“IS everything to your satisfaction, sir?”
Waiter Sabon, immaculate in a starched white apron, bows theatrically to four-year-old Hunter.
“Yes, thank you” beamed our little lad, looking up from a giant chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream sundae.
And he was right.
It had been to our satisfaction — all of it.
Not just the food.
Our brief had been a tricky one — keep three kids of very different ages busy and well fed for a week on our first family holiday abroad in five years.
As parents, we really needed a break too.
Problem is, we all eat different things, have different interests and keep different hours.
We have thrill-seeking sports fanatic Oli, 15, who likes pasta and pizza and rises at 11am.
There is Emily, 18, whose idea of a workout is dancing at a Harry Styles concert, who wakes early and is happiest with a Deliveroo McDonald’s.
And little Hunter is a force of nature who rises at 7am, and decides his next move just moments before it actually happens.
Thankfully, someone clever at TUI Blue for Families realised a while ago that such a daily plate–spinning sideshow is actually very much the norm.
So off to Turkey’s Aegean Coast we flew.
The all-inclusive TUI Blue Ephesus resort just north of the town of Kusadasi is vast and beautiful.
Attractive, low-rise villa blocks are set in lush tropical gardens bursting with palm, pine, fig and citrus trees, and other plants with exotic red, orange and yellow blooms.
There is a long, well-kept private beach for water sports — with a fantastic jetty — and a free bar (one of many) for sundowner cocktails to our west.
To our east is Turkey’s biggest water park — the Aqua Fantasy, with a capacity of 5,000 — which is free to guests and right within the resort too.
Oli and I spent a thrilling couple of afternoons bombing down slides there.
Off the beach, we had an adrenaline- fuelled morning thrashing up and down in an orange jet boat modelled on a Ferrari California and also a jet ski. We paid £60 extra for these, but it was worth it.
Emily and Hunter watched from the sand as he built sandcastles with an international cast of new pals.
Leanne and Emily had spa treatments — a 2.5-hour Serenity Spa treatment for both together was a very reasonable £80.
They returned feeling “all Zen” after the Turkish bath, steam, exfoliation, a full–body clay mask, a Hawaiian Lomi–Lomi massage and a Cleopatra milk bath.
This wasn’t a holiday for weight–watchers (or indeed tee–totallers).
But all-day grazing — where breakfast merged into lunch then dinner — featured beautifully-presented buffets of every food type.
In between, should hunger pangs strike, there were snack bars, ice cream stations, bars and barbecue spots.
This took away one of the main stresses of a family holiday — keeping everyone well fed with quality food without us having to lift a finger.
All told, it was a lot cheaper than eating out and even probably cooking for ourselves.
The great benefit is that once you have paid for your holiday, you need not put your hand in your pocket all week — perfect for budgeting families.
From our favourite table at Mario’s Italian à la carte restaurant, where the Caesar salad, beef carpaccio and lasagne were top class, to the Turkish Taverna à la carte, where the meze and kebabs were succulent and perfectly marinated, we didn’t have a bad meal.
Sex lives of Romans
If burning off all those all-inclusive calories is your thing (it wasn’t mine), there was also a gym, pilates, aerobics, Aqua Fit, yoga, water polo, football, volleyball and tennis.
After dinner, pina coladas at the Sunset Beach Bar and a stroll along the jetty, there was entertainment in a grand Roman–style amphitheatre.
There was a rotating schedule of cartoons on a cinema-sized screen, a kids’ disco and karaoke and an interactive family quiz using the TUI Blue app.
Later, a medley of West End shows such as Wicked, We Will Rock You, Joseph and Hairspray were performed by the TUI staff one night, and a show of Disney favourites like Frozen, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin on another.
I’m not a huge fan of all that sequined swishing about — neither is Oli — but Emily, Leanne and Hunter were all up singing, laughing and dancing. I preferred the weekly beach party.
In the daytime, there were kids’ clubs, a baby club and even a teen “Hangout”.
Off-campus, I took a TUI–arranged tour of the ancient ruins of Ephesus – Europe’s most complete classical metropolis, once home to 250,000 people.
Its Temple of Artemis (little remains of it today) was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We drove past storks nesting on chimney–tops, olive groves and vineyards and mountainsides covered in peach, apricot and pomegranate trees in the 20–minute trip there.
The city, I learned, was founded by the Amazons.
I also now know a lot more about the sex lives of the Roman ruling classes than I will ever need to.
On our last night, the teens babysat Hunter, and we went for a seafood dinner in the town.
Delightful though it was, it was no better than what we could have had in our all-inclusive paradise.
Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll be staying firmly in the Blue!
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 4H TUI Blue Ephesus is from £661pp, based on two adults and two children sharing, departing Gatwick on September 16, with 15kg hold luggage and transfers.
Or fly from Bristol on October 4 from £499pp with 30kg hold luggage and transfers.
To book, go to tui.co.uk, visit your local TUI store or download the app.