The hotel is 30 years old and is showing signs of ageing, however, the staff work hard to make your stay enjoyable. There is plenty of evidence that the hotel is being maintained and repaired, it certainly isn't neglected and being allowed to fall apart, some of the repairs may not be top notch but they are repairs.
The rooms, as we were a large family group some had suites and other basic rooms. The basic rooms were exactly that, two beds pushed together, dressing table, wardrobe, chair, small balcony with two chairs and a table, bathroom with bath, overbath shower, wc and sink. The rooms were clean, towels changed every day, room cleaned every day, evidence of recent decoration, we had no problems. The suites were a larger version of the basic room with a sitting area, fridge and t.v.
The food was varied and hot, trust me you will not starve, there will always be something you could eat,the cakes were very nice too. The beach bar served Pizza, burgers, sandwiches during the day, if you didn't want to go to the main restaurant. There appears to be a bit of a fasination with chips, as they were always available, but to be fair they were nice. Plenty of pasta etc too. A quick note about butter, not the best but judge for yourself.
The pool's and grounds were well kept, but the children's pool and pool with the beach style entry were drained for repair work during our stay. The water park was closed even though we were assured it would be open by the sales staff in the UK.
There were plenty of sun loungers, but the hotel was quiet during our stay, I would imagine it would be a totally different story in high season.A small tip to the guy delivering the sun bed cushions is appreciated. The beach is nice, the sea was lovely and clear but a bit chilly in April. The cigarette sellers who work the beach area, were occassionally a bit pushy, but never over the top. Whilst on the subject of sales, as you walk to the main dining area you walk through a small sales area with some shops and stalls selling a variety of goods. These sellers are good, they hit you hard when they can tell you are new, a few days in they hardly bother you other than to say Hi. The jewellers are really nice and friendly.
The staff are mostly friendly could only say that we experienced one slightly grumpy bar man at the outside bar, but he could just have been having a bad day/ week. The staff and the animation team worked hard to ensure everyone enjoyed themselves they were not too pushy and didn't force you to take part in anything. They were a little bit more enthusiatic in encouraging 19 year old blonde females in bikinis to take part in activities than over weight 50 year old blokes ,but that suited me and she escaped back to our sunbeds after a while. Joking apart the animation team did not pressure you to do any activities you didn't want to.
The evening shows consisted of a children's hour or so, when children's sing along songs were performed and the hotel mascot "Mr Smiley" made an appearance for photo opportunities. I don't know if we were just picked on, but my family provided the body for inside Mr Smiley every evening we were there, got some good photo's with the grand children though. Kids club and the days activity diploma's were handed out. The occassional game of Bingo made an appearance, then an evening dance/ musical show. This is not a professional show, it is a bit of fun, performed by the animation team and should be viewed as such, bad lip sync and all. There is a night club in the hotel, but can not comment as we didn't visit.
The location isn't the best as there isn't a great deal around the hotel.
Please don't expect 5 star because it isn't, go with an open mind and enjoy.
P.s The Thomas cook reps were helpful and friendly guys.
They loved the pools, water slides and the fact that there are grassed areas for them to play on when they weren't in the pool was good.
Yes the rooms are basic with no TV but for the short time you are in them it's not a major problem. Not many sockets in room but this time I was prepared and took a extension lead so I could have more than 1 thing going at a time.
Food not a problem always found something to eat. The girls loved the chocolate pancakes!!! With children it was handy that you got bottles of water. The waiter this time was a bit slow getting drinks but got them eventually!
The children’s entertainment on a night was ok not everybody's cup of tea but the younger children enjoyed it. Animation team very friendly and took the time to get to know my daughter which was nice.
The grounds are always kept clean and tidy. Would definitely return to this hotel we tried for this year but it's fully booked for the time we want to go.
Leaving the hotel didn't bother us as we don't go on holiday to explore.
A holiday is what you make it and everybody's opinion is going to be different but we loved the place!!!!
Travel operator: Airtours
We went on an All Inclusive basis, which I personally think is the best for the hotel.
The food at breakfast/lunch/dinner is really good with a good choice of Tunisian and British food (the chips are addictive!) You can also get freshly made omelettes at these times, as well as freshly baked pizza at lunch and dinner. There is also a selection of cheeses/hams/crossiants/jams for a continental breakfast or there is traditional Tunisian breakfast. Again with lunch and dinner all tastes are catered for with a large selection of fresh salad/vegetables etc.
My only complaint with food was the beach snack bar, again you can get pizza at it, but mainly a small selection otherwise. But as we went during the winter season I can't comment if it would be like that in summer.
There is also an A La Carte restaurant that is cash only but you are allowed to visit it once per stay.
Also you are allocated a table in the restaurant and its usually the same waiter you get for drinks, we found that if the waiter caught sight of us coming in he would get our drinks to the table before we sat.
The rooms were basic but clean, with the maid service everyday. It was a bit annoying the first morning when due to delays we got into our room at 1am and he wanted to clean the room at 8am. The beds weren't changed everyday but the towels etc were changed daily. I assume during summer the sheets are changed more regularly. We had opted for a double bed rather than a double room and we were at the end of the corridor which was nice and quiet.
For drinks there is a main bar that operates 24hrs a day but only AI from 9am till midnight, which isn't a problem, after 5pm the Piano Bar opens and the Skanes Bar which is also the entertainment bar. Outside of the hotel is the beach bar and the pool bar (I think there are 2 but only one was open) If you go to the bar for a water its bottled water you are given which again is AI, I thought that this was a great idea, there are also water coolers situated about the bars/pools so there is always cold water available.
The entertainment in the hotel was excellent for it being in November, the Michael Jackson show is a must see. Again I'm not sure if thats only a winter timetable, but we had 7 shows the first week which where then changed for the second week, so that was good, although I was disappointed as I missed a show I wanted to see due to illness. Again there is day entertainment around the pool area and a kids club.
There are 3 pools and an aquapark in the hotel, although the aquapark wasn't really apart from once, but I think that was a just a test of the system. The outdoor pools are lovely and big and the areas around the pool are clean and tidy, only complaint being the pools were too cold to go into. There is also an indoor pool which again was clean, and also a great temperature.
The rep was exteremly good and friendly, her welcome meeting was very informative and not one of the boring ones. She also took a personal interest in the guests staying at the hotel and when booking trips etc was again very helpful.
The hotel at the moment is in the process of being done up, as there were plasterers and painters about, again you wouldn't notice they were there.
I would definatly recommend this hotel to anyone wanting a good value for money holiday.
There is plenty of sunbeds around the pool areas but you do have to get up early to get a bed with umbrella, we gave the pool man a tip and he had our bed waiting for us every day well worth the tip otherwise you have to be putting your towels out at 6am.
My only moan is that the staff expected tips every day and they did moan if you didn’t give them one.
The food is basic we have had better but you will not starve. The entertain was ok in the day time around the poolside if you like that sort of thing but the evening was more kids not much for the adults.
The rooms are a little small but are very clean. The rooms get cleaned, and bedding and towels changed, every day. Our cleaner was always friendly and greeted us when ever he saw us.
The hotel is also very clean. It is a little dated in some areas and could do with a make over, but it is very clean. The pools are fantastic. There is a pool to suit everyone. There is an entertainment pool, for those who like water games and music all day. There is a main pool which has different depths. There is a childrens pool and also a relaxation pool. They are all surrounded by beautiful gardens. The hotel beach is gorgeous. Lovely white sand and clear blue water. You do get a couple of men wanting to sell you things or ride a camel, but there is a security man at each end of the beach who stop them from hassling you. The sun beds are free and a man will bring your mattresses to you for a small tip. It is well worth the money. There are some good watersports, paragliding, jetski, the banana and the sofa.
The food here is brilliant. You cant fault it. There is something for everyone, from traditional Tunisian cuisine, to pizza, chips, rice, fish, beef and lamb. The food is always hot and they never run out. There is lots of choice for children of any age too.
The location of the hotel is not brilliant. You are in between Monistir and Sousse. They are easily reached by taxi for 8 to 10 Dinar each way but make sure you agree the price before you get in.
The entertainment is good during the day. There is pool games, darts, table tennis, French boules and lots more. The hotel also has crazy golf, tennis, archery and horse riding to name just a few things. Night time entertainment is good too. There is lots for the children until around 9pm. After 9pm there is shows like the Lion King, Grease and Aladdin. They also play some games which are really quite funny. The hotel also has a nightclub for over 16s. This hotel is huge. Within the hotel you have a small supermarket and some stalls selling souvenirs.
Went for a look around and then for tea the food was terrible same thing for 10 days we were there for 14 but wife took ill with virus that came through the air con the place was dirty.
The pool was packed and the music was loud and the same cd all day.
The rooms were ‘so called’ clean, the bathroom was mouldy behind our room was a beer garden the noise was bad every evening.
The hotel was in the middle of nowhere the entertainment was poor but don’t take my word if you have booked see for yourself, but you will be wasting your money.
The food was lovely, lots of choice from freshly made pizza, omelette and pancakes (made to your order) to loads of salads, meats, potato dishes and lots for vegetarians. (Think I gained about 1 stone from having a plate of croissants with chocolate sauce each morning for 2 weeks!)The pools were great and were very clean although you did have to reserve beds early in the day. (My husband went down to watch the sun rise one morning at 5am and some people were already there waiting with towels!!!)
The beach was nice and the water sports were really cheap. (£2.50 to ride on a banana boat, £20 for jet-ski, £20 for 2 people to go paragliding). You also get to go sailing and kayaking for free as part of the all-inclusive.
The staff were really friendly and helpful. Most spoke 3 or 4 languages which we found really impressive. You got the odd miserable bar staff but that’s the same in every walk of life.
We hired a car and went out and about. I’m pleased we did this because we saw parts of Tunisia that tourists don't go to and that was amazing, however if you are not a confident driver BEWARE! The roads in the towns are like the Whacky Races and you take your life in your hands!
Outside the hotel, the prices are very reasonable and we got some bargains at the medina in Monastir. I was surprised to find I loved haggling. The shops in the hotel were more expensive. We would definitely recommend the "camel caravan" booked with the travel guy at the hotel (not with the holiday company)who sits along the by the stalls on the way to the dining room. It was one of the best days we spent there. Also we booked the pirate ship with Thomas Cook (even though we travelled with First Choice) this was also a brilliant trip. We soon got used to the tipping.
the hotel, well what can i say, its amazing ! would live there if i could.
the staff are polite, caring, welcoming, i could go on... everytime you see them, they say hello, good morning, good night. they are lovely people and didnt expect any tip off us. they do a immence job of cleaning the rooms and makes sure you always have fresh facilities.
the hotel food is good, most the time there is different things, from pancakes to meat. the chefs chop the meat where you can see so you know that it is fresh, its amazing. the waiters are really nice and smiling all the time. most people on their leave give them a little tip because they are so nice, and they are very very grateful for this.
Well, the location is just okay, you would have to get a taxi into monastir or anywhere else because it is too far to walk. but you can walk to the go karting place which is about a 2-5 minute walk but its worth the walk...
the staff behind reception are willing to talk to you for any reason what so ever, the men at the front door waiting for your arrival or departure will try and carry your bags or suitcases, and like most people like this, they would expect a tip, so if you dont want to give them a tip, carry your own! or tell them no.
the entertainment couldnt get any better, the daytime entertainment is awesome and they do stuff for people of all ages. most animation team members can speak about 2-6 languages which i find awesome. they also do shows at the night time, these are brill and well thought out. the animation team work so so hard to make your holiday enjoyable and to the best of its ability.
also, the lifeguards have to be mentioned, they are such nice people its untrue. professional about what they are doing, but will have a laugh with you too. people push them in the pool, and if you do, watch out, they will be watching for you at the edge of the pool haha.
the beach, well what can i say, clean, warm and just basically fantastic.
overall, everything, in my eyes was amazing, from the cleaners to the beach... strongly strongly recommend it, especially for those people who have a personality and sence of humour. amazing. get booking people.
Travel operator: thompson
Not all the snack bars were open,but there was enough.
we were going for dinner everyday in the main restaurant,then we just went to the beach snack bar,there was kebabs,burgers,spagetti bolognaise,salad,pizza,chips etc.
I used to make a salad sandwich,my kids had burgers,pizzas,chips.
Then wed have tea in the dining room.
Cus cus (ive spelt that wrong),a vegie thing with eggs,which was really nice,there was different fish everyday,turkey,chicken,beef,salad,chips.
I mainly had cus cus,vegie things and i got food from the kids buffet,plain pasta and tomato sauce,this is because i dont eat red meat,but there was plenty of red meat dishes,as my son is a big meat eater.
We didnt use the outdoor pools, we used the indoor one,we were on the beach everyday sunbathing and going in the sea.
We had 2 rooms,both had 2 beds in,they were adjoining,which was good,cleaner was very helpful.
There is a kids club for the 5 to 12 year olds,me and my older daughter went in for belly dancing too :)
I felt the hotel couldve done more for the 13-16 yr age group,as my son is 13 and he did football (which he never plays) and water polo,but the adults kept taking over at theyr time to play.
Archery was for over 16s which he wanted to do but couldnt.
Me and my 5 yr old went horse riding on the beach,which was nice.
I have sudjested they maybe do a pony club and other activities for all age ranges.
The night time entertainment i felt abit late,as the kids disco every night started about 8.30pm,some its a bit late for (some nights we were in bed early).
Then that was followed by bingo,so the show didnt start until about 9.45pm finishing about 11pm,usually this was too late for me with my 5 yr old.
Travel operator: first choice
We've just come back from our second stay at the Sahara Beach and can honestly say we had a great time. The first time we stayed there was 5 years ago and it was also our first visit to Tunisia. This time my wife's mother and her 16 year old brother came with us. Our children are 14 and 15.
ARRIVAL AND RECEPTION
We arrived around midday and, as is customary at Tunisian hotels, were met by porters who organised our bags into groups so they didn't get separated. Then we were given the obligatory registration forms by the reception staff and shown into the "Skanes Lounge" entertainment room where we were given a complimentary glass of lemon squash, which was quite welcome given the temperature, then it was out to reception to have our pictures taken for our All Inclusive cards. No annoying wristbands here just a plastic card with your photograph which you flash at the bar/snack bar, and there's an independent trader in the hotel who sells neck straps for a couple of pounds each so the kids can carry theirs around their necks safely (there is a 15TD charge for replacement cards). The porters then showed us to our rooms and hung about for the obligatory tip. Give them a quid each and their happy. I found them all to be a real friendly bunch, quite often stopping for a chat on the way through reception.
ROOMS AND CLEANLINESS
The rooms are compact and basic but they have everything you need for your holiday. After all, how long do you spend in your room anyway apart from sleeping. As for cleanliness, well the Sahara Beach isn't brand new and neither are most of the furnishings. There are signs of wear and tear and the odd repair but our rooms were spotlessly clean. I became convinced that Salim, our cleaner lived outside in the corridor. He greeted us every day and had learned all our names on the first day. Every time we came back to the room there were interesting sculptures made from towels/clothes on the beds. Some of them were so nice it was a shame to move them to go to bed.
The reception area is very much like the rooms. Old furnishings but scrupulously cleaned and maintained. We got up for an excurion one morning at 05:45 one morning and there was a cleaner mopping the floor even then. Reception is nominally a no smoking area with smokers asked to go to the Asfar Bar to enjoy a cigarette but there were some ignorant people who would light up where they pleased. To be fair to the reception staff they were usually politely asked to smoke elsewhere. Off reception there is the Skanes Lounge where the entertainment takes place at this time of year (in peak season it,s outside in a purpose buit area) and another large room with a big TV where, some days, they screened UK football matches - OK if that's your bag but not for me.
To the right of the reception desk is the hotels exchange facility in it's own room along with the safety deposit boxes (42TD per fortnight). Because we filled the form in on the first day we didn't need our passports to change cash just a room number and name. On the other side of reception (round the back)are some little booths with computers for those who want to connect to the web. It costs 10TD for an hours connection time. It's a good facility but to accomodate this they've moved the phones into the main thoroughfare off reception where it can be pretty noisy. Phoning home, however, is very cheap so it's not worth using your mobile even if it does work.
The gardens and pools are one of this hotel's star attractions. The large, more conventional pool is where the games take place and is the noisiest/busiest. Over from this is an even bigger freeform pool with a waterfall tunnel and a kiddies section separated by a bridge. Over again and on a higher level is the round relaxation pool with a gentle jacuzzi section on one side. We wanted quiet so we spent most our time up here but there something to suit all tastes. There's also a heated indoor pool for the less adventurous. The gardens are very pretty and the paths are regularly cleaned but on one back path there were signs that the peacock/hens had been there. This was gone the next day.
Last time we stayed here there was a zoo but it's pretty run down now and the paths are covered in duck poo so it's probably best to avoid that unless your desperate to see ostriches, especially if you're wearing flip flops.
When you go to the pool , at this time of year at least, you can always find a sunbed. If you want a particular spot get up at 7ish and put your towels down. We are early risers so this wasn't a problem. The matress guy will bring you your matresses and want a tip. We've stayed in other places in Tunisia- this is normal. He was carrying 6 matresses for us and sweating for his tip so I didn't begrudge it. If your too tight to tip a low paid mattress attendant 50p a day then stick to Benidorm and pay for the sunbeds over there. Some mornings we came back from breakfast to find our matresses in place, under our towels, without even asking and not knowing who had put them there. That's what regular tipping gets you in Tunisia.
The other main public area is the beach. Again this is nicely naintained with the sand raked over regularly and litter/cigarette ends removed although you can guarentee that as soon as the cleaner moved on that someone will make a mess. The beach is the only place where you are likely to be bothered by hawkers and then only on the shoreline and at the edges because the hotel security guy will chase them off. We had one who had sneaked into the pool area one day and were quite impressed by his turn of speed when hotel security spotted him.
This isn't one of the Sahara Beaches strongpoints. The animation team seemed a little impersonal and unenthusiastic. We don't always go for jumping about around the pool but we weren't even asked if we'ed like to join in. Younger children seemed to enjoy it though and the daytime kiddies club appeared to be very popular and well run. There's also an amusement arcade which is pretty run down(it has the same machines as 5 years ago) and really sucks money out of kids' pockets. I'm sure the guy who runs it must drive a Mercedes.
As for the evening entertainment, quite frankly I've seen it all before and done 10 times better. Bad enough that the obligatory kids show is repeated every night and goes on forever (Great if you're under 6) but you have to sit through a lotto type raffle with some of the most awful prizes that you wouldn't want to waste your baggage allowance on. All this crammed into a sweaty room with a couple of hundred other people and with pillars down the room so most of the audience get to see half the stage at best. This is something that the Sahara Beach really needs to think about for the future. Most nights we were royally entertained in the"Piano Bar". You can sit outside in a little enclosure formed by the buildings and listen to the resident singer. He was bloody awful! He was so bad he had us in hysterics most nights. If you visit and he's still there ask him to sing "Sex Bomb" - you wont regret it.
If you want to eat you have to traverse what one of our friends dubbed "ambush alley" You'll be pestered to buy this or that or go on camel rides or trips to carpet shops. If you're nervous walk in a group and look straight ahead and ignore them. The shops in the hotel are a rip off. Go to Sahline, Monastir or Sousse to buy your gifts and save yourself some money.
The food is excellent. I've eaten at 4 star and 5 star hotels in Tunisia and the food at the Sahara Beach is the best I've come accross. I've got an intolerance to dairy products and even I had a choice of dishes at lunch and dinner every day. It's all very well cooked and the staff are extremely helpful - nothing is too much trouble. There is a range of dishes available. There's always a couple of traditional Tunisian dishes on as well as classical French food, evening meal carvery, make your own pizza counter, kids menu counter, very fresh salads, soups and fresh bread and olives by the cartload. You can even get chicken and (really nice) chips most days if it suits you. If you can't find something to eat here then you should have stayed at home. There were no flies on the food because of the ultra violet fly zappers hung inside the square island type service areas and the restaurant was even cleaner than the rest of the hotel. You get your own table and waiter for your entire stay. Again you give him a tip after the meal - it's the way it's done in Tunisia - and he looks after you.
If you don't fancy tearing yourself away from the pool to go for lunch there are a couple of snack bars around the grounds. There's a limited choice here and it's all western food. Pizzas made to order (which I was told were fantastic), home made burgers, hot dogs, tuna rolls and chips which arrived par cooked from the main kitchen and were finished off at the snack bar so they were always fresh.
The hotel is situated very close to the airport so you do get some aircraft noise particularly if your on the outer side of block 1 where we were. This shouldn't be a problem next year because Monastir will be much quieter due to most flights landing at the new Kantaoui Ben Ali airport which will be opening on November 7th 2009. Sahara Beach is set in a created "green strip" with it's own beach. There are other hotels in the area but you are a taxi ride distance from any towns. Sousse is 10TD one way and is well worth a visit just to see the Medina and Ribat. Sahline, the nearby village with a really tacky gift shop centre and the nearest pharmacy, is 10TD return. If you feel adventurous and fit you could walk it in 25-30 minutes. Monastir is about 10TD one way and has the impressive mausoleum of Habib Bourgiba. You can take the "Friendly Train" (a little "Noddy"road train)from the hotel but I can't recommend it. You don't get much time in Monastir and the word "suspension" seems to have been unknown to it's designers. If you don't have a bad back when you get on you will when you get off - no wonder the masseur at the hotel was doing so well!
Would I go back to the Sahara Beach. Definately YES. It's clean, the food is outstanding, the pools, beach and gardens are a lovely setting for a holiday and other towns and attractions are a cheap taxi ride away. If you are nice to the staff then they are nice to you. Give a little tip now and again and you get extra special service. It's especially good if it's your first Tunisian holiday and your a little uncertain because you can hold the "real" Tunisia at arms length and only venture out when you feel confident enough.
The Sahara Beach is being taken over next month so Iberostar will be moving out. I also found out that over the next two years it is to be converted into a full 4 star hotel with enlarged rooms and remodelled reception and public rooms. One block was already closed during our stay. I'd still be happy to stay here during this time though as the design of the hotel means it can be closed off in sections without affecting any other parts.
I hope my "little" write up has been helpful to someone and whoever reads this I hope you have a great holiday wherever you decide to stay.
Travel operator: Thomas Cook
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