UK residents arrive in Ibiza as travel restrictions are lifted
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And behind the masks of their parents, you could sense smiles of relief. Some had only booked just a couple of days beforehand to be on the first post-lockdown TUI flight from Manchester to the White Isle when restrictions were lifted from the first lockdown in July last year. But what changes could they expect on their first package holiday in the new normal? To start with, face coverings are de rigueur.
After being checked in by masked staff from behind perspex screens we headed to the restaurant for lunch.
You’re expected to wear them whenever you’re inside the hotel, but in the indoor restaurants, once seated, we could take them off.
Temperatures taken and hands sanitised, we were then shown to a table. Following the markers on the floor, I navigated the buffet, pointing out to the staff what took my fancy, then the plate was passed to me between the screens. Breakfast was a slightly more self-service affair, with signs reassuring us tongs were regularly disinfected.
The family-friendly hotel emerged from a full refurb in 2019 with the focus on kids’ activities. Covid adjustments have been made so the number of children that the kids’ clubs can accommodate has been reduced to 10 from 30 for an hour-long session, and drop-offs staggered to allow time for cleaning.
The evening’s entertainment was a lively song and dance show, but persuading the kids to maintain the safe distance of five feet from the stage was a challenge. Dan, one of the resort staff, explained: “We try to make social distancing a game for kids.”
Inevitably some mesmerised tots would skip past the line, to be gently encouraged back.
The five feet distancing is also applied to the poolside sun loungers, and they’re given a thorough wipe down after each use. With the hotel by no means at full capacity, finding a vacant sunbed was no problem.
Water babies will take full advantage of free access to the water park next door to the hotel (maximum of 150 persons, down from 205).
But if you want to feel the sand between your toes, or take a cooling dip in the sea, sheltered Port des Torrent beach is just a short stroll away, which is precisely what I did on the Sunday morning, joining locals relaxing with their families.
It was hard to believe that only 48 hours earlier I had been at Gatwick waiting to take off to Ibiza on a plane specially chartered by TUI for my first flight post-lockdown, and to review two of the island’s top hotels.
Masked up, I had walked into a strangely hushed and almost-empty airport, so going through to departures was quick, especially as I’d made sure to fill in the health declaration form online – you will need to show this on arrival as a condition of entry.
You’re also encouraged to check in online 24 hours before your flight. Another health declaration must be completed for the flight home.
So far, so good – until I joined a long queue to go through security, thanks to fewer lanes being open to ensure safe distancing is maintained.
Boarding, on the other hand, was by a civilised row by row, and once at your seat you’ll find a solitary safety card in the seat pocket – the inflight magazine will be missing, plus there’s no onboard duty-free sales. A limited food and drinks trolley means there’s no hot grub – instead a selection of pre-packed items is offered.
During the flight you’re advised to remain in your seat as much as possible and queuing for the loo is discouraged.
Cabin manager Alison, who has clocked up over 30 years of flying, couldn’t contain her joy, “I’m so happy to be back in the sky”, adding she found the biggest challenge now was interacting with passengers, “because they can’t see you’re smiling when you wear a mask”.
Landing just two hours later, and health questionnaire and passport duly checked, I swiftly collected my luggage already loaded on to the carousel. It was time for a fresh mask (you’re advised to change every four hours) before boarding the coach to the first hotel on my itinerary, the 245-room Ibiza Twiins hotel.
Opened just the day before after an elegant refurb, we were among the first to enjoy new facilities which include a huge sleek pool facing the ocean, fanned by palm trees. An alfresco lunch of street cuisine was brought to the table from the innovative Foodie Truck restaurant.
We tucked into Iberico ham, sea bass ceviche, cheeses, sushi and whitebait as we soaked up the views of Playa d’en Bossa.
The Balearic isle’s longest beach would normally be packed with sunseekers at the height of summer, chilling to the beats resounding round the clubbing capital of Europe.
Instead, the entertainment for the evening for the hotel’s 90 guests was an outdoor showing of a film on the island’s history which took in the hippie legacy of the 60s and 70s, and was projected on a screen set up behind the swimming pool.
We delved into more history the following morning, exploring World Heritage Site of Dalt Vila, Ibiza’s Old Town, with local guide Pepe Costa. From behind a perspex visor he told us the last tour he took was almost five months ago. As one of the 90% of locals who work in tourism, he was rather keen for visitors to return.
The pandemic may have pulled the plug on Ibiza’s usual soundtrack but the sound of waves lapping on the seashore and birdsong were infinitely sweeter music to my ears.
TUI BLUE For Families offers seven nights on all-inclusive at the 4T TUI BLUE Aura in Port des Torrents, from £2,802 based on two adults and two children sharing, including one free child place, with flights departing Manchester on July 17 and including transfers. tui.co.uk
TUI Platinum offers seven nights on B&B at the 4T Ibiza Twiins in Playa d’en Bossa, from £581pp based on two adults sharing including flights from Birmingham on October 7 and transfers. Half-board and all-inclusive options available. tui.co.uk
illesbalears.travel/en/ibiza. For updates on travel restrictions
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