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“Food bland and outstretched hands”

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Marhaba Palace Hotel
Ranked #7 of 33 Hotels in Port El Kantaoui
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed March 26, 2013

We took the opportunity of taking a weeks holiday in the Marhaba palace, Port El Kantaoui from the 17th Mar until the 24th. We landed at approx 20.30 and it was a fairly quick process of clearing customs but soon encountered the airport porters, no matter how much you argued they took your bags from you and heading towards your allocated bus. They then proceeded to ask for £2 before releasing the bags back to you, one even asked another passenger for paper money and not coinage. The bus was delayed by the non arrival of some passengers who were supposed to be on it, they seemingly decided to take a taxi to their hotel, this also happened on the return trip.

The journey to the hotel was appx 30 mins, being dark we were not able to see any terrain, soon pulling into the gated area of the marhaba palace, an impressive tall white building but then again all the other buildings were white too. We dis-embarked from the bus and were greeted by the door staff who took our bags off us while we checked in. After filling in the documentation for the hotel we were given out keys and told that a cold meal would be delivered to us in our rooms in 45 mins. Two phone calls and one further visit to the reception area and the 'cold meal' was finally delivered two hours 10 mins later, this put a dampener on the start of the holiday as we could have easily gone out for something to eat. The room we were given, 107, on the first floor at the far end of the building was a bit dated and tired, a couple of the light fittings gave me some concern as 'flashes' could be seen when they were switched on. The room faced the fair ground direction, we were lucky enough to get the sun during the morning until early into the afternoon, however as the year increases the sun moves further north and less sun is found in this location.

We our 'all inclusive' bracelets on the next morning we proceeded to start our holiday starting with breakfast - it was a mixture of continental style, various omelettes, a breakfast collection, juices, tea/coffee and choice of cereals. The initial task during the whole week however was find a table first. This proved harder towards the end as there was a conference event and the hotel was taken over by the delegates (Tunisian)

The clientele of the hotel appeared to be a mixture of German, Dutch and British, and at times Im sorry to say the Brits were often the worst behaved by pushing in any queues. There was the normal game of 'sunbed' chasing however further into the week with change over's this proved less of a problem. Every day the hand of the attendant had to be greased with money to secure a mattress. This was my biggest gripe throughout the holiday, everyone you met, asked, or were served by wanted their hand greased with money and it became wearisome the longer our stay. I have no problem tipping, but tipping is for good service not just service.

The meals were varied, however our personal taste meant that we were always adding salt and pepper to the meal as it appeared to need it. The dining areas were breakfast served in the breakfast area at the far end of the hotel with all other meals being held in the main dining room at the other end of the hotel. At the end of the week when the delegates arrived the lunch time meals were horrific with a mass of people congregating there for their lunch. The alternative eating area was at the poolside bar.

There were three areas of entertainment, one in the middle of the hotel with normally piano music were most people congregated prior to and after dinner, the American bar and finally the nightclub for night events (Normally the drag show, the karaoke night, traditional night and international night) . At this point I would say that the best one was the drag queens act and one that should not be missed as it is very funny, moreso if you are one of the unfortunate ones.

During the nights the toilet close to the American bar and nightclub often ran out of toilet paper in the ladies toilets, my wife having encountered this problem notified the reception area however due to some people just arriving was met with a hostile response when they were notified. The running out of toilet paper happened on more than one occasion.

Having been issued with a red bangle for all inclusive we soon became aware of a 'trick' that was used by a local to steer you to selected shops, the bangle indicated the hotel you came from and it did not appear to change so armed with this information the locals could pretend to work at your hotel and having their one day off, your guard being now down you were told about this great shop offering a good discount and suddenly taken there. This happened about 3 times before we clicked on to how they knew us but we didn't recognise them, we then started turning them over showing the white underside and this then confused the locals as they could not tell which hotel we were in. So I might suggest this to you to then to be able to avoid them.

There is a super market close by, also the irish bar just across the road. The super market was reasonably priced - its name was the 'Big Market'. The irish bar gave some nightly entertainment, however drinks prices were slightly more above local prices but it was a safe drinking environment which gave what you asked for. Some of the eating areas down at the harbour when asking for a beer gave non alcoholic drinks. A good one was across from a catamaran called the 'Sinibad' which had a barrel showing alcoholic drinks, a stella here (Big bottle) cost about 5000 Tunisian dinars. (About a pint)

We took two trips whilst at the hotel, both booked through a small man found at the beach area of the hotel. He did give a good price due to the fact that it was 'out of season' The first being a camel ride which involved a small trip (20 Mins) in a horse drawn carriage (Scraggie beastie) to where the camels were found, this appeared to be close to the refuse area, with my wife and myself put on two camels we followed the remaining other 5 female (Most elderly) still embarked on the carriage we started our trek. The trek took us to a house situated by a large wall where we stopped and after a photo session involving a piece of cacti being taken from the mouth of the passengers one at a time - Photos cost 3 dinars if you wanted them.
Drinks here were only 2 dr (Dinar) and a non alcoholic beer 3 dr, coffee 2 dr - Which put your mind at rest they were not out to rip you off. After drinks we went to watch 'Mamma' making local break' in basically a device similar to a Turkish oven. We where then able to taste them when we went into the 'straw made house'. After that it was a trip back to the hotel in the carriage, we were given the option of riding the camels back but thought it would allow them the opportunity of going back to their farm. They did however follow us most of the way back to the main road and soon they made their own way back to the farm when their tether was released by the holder. I would like to point out that the carriage was driven along the dual carriage way amongst the cars, crossing the carriage proved to be the most 'worrying' time as some drivers were acting like 'boy racers' that we know. The camel trip cost us 20dr

The second less enjoyable trip was on a 'pirate galleon' from the harbour, we were met at the beach area and followed the guide to the harbour. Going on board we awaited others joining, we waited for appx 1hr before the ship sailed. The passengers were mostly Tunisia with only about 8 Europeans. The trip was supposed to be a trip along the coast, a bit of fishing, a meal and then the trip back, what we got was a trip out 3 miles, a trip back in to 0.5 miles off shore. The anchor dropped and we were served with a couple of slices of bread, a small barbequed fish (Similar taste to sardine) and a small portion of salad. The accompanying drink was a cup of coke or water. I should image this changes with the influx of holiday makers later in the seas to a 'booze' cruise. The boat trip cost 30dr however the tickets were priced at 50dr but i think this was due to 'out of season'

We did no other trips which I could kick myself for now, however talked to one of the wonderful friends we made, he informed us that the village where the life of Brian and also star wars was one of the possible trips. We never managed to go to the local madina, maybe next time, if we do go back, then we might attempt it

The money situation was Euros changed for 2 dr to 1 euro, with the pound 2.4 dr to £1. Money was changed at the hotel and could be changed back prior to leaving. Tunisian money is not allowed to be taken out of the country and even though we never encountered anyone being stopped it was stated at various places at the hotel that is was not allowed.

The main areas of the hotel were in good standard and well maintained, the indoor pool was warm and used a lot especially since the outdoor pool was cold and only used by the few who were either daft or foolhardy (I was the latter) and jumped in about 3 or 4 times. Hypothermia normally set in after about 10 mins leading to a need for a beer.

The alcoholic choice of drinks was to be expected, local brands, which I must admit took some getting used too. The beach bar was closed however the pool dining area was good, with meals, drinks, coffees etc being served until about 4pm. Lunches were served until 2.30 pm. When the beds used by people were finished with the pads were collected quickly, this was to ensure that they received another payment from someone else wanting to use the beds.

The local zoo needed to be seen to believed, observing from the main street, we saw hamsters, rabbits, a goat, a camel and two Mexican chihuahuas. Yep two dogs.

Next door to the hotel a new hotel was being developed, work was still being done on it and to be honest its likely to be that way for some time with only the concrete shell being established. The hotel appears to be one of the RIU chain.

At the end of the holiday we were collected at 07.40 and taken to the airport, on arriving we headed to the check in area we checked in. We were then informed that our flight was delayed by 2 hrs which did not give us any immediate concern. On entering the cleared customs area we were suddenly informed it was not six hours, this increased to 7.5 hrs and finally 9 hrs. Needless to say we, the the other passengers, were not happy bunnies. The tour operator knew prior to us leaving the hotels that the flight was delayed when the aircraft could not leave East midlands airport, this the had a knock on affect on our aircraft from Glasgow. Meal vouchers were provided by the tour company however the lack of information did cause a lot of both.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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7  Thank Scotsnomad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed March 26, 2013

Just returned from this hotel, this being our sixth visit. Biggest change is the 'all inclusive' choice. The food is sometimes very repetitive. Lounges at night are busy with drinkers. The American bar is non smoking, which is a boon - the main bar is heavy with smoke. Entertainment is extremely poor. Cabaret, karaoke, disco etc are on in the Nightclub - but the standard is embarassingly bad. Two year olds could perform better! The staff have been there for years, and the ones at the pool area, restaurant, shop, american bar are still very friendly. The staff in the main bar are rude and overworked. During our visit there was a conference for approx 200 Tunisians. If you picked the wrong time for lunch, you were in a riot zone. They were 4 deep round the salad/food counters. The biggest disappointment is that the shops and cafes in the Harbour and squares are closed at night. They close at 7/7.30 pm, so there is no where to go in the evening. Big miss! According to locals, they will not open, in the evening, till June/July time. We know that this holiday is very 'laid back' - but the fact there was no where to go at night - made it extremely' laid back'.
The building work ongoing in the hotel next door was not a problem - the beach restaurant in our hotel is being refurbished, so is not open for some more weeks. The beach is a bit scruffy because of this.
Nothing to do with hotel, but we were in airport for 12 hours, Our flight having been delayed 9 hours. On returning home, we found one of our cases had been opened and messed about, although we do not think anything has been taken. Not yet.
Would we go back again? This time, we would have to say. Maybe - in a couple of years.

Room Tip: High rooms, overlooking pool OR if you want the evening sun, front of hotel rooms
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Jeanette G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 24, 2013

We stayed here All Inclusive for two weeks in March and upgraded to a sea view. We agree with others that this early in the season a front garden view room would be better as they got the sun whilst we got none. I found the beds/pillows to be so comfy and the room was kept very clean and warm. Regarding the food don't take my word as I am a very fussy eater but other than the lunches in the Pool Bar I hated it. My Husband who would eat anything enjoyed everything. We did not use the pool as the water was freezing but we managed 5/14 days sunbathing and the area was kept very clean. The hotel was fine and being a smoker I particularly enjoyed the bar area as it was half smoking half non, it was such a treat being able to sit with a drink and enjoy the social side of things. The bar area would have benefitted with some background music as it lacked atmosphere on the nights when there was no music/karaoke. The hotel/Thomas Cook advertise a Drag Show on a Monday night, don't waste your money. We left after 15 minutes and apparently other followed suit, it was just so third rate and not in keeping with the hotel.

We were overall disappointed with our stay as we had only gone for the sunshine and the weather was awful. Without the sun there was not a lot to do and we were a bit bored. On speaking to other guests who have been to Marhaba Palace many times before they and we felt that the standards were not what we expected and would say it is more a good 3 star and not a 4*

We did however meet some lovely people and that made our holiday, so a big thank you to Jo and John (it was lovely to talk to you on the phone when we got back) and Jean and Barry

Room Tip: Take a front garden room in early season as pool view get no sun at all
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank patbee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 23, 2013

I am going to give an honest account of this hotel as I found it. Firstly meals; Breakfast is taken in the conservatory and there was a huge choice, cerials, fruit, yogurts, pastries, breads, fried eggs, ommlettes, pancakes and a secection of hot sausages, tomatoes, potatoes etc. Our waiter used to bring us a pot of coffee for the the three of us and hot milk, one day he had even put out my favourite yogurt on the table with honey in it!
Lunch and dinner are taken in the main restaurant: not a huge choice at lunch and a bit repetiitve, but you could have lunch round the pool bar for a change still all inclusive. Evening meals were good, soup, salad, freshly carved meats, fish, pasta station and a large selection of other hot meals with some tunisian dishes. Pudding was a vast mix of tunisian cakes and ice reams (not to my taste but they seemed to go down well) You could have one meal in your weeks stay in the a la carte resaurant and this is very worthwile (peaceful, waited on and delicious)
The drinks, well the wine was acceptable (red, rose and white) Beer was good, brandy lovely, but I found the coke to be flat. I never witnessed anyone drunk so assume they were very low alchohol! Drinks were served from 10.00 to 23.00 each day, and snacks served in the piano bar at 4.pm until 5 pm (pancakes and cakes) then again at 9 pm( sandwiches and pizza slices)
The indoor pool is lovely and warm, but the outdoor too cold at this time of year.
You can play crazy golf and tennis and use the gym equipment from the spa centre as part of your all inlclusive. I had a pedicure 25 Dinars and the massages are good value too.
One word of advice our rep told us that we had to change back our tunisian money at the airport before we went through passport control as you can't send it after that. This was rubbish as after we went through everything is priced in Dinars, but they will accept sterling also.
The entertainment staff work really hard, try and join in if you can we played darts and boules and it is good fun.
The staff cannot do enough for you, and we used to tip as went a long.
Try to visit Sousse, we went there on the mini train near the port and musical fountains, it cost 2.50 dinars each, and then the taxi back 7 dinars.
The shops and cafe bars in the port are only 5 mins walk from the hotel and is well worth the visit. 2 supermarkets there also if you have forgot to bring anything with you.
All in all an excellent and relaxing week.

Room Tip: Ask for pool and sea view, room 535 very good. We had the sun in the mornings.
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with family
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10  Thank bluewillowcat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 23, 2013

Just got back from here yesterday and had a great stay here. The decor may be a bit dated but it's very clean and smart. Our room was over looking the pool and beach and was very spacious with plenty of wardrobe space and large bathroom with both shower and bath. The balcony was also a good size but on this side of the hotel doesn't get a sun on it. The only thing i can fault is there was only one plug socket available to use in the room. The maids were fantastic very friendly and kept the rooms very clean. Both the outdoor and indoor pools were good, though in the summer months it might get a but tight for space around the outdoor pool. The beach was nice altough there was no beach bar whilst we were there which we found a bit disappointing as it was advertised there was one and we do enjoy being by the sea. The restaurant was nice and the food whilst not as much choice as some other all inclusive they quality did seem a bit better My only complaint was that you had to choose what sitting you wanted for the evening meal as soon as you arrive and then eat at that time and at a specific table every evening.
There is a hotel being built next door but we could hear no noise from inside out hotel and it was just a dull noise that faded into the background whislt sat round the pool. You really hardly notice it.
The Marina is less than five minute walk away and has some nice restaurants and shops where we had some really nice very cheap meals, there is also a golf course a couple of minutes walk away.
We went on a couple of trips, we went on the African Dream which is a trip to the wildlife park followed by a three course meal whilst watching Zulu dancers and traditional Tunisian dancers, it was a really nice evening and the dancers really get you involved without forcing you on stage to dance in front of everyone and make a fool of yourself!! We also went on the tale of two worlds which was a nice day, we visited the ampitheatre was excellent and then went to a couple of mosques and a Medina (which wasnt filled with the tourist tat) and then called a couple of towns on the way back, the rep on this trip was excellent and gave us a lot of interesting information.
We also went to Sousse for the day but ended up coming back after a few hours, it was a bit of a disappointment really especially the Medina. We went on the train instead of the taxi which was nice way to go.
I would definately go back to this hotel if it wasnt for the strict times for the evening meal, i don't aways want my evening meal at the same time every night!

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with family
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5  Thank Gemma0622
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 20, 2013

we stayed for 1 week all inclusive early march at this resort and hotel yes there is buliding work going on next door but it was not loud the builders[ workers] started around 7am until 4 30pm it was not a problem at all. the hotel was a 5 to 10 mins walk to the port nice shops and cafe bars, the irish bar across the road from hotel was quite nice and friendly to have a drink and they had all the football matches on tv the hotel rooms was very big and clean as was the bedding and towels the maids was very friendly as was all the staff, barstaff were brill and the waiters as was the entertainment staff the food was very good how some people can say the couldnt find anything to eat we dont know were they was eating there was pork ,chicken ,turkey, fish ,burgers, lamb, liver ,chips veg, rice pasta freshly made pizza and salad, tunisa food as well and cakes to die for as well as ice cream so we defo ate well and didnt go hungery. there was day activity beach games going on and night time shows. we had a pool and sea view room we would recomend this hotel and resort we will defo be going back next year we had a fab time and met some great people we did tip our waiters and maids and the pool man because we wanted to the indoor pool is also great warm and clean like we say we will be returning we enjoyed our early chill out holiday

Room Tip: pool and seaview rooms didnt get sun on balcony in feb and march maybe in summer
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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9  Thank nifty50wigan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 19, 2013

Ok where do i start!! I always try and be honest with my ratings and its only my own experiance and how i felt my holiday went!
This was a last minute choice of holiday, 1 week All Inclusive, and it was a superb choice. the Hotel although a little dated was spotless, bedrooms, bar, lounge breakfat area, pool. We couldnt have asked for more. we had a room overlooking the pool & Beach, 317, Ok before anyone panics, yes there is a new hotel being built next door but someone should have told me while i was there because i didnt even notice it LOL!! it was that quiet. Dont remember all the names but as for restaurant service our waiter was brilliant!!, The gilr who makes the omeletts in the breakfast room, very polite and friendly & also a great cook!! Room cleanliness, Our maid who was lovely, every day fresh sheets and a lovely fragrence in the room, wifes PJ's were specially laid out for her every evening. Faschael, the bar man in the American bar was superb!! Great attitude and very funny guy. the food was different every night, lots to choose from. I read some comments on here and to be honest i feel some people complain just to be heard or are just too fussy!! The marina was only 5 miutes walk away with a large number of trinket shops and restaurants to choose from. Dont be intimidated bt the local shopkeepers, they're only trying to do some business and 99% of them are very courteous. Grab a Taxi, 7-10 Dinars (£3 - £4) and vist the Old city Medina walls and market,at Suosse, it is a brilliant experiance and not to be missed. City walls are beautiful and the people are very friendly, dont be affraid to say no! they wont bite your head off. For the Golfers out there, 5 minutes walk from the hotel to the kantoui course 120 Dinar, £50 a round, £20 to hire clubs, and its a brilliant course. Photos to follow later.

So overall, to the Marhaba Staff & Hotel I say great service and looking forward to going back soon. Thanks!

Room Tip: Any rooms at all but facing beach or gardens area are lovely.High floors have better views.
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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14  Thank BelfastSkippy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Marhaba Palace Hotel

Address: Jinane El Kantaoui | Sousse, Port El Kantaoui 4089, Tunisia
Location: Tunisia > Sousse Governorate > Port El Kantaoui
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Best Value Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#7 Luxury Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#7 Spa Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#7 On the Beach Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#8 Family Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#9 Romantic Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
Price Range: $25 - $140 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Marhaba Palace Hotel 4*
Number of rooms: 322
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Wake up across from the golf club, have a walk on the seafront, explore the paved alleys of Port El Kantaoui or simply unwind at the pool: Marhaba Palace is a dream place for an unforgettable stay. In the restaurant, a collection of great wines and local cuisine with the flavours of thyme and basil pamper the palate. This charming hotel, in the heart of the resort of port El Kantaoui, will seduce you with its personalised hospitality and efficient, discrete service.Welcome to MARHABA PALACE ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hotel Marhaba Palace
Marhaba Palace Tunisia
Tunisia Marhaba Palace
Marhaba Palace Port El Kantaoui
Marhaba Palace Hotel Tunisia

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