived, not very welcoming, almost as if they had forgot to put them back down and quite how 6 of us were supposed to eat with 4 chairs I'm not sure!

We were promised that our beds would be made up on arrival and the beds were but considering we also had two guests sleeping in the lounge we had no duvet cover, sheet or pillow slips for those people. In total there was only 6 pancake flat pillows in the whole caravan, so that is just one per person which is not adequate for adults, especially when they are so flat.

Our bed in the master bedroom looked like a king size and we were thrilled to see this but not so thrilled when we went to bed and dh discovered that it was a king mattress on a double bedstead!, pretty dangerous really as he nearly fell out of bed as the mattress sagged on that one side.

In general the cleanliness of the caravan was pretty good, there was no dust anywhere, nor hairs in the shower etc. The only thing that looked really grubby and used was the living room carpet and I did find it a bit odd to have carpet in the bathroom and toilet en-suite, not very hygienic at all.

The kitchen was well equipped with all we needed and it was good to see a full size fridge, freezer, oven and hob. Again little bits let it down like not having enough glasses for the 6 people booked, all the cutlery being random and not one knife matching any of the others and the drawer in the fridge having a big hole smashed through the front of it. The grill pan was also about one fifth of the size of the grill and there was no shelf to rest it on and the only baking tray was again a one person size.

On the plus side there was a radiator in each room and the heating was very efficient, there was plenty of hanging space and hangers were provided and the girls were very comfy in their twin bedroom.

My husband and I came to the conclusion that we were over staying in caravans, after a number of holidays where we have had chalet rooms we prefer those to the cramped corridors and paper-thin walls of a caravan, especially when on this site there was an awful lot of people who seemed to want to talk (or should I say swear) quite loudly at night close to us.

On the plus side the shower worked fabulously well and we had plenty of hot water, there was a small en-suite toilet for the main bedroom and the put up bed in the lounge was comfy.

Facilities on site
Arcade and Showbar - We went for an explore the first night and the kids loved the arcade area, this was probably the highlight of our break for Miss E. They each enjoyed a candyfloss for £1 as they liked to watch the machine make it for them and we went through to the showbar and the girls joined in with the entertainment and had a dance. We all enjoyed a coke and some chips while we sat there and thankfully I seemed to approach the bar at the right time as I only waited 10 minutes to get served as I saw others wait nearly half an hour. There was no such queueing issues in the attached chip shop thankfully.

Entertainment – Within our pack that we got on arrival there was two A4 pages with details of daytime and night rime entertainment. Sadly the print was so bad and small that you couldn’t actually read them. So I believe there was daytime activities going on, things like bingo, a quiz and archery (which had an additional cost) but I can’t tell you much as we genuinely could not read it. The evening entertainment that we saw consisted of a kiddie disco and games type fun called Madness and Mayhem and my girls really liked this and then we saw a talent show final which was just appalling. If these were the weekly winners you had to wonder how bad the other people were.

Swimming - On the Saturday morning our first activity was swimming and the actual pool is really quite nice, there are four different areas and depths to suit all people. The boys particularly liked the flume and there were a couple of in-pool spa pool areas which were great for a relax. The changing rooms were fine too, there was plenty of cubicles and lockers, it was shame you had to pay £1 for a locker and you didn’t get it back and the showers after you swim were a bit temperamental but in all we had fun.

Shop – We used the shop a few times for fresh baguettes (very nice), drinks and snacks. It is only a small shop but it had all the things we needed and the prices were not too bad.  The staff there were also the friendliest we came across.

Eating venues – We didn’t eat at the boathouse as the prices were pretty high, about £9 - £13 per adult meal and £4.40 for a child meal with fruit shoot. The food we saw come out looked fine, run of the mill mass produced pub food but not worth the money.  There is deals to be had on week days but as we were there on a weekend we choose to go off site and eat. The chip shop we did use on the Friday night and the food from there was fine but the actual restaurant itself lacked ambiance.

Children’s activities – As with many holiday parks, these were pretty expensive, it was £3 per person to play crazy golf, £4 to go on the bungee trampoline and £4 per half hour for a go-kart. The boys really enjoyed the go-karts but £8 for 2 of them to have a half-hour activity is quite a lot and if we had let all 4 kids have a go that would have been £16.

There are a couple of parks on-site, one was very close to our caravan and it felt a bit tired and dated but was useful as the kids could use it whilst we stayed in the van. The one in the main entertainment area was better equipped but the whole area was very messy and glasses and used food plates etc stayed on the tables for hours. We sat there from 2.30-4pm on Sunday afternoon and not one table got cleared in that time.

Customer service
The welcome really lacked at this Park Resort, from the security guard on arrival, to no welcome card or pack in the caravan. Even when we left Sunday afternoon and I took the key back the guy on reception just said thanks and bye. Where was the ‘did you enjoy your stay?’  I do have to wonder if they get so many complaints that they have stopped asking for fear of the response.

As I mentioned we did not have enough bedding for us all to sleep on the first night so we headed back to the security office to advise them and ask for covers and more pillows. The lady I spoke to was very non-committal that they could help and said a number of times ‘we will try our best’ to which I informed her that what they provided was not adequate and we expected more. I just got the same answer and you know when you realise what you need won’t be coming! We came back to our caravan a couple of hours later to find a duvet and sheet outside the caravan door (lucky it didn’t rain as forecast) despite saying they could go into the caravan if we were not there. No pillows and no covers sadly.

The next morning I did go to reception and asked again for pillows and covers and this time they came quickly. I also reported that the toilet in the en-suite was continually filling and that the noise was not bearable.  When we came back to our caravan three hours later it was fixed and a nice note left by the door to say it had been fixed. Great service on these two points.

Generally the service across the park was poor and my husband and I wondered if they had trouble recruiting as many staff did not appear to want to be there and were pre-occupied or quite rude when you spoke to them. Particularly bad was the young lady on the pool reception who made out you were putting her out by asking questions as it was your first time visiting.

Would we stay at Park Resorts, Camber Sands again? No, I wouldn’t say it is likely. The location is fabulous and the actual caravan was OK but the park itself feels tired and there appear to be quite a lot of owned caravans which I often think gives a caravan park a completely different feel. People obviously had money as the cars parked by the caravans were brand new and expensive models but many of the caravans just looked like there was no care or pride in their property.

The cost of this Gold 2 bed caravan, which sleeps 6 was £239 for this time of year (out of season) and if we had paid this I would have been really disappointed.

Other Park Resorts Reviews -
I asked some other bloggers if they had any links to share for reviews they have done of Park Resorts sites and here they are -

Adventure Mummy reviewed California Cliffs park near Great Yarmouth.

Julie's notebook reviewed Cayton Bay in North Yorkshire. The Diary of a Frugal Family also reviewed that same site.

Rock and Roll Pusscat reviewed Eyemouth holiday park in Scotland.

Disclosure: We received our stay free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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