Food and Drink Included

Sticky brown sauce was smeared over the hotcakes. Banana was the token fruit, by now buried under a sea of chocolate. The plates hadn’t yet been collected from the previous serving, traces of egg, beans, and thickly buttered toast had been left behind. The room oozed greed and gluttony. Welcome to the European “all inclusive”.

The all-inclusive has become so popular that the British ITV channel have made comedy shows about it. With our family coming together from all around the world it seemed a logical holiday option to bring everyone together without the need for a cooking or cleaning roster. I was keen to see if it lived up to its reputation.

Our package included an associated airline. We were literally whisked from UK soil to a Greek Island and returned safely a week later. A late arrival and a late departure was the price we paid for a bargain package. We were herded into the reception at midnight with tired children in tow and we had the obligatory bracelets slapped on before we could say “Pinacolada please”. Making a beeline for our comfortable beds meant that our first impressions of the resort were of the aforementioned gluttony the following morning.

We went to the welcome briefing. We thought there might be some useful information about bus services and the like, and we were prepared that intrepid travellers like us might still be talked into an “excursion” or two. We were introduced to a new species; the holiday rep. The rep is a uniformed person who lies somewhere between the age of 18 and 25, and claims to have extensive knowledge about the place and culture where they reside for 8 months of the year. They are frighteningly friendly and British to the core. Their roles vary between bartender, quizmaster, and children’s entertainer. At our resort all staff were English, save for the ladies that cleaned up our plates at dinner and snuck in to service our fine rooms while we lounged by the pool. I pondered whether you could spend a week in this enormous resort without acknowledging that you’d actually arrived in a different country, save for the stamp in your passport.

Our resort had an extensive noticeboard outlining their environmental policies, impressively laid out in neatly typed and laminated A4 sheets across the wall. I tried to read the fine print but the promise of recycling all paper and plastics didn’t seem to fit with the ever increasing pile of plastic water bottles headed for the rubbish bin. The food waste was equally impressive. Even the most gluttonous of patrons couldn’t have polished off the mounds of food, served on the buffet tables from dawn till midnight. We took comfort in our assumption that the island must rely solely on renewable energy and that tourism would be the single greatest source of employment in this archipelago.

We had time out from the all-inclusive zone. Experiencing some of the quieter areas of the island and being served by shopkeepers where you didn’t automatically assume they spoke anything other than Greek. It was a refreshing shift of gear, but also a reminder that after all our wandering it was nice to be staying in a place where all the organisation was being taken care of.

This holiday was a final hurrah in the sun, before Britain’s fall sets in and the clocks wind back. But in the end the trip was all about family. It was about watching our children play together and build memories with their cousins that will remain with them for a lifetime. If there is such a thing as all-inclusive love and family time……well I think we cracked it.

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