Firstly there are a few things that I did not see mentioned when I researched this on TA before Xmas which would have been useful to know. When you leave the plane you have the ubiquitous bus that takes 10 minutes to load and drive the few yards to the terminal that you can walk to in under a minute.
As soon as you enter the terminal building you are harangued by 20 or more men holding placards with lists of passenger names and you have to find yours, identify yourself to the placard man who leads you and others to one of about 4 desks where you have to buy your entry visa! We were not told by Secret Escapes (ILE) about this prior nor did the cabin crew of Easyjet announce it so almost all passengers were wary assuming it was a scam. It appears it is not and the cost is £13 or $15 or €15 each (they will take anything!). They do not give change so many people ended up paying £15 as they had no change with them!
That done the queue fro passport control was about 15 minutes and private taxi transfer was fine. The rep accompanied us all the way providing information in broken English and advised us not to drink the water or take ice in our drinks. After 30 minutes we were past the security checkpoint into Sahl-Hasheesh and checking in to the hotel with a glass of something red and cold, possibly Hibiscus tea!?
The room was ready and as good as it looks in the photos and the concierge changed one of our LE100 notes to small notes (5s and 10s) which we used for tips. I am told that most Egyptians exist on about LE10 per day or less which is just £1 so a tip of just £2 most days gets you extraordinary service. I know that it was an all inclusive break but does it really break the bank to dole out about £5 a day in tips for great service?? It certainly helps the staff to survive and they are very grateful.
So yes we did tip - (£10 for the week to the room cleaner guy, £2-3 a day for the bar and beach waiter and the odd £2 to the towel/beach attendant. When we ate in the Chinese and Italian restaurants we tipped a £5 as we were served well and bespoke orders taken and delivered with pleasure. As a result we were treated like old friends on the beach, given towels as often as we liked on the beach and drinks every few minutes if we wanted them - on the beach and in the bar and we usually got them without even asking!
The sea was crystal and fresh (not cold but not 80 either), the sand was like sharp sand used by builders as this is clearly a man-improved coastline and the 'beach' has been built up with the builders sand over rock - but we were fine with that. The pool was warmer but shadowed by the hotel after about 3pm however this was not an issue as the sunbeds were in the sunlight.
Food was very good at all meals - but don't expect any bacon sandwiches or pork sausages! The chef happily cooks you an omelette, fried eggs etc at breakfast and minute steaks in the evening according to what theme the buffet has that day. Most evenings they had whole beef fillets that they carve thin steaks from to order - mmm! The food in the Chinese and Italian was excellent even if there was a fairly short menu choice.
The resort is set in a bay where there are 14 hotels planned although only 5 are completed and open and no work was progressing on the others, probably due to the political instability and the fact that Egypt's reserves have fallen by over 60% since the start of the unrest 2 years ago. So it is not a building site; it is very quiet, with good snorkelling/diving and not much else to see or do (Cairo is 600k away).
Yes the spa people try VERY hard to get you to take 4 massages for the price of 3 but between 2 of us that was OK (full massage is priced at €60 but paid on credit/debit card in US$ - go figure!). However if you just want one massage for €60 just say NO to the offer as often as it takes. The masseurs/euses are good.
So if like us you wanted a lazy week of all inclusive winter sun with temperatures between 25-30 degrees and at a good price (£750 each including flights, private transfers, food and drink) this is just fine by me. Incidentally it can get quite windy (which keeps you cool), the hotel make their ice from large gallon bottles of water (so no trots!) and the staff have no problem at all if you can't/won't tip. Outside the resort everything looked a bit grim and poor but we did not go out of the bay so we were very happy with everything. Little ot no entertainment so all there is to do is read and relax!
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- Premier Romance Boutique Hotel Hurghada