A tropical vacation in Germany in December – my review of Tropical islands

During our drive from Croatia to Sweden in the summer of 2017 (you can read about it here), a bit before reaching Berlin I noticed a big dome on the right of the autobahn. A quick online search revealed that the facility is called Tropical islands, an artificially built tropical world. Despite the obvious tackiness, I was curious and wanted to visit the place sometime in the future. Fast forward to December 2018: my parents asked me to buy a car for them and it was time to deliver it to Croatia. We would be passing by Tropical islands again which was a great opportunity for a visit. Here is my review of the facility. As with all my reviews, it is based on my own uncensored experience paid out of my own pocket and not backed by any means of compensation.

Our expectations were simple – a kitschy but interesting place that would be a lot of fun for our four year old daughter and where the food would be expensive and would suck. The conclusion after the visit is that the expectations were met. Please read on for a more detailed review.

We stayed for one night which allowed us to use the facility from 6 am on the day of the arrival until 1 am the day after checking out – a total of 43 hours. Out of these 43 hours, you have access to your accommodation from 4 pm on the day of arrival to 11 am the next day. Since we had other plans during our drive from Sweden to Croatia, we only stayed for roughly 24 hours. We aimed for the middle of the work week in order to minimize the chances of crowds. We arrived on a Wednesday in the week before Christmas and other than waiting for around 30 minutes for check in, the facility was not overcrowded. After checking in we went to the changing rooms and then left our luggage for storage at the reception, since we did not yet have access to our room. During the whole stay in the facility, you have access to a locker where you can keep your smaller belongings, such as shoes and a backpack. You lock and unlock it with a waterproof bracelet, which is also used as a method of payment during your stay. This is on the one hand (pun intended) very practical because you do not have to have your wallet on you, but on the other hand it is dangerous because it obfuscates how much you have spent. Luckily, the bracelet has a default limit of maximum 250 euros and there are stations throughout the facility where you can check your saldo. Also there are self-service machines where you can settle the bill whenever you please.

The beach and the sea
The beach and the sea

From an engineering aspect I find the facility fascinating. The size of the dome is stunning and stepping in for the first time does leave quite an impression. I can imagine that maintaining a tropical ecosystem in Germany is quite a challenge. The logistics work fine, everything is well signposted and well organized. One thing to keep in mind is that some members of staff do not speak English. For me it was a good opportunity to practice my rusty German.

There is plenty to do in the dome. You can swim, relax at the beach, walk through a rain forest, ride water slides, go for a ride in a balloon or enjoy the spa. There is also a big area with various activities for kids. I will not list all the attractions here as I think discovering them on your own is part of the fun. However, do keep in mind that a lot of activities cost extra and are not included in the entrance fee. We felt that during our 24 hours we had enough time to discover all the facilities Tropical islands has to offer. However, allow for more time if you want to spend some more time at each attraction. On the other hand, my feeling is that two days would be slightly too long (but take into account that I am not a “just lie on the beach and do nothing” kind of person).

Our room was in a building adjacent to the dome and connected to the dome via a closed hallway. This was very practical as we did not have to change clothes in order to reach the room. The room category was “comfort double room” – it was a standard hotel room with a double bed and a private bathroom. It was quite modern and spacious and offered ample storage space and surfaces where you can hang your towels and swim suit in order to let them dry. I was positively surprised by the standard of the room. At 216 euros per night, including a breakfast buffet and the entrance fee for two adults (a four year old child enters and sleeps for free), I felt that it was a good value. There are plenty of other accommodation options throughout the dome (even tents!), which get you even closer to all the attractions, but at the same time open up for noise disturbance. We did not feel it was worth to pay more in order to stay in the dome itself and were very happy with our room in the adjacent (but connected) building. We had also considered staying completely outside of the dome somewhere in its vicinity, but it would be a lot less convenient to have to change into winter clothes in the evening and then back into summer clothes the next morning. Furthermore, we would miss out on having access to the facility during the night (taking a walk through the facility at 1 am was an experience in its own). And as an overnight guest you get some perks such as free towels.

In my opinion, there are two big minuses to the facility. The first one is the food – it is just plain bad. We spent an additional 107 euros for the food during our stay, not counting the breakfast which was included in our room rate. Other than two lunches and a light dinner, we ate plenty of ice-cream and had late-night coffee and desserts. For the amount of food eaten, this is a reasonable amount, but not for the quality. However, I do have to point out that the breakfast buffet did stand out compared to the rest of the food on offer – it was both varied and of decent quality. A big plus for the freshly squeezed orange juice!

The second big minus is the coldness. The three of us found both the air and water to be on the chilly side. The air temperature of 26 degrees is fine when you are dry, but stepping out of the water felt very unpleasant until getting dry again. And the water temperature is also a degree or two too cold in my opinion. I am aware that the perception of warmth is subjective and the facility management does claim that most visitors are happy with the temperature, but for us this was a significant letdown.

During our visit Aneta kept making comparisons to Kokpunkten, a water adventure park which we visited earlier in 2018 (you can read about it here). Even though there are some similarities between the two (the most obvious being the water slides where Kokpunkten is much better), in my opinion Tropical islands offer more and justify spending the night, while I felt content and ready to leave after only a few hours at Kokpunkten.

All in all we are very happy that we got to experience Tropical islands. It was fun for our daughter and it was mostly a pleasant experience even for us grown ups. The level of tackiness was lower than I had feared. But the bad quality of food and the chilly air and water temperature do lower the overall impression. If you have not been there, I would definitely recommend coming and staying for a night, but I am not sure we will come for a repeated visit.

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