Our summer trip to Jersey was a bit last minute (as so many of our holidays are), and booked on a vague recommendation. Plus it was somewhere we could fly to without passports, so we could tick off N’s wish to go on a plane.
I’d asked around before booking a hotel because I was struggling to find somewhere. Lots of hotels looked like they didn’t take children, other big brand hotels that in the UK I’d think of as feasible were coming up as ridiculously expensive, and others didn’t have free wifi. I don’t ask for much in a hotel, but I do expect in this day and age to have wifi.
A couple of friends recommended the Merton Hotel as being great for kids. With mixed online reviews, generally it was looking like a safe option, and yes it was like a package holiday hotel with tonnes of kids club activities. Going away with N on my own after he’d been in holiday club most of the holidays, I wasn’t going to put him in a club, but it was good to know that children should be well catered for.
The welcome was sufficient when we went to drop off our bags ahead of check in time, but on our return to get our keys it was much friendlier and more helpful. While it’s not the best hotel we’ve stayed in, it does the job as a 3 star hotel. Think a bit like a Travelodge in furnishing although not as fresh and new as some, and you’ve pretty much got it. The lobby area was always busy with people, but considering the number of families staying there (and when I say families, I’m talking generations of families on holiday together), it wasn’t full of kids running riot everywhere and it wasn’t over noisy.
There were a few issues – the lift was broken in our part of the hotel for a couple of days, but luckily there was another one to use round the corner. We used the stairs most of the time anyway. Then on getting into our room, there was a cot crushed in there. Now, when I booked, I had to input the age of the child, so I don’t know where they’d got the idea that we needed a cot. What was more puzzling was that a couple of days before I’d had a call from them to check if my 1 year old needed a cot. I phoned them back to say I didn’t have a 1 year old, he was 5, and so no, we didn’t need a cot (if I had, I’d have booked one). So to turn up in the room to find one was a total mystery. It was easy enough to ask the porters on our way out to get it removed before we returned, and they did giving us movement around the room.
In the room we had everything we needed. We had free wifi (you could pay for faster wifi but we didn’t need it even with me on my phone and N looking at YouTube of an evening), there was tea making facilities if you wanted it, and basic shower gel. The only thing that was missing was air conditioning which so few hotels have anyway. And it could have done with it because the whole hotel was hot. Even opening the windows all day, letting early morning cooler air in, then keeping the curtains shut didn’t cool down the room. We had no problems sleeping though so it wasn’t a problem at night, and we didn’t stay in much during the day. There was an electric fan so we used that when we were awake.
While the tap water in the hotel was vile, I was very impressed by the shower. It was really powerful, and having little hangers to dry out swimming costumes on was a great touch.
Breakfast was included in the main Belvedere Restaurant each morning. I thought the buffet was really good. There was lots of choice – continental, yoghurts, fruit, pastries, cheese and meat, cereals, toast and a massive choice of hot food – including porridge, omelettes and pancakes. N had a cooked breakfast each day, while I tended to have something cold different each day. I have to admit to having pancakes, fruit and maple syrup on one day. Delicious and not a problem with them having been left heated on the buffet. We did eat breakfast within the first half hour of it being open though, so I don’t know what it would be like when it got really busy later on.
The hotel was near enough to walk into the centre of town – straight through the beautiful Howard Davis Park. It was around a 15 minute walk, and N coped with the walk back even after a long day out. There are buses, but they do a one way route, which meant it was going into town, but to get a bus out would have meant a different route out that I hadn’t worked out, or a trip out somewhere else first before being dropped off at the stop we walked past each day. It was handy returning from a day out to be able to get off before the town centre though and save a bit of walking.
Now, I’ve never been in a resort hotel since having N, so I was a little bit ‘ahhh’ on the first night when we turned up at Kidszone live in the Star Bar.
The hotel has lots of activities for children. Ranging from day time kids club, through to the early evening kids activities while presumably adults have their meal, and then the evening kids entertainment hour, there was plenty to keep children of all ages entertained. For older children there’s the Flow Rider surfing to try out, the pool, tennis court and a games room with arcade type games in it.
We only made use of the evening entertainment session. For me, it was just that little bit too late as it didn’t start until 8.30. N is usually in bed between 7.30-8, but even with being on holiday he was still ready for bed by 9pm so we never got to see the full shows. But N loved the evening routine of getting back from our meal out, coming back to the hotel for a short breather before heading down to the bar. Where he could have his lemonade, we could catch the end of whatever previous activity was on – musical bingo was a favourite, and he quite enjoyed the final race of race night too – and then enjoy the kids party entertainment.
I did get a bit of a shock at how hyper all the children were. Largely fuelled by blue Slush Puppies. N didn’t want to get down on the floor with all the other children, he preferred to stay sitting around the edge with me and watching. Although he did seem to take it all in. The evenings started off with a dance party with the kids club staff and kids all dancing the moves to their favourite kids club pop songs.
Then there was sometimes a display – so the first night we saw Australia’s Got Talent performers doing juggling and various other skills. N got a bit scared for some reason (not at the part when they were in a mask, but later when they were just twirling light) so we didn’t stay for the whole performance. Other days it was party style games and challenges – dance competitions, blowing up balloons and singing while gargling water – run by the kids club team. N thought it was all great. It definitely showed that The Merton was a proper resort hotel, and gave us a bit of experience should we ever get round to booking somewhere abroad.
We only had soft drinks but the bar wasn’t ridiculously expensive like some in the UK are, and even with the entertainment each night, we couldn’t hear any of it once back in our room.
Sports and leisure
The highlight of the Merton Hotel has to be the swimming pool. I’d read some reviews saying it got ridiculously busy, but despite it being hot and school summer holidays, we didn’t find it that busy. Having said that, we just went there each afternoon after coming back from a day out, rather than setting out deckchairs all day like many people seemed to do. The grassy areas around the pool did seem quite crammed in with deck chairs, but if you’re just going to swim, using the changing rooms and enjoying the pool wasn’t a problem. Handily you didn’t need to take towels because for a £10 deposit we could get hire towels.
The pool is quite large, with an indoor pool flowing out doors to a larger pool area. There’s a good slide although we didn’t try that – the slide seemed to open at sporadic times, then close for a bit and then open again. There was also a little Jacuzzi area, sauna, rapids on and off, and some smaller slides for younger children.
N loved the pool. It’s not often we get to go for fun swims and it really did give him more confidence. We didn’t have enough baggage space to take his swim fin, but it was mostly shallow enough for him to stand, and then use a ball as a float.
For adults and children who’re tall enough (N was just tall enough to do the body boarding if he wanted), you can have a lesson on the Flo Rider – to learn to surf or body board. It looked great fun although I wasn’t going to suck myself into a wetsuit and N didn’t want to try it. It does cost extra but everything you need is included, and there was always someone on it when we were there.
N really wanted to play tennis while we were there too. The tennis court is basic (think the quality of old tennis courts at secondary schools – or ours at least!), but was available anytime we were there. So we paid the £4, hired racquets and balls, and had a go…for all of 10 minutes before N got bored.
There’s certainly plenty to do during the day if you want to get active, or just laze around the pool.
Apart from breakfast we didn’t eat much in the hotel. There are 3 places to eat, The Belvedere, Bonettis and Jersey Joes.
For a 3 star hotel, and a child friendly one, I didn’t expect to read that shirts were needed in the main 2 restaurants for evening. Now I might have over reacted in thinking it basically meant dressing up for dinner. Maybe they just meant no rocking up after a day at the pool in your board shorts, vest top and flip flops, but it read like men needed to be smart. So we didn’t try eating there because all N had shoe wise were trainers and crocs, and I only had jeans or shorts with me.
The Belvedere do an early kids buffet dinner, I presume so adults can then put their children in the evening activity sessions while they eat dinner without them. We didn’t use it because if I’m on holiday with N I want him to be eating with me. But it’s good for families to have that option, especially if they want to book one of the baby sitters.
The Belvedere does themed buffets each night, so there’s something for everyone. Bonettis are Italian based but they were advertising a delicious sounding Portugese type of skewered meat that I fancied trying.
The 3rd eatery was Jersey Joes, a 50s diner café. It seemed to be a bit hit and miss with the opening times depending on the day. I wanted to try it out one night, to save walking into town, but also, I can’t resist a 50s style diner. It was a mixed bag in our experience and that of others there at the same time.
The choice of light food is limited – hot dog, burgers and that was about it. The kids meals were good value – with way too many curly fries for N – we ended up going off to the park and for a walk, before coming back later for N to have his dessert – delicious ice cream and for me to have a dessert as well. The burger I had was ok, but nothing spectacular. The milkshakes were good – although if I’m eating in a restaurant, plastic Starbucks style cups aren’t what I’d expect. Even N’s apple juice came in a plastic party style cup.
For me, a fan of Grease as a girl, I always wanted to go to American diners, so this was a pretty good reflection of one. It just needed the more cheery staff, to be busier and to have a bit more atmosphere. The staff were a bit lacksidasical. We turned up and there was no one in sight for ages, and no bell to ring. Eventually someone came and took our order. But then other people came and were told there was no chef, even though we were sitting there with food. It was very odd. It seemed that the staff just appeared when they fancied it. Maybe if they were visible more people would come in and eat there.
The best thing though was the juke box. N was overjoyed to see it and find out what it was. Of course I then had to dish up some money for him to choose his songs. Sitting in a 50s diner and listening to ACDC and Foo Fighters probably wasn’t what I expected.
He loved the juke box so much that he had to go in the next evening before we left so have another go on it. This time I managed to slip in some less rocky tracks.
Overall we had a great time at the Merton Hotel. Adding in the airport shuttle bus option it was a good choice for our holiday. Yes there would be things I’d add or change, but for the money it was good and perfectly suitable for our needs.
Have you been on holiday to Jersey? Where did you stay? Do you have any recommendations?
What do you look for when booking hotels?
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