I wanted to like Splashworld, Splash World, or Venus Beach, depending on who you ask as to what its name is. (If you’re using a taxi it’s Venus Beach incidentally)
I really did want to like it. I actively tried, which probably indicates as to how the rest of this review is going to turn out.
We (the wife and I) arrived at about 9am from Amsterdam, having booked all inclusive, and were pleasantly surprised by the decor and spaciousness. It looks, on first impression all rather nice. We filled in our forms and were given our room card key, and waded through the labyrinth of corridors until, on the second floor, we found our room.
First impression : Looks good! A double bed, rather than two pushed together. Nice shower and toilet. Everything spotless. I’d probably been holding my breath in anticipation which is why until that moment I’d not noticed the smell. Ah yes.. the smell. Paint. Lots of paint.
By this time I’d taken off my jacket and hung it in the closet, but the smell of paint perturbed me. Perhaps it’s residual, I thought, and opened the patio doors onto the balcony, which was small but functional, looking out onto… a lot of walls and a bunch of windows, all of which could see into our room if our curtains were not closed. Then I made the mistake of touching the night-stand near the bed.
Instant paint on my fingers. I then checked every white surface. Wet paint on most, sticky on what wasn’t wet. I remembered my jacket now hung in a closet which was more than likely about to ruin it. Fortunately it escaped unscathed.
So… I should have been…because of the paint, fuming, if you’ll pardon the pun, but no. We decided to ignore it, left the patio doors wide open, turned on the air con and went off to find the beach.
Actually, the outside of the hotel is fine. Waterpark is decent, there is a bar that serves the all in alcohol approximately 120 meters from the sea front, and the water and beach are pristine. That done, we headed back to get changed, showered and ready for the rest of the day.
Just as we’re about to go out again, one of the staff simply walks into our room. “Sorry she shouted… so sorry..” and vanished again, with no explanation as to why she’d walked in. The room door was locked so she must’ve had a master key.
Sadly this wasn’t the only time someone walked in on us. The second time, my wife was in the shower.. and I had only a top on. Two women, one with a “Finance Department” nametag on her, opened the door again with what has to be a master key. As it happened I covered my modesty with a handy towel. “We looking for the safe. Has room safe?”, the one woman asked. I was tempted to say “Given your staff’s penchant for ignoring locks, would it make any difference?”
So… other than that, the room was OK until the last day. There were actually 6 or 7 channels showing English programs for all of our stay until the last one, where suddenly those channels disappeared. As we were heading out at 5am we actually wanted to just relax on the last eve and watch tv. The wife went to reception and was told : ” We have had to cancel those channels. Costs too much.”. Given that the hotel had not been open 4 weeks I found that somewhat hard to swallow.
So… about the rest of the experience. I have to give a shout out to Shelly the British rep. She was helpful and bouncy. However, there were darkened corridors, much hammering and crashing and bashing, electrical wires visible in places and in the bar, many tales of how people had to be relocated, or were simply going to leave.
We took 2 excursions, one was called “off the beat and track” which promised 4×4 action but turned into basically a people carrier rather than a land rover type vehicle so while it did fulfil the promise of being a 4×4, 90% of the places could’ve been accessed by an old Ford Escort. The other 10% were short roads leading to places to park which could easily have been walked up. It was ok, and I took some nice pictures, but it was no Simon King jeep experience. More like taking a car to Beeston Castle.
The second was called Tunisian capital sights.. and took us to Carthage, which was basically rubble, some old romanesque baths which were half rubble, half walls, the Bardo museum, which was lots of mosaics (nice if you like that sort of thing, mind numbingly boring if you don’t after the first two) and then a small town demonstrating the blue and white style buildings used in their architecture. The whole structure of the trip was utterly wrong from advertised, as we were supposed to have a few hours in the Bardo museum in the afternoon, but went there in the morning for maybe 50 mins tops, (which was for me fantastic as there was nothing to see there, and a large chunk of their exhibits were … on loan to Leiden museum where I live!), and the village trip lasted nearly 2 hours, where after the guided tour (25 mins) the majority of people were back at the car park waiting for the bus for an hour with nothing to do.
We got back to the hotel an hour earlier than predicted, having been bored senseless for most of the trip. Oh… and the restaurant meal offered in the price of the trip : You don’t get to choose from a menu. First course was egg based, which I’m allergic too, rendering my wife unkissable for the next few hours. Second course was chicken covered in some form of sauce, probably containing egg, which I wouldn’t have eaten in a million years.
So, with excursions and room covered, the only thing left is the food and drink and sleep quality. Food : Buffet style. In 7 days there were 3 days I couldn’t eat anything for lunch which was offered (inc the excursion). Breakfasts offered cooked meats and cereals and toast, dinners involved things like rice and stews, pastas, lots of egg based things, steamed veg. Most people would find something to eat, and even I was sort of OK with all my food foibles. However.. a word of warning :
BEWARE OF THE FISH!!
The fish is not filleted. Even in what look like Fish Mcnuggets. You bite one, it’s like biting a porcupine. if you have small children do NOT let them near it. It is only a matter of time before someone is hospitalised by the bones.
Alcoholwise… there are the standard Vodka Whisky Rum Wine and Beer all free. It’s bland. Banal even. but it’s free. Given that there’s actually very little to do on site we went from food to bar to bed most days when we were actually in the hotel.
Sleepwise… in 7 nights I had two sleepless ones. Simply too much noise from other people on one night, and the other I assume was paint related. The bed was great though.
Taxis : It’s a 5dinar taxi to Yasmine. 7 to Hammamet. We were charged 4 different prices to/from Yasmine and there’s really not a lot you can do about it. Yasmine houses the bar the Rovers Return though which was our saviour throughout the time we had in Tunisia.
To kill time, and because we’re reasonably fit, we decided instead of taxis, to walk along the beach to Hammamet and Yasmine. To Hammamet took maybe a 1hour 15 mins, and Yasmine 40ish minutes. Bother were easily doable and in Yasmine we rewarded ourselves with pints in the Rovers Return (somewhere we came back to 4 times) and a bar claiming to be an English bar called The View, which did have a great view of the beach and sea, and was playing the cheesiest 90s dance music you can think of. Dr Alban, Haddaway, Shabba Ranks etc. but was about as English as Haggis. Hammamet however was a bad experience. A big bunch of youths surrounded us as we walked around the walls, screaming obscenities in English and who knows what else in Arabic. The wife was dressed modestly, as was I, but the hostility was grim. We never went back to Hammamet after that.
So… to sum up. If you’re prepared to have staff walk into your room, prepared to tolerate a room that stinks of paint, and ok with losing 28% of your booked nights sleep, not demanding on your food, not demanding on your drinks, OK with just laying on the beach and taking in the sun, you could… could.. have a good time here.
We paid €300 per person all in from Amsterdam. it’s really hard to say that it wasn’t value for money because with the food and drink and sun there, it probably was. But.. it didn’t feel like it. It didn’t feel like a holiday. We had to try to enjoy it, rather than it coming naturally and thus, I can’t begin to say “oh yes, you’ll love it”, because I really don’t think anyone will. I’ve stayed in hostels at £10 a night, and I’ve stayed in hotels in Vegas but never have I felt as disillusioned as when I got on the plane home again.
Which pretty much sums the whole thing up.
One last thing. The WiFi is abysmal both in the hotel and elsewhere. Yes there are lots of people using it so… get another connection. It’s not rocket science!