Annual Visit to Club Med, Turkoise

October 2014

Getting there and back

We paid our now standard annual visit to Club Med Turkoise Oct 10 - 20 this year (2014). As usual, Steve at Mill travel took care of the details of the travel arrangements and all went smoothly. The Delta flights were on time, transportation between the airport and village went well, and the updates to the airport were almost complete, making the arrival and departure process smoother. The arrival back into Atlanta was the now familiar hassle of arriving at the old International Terminal and having to walk (about a mile) to the new International terminal to clear customs and claim our luggage. This year though we had our Global Entry membership so clearing Immigration and Customs was a breeze in Atlanta.

The Club Med Fleet: the Getaway on the left with the mast down was some of our doing.

The Turkoise Village

This was our 15th visit to this Club Med resort, and about our 30th visit over all to various Club Med villages, so we knew our way around pretty well and mostly knew what to expect, or at least we thought we did.

Although not visible here, the airport improvements were almost complete.

As expected, the rooms and facilities are getting a bit worn and in need of repair and updating. That said, our room was comfortable with very effective air conditioning, plenty of hot water, frequently changed towels and linens, including washcloths after the first day, and a comfortable bed. (I like a firm bed, so I was happy, others may not be as comfortable.) We did experience a number of disappointments though, which I'll discuss in the sections below. The general feeling I got was that the resort was pinching every penny it could, cutting costs and reducing any service that might cost a little more. As you might expect, this has an impact on the quality of the experience.

Noon Crazy-Signs around the pool deck.

The Staff - GOs

The staff was very good. Housekeeping did fine with our room, including mopping the floor every day and the previously mentioned frequently changed towels and linens. The shower was starting to show just a little mildew, but not a problem. The GOs were very good also although I thought there was a little "short timer" effect as many GOs would be leaving in the next couple of weeks. We mostly saw Casey (chief of sailing) and the sailing team. We had met Casey several years ago at Turkoise and again a year and a half ago at the Cancun Club Med so he knew we could sail and stay out of trouble. The whole sailing team was helpful and friendly and we got along with them well. We went snorkeling several times and the SCUBA/snorkeling staff (Club Med contracts this out to an independent company) were fine, especially the young man from the island of San Salvador (wish I could remember his name). The Chief of the Village (CdV) was Mike Clarke, although he has left for a Japanese Club Med by now. He seemed very oriented toward the entertainment side of the activities. He was in practically every evening show and you would often see him around the village. After a few days however, I got the feeling that he was trying to put a pretty wrapping around something that was falling apart. There were just too many areas where too many corners had been cut.

Impact on Sailing

One example of this was the availability of sailboats. One of the reasons we have always liked to go to Club Med is because they have always (previously) had better sports equipment and facilities than other resorts. Club Med had Hobie 16s where other resorts only had Hobie Waves (and there is a big difference). Club Med had decent (not great) windsurfing equipment for beginners and experienced windsurfers where other resorts had only cheap beginner equipment. This has been one reason I have recommended Club Med in the past, but not any more because in recent years the quality of the equipment has been going downhill. The one Hobie 16 was in very poor shape and GMs were not allowed to use it.

Boats on the beach at Iguana Island during the Armada.

There were 7 or 8 Hobie Waves and three Hobie "Get-a-ways" which are essentially a large Wave with a jib. (Sailors will understand the implications.) The Get-a-ways are better than a Wave, but not nearly as much fun for experienced sailors as a Hobie 16. Of course, they are not as expensive either so this is a case of Club Med cutting expenses, at the cost of the GM experience. But we can go to almost any resort and find Waves and Get-a-ways, so Club Med is no longer an advantage. Likewise, the windsurf gear was decent 10 or 15 years ago, but it has been updated little or none in that time so now the boards are pretty well beat up and the sails are heavy and worn. To stay ahead of other resorts, Club Med needs to significantly update their gear.

The sailing team did host a "Sail-a-way" or "armada" to Iguana Island on Thursday afternoon. This is a significant additional effort for them, especially this week because of unusual waves breaking onto the beaches, making launching and retrieving the sailboats difficult. We sailed one of the Get-a-ways and had four additional ladies (non-sailors) join us for the trip. We were a bit surprised at how many Iguanas are on the island now; when the armadas first started 5 or 6 years ago there were only a couple, now there were 15 or 20 waiting to be fed.

The beach at Iguana Island is called Half Moon Bay and is beautiful in it's own right.

Food and Drinks

The food at the village has suffered also. Although the food at this Club Med has never been as good as some of the other Club Med resorts, it has gone downhill significantly over the past couple of years. There are fewer serving stations and less choice of freshly prepared food. There was less choice of fresh fruit (no mango and no papaya and only occasional watermelon) and the meat dishes were few, especially beef (no Beef Wellington which used to be standard fare). The "house wine" was poor; the white was essentially undrinkable and the red barely so. I'm not sure if they are just saving on the cost of the wine or trying to force guests to purchase the available "good wine" which is sold at prices about 50% above a normal restaurant mark-up. Everyone agreed that switching to Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" would be a major improvement over the house wines.

The main dining room in the evening. It can get a bit noisy.

The appetizers/snacks that were put out around the bar and pool about 30 minutes before the restaurant opened were frequently rather stale and very unremarkable. The one bright spot for food was that the alternate restaurant, "The Lucayan" was better than our last visit there several years ago. It is now full service with a decent menu and the prepared food was very good. Unfortunately, the Lucayan is only open 3 or 4 days a week and requires standing in line to make a reservation.

Susan and Casey during dinner at the Lucayan. The evening dress code was "Pirate".

Evening Entertainment

The entertainment and shows were reasonably good, with high and low points. The circus show over the pool was good, as was the "Music Factory". The new "Movie Factory" was less successful and the Cabaret show needs a major rework. Several of the shows seemed to be geared more toward the female audience than usual, featuring many more "lightly dressed" male bodies than female this time. As previously mentioned, it seemed the time and effort spent on some of the shows was an attempt to take attention away from the other areas of the resort: a form of "window dressing".

General Comments

More evidence of a lack of attention/maintenance is the swimming pool. The pool is lined with tiles and the grout between the tiles is a little rough and apparently attracts mold. This would not be a problem if it was cleaned occasionally, but it apparently has not been. Fixing this would not really be expensive, just a little tedious, using a pressure washer and a pool vacuum line. Leaving it as it is borders on disgusting.

"Parting" Comments

When we left the village for the airport we were the only passengers in the taxi/van and as we left the Club Med property the driver (who has been driving GMs for over 20 years) asked us what we thought of the resort. He said he recognized us from our previous visits and wanted to know what we thought of the changes, or lack thereof. We all agreed that Club Med has an amazing property but that they need to make some reasonable investments to make/keep it attractive to most visitors. Everyone we talked to said they would be willing to pay a little more if Club Med would spend it on upgrading the village. I am not suggesting that this Club Med village be enhanced over what it ias traditionally been, just that it be brought back up to the level of quality that it provided 10 years ago.

Aerial view of Grace Bay Beach. Club Med is just to the right of the middle of photo.

I hope that the new Chief of the Village will change things and make some investments in facilities and equipment to put this Club Med back where it used to be, but I fear that we are seeing an overall change in Club Med direction, deemphasizing sports and activities. With some relatively simple changes and moderate investment this could be a great and fun village again. I think most customers would be glad to pay a little more to get this improvement. Until that happens, we will probably be looking elsewhere in the future.

I will include a few additional photos below.

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Some additiional photos

On the snorkel boat, "Miss Turkoise", getting ready to dive in.

Heading back to the Snorkel boat after exploring the reef.

Helene at the Pasta Bar. It was good, but they had problems with the hotplate both times it was offered.

Looking south and west along the widest part of Grace Bay Beach.

Our room, complete with welcome ornament made from towels. Nothing fancy, but clean and comfortable.

The exterior of the guest rooms at night.

The weekly awards cermony. Can you find Susan and me?

We made friends with "Little Miss Tortise Shell" last year and she was glad to join us again.