My partner and I booked this hotel through Thomson Platinum, despite there being very few reviews available. We had previously gone to the Riu Garopa in Cape Verde (another Thomson Platinum hotel) and expected this to be of a similar standard with similar "all inclusive" criteria.
Firstly, the transfer. On a good day, it will take one hour and fifteen minutes. On a bad day (i.e. landing early morning), it may take up to three hours to reach the hotel. Mombasa airport is on an estuary island and is gridlocked during the day time. The only way off is via a drive-on drive-off car ferrry along with about a thousand foot passengers. On our outward transfer, we had to queue to get around a lorry which had slid off the main road and down the bank onto our slip road (this was the same bank that a UK holiday bus recently slid down injuring passengers). Then we had to queue for ages to get on the ferry because a lorry had driven straight into the river, blocking one of the spaces that the ferry docks at on the river bank, so only one could dock at a time. We found out the next day that four people died when the lorry went in - over here they would have closed the crossing for a week, over there we just sailed past and docked next to the almost submerged lorry, presumably while the bodies were still inside it :-(
The hotel itself is nice, clean and tidy, if a little lacking in character. When we went in late January, there was a very strong north trade wind (apparently it is a feature every year from December through to about March) and this meant that it was very windy sitting in the bar area (which had a roof but no walls) or outside near the entertainment stage. Playing cards or keeping your hair out of your mouth when you took a drink was challenging to say the least! On the plus side, there is no way I could have dealt with 37 degrees without that wind!
I couldn't help thinking that, given that they had to rebuild this hotel after the fire in 2009, they could have paid more attention to the lay out. There is no logical "flow" to where the facilities are. There is only one main bar which is pretty much in the walkway from reception to the main restaurant, and it only had a small number of tables and chairs - enough for maybe 5% of the total guests to sit at if the hotel was full (it was only about 40% full when we were there, and there still wasn't enough tables)! There are more chairs and tables up near reception, but no bar here, as both pool bars (which would actually be more convenient to go to for sitting out in the evenings) close promptly at 6.00 p.m. There is no lack of tables and chairs - it's just that none of them are in the right place!
The stage area is down the bottom near the beach, pretty much removed from either the restaurant or the bar. This means that you would have to walk to the main bar to get a drink, especially given that the hotel staff don't really seem geared up to waiter service for drinks (maybe they just don't think of this due to most of them being muslim and teetotal). Whenever there was any entertainment (for an hour or two at most coinciding with dinner), the staff would put rows of chairs out facing the stage. No tables would be put out, therefore you would have to put your drink on the floor if you didn't want to hold it, and it wasn't very sociable to be sitting in rows facing forward.
One night the hotel did actually put all of the restaurant's tables and chairs out and made us have our dinner out there, which was actualy very annoying given that it was so windy that our dinner was ruined by the table cloth and serviettes blowing into our plates of food, our food going cold, and my hair blowing into my face while I tried to eat! On the last night we were there, the staff put all of the tables and chairs up around the pool at the inland end of the hotel, where it is far more sheltered, and opened up the pool bar. This was by far the best dinner of the holiday - they should definitely do this more often. There was a nice ambience with candles on the tables, etc., and the wind died down to a brisk breeze up that end.
So, onto the food. Whilst the quality was adequate for "all inclusive", unfortunately 50% of all of the food served at lunch and dinner was Indian (perhaps because the hotel is owned and run by an Indian family, like most of the hotels on the Kenyan coast). There were even curried dishes for breakfast and, half way through the week, they had an Indian themed night when all of the food was Indian! Don't get me wrong, my partner and I like Indian food but a) we were in Africa not India, b) we discovered we really don't like eating Indian food for lunch and dinner every day, and c) it wasn't the greatest Indian food we have encountered (I have been to India twice). Following complaints from guests, the hotel chose not to reduce the Indian dishes at lunch time but they did have a Chinese themed night the following night (which made a change, I suppose) and, following requests, had a lovely Swahili themed night on the last night before we came home.
The main buffet restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is an Italian restaurant on the beach near the lower pool with a menu which was not included on "all inclusive" but did have a limited "all inclusive" selection which was available between 12.00 noon and 6.00 p.m. only. Neither of the pool bars served any food or snacks, so it was the main buffet restaurant or the Italian only for lunch. There is also another restaurant a little way down the beach which served Swahili food, and this did not have an "all inclusive" selection at all. Both of these restaurants seemed to serve good quality food, however they were fairly pricey (think London prices!) and clearly not subsidised at all, given that most guests are on "all inclusive".
In the afternoon, they set up a little service bar in one of the common areas which served quite nice pancakes and waffles, with a few little dry pieces of cake.
And that is it for the food! Breakfast until 10.30am, lunch 12.00 noon until about 2.30 p.m., and dinner at 7.30 p.m. until about 10.00 p.m. with the Italian serving a limited menu between 12.00 noon and 6.00 p.m. so if you're hungry between 10.30 a.m. and 12.00 noon, between 6.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. or after 10.00 p.m., tough luck. To be fair, the food was pleasant, but nowhere near as good as the food on offer at the Riu Garopa in Cape Verde, which was exceptionally good. Maybe we were spoilt in Cape Verde :-|
And so to the drinks. To call the drinks arrangements "all inclusive" is an exaggeration unfortunately. Somebody needs to explain to the hotel management what "all inclusive" means! My partner and I don't book an "all inclusive" holiday in order to down as much alcohol as we possibly can, but we do expect to be able to get a drink, especially a diet coke or a cup of coffee, when we fancy it without having to check if we are within the time limits or are at the right bar!
There is one cafe bar (which never has anybody in it) which sells all kinds of tea and coffee. Unfortunately, it isn't included on "all inclusive" as my partner discovered when he ordered a cappuccino at 10.30 a.m. on our first day and was expected to pay 240 Kenyan shillings for it (that is about £3.00)! In fact, none of the bars open until 11.00 a.m. which might be okay if this only related to alcohol, but it doesn't - no soft drinks, tea or coffee before 11.00 a.m. either, so make sure you fill up with plenty of drinks at breakfast!
In fact, they tried to tell me that only "full fat" coke was included on "all inclusive" and that I would have to pay for "diet coke" - my soft drink and mixer of choice! I had to take this up with the rep, who arranged for me (and I think only me, as I had to give my room number each time I asked for one) to have "diet coke" on "all inclusive". They also won't allow you to have bottles of water on "all inclusive" - you can only have a plastic cup of it from a water dispenser at the bar. It is still mineral water, as far as I was aware.
Then there is the other end of the day. The bar closes at 11.00 p.m. Well, that is to say they stop serving "all inclusive" soft or alcoholic drinks at 11.00 p.m. After that, you have to pay for them, which I suppose isn't really a problem as there are so few tables available near the main bar that nobody wants to stay up much longer than 11.00 p.m. due to the lack of atmosphere. To be honest, on the two nights we did stay longer than 11.00 p.m. and paid for drinks (expect to pay London prices for LOCAL drinks which is shocking for Africa!), they insisted on closing the bar completely before 12.00 midnight in any event, even to paying customers of which there were probably about eight left! They really, really do not want any guests staying up past midnight at all! The whole place was as quiet as a church every night after that! We didn't really want to party all night but hey, we were on holiday, we wouldn't have minded a couple of later nights, say to about 1.30 a.m.!
To be honest, this hotel isn't really "all inclusive" it is "full board plus". Thomson need to hold discussions with the hotel management, as it really is bordering on misrepresentation to describe it as "all inclusive". All we want to be able to do is have a glass of diet coke, a cup of coffee or maybe even half a lager whenever we feel like it without clock watching, for heaven's sake!
I appreciate that the above has been one long moan about this hotel, so I should point out that the landscape is fabulous, the pools were gorgeous, the private beach was beautiful with lots of palm trees and hammocks to lounge in, and the staff were really friendly and, in the main, attentive (apart from their drinks service). The animation team tried and tried to get everybody interested in activities (beach volleyball, aquarobics, water polo, etc.) although asking the same people who always said no again and again was a little bit silly, as they just managed to upset them. We joined in several times. Cosmos, who put towels out on our sunbeds every day and always moved our beds into the shade when we weren't there, was brilliant.
Our room was lovely. I had asked for a high floor (less ants) and the hotel had emailed back acknoweldging this only a few days beforehand, yet when we arrived, we were allocated a ground floor room. They did immediately move us when we referred them to our email. The room was large with a sofa and a chair, and the bed was fairly small but comfortable. There was an extra single bed in our room, but it didn't bother us. The cleaner came every morning, and then again in the evening to turn back the bed and draw the mosquito nets. The TV was pretty dire (but then we were in Africa so didn't expect any different!!) but we were more than happy with our room (it was a standard double).
A little tip, if you want to go in the sea, just be aware that there is a coral reef all the way along the Kenyan coast, and you will therefore need coral walkers or you will cut your feet to shreds and possibly get an anemone spike in your sole. This also means that water sports could result in a few scratches if you are prone to falling in! I found using the kayak was a challenge given that we paddled and paddled and paddled, and never actually went anywhere because of the wind, and I was worried about upending onto the coral, even with coral walkers on!
Another tip, don't forget the visa money which you pay at the airport on arrival and again when you leave. You can pay with English money and in fact it is better to do this going in (£30). Coming back, the rep told us it was £32.00 (we couldn't understand why $50 going out equated to £30 but apparently $40 coming back equated to £32), however they also took £30 going back and didn't worry about the £2. I suppose if you really wanted to save the pennies, you could pay in pounds going out and dollars coming back, but is it really worth it?
Lastly, it's a stark fact that Africans are poor, and the staff don't earn a lot. Just because you are on "all inclusive" doesn't mean you don't tip for service. Take English money, change it at the airport (we changed about £50.00 between us) or at the cashier's desk by reception, and tip 100 Kenyan shillings a time (about £0.80p) for drinks brought to you or at the end of meals, and perhaps give a larger sum (we gave 500 shillings) to anybody going over and above (like Cosmos) and to our cleaner at the end of the week. It really doesn't amount to much to us, but it means a lot to them. Also, if you remember to pack some cheap colouring books and coloured pencils or crayons, any staff with children will appreciate these, as they don't have anywhere near the variety of children's items that we have over there. Don't be surprised if they ask if you really want to take your branded sport or footie T-shirt or trainers home with you - they really covet them! If you do give anything other than monetary tips to staff, you will need to sign something so they don't get accused of stealing and lose their jobs.
Would we go back? Probably not, unless they sorted out the "all inclusive" and never again out of season. But we wouldn't go back mainly because there are thousands of other places we want to go, not because this is a bad hotel.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.