As your family grows up you realise you all want very different things sometimes, for me that’s been a tough lesson but also the most exciting thing too. Watching my kids set sail on some incredible solo adventures on our Mark Warner holiday made me feel so proud, and emotional too, because suddenly my maps, plans and guide books were a little redundant, someone else was leading their fun. I think we all grew up at Levante, individually and as a family.
I guess now is a good time to tell you I am the culture vulture in the family, and that staying on a resort geared to watersports doesn’t come naturally. But I was keen to see if we could combine the emerging desire of my growing kids to embrace new thrills, Mr A’s dream to learn to sail and my love of Greek food and culture. That’s quite a lot of different stuff to cram in a week, and if I could have my time again I would do a couple things differently, but that is the beauty of a Mark Warner Holiday, the combination of on site possibilities is endless and that’s why many people keep going back. So many people I met were experts.
I also had a bad case of ‘buffet syndrome’ where not only the food, but the childcare, watersports and sports opportunities on offer bamboozled me and I kept worrying about whether I had picked the right dinner/activity/childcare pattern. So I will try and share some tips to help you navigate that too, if you are thinking of going you will hopefully have more than the 6 days I had to plan.
Our holiday started at Heathrow, everything was so easy and smooth, from our charter flight with BA, coach transfer in the hands of Mark Warner staff who met us at the airport and the wonderful welcome to the resort with watermelon, cold drinks and Greek cookies for all the family as we checked in. The rain lashing the windscreen as we drove to Heathrow seemed so far away.
On arrival I was pleasantly surprised to arrive and find what had looked like a lot of white, spanking new buildings and little foliage in photos I had seen, was actually quite a leafy resort, with ancient hellenistic ruins nestled within. Taking photos at Levante was amazing, this sunset from later in the week was one of my favourite pictures.
Of course, much to the dismay of my family, who had their eye on a week of pool games and watersports, the ancient ruins outside our apartment had me itching to get out and explore the island further. I did find myself very torn, between giving in to total relaxation and not leaving the resort – plenty of guests just don’t leave as the activity offer is so great on site – and indulging my inner need to see stuff. I’ll explain how we dealt with that later.
Arriving at Levante
Checking in was really quick and well organised, despite the fact a whole coach load of families had arrived. The cookies, watermelon and child drinks were a lovely welcome. I forgot which direction our apartment was in – listening to important instructions is not my forte – but a friendly member of the watersports team scooped up our bags and walked us down – the whole staff are incredibly helpful.
Our family suite at Levante
Our accommodation at Mark Warner was really well designed, it could absolutely appear in Ikea as the basis for one of those display spaces that function as a whole house within a couple of rooms. There was so much storage, in the hallways and main bedroom, so all our stuff vanished, leaving us room to chill. The sliding door between parent and child room is genius and the bathroom is so spacious, a large shower, bath and two basins is so practical when everyone wants to get ready at the same time.
I am not a minimalist, I naturally sway towards places with lots of ‘character’, or what many people call clutter, my friend who knows me well joked after seeing this picture that this very modern suite must have felt like waking up in a sanatorium for me. But minimalism and functionality is absolutely great here for lots of reasons, and once I realised that I hadn’t been incarcerated, I was able to make the most of the air con and the calm atmosphere, especially when I quietly slid the door between rooms shut for a siesta. Mr A worships at the altar of minimalism, (without practising at home), so he loves it when we stay somewhere minimalist.
Learning what is on offer at Levante
We had two welcome meetings the first day – one for the resort and one for childcare – I’m being honest I am not a fan of welcome meetings, I’m a visual person and much prefer a piece of paper and a lie down after travelling, but I did appreciate the free drinks and it was very well presented and lively.
I would definitely advise taking plenty of time to look at the website beforehand and prioritise what you want to try while you are there, I found myself faced with an incredible array of possibilities and my limited capacity for decision making. Mr A was unfazed, he knew exactly what he was doing, and had already booked in to learn to sail. I quickly found myself being the lynch pin to everyone else’s plans, so settled to three mornings of pottering while Mr A did his RYA 1 sailing course and the kids found their feet. But by the time Mr A finished his sailing course on Wednesday lunchtime we had a Kayak safari and trip to Lindos planned to meet my need to explore Rhodes.
TIP – Make the most of the staff knowledge! There was also another waterfront meeting the next morning, but we were tired and still unpacking. I had a brilliant chat with the waterfront staff when I finally got myself organised and they were truly brilliant at explaining what was on offer. I decided I wanted to stick to kayaking and paddle boarding, which I could play with in my own time and didn’t seem too involved. Perfect!
After travelling and taking in the resort we were really excited about dinner, and the restaurant really impressed us, it was clear we were going to have great fun eating over the week. The buffet was vast and varied. The trick with a buffet is to take time to look at all the options before getting a plate, and to remember you have all week to make the most of it, you don’t need to eat all the buffet the first day. As a veggie I had plenty of options, but was almost relieved mine were limited, this buffet is vast.
I ate so healthily on this holiday and managed not to put on any weight – so easy when someone else is making a daily feast of sensational salads and whipping up your omelette of choice for brekkie. When I found myself lost and lonely in our local supermarket a week later, I would have made huge sacrifices to the Gods of Greece to transport me back to Levante for one more feast.
Greek sweets are incredible. One thing I didn’t hold back on, and absolutely feasted on, was Greek desserts – baklava, white chocolate covered pistachios, dark chocolate covered almonds and macaroons.
The restaurant has different themed nights, my favourite was Greek, but they didn’t stray too far from the Med though, which is foodie heaven. Self service buffets mean all the family had great options, including meat eating Mr A, veggie me, my fussy 6yo and my adventurous 8yo. The children’s high tea was perfectly timed, G especially doesn’t stop moving, and needs to eat little and often, by 5pm he was starving from an afternoon’s leaping in the pool.
At lunchtime we ate at the pool bar, pizzas, toasted sandwiches, salads, stuffed peppers – this cost us about 30-40 euros a day. I love Greek salad, if I could only have one meal for the rest of my life, it would be Greek salad, always in Greece though, it always tastes better in Greece, with the sun dappling the oregano tinged oil and juice of tomato…
TIP – With hindsight, I would probably have gone for full board – knowing now I only managed to get the others to leave the resort once – the lunch buffet would give you much more variety than eating at the Pool bar, especially if you are looking for healthier options. We did pay for lunch in the restaurant once, but it is more expensive to do it that way. If you are off resort more, half board works.
Another lovely slice of tranquility was the Pan Asian restaurant, I loved the black and red chinoisiere against the blue of the pool. While the vegetarian options were limited, the chef was happy to create something different for me the second time we visited, to make up for tofu being impossible to source currently in Rhodes. It was great to be waited on too, as buffets and kids can be a bit of a yo yo affair!
TIP – We absolutely loved the Greek Taverna which you can eat at for no extra charge. We had dips, Mr A had a fish course and I had Greek salad, main course and pudding – so in all 4-5 courses depending on if you are veggie or not, so a wonderful journey through food, with lovely views out of the resort towards the coast and mountains.
Lilac, tangerine, rose pink, the colour of the skies in Rhodes are magical. Quite a few nights we went down to the beach at night, it was cool enough to truly appreciate it, and unbelievably quiet. Not that Levante is crowded, or noisy, quite the opposite, but in a larger resort, it’s always good to know you can have a beach like this all to yourself.
The ‘energy’ of Levante is quite active, probably down to all the children in our summer holiday visit, and the wide range of incredible sports opportunities.
TIP The beach was a wonderful tranquil place to be morning and night – what a gift to have this to yourself. We often shared it with our friends from Nottingham, chatting after dinner on sun loungers as the sun vanished and the kids played in the sand. I took lots of photos of the sunrise to share too.
Everyone seems to be doing something cool at Levante, and for an indecisionate people watcher like me, this can give you a terrible case of the ‘am I missing outs’. I threw myself in at the deep end and tired something I never thought I would, a free scuba taster lesson in the pool on day two. I knew it would take me a lot more practice to ever dare to do it in the sea, but I was so excited to have dipped my toe in. And proud of L!
I then spent the first couple of days a bit flummoxed what to try next, with hindsight I should have signed up for some tuition like the rest of the family. But we all get there in our own time! Kayaking on the sea was amazing.
I would dearly love to photoshop this picture – you can see how I am trying to turn round so Mr A doesn’t have to photograph my bum – but stuff that nonsense. It shows how far I came in a week, not so much in paddle boarding, which isn’t actually that hard, if you’ve ever done yoga, just stand up with balancing like you would in a yoga position in mind and when you’re up its amazing. It only took me 10 minutes to get up on my feet.
It is the being in deep water confidence I am showing here – I’ve always feared the depth and Levante was the first place I dared to do something that was just me and the deep. Oh that and throwing myself into a totally alien world, full of super happy smiley instructors who seem like they were born doing this stuff. Actually they are all lovely, and really good at helping without seeming patronising or intimidating. As I was doing this one of the watersports staff working in the area called out some praise, followed by some well timed tips to move to the next level.
My favourite thing was kayaking. I will share the kayak safari with you another day, but I seriously overcame some fears of the deep that day and I am so proud of that. And the cafe we stopped at was amazing…and a magical slice of Greek culture.
TIP – If you are going to do watersports it is worth investing in a couple of items that make you feel comfortable and see off the sun. I used a running t shirt and shorts for kayaking and paddle boarding, but a rash vest is a great way to protect your neck too. A cap is handy to protect your head while in the water. The sea is shingle so you might want crocs or neoprene shoes, if like me you’re a bit of a foot pain wimp.
A cover up and swimwear that makes you feel good – don’t underestimate how much time you will spend in these items!
My kids were in Junior Club, so could do morning and afternoon childcare sessions each day at no extra cost, plus supervised evening activities from 7.30pm till 11pm. You can see any additional costs for younger children and babies here.
All four of us loved the concept of the movie nights, where the kids got to hang out with friends while Mr A and I ate together from the buffet in the restaurant at our own pace, or dined in the taverna or Pan Asian restaurant with friends from Nottingham who also happened to be there too. It was so lovely to hang out with Louise from My Gorgeous Boys and family and having a conversation as grown ups that isn’t interrupted was magical. Mr A and Louise’s husband worked together once, and the kids are the same age, so it worked out brilliantly.
Mr A and I really enjoyed some quality time together, Mark Warner is definitely a wonderful way to make sure every part of the family gets some time together.
G is a very lively, at times challenging 6 year old, so although he loved the childcare on both our Carnival Cruises, I knew childcare and organised activity could prove tricky for him, and those looking after him. L is 8, confident and slots in to new situations easily.
In the end both kids dipped in and out of daytime kids club depending on what they fancied doing, which worked because I hadn’t booked to do the sailing course like Mr A, it gave us some quality time one on one, which was lovely. Although as they were in different groups on different schedules, their dipping in and out was often at different times and so made our days feel a bit fragmented. Lots of kids go every day for the full sessions, but they are also very welcome to dip in as they please. As the week went on we got a bit more strategic!
TIP Again most holiday goers would have more than 6 days to get their head round going on a Mark Warner holiday, it is worth planning ahead a bit as a family, looking at what is on offer on the Mark Warner website, to get the most out of it.
After his first afternoon childcare session G was so much happier, more excited and confident. He loved the pool games, and we got to watch him playing and excitedly shouting to his other team mates across the pool.
Once we had got him up after a late night making the most of the cool evening, sun creamed, walked to breakfast and walked to the beach for the watersports session at 10am – no mean feat in the heat, and not the usual lazy way we start a holiday day – it was incredible to hear him shouting across the beach ‘Mummy I sailed a boat!’. Literally one of those moments which make your heart burst, along with hearing him still talk to this day about the time he was the only one to manage to stay on the wobble board! The waterfront and childcare staff combine on these sessions – all the staff were really fab with him.
As an ex teacher I was quite surprised by the starkness of the Junior Club room, many younger children find an open space quite intimidating, I think I had expected it to be more of a free play space like Mini Club. G liked some sessions and not others, aged 6 he seemed a bit inbetween the Mini and Junior Club at times. He needed more chance for free play, whereas each Junior Club hourly session had a specific theme or activity. However, when you consider all this activity is included in the price of the holiday for this age group, and how brilliant the (English speaking) nannies are, that’s amazing.
L really enjoyed the pool sessions with her group and also had a go at windsurfing and flip flop tennis amongst other things, she managed to get up for her 9am slot more easily than her brother.
She also enjoyed doing the show rehearsals, but G really didn’t and so we ended up coming to get him to take him out of those sessions. If I am honest, and putting G’s feelings aside, I felt the show was an unnecessary extra pressure on kids, parents and staff. It was really lovely all the kids got certificates and badges in a childcare ceremony though and to me that was more than enough means to celebrate a week’s achievement. Look at these proud faces!
TIP – What works for your family childcare wise is really personal to you, many families select purely on the basis of Mark Warner high quality childcare. I think the trick is not to worry about what works for other families, or what other families are doing, and to go with your gut feeling on what works for you and yours. Mark Warner have great childcare in place and ultimately it doesn’t matter how much you use as long as you have a great holiday.
We absolutely loved the pools, they were a real highlight. The large pool was a great meeting place for families, there is also a neighbouring toddler splash pool. I loved the peace of the adult only pool and we all enjoyed the music and atmosphere of the pool bar. As Mr A said in his post, it was great to share a resort and a huge pool with other families who understand that kids need to let off steam. The kids spent most the week in the pool, they both grew in confidence in the water, Mr G especially.
All the family activity meant my book reading seemed less than usual, but still, I relished those moments of reading by the pool. Here I am devouring The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters, unbeknown to Mr G I am sneaking a look as he plays water games happily with Junior Club.
TIP – We were warned mosquitoes could be a problem and normally I really suffer, but I am so excited to announce there were only three teeny tiny bites in a week – unheard of for me. When I wasn’t drinking cocktails I was drinking gin and tonic to see off the mozzies. It worked a treat, combined with Boots natural mozzie repellant applied liberally every evening. I will drink to that! The bar area is vast and air conditioned and the pool bar is another great aperitif option. This is a Summer Breeze, which I defintely want to recreate.
I have a confession, I just did not get why people were doing some of the sport they were doing in that heat. Tennis is also incredibly popular. My next confession is…. I can’t stand tennis.
However, I did go for an early morning run, Mark Warner organise so many sports activities: running, yoga, stretch, HIIT, exercise classes and cycling throughout the week. I can run 15k at home quite comfortably, but 5k in that heat was ridiculously tough. As I walked out the reception there was a cleaning lady mopping, she looked at me, looked at the sky and shook her head. I should have known. Mad dogs and Englishmen! Even my running teacher believes holidays should be holidays. If I went back I would ditch doing that run, but huge thanks to the very lovely MW team for supporting me through it.
TIP – Next time I would like to do a sunset stretch or yoga. I loved the stretch class in the adults only swimming pool, it was truly delicious.
Despite being on a resort, the moving about from beach to pool, to restaurant to childcare and all the swimming I did seemed to be enough to trigger the daily movement target on my running watch each day, I didn’t put any weight on, despite enjoying the incredible food and a couple of drinks a day – hurrah for that!
Our Day Out – Lindos
It is very hot in August, and there was a heatwave while we were there. More on our day out in another post, but Lindos truly was incredible, as well as the beautiful bay behind it where we stopped to cool off and swim. It was busy and hot but I am so glad we did it.
TIP – Hiring a car is so easy as there is a desk in reception manned by a car hire firm. There are also lots of excursions around Rhodes organised by a local travel company, as well as kayak safari and the scuba boat trip which are organised by the scuba and watersports teams. Reception will also help you with buses and routes. It really is ridiculously easy to get about, IF you can convince your family to leave.
New to Mark Warner?
If it is your first Mark Warner holiday you can feel like a bit of a newbie, especially if you are new to watersports too. Everyone we encountered was really friendly though, from staff to other holidaymakers. The staff are brilliant at putting you at ease, and have a really friendly but respectful manner. Bear in mind everyone is carving out a unique holiday experience, and doing lots of different things on the resort, so there is no right or wrong way to do it. Dipping into things is all part of the fun. You won’t conquer everything on offer in a week, so either focus on honing one skill or enjoy experimenting like I did! Greece in high season is really hot too, so slow right down and don’t be too ambitious.
We had an amazing collection of experiences on our Mark Warner Holiday, I am so proud of the kids and Mr A, and they really loved it. I know family life is all about getting that balance. So many people have asked me, and so I have to be honest, it was incredible, but still something didn’t quite click for me, I wasn’t quite feeling myself the week we went – I have analysed what that was until I was blue in the face, it’s not Levante, it’s me. Perhaps I was a little scared of the water. Perhaps you just need to really know what you want from the holiday yourself, as there is so much on offer and so much your family will absolutely want to do. Perhaps staying on a resort when my preference is to explore was just too much. Perhaps I just think too much – ditherers be warned.
I am SO proud of what I did do though and have subsequently jumped off a boat in open water 4 times – so something in me has definitely changed.
If I could have my time again, or go back, I would have done more watersports as a family, or a couple – Louise and her husband did two mini courses together and I loved the idea of a family sail with an instructor – and more sightseeing. Next time. But as I warned you, I am not the resort person or the watersport person in the family. I absolutely can’t fault Levante, it’s a wonderful resort and YES the sport offering, staff, food and accommodation are as incredible, in fact even more incredible than they looked in all my instagrams.
Check out Mr A’s account of learning to sail and Mr G’s favourite moments here.
We were guests of Mark Warner, editorial and opinions are my own.