It has been somewhat amusing reading some of the comments below as several of the complaints listed can be found on relevant travel sites about experience Egypt (inc. but not limited to power outages, Egypt men looking at western women etc.) and should not be something new for people doing some basic research up front. Having said that I’ll need to agree with several of the comments made by the previous posters; esp. regarding the food.
+ Good and nice cleaning staff
+ Nice pools and plenty of sun chairs for those never wanting to leave
+ Free bottled water from all bars
- Food is bland and of questionable quality
- Reception is hit and miss
- No possibility to exchange money outside of HSBC
- General rip off prices on everything and anything on site (not hotel specific I’d guess)
- The hawkers on site are as bad as anything you’ll find in Hurghada (and that’s saying something as they make Thai tourist street hawks something I’d look forward to by comparison)
- If you want anything but a “lie at pool and roast” vacation this is not for you
Now down to details, I stayed with my wife last week of July (first time in Egypt, been to other locations such as Thailand (four times), US (three times), Greece (three times), Spain (five times) etc. previously) for 8 days. Check in was not the smoothest experience but I've had far worse, we got our keys and had someone carrying up our luggage with in 15 min. Would have been nice to have been greeted by the promised cold drinks but we'll survive.
The room was hot as the power is only turned on once you put the card in the power slot (as standard on most hotels, tip here for travelers, a visit card, visa card, mileage card etc. works just as well if you want to leave it running when you're gone). The A/C is strong enough to cool down the room quickly though so leaving it on for 10 min and the room will be cool (and I'd recommend running it around 26/28 on low fan during the night if you don't want to catch a cold). Sadly this does not extend to the toilet/shower for some reason which remains hot throughout the whole day and night.
Talking about the shower, forget cold water, at best you'll get slightly warm water on the coldest setting with quite poor power. The water is also tied in with the electricity (which can be a tad dodgy as it is Egypt but nothing as bad as Cairo, worst we had was power cuts on and off for half a day). No power, no water. The shower was tiled but the drain did not work very well (flooding) but they fixed the drain promptly when pointed out as being an issue (props to the cleaners for that; in fact the cleaners were excellent throughout the whole stay and made an excellent job throughout so big shout out to them). There was also some minor tile coverage missing etc. but no fungus or anything growing (only showing it has been around for a couple of years).
Breakfast is the same yes but with 4+ different yogurts, fresh omelets (ask the chefs), 5+ variations breads, countless different spreads/hams etc., pancakes, croissants and other sweet bakeries, fresh fruits and what not I’m not sure what people expect to see honestly in a all inclusive hotel. Did it get boring over time? Of course but any buffet that don’t change would be.
We only had lunch three times and it does change over time; once again there’s a wide selection (even if some items are staples such as fried potatoes with different spicing) to choose from. Most people should not have a problem finding something they can eat. At lunch and dinner there’s also a wide selection of cakes, cookies and desserts (though the majority of it is sadly tasteless power based stuff) for those with a sweet tooth. There’s also a fresh salad selection or pre mixed salads. Only a word of caution here but the signs don’t always match what’s actually in there as I learned. I’d guess one sign per meal was simply wrong (tomatoes with mozzarella was lasagna) and the description is dodgy (never saw real mozzarella in anything but mentioned often but it was definitely NOT mozzarella). In many ways it’s like a school canteen which is to be expected with the number of people involved but this also tends to leave the food bland and tasteless. Every night is a “theme” night; from experience it appears to only change one or two dishes for the “theme” and which table cloth is used.
Talking about dinner lets also talk about the service delivered during dinner. It’s amusing that after an international managers are flown in (suddenly there were white people in most staff locations commenting to the local staff) that we’re asked if there are any problems of who to speak to. As it was our last night we simply ignored it but the fact is the service is very inconsistent. One night you’ll have constant refills, plates removed and what not, the next night you can’t get a new fork after they took away your final one to save your life. Did not appear to matter if you tipped the staff or not, they simply did not care.
Both I and my wife did catch stomach bugs while eating there but with appropriate medication we both overcame them relatively quickly. If you don’t know what to get I’d recommend coal pills and some stomach settling mix (to fix the stomach bugs which is by far the most common reason for issues). Both can be get prescription free over the counter in any decent pharmacy.
What else? Well in general things ran smoothly excluding the restaurants, the cleaning staff was brilliant. Reception felt a bit hit and miss, sometimes things went very smoothly, other times you had to wait (15 min to get someone to check if we had used the minibar when checking out for example). Also be aware you can’t change money at the hotel but has to use the HSBC branch at the end of a very annoying sales street with the usual hawkers (and their annoying attempts to start conversations to pull you in, I strongly recommend you say you’re from South Africa if asked as that appears to shut them up) which holds very poor opening hours (esp. during Ramadan) and no notice about it anywhere in the hotel documentation. As in any major tourist resort you’re treated as someone to be hanged up and shaken down for money by anyone and everyone local.
Oh and before I forget I have to mention the beach. Well, the correct answer would be what beach to be honest as for me a beach consists of water AND something next to it that’s a beach (but here you only get one of two). The “beach” is about a kilometer away from the resort which is ok, I can walk that but once you reach the water and you think you’re done you have to walk the same distance again to the side to get to the hotel beach. The beach is nice; the water it goes down to is not. It is basically made up of rocks without sand and 30m out you got three “coral reefs” or so they are called. In essence they are just rock formations stick out of the water which may one day grow into something that you’re not allowed to get close. This means you’re even further closed in and can’t swim, dive or do anything of note at the water. If you want a real beach you need to get a boat/bus trip somewhere else.
I did briefly mention Hurghada in the introduction and I think it’s worth noting the “shuttle” traffic offered there. The shuttle is NOT done by the hotel but local enterprise, it’s cramped and will cost you 6 EUR per person single way. It will drop you off at a small parking close to an intersection and pick you up 3 hours later. No maps, no directions and you’re free to go. Expect taxis to wait for you there wanting to take you to see materials (don’t bother; it’s a waste of time that you have to pay for!). I strongly recommend simply skipping Hurghada or taking your own taxi in there instead but you’re unlikely to find much beyond the usual hawkers and crap being sold. You’re honestly better off buying it at the airport instead (once you’re through the second control and walked through the duty free store you’ll find a huge selection of the same stores but with better prices all accepting USD, EUR or EGP).
Hence over all I'll rate it as Average (3/5), it's not five star by Western standards (they never are) but by Egyptian standards I'm sure it is. Oh and I'll not bother to mention about the 10pm football games put on by the locals at the football field with local teams only; thankfully I could sleep through their late games). Will I come back? No not really. It's a golden cage, all of Hurghada is (and I don't blame the hotel for this) and it simply don't interest me; esp. when all local merchants try to rip you off (lets not even get started on the "spa" treatments costing 80 EUR per hour for a massage with oil).
On a separate note, not related to the hotel, the diving experience is great there but be VERY careful to not get a native trainer. My wife had one and beyond deciding to cut the training short to take an afternoon off (two days in the pool ended up being one day in practice) also had some very poor training skills. Hence I strongly recommend asking for an international trainer if you decide you want to go diving.
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- Also Known As:
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- Iberotel Makadi Saraya Bay