Although the sign said ‘Serenity Spa and Wellness’, I must admit I felt a little apprehensive.
My hazy impression of a traditional Turkish bath had been of a murky, sweaty, steam room where you got pummelled by large, menacing men.
I needn’t have worried. We were staying on the Turkish coast at the Aqua Fantasy Aquapark Hotel and Spa which, as its name suggests, specialises in having fun with water – so how could we not sample the local hamam treatment?
My wife and I realised we were in for the authentic hamam experience as we were shown into a tiled room with a large marble slab in the middle, where we sat in the steamy heat.
Our masseuses, Ali and Felice, appeared clad in the traditional red and white check towels.
We lay in swimming kit on towels on the slab and Ali, using a rough cloth mitt, a kese, rubbed briskly over my legs and body, getting rid of dead cells and toxins. This, I was told, would clear my skin and give me an even better tan.
With skin red and tingling, I was ready for the next stage, altogether more luxurious, of being massaged with soft, foamy soap squeezed from a pillow-type bag. My wife, meanwhile, had become a silky cocoon of soap.
By the time Ali was finished, sluicing off the soap with hot and cold water ladled from large marble pitchers, I was feeling reinvigorated, almost supple, and super-clean.
Afterwards we took a break on loungers, savouring chilled water, chunks of fresh melon and peach.
I enjoy having a (literally) laid-back time on holiday, but my 13-year-old son had other ideas.
At his insistence, I found myself on a mission to try the scariest slides at the Aqua Fantasy waterpark just five minutes’ walk from our hotel and free to guests.
There were 110 steps up to the ride they called the X-treme and on each one I felt a strong temptation to turn back. That only stopped when, lying on my back, I started off on a gentle slope at first before suddenly being plunged off what felt like a precipice.
As I plummeted down at up to 50mph I could hear screams. They were my own.
It was, I decided, an unrepeatable experience, despite the spectacular view of the blue Aegean.
More gentle but fun was the meandering crazy raft ride, at 220 metres said to be the world’s longest family waterslide. It isn’t all thrills and spills, however. There’s a children’s pool and a moving lazy river for a slower-paced time.
With the hotel’s all-inclusive tariff, range of activities, clubs for children and six swimming pools, visitors tend to stay on site - or in the waterpark right next door. No wonder families voted it number one in the splash category in a First Choice survey.
Our air-conditioned family room could sleep four with a double bed and a partitioned-off area containing a single bed and convertible sofa leading to a small balcony. A thoughtful feature was the daily delivery of a two-litre bottle of drinking water.
Although the hotel is large – nearly 900 rooms – the accommodation is in low-rise blocks and it’s a pleasant stroll through landscaped grounds to the Blue Flag beach.
Meanwhile a wealth of history waited to be explored nearby. Ephesus, one of the largest cities of the ancient world and said to be founded by the legendary female warriors, the Amazons, was a half-hour drive away.
Nigel Williams was a guest of First Choice which offers seven-night all-inclusive stays at the Aqua Fantasy Aquapark Hotel & Spa from £725 per adult, with first child from £199, second from £235, based on two adults and two children sharing, ex-Gatwick. Price includes transfers and unlimited entry to on-site waterpark.
Regional departures include Birmingham (from £1,876 for family of four) and Manchester (£1,840).
First Choice reservations: 0871 200 4455 and firstchoice.co.uk