Our trip to Club Med, Columbus Isle

Club Med CI title My wife and I visited the Club Med, Columbus Isle (San Salvador, Bahamas) the week of Sept 8 - 15, 2001.

We took the Club Med (American Eagle) charter from Miami; arrangements were made by Le Beach Club and everything worked fine. I arranged transportation from Atlanta to Miami via Delta airlines, taking advantage of good fares and some "Delta Dollars" from a previous overbooked flight. All flights were on time with no problems. (Well, more or less... more about this later.)

Let's take a quick at how Columbus Isle is laid out.

Club Med CI map (left) Club Med CI map (center) Club Med CI map (right)

This was our third visit to Columbus Isle, our 9th Club Med visit overall and in general it was a very good trip. Compared to previous trips, especially the last trip to CI (Columbus Isle), both the local staff and GOs seemed to have a very high "esprite de corps". Whether this is because of the Chief of the village (Youssef) or Chief of Animations (and acting Chief of the Village) Abdel or some other reason, I don't know, but something has been effective. The local staff were cheerful and universally helpful and pleasant.

Sports GOs
Sports GOs The GOs were friendly and mixed easily. On our previous visit the GOs did not mix freely with the GMs and just did not seem as friendly and outgoing as we expected. On this visit, it was just the opposite.... all GOs were helpful, they intermixed freely at meals and seemed genuinely friendly. We enjoyed eating with and talking to the GOs more that we have in quite a number of CM trips. We got to know the sailing team (Doda, Jenn, Kenny, and Trevor) pretty well and got well acquainted with several other GOs. The acting Chief, Abdel, was very friendly and we frequently saw and spoke to him around the village. The GOs spoke highly of Abdel and the normal C.V., Youssef.

It may well be significant that the village was almost empty this week. Of the about 600 capacity, I'd guess that there was, at most, 150 people (GMs) at the village. There was no waiting for any activity and either the main restaurant or the annex restaurants were open for a meal, but not both. This certainly made for a relaxed, easygoing, and fun vacation.

A number of previous reports have described the Columbus Isle village, so I won't spend much time on the basics, but will point out some of the unique or different aspects of this visit.


Columbus Isle is one of Club Med's "finest" and it deserves that rating. The rooms are very nice and about as luxurious as a beach resort could be.

Some of the club buildings
Club Med Main Building The common areas are nicely appointed and there are many works of art from many sources. I did notice that there seemed to be some energy saving in regards to the Air conditioning in the common areas; the restaurants and some other areas were not as cool as they should be, making an after dinner coffee somewhat unpleasant. There was quite a bit of maintenance going on, and the facilities seemed to be in good condition. (There was some significant damage from hurricane Floyd two years ago, and some of the village may have been refreshed after that damage.) Housekeeping was efficient and effective, with our only complaint being the number of very small ants that were in the room, especially at night. We had no food in the room to attract them, although I cannot vouch for the previous GMs.

The view out our room
View out our room
We did have a room in an excellent location. Whether it was because our TA had requested it or we were just lucky, I don't know, but room 466 was on the 2nd floor, looking diagonally down the beach toward the sailing area. We could not have asked for a better location.

Dining and Meals

Meals were very good, with a noticeable attempt to provide extra "cooked or served to order" stations in addition to the normal food serving lines. The normal impressive salad, bread, fruit, and cheese areas are still there, but additional hot food serving lines have been added. In light of the few GMs, this was somewhat of an overkill, but certainly very nice. If anything, the bread selections were better than before, which is difficult to imagine.

One of the extra serving tables
Extra food serving table
As usual, however, the wines were generally too warm, sitting to long at the (rather warm) dinning room temperature rather than at the preferred "wine cellar" temperature. To us, an important part of the Club Med experience is the use of group tables. Although there are sufficient tables for two, we generally requested to be seated at the tables for eight. We spent pleasent hours sitting around these tables after meals, talking to the GOs and other GMs, enjoying a few extra glasses of wine.


It appeared to us, and was verified by some GOs, that there had been a definite attempt to upgrade the evening entertainment. While some of the same shows were used, they had upgraded the performances and eliminated the more childish parts of the activities.

The shows were better, and costumes elaborate
One of the improved shows They also had several new shows that demonstrated a bit higher level of ambition. These are certainly not highly professional Las Vegas shows, but they are significantly better than before. There was also live music between dinner and the nightly show, although putting it in the bar makes it seem that it's main purpose was to build up the bar revenue. We did not check out the disco, but given the typical GM at this club and the few number of them, I suspect that the primary disco goers were the GOs.


We go to Club Med for the sports, mostly sailing, windsurfing and snorkeling. The specialty of Columbus Isle is really SCUBA, and they offer an excellent program (so the divers told us). The tennis facilities are also very good, and the current tennis GO, Petri, is both knowledgeable and friendly. (We've run into Petri on at least two other CM trips.) Water skiing is also available during the warmer water months, although it was cancelled the last couple of days due to winds and rough water (kicked up by a distant hurricane Gabriella).

Hobie 15s, Waves, and sailing shack
sailboats and sailing shack We judge a resort by the type and quality of the sailing equipment and we have only found one other resort (SunSail, in Antigua) that can match or exceed CM/CI in this respect. On previous trips to CI, they had Hobie 16s. Most of the other resorts and CM villages have gone to Hobie Waves (nice, safe for beginner sailboats, but not as exciting as the 16s). We were a little disappointed when we saw 7 Waves at CI, but then we spotted the three Hobie 15s. Although different from the 16s, the 15s provide the same level of performance and excitement, and with the small crowd, we never got on a Wave all week. (Columbus Isle was closed shortly after we left due to the 9/11 slowdown, and I understand the Hobie 15s were moved to Turks and Cacios.) They have a reasonable mix of windsurfing boards (mostly beginner, but a few mid-level and short boards) and sails from 3.2M to 7.2M. Best of all, the equipment is well maintained and cared for: everything worked! There are two snorkel trips a day, and about 5 sites that are alternated (the same site morning and afternoon). Sometimes schedule changes are necessary to accommodate the weather. One morning with marginal weather only three of us showed up for a trip.
SCUBA - Snorkel boats at dock
sailboats and sailing shack
They could have easily cancelled the trip, but they changed to an alternate (more protected) site, considerably further away, and the two GOs on a large (40' catamaran) dive boat took the three of us on what turned out to be a very nice snorkel.


Now, the 'catch' in the trip. If you review the dates of the trip, you'll notice that it included the infamous Sept 11 terrorist attacks. In general, I thought Club Med handled this very well. Certainly, some people were inconvenienced because they could not leave on schedule. Some people scheduled to leave on Wed. were still there Sat. morning, but the Club tried to make alternate arrangements and assist however possible. On the night of the attack, the acting C.V., Abdel (from Morocco) said a few words and had a minute of silence and prayer. On Wed. night he read a letter from the Club Med president to all GOs and GMs that was very appropriate. On Friday night (the day of remembrance) they passed out candles at dinner and we had a candle-lit three minutes of silent remembrance. Our younger son had just moved to New York City one week previously and we had some anxious moments before getting word that he was fine, so the actions of CM and Abdel were appreciated. As might be expected, the trip back was messed up, but we arrived in Miami about 3 hours late; not too bad, everything considered. (Our Delta flight from Miami to Atlanta was running 4 hours late, so everything worked out surprisingly well.)

Here's a few more photos that I thought were somewhat representative of Columbis Isle...

The Sea Center after Sunset.
SeaCenter at Night

The Sea Center had two restauants, the dive center, a bar and the disco. The diving center has a recompression center, the only one in this part of the Bahamas. The bar is an excellent place from which to watch the sunsets.





Part of the beach

beach at sailing center

This view of the beach is looking from the Sailing Shack and toward the main buildings. There is about another 1/4 mile of undeveloped beach on Club property, and another mile of beach beyond.



Pool area
pool area

The swimming pool is in the middle of the village, close to the main restaurant, reception, and many other activities. You can see one of the three SCUBA/Snorkel boats in the distance.



Bread and desert at lunch

Breads and desert

This is the bread table (forground) and desert table (background) at lunch. There were somewhat more elaborate layouts at supper. Club Med is, of course, a French company, and the food at Columbus Isle reflects that heritage.

Contact me via mike@hammocktree.org