Pontins has been around for decades, giving British families the chance to enjoy a low-cost seaside break. However, it’s always been rivalled by its older competitor Butlin’s-and these days cheap airline holidays are a much better guarantee of sunshine than the unpredictable climate. at home.
But Pontins endures-and throughout the year it holds adults-only’weekender’ events, often with a specific theme such as 80s music and culture. Simon Duke, the TV and Showbiz Editor at ChronicleLive, spent the early May Bank Holiday weekend at the Pontins in Southport, Merseyside, and reported back on his experience.
“Having seen friends jet off to the likes of Dubai, LA and Vegas in the past few weeks. I have to admit I was thinking’where did it all go wrong Simon?’ When I was packing my car for a Bank Holiday in Southport but, as someone who never turns their nose up at a cheap weekend away with my mates, I fired up Google Maps with an open mind and a heady mix of trepidation and excitement, “he said.
“Including some slow-moving traffic across the always unpredictable A66 after coming off at Scotch Corner and a stop for a service station McDonald’s, the journey from Newcastle to Southport took just over three-and-a-half hours, so it came as a relief when the famous, but slightly washed out, blue and white colors of Pontins came into view, like a Hi-De-Hi-esque beacon across the bay. “
After parking up, Simon headed for his accommodation. He admitted this was the part of the trip that worried him the most.
“We all know the place you call home for a few days can make or break a holiday and, having read the reviews I was going with low expectations and, if anything, fearing the worst. In your 30s the days of being happy to slum it on a rock-hard bed in Magaluf so you’ve got more money to spend on super strong bevvies have been and gone. “
But Simon said his holiday flat hit the mark. “The one-bedroom apartment at Pontins Southport was absolutely fine and I had absolutely no complaints,” he said.
“It wouldn’t win any awards for high-end decor or state-of-the-art mod cons. But between two people, with a bedroom and decent sized sofa bed in the living area cum kitchen, it did the job well. “
He pointed out that anyone choosing a standard chalet rather than a slightly more expensive’club’option needs to top up their own electricity, while the showers are operated by “pressing the on button around every 30 seconds”. Simon added: “There’s an on-site Nisa shop and takeaway for all your hangover munchie needs, with the shop also selling what I would affectionally call an array of’tat.’Light up fairy wand with your corn flakes anyone? Why get just bread and milk, when you can get bread, milk and a £ 1 super soaker? “
Bar prices were acceptable, said Simon. “Holiday parks could easily exploit their punters, because once you’re in there, you’re in there, whether you want to or not, are inevitably going to pay whatever they charge for your favorite tipple But other than a slightly pricey £ 7.50 for a double vodka slush (although you do get to keep the souvenir plastic cup) I never thought I was paying any more for a drink that I would in most bars back home. “
Simon’s weekend offered a line-up of entertainment featuring 90s, 00s and Drag Race acts on the bill. “Night one saw Little Mix tribute Little Chix bring the party, before Drag Race UK season 3 queen Ella Vaday hit the stage and Liberty X, sans Kevin and Tony, delivered a hit packed set, “he said.
“On day two, the night belonged to Drag Race’s Kitty Scott Claus, Girls Aloud icon Nadine Coyle and Re Take That before Ariana Grande tribute Hariana, complete with her own branded fake banknotes, the always energetic Cheryl Hole, Sabrina Washington from Mis-Teeq and two-thirds of Cleopatra rounded things off on the Sunday, all with smatterings of star turns from the resident reps. “
Staff said it was “slightly quieter than expected” according to Simon, but there was still a “party atmosphere”. “For me it was British Bank Holiday personified,” he said.
“We each paid £ 70 each for three nights in a chalet and, given that also came a wristband that got you into all the events, as well as the free parking, it’s a break that certainly didn’t break the bank. Sore head and weary eyes aside, I had a smile on my face the whole time, other than the fact a phone signal was hard to come by for the entire of my stay.
“Go to Pontins with no preconceptions and I’m sure you’ll have a ball. It’s by no means the lap of luxury but if it’s bags of fun, a hearty helping of nostalgia, a judgment-free holiday where everyone just wants to have a laugh and if hearing Mr Brightside, Sweet Caroline and Proud Mary at least three times a day is what you’re after, you’ll not be disappointed. No frills but all the fun. “