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“Lovely hotel, Spa prices are ridiculous.”

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STEIGENBERGER Kantaoui Bay
Ranked #1 of 33 Hotels in Port El Kantaoui
Reviewed 29 March 2010

We returned home yesterday after a week at the Riu Imperial Marhaba. we went for a week of sunshine and rest which is basically what we got. Hotel's public area's, are, as previously posted absolutely stunning, marble, water features and fabulous chandeliers.Check in was swift and efficient and we were asked which floor we wanted to be on (we chose the 4th) Room I guess was adequate with a small balcony overlooking the front of the hotel. We had a seperate bathroom and toilet. Bed was two singles pushed together and VERY hard even for someone used to a medium hard bed.
Service was pretty good in the restaurants with most service personnel working extremely long days with much cheerfulness.Have to agree with a previous post that bar service was a bit hit and miss at times, especially in the lobby bar, the pool bar was fine.So here's the BIG downside, the spa.Far too expensive and didn't seem to be used much by anyone at all ever.BIG white elephant.Would we visit again ? I guess the answer to that one is yes, we got what we paid for and enjoyed our stay.Just one more thing, we bought leather jackets from the Marina and also one in Sousse in the Medina, be prepared to barter hard and they can be an absolute bargain. Leather handbags are also cheap and seem to be fair quality.

  • Stayed: March 2010, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank seagull6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 26 March 2010

First off as others have said I don't think this hotel is a 5* more like a 4. The spa facilities have probably bumped up the star rating. It has to be said though in the time I never heard of anyone using these facilities and in my honest opinion I thought the treatments etc were quite expensive for Tunisia.

As is usual with a Riu hotel the public areas are very plush and opulent. This one in particular is marble with beautiful chandeliers. Even the lifts are an architectural feature! The seating is comfortable and in good condition too. Only problem is just the small upper section near the entrance is non-smoking. As someone who had a bad chest/cough when I was there I found this quite inconvenient and not the only person who deliberately seeked out these seats and many a time the smell would come up from the rest of the floor. The reception team are very good and get you sorted out very quickly in fact, unlike other reviewers, I never had any problem with any member of staff. The cleaners are friendly and very thorough. Most of the waiters in the bar area are nice but are hit and miss for service later in the evening.

The rooms are very comfortable and completely carpeted which is good for sound insulation, no clip clop of heels, bangs etc from above. There is (unusually) a separate toilet and a well equipped bathroom, nicely decorated too. A place for your luggage, lots of wardrobe space with hangers and drawers. Also a free safe. Adequate lighting and a marble dressing table where the TV is perched, which comes to my one and only bugbear in the room - the dreaded BBC World being one of the few English speaking channels (other being CNN). You don't find out news from home on that, BBC 24 would be better if they insist on giving us the news. I ended up watching German MTV!!!! Please hotels, come up with something better for your English speaking clients eh? But even I admit it is a small grumble.

The restaurant is, once again, very nicely decorated with a very large selection of food. There is something for everyone although a few people I talked to found it repetitive and 'much of a muchness'. However I found the food at every sitting ample, tasty with a good selection. Only problem being the meats cooked 'on the spot' sometimes didn't appear fast enough and a queue would form but I didn't blame the chef, often he was there struggling by himself trying to keep up with the demand for meat, veg, chips etc. Also the Pasta wasn't quite what I expected. When we stayed a a Riu in Tunisia a few years ago (El Park Kebir, Hammanet) the 'pasta man' as we called him would make up your pasta to your requirements - here you had to take it as you found it in the serving dish which was a bit disappointing as it was often a bit tasteless and bland so I stopped having it.

The pool area is excellent. There are plenty of beds and the man who gives out the cushions for the loungers is there in no time sorting your sunbed out. He works very hard and is excellent at his job and it wasn't all for tips, some didn't tip him at all but still got good service the next day. The pool bar is open and is both self service (tea, coffee, water, soft drinks) and bar service (alcohol). There is also a waiter who is very good but obviously he has a lot of people to cover so don't expect him at your side all the time. The animation team are quite loud but do not badger you personally into joining in, if you look like you want to be left alone, they'll leave you alone. Plenty of people joined in with their darts, boules, archery, nordic hiking etc. There is a pretty beach area which I imagine is quite busy in the summer months but obviously in cooler March was very quiet. The beach bar was closed but at that time of year with hardly anyone on the beach who could expect anything else?

There is also a lovely terrace area just outside the main bar area of the hotel. This had very comfy chairs, palm trees and a lovely little fountain feature. I enjoyed using this part of the hotel as during the day it was a lovely suntrap and every relaxing.

The problems I had with this hotel are: smoking, almost everywhere except the restaurant and entrance allow smoking freely. Now as I said I wasn't too well so this really did affect the quality of my holiday. I couldn't go and see the evening entertainment in the entertainment room because of it. In my opinion the useless, Piano Bar where you have to pay for your drinks is a waste of time as hardly anyone ever uses it (and there's a piano but no one playing it!). I think this should be turned into a room which is part of the all-in package but is (bliss) no smoking. We need somewhere we can go!

Also, in a 5 star hotel I expect the waiter to get my drinks at dinner in the restaurant, or at the very least the first one. I did not like having to trail for a drink before I could go back for my food. I've had this in almost every other hotel I have been in (inc 3* ones and have travelled extensively) and it didn't do a so-called 5* hotel justice in my opinion.

And as another reviewer has said, beware of being conned with a 'sea view' room. They really should advertise 'side' sea views at a reduced rate, it's not on as some people got lovely sea views and others had to go on their balcony and turn left or right to see the sea! Yet everyone had paid the same for this 'extra' and it was basically luck of the draw who got what. They should either do the sea view/side sea view as suggested OR say sea side of the hotel and not promise a full view. Honesty would be nice in this as is it quite important to a lot of people.

Having said all of the above I did enjoy my relaxing holiday at this hotel. I would have liked to have seen some entertainment on a night but I suppose that was my problem but anyone who doesn't like smoking or has chest problems please be warned. It's not fuggy with smoke very often but it might be a bit of a problem if you're sensitive in this area.

  • Stayed: March 2010, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank TravellerAnn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 March 2010

We set off to tunisia with mixed feelings, slightly apprehensive as we did'nt know what to expect ,but oh boy, what a surprise. On arrival both my husband and i had to pick our jaws up from the floor,, the marble entrance was spectacular it went on to get better, our bedroom was light and very large, the bed was 8ft wide !! The food selection was superb with something for everyone even chips if you wanted. Afternoon tea was a highlight with freshly cooked pancakes and pastries, the outsidepool was cold but what else could you expect in march, the inside pool more than made up for this. Everyone in the hotel were very helpful and made the stay special for all guests. The entertainment team known as "the animation team" Put on a really good variety of entertainment each day and evening. The only down side we found was on our trip to the medina/market, it was a bit intimidating, with the locals trying to sell their goods persuasively, but a firm no thank you or even better i have no money, seems to do the trick! Taxis were very cheap and the drivers helpful.All in all the best holiday we have ever had can't wait for our return in september already booked it !!!!!

  • Stayed: March 2010, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank NorfolkJuju
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 March 2010

Went there with family.was really looking forward to it as we all had been having a hard time.Was really looking for a bit of luxury.All i can say,to any of us it was not up to the normal riu standards,yes the hotel was lovely,but the food was really awful.The staff on reception and the ladies cleaning the rooms would go out if their way to help you,and the animation team worked really hard..but some of the staff behind the bar could be quite abrupt.The bar was closed dead on time,sometimes before 12,oclock which was the time it supposed to close.the waiters in the restaurant worked really hard,and could not do enough for you,and on the last night our table had flowers on it. The maid cleaned the room to a high standard and left fresh petals on the bed and in the bathroom everyday. The hotel is on the beach and is about a 30 minute walk to the harbour,which is quite expensive.The hotel is a nice hotel,but dont go there if you are expecting luxury

  • Stayed: November 2009, travelled with family
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3  Thank Dawns64
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 March 2010

ARRIVAL.
We had a very pleasant welcome when we arrived, being sat at a table in the lobby, in a nice comfy chair to fill out the registration form. We were brought a welcome cocktail (non alcoholic) and then the receptionist explained the hotel facilities etc., fitted our all-inclusive bands, gave us cards to obtain complimentary pool/beach towels and arranged for the porter to take our luggage and show us our room. After we had been in the room for a few minutes, we had a call from the receptionist to check that our room was to our satisfaction.

ROOMS.
Our room was reasonably furnished. The twin beds were fairly comfortable and the lighting was more than sufficient. There were 3 comfortable chairs, a decent sized dressing table area with good sized mirrors, plenty of wardrobe space and hangers and a good number of drawers. There is also a small fridge and bottled water. The toilet was separate to the bathroom. The bathroom had a good sized mirror and a reasonably good hair drier. A good powerful shower over the bath. The downside to this was that the shower was set over the middle of the bath, giving limited maneuverability because of the shower curtain. It would have been better positioned at the back of the bath. The other drawback was that we paid a supplement for a sea view, which we naturally expected to look out and see the sea; not the rooms at the opposite side of the hotel. What we had was in fact a side-sea view, which is a bit naughty of both the tour company and the hotel. Normally side-sea views rate a lower supplement than a full sea view and this should have been the case and should clearly be stated in the brochure. We should have complained but having been up for 30 hours when we arrived, it was too much of a hassle and we spent little time on the balcony. The balcony was also poorly furnished, with 2 very small chairs and a small low table. Air-conditioning could also be a problem particularly as the weather warms up as it is only available in July & August. To my mind, the ecology card is merely an excuse to mask cost cutting measures.

THE LOBBY/MAIN BAR AREA.
The lobby is light and airy with a large central glass light feature and ruby crystal chandeliers. It is comfortably furnished with large padded chairs and settees set around long glass tables. The reception is wood panelled and to the left of the entrance. This top section is non-smoking but only forms about a quarter of the whole area. A few steps down to a larger central atrium with the lifts at either side and 3 large crystal chandeliers suspended from the glass roof, is also comfortably furnished. A few more steps down to the bar area which has a few bar stools and a seating area consisting of dining style chairs set around smaller round tables as this area is used for afternoon teas. The drawbacks are that at peak times, there are insufficient seats and from a personal point of view, the whole of the hotel interior should be no smoking, in line with most European hotels these days. Having a small section at the top end of the hotel, is insufficient as seating is limited and of course smoke rises and can often be smelt. I could go on but won't. The other problem was the hit and miss bar service from the waiters. In spite of tipping them each time they brought us drinks (1 dinar = 50p) - a nice little earner as 10 drinks a night makes an extra £5 income; service would often be passable for the first couple of hours but fizzle out as the night went on. One night it was virtually non existent and I complained to reception who brought the bar manager Tarek to see me and address the complaint. The service did improve slightly after this and to give him credit, Tarek did come to see us every night and ask if everything had been alright, which generally speaking, it was apart from the one night that he was off and the standards once again slipped. The local beer is reasonable and the spirits are not bad in taste except for the rum; although the strength would appear to be less than international brands. You can however get Pastis which is the genuine thing.

THE RESTAURANT
The problem with the restaurant is that it is not large enough to seat everyone at one sitting and whilst you can sit anywhere for breakfast and lunch; at dinner time, you have a fixed table and have to decide whether you want 1st sitting (6.00 to 7.30) or 2nd sitting (8.00 to 9.30). We chose 1st but when you have finished, you have a job to find a seat in the lounge area and it makes for a long night. 2nd sitting is a little bit too late to digest your food adequately before going to bed. Ideally we would prefer to eat between 7.00 and 8.00. There is always a good choice of foods at all meals with the usual international fare, soups, salads, meats, fish, vegetables, pasta, pizza, breads, fruit, ice cream and cakes, as well as a couple of typical Tunisian choices. If you couldn't find something you liked out of that lot, you would be a faddy eater. There were times however when the on the spot cooking failed to meet the demand for certain foods and a queue would ensue. The other thing that we were disappointed with was the lack of service provided by our waiter, who basically said hello, goodbye and removed your finished plates. Four years ago when we stayed at a Riu hotel in Hammamet, after the first couple of days there, our waiter had our drinks waiting on our table and would come round throughout the meal to see if we wanted refills, thereby providing that extra touch of service which merited a better reward at the end.

THE A LA CARTE RESTAURANT.
You can make use of this as part of the all-inclusive, technically once per stay but if there is space available you can usually book more often. You need to book at least a day in advance and it is closed on a Saturday. The waiter there is very attentive, and the Tunisian meal is superb with a large mezze to start with followed by slow cooked lamb and couscous in a tagine with veg and fruit, pastries, vanilla pudding (custard) and mint tea for dessert and choice of wine. More ideally, it opens at 7.30.

THE PIANO BAR
This is a total waste of space as it is: a) not part of the all-inclusive plan and b) there is no pianist and therefore no-one playing the piano unless a talented guest has a bash. It is therefore always empty.

THE READING ROOM
This is like walking into a telephone box that has 50 people smoking in it at the same time. I am surprised that anyone can see to read for the fog and the stench is ridiculous.

THE ENTERTAINMENT ROOM
This is also fairly small with a stage next to the entrance and a bar at the back and rows of seats. It could be likened to a poor quality, working man's club with a smokey atmosphere and dire entertainment.

POOL AND POOL BAR AREA.
There is a good sized pool which ranges from shallow to 2 meters deep and a separate children's pool. There are plenty of sunbeds and pads are brought out by the pool attendant, who will find you a bed even if all appear to be taken and of course you have pool towels provided from reception which can be changed daily if you wish. The pool area is spotlessly clean as is the whole hotel. The pool bar serves drinks between 10 and 3 and a late, light breakfast between 10 and 12. The best waiter for service is Ben Kamla. The pool area is a short walk from the pale sandy beach. Above the pool area and outside the main bar area is an attractive seating area with comfy padded seats and glass topped tables.

THE SPA
This hotel gets it's 5 star rating because of the spa which is like a miniature hotel in itself. Without the spa, it would at best be 4 star. However, although I could be wrong, I get the impression that the spa is a rather large white elephant. If you are paying Tunisian hotel prices, you should expect to pay Tunisian spa prices and not European spa prices. I therefore cannot see it maximising its' potential plus if you sit anywhere near the video in the lobby which repeats on a 10 minute loop, day and night, you will be sick of the sight of it after 2 days.

On the whole we had a nice relaxing time which is what we went for although the weather was much poorer than we expected. Before we arrived, there had been 3 days of non stop torrential rain. There are also apparently strong winds in early March and we had several days of sun in the morning and cloud all afternoon; so if you are thinking of going at this time of year, we were told that the back end of March onwards, is usually better.

OUT AND ABOUT
A 45 - 60 minute walk will get you to the marina or if you cant be bothered to walk, a £2, five minute taxi ride will do the trick. (Agree the price first at no more than 4 dinars). The marina is very pleasant with bars and restaurants and a selection of shops. You will be hassled but a polite no thank you and carry on walking should suffice unless you specifically want to look in a particular shop. There is a so-called pukka Irish bar opposite the Marhaba Palace but it does not sell the famous black stuff so is a bit like a petrol station that doesn't sell petrol. We walked straight in , looked around and straight out again - sacrilege!!! Ruined St. Patrick's day for us.

To sum up, we had a relaxing time which is what we wanted but although this hotel has made a transition to all-inclusive, it still needs to improve in several areas to make it truly worth its' 5 star rating and without decent entertainment for all to enjoy, it does make the stay rather boring.

  • Stayed: March 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
2  Thank holidaymanWashington
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about STEIGENBERGER Kantaoui Bay

Address: port el kantaoui, Port El Kantaoui 4089, Tunisia (Formerly Riu Imperial Marhaba)
Region: Tunisia > Sousse Governorate > Port El Kantaoui
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
#1 Spa Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#1 On the Beach Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#1 Family Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#1 Romantic Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#1 Luxury Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
#1 Top resorts Hotel in Port El Kantaoui
Price Range: $82 - $188 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — STEIGENBERGER Kantaoui Bay 5*
Number of rooms: 366
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
* Partially renovated in winter 2007/8 * 3 km from Port El Kantaoui * Located on the beach * Complimentary sun loungers and parasols on the beach * 5-story building * 14 km from the center of Sousse * 200 m from various shops * 23 km from Monastir airport * 200 m from a bus stop * Credit cards accepted: MasterCard, Visa, Amex ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Imperial Marhaba

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