Located on the western shore of the Red Sea, the desert peninsula resort of Soma Bay is a haven for families looking for a little luxury and fine dining injected into their ‘fly and flop’ holiday. Soma Bay, with its five interconnected hotels, is a fantastic all-rounder resort; ideal for a family holiday with plenty of activities and an 800-metre stretch of golden sandy beach to keep everyone entertained.
You are spoiled for choice even before you reach that Egyptian sand, with five luxurious hotels that comprise Soma Bay: the Sheraton (where we stayed), the luxurious Kempinski, the golf centric La Residence de Cascades, the sporty Robinson Club and the chilled out Breakers Diving and Surfing Lodge, to choose from. All are family-friendly and offer excellent accommodation, dining and family leisure options and guests can make use of all hotels’ facilities. A complementary minibus operates runs between the properties from 9am to midnight. The peninsula has a guarded gated entrance and feels very secure: a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hurghada.
One of the main draws to this part of the world has to be that coveted year round sunshine, which is especially tempting during the dark and dreary British winter months. Soma Bay is just a 40-minute transfer from the airport resort of Hurghada, making it brilliant in terms of travel time for children as well as parents looking for a long weekend break. Yes - if you are tight on time, it is possible to fly to Egypt for a long weekend, with a flight time of just over five hours: tried and tested!
We arrived late at night so the big reveal came in the morning as we excitedly threw open the curtains to a big balcony. Our room overlooked the manicured lawns and pool area, to the 800-metre stretch of sandy beach, sparkling turquoise waters and Red Sea mountain backdrop, beyond. Calm and peaceful, the resort is so large that even when the hotels are at full capacity, and thronging with children, there is always an air of serenity about the place.
It’s a good idea to have a wander round the area to acquaint yourselves with the resort. The palm-fringed promenade, which stretches along the front of four of the five Soma Bay hotels, belies its Middle Eastern location. And once the temperatures begin to soar, it is easy to imagine you are in tropical climes – but staying here means sunshine without the long haul flight.
We stayed at the Sheraton, which has 326 rooms all decorated in a homely style. The architecture is inspired by Luxor’s Karnak Temple and is reminiscent of a rather large, and rather grand, sandcastle. Marble colonnades, sphinx and pyramid sculptures adorn the restaurants and pool area. The staff are all very welcoming, at the Sheraton Soma Bay, and will always make time to chat with guests. You can book interconnecting rooms at the Sheraton, and if you are travelling with younger children, complimentary cribs are provided. Larger families can pay for additional single beds.
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What we ate
We were once again spoiled for choice at the Sheraton, with four restaurants to enjoy: L’Abydos Brasserie offers a wide choice of breakfasts and dinners while L’Emporio Ristorante is Italian in style, and Copper Crescent Grill and the Beach Hut have lighter fare – perfect for a child out lunch.
The Sheraton also has a mixture of bars: beach, swim up and indoors, so you can enjoy a virgin cocktail beachside or grab a drink while watching the late night entertainment.
Across the Soma Bay resort, most restaurants offer a buffet style selection, often with nightly themes. Our favourite at the Sheraton was the Copper Crescent Grill - an open-air beachside restaurant, which comes complete with a wood fire oven that makes tasty pizzas. All guests are on half board or all-inclusive packages, and you can sign up for a ‘dine around’ option which means you can eat at the other hotels. So although we were Sheraton guests, and had our breakfast there each day, we could make use of the other four resorts and simply charge everything back to our room to settle up at the end, or transfer our meal plan. The shuttle bus makes travelling the relatively short distance between hotels even easier. Our favourite overall was the Asian restaurant, Bamboo Shoot, at the Kempinski, for it’s flavoursome dishes served family-style, and elegant surroundings.
For those staying all-inclusive in any of the hotels, the rate includes soft drinks and local wine and beer, as well as cakes in the afternoon, unlimited ice cream for children between 12 and 5pm, and three meals a day.
Make no bones about it; Soma Bay is a hotel-based holiday. Day trips can be arranged to places including Luxor, but we didn’t feel the need to leave the rather large and luxurious confines. What Soma Bay does, it does very well.
Plenty of the activities are geared up for families to spend time together, there is a brilliant, free kids club available at the Sheraton, the No Mummies Club, which has it’s own heated swimming pool and playrooms. There is also a daily schedule of inclusive supervised activities for kids, from 10am to 8pm, including painting, mini discos, beach sports games and treasure hunts.
The kids club comes in particularly handy when you fancy heading off to play a round of golf for the day, or try out the spa. The Cascades Championship Golf Course, at Soma Bay’s La Residence des Cascades, was designed by golf pro, Gary Player. You can tell someone has created it with a love for the sport, and incredible views, since you can see the sea from each hole with many placed directly on the coastline – not such great news, however, if your aim isn’t brilliant…
We saw lots of golfers using their own professional kit on the championship course; however, you can rent clubs, too. It costs €25 to undertake the challenge course of nine holes, as opposed to the full 18-hole. If you need to brush up on your golfing skills, you can book in for lessons from the PGA golf professionals at the Cascades Golf Academy. Or, you can play caddy to your own version of Gary Player, and just enjoy driving a golf buggy, instead of a nine iron. Spikes Restaurant and Bar makes a great post-golf lunchtime spot with a brilliant offering of delicious seafood.
Take time out to visit The Cascades Spa and Thalasso; one of the Leading Spas of the World. It houses the region’s largest and most comprehensive facility for thalasso therapy, which utilises warm seawater in all treatments. The 750 m2 Thalasso-Tonic Hydrotherapy Pool has a wide variety of jets, which pummel your muscles to tone and invigorate. This is somewhat of an acquired taste – and might be a little ‘involved’ for some, especially those with sensitive skin. The 65 private treatment rooms offer holistic treatments by therapists trained in specialist techniques from far-flung destinations including Bali, India and Thailand. There is a wide range of unusual thalassotherapy treatments, renowned for their anti-aging benefits, also treatments for two, beauty treatments and massages. The outdoor pool is also an amazing suntrap – perfect for a little daytime nap.
We love… The rooftop cinema at the Breakers Hotel. A sun trap by night and a fun chill out cinema by night!
High on our family holiday agenda was snorkelling, which we had heard was among the top places in the world for coral and fish life. The fully equipped Orca Dive Club at the Sheraton offers brilliant PADI courses for both novice and experienced divers, but we chose to stick to staying (mainly) above the coral line on the House Reef. Older children and adults alike will love spotting the tropically coloured fish, which behave in intriguing ways. We saw a few fish floating around in pairs, starfish ambling along the coral bed and schools of fish darting this way and that. You may get to see pufferfish and lionfish, too. Part of the fun is sitting on the back of the minivan dressed in your dive short suits and top notch snorkel gear, and driving along the 420 metres long jetty, to get to the reef.
Temperatures at Soma Bay
You can look forward to year round sunshine with temperatures around 20 degrees centigrade in January and December, to highs of around 35 degrees in August. The dry desert winds mean low humidity, and the flat water and high side shore winds in the bay make ideal kite surfing conditions.
As well as diving and sailing at the resort, Soma Bay’s Kite House is the place to try kite surfing. It is world renowned, thanks to its slick set up and quality equipment and instructors. We had a short lesson, which involved learning how to control a kite while standing on the beach – it’s surprisingly hard, and we only had a little kite! A multi-day course in kite surfing can be booked at your hotel, but you can try a free lesson - just hop on the complementary shuttle bus to the Kite House to give it a try. Adults only for this activity, but it can be fun to just sit and watch the pros at work: twisting, sailing along and doing tricks, jumping on their boards high out of the water. The café at the Kite House is well stocked so it makes for a lovely suntrap, and a very pleasant way to while away an afternoon.
Other activities at Sheraton Soma Bay:
* Three tennis courts
* A squash court
* A croquet court
* Beach volleyball
* Mini soccer
* Table tennis
Seven-nights bed and breakfast at the five-star Sheraton Soma Bay resort from £605 per person, including flights, airport tax, baggage and private transfers.
Call now on 020 3384 0023, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.holiday-designers.com for more details.
VISA NOTE: There are new Visa requirements to visiting Egypt starting May 15, 2015. Unless booking in a group through an authorised travel agent, individuals are now required to issue a visa prior to arrival. Contact your closest Egyptian Consulate or embassy for more information. You may no longer purchase the visa on arrival.