Last Friday we were invited to Santa’s Cove opening press night to experience Ireland’s newest Santa experience. Designed as the ultimate family experience Santa’s Cove is priced at €25 per child, infants under one go free, adults are €12.50 during peak times (from December 5th) and you also get a free family photo with Santa.
When you arrive at Santa’s Cove (most commonly known as Pirates Cove) everyone is directed into the Captain Hooks Playland, an indoor adventure playground with three large bouncy castles and slides and a large Toddler Zone. My kids love it there, they literally ran a muc. It’s normally charged at €7 per head.
There were numerous teething problems on the night which I’ve been informed won’t happen again so our time slot was forgotten and it was a free for all to go see Santa. We honestly didn’t mind as our four brats ran from one corner of the room to another. The tunes were pumping, it was hard to hear yourself think and there were no Christmas decorations to be seen.
The queue seemed to be dying down so we rounded up the troops to go see Santa. We had to leave our buggy, valuables and coats outside the experience. I was a little uncomfortable with the idea but staff assured me they would be fine. At the gate, an elf briefly spoke to the kids and asked KK if HE was having a good time. Not cool.
We were directed to a ball pit with a slide in the middle, called ‘Yuletide Valley’. There was nowhere that we could see for parents to walk around so we both went through with the kids but being honest if there was I’d probably have gone through anyway as it looked like fun.
On the other side was a ‘Sleigh Ride’, with a massive queue too so we just hung around playing in the ball pit trying to keep the kids from seeking trouble until Joe went investigating and was told we could move onto the next room until the queue quietened down a little. And so we did.
This room was the ‘Reindeer Food Preparation Room’. The kids each made reindeer food whilst the Elves chatted away amongst themselves. At one point an Elf tried to explain the magical properties of the glitters. Each colour represented something else but both Joe and I had to jump in as she lost her words and completely forgot what she was supposed to say. The boxes for the reindeer food were disastrous. The same elf was trying to tape them together but the oats and glitter continuously fell through. And Kenzie had a mini fit as she couldn’t stay up on the seat or bend over far enough to play with the oats and make her own reindeer food independently.
Next, we moved onto ‘The Toy Room’, personally my favour room. There were boxes of this Play-Doh like stuff with little balls in it. The elves were unable to tell me what it was but my followers on Snapchat quickly informed me it was pearl clay and available just next door in Tiger. It’s deadly stuff. The kids really enjoyed making little decorations. The Elves were very energetic in this dome, they really interacted with all my kids.
We reversed through the undecorated domes back to ‘Sleigh Ride’. We got straight on with no other words from the Elf in charge, just a ‘make sure the kids stay seated’. All the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.
We skipped through the domes again into the ‘Elves Canteen’, a little area with hot chocolates on tap and trays of mince pies. On the website, it states you can write last-minute letters to Santa and post them but we saw neither. The elves and Mrs Claus just chatted amongst themselves so we skipped right through to the next room.
Now the main attraction of Santa’s Cove, the ‘Naughty or Nice Machine’. Basically, kids sit on a chair with an antler helmet placed above their heads (it doesn’t move or lower down, it constantly hangs in the same position), an Elf pulls a candy cane lever and the machine makes lots of noise, bellows thick smoke and will inform the child if they are naughty or nice. All kids who are nice receive a lollipop and a certificate. Kayla and Frankie were the only two to do it, my smaller two (aged one & two) were absolutely petrified of the machine when active. KK got a scolding from a staff member for robbing lollipops that were within arms reach and I had to bluntly tell her she was a baby to remove them if it was an issue.
There was a lot of teething problems on the night but this was by far the biggest one for me. If children got a nice certificate it should have their names printed on it with lots of details including what they would like for Christmas, pets, bad habits and even their teachers name but none of this happened for us and was a wasted twenty minutes for me earlier in the day filling out for all four kids. I had been informed it won’t happen at future experiences when I questioned why there was no name even written on the certificate.
Straight after that, I rounded up the troops yet again and found ourselves next in line for Santa. There were two large domes. Now, this isn’t an issue for me as my eldest has a blended family, her dad and I are separated and she goes to see Santa a few times at Christmas. She knows that sometimes Santa sends helpers when he’s very busy at the North Pole making the toys but my first thought was for other parents who haven’t told their child that. It could lead to a very awkward conversation.
We arrived in with Santa and my first thought was if he moves his mouth anymore his beard was gonna fall off. He had me a nervous wreck. He had KK in stitches and I’m really not sure why. She just laughed her ass off staring at him, it was her first time to see Santa in fairness. Santa didn’t ask what the kids wanted. He didn’t ask their names. He didn’t ask if they got a ‘nice’ certificate. He was a huge letdown. An Elf took a photo on a digital camera and we left his dome to be greeted with a computer screen of another Santa with Stone Travels kids smiling away with Santa, another Santa. Again a huge issue for parents who chose to tell the Christmas story a little different to suit their families needs.
And finally, the gifts. the Big Kid received an impressive two packs of stickers, a fidget spinner, pack of jumbo Disney playing cards and a Grafix Rainbow Colour Wand Kit that’s already been used twice since late Friday evening. However, the younger kids aged one, two and three received cheap plastic toys each needing batteries, Jumbo playing cards and two packs of stickers each.
Overall I didn’t leave Santa’s Cove feeling like we got the ultimate ‘Santa experience’. Had I of paid the €100 for the four kids I’d have even more disappointed (peek time we’d have had to pay another €25 for Joe and myself). €100 is a lot of money to us never mind €125. There was simply no magic in it for me, Santa really sucked, KKs chest was in bits from the smoke machine and some of the elves just didn’t look like they wanted to be there. However, my kids did enjoy it.
We were invited to a press preview of Santa’s Cove in Liffey Valley free of charge. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more reviews on days out or experiences in Ireland head over to my blog series or join my Facebook group.