Club Med knows how to treat families, and they have “villages” all over the world. For what you get, packages are reasonable. Think of this: next‘s year‘s holidays in the sun!
Last year my family and I tried the all-inclusive family vacation at Club Med Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie, Florida. We like to hike and bike, but other than that we are into competitive laziness on our family vacations. We really didn’t picture Club Med as a family destination, but nevertheless, always game for something new, we packed our bags and headed to Florida.
My husband, Rick, my 5-year-old daughter, Helen, and I flew into West Palm Beach and were greeted by a driver who took us to our destination along the beautiful St. Lucie River. We were promptly greeted and checked in, and our bags were whisked away. After a short break we were off to our first Club Med experience – a fabulous meal.
Dining was a great part of our overall experience at Club Med. The main buffet dining area is filled with tables of varying sizes, and dinner spans several hours so that families may eat when they like. One night you may find yourself eating alone as a family, another night may find your family eating with the Village Chief, one of the Kids’ Club Med Organizers or a nice family from France.
The food was really great! There were themed buffets every night along with some staples like salads, breads, cheeses and kid-friendly stuff, which was available at every meal. Wine, beer, soft drinks, tea, coffee, etc. are also included with every meal. There is a sit-down reservations-only restaurant as well for ages 12 and older, which is all-inclusive. Personally, we liked the more relaxed atmosphere of the main dining areas.
For daily activities away from Mom and Dad, kids are divided by age with special care taken to cater to their needs. As a member of the 4 – 5-year-old group, Helen was offered circus training among other fun activities. Helen’s group was the youngest to participate, playing the lions and tigers in the show with help from their “tamer,” one of several actual professional circus trainers! On one night, the evening’s entertainment was a show under Club Med’s very own big top. The kids performed in full costume and face paint. Older kids performed stunts – harnessed or otherwise protected – that I am sure made their parents gasp with delight and surprise just as we did.
In addition to learning circus skills, Helen swam, played tennis, did science experiments in Crazy Lab, played kickball and had relay races all before lunch. We picked her up at noon every day to spend the remainder of the day with us. The programs are open all day so that parents can leave their children for as long or as short a time as they choose. Parents receive a schedule of their child’s day so that they can find their child at any time. The Organizers carry clipboards to keep track of the comings and goings. Don’t be surprised or offended if your kids would rather just stay put. I heard that story from several parents and from my own daughter, as well.
Older kids get to experience even more. Club Med has small sailboats and ages 6 and older can learn to sail, scuba, rollerblade, play tennis and more. Ages 8 and older can take golf lessons or learn to ski with special equipment designed for easy success. Taig Khris, a world champion rollerblader, lends his name and expertise to Club Med. He makes appearances several times a year for exhibitions, and we got to see him skate and eat with him one day. Helen was smitten!
Baby Club Med – for ages 4 months to 23 months – is extremely nice. The rooms are filled with toys and have a separate darkened nap room with a curtained window in the main room and monitors so the organizers can hear sleeping tots. The babies have their own chef and dining room where they eat and participate in a favorite activity: cookie making. They also have some other planned activities, but the goal in this age group is to follow the kids’ cues.
One of the nicest details at Club Med was the amazing employees, aka G.O.’s, or Gracious Organizers. They live on site, eat with the guests, perform in the nightly shows and hang out around the pool on their breaks. I guarantee every one you meet will make you feel like a bit of a slacker. Some of the 20-somethings that worked with the children were phenomenal. They were pied pipers who walked around always with five or six children trailing them adoringly. Some of them didn’t look the part, either. I sat amazed watching this one guy working with Helen’s group.
He couldn’t have been more than 25. He had a tattoo and his eyebrow was pierced. He swam with the kids, played with them, really had a ball, and he spoke at least three languages fluently. He would tell Helen something, then turn to speak to another child in Spanish, and then in French tell another child not to dive into the pool. Every single employee I met was fluent in at least two languages and had lived and worked in at least one other country.
For the Grown Ups
All of the above mentioned kid activities are also offered to adults during certain adult-only times. If you already have the skills, you can check out a sailboat, play golf, sign up for a tennis tournament, or just hang out by the pool. Each day’s itinerary is posted outside the dining area every morning – how much or how little you do is entirely up to you. Special family activities are also planned throughout your stay like the Family Tie Dye Party – a huge hit with us.
There are so many little details that make this place special. Photographers take lots of pictures and hang their proofs out at night. Every night the employees put on a themed show for the entire family. There are two little sandy beaches for sand castle building or swimming in the river. There are three pools, beautiful sunsets, spacious rooms, two nurses on sight, manatees and dolphins in the river, wet suits in cold weather and I could go on and on.
The trip is truly all-inclusive (beer and wine with meals, too); private lessons, nighttime child care and photos are extra. Call 800-ClubMed to check prices and availability. Register your kids for the Kid’s Club at the same time you make reservations. (I was told the children’s groups occasionally fill up.)
- A holiday note: Christmas time is the most expensive time to visit Club Med. Plan ahead for next year!
- For more information about planning a trip to Club Med Sandpiper, call 800-ClubMed or visit www.clubmed.com.
Sheri Hammond is a writer and mother.