When I heard that my prize for winning a writing competition earlier in the year was a holiday in Egypt I was over the moon. The prize was a one week holiday for 2 in a 5 star hotel, on a self-catering basis, with flights and transfers thrown in (yippee!). Eventually the day of our departure came. The flight was fine and after a bit of confusion at the airport, we found our private transfer (all good so far). It was just ten minutes or so to our hotel but when we went to check-in they didn’t have our booking (!!**!). The hotel kindly gave us a brightly coloured ‘all-inclusive’ wristband each and sent us off to the hotel’s main restaurant while they looked in to it. It turned out that our tour operator had never confirmed the booking but by the time we had finished our meal, the mix-up was all sorted. Phew! We were in the right place and we would not be sleeping on the streets after all AND we could keep the wristbands! Even better, or was it?
For and against all-inclusive holidays
In general I’m not a fan of all-inclusive hotels because one of my favourite things to do on holiday, or when I’m working abroad, is trying out different restaurants, partly because I enjoy it but also because it puts money into the local economy which is particularly important in developing countries. As Sharm el Shiekh is a purpose-built tourist town I didn’t feel this applied here in the same way as it does in some destinations. Another reason why I am against all-inclusive hotels is that it encourages visitors to stay within their hotel for their entire holiday without ever venturing outside and getting to know the locals and their culture. This can’t be a good thing. Travel is a wonderfully enriching experience but not if you don’t step outside your hotel!
Having spent a week at the Xperience Kiroseiz Parkland, although I’d still prefer to stay in a boutique hotel or a small family run B&B, I can really see why all inclusive deals can be very attractive, especially to families or someone on a tight budget. Because of the nature of my work, I often stay at some very lovely places, however, my spending money is always rather limited and one thing I really enjoyed about this holiday was being able to grab a beer, a coffee or even one of the barman’s ‘special’ cocktails whenever I wanted one without having to think “Can I afford this?” Plus all the cash I had with me I could spend freely without having to worry about whether it would last me until the end of the week. A definite bonus!
Sharm El Sheikh
When I first heard that the prize would be a holiday in Sharm el Sheikh, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. I had the impression that Sharm was nothing more than a purpose-built tourist town with hundreds of huge, all-inclusive hotels and no real connection to the authentic Egypt. I’d much rather be visiting ancient archeological sites than lying by the pool with pop music blaring out and an over-enthusiastic animations team trying to get me to join in with the water aerobics. To my surprise Sharm el Sheikh actually turned out to be quite a good base from which to explore the Sinai Desert. Unfortunately I had to work the first couple of days as I had an editorial deadline to meet. I had to remind myself that we wouldn’t have been there at all if it wasn’t for my writing. I can’t believe just how much we managed to fit in to just a few days including riding camels along the seashore, snorkeling over the most amazing coral reefs, dining with the Bedouins and star-gazing in the desert. We had meant to use the hotel’s free bus to visit the local beach and the old market but sadly we ran out of time and actually saw very little of Sharm el Sheikh itself.
Xperience Kiroseiz Parklands
Our first impression of the hotel was that it was a smart, modern, 3 star, all-inclusive hotel with an excessive number of swimming pools (nice but certainly not 5 star and with no self-catering apartments). I have never stayed in such a large hotel complex or in an all-inclusive hotel before. I tried to keep an open mind but we did get off to a bad start. We were very disappointed with our first evening meal. A very pushy waiter pounced on us and told us that he would be our waiter for the whole week and that we should sit at the same table for EVERY meal. The food was poor and there was little choice. The next morning we went back to the same restaurant for breakfast but fancied sitting outside in the morning sunshine. A second waiter did exactly the same thing as the night before (only to be told by the first waiter that we were already spoken for). We found another restaurant tucked away in a quiet corner of the resort that we felt had a much nicer atmosphere than the previous one. The waiters were friendly but not over powering. In fact they couldn’t have been better. We also noticed that the staff ate there so we took that as a good sign. The food was different every day and extremely good with a great choice too!
The first two waiters excluded, all the staff at the hotel were wonderful and couldn’t have been more helpful. Our room was clean and spacious with a lovely private terrace. Although I would never have chosen either the hotel or the resort, it turned out to be a great base for our holiday. We were out and about most days but did spend a little bit of time by the pool. The animations team weren’t at all pushy and I even found myself joining in with a session of water aerobics! There was one strange thing about the hotel (or rather the guests) – almost every time I held a door open, smiled or said good morning to another guest as we passed, I suddenly became invisible (!!**!) I’d love to hear about your experiences of all-inclusive hotels. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay!
Our week on Instagram
I’ve lots more to tell you about our holiday and our explorations of the Sinai Desert and the Red Sea. To give you a taster here are some of my Instagram images from the week.