I can’t understand why my family claims I’m awful at packing for a holiday. I’m actually rather brilliant at it. How else do you explain how I can stuff my entire wardrobe into a single case?
And this is precisely why our recent trip to Turkey began like all our foreign hols – suitcase open on the floor at check-in, me shovelling shoes into my carry-on to avoid an excess baggage sting.
All watched over by my husband, head in hands, groaning: “But… we’re off to Turkey! All you need is a bikini and flip-flops!”
Which only goes to show how wrong a man can be. We were headed to the TUI-run Robinson Club Masmavi resort in Belek, on the Gulf of Antalya and, as we would quickly discover, this is a place that loves dressing up.
Every night is a glitzy party night, when the main restaurant gets a themed makeover, and guests are encouraged to follow suit. It’s Turkey, with all the trimmings. And for once in my life I had actually under-packed.
There was the black and gold gala dinner, the blue evening, the Music of Rocky night (sports luxe, natch)… By the time Hollywood Night rolled around, I was genuinely peeved I hadn’t brought my ballgown.
The Germans have been slapping down their beach towels at this resort since it opened in spring 2016, but it may not be as familiar to us Brits.
And, oh boy, have we been missing out. For starters, it was a breeze to get to, scarcely 30 minutes from Antalya airport. A definite bonus after a four-hour flight with kids.
The resort itself was gorgeous. Our room overlooked one of the seven pools, although “river” would be a better description of the glittering azure channels winding their way down to the sea. Even more beautiful, in the eyes of our kids at least, was the resort’s mini water park with no less than six slides splashing into the lagoon.
The private hotel beach was wide and sandy, while the warm, shallow sea provided just enough gentle waves to have Connor, eight, and Cara, seven, screaming with excitement as they dodged another “big one”. Only the promise of a baked-to-order pizza from the beach bar lured them out.
Our home for the week was one of hotel’s family suites, a nicely set up arrangement with a bedroom at either end and a bathroom apiece in between to buffer our eardrums from the noise of two children who were far too excited to sleep.
That, or too full. All-inclusive resorts fall or stand on their cuisine, and the food at Masmavi is outstanding. A conclusion we reached at roughly the point we’d made our fifth circuit round the carvery, stir-fry show kitchen, pasta bar, bread racks, rotisserie, steak grill, fish fry, ice-cream trolley, the THREE huge rows of desserts…
On a couple of nights we booked into one of the hotel’s five speciality restaurants. At the beachfront Turkish grill, even the kids were happy to swap their usual bowls of spag bol for local breads, kebabs and meze dips.
My husband and I even managed to squeeze in an actual date night by booking a babysitter and a table for two up on deck at SEA.
We were seated in a little wooden rowing boat for two, where we ate lobster and drank champagne as the sun set over the water.
It was all terribly romantic until my husband refused to pose for my smoochy, trout-lipped selfies, claiming I was making him feel seasick.
With so many opportunities for gluttony, it’s helpful to know there are plenty of ways to work it all off too.
You’ll find many of them by heading for The Meet, a giant open-air chessboard which serves as an activities meeting place, dance floor and Kids’ Club drop-off point. Don’t underestimate how many calories you can burn as you hand over your children and run like hell. There’s also the spa, where you’ll find a decent gym, plus studios offering everything from power pilates to zumba.
My husband came back drenched in sweat, muscles quivering. Mind, that was because he’d popped over for a haircut and somehow got talked into having his nostrils and ears stripped bare with hot wax.
Should you feel like getting out and about, there are a couple of local towns – Belek and Kadriye – which have weekly markets, as well as the usual souvenir shops, bars and cafes.
They’re easily reached by bus or taxi and a better bet than the pricey boutiques at Masmavi if, say, you suddenly realise you need a new frock in a certain colour…
Speaking of which, I was delighted to discover the entertainment schedule runs on a fortnightly loop here, proving my theory that a week at Masmavi simply isn’t enough.
That’s right, there’s a whole seven nights of different themes just waiting for me next time.
And yes, I would absolutely return here, with just one proviso: Gonna. Need. A. Bigger. Suitcase.
Since this review, TUI has rebranded the Robinson resort as the TUI Magic Life Masmavi with a very similar offering, but some name changes for restaurants and bars.
TUI Magic Life Masmavi resort
BOOK IT: TUI has 7 nights on all-inclusive at the 5* TUI Magic Life Masmavi resort in Belek, Turkey, from £421.80pp, based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing. Departs from Gatwick on May 15, 2018, and includes transfers. Manchester flight on same date from £448.02pp. For more information visit tui.co.uk
MORE INFO: Visit goturkeytourism.com.