Accomm – Tunisia: Alhambra Thalasso. Unsuitable for an active family holiday and not five stars.

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The main entrance to the hotel.

The Alhambra Thalasso is located in the purpose-built resort of Yasmine Hammamet, located approximately three miles from the original Hammamet. It can be found in a quiet street, which is actually a cul-de-sac to the beach, and this is where the resort comes to an abrupt end and overlooks rough scrubland full of rubbish.

Advertised by Thomson Holidays, with whom we travelled as a family, as a five star hotel, with eight restaurants and a piano bar, we understood it wasn’t going to provide an active list of evening entertainment for our three young adults (18, 20 and 21), but we assumed it would be within walking distance of the main centre. Be advised, this is not a five-star standard hotel that we would expect in the UK. Far from it, and I would grade it as a good UK standard three-star establishment.

Upon arrival at reception around midnight, after a late UK flight, there was only one receptionist available but service was both speedy and efficient and we had to spend no more than ten minutes before collecting our keys etc.

Our luggage was taken to the three rooms we had been allocated, 3033, 3034, and 3038. We had booked two twin rooms and a double but unfortunately received three twins. On a nice plus point, a salad platter was delivered to the room within 30 minutes. Our rooms were located on the second floor, despite being numbered in the three hundred, with excellent views over the central pool area.

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Standard Double room.

 

The room was well appointed with marble tiled floors, so take care when they are wet. The twin beds had been pushed together to form a double – of sorts! Their was also a mini bar, flat screen TV, dressing unit with mirror above, two bedside tables with lamps, a four-door wardrobe unit which was sectioned and contained hanging rails, with a safe inside it (free of charge to use), along with extra pillows and blankets – which you won’t need, well the blankets anyway! There was also a full-length mirror in the alcove that doubles up as suitcase storage. The room has a separate bathroom with shower over the bath and a toilet located next door to the bathroom. The room was clean and tidy, had everything we needed, and so we unpacked. These rooms also had a small balcony containing a table and two chairs.

In the morning we awoke refreshed, and the room had cooled down nicely during the evening from the air conditioning unit, which, although a little noisy, worked well. Please note, to keep the a/c running you have to leave a keycard in the slot in the room, so make sure you ask reception for a spare. It was only then during daylight we noticed that the furnishings were a little dated and had seen better days, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say an upgrade is in order.

The bathroom was functional and all bath/hand towels were provided along with some starter toiletries. The shower was of the over-bath type but with plenty of pressure and hot water, although not thermostatic, so do take care with small children.

The three floors are served by a lift system, but this only takes approx four people at a time so you may be waiting in long queues during high-season. We were lucky being there in September as it was very quiet. Please note disabled guests should ensure the hotel would be suitable for their specific requirements as it has steps at the front door, and a wheelchair would be a tight fit in the small lift.

There are two pools at the complex, an outdoor pool where most of the entertainment takes place, and another covered one at the back of the hotel. At the time of our visit we never saw the covered pool ever being used. The main pool has steps at one end and twin ladders at the deeper end. Parents will have to keep a close eye on children at this hotel. Although it does employ a lifeguard, and during our visit, he was put to the test when a child fell in, he wasn’t always on duty! In high season I’m betting it’ll be almost impossible to get a poolside bed. There are approx 40 available, which even in low season with a quiet hotel were full most of the time. This would mean guests having to use the private beach or the covered pool. The hotel has a poolside restaurant and bar area. Sun beds and parasols are free to use – however, be aware that the best locations for early morning sun next to the poolside were snapped up by guests early on, some even resorting to the old ploy of putting towels out at stupid times of the early morning.

The hotel offers free Wi-Fi (brochure advertised as only available in reception areas) however it is patchy at times and the usual services of internet access, Facebook etc are all accessible, just a bit slower than you might like. As it’s free though, you’ve got nothing to gripe about.

The room had a daily maid service with all floor surfaces being brushed and washed over, towels replenished when required, beds made and sheets changed weekly.

The main restaurant, the Alcazar was a buffet style eatery for both breakfast and dinner. There was ample choice available for even the pickiest of diners. Be careful though of lukewarm food, and other food that’s been left out in the heat too long. An example is on the grill section food is cooked and then plated, being left on top of a unit without any heat lamp. It wasn’t the first time I saw blood on the bottom of the plate. Also, on two evenings, a dish containing boiled eggs in a mayonnaise dressing was noted to have been left out (unchilled) from 6.30pm to the last service at 10pm.

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Alcazar restaurant.

At the time of our visit, only three restaurants were open, and not the advertised eight. The brochure’s list of restaurants seems to include the cafe, beachside diner and poolside BBQ area in this number. If you want to eat elsewhere in the hotel you will have to pay, although a discount of 30 per cent is allowed against your allowance for not dining at the buffet. As for the main piano bar, well the piano is still covered up and I never heard a tinkling of the ivories during our whole fortnight.

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Alcazar restaurant’s outdoor dining section.

The entertainments team – well where do I start! I’m sure they are fairly busy during the main high season, but at the time of our visit it was very obvious it was so quiet, that it gave certain unnamed members of that team carte blanche to ‘prowl’ and ‘stalk’ the younger good looking female guests, to the point where it became blatantly obvious and unacceptably intrusive. Our entertainment was duplicated in week two and was fairly innocuous, a singer/keyboard player, a guitarist, and a ‘Tunisian’ evening that consisted of two belly dancers, who doubled up as the pot-carrying ladies, and a trio of ‘folk’ musicians. Painful doesn’t do it justice! Don’t expect a fully-fledged entertainments package because you won’t find it here.

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The Tunisian ‘pot ladies’ were the highlight of the entertainment

A lot of others have commented on rooms overlooking the main pool being noisy, however, we didn’t really have any bother with that as we were in the bar until 11.30pm most evenings which is when the music system was switched off.

The hotel provides a tuk-tuk service to the beach from the hotel entrance, but this wasn’t advertised. The hotel has a private beach area with a diner and cabanas, which are available on a first-come-first-served basis and are ideal for sheltering from the midday sun. If taxis are needed if you decide to go out in the evening, then either the reception or the security guard at the main gate will call one for you. You’ll also need one if you want to go anywhere as the hotel is situated on the very outskirts of the town.  (See map in the links section below).

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The prices are exceptional, and Tunisia is certainly a cheap place to holiday – just make sure you don’t order drinks with brand names and you will be fine. For example, a can of ‘Boga’, our equivalent of Sprite will set you back 2.5 Dinar. We were getting 3DN to the pound. The exchange rate in the country is the same regardless of whether you exchange money at the hotel or at a bank. Being a closed currency though, you can’t take it in or out of the country with you.

We, as you will recollect, had booked a double room, so on Thursday, day four of our first week, we were moved to a new room with a double bed. Great, you might think, yes, it was, until we found the a/c didn’t work and the place was like a sauna. A visit by the maintenance team failed to remedy the problem. Three days later we have moved again, but this time to a suite, all very nice. Yes, having a private sitting room was lovely if we could have enjoyed it properly had the a/c worked. So, a word of caution here, be careful of whatever room you are allocated, because as our example proves, not all the a/c units work properly to cool the room down – and, at 41 degrees outside, you do need it to work!

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Suite at Alhambra Thalasso

For further information on Hammamet and Tunisia, visit: Hammamet Tourist Board

For current travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, see here: FCO travel advice

For a map of the Yasmine Hammamet area showing the hotel location, see here: Location map 

For further details and prices click here


 

Top tips:
1. It’s not suitable for young adults, catering more for an older retired clientele.
2. Tip your waiter and he will look after you. We managed to get a table in the courtyard every morning and at dinner.
3. Haggle – for everything, even the taxis. In the shops, cut the first price offered by 50 per cent, then look to take up to a further 20 per cent off to get anywhere near the real price to pay.
4. Don’t be too offended by the constant attempts to get you into their shops – say ‘no thanks’ and walk on – it’s the only way!
5. Forget the ‘safari park’ trip, unless that is, you want to see a few miserable animals confined within broken down compounds, full of rough scrubland and desolate wilderness. A complete waste of money. See full review here:Safari park review
6. If you’re looking for a ‘pretty’ country with lots of green areas, shopping centres, areas to walk at night – then forget Tunisia, it’s dirty with rubbish strewn about everywhere you look, broken pavements, areas with no street lighting, graffiti – I mean you’re paying to get away from all that in the UK!

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