When my husband and I originally were trying to find where to go on vacation for Christmas, so many countries and cities were brought up. I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly, but names like Budapest, Salzburg, Warsaw, Bucharest, etc, just weren’t doing it for me. Flights were reasonable, but it just wasn’t making me excited. I realized after lots of research, a pattern was forming – I was looking for hot weather! I wanted to swim and wear dresses. My husband suggested Hurghada, Egypt, which I shot down immediately. He’d wanted to go to Egypt since he was a child after learning about the pyramids, and I had no interest in going. To me, it was too dangerous going to Egypt, especially with kids. So I started looking at other “warm” places – Malta wasn’t warm enough; neither was any place in Greece, Italy, or Cyprus. Much to my dismay, I started looking into Hurghada like my husband suggested. I looked at the Canadian advisories for the area we’d be in, and it says, even though you need to exercise caution (as all places lately), it was okay for Canadians to go. So then I started asking around people at work, and every person I spoke to, said Hurghada was very enjoyable. They said the weather was excellent, the hotel has enough security, and all the resorts you need to go through security again. The people are all friendly, and Hurghada is a better location if you want to do excursions – which my husband for sure would want to do. So let the research of it begin…
Flights weren’t cheap, but really, it’s a 5hr International flight from Dusseldorf, it would never be as cheap as my Ryanair tickets. Using Skyscanner and CheapoAir, we noticed Skyscanner was the cheaper of the two. I use both, because in the past, Cheapoair has been the better one. Flights were 400€ a person, with a layover in Istanbul, Turkey, making the journey 14-20hrs each way – oy!!, excluding getting to the airport the 2hrs in advance, and the taxi to our hotel in Hurghada. I refused to do that, so I checked constantly, and eventually direct flights started coming out. We finally (two weeks before!) found tickets even cheaper than most by using two different airlines, instead of the same one both ways. Germania going, Condor coming home. With full insurance (72€) including cancellation, our tickets for five cost 1700$Cnd – 340$ a person.
Hotels on the other hand – amazing prices! 10 nights at an all-inclusive resort ranged from about 1200$Cnd-4500$Cnd. Lots of resorts had waterparks (most actually), but one stood out to us the most. Serenity Fun City. Waterpark shaped as a castle, theme park, movie theatre, games room, 5 restaurants, along with access to the 5 restaurants and beach along the Red Sea at their sister hotel Serenity Makadi Heights – SCORE! 2200$Cnd for 10 nights, all food and drinks included! Back home, flights from Montreal to Cuba (where most people go for resorts) are at least 900$ a person for 7 nights. This was nowhere close to that, flight and hotel together – for 10 nights! So I booked the resort before I even had our flights booked, with free cancellation just in case I may need it.
Two weeks before leaving, I went back on Booking.com just to check out our resort; view the pictures again, see if anything new was offered… Much to my surprise, the cost of our room had gone from 2200$ to 1533$. I called Booking right away, and they gave me the new price and cancelled my original reservation. 700$ cheaper for the same resort, same dates, exact same room!! Plus, since there weren’t many tourists at this time of the year, the hotel upgraded us to the sister hotel, which is originally more expensive – at the exact same cost! This trip was getting very exciting now!
Packing was fairly easy. Since the weather would be between 20-25 degrees, shorts, bathing suits, and t-shirts would be perfect! I had a little extra as I needed skirts and dresses, but they were so thin it didn’t even change a thing. The only thing for me, as a female, was more clothes to cover my shoulders. I did my fair share of research, and even though resorts are more accepting of our culture of tank tops and “revealing clothes”, they appreciate when you still try to cover up a little more. So thin, breathy sweaters were added to my stuff. Enough that I would feel comfortable in the heat, and enough to make others comfortable with what I was wearing. Each kid’s clothes fit into a small backpack, and all three fit into a suitcase. One suitcase for John and I to share, and one basically empty to fit home souvenirs. We were allowed one bag each of 20kg, so we were not even slightly close to that.
FLIGHT and AIRPORT
Flight was easy. Kids played their new early Christmas gifts – Gameboys. Best gift ever btw!! Food with Germania was free, so that helped kill time on a 5hr flight! The kids didn’t fall asleep at all, so having entertainment on a no-entertainment flight was a godsend. There wasn’t a choice of food, but they make it so that everyone can enjoy it – or most at least. It was pasta and bread, so quick and easy, and enjoyable for kids. Drinks include juices, soft drinks, and coffee and tea. Basic, but definitely good enough.
When you get into Hurghada, directly at the airport, you need to purchase a Visa for 25$USD per person; you cannot get into the country otherwise – and there are a lot of checks to make sure you have it. You can buy your Visa online before you even get to the airport to go quicker, but we called in advance and were told it was very easy to purchase on arrival. They were right – took maybe 2 minutes once we got to the front of the line for 5 Visas. Security was tight, and everyone spoke English so that helped. Next, on to pick up your luggage, and head to the resort. The resort arranged a taxi for us, so that helped alleviate some stress of finding a taxi yourself.
Finally get to the resort itself, and since it’s dark out, first thing you see are Christmas decorations on the lawn, lit up. There were stars, candles, trees – and instead of reindeer, there were lit up camels!! Get inside through the doors, and literally the first thing you see is at least a twenty foot decorated Christmas tree. I can honestly say, I was not expecting to see Christmas decorations in Egypt. Its first impression was making me feel like home.
We get a small tour, and our bags are brought right to our rooms for us, we don’t have to do a thing. We made it in time for supper which was delicious. Having a glass of wine and not having to pay 4€, or 2.50€ per coke, was great. Back to our room to relax so we can have an early (whenever we wake up) start to our day. After about 10hrs of travel, we were all exhausted.
MEALS and DRINKS
Breakfast was always a great start to our day (from 7:00am-10:00am). Fresh homemade croissants every morning, omelet bar (you tell the man exactly what you want, and he makes it right in front of you), and crepes and waffles – along with chocolate and strawberry sauces for it. Lunch (from 12:30pm-2:30pm) always had fresh homemade Egyptian bread, a pasta and spaghetti bar, and always something small – whether it was meats or different fishes. Supper (from 6:30pm-9:30pm) was always great! There was the Egyptian bread and pasta and spaghetti bar, but the meats and fishes were much fancier. Shrimps, stir-fry’s, full fish, crabs. We didn’t realize one night that the fish was full – head and everything – until we got back to our table to eat. My son was not impressed and I didn’t like eating the fish while it felt like it was watching me. These were at the outside of the restaurant. Walk inside, and so much more food. There was always a veggie selection with salad bar, 6 different platters of cheeses, 6 different types of cold cuts, and more bread than one could even imagine. Homemade tahini was my absolute favorite! That with the Egyptian bread was always on my plate. I’m pretty sure if I let myself, I could have eaten that all day. Last but not least, the desserts. I am sure there were 30 different types of cookies, cakes, pies… It was incredible. There was one “cake” I kept seeing and since I am not a big cake eater, I kept avoiding it. Well on our last night, I decided to try it. Well, turns out it was a type of biscotti. And it was delicious! I told my husband I felt like I had missed out by avoiding it the entire time. I went back three times for more… Some nights along with desert, they had an ice cream bar. Kids always ate great knowing once they did, ice cream was waiting!
One day walking around, we found the beach restaurant. It opens at noon, and closes around 2:00pm. This restaurant was an excellent different option. They had cheese pizza (kids always had this), chicken pizza (John and I had this one), and a vegetarian option. There was teriyaki chicken with noodles (my favorite!). They had french fries, burgers, and hot dogs as well. They even had actual pies and brownies for dessert. Once we found this place, this is where the kids always wanted to eat. As long as they ate, we didn’t care where it was. There was also a bar where the bartender made cocktails if you wanted, as well as wines and soft drinks – or basic rum and/or vodka drinks.
Serenity Fun City is where the waterpark is. On our first day we went to explore and found a snack bar here, as well as a small drink bar. Snacks were open from 11:00am-3:00pm, every day. There weren’t many options as it was only a snack area, but the fries, pizza, shawarma, and hot dogs were enough. One day we even got brownies without asking – they were amazing! Drinks you could have almost anything you wanted, but the cups were small, flimsy plastic ones. I guess they don’t want anything to break near the waterslides.
We got two free A La Carte restaurant vouchers. This is where you can sit down and be served, instead of buffet style. There was an option of having only the A La Carte restaurants nightly, for an extra 5$USD a person, a night. Without the kids, that would have been perfect – but spending an extra 200$ to sit down just wasn’t worth it at that time. I am glad we didn’t actually – the kids were so busy all day, the two free meals we got, they fell asleep each time halfway through supper! Buffet style keeps them moving, so they stay awake. Sitting down and being served knocked them out each time. They surely were delicious though!
Bars. Bars. Bars. There are bars EVERYWHERE!! Between the two hotels we had access to, there was probably 8 bars we could go to. Beach bar was nice to sit and watch the waves, although we only did that once on our first day. It was windy and our drinks split since the glasses weren’t heavy, so we avoided there – although the restaurant was nice. The Lobby Bar didn’t allow kids, so that we never attempted. The swim up bars were way too cold to even dip our feet into, so we never went there. But we found one. The perfect one! Right along a pool (still, too cold so we never went in) but we could sit right next to it. We could see the Red Sea in the distance which was beautiful – especially at night time. And the bartender. Mahmoud was the man! First day we met him, I really didn’t know what I wanted to drink. John got a rum and coke, and I told him to just “surprise me”. And that he did. After that one drink, he told us that anytime we needed something, to go to him. Which we did. Every day. 11 days, he probably made us about 22 cocktails – every single one different. How he could possibly remember which he’d made already, was absolutely amazing. I can say, he made our stay much more enjoyable! If we go back, we will make sure again, we go see him!
I was weary of the Kids Club. We are in a new country, with no one we know, leaving our kids with “strangers”. To say I was scared the first time is an understatement. By the time I went to pick up the kids the first day, I was happy I sent them. The kids didn’t want to leave for lunch. The Kids Club was opened from 9:30am-12:30pm, then again from 2:30pm-4:30pm. They made crafts, they play outside in the park, they play inside and play different games. Over the next 10 days of the kids going, I can honestly say, I was not at all expecting them to get so attached. The three kids BEGGED us to not leave. They cried when they had to say goodbye. To see that my kids had such a great time going to a place they WANTED to go to, was great! I was so happy they got to play and just be kids, with other kids, outside of a school setting.
There was a Mini Disco every night at 8:15 at the Fun City Hotel. Kids could get up and dance with the animators to kids songs. The three boys never wanted to, but they had fun watching, Right after their disco was an adult show. We missed most of them, but we went on our last night, and we should have gone more often. It was four animators against four audience members. John went up with a couple we met whose son was close to Nathan, and another random lady, while I stayed to watch the 4 kids – I hate being center of attention anyways! They played games to see who was the best – audience or animators. They had to see who could drink a cocktail the fastest, who could eat a pastry quicker, arm wrestling, and who could make the best mummy out of toilet paper. It was very entertaining to watch. In the end, animators lost and audience won.
You get very close to the animation team. These are the people you spend their days trying to entertain you, so they work very hard, and do their job well!
WATERPARK AND THEME PARK
This is what we booked this hotel for, before we got upgraded. The waterpark is made to look like a castle, which was super cool. The water slides open at 10:00am, and close at 5:00pm. The entire park isn’t open at one time though. They kind of open section by section. So they open all the slides on one side first, then around lunch time open the wave pool (too cold to even step into…), and the rest of the slides around 2:00.
What we didn’t realize though, is the age of the kids, they weren’t allowed down alone on many of the slides, except for three. So for the most part, John and I in the afternoons when we could, we went to the waterpark when the kids were at the Kids Club. Sure, there was a kiddy pool with little waterslides and a pirate ship, but the water was so cold the kids lips turned blue after about ten minutes. The next day they started coughing so bad they’d choke themselves, so we stopped going there.
So in the end, we didn’t end up using the waterpark the way we’d wanted, and thought we would. I am sure if we stayed at that hotel and not the Beach one, we would have been here more often. It was just hard going back and forth between both. The shuttle runs fairly often, but the walk is also only about 15 minutes. Not far, but if we were on site, it would be easier to head to go eat quickly and go back to the slides, rather than going back and forth between two.
When we checked into the hotel, each child got four free tickets for the theme park. They didn’t know that, so we ended up telling them Christmas morning that Santa left them tickets – which they were beyond thrilled about! They were so happy Santa brought that! The bumper cars were a huge hit! We let each kid pick where they wanted to go, and they all picked the bumper cars twice. They all chose the merry-go-round, and Tyler chose the roller coaster while Zachary and Nathan chose the train. For those of you who know my kids, knowing that Tyler choosing a roller coaster instead of the train is odd, but he had a lot of fun with what he picked!
We were here for Christmas. I wanted to wake up Christmas morning and not have to lift a finger! Apparently New Year’s is a huge party, but Christmas was great as well. The kids Club had games for the kids. They went on a search for Snowmen – and won cookies (everyone won) after lunch. They had a snowball fight (in 20 degree weather, yes!), and made Christmas crafts and played Christmas games. Best part? They made homemade gingerbread cookies. Right down to the batter and all. Every child even wore a chef’s hat. They had cookie cutters and made all kinds of different shapes. There was 3-4 cookies per child. You have no idea how much fun was had! The look on all the kids’ faces was something to see!
There was a Christmas Eve supper at an extra cost we went to. Food was almost like the normal every day food, just a little fancier. They had seafood pasta which was delicious! Desserts looked amazing too – very fancy display. They also did really good at refilling when something was out. Wine was also refilled quickly 😉
There was a Kids Disco as per normal, and right after, Santa came! That was very exciting! Each kid got a chance to sit with Santa – who asked everyone where they were from. Each got a small gift as well, which all the kids were happy about. There was an “adult show” afterwards which included all the female animators dancing to Tainted Love wearing tight Santa costumes and holding whips, and the male animators dancing around them in bunny costumes. Kids thought it was hilarious. I just kept thinking “these are the people who watch my kids every day!” lol It was great though. They all fancied up afterwards and did the tango and the waltz. It was a great show! I am very happy we paid extra for the evening.
Only downside of our entire time at the resort, were the vendors. They try to sell their items and excursions, but they don’t take no for an answer. They badger you every day, no fail. We discovered on the 5th day the towel area had “do not disturb” signs, which kept people away. That was the only downside is feeling forced to buy something.
I never thought I would get to an all-inclusive. It really was like a dream come true vacation. When we travel, we rarely stop. We want to see as much as possible, so we never really relax, we keep busy. To be able to sit down and have a drink (or two) and know the kids are in great hands, was a great feeling. To actually come back from a vacation relaxed, was not something we have felt yet. We always feel accomplished, but not relaxed. Here, between our excursions (more on those to follow), and the resort, we felt just as accomplished as we did relaxed. And to come home tanned was even better.
Stay tuned for excursions to Cairo and to Luxor. Not as relaxing as staying on the resort, but to say I have now been to one of the Ancient Wonders of the world is one amazing tale!!!