Turkoise, Turks & Caicos Islands
IntroductionWe stayed at the Club Med Turkoise (Providenciales, Turks & Caicos) the week of Sept 27 - Oct 4. This was our 8th trip to this Club Med village (22nd visit to Club Med in general) and this time my brother and his wife joined us so we got to show them around.
Getting there and BackAir travel was via Delta, non-stop from Atlanta and flights were on time and as comfortable as coach-class travel can be these days. Steve at Mill Travel did his usual excellent job of arranging everything, including adjustments after some airline schedule changes. The flight down was on a Regional jet with about 50 passengers and we were the only arrivals at the airport at that time, so customs/immigration and baggage processing was very quick. Since we had made the air arrangements via Club Med, the transfers between airport and resort were included and took about 15 minutes each way.
The VillageThere were only a few changes since our last visit two years ago. Sometime in the past year or so there was some dredging to the north of the village (in the "Leeward" area) and the sand/spoil was used to renourish the beach area north of the village. The storms (Hanna and Ike) moved much of this sand down to the Club Med beach area, making it about 20-40 feet wider and the sand about a foot deeper in front of the sailing shack. For now, at least, the Club Med beach is slightly improved, and you can now walk the beach for about 1.5 miles north, up to Leeward, which you have not been able to do for about 10 years. I suspect that Mother Nature will reclaim this sand fairly soon, but for now, it is a nice addition. There was some minor damage visible from Hanna and Ike; things like roof tiles missing, gutters knocked off, trees blown over and righted and/or pruned, but nothing that affected the guests. I suspect that some of the trees and plants that were affected may not live, but I compliment Club Med for making every attempt to "rescue" them. The normal "Chief de Village", Flavia, was on vacation that week, but the Chief of Sports, Gentil, did an excellent job of "acting CDV" for the week. We had occasion to meet and talk to him several times and he was always pleasant and attentive. The rest of the GO team seemed to work well together and made for a very good atmosphere.
The village was only about 25% full this week, so we never had to wait for any activity and there was never a line for food or drinks. Of the guests (GMs) probably about half were from the US and the other half from Canada, France, Italy, Germany, and others.
The RoomsLet me say up front that we like the atmosphere of Club Med (that's probably obvious from the number of times we've visited them). We like sitting at large dinner tables, meeting and talking with people from all over the world. We like the friendly GO atmosphere and usually make friends with several GOs during the week. We especially like the activities and sports equipment that is just not available at any other resort. Yes, the rooms are small and fairly basic, but they are clean and we don't spend a lot of time there. Our room was located, as requested, in Bldg. B, 2nd floor and we had as good a view of the beach and ocean as you could get. The rooms are a little small, but housekeeping was excellent with everything being fresh and clean and the maid mopped the floor every day. There was no trace of mold or mildew and we never saw any bugs of any kind in the room. The room includes a flat panel TV with local cable (about 30 channels), a CDplayer/Radio/clock, and a phone. The bed was firm but had a thin pad/cushion and was actually very comfortable. I had less of a lower back problem there than I do at home.
Water SportsWe go to Club Med mainly for the sports/activities, especially sailing, windsurfing, and snorkeling. We had the best week of wind for sailing/windsurfing that we have ever had at Turkoise. I remember being out on a Hobie Wave just bobbing around on other trips, but this week every day provided enough wind to get the Hobie MAX up and flying pretty well. Several days were windy enough for windsurfing, although the winds close to the beach are very gusty because of the "wind shadow" from the resorts. The village had six Hobie Waves (simple, basic and safe catamarans), two Hobie 16s (higher performance catamarans) and three Hobie MAXs (high performance, 18 ft catamarans). Because of the few GMs in the village, the only time I got on a Wave was for the regatta. They allowed the more experienced (and larger) sailors to take the MAXs "single-handed", which can really be exciting when the wind blows. With relatively minor exceptions, the boats were in good condition and well maintained.
They had a rather strange variety of windsurfer boards, given the environment and conditions, with a number of very large (tandem?) boards that never get used, but relatively few midsized boards. The main problem was that all but one of the wide beginner boards did not have any kind of dagger board, making it essentially impossible for anyone to sail upwind (toward the beach). This tends to discourage beginning windsurfers because they continually drift out, away from the beach, and must be "retrieved" via the safety boat when they get too far out. There was a decent selection of sail sizes (up to 8.5M) but they still use the relatively heavy AeroTech sails/rigs which makes using the larger sails much more difficult and tiring.
The sailing team (Max from Brazil, John from Colorado, Mike from Poland, and Mike from Canada) were all friendly and helpful and worked well together. The wider beach means more hard work for the sailing GOs, as they have to haul the boats up and down the beach every day. Being a "Sailing GO" may seem like a glamerous job, but it is really hard plysical work. I try to help them haul the boats as much as possible... after all, I need to maintian my "Amateur GO" status. They do need to work on trying harder to "greet" every boat or windsurfer as they come back to the beach rather than letting the inexperienced sailors "flounder" at the water's edge with the boat. They were short one GO from the normal staff of 5, so whenever a GO had the day off the remaining three had their hands full. Both sailing and windsurfing lessons were offered twice a day for beginners. Kayaks are also available at the sailing beach for those who like to paddle around, or for those days with little or no wind.
We went snorkeling one day and had a nice trip. The water was still a little cloudy from the storms, but we saw quite a few fish, including a very large striped grouper. As we were leaving the SCUBA dock on the snorkel boat we spotted a small group of Dolphins. The captain of the boat identified the largest one as JoJo as it swam upside-down directly under the boat. There were at least two small dolphins in the group, so perhaps JoJo has finally settled down and has a family. Two snorkel trips are offered every day to about 6 or 7 differnt sites. Other activities around the village that we did not participate in include: tennis, SCUBA, softball, soccer, pool games (volleyball, polo), exercise/aerobic classes, and dancing.
FoodThe food was good, with the normal different "theme" every night, such as: Caribbean, Tex-Mex, Asian, Italian, etc. There are several serving stations manned by the chefs who prepared the dishes (salad, carved meats, breads, deserts, etc.) but I thought there may have been one missing, probably because of the relatively few people at the village that week. Overall, the quality was good, probably a little better than the last couple of visits. We could detect some impact of the storm as some of the normal items were missing: for example, Papayas were only available at one meal. I suspect they are grown locally and would have been decimated by the storms.
One night the four of us made reservations at the annex restaurant (The Lucayan) and it was excellent. Unlike in our past visits, it is full table service with a normal menu (4 courses) and very attentive service. We had a variety of dishes and all were good. My beef tenderloin was perfectly cooked and very tasty. I don't normally like cold soup but the cold fruit soup was delicious and refreshing. We thought the service and the food at the Lucayan were significantly better than our past visits. Because of the few GMs at the village, the Lucayan was only open two nights that week.
The standard wines (red, white, and rose) at the main restaurant are what would be considered "table wine" in France, not a high quality "restaurant wine"; drinkable, but not great. (For those familiar with "Trader Joe's", think "Two Buck Chuck".) There are a number of better wines offered for a very reasonable price ($15 - 20 per bottle and up). We normally drank the table wine at the main restaurant, but splurged a bit at the Lucayan. Both restaurants have tables for 2, 4, 6 or 8. Most tables at the main restaurant are the large group tables, but there are also tables for 2, 4, or 6 outside on the patio, where we ate several times. The Lucayan has more of the smaller tables (2 and 4) and also has a number of tables on their outside patio. The menus and buffets are very international or even continental in nature, so some Americans might be disappointed with the relative lack of beef or steaks but we enjoyed the variety, especially the fresh fish.
EntertainmentThe evening entertainment shows ran from a bit "cheesy" to very good, especially the Circus team show. Most of the shows were a little heavy on dancing (which varied in quality) and sometimes showed the French influence with extended mime routines. There was live entertainment (very capable guitarist/singer named "Danny") several evenings before dinner at Sharkeys and/or after the show. Every evening before dinner some snacks/Hors d'oeuvres and drinks were served out around the pool to take the edge off everyone's hunger and to allow some good time to get to know GOs and other GMs. After dinner and before the show, there would be various activities, including juggling lessons, dancing, and crazy signs. One night after the evening show there was a "Beach Party" and after the GM/GO Trapeze show there was music and dancing at Sharkeys.
Some other stuffOf course, one of the most popular activities was just laying on a lounge, under a palapa or umbrella along the beach or around the pool and relaxing. One afternoon the sailing team "sponsored" an "Armada" (or "sail-away") to Iguana island, a couple of miles north of the village. We had a total of 8 boats and about 25 people participate. The GOs had snacks/sandwiches, beer and wine available on the island and everyone just relaxed for about 90 minutes, exploring the island, playing at the beach, and swimming. Everyone had a great time and I highly recommend this activity, even for non-sailors (who will be paired up with experienced sailors on a boat). The wind did just about die completely as the armada made its' way back to the village, and a couple of the slower Waves had to be towed the last mile or so.
For more photos, see the Photo Album following these pictures.
They lit a flaming sign at the end of the pool one evening... Quite impressive.
Looking south from the Club Med part of Grace Bay beach.
And looking the other direction, north, along the beach toward the SCUBA dock.
Boats lined up at the sailing beach, ready for a day of sailing.
Three of the sailing GOs: John, Polish Mike, and Canadian Mike.
Relaxing on the beach at Iguana island during the Armada.
There are Susan and I on the Hobie Max.
And a closer, less graceful, view of us and the Max.
(brother) Al and Lisa are relaxing at Sharkeys after a busy day.
A beautiful day comes to a close at Turkoise...
Another Sunset.. almost every night has a beautiful sunset.
Early evening around the bar and Village Square.
A colorful desert table one evening.
Gentil (acting CDV) leads a Crazy Sign. BiBi (black dress) is in the middle of it.
An Irish Foot-dance number at one of the evening shows.
Susan tells Gentil goodby as we prepare to leave the village, heading home.
Click on the picture to view the album