“ Address: Ras Om El Seid / Sharm El Sheikh / South Sinai / Egypt / Tel: +20 69 3665993 „
I have wanted to visit Egypt since I read Death On The Nile by Agatha Christie when I was about 12. However, when I finally went to Egypt last March it wasn't to live out my dream of a Nile cruise and visiting the pyramids, it was for an all inclusive week long holiday at Sharm El Sheikh. We knew we wanted a relaxing holiday around my birthday and that we wanted to go somewhere hot without spending over the odds so Egypt became the top choice quite quickly.
We booked the Aqua Blu Sharm after some quick internet research, mainly using Trip Advisor reviews and ratings. The hotel was given an excellent write up and at the time was in the top 20 hotels in Sharm as rated by the site. For the £550 each we paid for the all-inclusive package we were very happy with the deal!
= Sharm El Sheikh =
Sharm El Sheikh has become one of my most popular places for tourists to visit in Egypt thanks to its swanky hotels, lovely beaches and stunning scenery. Everything about the resort is touristy and perfect for the traveller seeking sun, fun and sea. As we drove along the big main road through Sharm from the airport to the hotel late at night we passed hotel after hotel, casinos, restaurants and literally nothing else! Sharm is very popular for its diving, with the red sea providing a huge variety of marine life and constantly good temperatures.
= Hotel location =
Aqua Blu Sharm is located approximately 18km from Sharm El Sheikh airport, however, our transfer took about an hour because we had to drop off at three other hotels on the way. It was just one long straight road from the airport to the area of Sharm where all the hotels seem to be located. We booked the hotel thinking that it was on a beach, but actually we only had access to the beach of another hotel which we weren't impressed with. We had an image of being able to stroll out of the grounds and walk straight onto the beach to do a bit of snorkelling in the Red Sea but as it was, we had to take a free shuttle across the road which was a bit of a hassle so we only did it once.
= On arrival =
When we arrived we were greeted by the reception staff who were very polite but not over friendly. Check in was very simple with just a form to fill in between us and then our keys were handed over and a porter made his way over to take our bags up to our rooms. We followed on a golf cart which was fun and it gave us the opportunity to see the whole complex and just how big it was! The hotel resort was very beautiful with lovely gardens and fabulous looking pools so we were instantly excited. We were blown away by how big it was and wondered how we would ever find out way around!
= The room =
We were shown to our room which we thought was wonderful. Plenty of space, huge bed, table and chairs and a sofa. The small window didn't allow in a huge amount of light but this didn't matter as we wouldn't be in there in the daytime. The bathroom wasn't particularly modern but was clean enough and even though the room's 'garden view' turned out to be a view of the main road, overall we thought we had a great deal.
Then came the night. We went to bed quite early that evening but found we couldn't get to sleep because of the people and motorbikes on the main road. Traffic seemed to be endless throughout the night and with horns blaring literally every three seconds we didn't get a minute's sleep. At 6.00am the sun had come up and we took our towels and went to lie out by the pool to grab an hour's sleep before the other guests started to come out. Anyway, around 7.00am we went to reception and pretty much demanded another room. They said they were full up and that there were no other rooms and would have to come back at 1.00pm after checkout in case anything turned up. I turned on the waterworks - it was my birthday after all and I was feeling very stressed out. I think he took pity on me after that and said that if we came back at 1.00pm he would definitely have sorted a room for us.
1.00pm came and we went back to reception with all of our bags (just so they couldn't change their minds!) and a very unfriendly guy reluctantly handed over a new set of keys to us. The new room was wonderful! We were delighted to see that we had a balcony overlooking the pool and we were now much more central in the complex, very close to the main restaurant and snack bar. The bathroom was much more modern and very clean. The bed and layout of the room was much the same as the previous room, however with the balcony instead of a small window to the main road, it seemed much lighter and brighter. The TV was an old, chunky model but had a range of channels including English news channels and sports channels through which we could watch Premier League games while we were getting ready to go out for dinner or for bed! Perfect!
I know other people must stay in those rooms all the time but I really don't know they could. I'm not even a bad sleeper - all I need is to lie down normally but the horns beeping constantly was just horrible. I do feel bad for causing a terrible fuss but I'm so glad now with retrospect! As well as the 494 regular rooms there are 5 wooden bungalow huts which are on the waterfront. I didn't get to see inside one of these apartments but they looked fantastic from the outside.
7/10 - hit or miss but ours was excellent!
= The facilities =
The hotel's facilities were one of the reasons we picked it in the first place. It has its own water park which is free for hotel guests but the public can also pay for entry. The pools were fantastic and even with additional paying guests there were enough sunbeds for everyone and towel stands were located around the pools. There were lots of slides to choose from including twister slides, a freefall slide and the black hole where the rider is in complete darkness. My favourite was the slide into a big dish which you slide around until you fall through the middle. There was also another great ride which you could either take on solo in a rubber ring or with a friend in a double ring which is really long and enjoyable. Alex and I LOVE waterparks when we're on holiday even though we're the oldest in every queue so we were absolutely in our element despite the loud tunes blasting out over the speakers!
Except for the two days that we spent in the waterpark part of the resort, we spent most of our time by the relaxing pool outside our room. It was much quieter and we enjoyed lying on the sunbeds and then jumping into the pool for a swim while the waiters walked round with cocktails and soft drinks! The pools were huge with pretty features such as wooden bridges and palm trees surrounding them. They never seemed crowded and it was a very relaxing atmosphere away from the day guests. There was a kid's pool which looked great fun too!
There were a few activities around the pool which were free for any guest, whether they were all-inclusive or not. I took part in the aqua aerobics class which was in the wave pool (although not when the waves were on!) which was great fun. I found prancing around in a pool being watched by sunbathers incredibly embarrassing to start, but quickly got into it and thought it was great as I'd never seen anything like this before. The same lady also instructed the yoga class which was right by the wave pool on yoga mats! I didn't get chance to join in as I missed the first few minutes and didn't dare to go over but I watched and it was very similar to the classical yoga I occasionally do at the gym. I loved the idea of practising yoga outside but the waterpark possibly was not the most relaxing location for it with all the children around!
The hotel also had a decent, air conditioned gym with free weights, treadmills and a few weight machines. It was quite small but I went in twice (how sad on holiday, I blame Alex's love of exercise!) and never saw anyone else in there. The equipment was a little dated compared to Virgin Active's constantly changing kit but was perfectly functional and for a hotel it was more than I expected. It also had tennis courts and mini golf but I never used either and actually, I never saw anyone else using them during the whole week I was there!
The hotel also boasted a spa where guests could receive beauty treatments including massage, pedicures, manicures and facials. This was at an extra cost and in the heat I found that I didn't make time for any treatments. It didn't actually look very nice so I wasn't even tempted to go in and look at the prices although the ladies who worked there did walk round the pool trying to get people involved.
8/10 - lots to do during the day!
= Entertainment =
I'm not really sure what I can say about the entertainment at Aqua Blu Sharm, mainly because there was none! I was absolutely shocked that a nice, all inclusive resort like this could not provide any entertainment at all. Alex and I went to Egypt for a relaxing holiday of chilling out by a pool and getting some sun so to start weren't bothered by the lack of entertainment, however as the week went on we realised it would be nice to have something on after dinner without us having to leave the complex. One night there was a guy singing with a guitar which was lovely as we knew most of the songs but it was very much just background music and not advertised to guests. I had made a joke about all-inclusive hotels doing bingo nights before I left but by the end I would have enjoyed it!
2/10 - seriously lacking!
= The staff =
Despite going all-inclusive we didn't get to know the staff well as guests often do in these resorts. The staff seemed to change on a daily basis with the exception of one man in a poolside bar who kept the drinks coming in throughout the day! He was fine except for his need to keep commenting on my bikinis which made me feel a little self conscious! The staff were very polite in general and the housekeeping was especially good with fresh towels and a well made bed. The men on reception were average at best. They never had a smile on their faces which I didn't like at all but maybe after the first day they just didn't like me! Tipping was appreciated but not expected and because the waiting staff and barmen changed daily we tipped small but regularly. The only embarrassing tipping moment came when we first arrived and had no cash on us but the man who had demanded that he carry our luggage waited around for ages as we tried to explain we had no money.
5/10 - very average
= The food =
One word comes to mind here. Repetitive. So there were four restaurants for all-inclusive guests where we could eat lunch and dinner. However, despite one being the main restaurant, one being Chinese and another Indian, they were all the same! There was little to no variety between the restaurants which I found hilarious at first but annoying by the end! It also seemed to be the same food served every night and at both lunch and dinner. I never thought I could get bored of chicken or beef in a sauce but I did! We had been really excited to see that the main restaurants had themed nights (British, German, Mexican, American etc) but when even the Mexican turned out to be exactly the same food we started to doubt them and decided to eat elsewhere! I thought there would at least be a burrito or enchilada but nope - just a Mexican flag and green decorations!
The one saving grace was the Italian restaurant which was located behind the Chinese and Indian, out of site (so some poor guests may never have found it!) They made the pizzas to order so you could either just grab some of what was going or request your own toppings from an extensive selection including veggies and meats. They took less than 5 minutes to make so I was quite happy to just stand at the front and wait while watching them being made. They were absolutely delicious and by the Mexican palaver we reversed our decision to only eat pizza every other night and decided it would be every night!
5/10 - wonderful Italian but rubbish otherwise.
= The all-inclusive experience =
One of the main reasons we visited Sharm El Sheikh is because we really fancied trying out an all-inclusive deal at a nice hotel in the sun. The all-inclusive package was actually cheaper for us than booking half board so it was definitely the best option for us. It provided three meals a day and there were also some sort of snacks available outside of main meal times. Alex and I especially enjoyed 'tea time' from 4.00-5.30 pm which included tea, coffee and cakes! A perfect afternoon snack before getting ready for the evening! Drinks were available from the morning until midnight which was fine for us and were unlimited. This was great but the size of the drinks and variety left a lot to be desired. The plastic cups that they were served in were absolutely tiny, probably a quarter of a pint. Fizzy drinks machines were available as self-serve in the restaurants and on all bars which was fine, although it would have been nicer to have something a bit bigger! Beer was served in the same cups so to have a pint you would have to go back to the bar four times! Cocktails again in the same cups - now that was just ridiculous! Sometimes around the pool it would have been great to have a bottle of water but no, again it was the small cups! Wine was the one thing served in a glass but the all-inclusive house wine was disgusting so we didn't drink much of that!
Looking back, all-inclusive didn't suit us very well. As we had paid for it and really wanted a relaxing holiday by the pool, we didn't particular want to head out into town and pay for meals - however, I wouldn't make that sacrifice again. I think this particular hotel has put us off doing all-inclusive again with the lack of variety and tiny drinks and the boredom that can come with it. However, it was a great deal considering how much we did actually eat and how many drinks we got through in a day! I'm not a massive alcohol drinker so those fizzy drink dispensers really took a battering!
= Overall =
Overall I would give the resort a 3/5 despite toying with the idea of a 2/5. It was lacking in a few areas but we really had a fantastic time and enjoyed relaxing by the pool. I could only recommend it for families with children who are of an age where they can appreciate a waterpark but too young to need night time entertainment! Anyone else, I'd suggest going with a proper 5* option in Sharm rather than a top 4* one because there is definitely a difference! Although it was excellent value for only £550 all-inclusive with flights and transfers, with hindsight I'd probably also book somewhere at Naama Bay as there seems to be more to do there and nicer beaches.