The promise of mid-haul winter sun keeps James Tapsfield and his family happy on a short break to Lanzarote.
When you book a holiday in sun-drenched Lanzarote, you may not expect to end up on a submarine. But that is exactly where we found ourselves, to the delight of my three-year-old daughter Evie.
And as the slightly claustrophobic yellow vessel descended into the water, a small voice inevitably piped up: “Daddy, I need the toilet.” My wife Ellie had made perfectly clear from the outset that she wanted no part in this excursion. And to be fair, at seven months pregnant, she might not have fitted through the hatch.
Keeping everyone happy on a pre-baby getaway like the one we had in mind can be a tricky task. We tried to strike the balance by going for luxury – and we found it at the Princesa Yaiza hotel, in the former fishing village of Playa Blanca on the southern tip of the island.
Using Thomson’s Sovereign service to book helped minimise stress from the moment we cleared airport security and sauntered into the courtesy lounge. After the four hour flight it was a smooth half-hour transfer to Princesa Yaiza, where the benefits of shelling out really kicked in.
Almost before we stepped out of the car, the porters had unloaded the bags and whisked them away to our suite. Moments later, staff were pressing glasses of Champagne into our willing hands.
Yaiza is a genuine five-star proposition, with around 400 sumptuously-fitted suites arranged around eight swimming pools, high-grade restaurants, large spa, gym, tennis courts and all the other facilities you could possibly expect.
If you feel like venturing beyond the opulent hotel estate, a yellow-sanded beach is right outside the gates with breathtaking views across to the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura.
So far, so good.
But Yaiza’s real selling point is what it does for families. And in large part this is down to a 7ft tall duck they call Kiko.
There were times when I looked up from my breakfast and was not entirely pleased to see this over-sized mascot on his morning meet-and-greet. However, you can’t argue with his results. Evie’s enthusiasm for the duck knew no bounds, and she demanded cuddles and photographs whenever we sighted his tail feathers waggling in the distance.
That meant she was also eager to spend time in Kikoland, a purpose-built complex adjoining the main hotel site. There are four playhouses for different age ranges, from cots and baby toys in Cooky Club through to Playstations in Gremlin Club for teenagers. Football and tennis training camps are laid on for older children.
A common bugbear for holidaying parents is that their nights get brought to a crashing standstill when the kids flake out. But at Yaiza there is the option of sending them off to Kikoland for a bedtime club, while you savour a glass of the rather good local white wine and take part in a quiz or watch a show. A babysitting service is also provided if you want to go further afield, paid by the hour.
An excellent hot and cold buffet breakfast is included with the accommodation. And the eight restaurants on site offer just about every type of cuisine from Italian to tapas to traditional Canarian seafood. The Japanese show cooking at Kampai is well worth a try, while Don Giovanni is in a tranquil plaza and has live music.
Lanzarote was created by a series of volcanic eruptions, and the mountainous scenery and distinctive rocky coastline can be spectacular. Given that the island covers only a few hundred square miles, it is relatively easy to get out and about. You can take a coach day trip to Timanfaya National Park to see the Fire Mountains, where the landscape is almost Martian. Just a few metres below the surface temperatures reach up to 600C.
Or you can do something even more offbeat and opt – as we did – to go to Puerto Calero for a submarine trip. Submarine Safaris operate a hi-tech vessel that takes a couple of dozen people down approximately 30 metres, and roves around the coast for an hour. It’s a great way of seeing the abundant local ocean life, and Evie thought she was an extra in Finding Nemo.
James Tapsfield was a guest of Sovereign Luxury Travel (0843 770 4526; www.sovereign.com), who offer a saving of up to £505 on a week at the five-star Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort in Lanzarote, from £2,059 per family of three.
The price includes complimentary child accommodation (2-4 years), 80 euros resort credit, one complimentary spa circuit per adult, return flights from London Gatwick with Thomson, airport lounge access, private transfers and seven nights’ B&B in a one-bedroom suite.