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Sailing Through a Nanny State

Like all first time parents we said that we would carry on with life with as much normality as possible. And like all first time parents we found ourselves four months down the line having not been out for dinner since Lucy was born.  We envied the couples we knew who had a nanny or an au-pair who would swoop into action whenever needed, enabling them to go out for romantic candle lit dinners rather than gulping down a hastily prepared meal whilst surrounded by bibs, empty feeding bottles and assorted toys.  What we needed was a holiday, a bit of heat and an attempt to turn the clock back to the days when we were young(er) and fancy free.

Now I know what you are thinking – water sports holidays, busy airports, cramped charter flights and hot temperatures don’t mix well with 4 month old babies. 


However, there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. What if we had a nanny who could look after Lucy during the day, enabling us to live a fancy free existence for a few precious hours.  It would be ludicrous to hire a Norland nanny, fly her out to the Med, then pay for her room for a week. No, a more cunning plan was required.  Sunsail came to the rescue.  For the princely sum of £195 for  one week, Lucy would be looked after from 9.30am to 5.30pm, by a NNEB/CACHE or equivalently qualified nanny.  Now that is a lot cheaper than flying out your own nanny and a lot less pretentious.  This facility is part of the Sunsail kids’ clubs and is called the ‘Minnows’, for children aged 4 months to 2 years.

Sunsail’s Club Vounaki on the west coast of Greece seemed to be the best bet. It was only a 2 hour 45 minute flight from Gatwick and then a 45 minute transfer on air-conditioned coach at the other end.  We decided that in order to make check-in less painful we would use BCP car parks’ ‘Meet and Greet’ facility. This involves being met at the departures terminal by a uniformed driver who takes your car off and then meets you when you get back – no struggling with bags, buggies and babies on a car park courtesy bus.  This service only adds about £35 to the cost of the parking and is worth it for the reduction in stress levels. You can have your car valet cleaned whilst you area way – for an extra fee.

Flights are with First Choice Airways and 2 hours 45 minutes is a bearable flight time for both you and also your fellow passengers. It was strange being on the other side of the  fence regarding young children and planes. Having done a lot of flying, it was always with a sense of impending doom that I greeted the sight of small children at the departure gate – hurried prayers that they would not be anywhere near me were usually uttered. This is always at the forefront of your mind when you are travelling with very young children but a bit of advanced planning helps. Make sure you have lots of milk on hand to soothe an upset child and to help them during take off and landing, when their ears can become painful. A selection of toys, not the noisy variety, stuffed in the seat pocket also help with distraction therapy. On the flight out Lucy slept the whole way, but on the way back she was kept awake by a bad tempered 2 year old in the row behind. We had to sing to her all the way back, something which was possibly more painful to other passengers than the screaming two year old.  Your gateway to Greece is Preveza airport which used to be, and still is to some extent, a military airport so keep your cameras firmly in your bags unless you want to end up in jail. It is small which means that luggage is waiting for you by the time you get off the plane. There is a Duty Free shop and a couple of small bars, but most importantly it is air-conditioned.

Hotel balcony

Club Vounaki has 98 rooms, with a mixture of twin double rooms, family rooms, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and mezzanine rooms. We stayed in a 1 bed apartment which had a large bedroom with plenty of room for the cot, and a big adjoining lounge. There was a toilet and shower but be prepared – you are not allowed to flush any paper (not even loo paper) down the toilet. Surely a country that is hosting the Olympic Games should have toilets that allow you to flush away the toilet paper. A supply of nappy bags proves useful in disposing of unwanted toilet paper.  Both the bedroom and lounge are air-conditioned and have patio doors which open onto a large communal veranda.

As first time parents, we were slightly apprehensive of leaving Lucy with complete strangers for the day, having never really had her out of our sight for the last 4 months. This feeling didn’t last long. The large Minnows nursery room is part of a building dedicated to the children’s clubs. It was air-conditioned and had a dark ‘sleeping’ room for afternoon siestas. Rhoda, the Nursery manager, runs a fantastic department which is both professional and friendly. Charlie was Lucy’s nanny for the week and she was delightful. A chef in the winter and a qualified nanny the rest of the year, she was everything we would have hoped for. She instantly put us at our ease and had a great manner with Lucy. The room had lots of toys and equipment and Lucy was in heaven. I must admit we did pop back every lunchtime just to make sure she was OK but apart from that we were free to lie by the pool in the morning and sail in the afternoon. Bliss.  There is a small kitchen which is open 24 hours a day and has sterilising equipment, microwave, kettle and a large fridge, which meant we didn’t have to take any of that out with us. Sunsail also provided a cot , baby bath, potties and changing mat if required. At the start of the week you complete a comprehensive form which lists all sorts of information about Lucy which Charlie would find useful. Charlie also kept a written record of when Lucy fed, how much, when she slept etc.

We would pick Lucy up around 5.00pm and take her to the covered paddling pool. It is always in the shade and is only 0.5m deep. There are also two other pools, both of them with infinity edges (albeit with a fence around the ‘infinite’ edge to stop children disappearing off to infinity).  In the evenings there is a free baby-listening service which involves staff listening outside the room every 20 minutes or you can hire a baby-sitter for 7 Euros an hour. This will be a member of the Sunsail team and you pay them directly. Everything else can be put on your room bill and paid for at the end of the week which means you never have to carry cash around with you.

The sailing is fantastic if you are a beginner or relatively inexperienced sailor. There was never any wind in the morning so most people read by the pool. The resort was only two thirds full when we were there but even then there were not enough sun shades and you often had to lie in the direct sun, unless you got up early with your towel and pretended you were a German. In fact the wind didn’t really pick up until the end of the afternoon. However, there are a large selection of boats from beginner Topper Tazs to high performance International 29ers. There is also a good selection of windsurfers and sails. Instruction is on hand if required and you never have to lift a finger to rig or put away anything. Rescue cover was generous, with sometimes up to 5 rescue boats on the water.  The resorts is also the base for Sunsail’s yachts so there is a large marina with a mini-mart where you can buy essentials. Yachts can be chartered for the day, either with a skipper or without, depending on your experience. If there is a group of you this works out as very good value at £200 for 6 people.

The pool at night

The resort is very generously staffed with 80 UK staff on site. Will, the resort manager, is very visible and approachable, and obviously runs a very tight ship. Sunsail’s Club Colonna in Antigua has a more holiday feel to it because it employs a lot more locals to help with things like rigging boats and serving food, whereas Vounaki does feel like a part of England transposed to Greece. The food is superb with 3 inclusive dinners and 4 lunches included in the price. When you see the sous chef wearing a Malmaison chef’s jacket you know you are onto a winner. They were also very accommodating when we wanted to take our food back to the room and eat on the veranda. The dinners are not buffet style but waiter service which mean you can’t eat as much as you like. There are two restaurants on site and two bars. The local village is only a ten minute walk away and also has some lovely places to eat.

There is no doubt about it, this was as easy a foreign holiday with a 4 month old baby as you can get. Short flight and transfer times and superb, qualified staff. We came back completely relaxed and this was largely due to the fact that Charlie, Kate and Rhoda looked after Lucy so well that we felt completely at ease when she was not with us. Unfortunately, it is now back to earth with a bump – we could get used to life with a nanny!

Fact File
The author travelled with Sunsail Holidays. Prices for one week at Club Vounaki start at £430.  Flights are from Gatwick to Preveza with First Choice Airways. Flight time is 2 hours 45 minutes with a 45 minute transfer (in modern, air-conditioned coach) to the Club. Children under 2 years cost £65 for 1 week.  Minnows Club costs £195 per week. Sunsail Holidays –  023 9222 2222.

BCP’s ‘Meet and Greet’ airport parking cost £115 for the week.   0870 013 4500.

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