by Kathy Buckworth
How She Travels, on What She Said
“Welcome home!” is the traditional greeting at a Club Med resort, and as our smiling G.O. (Gentile Organisateur) offered us a cold hand towel to rub off some of our travel dirt, I did feel a sense of belonging. If you’ve visited one Club Med, you know what to expect at the other 66 resorts, in 26 different countries. While they each have their own feel and spin, driven by the culture of the country they are located in, the constants remain the same.
The Club Med in Punta Cana has long been known for its family focus and also for being “first”. They were the first resort to open in Punta Cana in 1981 and in fact helped to build the now extremely busy airport, in 1982. They have 2,000 feet of unparalleled beachfront, and at 631 rooms, which can accommodate 1,800 guests, it is the largest capacity resort in the Club Med chain.
On December 12th, the resort was relaunched, with many upgrades and some fantastic add-ons to the original structures. The most talked about feature is the addition of Zen Oasis, a separate courtyard area with 78 suites, three to a building (two bottom, one top) which surround a long winding swimming pool where in-pool loungers are the first to be snapped up. The Hibiscus Bar serves drinks (of course!) but also offers a selection of healthy vitamin filled smoothies and fruit as well. The part that makes it most zen? This is an adult only area, albeit nestled into one of the Caribbean’s’ most family focused resorts. As usual, the designers at Club Med have incorporated local products into each room, such as the headboards made with wood sourced locally. “We try to respect the culture and nature of our surroundings”, said Carolyn Doyon, Senior Vice-President, Canada and Mexico for Club Med.
“Our target is the active, multi-generational family”, said Jacinda Lowry, National Sales Director for Canada for Canada, “With a focus on active”, she continued, as we toured the extensive grounds. And active it is. The fitness centre was recently upgraded as well, and besides having up to date equipment, such as TRX, there are group classes offered, as well as personal training sessions, all at no extra fee. Want to do something a bit more “out there”? Choose from tennis, basketball, swimming, kayaking, wake boarding, wake surfing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, soccer, sailing, windsurfing and of course the ever popular “circus” activity offered at many Club Meds; the trapeze. But this circus has its props, with the introduction of “Creactive” a joint project between Club Med and Cirque du Soleil. Guests can try trapeze, trampoline, bungee, or just get their faces painted, with performers who have come from Cirque. Once a week, they do an impressive demonstration of circus arts; amazing for the whole family. I myself did a less than impressive demonstration on the
flying trapeze, but it is an exhilarating experience everyone should try.
“Unlike other resorts, we will teach you how to do it (the chosen activity), says Lowry “You will go home knowing something new.” With over 50 sports to choose from, there’s a lot of room for learning and having fun. They take the same approach to golf, with their “Learn. Play. Be Happy” motto. There are three golf courses within 15 minutes of Club Med Punta Cana, including 20 holes along the sea. Golf should be pre-booked before arrival. Don’t have anyone to golf with? You can have a pro join you (for a fee).
In addition to Zen Oasis, a new a la carte restaurant, Indigo, and its adjoining lounge, is open mostly all day, with options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For dinner, no children are allowed, which might extend the zen for some. Where are they kids? Perhaps eating at the very popular Kids Club (programs for children as young as 4 months and as old as 17 years), or joining Mom and Dad at one of two buffet restaurants.
The Club Med Kids Clubs are envied by all who have tried to imitate. Due to their extreme popularity, it’s best to pre-book space for kids four and under (where registration and an extra fee apply) before you get to the resort. Many parents are happy to know there is not a single video game unit available for the kids “We are here to participate in all the activities”, one of the 50 G.O.’s assigned to the Kids Club explained to us.
Seven of the 66 villages of Club Med now have a five trident (their highest rating) boutique “hotels” within their resorts. Tiara at Punta Cana also recently had a refresh and guests of these 32 family villas enjoy an infinity pool, 24/7 concierge service, room service, and other amenities not available to the rest of the guests.
After enjoying the nightly show at 9:30 (which varies, each night) Cielo bar has a dance floor and tropical drinks for those who wish to work out in this active way. Where are the kids? They might be at the Pyjama Club, open from 7pm to 1am (extra charge), or with an in-room babysitter.
Club Med is well known in Quebec, and is making in-roads into the Ontario marketplace. 120 Canadians are hired every year by Club Med as G.O.’s, and many of them stay with the company and are promoted to management positions. Every manager at Club Med starts as a G.O. They switch villages every six months to a year, and after three seasons they need to work on a different continent. With villages in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and North America, there is a lot to choose from.
And after being in operation for 65 years, the words of founder Gerard Blitz are repeated by Chairman and CEO Henri Giscard D’Estaing
“The ultimate aim in life is to be happy. The time to be happy is now. And the place to be happy is here.”
by Kathy Buckworth
Author, I Am So The Boss Of You (Random House)
Chief Family Advisor, PCFinancial & PCPlus
Columnist, SiriusXM Canada “How She Travels”
Columnist, “Parent Hacks” Post City Magazines
Travel Feature Writer, Metro News