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Egyptian Magic In Sharm El Sheikh?
Club Magic Life, (Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt)
Member Name: dkm1981
Club Magic Life, (Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt)
Advantages: Nice room, lovely resort, lots of facilities, good food
Disadvantages: A bit repetitive after a week
We recently spent two weeks in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and we stayed at the all-inclusive resort Club Magic Life in Naqb Bay. I was a bit dubious about Sharm as I haven't heard the best things about the area, but the need for a holiday of sunbathing and generally relaxing, plus a couple of recommendations from friends meant that I went ahead and booked it.
Location and First Impressions
Naqb Bay is about twenty minutes away from Naama Bay (which is the main resort in Sharm El Sheikh) and it is closer to the airport. It is just a fifteen minute transfer from the airport, which is great for getting there quickly, but also means that the hotel is pretty much under the flight path. It's not a massive problem as the flights aren't continual throughout the day but there do seem to be busy periods where the planes overhead are quite low and quite loud. You can get a shuttle bus from the hotel to Naama Bay for five Euros return and the fairly new Soho Square is about ten minutes away in a taxi.
We arrived at the hotel at night so first impressions were of quite a grand hotel that has a sweeping driveway that is all lit up and lined with well-manicured gardens. This turned out to be the standard of the whole resort; everything about it is well presented and meticulously maintained. The whole place is like a little village and we were there for days before we found our way around completely. The resort is made up of lots of little buildings linked by gardens and paths. The buildings are all only two or three storeys.
Checking in is a simple and relatively quick process. The hotel is obviously aware of when guests are due to arrive as there are extra staff at reception to help speed things up. When you arrive, the porter will take your case and direct you to the reception desk, where you fill in a little form and hand over your passport for the staff to take a photocopy. Once this is done you get your room key and you have to tell the porter which room you are in. It seems fiddly but the whole process is surprisingly smooth. I think at this point you are supposed to wait for the porter to show you to your room but we decided that we wanted to catch dinner before it closed so we headed off on our own. It only took a few minutes for our cases to arrive after we did - pretty good service considering the number of people that checked in at the same time as us!
We were on the third floor on our block (number fourteen) there are about twenty rooms in each block spaced over three floors. I'd definitely recommend requesting a third floor room, because they seem to offer much more privacy. However do bear in mind that there are no lifts to higher floors so if can't use stairs then you will need to be on the ground floor. We had a garden view room which was excellent. I don't remember being given the option to upgrade to a sea view room, but having now been there, I wouldn't bother. As the highest rooms are only on the third floor, much of the view of the sea is obscured by the tall palm trees, even if you are right at the front of the resort by the beach. The other thing with the sea view rooms is that they tended to be near the restaurants that are all close to the beach as well so in the evening, you'll be overlooking people eating their dinner, which isn't my idea of fun. The balconies are large and it seems such a shame to waste them by not being able to use them for fear of hungry people looking up at you!
The rooms themselves are very spacious and bright. I have read people elsewhere say that they are a little dated and could do with a refurb, but I didn't think that at all. I thought that the rooms were well presented and comfortable. They aren't the most luxurious rooms on the planet but they are very of a very good standard. Our room had a double bed that was huge and the mattress was so comfortable - I had fourteen extremely good night's sleep! The rooms are kitted out with the usual - LCD TVs, dressing table, sizeable wardrobe. There is also an electronic safe in each room. The TV channels are pretty basic - there are a few English channels including BBC World News (which I loathe) and a movie channel. Normally i wouldn't mind about this because I don't watch TV on holiday, but with the sun going down earlyish ( around 4pm), there was quite a gap between leaving the beach and going for dinner and it might have been nice to have more variety for that.
The bathrooms again are very suitable: large and well lit with a walk-in shower cubicle and oversized sink. I particularly liked the fact that the shower cubicle was slightly lower than the rest of the bathroom, meaning that the water was contained rather than soaking the floor. The showers are powerful and there was never a dip in the hot water despite it being such a big resort. There is also a hairdryer in the bathroom, but it's about as powerful as a hand fan so not really worth the effort!
Housekeeping came every day and they did a very good job. i would always recommend using the safe for valuables because you can never be too sure, but on a few occasions, we accidentally left money or phones left out and they were always there when we got back, so no problems with security.
The Restaurants and Bars
The hotel is all-inclusive and, unlike some of the others I have stayed in, everything is actually included in terms of food. Main meals are taken in the Magico Restaurant which is a buffet. You can have breakfast lunch and dinner in there. Breakfast is good and includes everything you would expect; sausages, eggs cooked to order, fruits, yoghurt, cereals, pastries, fresh bread and so on. I found that, after two weeks, it did become a bit samey as it was the same choice every day - it's up to you to vary it I suppose. Lunch and dinner were similar and included a huge salad station, lots of fresh bread and a wide range of main dishes that are all served from show counters. Dinner offers a bit more variety as they have different theme nights every night, repeated every two weeks. Themes include Mexican, Chinese, seafood and Egyptian, although lots of the staple popular items appear every night regardless of the theme. These tended to include things like pasta dishes and curries as well as basics like pizza and chips, so fussy eaters will always find something to eat. For a bit of extra variety, you can eat at the Buffet Around the World at lunch time. This one is open from 12 until 4pm and is based down by the beach. It is partially open air and so makes for a great place to for a break from the beach. The variety isn't as good as the main restaurant, but it is great for a snack rather than a full meal.
There are three a la carte restaurants as well; Mai Thai (Thai), Sofra (Egyptian) and Baia (Seafood). We enjoyed all of them although Baia was our favourite because it was a little more sophisticated and the presentation and quality of the food and service was particularly good. In both Baia and Sofra there are a couple of the dishes on the menu that you get automatically so just bear that in mind when you are deciding what to order. In Sofra we were going to order starters and main courses but when the bread and selection of dips came we decided against a starter because it was such a large portion.
The food in general is well cooked and fresh. They managed to keep more or less everything warm as well which is always difficult in buffet type restaurants in particular. We found it much more pleasant to eat in the a la carte restaurants as they offer a much more sophisticated dining experience. You can really tell that the hotel have tried hard to make it a different experience from the hustle and bustle of the buffet, with all the little touches like warm towels to start and being able to order full bottles of wine, and it really does make a nice difference.
Having said all of that, there were a couple of issues I had with the dining at Club Magic Life. Firstly the booking process for the a la carte restaurants was a pain. You have to go to guest services the day before you want to eat and book a table. It's supposed to be open from 2pm until 6pm, but the limited places are usually gone by half two at the latest because people queue up before it opens. You can only eat at each restaurant once per week, so it isn't really awful but I could have done without it.
The other problem I found was the opening times for the restaurants, particularly the buffet. It is open for four or more hours at both breakfast and lunch, but in the evening it is only open from 6pm until 9pm. We found that very few people used it before seven thirty and so after then it was completely packed until it closed. I'd have thought it would be much better to open until 10 so that you can stagger it a bit. The a la carte restaurants too are only open until 9.30 and the latest time you can book to sit down is 7.30, which again I thought was a bit early, because it then means that you are at a loss for something to do once you've eaten, rather than being able to make an evening of it.
There are a few other places to relax around the hotel including a coffee shop that offers cakes and pastries as well as an American bar (which incidentally is one of the only places in the resort that you can get a decent internet connection) and The Eagles Lounge, which is a bar both inside and outside that offers a comfortable place to sit. All of these places are included in your holiday price and, together, they mean that you can get something to eat or drink pretty much anytime of the day. I think I worked out that the only time you can't get food is from midnight until 6am.
Entertainment and Passing the Time
Sunbathing is obviously the first choice of 'activity' in these parts and there is plenty of opportunity to do it. We preferred the beach because it was generally quieter and I love looking out tosea. It can get a bit windy by the beach, but they have huge wind breakers and the beach staff are happy to move them around to make them into a little den for you. There is also a beach bar so you don't have to wander far for a drink! If you prefer the pool, there are two in the resort. The bigger one is absolutely huge but is where all the daytime activities take place so it can get very noisy. There is also a DJ booth near this pool, so it creates more of a party atmosphere. The sun umbrellas here are also fixed so it can be difficult to find a bed that isn't completely shaded for large parts of the day. The other pool is the relax pool which is much smaller but a lot more people. We noticed that a lot of the older guests seemed to gather around this pool during the day.
There is an entertainment team at the hotel and they do work hard. With it being a resort that is a bit in the middle of nowhere it does need to provide something to do, particularly once the sun has gone in. There are a lot of exercise based activities during the day that you can just turn up for including beach volleyball, boules, meditation and step aerobics. There are also five tennis courts and you can borrow equipment for free and there is a gym which is small but has pretty much everything you need. Almost everything is included in the holiday price, the only things that you had to pay more for were tennis lessons, spa treatments and hire of snorkelling and diving equipment. If the latter is your thing, there is a jetty leading out past the shoreline reefs and, as long as the flag isn't red, you can go swim and snorkel during the day. I'd highly recommend it because the reefs and the fish around them are absolutely stunning - I am absolutely not a fan of the sea, but I loved it, as long as I didn't think about the scary stuff that might be in there!
Every evening there is some form of show, usually at the amphitheatre. I'm not one for shows generally but they passed the time. Some of the shows were terrible, others were actually much better than I expected. The only problem with the shows is that they are outside and it does get pretty cold in the evening. They do provide little blankets, but you'll need some warmer clothes anyway.
Price and Is It Worth It?
We booked the hotel as part of a package so I'm not entirely sure how much the hotel cost us. There was a price list inside the room that said our room was 120 per night per room. It didn't say which currency it was in though and I wouldn't like to guess because they do seem to use all kinds of currencies in these parts. Our package was around £1700 for two of us for two weeks to give you an idea. The hotel is a five star hotel and it certainly does have the facilities to warrant this so I'd say it is worth it. It isn't the most luxurious in the world, but it is clean, the staff are very friendly and there are plenty of facilities. I would recommend the hotel but perhaps only for a one week holiday because the food and surroundings can get a bit repetitive, plus there isn't very much to do outside of the hotel either. Overall I'd say it is a lovely place for a nice relax and to enjoy some time in the sun.
Summary: Recommended for a nice relax, but not for those who are active on holiday
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