Creta Maris, Hersonissos, Greece
All-inclusive, best for children of all ages
Creta Maris is a sprawling resort and located directly on the glittering Aegean coastline, it is home to a myriad of pools, 250m of private beach, restaurants, tavernas and even an impressive water park, but most importantly it has retained its Greek charm and warm family-run feel. The surroundings are beautifully maintained, with cobbled streets, hidden squares and a hugely impressive array of plant life and flowers, it truly does feel like a small, traditional Greek village.
There’s a huge variety of accommodation to choose from at Creta Maris, from sea-view apartments for couples with babies or young children to two storey villas which are perfect for larger families or those with older children, as they offer complete privacy as well as comfort, with two large separate rooms, two balconies, two large bathrooms and big, comfortable beds. Cleaning services come twice a day so the whole villa feels pristine throughout your holiday.
The all-inclusive offering here manages to be high-quality and very generous at the same time, with an array of food and drink on offer from morning until night. You’ll find seven restaurants on the premises, which all have a focus on local, organic produce which is sustainably-farmed with a farm to fork ethos – the Creta Maris have their own kitchen gardens on-site which supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to the hotel.
Children will love the buffet restaurants which have plentiful choice and decadent dessert bars, the buffets mostly focus on traditional Greek cuisine with fresh salads, seafood and grilled meats, but the largest buffet restaurant offers themed nights which change every evening. However, the A La Carte restaurants are the highlight and it’s worth making your booking early through the hotel app to secure the restaurants of your choice the day before dining.
Pithos is an organic restaurant overlooking a quiet pool which focuses exclusively on Cretan cuisine, there’s a traditional wood oven and you’ll find dishes such as cuttlefish with fennel & olives, grilled sea bream and homemade burgers and chips and a good choice of local Cretan wines which are all complimentary. Cochilias is another restaurant highlight, specialising in barbeque and having spectacular sea views and beautifully barbecued steaks, chicken souvlaki, fish and an array of salads, freshly baked breads and oils and a towering dessert and ice cream bar. Platia is a smart Greek restaurant overlooking the Byzantine chapel, where traditionally dressed waiters serve exceptional seafood pasta and an imaginative children’s menu.
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Despite all this, children may well be mostly taken with the many snack points on offer throughout the hotel, where you can order freshly made waffles, crepes, Greek salad pots as well as hotdogs, toasties and slushies – no one will go hungry. The bar overlooking the pool and beach outside reception also serve a good range of cocktails and mocktails which are all included in the price of your stay, you can borrow from a range of board games and settle in to see the sunset.
Sports facilities for children here are also excellent, you can book professional tennis and football courts for free anytime during your stay which are flood lit during the evenings, the perfect time to play in hot weather. Creta Maris is also home to an open-air cinema where you can see box office classics or big games under the stars as a family, and pick up complimentary popcorn on your way in.
The all-inclusive offering lasts until the moment you leave the hotel, even if you have a late-night flight back home. There are showers and changing facilities specifically for checked-out guests, so you can enjoy the pools, beach and restaurants for the entirety of your last day.
How to do it Rooms available at Creta Maris from £180 per night on an all-inclusive basis, use of all facilities included.
P&O Norwegian Fjords tour
All-inclusive, best for older children
Starting a trip abroad without having to fly or take a very long drive sets the precedent for one of the most stress-free ways to travel. Cruises have a reputation for an audience of a certain age but P&O ships couldn’t be more family-focused. Set sail from Southampton and spend two nights at sea being pampered. Keep the hunger at bay at the round-the-clock street food area, The Quays, serving exemplary fish and chips, big burgers and fried chicken and Thai curries and katsu. For the first full day there’s a gala evening with a menu of timeless classics like beef wellington, curated by culinary heavyweight, Marco Pierre White, who was on board throughout the voyage giving daily talks and cookery demonstrations – other chefs are available. There are more dining options than days on the ship to enjoy them, the popular Olive Grove (booking essential) make pizza to order and serve other Mediterranean favourites, Sidhu is Indian-fusion, and you can pick your own steak from their on-board meat-aging cabinet at The Keel and Cow –you won’t go hungry.
First port of call is Norway’s fourth biggest city, Stavanger. The ship docks in the old quarter with its view of old white wooden houses. Stavanger is home to the Norwegian canning museum. Norway is reliant on preserved fish and here you can learn about every step of the sardine-canning process, from the arrival of fresh fish to smoking (which you can taste on some days, check website) to the canning itself.
It’s up early the next day for to take in the first views of the spectacularly scenic Fjordland before stopping at the picturesque village of Olden. There are lots of ways to experience the Olden Fjords from the reasonable safety of a cable car to the more adventurous option of a speed boat which can be combined with catching langoustine for a seafood feast (with homemade mayonnaise, bread wine and salad) when you get back on shore. Trips can be organised through the ship’s expert shore experience team and all Olden activities can be booked independently at oldenactive.com.
After a morning cycling from the snow topped mountains to the most iconic and busy fjord port, Geiranger, you are ready for a sugar fix at the Gerianger Bakeri. Here they specalise in filling cinnamon flavoured buns and flaky pastries with whipped cream and make a lesser-known traditional dessert ‘Heitevegg’ or ‘hot wall’ which involves pouring hot milk over a soft, sweet cardamon bun and allowing it to soak in like an individual bread and butter pudding.
Our last day was spent in the town Haugesund which is rich in Viking folklore and is a short bus ride away from the Norwegian history centre and Viking village, Avaldsnes.
Haugesund offers lots of shopping opportunities from out-and-bound clothes shops to small delis and there’s a lively waterside restaurant and coffee shop scene with all day dining at Brasserie Brakstad and small plates with a Nordic slant at To Glass.
After all that action, you’re thankful for the last two night at sea making full use of the ships spa facilities or just relaxing in one of the 18 jacuzzis leaving you feeling that if you want to combine the all-taken-care-of elements of an all-inclusive but still want the culture fix of touring then a cruise has it all covered.
HOW TO DO IT
P&O Norwegian Fjords tours start at £999 per person for a room with a balcony and we sailed on the Iona.