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.
- 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