For Spring Break my family and I traveled to the newly renovated Club Med Sandpiper Bay. Club Med is one of my favorite family vacation spots because it is all-inclusive and there is so much for the kids to do (and so the parents get to have their own kind of fun). Because our kids are such different ages, it is hard to find vacation resorts with activities of interest to both of them. We have taken a cruise before and with my apologies to the cruising fans, we all hated it. Club Meds are perfect for us. The price is all-inclusive, the food is good and plentiful, the staff is fun and the destinations are sunny. The atmosphere is very casual, kind of funky and very international. We’ve been to Sandpiper before and also to Punta Cana and wanted to try Ixtapa, Mexico but we couldn’t find any reasonable flights. Sandpiper Bay is near West Palm Beach, Florida, just a short 90 minute flight from Atlanta; flights are plentiful and inexpensive. For a last minute vacation, it was perfect. We were also curious to see the new renovations.
This is what I liked:
- There were many food choices. While red meat and pork were plentiful for meat-lovers (that would not be me), there was plenty of seafood and salads as well.
- The adult only section in the restaurant. Since my kids were not with us for lunch, it was nice to be able to sit far away from other people’s screaming kids.
- The adult only pool and hot tub. No explanation needed.
- The “beach.” It’s still on a river, not the ocean, but I can see a big improvement over the old beach. They made it wider and brought in more sand. The effect is very relaxing and soothing for lounging, if not for actually getting in the water.
- The Mini Club. This is the primary reason to visit a family Club Med. You don’t get that level of activity and engagement with the children anywhere else.
- The Teen Club. It’s a brillant idea to have a place for the older kids to congregate and meet other kids.
- There was so much to do: tennis, golf, basketball, sailing, volleyball, pool games, circus school, trapeze, dance lessons and several exercise classes.
- Or there was nothing to do. There were plenty of comfy places to lounge: in the bar, outside the bar, at the beach or at one of the 3 pools.
- The White Chocolate Bread was still at every meal and still delicious. This is a Club Med staple and worth every indulgent calorie.
This is what I didn’t like:
- The restaurant doesn’t do “theme nights” anymore. Now there is international food at every meal, but it was nice to have French Night or Italian Night. The restaurant used to decorate to reflect the country and the food was elaborately displayed. My son (at the age of four) tried frogs legs on French Night.
- The renovated Family Club Room: the way the kids’ bunk bed cubby is configured, it makes the whole room chopped up and claustrophobic. The bathroom is tiny and there is no lid on the toilet (I was sure something was going to fall in there). Next time we will spring for the Deluxe Family Room with a real bedroom for the kids and 2 bathrooms.
- The bar was very far from the adult pool. By the time you got a drink and walked all the way to the pool, the ice had melted.
- The towel exchange window was basically in the parking lot, far away from the pool or beach. It took me 2 days to find it. It just doesn’t make sense.
- I have mixed feelings about “feel” of the renovation. While it is very nice and modern, it feels like Miami. This is a criticism of the new Club Med in general because I could have been at any American resort, vs the old Club Med, which was very funky, crunchy and distinctly not American. Remember, I used to be a G.O. back when Club Med still had bar beads as currency and no phones or televisions in the rooms. All the G.O.s wore pareos and no shoes. Now they wear golf shirts and shorts. It’s very different and I prefer the old Club Med ways (but with the updated amenities). Only old school Club Med vacationers can appreciate this criticism, everyone else will like the Miami vibe.
- With the exception of the Mini Club and Teen Club staff, I found the G.O.s to be just “meh.” They were not as engaging as G.O.s should be.
- There was no boutique. Club Med has wonderful boutiques; I have gotten some beautiful pareos in the past. I don’t know if they are going to add one at a later date or not, but I found the lack of a boutique baffling.
Despite my grievances, it was a great vacation. My kids had a ball. My daughter was in the Mini Club everyday with the other 8-10 year olds, the Manatees. The Mini Club opened at 8:00 a.m., but we usually dropped her off about 9:30 a.m., after leisurely waking and eating breakfast. She played all day and then we picked her up at 5:00 p.m. only because the Mini Club closed at that time–she would have stayed all night. This was her first time at Club Med and I knew that she would love it; she’s very active and she prefers being with kids rather than adults.
I was a little more worried about my son. The Club has a teen lounge, Latitude 27, but kids this age come and go as they please and it’s up to the kid to decide how much they want to be involved. Luckily we met Wren, the G.O. in charge of Latitude 27, as soon as we checked in so my son felt comfortable checking out the lounge. By the second day he had found a gang of friends to hang with in the lounge and around the Club. He ate breakfast with us and then he was gone for the rest of the day. Sometimes we happened upon him playing water polo or sailing on the river, but he was having too much fun to notice.
With both kids occupied all day, my husband and I had rare time to ourselves. We exercised, sailed, ate lunch together – in the adult only section of the restaurant – and laid around talking. We never, ever, ever get to do that for days on end. It was fantastic.
The song attached to Club Med’s new campaign is addictive and perfect for dreaming of sunlit skies and sandy beaches. Listen. I can practically feel the fruity drink in my hand. Aaaah….we’ll be there again soon!