Sunrise Island Garden Resort (Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt)
This is a long/comprehensive review which I hope will be useful to those who are thinking of staying at the Sunrise Island Garden, or have already booked and want to know more. I also hope it'll be reasonably interesting for those who are on Ciao/DooYoo and reading this for the sake of it! ---Introduction ... ---
Back in the summer which never came to England this year (2008) hubby's best mate and his wife came to stay for a weekend - the main purpose of that weekend being to book a HOLIDAY! So, on Saturday 16th August we perused the Internet for deals - we'd decided on early November (the only time fitting in with work commitments) and Egypt since the weather's nice all year round and other more exotic places were a bit out of reach money-wise. After several hours we had booked our flights and accommodation, and with only 11 weeks to go we got into the holiday mood by getting suitably drunk.
---An interlude with a purple suitcase ---
Fast forward to 2nd November (there was a slight panic in the meantime when we thought the flights were with XL airlines, but they were actually with Thomson) and we're on the conveyer belt on the way to our departure gate. There's a suitcase trailer outside and a purple suitcase falls off - no one bothers to pick it up even though they have blatantly seen it. Some poor person's luggage has been left stranded at Gatwick Airport. Thankfully it's not us - but if by any chance you're reading this review and have lost a purple case, that's where it is.
---Getting to Sharm el Sheik ---
The 5 hour flight (5 and a half hours on the way back) passed with a screaming baby (as usual), obnoxious children, a bottle of champagne, Mamma Mia and Wall-E, and yummy plane food (I'm being serious here, I actually like the stuff). Egyptian time was 2 hours ahead of GMT.
Having arrived at Sharm airport we queued to get our visas (in hindsight we didn't actually need them as we didn't leave Sharm, but it was best to be prepared), and then got a taxi to the hotel. Our taxi-driver Mac humoured us as we joked that he might abduct us (it was dark you see) - I'm thinking of writing a book based on our abduction by Mac, but haven't got further than that yet....it's not very helpful that he didn't actually abduct us.
---Some info about Sharm el Sheik---
I suppose I should give some background information. Sharm el Sheik is a tourist resort and has only existed as a town for 27 years (so our rep person told us) - if you're wanting culture and that sort of thing, then Sharm is not really the place to go. Sharm is on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on the coastal strip between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai - I didn't made that up, I just copied it from Wikipedia - so, to find out more visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharm_el-Sheikh or you could visit www.sharmelsheikh.com
Sharm is a diving and snorkelling hotspot, and that is why many people visit. However, although hubby dives, our main reason for going was guaranteed sun in November.
---Moving swiftly on, and checking in ---
I had thought we were staying at the Sunrise Island View, but it turns out we were actually staying at the Sunrise Island Garden, which is a bit less classy, only having 4 stars rather than the 5 stars I'd been telling everyone about. Oh well, not to worry - a holiday is HOLIDAY!
We were herded into reception (just to note, check in starts from 2pm) and made to leave our bags behind. There was some sort of kid's entertainment going on in the bar (there were kids there throughout our holiday, but thankfully they seemed to be reasonably well behaved ones). The check in process was relatively quick, and we were given cocktails (later found out it was a Sunrise) and tagged with a fluorescent green wristband (so we could be easily identified if leaving the compound) before being shown to our room.
We had been given a key to the room (which has a card on it to activate the light switch), and two towel cards for yellow beach towels (these actually also activate the light in the room). If you lose these you will be fined - hubby and I chose to use our own beach towels for the duration.
The man who showed hubby and I into our room insisted on showing us everything - how you turn on the TV (with the button - yes, I know!), offered to push the two single beds together, and was just lurking really. This lurking was very off-putting and ensured that I didn't give him a tip (despite having some English pound coins with me). The same happened when the man came with our suitcases. Sorry, but I'm more likely to tip if people just leave me alone rather than lurk!
---Our room ---
Our room (215) was pretty basic, consisting of two single beds which we pushed together (and then the next day the cleaner made it up as a double bed), a bedside table, TV, cupboard, drawers, phone, an empty fridge (for putting our water in) - the usual really! The bathroom consisted of toilet, sink and a big double shower which was nice.
* Air conditioning was very efficient
* Excellent shower - think our friends had a few problems with getting the right temperature, but ours was fine.
* Good choice of English speaking TV channels - hubby watched a fair bit while I was asleep.
* Bed was very comfortable
* Safe for valuables
* Proximity to the pool
* The cleaner was very efficient
* Floor VERY slippery with wet feet, so dry them coming out of the shower!
* Not much to nick - no little shampoo/shower gel bottles....and I didn't want another sewing kit.
* It said not to put toilet paper in the toilet, but we did anyway - it didn't block, so that wasn't bad after all!
* No drinking water on tap - but that's the same in most places abroad. Have to say I did clean my teeth with the water though and had no problems with Pharaoh's Revenge (aka dodgy bum) as they call it.
* The cleaner was perhaps a bit too efficient as he hovered outside the room waiting for us to put the "Make up our room" sign so he could get inside. He was also quite eager to find out exactly when we were leaving at the end of the holiday - we left him a tip of £3 at the end, not sure if that was about right or not!
The best thing about our rooms was that they were ideally situated for the pool. Outside we had a bit of a patio, and we tended to leave the patio door open (not wide open) while we spent the days by the pool since we could see the rooms from the sunloungers (valuables were in the safe anyway). The only thing to remember is that if you come out of the back door via the patio when you have the "Make up my room" sign on the front door make sure you have your key with you because the cleaner will lock the back door from the inside.
---The Pools ---
One of the first things I noticed on arrival was the 2 waterslides (and a kid's one as well), so that was all very exciting for me. It turned out though that it was hubby and his friend who spent most time on the slide (the slides were open from 10am, closed for a bit at lunch, then open again) , or playing with their overpriced ball from the souvenir shop! The first time I went down the bigger slide I hadn't realised how fast it would be and ended up with a couple of mouthfuls of water - yum! I was wary after that!
Every day was spent round the pool on the sunloungers - there were actually three pools (all very clean), but they are kind of joined together (but not, if you get what I mean). One was specifically the children's pool, but the other two were not deep at all either. I don't think that was a disadvantage really, you could still swim. The pool was pretty cold on getting in, so the best way is to enter via the waterslide as you don't notice it! Pool is open from 8am until sunset (which was about 5:15pm I think).
It was not difficult getting four sunloungers together in a good spot (i.e. where we could see our apartment) and catch the sun. However, I imagine that during peak season it would be a lot harder to, so you might want to do the German thing and put out your beach towels (the Germans staying there did this regardless of the fact that there was no need).
--The people who accost you at the pool --
The was probably the biggest downside to the holiday - you cannot sit by the pool and quietly read all day - you will be accosted by Zizi trying to sell you a henna tattoo, the man trying to sell fake perfume, the animation team asking you to belly dance (my belly dances on its own thank you very much!), do water aerobics, and people trying to sell massages, diving excursions etc.
"Good Morning" (they say this regardless of the time of day, although once they said Good Aftermorning) "How are you?" "Where are you from?" "What is your name?" (They then want to shake your hand) "Why you not smile?"
Although it was ok on the first day (hubby was even offered 15 camels for me, I think if we bought something off him) it did get a bit annoying to say the least. I know it's their way and everything and they mean well, but when I'm reading a happy holiday book about death I don't want to sit with a huge grin on my face! I think that towards the end they had started to get the hint!
The photographer did provide us with entertainment - a short Egyptian bloke with curly hair who thought he was God's gift - a complete pervert. We watched as he accosted the attractive women and then made them stand/lie in more and more intimate positions - and then he frequently disappeared with them. Towards the end of the week he seemed to be photographing anyone who was game regardless of attractiveness/figure - we speculated that he had some dodgy websites going on - Iwasshaggedinsharm.com or something along those lines! I can't believe people would be happy letting a random person take photos of them - they could end up anywhere!
The other entertainment was the planes. Located just 6km from the airport (must have been nearer as the crow flies) we were expecting a bit of plane noise - however this didn't bother us at all as it wasn't bad at all. However, they were evidently practicing for an air show, as every day a load of jets flied over us (like the Red Arrows) making pretty patterns. It was really nice to watch.
Our poolside activities were accompanied by the usual terrible music that is played by the pools on holiday - it's ok at first (and "Good Morning" following breakfast was funny), but with only 2 different CDs it soon gets tedious! Mind you, it was worse on honeymoon when a powercut every couple of minutes meant we only ever heard the first track of the CD as it kept restarting!
---The Bars ---
There are two bars, the one by the pool which is where we got most of our drinks, and the one inside. The main difference is that when inside your drinks came in glasses, and outside in dodgy plastic cups with cracks in them!
I can't actually remember what hubby and I had as our first drinks at the bar, but we were soon onto the cocktails, most notably the Sunrise (Whisky, pineapple, orange and soda), and the Night Tut (Brandy, Gin, Mint Syrup and soda) or Mojito as we called it - one of those holiday jokes that you had to be there to understand! The strength of the cocktails very much depended on who served the drinks, and also who went up to get them - hubby seemed to get stronger ones than I did....but then he did call the barman 'darling'!
Other than cocktails I mainly drank white wine or red wine - it was drinkable, but the sort of wine that is only drinkable when on holiday and gives you terrible heartburn! The others drank a fair bit of lager (watered down no doubt). Local spirits available, and soft drinks if you so desire - but that's not really the point of all-inclusive! Alcohol is served from 10am till midnight. However, we are getting old now, and a combination of sun and alcohol throughout the day meant we were always in bed by then!
Although it's all-inclusive it's inevitable that you'll need to buy certain things. Hubby and I bought two 2 litre bottles of water, and then for the rest of the week filled them up from the drinking water dispenser at the pool bar. Also in the supermarket we bought postcards (a terribly tacky selection), suntan lotion, and the tacky souvenirs (nothing is priced which is annoying - but they say that while you can haggle anywhere in Egypt you can't in the supermarket). There are also some other shops on site (such as a Papyrus one), but we didn't go in.
The most important thing on an all-inclusive holiday after the alcohol is the food! Be prepared to put on some weight!
Breakfast - 7am-10:30am - on offer are cereals, salads and cold meats, hot meats like sausages (no pork of course being a Muslim country), white beans, a big assortment of rolls and bread, a big selection of pastries, scrambled egg, potatoes of various kinds, pancakes (the chef makes these), eggs cooked to order (e.g. fried, omelette). Each day there are several different dishes as well, such as burgers, or random beef dishes.
My list could of course go on, but you're probably getting the idea - there's something to suit everyone. By the end of the week I had a routine of pureed mash (sounds and looks vile, but tasted nice), a beef luncheon meat sandwich, and chicken sausages....followed by a plate of pastries and jam. Hubby was more adventurous with omelettes and pancakes and thinks. I washed this down with pineapple juice or orange juice in these ridiculously little glasses. Of course there is tea/coffee too. Be warned, there is a man who tries to sell smoothies to you - just say no! Why pay for a smoothie when you can have all inclusive juice?
Snacks -11am-4pm - these are served at the pool bar, and consist of burger, grilled cheese sandwich, a pepper and onion pizza, a kebab type thing, and chips. The burgers were slightly strange in that they bunged them in a toasted sandwich maker....but very nice all the same. Waiting for pizza sometimes took a bit as they had to prepare from scratch. There is also ice cream available in afternoons, but it wasn't soft scoop and it was self-service.
Lunch - 12:30pm-3pm - Most days we had a buffet lunch, although sometimes we just had the Snacks (sometimes had both). There was always a wide selection, including chicken and beef dishes, pasta in various sauces, rice, couscous, salad, potatoes, chips, soups, breads. Basically anything you could want really! There were some specifically vegetarian dishes in a corner, but I think quite a lot was vegetarian anyway. There were various gateaux and fruit for dessert.
Lunch boxes are also available for those who are going out for the day.
Dinner - 6:30pm - 10pm - Every evening there was a themed corner such as Mediterranean, Iranian, and British. Some of these were better than others - the British Shepherd's Pie was mainly mashed potato though! In addition to the themed corner there was a massive selection of other food - pretty much like the lunch buffet but different choices changing slightly each day.
In addition to the buffet restaurant there are two a la carte restaurants which you are allowed to use once in a week. You have to book these by speaking to the scary Guest Relations woman who dictates the day and time at which you'll eat whether you like it or not!
El Gezira Rest - we ate here on the Wednesday night and it was possibly the nicest meal of the holiday, being traditional Egyptian food. Kebabs and rice, and Jackson (I think they meant Jacket) potatoes. It was nice to eat outside in the fresh air, and although it wasn't particularly leisurely we weren't rush as much as in the other restaurant.
Italian Restaurant - we ate here on the Thursday night. The starter was soup, and there was a selection of main courses - hubby, I & K went for pizza, and I went for lasagne. I should have gone for pizza as the lasagne portion was small. My main gripe is that they didn't tell us about the salad bar - only noticed it when I went to get dessert! We also felt rushed - no idea why the guest relations woman had made us eat at 8:30pm - we'd have been happy to go earlier.
* Excellent choice of food, most of it is excellent quality. I think it would take me a long time to get bored of it.
* Eat as much as you want! Although I think if I was there for longer I'd start just having one or two dishes a night rather than piling up my plate with loads of different things!
* Desserts were fantastic.
* The staff have a tendency to take your plate away while you're still eating - and your glass before you've finished drinking. Once * I was mid bite of a croissant when my plate was removed, I had clearly not finished. I know that you can go and get another plate (except on the last night when they actually ran out of plates) but that's not the point!
* You feel quite rushed.
* Staff are not very forthcoming with bringing you drinks - and even though there were 4 of us they always seemed to only bring out three drinks - bizarre!
* The fish selection - the fish/crab wasn't particularly nice.
* Some of the meat was pretty fatty.
* No pork products!
* Er....you get fatter!
When I told people I was going to Egypt they automatically assumed that I would be visiting the Pyramids. The pyramids are quite a distance from Sharm el Sheik. There were trips to Cairo and Luxor, and I was a little bit tempted. However, at £150 per person it was a lot of money, and hubby has been before - although if we'd been there for 2 weeks we probably would have done an excursion or two - so we decided we'll save all that for when we have kids.
However, for your interest here are some examples of excursions (a rep from medhotels.com talked us through them on our first day):
Cairo by plane - £150, by bus - £75 (this is a 23 hour trip) - include pyramids, Egyptian museum, and city tour.
Stargazing - £32 - evening in desert with dinner in Bedouin tent followed by stargazing with astronomer.
Yacht - £50 - day out on the red sea on a yacht.
Fantastic Four - £48 - drive through dessert, snorkelling, camel ride, and city tour of Dahab.
I think if we hadn't been staying at an all-inclusive resort we'd have been more likely to do trips.
Hubby was tempted to do some diving, but it was pretty expensive, and he wasn't happy about the amount to pay for a try dive. He has dived in Egypt before, and will do again in the future, so I don't think he felt like he was missing out too much.
---The 'Beach' ---
On the Thursday we decided to go to the beach which is located at the sister hotel the Sunrise Island View - I wanted to build a pyramid out of sand. We had to get a beach pass from the scary Guest Relations woman, and sign for it. Then we waited outside for the bus thing which comes every 15 minutes - the bus driver told me to give him our beach passes which I did, but he didn't take them from everyone, including our friends. Therefore when we got there I asked him for the beach pass back. He refused to give them to me - following an argument with the nasty man he gave me two tickets back. We had assumed that these were needed for getting food and drinks (soft drinks only) at the beach.
Anyway, on finding the beach we discovered it wasn't a beach - it was concrete covered in a layer of sand (so no sandcastle pyramid for me!). We walked all the way along and there wasn't one free sunlounger. We realised that we should have come earlier. So, us girls thought we'd get a sunlounger by the pool and let the boys go off for a dip in the Red Sea. However the nasty man at the pool told us we weren't allowed there with our green wristbands and we could only be on the beach where there was no space - what is the point in a sister hotel if you can't use their facilities? Not impressed at all we went to wait for the bus (I constructed a pyramid out of four leaves) and the boys went in the sea (we took most of their stuff back with us). When we got back I said to the scary woman about the cards and she said we were meant to hand them in - I just don't understand the point, when we had our wristbands.
Hubby and his mate enjoyed their dip in the Red Sea with hubby's new snorkel and mask, and they saw Nemo. On Saturday we were prepared. We had an early breakfast. The scary woman wasn't there, so no cards. We decided to walk to the beach since it's only a 5 minute walk, and we wanted to visit the big supermarket. On arrival at the Sunrise Island View (just after 8am) we were asked for our beach passes. We told them that the bus driver had taken them, despite the fact that the bus driver was actually 5 minutes behind us on the first run of the day. Anyway, we walked straight in, and got 4 sunloungers.
Had a lovely snorkel in the Red Sea - I had no idea how much fun it would be since I'm not really a water fan. But it was amazing, the fish, the coral reefs - I felt like I was in a different world. In the Red Sea you just seem to float due to the high salt content, you don't need to exert yourself. I was upset not to find Nemo, but loved it all the same! So, it was definitely worth making another trip to the 'beach', and I'd perhaps like to do more snorkelling in the future and actually swim beneath the surface.
---Evening Entertainment ---
By the pool there is a noticeboard which gives details of the evening entertainment. One night we participated in the Karaoke which was a laugh. The music was from midi files rather than being the proper music, so it wasn't particularly easy! Hubby and his mate sang Bohemian Rhapsody, I did Manic Monday, hubby and I did "House of the Rising Sun" and our friends did "Mustang Sally". I think there was only other one English song that night - everyone else did Egyptian ones. Anyway, it was fun.
There is a Discotheque at the sister hotel, open from 11pm till 3am (think it costs money to go in) - we didn't check it out though as we generally went to bed early! For those who want to get out and about then there are nightclubs in Na'ama Bay.
We tended to drink by the bar and then drink outside our rooms - the bar was so near anyway! We did all get bitten a fair bit by mosquitoes, which I would imagine would be very bad in the summer, so be warned!
---Check Out ---
Check in is from 2pm. Check out is 12pm (which is pretty good - many places are 10am), but you can pay $30 to keep a room until 6pm, or $60 to keep it until 10pm (depending on availability). We were leaving at 3pm, so paid to keep one of the rooms for the extra time (can't remember what they charged us in £s). The hotel sorted out a taxi to drive us to the airport - think it was £10, could be wrong! Make sure you still have some money with you for the airport as cans of coke cost the equivalent of £3 there - ouch!
---Other things you might/might not want to know ---
I think I've covered most things, but just in case, there are various other services available for a cost - tennis court and equipment, sauna, jacuzzi, steam bath, massage, Internet, babysitting, hairdressing, diving school, telephone, fax, laundry, watersports, lunch at the beach. There is a shuttlebus to Na'ama Bay for $6. And, a doctor is available 24 hours a day.
As with any more exotic places, jabs are advised for Egypt, but not compulsory (you're not at a high risk in such a tourist resort). However tetanus, diphtheria typhoid, polio, hep A and possibly hep B are advised, and we were good and had our jabs!
The weather was lovely as expected, with it being between 28 and 30 degrees Celcius. I think though with it not being the summer it is harder to burn. It also means that although the weather is nice the days are still short, so no long summer evenings unfortunately!
One thing we found a bit strange about Sharm was the lack of Egyptian women, aside from the scary guest relations woman. All of the cleaning staff were male which is not what I've come across before. All I can think is that their women are kept at home...
Anyway, we had a fantastic holiday, a week of doing nothing was just what we all needed. Then it was back to the real world.....
Oh, you might be wondering how much this cost - it was approximately £500 each (for flights and accomodation), plus whatever we spent on top of that! But we worked out that by going on holiday we were actually saving money - imagine how much it would cost to eat out three times a day and have unlimited drinks for 14 hours a day in the UK!
This review can also be found on Ciao with photos!
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Ghazala Hotel (Egypt)
The Ghazala Gardens (sister hotel to the Ghazala Beach across the road) is an absolutely stunning hotel, which I highly recommend. It is part of the highly regarded Red Sea Hotel Group. The front of the Ghazala Gardens welcomes you immediately and is very imposing with a dramatic front with a bridge and huge domed ... roofing.
If you search for this hotel, please do not be put off by what you find out. The event happened a long time ago and Egypt is now a very different place. I felt VERY safe here and you should not be worried.
I cannot comment on price because I stayed here with work (MyTravel) on a photoshoot.
I should also note, MyTravel / Thomas Cook no longer contract this hotel, but I believe you can book it through Flyglobespan.
Location - The Ghazala Gardens is situated on Peace Road - the main road through Sharm el Sheikh - however, you wouldn't realise it when you're inside the hotel as it's so quiet. The only problem is trying to cross the road if you want to go into the centre of Naama Bay, trying to dodge all the crazy taxis! The hotel is across the road from the beach and the centre of Naama Bay, which means you are near to the action, but just far enough to be away from the hustle and bustle. The drawback is not being on the beach.
Food - The food at the Ghazala Gardens was pretty good for an all inclusive hotel, although I have been to another Egypt hotel and that had better choice. However, there was always something to eat and it was all hot and cooked well.
Hotel Facilities - The swimming pool here is just stunning, it meanders through the gardens with sun beds integrated, bridges over the water, lights, fake beach and shelving into the water. In the evening it looks amazing! I'm not sure what other facilities it has, as I didn't see any others. You have use of the beach across the road at the Ghazala Beach.
Rooms - Very spacious, light and modern, with big balconies. Some of the rooms even have terraces which go straight into the swimming pool, which are great.
If I ever get the chance to return to the Ghazala Gardens Hotel I would jump at it.
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Sonesta Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt)
I stayed at the Sonesta Beach Resort in May this year for 10 nights. I cannot comment on the price, as I was lucky to work for MyTravel at the time, so got it through staff discount :) Location - this hotel is in the ideal location for sampling everything that Sharm el Sheikh has to offer. It is in a perfect location, near ... enough to the centre to enjoy the amenities, but far enough to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. It is also only about 20mins from the airport, so no long transfers to worry about! This hotel is right on the beach and has it own private beach (as mentioned below, very busy). The sea at the Sonesta Beach is amazing, it is like a tropical fish tank! There are even fish swimming up onto the beach! Walk to your knees and your are surrounded by the most stunning and HUGE fish I have ever seen. You can walk along the seafront promenade to the centre of Naama Bay, which is nice in the evening :)
Food - Fantastic! Always lots of choice for all different tastes catered for. Breakfast was bread, cereals, omletes, eggs, beans, fruit, yoghurts. Dinner was great, with hot and cold meals. Tea was even better, as it is served in hot platters outside by the main swimming pool, with desserts and bread inside. You won't go hungry here!
Hotel facilities - About 7 swimming pools, all of which are a decent size. Our block of rooms had its own private swimming pool, which was really quiet and relaxing. There are two main large swimming pools with a few smaller ones dotted around. From what I saw, there was also diving faclities, spa as well as a few shops on site - this was great for shopping, as you didn't get hassled :)
Rooms - I believe there are some HUGE rooms here, but ours was a great size room for two of us, so no problem. It was also beautifully decorated with stained glass everywhere and domed ceilings all over. We had massive wardrobes as you walked in, the MASSIVE bed (could probably fit 5 in!) was through an arch and there was also a seating area leading onto the balancy. The bathroom was great as well, had a bath and shower. However, be careful letting water draining out, as I flooded the bathroom doing this!
Weather - Fantastic!!! It was 40 degrees each day and about 30 degrees at night. We didn't have to worry about the weather any day, as it was already boiling when we woke up. Remember to put plenty of sun cream on :) We even got burnt going to breakfast at 9am!
All in all, a great and relaxing hotel, which is ideal for families, couples and older people alike. I would certainly return here and hope to over the next couple of years.
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Egypt Hotel International
Hotel International /
Jolie Ville Moevenpick Luxor Resort / Hotel International / Jolie Ville Moevenpick Luxor / Crocodile Island / in Luxor / Egypt / Phone: +20 952 374855/ Fax: +20 952 374936 - Bungalow style rooms each with private terrace, located on Crocodile Island, on the Nile, just 14km from Luxor Intl. Airport. 24 acres of ...
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