What a relief it was to get out of chaotic Cairo. As I said in my blog which you can read here, Cairo is great for a day or two maximum, but definitely not somewhere for rest and relaxation which we always seem to need.
Work is quiet for us both in January so it’s always a good time to escape. Ski holidays don’t appeal to me anymore. My bones are too stiff to ski and I hate the cold. So we searched for winter sun destinations on Lastminute.com as we were restricted to what they had to offer due to our final Covid voucher being with them.
We didn’t speak to one person during the whole booking process. We booked our flights to Cairo with British Airways Companion Vouchers online, then booked our internal flights, hotel and transfer all with Lastminute.com online, and everything went very smoothly. However, just a word of warning, if it hadn’t gone smoothly then because we booked it all online and not with a human then we may have been stuck with no back up assistance should we have needed it. So maybe using a travel agent would have been better in this case.
I did have an internal excess luggage fee which I was expecting to be the usual £100 or so, but this is Egypt right, the fee was around £25 each way. Definitely worth it for me, especially as one of our cases had Fever Tree tonic, Rosé Prosecco and Rosé wine in it, just in case! We weren’t on the all-inclusive basis and this was definitely a holiday where we needed to spend as little as possible on extras.
We booked the Stelle Di Mare Beach Hotel & Spa resort in Naama Bay. A 5 star hotel at the end of a long straight road. If your budget allows, I would recommend 5 not 4 star hotels in this area, as the service, accommodation, food and drink can vary greatly, and even in a 5-star resort, it wasn’t as good as it should have been for 5-star. Having said that, we would recommend this hotel for what it is, a beautiful resort, with clean, large rooms, lovely and accommodating staff, with a great choice of restaurant options if you don’t want to go out which are all relatively reasonably priced.
We arrived late at night, and the hotel anticipated this so kept the buffet restaurant open for latecomers. We ordered a la carte, which is unusual at this resort as most go for the all-inclusive or basically all-you-can-eat basis. There are a number of restaurants to choose from and each time we booked a table for 2 we got the full romantic experience!
Nothing was too much trouble for any of the staff. They even opened their conference room and put the projector on when my other half wanted to watch the Chelsea match!
And they love the British people. They cannot wait for British tourists to return. Since direct flights to Sharm were reinstated the British people are taking their time to go back, but I felt very safe there and there were no issues at all so I would encourage it as a winter sun destination. Temperatures around 21/22c for about 5 hours a day with bright sunshine and blue skies in early-mid January.
There were few nationalities when we were there, like I said not many British, a lot of Italians, many Russians and a few Israelis. We always like to keep ourselves to ourselves and there is a large selection of places to sit. We chose the quietest of beaches to sit on and sat by the pool only once.
There is a kids club and kids pool area, a pool that has no shallow end so not recommended for children, a tennis court, a spa and water sports and diving school on site. Scuba diving and snorkelling were reasonable, we spent a day on a boat doing both for £45 each including lunch and equipment.
We had a double room with a stunning sea view and it was absolutely lovely. I especially appreciated the lack of a shower curtain in the bathroom. That’s always a win-win situation for me. Also no trip to Egypt would be authentic without the towel art! However, I would suggest a sea view or partial sea view room NOT overlooking the main pool area, because if you want a quiet night in see below for why it’s not possible in those rooms. We actually moved rooms for the last 3 nights as the hotel kindly put a family with 3 young, loud children in the room next to us, and parents who didn’t seem to care or be bothered by their constant shouting, tantrums, arguing etc. Our second room overlooked the spa pool which gave off a much calmer vibe and a good night’s sleep.
There was only one small complaint we had. There is a lot of noise during the day and evening, with a few 2 hour intervals usually during lunch and dinner time. Loud music, and an ‘animation’ team over a loud speaker, who are trying to gear everyone up to play volleyball or take part in the aqua aerobics. Not for me, so another good reason to choose your day spot carefully, usually one of the long beach spots were best, and take some noise cancelling headphones or ear buds.
I recommend the lobby bar, with live guitar classics being played, for those who want a more civilised evening drink, or go out to Naama Bay for some lively action, a bit of a walk and an experience in the shops and especially Lionel Ritchie’s Supermarket, which is way more than just a supermarket.
If shopping is a hobby, then you have to visit this ‘supermarket’.
We went in for a packet of crisps, a bar of chocolate and some fizzy pop.
The above, two sets of bed linen, three good quality ‘designer’ t shirts, three good quality ‘designer’ scarves (one was gifted), Egyptian magic. (Lionel, it’s not the same!), and two silver bracelets. All gifts, even though we never usually buy holiday gifts!
This isn’t just any supermarket, this is Lionel Richie’s Supermarket . Named because apparently ‘Lionel’ looks like the man himself. It’s an Aladdin’s Den. You can get everything there, jewellery, perfume, clothing, trainers, handbags, Egyptian cotton bed linen, food and drink!
And you can’t visit Sharm and not go! Even for the experience and the banter from Lionel himself. He speaks about 6 different languages and welcomes every customer (new and repeat) like his friend. I urge you to go.
You can walk or jump in a taxi to Naama Bay from the hotel, as long as you don’t mind driving with no lights on, no seatbelt or having drivers who wait until you’re sat in the backseat and have nowhere to go before they call their wife, family and extended family members and have a good old chinwag instead focussing on the road, which is what at least 3 of our taxi drivers did!
Sharm El Sheik is now back on the map for winter sun, with many options that are definitely more on the budget side than boutique, luxury or chic!