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It’s been a tough year for the hospitality and the travel industry, with many trips in 2020 postponed or cancelled. You can understand why holiday companies are airing on the side of caution in 2021. So, yes, we were a little apprehensive that after paying the extra for a stay and play break with Haven, we would be left disappointed like last year, especially after reading the recent reviews. However, we were pleasantly surprised by our trip, so I thought I would share our 2021 review of Havan Perran Sands the Stay & Play experience.
With covid-19 still running around the population and the confusing and messy travel requirements, we opted for our usual UK staycation this year, not a huge surprise really, as Disneyland Paris is our usual go-to for European trips but that sadly has been delayed until at least 2022 but I will confirm that UK staycations are expensive and more so this year with many deals limited, so I am glad we went later July. I want to point out that we travelled on Monday 19th July 2021, after the restrictions were eased across England.
What is Stay & Play?
Essentially a stay and play is the full Haven experience while still maintaining a little bit of control. We paid the extra for the stay and play, which I will explain in further detail below.
Haven Stay & Play Includes:
- Access to restaurant & takeaways
- Use of the mini-market & launderette
- Booked activities including swimming (subject to availability)
- Use of the arcade if open
- Live Lounge (pre-booking only)
- Use of beach (weather permitting)
- Play parks if open
Arrival and Checking In
Like 2020, arrival is controlled by MyHaven app. This is where you manage your whole holiday from activity bookings, restaurant bookings, check accommodation allocation, confirm your number plate and receive your arrival time. It is very well organised, we did advise that we wouldn’t be arriving at our allocated time of 3 pm but be aware it never changes, it just tells them. We never heard anything confirming that a late arrival was okay.
We were greeted by a lovely security person who pointed us in the right direction of our caravan. Once you find your accommodation, a door seal should still be intact with the guest name. To enter, you break the seal, and your arrival pack, passes, and keys are inside with a hygiene pack. Once inside, you use the app to confirm that you have inside your accommodation and the check-in process done.
From our point of view, the arrival and check-in process is a vast improvement. In previous years, it meant queuing either at reception or in the Dunes Bar to receive your arrival pack; this dragged especially when guests would complain that they booked this, that and the other. I hope this arrival process is here to stay.
The only weird thing to mention is sometimes the parking can be a little off. We were in an area of six or so caravans, all of which can make parking, but our parking was non-existent, so we had to park opposite where we figured it was the only space. We’ve had this before when the parking has been problematic.
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The Stay & Play Experience
The stay and play experience can be a little hit and miss, with some activities costing extra. Although, I can’t comment as it has been years since we’ve booked activities. It may still be through the hub next to the shop. We booked the experience because Thomas loves swimming and the live lounge, and last year, he was very confused when we couldn’t access any of it.
Haven have utilised their Haven App system this year. It still needs a little jigging as, ideally, an app for managing everything would be beneficial rather than having to log in online through the app. The Haven Serve app for the entertainment area is great but separate the other app.
Haven Serve App
This was the first time using this app to order drinks at the bar, and it was extremely convenient. Although the bar wasn’t overly busy, and I could have collected them myself, I wanted to check out the app. It’s simple, straightforward, and I imagine with busier times could be a godsend.
Booking for restaurants, live lounge and ordering takeaways
I wanted to touch a little on restaurant books, the live lounge and ordering takeaways. I should say that we didn’t book for any of the restaurants, I did take a look, and it was mostly booked during our visit. In the live lounge, you get allocated one per visit; you can, however, book at the host desk for more sessions. I used the app once we’d used the first, and it allowed me to book another. There are three sessions early evening (toddlers/kids), evening and late evening. During our stay, the late evenings weren’t available for booking, so I can’t comment.
The takeaway ordering app didn’t seem to be working. It said it was unavailable, so sadly, I can’t comment, especially as last year, they were working. As the app wasn’t working, we only used Cooks fish and chips during our stay with an order window. It’s pretty straightforward and was quick.
I can, however, confirm that as of 27th August 2021, the live lounge will no longer require booking but will be on a first-come basis.
Booking Activities including swimming
Such a strange system, we could book activities through the haven app weeks before our trip, so if Segways are your go-to activity or bug hunting, then it’s worth having a look. However, although we’d paid extra for the stay and play, all the activities were extra in cost, which for some families could be frustrating.
Swimming can be booked the Tuesday before arrival; times are released about 9.30 am, and during the peak, summer holidays will fill fast. Please be aware that the outdoor pool is separate from the indoor pool, but you get to access the lazy river when booing the inside pool and use the slide. You are allocated 8 swimming slots per visit, so that’s two sessions for a family of four, so sadly, they may only get one for large families.
The confusing thing is that it shows the swimming slots available on the app, but you have to login in on the website to book. I know a few people were sadly frustrated with this and missed out. You can’t currently book on-site, only through the website.
Haven Perran Sands is a large beach located holiday park, so the main attraction is the beach right on your doorstep. If you and your family are sunseekers and keen bodyboarders, then it is definitely the place to be. Our attraction to Haven Perran Sands was originally the facilities. Having never been anywhere that wasn’t a budget hotel; it was a welcome change to have daytime activities and evening entertainment in the Live lounge.
The Live Lounge is a large dome-like arena with a bar, wonder store (to buy those Rory the Tiger gifts or collect photos), a large part of the main entertainment space. During our visit, seating was still grouped in 6’s and very well socially distanced, if that is still important. Despite the rules previous to the easing of restrictions, little ones can dance and enjoy themselves; however, they have to sit down when the characters come on.
The entertainment had returned to live characters the week of our stay. However, I don’t believe at the time they were doing photos, and the wonder store wasn’t open all evening, just at the end of each session.
Due to Thomas’s mobility, the beach access has been a no go for us for quite a few years now, so the swimming pool is our haven. We arrived at our allocated time and were greeted by team members who asked for our names and play passes. The changing rooms are open for full use, as well as the showers and lockers.
We had two sessions which included the slide, indoor pool and lazy river. Thomas loved the lazy river this year, and as the weather was so nice it was great to be outside. It wasn’t busy like we’ve had on previous visits; the limited numbers definitely has its positives. Only getting an hour was a little frustrating as an hour and a half for us would have been great, but I totally understand, and it was very well organised.
Nick and Alana love the arcade. I can take it or leave it after realising as a child no one leaves with money but each to their own. Thomas likes the car machines, something which they had removed. One of the positives was that it has a contactless card system called ‘Play Pass’ you need a minimum of £5 to get the card, and then it’s rechargeable, and you can add points to it on some of the machines. It definitely is a bonus if you don’t have to keep getting cash out to change money. They had removed a lot of machines to allow for social distancing; I will hope that in the future, these may return.
I can’t speak for the other Haven parks, however Perran Sands, mostly the staff wearing masks. It was an odd experience when the day before masks were essential, to suddenly find that on-site, especially they weren’t being worn. If you still have safety concerns regarding contracting Covid-19, this is something to bear in mind.
However, locally and in most supermarkets where more people were. More people were wearing masks and attempting to social distance, so it’s a mixed bag. Staff were mostly wearing masks and behind screens. I know there have been some complaints aimed at supermarkets that staff should be required to wear masks as part of their contracts, but the screens are still present, and I didn’t feel any more at risk than from shoppers. It’s a personal choice, which I really don’t want to get into, but I felt I should cover the basics.
Obviously, hand sanitiser is still readily available, and limits were still in place for swimming, the arcade and the live lounge.
After reading some terrible reviews, I was pleased that although I took them on board, it was a very different experience for us. I would say that research is the key and also what you want to get out of your stay. We did pay the extra £200 for the stay and play experience, considering we only went swimming twice and the live lounge two times is hardly cost-effective. When you can go swimming in Newquay for £20 a time. We had a decent break, with a location a little walking distance from the main area. We were also in an area we’d never stayed before, which was different; however, our family has pretty much outgrown Haven over the years. Thomas struggled with the heat, the non-existent WiFi, and to a child who relies on YouTube and ipads to keep him in routine, this wasn’t easy.
If you’ve got a trip booked or are thinking about it, we were delighted with our stay generally. All the staff were supportive, approachable and easy-going. It was sadly due to our own family circumstances that we couldn’t fully enjoy our time away. Haven currently has some great deals for early bookings if you haven’t booked for your spring 2022 break yet.
2022 holidays from £69
2022 holidays from £69 for the whole family based on 4 nights breaks staying in selected grades on a Stay+Play holiday at selected parks in early spring 2022.
Dates: Early Spring 2022.