Thursday, January 28, 2010

Worthwhile Present and Incredible Future at Club Med Sandpiper


Though I have been to more all- inclusives than I can count, I was a Club Med virgin.   Everyone told me that Club Med Sandpiper wasn’t the best example for my “first,” but when the opportunity to go there presented itself, I really wanted to give it a try.

There are many reasons why Club Med Sandpiper isn’t a good example of the company, which began in 1950 as the first all-inclusive chain and now has 57 resorts around the world.  They didn’t originally include drinks as part of the plan and the idea was for minimal furnishings and group dining.   They have evolved over the years, altering plans to include drinks and less communal meals.   They have also continually renovated resorts.  And Club Med Sandpiper  is last on the list.


For awhile, it looked like they weren’t going to keep the only remaining (there used to be a resort in Colorado) Club Med on U.S. soil,  but this complex in St. Lucie, Florida was meant to stay.  The plan changed with the idea that this property would not only be renovated, but it would become a golf and tennis destination.  The place for the active traveler to enjoy an all-inclusive in the United States.

I arrived at Club Med Sandpiper after the resort had been closed for the months.  It was the end of the first phase of the renovation, which began with the transformation of the tennis facilities and some of the rooms.  Most of the staff was brand new and many of the rooms had problems (ranging from brown water to broken televisions).  But the kinks were worked out as the week went on and, despite rain that kept many from enjoying the Caribbean atmosphere, I’ve never seen so many people go from complaining to raving in a few short days.


The truth is, even as I changed rooms (three times) and encountered staff who didn’t even know where the restaurant was, it was hard not to like Club Med Sandpiper.  You can grab the strawberry daiquiri, sit by the  pool listening to Calypso music, eat tropical fruits and dance the night away as if you were in the Bahamas, without worrying about passports and customs, which are a harsh reality of today’s traveling climate.  Though most of the staff knew less about the resort than I did, they were more than willing to learn with me and stay with me until I got where I needed to go.

As you walk through the Club Med property you won’t have a doubt that renovations are necessary.  The plan, according to Kevin Batt, Director of Leisure Activities for Club Med, is to spend $35 million dollars “to build something with an emphasis on active guests, including running paths with stations and a modern wellness center.”  This will be in addition to the transformation of the pool and beach area and the golf facilities, which will become – like the tennis – a place for training as well as playing.

Batt says Club Med Sandpiper will close during the fall months (their slowest time) to complete the renovation in stages.  It will take longer that way, but the guests will not ever feel like they are in the middle of a construction site.  In the meantime, everything is open, including the golf, tennis, spa (which was about to be renovated so next time I enjoy that incredible massage it will be in a hut along the water), two restaurants, circus tent (for kids of all ages), pools and more.  


One of the best parts for me was being introduced into the “G.O.” (Gracious Organizers) experience.  In the all-inclusive resorts I’ve previously been in, there were guests and there were workers.  The two were not supposed to mingle.  The Club Med philosophy is the exact opposite.  The G.O.s are your guides.  They play, eat and drink (after their shift has ended) with you.  It’s never about tips as they aren’t supposed to take them.  It’s about making sure you have the best Club Med vacation you can.  And that philosophy continues with the executives.  Jean Marc Desy, the resort’s General Manager, was out each night, leading the entertainment and mingling with the guests.

While we await the new version of Club Med Sandpiper, due to open in December 2010, it’s still worth a trip to the old version. There are some great deals and you don’t need to even leave the country for this Club Med. You may not get a brand new room or the perfectly pedicured property that has already been finished in Punta Cana, but the food is about the best I’ve ever had at an all-inclusive, the activities are endless and the staff will make sure you have fun – with your favorite drink in hand!
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You won’t find any shortage of drinks at Club Med no matter what your taste, but this spirits traveler can be difficult at times as a citrus allergy keeps me from imbibing in a lot of standard cocktails.  I challenged each bartender at Club Med Sandpiper to come up with a drink I hadn’t had before and would really enjoy.  The winner?  Ryan and what he defined as a “57 T-Bird with Cape Cod Plates.”  To translate this yummy concoction:
Vodka, Amaretto, Triple Sec and Cranberry Juice in a Martini Glass!


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Marcia, I have to say I agree 100% with your comments regarding the club. Indeed, you were correct about the bartender Ryan, whose cocktails knowledge is impressive. During my week I was daily impressed trying new recipe he wanted me to discover. It seems we have the same passion. I just came back from Columbus isle and took some pictures I wish to share with the bar team. Recognizing on the picture Ryan (in my opinion the best one), would you have his e-mail address so I can send him the picture of the team? Thx in advance for your help. Nicolas

Marcia Frost said...

Hi Nicolas,

Thanks for the comments. I'm looking forward to going back there soon to see the renovations. Unfortunately, I don't have Ryan's info.

Enjoy your travels,
Marcia

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