This was our 6th trip to Egypt. We've been to nice hotels in Hurghada, Soma Bay & Sharm el Sheikh & wanted to try Marsa Alam - particularly "Madinat Coraya" due to the protected bay that is known for it's fabulous snorkeling.
OVERVIEW: LOVED The Sol Y Mar Solaya! We've never done a repeat when booking an Egyptian vacay, but this wonderful hotel had the perfect combination for us, so we are already plotting our 2013 return. This property lived up to it's reputation of having FAB service & most of the rooms having great sea views. The Solaya crew were the BEST of any resort we've visited in Egypt.
HOTEL: It really DID remind us of the Eagles "Hotel California" album cover- thus the title of this post. The architecture & layout are PERFECT- always something beautiful to see and functional as well. The gorgeous landscaping used tons of palm trees. You really get a tropical vacay feeling. This was the first Egyptian hotel we'd stayed in where we had a great sea view AND were close to the beach, dining, pool etc. For an all inclusive resort, it had a surprisingly boutique hotel feel.
You know these are true hospitality professionals the minute the reception staff greets you.
Your luggage is whisked away and you're handed a cool drink & directed to a couch in the lobby. The manager comes over & takes care of your check-in as if you are an old friend. After reading reviews about some special rooms, I asked if it was possible to have one of the top floor domed-ceiling rooms and was given exactly what we wanted! Purr purr purr. The manager personally escorts you to your room answering any questions & the guys with your luggage arrive a few minutes later. This is what it feels like to be ON VACATION :o)
ROOM deets & Housekeeping Service:
We had a direct sea view & the balcony was spacious (apprx 7 X 13 feet) with high (8 ft.)
walls on either side, so was very private. The bathroom had a large walk-in shower, marble
counter tops & high ceilings (apprx 10ft). The domed ceiling in the main room was about 15 ft high? We had booked a "superior double sea view." It seemed very modern with a flat screen TV. We never used the A/C, since it was perfect weather all week holding @ 75 (f). Our hotel block was VERY quiet. The water pressure in the shower wasn't very strong, but it was bearable. There is a programmable safe in the room free of charge that isn't listed in most of the travel co. brochures. The housekeeping team were really outstanding: we called for 2 extra pillows and they arrived in 5 min. We called another day for an extra blanket & it was at our door within 3 minutes. There were fun, new towel creations waiting for us daily, which reminded us of our cruise vacays. An electric kettle with instant coffee, a variety of teas etc. is
provided. The stocked mini-bar is at an extra charge. We didn't need any kind of adapters for the German power strip we brought along for charging all our stuff.
DINING/SERVICE: We were on an "All Inclusive plus" package & made good use of it.
The food was simple, but good. There were plenty of sauces & spices to choose from
so you could customize. The Egyptian themed night was our FAVE. There were omelettes & eggs made to order @ breakfast. They also had fresh Falafel every morning & the chef was kind enough to bring out Tahini & hot sauce for me on a daily basis. They had something grilling every night out on the terrace. The wine, beer, soft drinks etc, were all included, but the specialty "Nestle" coffee machine that dispensed unlimited espressos, cappuccinos, coffee, etc. was the STAR of the beverage service for us :O) The buffet restaurant was set-up so you could sit inside or on the terrace with the lovely ocean view. The staff were very accommodating and provided wonderful table service.
Beach/Pool Bar: The beach & pool were pristine & It was stress-free finding an empty chair/umbrella maybe due to it being the week before the holiday rush? You get fresh beach towels daily using a card system. The pool bar food included freshly made pizzas, salads, fries (made with olive oil) & a different "shwarma" pita featured daily. they had beer, sodas, water, coffee plus ice cream & popsicles.
SNORKELING: THIS is why you go to Marsa Alam :o) The access to the reef from our hotel
was the BEST! You could use the pier near "Iberotel Lamaya" but really, you can just
walk out through the silky sand with bare feet right off of the Solaya beach to where the water is two feet, then you just gear up & go for it. The water will seem VERY deep once you are in the main reef area, but no worries, there are buoys & rope lines protecting the reef that you can use to rest on. We saw sea turtles, sting rays, tons of fish and lovely coral. If you want to see Gi-Normous, sea turtles, then we can recommend the side trip to Marsa Mubarek- those were some MAJESTIC animals!
INTERNET: It wasn't too expensive- we spent around $25 US dollars for the whole
week & checked our emails & facebook twice a day. TIP- It runs a lot faster if you use "MOZILLA FIREFOX" as your browser. Was half the price & faster than on our last cruise, so can't complain.
SAFETY: Along with the normal gated security measures upon entering the resort, there are
beautiful lighted paths all along the Madinat Coraya complex & bay, so it's really nice for an
evening or early morning stroll. I was totally lazy, but IF I were motivated, I would
have felt completely safe going around on my own. As far as water safety-there are no lifeguards on duty, so keep that in mind if you're bringing kids along.
BOOKING ONLINE: Had never booked a package through Weg.de & was
also the first time through the German company "FTI." We booked VERY last minute, so was
impressed at the level of ease & service they both provided.
Was very happy with the charter flight on "Sun Express" they had a fair luggage allowance
of 20kg. - they were top notch. The 25euro rebate from Weg.de has already been deposited
into our account as promised; wouldn't hesitate to book with them again.
FLIGHT: Make SURE you are flying directly into Marsa Alam- "RMF" This airport is only
5 minutes from the hotel. It is the best no-hassle airport we've encountered in Egypt.
If a package price seems too good to be true, you're likely flying into the madness that
is the Hurghada airport & you will endure a LONG transfer getting to Marsa Alam. So double-
check this point with your travel agent.
ENTRY VISA: As seen on other reviews (thanks) you can save $ buying your entry VISA at the bank located on the left side of the airport as you come off of your flight. There was no line &
It was only $15 US dollars per person versus the 18euros that the travel companies charge.
You'll save about 14euros ($20 US) per couple.
SHOPPING: There are some nice shops in the hotel- the prices are flexible :) The pharmacy is
across the road outside of the Madinat Coraya complex to the left. There is also a little grocery store there that's fun to look around in.
Healthclub/sauna/whirlpool/tennis court: sigh....we NEVER got around to checking these out...we even brought our work-out clothes & tennies. They also had basketball hoops set up. Will have to investigate on our return visit.
SMOKING: We are non-smokers, so really appreciated how separated the room balconies are. At past hotels & even on cruise ships, we had to endure other people's smoke while trying to enjoy OUR balcony. Sol Y Mar Solaya accommodates the smokers in a way that works for everyone. On our first night we got to dinner a little late & wondered where the other guests were...so we go out onto the terrace off the lobby & there were around 30 couples
enjoying their cigs & great drink service.
WEATHER: December in Egypt runs in the mid 70s (f) so it was great for us. This was the first time in Egypt that we didn't have to use sunscreen! It gets a little cooler in the evening, so we started wearing sweaters at night.
HOLIDAY decorations: They were decorating all over the place for Xmas & New Years the last couple days of our stay; it all looked pretty festive, so I don't think their holiday guests will be disappointed.
WATERPARK: Because the weather was so mild, this was the first time we've been able to enjoy a waterpark in Egypt. It was included in the price of our package. If you wanted drinks there was an extra charge. The staff are VERY safety minded.
SHOWS- there is something presented nightly. Being from the US, we don't expect for
shows to be included (unless you're on a cruise ship), so it was fun to see what they had.
Go to Sharm if you are a party person- Marsa Alam is for couples & families that want to chill, snorkel & dive.
At the Sol Y Mar Solaya there is a box where you can contribute near the entrance to the buffet area. No one ever pressured us for extra $ and it seemed the staff was genuinely helpful & courteous to everyone. I suspect many guests never tipped, but for us, we were happy to contribute something every day to the people who took care of us 8:o)
VALUE: For us, this was a great opportunity to book last minute, while avoiding the holiday crowds. I was curious to see what the rates are now for the holiday season and they are 3X what we paid. If you have a flexible schedule, and can travel outside the school holidays, you'll get a bargain.
NATIONALITY OF GUESTS:
@ Sol Y Mar Solaya, It seemed there were mostly German, Belgium & UK guests. It seems that more Brits are discovering Marsa Alam now that there as more direct flights become available. Everyone we spoke with during the week said that we were the first Americans they had ever met; they were super nice to us & yelled out "Hey California" when they'd see me. The Egyptians found it amusing for an American to be wearing a straw cowboy hat? ha!
WATER REMINDER- you can NOT drink or ingest ANY tap water in Egypt without getting sick. It's just like when you go to Mexico or the Caribbean. A lot of tourists have 'tummy problems' when in Egypt and blame the heat or the food, but it's more than likely they ingested some water while showering or while brushing their teeth- and it only takes a small amount. Make sure to use the bottled water to brush your teeth & be careful when showering. We have traveled a lot, so we were already aware of this before going to Egypt, but we have NEVER been warned about any of this on ANY of our 6 Egyptian trips. If it's your first time travelling there, keep this in mind.
BOTTLED WATER: You are provided a large bottle daily, but you could get refills whenever you needed to at the buffet or pool bar.
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Sol y Mar Solaya Hotel Marsa Alam