Radisson Blu Hotel Resort, El Quseir – wonderful beaches & ideal for snorkelling & so much more.

Posted in Travel on September 29th, 2014 by John Coxon

Some essential information for guests and those considering a first class beach holiday experience.

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Radisson Blu Hotel Five Star Resort,  El Quseir, Egypt  – always uncrowded pristine and beautiful coral reef beaches  perfect for all year round sunbathing, swimming , snorkelling and diving on site-  A personal view from recent  first hand experience including some essential information and tips ( here in italics ) for guests and those considering the very best in  first class beach holiday experience.

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I have just returned from a fortnight’s stay at this wonderful top of the range hotel resort in Egypt and whilst I like to swim and snorkel, I have never been one to sit and sunbathe as my 91 year old Mum still loves to do ( whom I travelled with as her carer.)

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As a professional photographer the resort supplied me with countless opportunities to get so many wonderful photographs and thus in free time, while Mum sunbathed by the pool,   I documented the resort in great detail . Also, as an independent on-line journalist,  I also took a constructive  impartial look at the resort as a hospitality business and resort and compared it , from the perspective of personal experience , with what the brochures and tour operators said. It exceeded all expectations in every way.

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Radisson Blu Experience in hundreds of photos I hope to tempt you to try it yourself

You can check out any of several albums with hundreds of those photographs  I uploaded to my personal Facebook, and, as my focus in this entry, one of a series about the hotel ,  is largely the hotel resort’s magnificent beaches you might like to start here on the basis that a picture paints a thousand words  Beach Area Album or view a selection on my Flickr pro account here as a slideshow  Beach Photos

The Resort’s ample sun sea and sand assets

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The Radisson Blu at El Quseir is one of the most southerly modern  Red Sea hotel resorts and very likely one of the top one hundred hotels in the world. it was created and funded by a Swedish philanthropist wishing to create a tourism industry for the deprived local town of El Quseir and to support the local economy and community in a variety of ways while minimising impact on the environment- employing 250 local people on site.

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(The hotel and the Radisson group take ethical, responsible  business and care of the environment very seriously. more on those practices can be found in my previous detailed blog entry here )

Jewel in its crown , wonderful beaches , coral reef and crystal clear sea.

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One of its priceless assets , equal to its fantastic committed staff , is its glorious private Red Sea coastal strip consisting  of one long bay-like coral sand beach with roped in swimming area and  three smaller more intimate cove like beaches  facing the reef which  totals some half a mile long ( 800 metres plus)

At the three smaller cove like beaches near the reef  jetty the hotel has deliberately placed only a few permanent parasols and loungers so these spots are extra peaceful  for guests and often you may well have this area to yourself. privacysmall small coves there are few parasols, so ideal for people who like

At the three smaller cove like beaches near the reef jetty the hotel has deliberately placed only a few permanent parasols and loungers so these spots are extra peaceful for guests and often you may well have this area to yourself. privacysmall small coves there are few parasols, so ideal for people who like

On my count , based on looking at a G Map satellite view of the resort , there are some 128 permanent separate thatched parasols , well spaced out , with woven wind breaks and at least two sun loungers  under each .  (In addition the resort has three adult pools (and one smaller one for very young kids)  which have a further 50 or so parasols again often with two loungers.)

uncrowded bliss

uncrowded bliss

 

Not only does the hotel take great pride in its clean beaches it also has  a raft of  embedded green  policies to protect the environment  also helps to protect the reef’s  varied but fragile  marine life by encouraging guests to follow their guidelines to help look after the reef.

Why you never feel “so wish there  were  more spaces at the beach.”  

Whilst the  hotel has some 250 guest rooms and at full capacity accommodates some 500 people anyone preferring to sunbathe by the shore is never going to have any sense of crowding ; effectively you feel you are sharing the beach zone with only a few adding to the overall relaxing nature of the resort. As shall we say, creatures of habit ,  we tend to get into a routine on sun and sand holidays based on wants, needs and personal and family preferences  thus some people prefer  poolside locations and others the beach.

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Some guest will  remain on site for their entire stay as I did and my elderly mum, on her tenth visit to the resort. she,  having taken in all the excursions available over that time  finally finds everything she actually needs actually on site.DSC_1601

With a number of people using the resort as a luxury base for a range of excursions and the size and layout of the resort , once those that remain on site are installed at their favourite sunny spot, the rest of the resort has the feel of being almost deserted yet with a range of friendly maintenance staff constantly doing minor repairs, cleaning and sweeping the public areas  and tending to the gardening to keep the place spotless.

Spoilt for choice

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Always there’s some beach of your own and plenty of free space to relax and never the need for a sun lounger scrum or early morning towel touch downs you get in smaller hotels or those that have insufficient space and loungers.

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The whole carefully thought out organic landscape design of this resort  has a feeling of interlinked well planned spaces in harmony with each other and this is a big fourteen hectare site. It is  the complete opposite of those cynically more tightly packed resort sites that  seek to pack in as many rooms as possible to maximise profit from all available space. There is absolutely no way at any time of the year the beaches are  going to be or seem remotely crowded and neither are any of the pools .

Of the hundreds of beach shots I took it really is pleasantly unusual that there were so few people in the sea at any one time , testament to that relaxing spacious feel you get here all the time.

Of the hundreds of beach shots I took it really is pleasantly unusual that there were so few people in the sea at any one time , testament to that relaxing spacious feel you get here all the time.

During my stay over two weeks I rarely saw more than twenty or so people actually swimming in the sea or snorkelling at any one time  and rarely more than I’d guess more than 50 actually sunbathing on the beaches at any one time. (the big three pools are really big and never crowded at all either)

Radisson Beach Towel Card System

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* You won’t need to bring beach towels with you in your cases so extra space for other things in your luggage– the resort operates an efficient  towel card system – you use that card to collect your towels from the upper adult swimming pool towel post and simply return them after use and retrieve your card ready for the next day.

Friendly, helpful & courteous Abdou, in charge of the towel system. find him at the towel desk beside the top adult pool.

Friendly, helpful & , ever smiley  courteous Abdou, in charge of the towel system. Find him at the towel desk beside the top adult pool.

Refreshment and Re-hydration

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The Radisson Blu is hot all year round with daytime temperatures often peaking around 93 or 94 degrees from noon onwards and the sea breezes tend to be very warm too. *So you will need to drink plenty of liquids, especially bottled water .

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There are a number of small ,thatched ,wooden structured beach bars spaced strategically along the beach strip providing chilled bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks from early morning till dusk and if you are all inclusive these are all free.

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Smoking

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*Cigarettes can be bought on site at the hotel shop nearest the toilets and doctor’s clinic and surgery. Smoking in rooms is not allowed  nor is it in closed spaces and anywhere inside the main buildings but every outside table in eating and bar areas have ash tray glazed clay pots and there are clay pots all around the resort pathways for recycling and one for cigarette butts.

Beach tent with Dive Centre building to the rear

Beach tent with Dive Centre building to the rear

 

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Sea view from the beach tent

There is, near the Dive Centre , near the reef access jetty a very  large  tent beautifully decorated throughout with authentic Egyptian fabrics and furnishings with a bar ,  a cool space providing shade and relaxation with large comfortable low seating and a large number of traditional smoking devices the shisha which enables devotees and those wishing to go native to smoke tobacco passed through water.  (Contrary to common belief smoking the shisha is not safer option than cigarettes and the water through which smoke passes does not filter out harmful elements)

inside the beach tent

inside the beach tent

Activities

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There is a permanent beach volley ball court on the sand  and  flat areas to play other beach games including beach boules as well as a safe dedicated kid’s adventure type play area in the sand .

Beach shower in between date palms

Beach shower in between date palms

 

There are a number of conveniently located beach showers to rinse the  salt water off when you come out of the sea and maybe also cool down where temperatures all year round range from the mid 80’s to mid 90’s.

a number of safe kiddy play areas like this are located both in garden areas amidst the accomodation and also one on the longer beach.

The beautiful reef and responsible use of it

This coast is coral reef and it is carefully protected and hence the marine life in the shallows when the tide is in is extraordinarily varied and rich in diversity of often colourful coral  reef fish and diverse other marine life and the waters are pristine and crystal clear and hence ideal for safe snorkelling.  
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*You do need to wear swimming shoes to protect your feet when paddling in authorised parts of the reef lagoon  to protect yourself from sharp coral debris and some of the marine life that is poisonous or stings.
Wear sturdy soled swim shoes to protect feet from harmful marine life and sharp coal debris and small rocks.

Wear sturdy soled swim shoes to protect feet from harmful marine life and sharp coal debris and small rocks.

 You also need them or flip flops or slip on sandals when walking on stone paths, even across the wooden bridges over the eco streams because the surfaces are  often too hot to walk on barefoot. *Bring mask, flippers and snorkel even for a novice the coral shallows at high tide are safe and a wonderful site all that thriving marine life beneath you. You can purchase snorkel gear from the hotel shop of the dive centre .
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The Radisson’s coral reef is in fact a ledge going out from the beach on average about 100 metres where the depth suddenly drops  to some 50 metres and ideal for scuba diving. At low tide the coral reef is largely exposed  with some rocky pools close in to the shoreline but with the incoming tide  it is covered to waist high depth mostly and teaming with a variety of reef fish making it feel like you are snorkelling in an aquarium. It is simply stunning.

crystal clear safe shallows of the Red Sea directly in front of the resort

crystal clear safe shallows of the Red Sea directly in front of the resort

Underwater Photography

saw these whjen snorkelling but this picasso triigerfish I shot in the resorts man made eco fish pools.

saw these when snorkelling but this Picasso triggerfish I shot in the resorts man made eco fish pools.

 

The water is incredibly clear so you can get nice shots simply shooting creatures in the very shallow pools  but *you might wish to take a waterproof compact camera with you as I did ( I bought a Nikon S32 for around £50 with me) – *always use flash underwater and don’t use  optical zoom and get as close to the fish as you can without touching them and try to get level with them if you can.
species of butterfly fish are in abundance in the reef shallows at high tide - this using my compact waterproof Nikon S32- hard to get really in focus I found.

species of butterfly fish are in abundance in the reef shallows at high tide – this using my compact waterproof Nikon S32- hard to get really in focus I found.

Don’t expect pin sharp images from a compact  but it is great to have your own record of your under water adventures.
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(For those who want to get better quality images, *it is possible to buy waterproof housing for the larger DSLR which cost around £250 )

Access for more experienced snorkellers and Scuba Divers – the resort jetty

In order to protect the fragile  coral eco system and its wonderfully diverse  marine life  you can’t walk on the reef at low tide thus they hotel has constructed a long wooden jetty.  This has retractable steel gangway at its end which the lifeguard  ( on duty till sun set after which you can’t swim) lowers to the sea surface to enable snorkellers and scuba divers to access the water without the need to walk across the precious coral.

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There are warning flags due to some strong currents but also strong sea breezes which create glorious surf breaking on the reef edge shelf edge  but *when the red flag is flying great caution is advised . Mostly those are on shore winds which make it rather hard to stay in one place when snorkelling and hard to stand up in the shallows.

Guideline for guests of respect for the reef

Guideline for guests of respect for the reef

Posters in several languages are situated on the jetty and around the beach area and resort explaining how visitors can help protect the coral. It is against the law to take shells and pieces of coral from the reef and subject to heavy fines if you are caught with these things in your luggage by customs at the airport. you can only swim and snorkel to the left of this jetty.

On site Dive Centre

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There is a Subex Dive  Centre on site offering scuba and snorkelling tuition with expert  and experiences instructors as well as offering excursions to other popular diving sites .

Soemtimes a diving instructor will come and chat to you about what's on offer in terms of excurisons or lessons but won't hassle you.

Soemtimes a diving instructor will come and chat to you about what’s on offer in terms of excursions or scuba and snorkelling lessons but won’t hassle you.

 

Some of these excursions may be cancelled if there are not sufficient numbers signing up. Tuition for diving and excursions can be booked from the office at the Dive Centre or via one or two members of their staff that  tour the beach offering those facilities to those interested.

This eroded shallow rocky ledge is clearly the remants of the previous reef edge from an earlier geological period sugesting the  sea level has dropped over time.

This eroded shallow rocky ledge is clearly the remants of the previous reef edge from an earlier geological period sugesting the sea level has dropped over time.

Parts of the shoreline between the coral sandy beaches are actually a kind of shallow cliff face of sedimentary rocks, a couple of metres high , clearly the line of the reef  from an earlier geological period  and if you keep your eyes open you will see the imprint of fossilised coral and other creatures in the rock surface.

fossils in the rocks from former geological period

fossils in the rocks from former geological period

Fish and Sharks

Take heed.  There are , in the Red Sea some species poisonous fish and a number of shark species ( the latter do not come anywhere near the beaches ) Check out the  link below to see photo index  illustrating information of  the extraordinary diversity of fish you may see when snorkelling or diving off the Radisson’s reef or to the left of the jetty when the tide is in.  *If snorkelling off the resort beach always wear swim shoes and don’t touch or disturb the marine life and you are unlikely to suffer any injury or harm.

Click this link to illustrated web pages about  the extraordinary range of Red Sea Fish  and other creatures you may well encounter . *Beware  there are some  fish and other Red Sea marine life that are harmful to human underwater adventurers – find more here  Dangerous Red Sea marine animals  Of all these creatures the most dangerous to humans is without doubt  the aptly named Stone fish which has 13 black poisonous thorns any of which can pierce rubber and worth checking out the information about it as the first entry on that web page I shared  which includes vital first aid advice if stung by it.

sea urchins are in abundance of the hotel reef- my hand to show the size- don't touch the spikes are poisinous

sea urchins are in abundance of the hotel reef- my hand to show the size- don’t touch the spikes are poisonous

*Beware also of sea urchins which are very common in the shallows of the Radisson’s  reef and avoid innocent looking conus shells as the resident within can  deliver a sting with a harpoon like spike which can cause paralysis. *Familarise yourself in what to do if you are stung by any of these potentially harmful creatures – info on that can be found on the same web page that describes the hazardous creatures via the link I posted above.
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As a rule small shells you pick up on the shoreline will be very scuffed sugesting they are vacant and such empty shells should be put back in the water as growing small creatures like hermit crabs may very well make use of them as they grow and need to upsize but normally pristine glossy patterned shells have live occupants within and of course if you make the msitake I made here, simply return them to the nearest a rocky pool.

DSC_9526I  found this conche on the beach  clearly left by a snorkeller and again returned to a rocky pool as it can provide a haven for small creatures agaisnt other marine lidfe that preys on them. Just to re-iterate all marine creatures, shells and coral are protected and it is unlawful to take them and you will be heavily fined if you are caught with them by customs on departure and it goes without saying avoid product purchases that are shell based as it continues an irespinsible  market that impacts on the balance of the marine eco system. simply marvel and enjoy such things in natural situ.

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I had a wonderful holiday here and heartily recommend it to those wanting the very best in beach and sun hospitality, extra ordinary food, quality accomodation and exceptional staff to meet your needs.

 

Footnote  on Feedback and giving public recognition where merited .

If Please, if you travel here take the time, on retrun  to write a constructive  review however brief  for Trip Advisor for example because good occupancy rates are vital to preserve such resorts , maintain  the highest standards and keep local the fantastic local  people in work.

Modern travellers are included to be very much influenced in their destination choices and accomodation through research and reading first hand experience reviews . With the Radisson here, the General manager or front of house manager respond to every review they receive there and address directly any failings . In fact the resort rely on feedback for pointers to things that  they could improve and to avoid any risk of complacency.

Here’s are reviews I wrote on return adding a number of great photos , one here on Trip Advisor , the other on the German based website, Holiday Check , The  former let you write paragraphs of your own  chosing but the German website gives guidance in the has specific boxes they’d like you to respond to and rate.

Further published material of my own illustrating the merits of this resort will be added here tomorrow.

Radisson Blu Hotel Resort, El Quseir – a model for ethical responsible hospitality businesses second to none.

Posted in Travel, UK tourism on September 26th, 2014 by John Coxon

Radisson Blu El QuseirIn my capacity as a professional wedding and social events photographer I have wide experience of a full range of venues including hotels of various star gradings and have unique insights from this experience of the modern hospitality industry  and, were I to be asked which venue is the very model of all that is best in the hospitality industry and ethical business practices I can think of no other that maintains higher standards in every area including staff excellence and engagement than the Radisson Blu Hotel Resort at El Quiseir . It simply ticks all the boxes and is furthermore a genuinely responsible and ethical trader not just a brand with hollow mission statement rhetoric as many company’s sadly still are.

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poster - brief history of radisson green credentials

poster – brief history of Radisson Blu  green credentials

 

It was , I hear , the vision of Swedish philanthropist  Peder Wallenberg to build a first class hotel and resort in an area of formerly  barren Red Sea costal desert specifically to create a  tourist industry for the nearby small town of El Quseir and genuinely support its people in a variety of ways and help boost its ailing local economy and counteract general poverty. This included sourcing fresh food and materials locally, helping local charities and for example creating and  funding an education centre for local kids.

 

It also embedded as normal practice  a range of responsible policies to ensure minimum impact on the local environment with for example , active recycling, energy saving lighting, use of grey water sourced from the hotels own well, absence of chemicals in cleaning products , water saving measure and a raft of other environmentally friendly embedded ethical behaviours as standard.

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They have constructed a huge pool and stocked it with various fish both for the enjoyment of guests and eventually as a source of food using water from their well with streams either side filtering into what was to be an additional organic style lagoon swimming pool.

Water oxygenated by pumping well water in several parts of the pnd.

Water oxygenated by pumping well water in several parts of the pnd.

 

Sadly due to the high daily temperature and shallowness of the water a big algae problem developed. Thus the bottom pool had , reluctantly to be chlorinated but the upper pools left unchlorinated and it became the daily chore of the gardening staff  use nets and brushes to clear the algae.

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The hotel run’s a conservation project to support the rare and highly endangered Egyptian Tortoise and is beginning another initiative to cultivate fish and to use the resultant water , high in nutrients from fish droppings to cultivate plants for food for the hotel.

There are some 250 local people on the staff who have all been given free professional training in house and college based  in hospitality, IT, languages and other relevant skill areas and  many of them are the sole bread winner for their families. During the recent crisis caused by the “Arab Spring “ and  unrest in the major cities of Egypt government foreign offices wrongly advised that all of Egypt was no longer safe to travel and  this relatively remote  and very safe hotel resort suffered badly in terms of occupancy rates crashing from the mid 80% to little over 10%. The overheads for staffing and maintaining such a large complex to the highest standards are of course considerable and it would not have been unreasonable for the owners to have put a large number of staff out of a job.

But , as a responsible ethical business the owner was confident that the situation would be temporary and the hotel would recover in time and get back to full occupancy and thus agreed to keep and fund the staff. As things recovered however it was thought vital to source new customers and the local choice was either Russian or Italian visitors – having compared the two cultures at other resorts  it was easy to choose the polite, temperate friendly Italians and hence , on the first week of my stay there four fifths of the guests were Italian families, and the second week, in keeping with the start back to school in Italy, two fifths of the occupancy were Italians but of those only a handful of children.

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Although you would expect very high standards of accommodation, amenities , food and service in a five star resort (it offers all those things in spades)  it’s the genuine  friendly courtesy of the hard working dedicated staff in all roles throughout the resort that makes staying here such a delight. The senior management must be thrilled to have an entire staff who are very evidently so proud to be working here, are totally engaged in their work and all so genuinely welcoming and helpful.

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It comes as no surprise whatsoever that my elderly mother, now in her ninety first year , has stayed here on ten occasions , for a month at a time and only recently stayed again just for two weeks because the travel company were uneasy about her travelling without a carer when she had fallen on the previous visit and spent the last week in a nearby hospital. Thus I had the pleasure of travelling with her and so looked forward to the opportunity of experiencing the hospitality she never stopped  talking about when she got home. The hotel resort exceeded all expectations and my mother was again treated like royalty by the staff as if she was family and I felt like a VIP too.

Mum had developed a routine over the years she has been staying here, despite the incredible range and variety of all that wonderful food – her breakfast  was always a freshly cooked single egg mushroom omelette, bread roll with butter and coffee. For lunch and evening meal she wanted freshly made mushroom soup and each day those things appeared magically, usually in the hands of her favourite waiter and friend Eslam.

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In the second week she became a little more adventurous and would walk over to the fruit and desert counters to add another course to the soup one. Often Eslam would help her and , when pomegranates were not out, for example, he would always go and find some for her. Nothing was too much trouble.

Mum likes to sit in the sun by the pool  near the main building close to a loo by the pool but only a short walk to the eating areas. Every morning, beyond the call of duty and the hotel’s towel card system,  the man in charge of the towels ,Abdou, wDSC_1604 on her leg one day he spent half an hour giving her first aid and came back next day with some cream for the injury. I lost my voice one day (all those hellos I shouted in Italian and Arabic) plus singing along to lovely  Akmed , the singer keyboard player who entertained us at one of the beach bars in the evening. When I saw Eismat next day he went off , came back with fresh mint leaves , honey and sharp lemons and made me a remedy at the bar to soothe my throat.

I fell having tripped on a path going down to the beach bar  late one night and cut my head, knee and heel and my German companion Oliver insisted I went to reception to see the doctor. The house doctor was called and arrived within ten minutes from his home.

The excellent hotel doctor

The excellent hotel doctor

( He’s responsible for all the staff as well as guests.) He was charming , very thorough, stitched my head and dressed the other injuries. Alas he said no swimming in the sea of showers to avoid possible infection!  I did have to call in and see him to have the dressings changed but such a great guy.

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Sadly Mum slipped in the loo on her very last day early morning and the hotel staff , house keeping and front of house people were brilliant. She had a bad cut on her head. They helped clean her up, get her to reception and  again the doctor came . He stitched her head and bandaged her up on site. she was dreading having to go to hospital and happy she did not have to thanks to the doctor’s care. All that last day staff showed such care and concern for her – happily she was fit to fly and is hoping to go again. Her health visibly improved within just a few days at the resort her movement was better getting round and she was much more out going and chatty. All through our stay as shifts of staff changed people who remembered her so fondly would greet her warmly and genuinely happy to see her again.

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As a nation we are inclined to complain of things don’t go well but less inclined to offer positive constructive feedback ( so vital for the genuine businesses like this Radisson flagship who value feedback as a means of self assessment and looking at potential problems and ways to further improve and I sure some people can never be pleased and actually look for things to complain about. I have written two very positive and constructive unsolicited reviews , one for Trip Advisor and the other for Hotel Check for this great hotel and in fact also have shared countless photographs of the resort from my two week stay there generating extraordinary activity on my Facebook from friends but also staff and guests I met there who joined my friends list. I have no professional connection with the hotel whatsoever  – I simply became a huge fan of its facilities, location and accommodation, food and exceptional genuine service and wanted to show the lovely staff how much I valued their efforts.date palm Radisson Blu

I like to snorkel but don’t do sun bathing and it was a great joy as an ardent  photographer to find so many great things to photograph and that included shooting most of the staff at work to share with them as public recognition for the great job they all do.

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The hotel gets generally great feedback on Trip Advisor from the range of nationalities they serve and either the General Manager or the front of house manager always responds to every review from guests and openly address any issues they raise in an attentive, courteous, professional  and friendly manner.

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