Hotel Marina Plaza
New hotel in Tala Bay, some 20 kg south of Aqaba. The complex has around 260 rooms in 2-storey buildings. Nice comfortable rooms with A/C and heating, minibar, minisafe (free of charge), bathroom with shower. The rooms - as the rest of the complex - were spotlessly clean.
Very nice pool area with 3 (heated) pools, enough sun loungers and umbrellas. Free pool towels. Great hotel for winter and early spring 'cause the pool area is surrounded by the rooms and the public areas and thus protected from the wind.
Check-in and check-out went quick and smoothly.
Hotel staff, both front desk, restaurant personnel, pool boys, room boys were very friendly and helpful.
We had booked half board (breakfast + dinner) and found the food to be of very good quality. Every evening was another theme (Mexican, Italian, Jordan, ...) and there was something for everyone. Breakfast was a very extensive buffet, with eggs made to order, pancakes, a variety of fresh fruits and yoghurts, cold meats and cheeses, but also Jordanian specialties (delicious halawa).
Drinks in the restaurant and at the pool bar were pretty expensive, as was the food at the pool bar.
Guest of Marina Plaza have free entry to the beach and the Beach Club (don't forget to ask your voucher to the towel boy at the hotel pool).
What I missed in this hotel was a room with comfy seats to spend the chilly evenings. There was no place inside the building where you could sit back and relax.
Tala Bay Beach Club
The Tala Bay Beach Club consists of a private beach, a pool complex (with swim-up bar) and a restaurant. Guests of Marina Plaza have free entrance to the club (ask your voucher at the towel boy of the hotel).
The restaurant part: salads, pizza, pasta, sandwiches.
Drinks were pretty expensive, as they were at the hotel. We had pizza for lunch which was so-so.
A Mini View of Jordan
"A Good Photographer is Worth A Million Tourists"
I've just returned from a 7 week trip to 8 cities in the 4 countries of France, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt. I took an epicurean journey across France, soaked in the culture of the desert and Bedouin's of Jordan, and of course, my reason for visiting the country, having been seduced by the alluring, breathtaking photographs of Petra. Since I am not that religious a person, it couldn't hurt walking the land where all of the great biblical characters travelled.
We did Amman, Jerash, Madaba, Nebo, Kerak, Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba, Jordan. The residential compounds of the newly emigrated Iraqi billionaires we saw are just mind boggling in Amman. We we were wondering how many of those multi billion dollar Iraqi compounds were paid for with disappearing American tax dollars. Overall we found the Jordanian people to be calm, friendly, and laid back EXCEPT FOR PETRA. While the carvings into the rock mountains of Petra are indeed majestic, it was less than I expected, having been seduced by the photography. Petra is a city built for tourists and like many tourist areas, the goal is to seperate the tourists from their money ASAP, It's just that they have not learned to do it yet with finesse in Petra and feel tipping is a requirement, regardless of the caliber of service. While the tour states they have paid for the guide, donkeys that walk you a few yards, you are told what to tip by the Petra guide for the guys that lead the donkeys the few feet. And I always thought tipping was a courteousy for good service, and of course the guide expected a tip also. I found Petra to be more expensive than Paris, and not near as exciting or interesting. I often hear Americans complaining of the rudenes of Parisians, well you haven't visited Petra then. We used a vendor of GoWay Tours and I have learned that it might be better to pay a few more dollars up front for a more expensive tour than be nickled and dimed to death along the way. While all of the hotels were top notch in Jordan, they were so remote that you were relegated to eating what the hotel had to offer(usually a mediocre buffet costing between $35 and $45 USD equivalent) for dinner or incur additional costs roundtrip cab fare which varied from location to location. In Petra at the Petra Panorama, Queen Rania St., Wadi Mousa, a lovely hotel built from a former castle, we had to pay $5 USD for a large bottle of water. We were a captive audience so far out. There was no choice.
"The Boudian People of the Desert"
On to Wadi Rum, a project by the Jordanian government reportedly to motivate the 'Boudian' people of the desert to develop a more stationary life. Camping and rock climing tours are available for the more adventurous types led by these desert experts. The desert offered it's own majesty and peacefulness. After rock climbing in Petra, I was a desert dusty spectator by this time. I rinsed away the desert dust in Aqaba at the Marina Plaza Aqaba with it's spectacularly beautiful physical facility about 10 miles from the Israeli border... and they have a good chef there too. While you can look over the bridge into Israel, I am told that one is tied up at the border for about three hours, a $40 visa fee at every crossing, which decreases interest in crossing over, however because Aquaba is so inexpensive compared to Eliat, many Israelis do their shopping in Aqaba as there are less hoops to jump through in crossing the border into Jordan.
Since I travel with the idea of expecting the unexpected, despite the unexpected, unwelcome obstacles of this trip, I made lemonade out of the lemons, and had a great time.
"Aqaba, A local Favorite Getaway"
While Aqaba is a holiday town with beaches, restaurants, and nightlife, even at the hotels, it does not appear to have the tourist trap characteristics of Petra, and this is where many Jordanians escape for their own weekend reprieves. The Marina Aqaba has a marina, evening entertainment, reasonable dining prices, and a shuttle into town. While it seemed quite new, with a few kinks to work out (our door lock did not work and each time we left the room the front desk had to perform surgery on the lock in order for us to reaccess the room) I'd consider returning here again, but not in July where the heat just takes your breath away like July in Las Vegas. If you've ever experienced Las vegas in July, no other explanation is needed.
Marina Plaza Resort Aqaba, Aqaba, Jordan