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Enjoy parasailing, exploring and relaxing on family holiday to Crete

Sitting on the balcony, all-inclusive cocktail in my hand, I lived like a king as I surveyed my private pool and the Mediterranean beyond. My family and I were staying in Villa Ariadne, named after Minos’s daughter.

Legend has it the princess was in charge of the Labyrinth under the palace — home to the bull-headed Minotaur, to whom young men and women were sacrificed every seven years.

On our holiday, I was making all the sacrifices for my children Jamie, 14, and Freya, 11 — walking to the pool bar for countless ice creams and Cokes.

In northern Crete, near the town of Hersonissos, the resort’s Minoan-style architecture makes you feel like you are staying in a traditional Greek village, only with more swimming pools. It is made up of the super-fancy Knossos Royal Villas and the Knossos Royal Beach Resort next door.

If sitting by the pool is not your thing, Knossos has its own private, sandy beach with pedalos, canoes, windsurfing and paddle-boarding. There is also the option to try out jet-skis, sea-sofas and parasailing.

It was the Greek myth of Daedalus and his cocky teenage son Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, that sprang to mind as I strapped into a parasail with Jamie. Clipped to a small metal bar, we waited for the canopy behind us to fill with air and whip us into the sky.

The speedboat shot across the choppy seas and the apparently never-ending rope let us soar higher and higher. While Jamie loved it, I was terrified. Over thousands of years of history, not much has changed about human nature.

But if you stop thinking about the potential for imminent disaster and have a look around, the views are amazing. You can see as far as the party town of Malia in one direction, and to the mountains in the other.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy the experience, we were pulled back towards the relative safety of the boat. But the captain had to have his fun and we were dumped in the Med before being deposited back on deck. Still, unlike Icarus, we survived to tell the tale.

If you like your boat rides less adrenaline-fuelled, there are excellent tours from nearby Hersonissos harbour. We joined the Eleni, a newly built wooden sailing boat, for a day trip. She takes just a small number of people but you have plenty of space to stretch out, relax and enjoy the sea breezes. The crew prepared a fantastic onboard barbecue while we snorkelled in the crystal-blue seas.

After a sail along the coast and another stop for more snorkelling, we were dropped off back in Hersonissos — then driven home to the Knossos Royal in time for an afternoon cocktail at the pool bar.

Going to Crete and not visiting Minos’s home at the real Knossos Palace is like going to Egypt and giving the pyramids a miss. Parts of the palace were excavated and reconstructed by British archaeologist Arthur Evans, giving you a great understanding of how the palace worked.

You can still make out Minos’s throne room and the royal apartments, conjuring images of the mythical Labyrinth beneath and the man-eating Minotaur that roamed its corridors. Further to the east of Crete is the island of Spinalonga.

Reached by a short boat trip from the pretty town of Elounda, it is famous for being a Venetian fort in the 16th century and more recently a leper colony. From 1903 and for more than half a century the unfortunate “living dead” were taken away from their homes and family to live out grim lives in the small island community.

The village, complete with its tiny houses, shops and sanatorium, still stands today.

British author Victoria Hislop immortalised the story of the tragic islanders in her bestselling true story The Island, which was later made into a film.

Having exhausted the day trips — and the kids too — it was time to enjoy what else the Knossos Royal had to offer. Our Ariadne villa had a large double room and twin beds set up for the kids in the enormous living area. We shared a pool with our neighbours but most of the time we had it to ourselves. Other options include Imperial villas, Royal suites, VIP rooms, standard rooms and family rooms.

There is also a large family pool with a water slide at the centre of the resort, where a team arranges games and water-based exercise programmes. Finding food to suit fussy families is no problem.

As well as the main restaurant, which serves a varied buffet, there are two a la carte offerings, including Fontana Amorosa, which boasts a mouthwatering menu and every Tuesday hosts a fantastic seafood night serving local lobster.

Breakfast for residents was served in the Villas restaurant, offering everything from sausage, bacon and eggs to made-to-order chocolate pancakes, washed down with a large Buck’s Fizz (if that is your thing at 9am).

The kids enjoyed the amphitheatre, which hosts nightly shows ranging from traditional Greek dancing to pop quizzes. While they take part, you can sit on the balcony at the main bar sipping all-inclusive cocktails as the sun sets over the glistening Med.

It is just a shame my reign at Knossos could not last nearly as long as King Minos’s — a modern Greek tragedy.


GETTING/STAYING THERE: Exclusive offer for Sun readers. Book before midnight on January 21, 2018, to get £200 off a holiday costing more than £1,250 with code SUN200. Seven nights’ B&B at the 5HAldemar Knossos Royal Crete is from £1,452 including Sun discount code, for a family of four (two adults and two children) in a Junior Suite based on a May departure. Call 020 3424 9736, or see olympicholidays.com.

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