Mark Warner Holidays Phokaia resort in Turkey – a review!
Mark Warner, Phokai Resort Turkey 3-17th August 2019
We have been taking Mark Warner holidays now for 13 years. Some years we have been fortunate enough to even have two holidays a year (with the help of a membership from what was once Pru Health – you could get 50% off with this back in the day). It’s a concept that works so well for my family and my friends and you can read more about that in my previous blog which you can find here.
Each year, when we get back from our trip, the 24 of us get together and decide on where to go next. This particular time we had taken a change from our normal Levante resort and decided to try somewhere new. Levante is amazing and I can’t recommend it enough, but we had been there so many times we fancied a change, and this place did not disappoint.
We had booked a year in advance and the good thing about this, apart from some early booking and friends and family discounts, is the fact that you can pretty much get first dibs on the apartments/villas/hotel rooms. At Levante, we had been well used to specifying which rooms we wanted, something MW could always accommodate which I think is pretty rare and here we decided to go for villas, 5 of them in a row. Flights out of Heathrow T5 with BA were seamlessly efficient and the time on the flight passed quickly with all of us seated together. The kids were getting used to being in each other’s company again as they hadn’t been together since our trip to Watergate Bay back in April. And it was, as it always is, so easy. The company of these lifelong friends, that we see only a handful of times a year, can always be likened to that of a best friend who you don’t see or speak to for years and then after five minutes back together, it’s like you were always there, sat on that playground, field or in that pub or on that rugby pitch, just like it always was.
The efficiency of a Mark Warner transfer never ceases to amaze me and we found ourselves from the aeroplane steps to the transfer coach in a very short time. The transfer here is much longer than we are used to, but bottles of water awaited us on each seat and we all settled down for our journey, which by now, was in the dark. Due to the fact that flights arrive late in the day, hotel registration forms were handed out so that no one had to do this upon arrival. Childcare forms were also in our pack and after these were all filled in, we were soon at our resort. Cases were unloaded by the Mark Warner team and we were told to go and get our dinner and that our luggage would be waiting in our rooms, which it was. Of course, being part of a big crowd meant we ate and headed straight to the bar for a few drinks, but it was an early night all round and we were soon tucked up in our very beautiful villa (more about this later).
As I’m sure you’ll all get bored with a blow by blow account of my wonderful holiday, I just wanted to share a few things with you all by way of a review as I really can’t recommend this place enough. If you – like me – like to have a bit of a read of others’ experiences, then this should hopefully help.
The resort is quite small, compared to Levante, but not tiny. The thing that really struck me about this one was that you never felt that it was busy, the whole place is beautiful sculptured with trees, day beds, cabanas and hammocks, all in plentiful supply. There is one very large pool with a decent sized children’s pool right next to it. We didn’t use this so I can’t really comment on what it was like but it looked good! There were two restaurants; one main restaurant which was really smart with lots of tables and served plenty of buffet choices. The food here really was excellent. There was a second restaurant, the Jetty Bar, down on the beach. Here you could get an assortment of bar type food, salads, burgers, Mexican or traditional Turkish food, all very nice, and don’t get me started on the hand-made chips (delicious!!).
The beach runs the length of the whole resort and again, sun beds and cabanas are plentiful. There is a jetty from which the motorised water sports depart and if you’ve booked a yacht for the day or a sunrise boat trip down to the local town, these all depart from here too. On day one we decided that this holiday would be mostly spent on the beach, unlike our normal MO which is around the pool. It made our holiday, to be honest. Each morning we would set up a base so we knew where we could find each other (don’t worry, we weren’t reserving sun beds!!) and could all come and go from our varying activities back to our base. The usual array of very efficiently run water sports activities are to hand, lots of very new looking boats from picos to CAT’s, SUP boards and Kayaks (if you’re a Mark Warner fan you’ll know what to expect). Again, an efficient waterfront team help get you on the water and sailing here was really interesting. I had some 1:1 lessons which are always great and some of our party enjoyed doing the clinics which run for various boats. A highlight has to be when I was out on a CAT with my friends Steve and Amy in extremely high wind, (blue/red flag). We had Amy strapped into a harness but once out to sea, the wind was so strong and unpredictable, that after a bit of sailing on one hull at great speed, Steve decided we should head in as it was getting dangerous. It was some of the most exciting sailing I have done, and on a par with Steve taking me out at Levante the year before!
Childcare is another thing that has attracted us to Mark Warner over the years, and with the youngest children in our group all being age ten, this now took the form of places to meet and make new friends as well as being packed full of fab activities. From sailing, windsurfing, cricket, beach volleyball, table tennis, wide games like 21 and other games like mafia, the kids had a full-on schedule that they could drop in and out of as they wished. For our older teens, they had a great time with each other and getting to know other teens and spent a lot of time on the water, playing card games and just generally “chilling out” as teenagers do. The freedom that all the children had was brilliant, and in a totally safe environment. Mark Warner run evening child care; all our children could meet with the team leaders, who took it in turns to host dinner, and then take part in various activities or chill and watch a film. From age 10 and up they can sign themselves in and out of club, so again this meant they could all easily come and go as they please and return to our meeting point to find the adults that were around (in such a large group it’s great and we all are around for each other’s children).
The management team were very efficient, clearly visible during the holiday and also on hand and very proactive – we had a couple of our party have to take a trip to the hospital – and the hotel manager made a special journey to the hospital to check on his guests, which we thought really was going above and beyond!
We also enjoyed the fitness classes, tennis coaching, tipsy tennis on a Wednesday night (yep, it is just as it sounds – our party made the semi finals in the first week and won in the second week!). And lots and lots of relaxing, eating nice food, lots of drinking of course. The highlight of each day would be the sun downers. There was something in this resort I’ve not seen before and that was cargo nets that hung off the jetty, adorned with big yellow bean bags. Sun downers were often spent on here, all the adults relaxing with a beer in our hands (very lemonady shandy in my case – no laughing you lot!) watching the most incredible sunset that took place right there in front of you. There was a BBQ night twice a week, which was just out of this world and some lovely local ladies made leavened bread, of which we ate far too many varieties! With salads, fresh fish, meat, the food was excellent and plentiful in its choice. Always on offer was a signature dish cooked to order, and the staff here were just lovely and couldn’t do enough for you. A lovely waiter looked after us each day, making sure our table for 10 was waiting and even the drinks he knew we would like were there ready.
So, with all this information, I’ll leave you with some photos. To me, photos are always better than words, but then I would say that wouldn’t I!
Another idyllic, wonderful, relaxing and exciting time spent with my lovely friends, the correct mix of keeping active and busy with all the wonderful activities on offer but plenty of down time if you wanted it, with early morning swims in the sea and coffee on the beach before anyone was up, sunsets to watch with beer in hand, and long meals chatting to good friends and making new ones too!
There are many more things that I haven’t commented on in this blog as I didn’t personally use them – the Spa, which several of my friends used often, the massages of which they said were amazing,
If you’re thinking of booking, my advice would be do it! You won’t be disappointed, and next August, well, I may just see you there – in my marvellous group of 24 best friends made on a Mark Warner holiday……
Recently I’ve been getting Jackson to write a bit in my blogs and I really like this as an idea. On the plane home I gave some paper to some of the children and asked them to write what they had liked best about their holiday:
G age 5 – “splashing in the swimming pool and playing cards with my friends – chase the ace was the best!”.
G age 10 “Being like a wild animal running around with no boundaries and meeting new people”.
F age 13 “ I liked having the opportunity to do things I couldn’t at home”.
S age 12 “The waterskiing was soo ”sick”. The food was amazing (especially the milkshakes) and I loved spending time with everyone”.
B age 10 “I liked spending time with the familiar faces and catching up with old friends. I loved the food and spending time in the water”.
J age 10 “playing on the jetty”.
F age 10 “going snorkelling on the boat trip”.
J age 10 “the boat trip!”.
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