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Philip Hedderman: Break

Being a bit of an adventurer, I'm not one to shy away from a challenge -- no matter how tough. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in bare feet? No sweat. Kayaking off Niagara Falls? Easy peasy. Trekking the North Pole in a mankini? Bring it on.

Go on a family holiday with little or no cash in your pocket? Don't be ridiculous -- it's practically impossible . . . or is it?

My mission -- an all-inclusive week in a top hotel so packed with entertainment, you'd never have to leave.

I was getting cabin fever just thinking about it.

The thought of spending seven days and nights with a very picky eater and an eight-year-old with a lower than usual boredom threshold filled me with dread.

Playa Blanca in the south of Lanzarote was the destination for the week-long experiment that would either make or break me.

Nestled in between the Colorades and Papagayo beaches is the sumptuous Sandos Papagayo Arena -- a haven for aficionados of luxury pampering and diehard sun worshippers.

Accommodation is four-star, with twin/double rooms or junior suites (for larger families) all air- conditioned and with terrace sea views, separate bedroom and bathroom.

The feeling of luxury is evident from the champagne reception upon arrival to the excellent facilities, which include five swimming pools, a tennis court, indoor Jacuzzis, saunas, gym and an internet/games room.

For exhausted mammies, there is a massage service and a beauty centre complete with resident hairdresser.

Now, the biggest deterrent for an all-inclusive break has always been the food. We've all heard horror stories that the catering was of a poor quality, there wasn't enough or it was cold. Not here -- you're literally spoiled for choice.

There are four restaurants to choose from including an international, Italian, Chinese and French a la carte (which costs extra). The quality and presentation was first-class and, considering 1,999 other guests dined along side us, everything was piping hot and in abundance.

At night, a wide range of entertainment was on offer, from a kiddies' disco to a Chinese circus and musicals like Grease all proving a success.


If you just wanted to chill with a beer or glass of wine (all included), five bars await you (24 hours) and there's even one for adults only.

Should you get fed up with quaffing champers or find yourself reaching pamper overload, then there is plenty to see and do.

Being an island, there are plenty of watersports on offer, such as jet skiing and paragliding, but real seafarers will be attracted to the Submarine Safari. It's one of only 15 commercial subs in the world and is docked in the nearby marina resort of Puerto Calero.

The custom-made yellow submarine takes you to the depths of the Atlantic where you get the chance to explore several shipwrecks and marvel at the colourful marine life beneath the waves.


A diver accompanies the ship and the highlight of the hour-long trip is the feeding of the 18-foot stingray as it majestically glides past. A little bit pricey at €52 for adults and €30 for kids -- but it is a trip of a lifetime and you're even awarded a submariner's certificate. If that doesn't float your boat, then the Catalanza will -- a magnificent sailing experience on board a catamaran where you can go swimming, snorkelling or take a spin on the boat's jetski. Lunch and drinks are included in the price (adults €65, children €39).

There's no better way to work up an appetite and, boy, were we glad to return to the luxury of the Papagayo Arena where a juicy steak and glass of house red awaited our arrival -- heaven.

Many people are put off by the initial cost of an all-inclusive package, but when you actually sit down and crunch the numbers it works out cheaper -- and it's also a lot less hassle.