Club Med Turkoise
Turks & Caicos Islands
We normally go to this Club Med resort in the Turks & Caicos Islands in October, to meet up with some friends from Long Island who travel at that time. These friends were making an extra trip this year, meeting up with some other friends of theirs, in May and we did not have anything else going on in May, so we decided to join them. After making our initial reservations, I found out that some other friends of ours from Club Med would also be visiting at the at the same time, so it would work out to be a bit of a reunion visit. Because this was a bit of a last-minute decision, our options were limited: the resort was full and we were getting literally the last room available. We could only overlap with our Long Island friends for 4 days and our total stay was limited to eight days. On the plus side, we were able to get Delta “frequent flyer” tickets, so the costs were reasonable, although the only room available was a more expensive “Deluxe” room. It has been a couple of years since I’ve done a full report on this resort and it has undergone a fairly major renovation since the last report, thus this will be relatively complete.
Our flight from Atlanta to Providenciales (”Provo”) was on time and reasonably comfortable. We had exit-row seats with the center seat (of the 3) empty, giving us a little extra room. One advantage of living in the Atlanta area is the relative ease of traveling almost anywhere in the world from the world’s busiest airport.
The on-board Flight Tracker shows that we are almost there.
When we arrived, our flight was the only one unloading, letting us get through passport control/immigration very quickly, but we had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes for our luggage.
Taxiing to the Providenciales (PLS) airport terminal
With our luggage in tow, we quickly got through customs and exited the terminal building, looking for Diesel, the Club Med GO who handles transfers at the airport. We were concerned when we found him sitting in a wheelchair: he is one of the star performers in the “Music Factory” show and does some pretty lively dance moves. It turned out that he was just using the wheelchair to rest a bit and he quickly got us into a taxi van with three women heading to the Seven Stars resort.
On our return trip, we got to the airport about 12:30 about 2 hours prior to flight time, got through the ticketing process quickly and then through security in about 10 minutes. We spent most of our wait time in the upstairs lounge and went to the downstairs area a few minutes before boarding started. Boarding started on time and we were ready to leave about 20 minutes early. We did take off about 10 minutes early, had a sometimes-bumpy flight, and arrived to the Atlanta airport about 20 minutes early, only to find another airliner still at our assigned gate. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the gate, but then unloaded quickly and, with Global Entry, we got through immigration and customs quickly. Surprise: our luggage was already going around the carousel. The remote parking shuttle bus was waiting and left soon after we boarded. Everything at the airport went smoothly and quickly, but then we got in the car and hit the late rush-hour traffic in Atlanta.
It has been a couple of years and a major renovation since I last talked about the Turkoise village, so this might get a bit lengthy.
Map of the Club Med Turkoise village
Probably the most noticeable change is the new swimming pool in the center of the village. It has a rather irregular shape with several square or rectangular sections and it also has a dry sitting area accessible via a ”below water level” walkway.
The new pool, showing the sitting area and access path
The pool is an infinity type pool, but the top of the pool is actually about two feet above the surrounding pool deck. There is a narrow catch basin all around pool to catch the overflow. Along a couple of the sides of the pool is a ledge, about 4 feet wide and 4 inches deep where there are some low-slung lounges. You could lay on these lounges and have part of your body immersed in the water. The pool was set up to accept a trapeze apparatus and one of the evening shows made use of this. There were two problems with the pool though: 1) it war relatively deep throughout the pool, making it difficult for some people to do the water aerobics and 2) getting out of the pool is rather awkard.
Almost the same view, but with the night-time lighting.
Since my last report, the kitchen and main dining area has suffered both a major fire (2016) and hurricane damage (2017). This allowed some much-needed repairs and enhancements, including a roof that is now watertight (no leaks when raining!) and improved air-conditioning. The serving area was also updated with more open areas and permanent serving stations.
Part of the serving area in the restaurant, before the crowd arrived.
Although in many ways an improvement, it still suffers from a major problem: it was not designed to handle the crowd of a full village by itself; it gets crowded and there are frequently major lines of people waiting at the serving stations. The village was designed with a second restaurant, usually called “The Lucayan”, which offered table service and a more relaxed atmosphere. The Lucayan also took a significant number of diners from the main restaurant so it was not as crowded. The Lucayan was closed about 7 or 8 years ago and is now lightly used as a “convention center”. Club Med really needs to consider reopening the Lucayan to relieve the stress on the main restaurant. I really do not see how Club Med can call this a 4-Trident village as long as there is only a single overcrowded restaurant. I know of no other 4-Trident village with a single restaurant. (I will cover the actual food and wine later.)
The fresh fruit was colorful.
The main bar area has been cleaned up and updated some. The large boat that used to hang over the front of the bar is gone, opening up the area and making it brighter. The bar area itself is little changed.
The main bar area at night
The theater has had a light updating with the most welcome change being slightly more comfortable chairs. There are also new projection screens behind and flanking the stage that are used in several of the nightly shows.
The theater in daylight… an unusual sight
There is a small (!) wine bar just outside the restaurant, but that is a subject that I’ll cover later.
Sharkies is a snack bar and beach bar that was renovated and expanded about 3 years ago and is a popular gathering spot, especially in late afternoon and in the evening. They serve a fairly complete menu of snacks and sandwiches. (Our favorite is the Sweet potato fries.) It is also used for some parties and other functions, such as the sports awards.
The rooms have had a moderate facelift, with the major improvement for all rooms being the new windows or, in the case of the “Deluxe” rooms, a door opening to the patio or balcony.
Inside our room, looking over the patio and looking toward Sharkies
Normally we take a standard room, but when we made our reservations rather late, the only room available was a deluxe room on the first floor, so we took that. The rooms are all the same size and have the same basic furniture, but the deluxe rooms have nicer bed clothes, a patio or balcony, nightly turn-down service (usually), and terrycloth robes (which we never used). Unchanged from the past 15 years is the occasional mildew in the shower and water temperatures that would vary significantly.
Despite having a deluxe room, the replacement of bathroom amenities (shampoo, conditioner, bath soap) was very hit or miss. By the end of our stay, I was using shampoo from the wall mounted dispenser in place of soap. (I would have used bath gel from the wall mounted dispenser, but it never worked the entire time we were there.)
On our arrival we were told that all rooms now had a tablet replacing the function of the phone. The tablet would provide local and international phone service at no cost and a “Club Med App” was installed to provide information about the schedules and activities around the village. Except, our room did not have a tablet when we arrived. Long story short: we finally got a working tablet the day before we left and, even then, it had limited usefulness for providing information about the village activities. We did not attempt to make a phone call using it.
There has been some attempt to upgrade the food and drinks at this Club Med village over the past year or two. While it is better than a couple of years ago, it still was not up to the quality and variety of, say, the Cancun or Columbus Isle villages. There are a number of serving stations maned by the chefs who are preparing the food as they serve it, so much of the food is very hot and fresh.
As usual, there is a great selection of breads, but the famous white chocolate bread was nowhere to be seen until the day prior to our departure.
The bread table: the dark spots on the bread are chocolate chips, not raisins.
The included wine was a slight improvement over the past few years, although still probably at about the level of “Two Buck Chuck”. (In other words, drinkable, but nothing to write home about.) There is now a “Wine Bar” just outside the restaurant and the better wine is distributed from here. If you purchase a bottle of good wine (generally running from $35 to $100), you can reserve a table outside on the deck overlooking the pool area.
The Wine Bar is very, uh, “compact”.
They offer wine tastings on some unpublished schedule, if they can get at least 6 people to participate and pay the $50 per person for the tasting. I will not go into all the details, but will only say that in multiple attempts to participate in a tasting, my impression is that they really do not want to be bothered with running the tastings and the process for signing up for the tasting is completely unorganized. From our viewpoint the wine bar and its tasting is a joke, and a rather bad one at that.
One night there were a lot of tables set up around the pool and people could reserve them for dinner. Some friends of ours reserved a table for 10 of us and we supplied a couple of bottles of better wine.
Susan and I are joined by friends, both old and new.
Some other friends were at an adjacent table and seemed to be having fun also.
And there were more friends at the adjoining table.
As mentioned previously, Sharkies offers a pretty good menu for lunch or snacking as well as a full bar menu.
It did seem to us that the alcoholic drinks at both bars were better this visit. On the last several visits it seemed to be a matter of how quickly they could make the drinks and they were almost always weak and poorly made. This time we had some very well-made drinks at both the main bar and Sharkies.
With a full village, there was a lot of sports activities. The circus/trapeze has been moved to the center of the village, but did not seem as busy as we have seen in other visits. The snorkel boat was frequently full or nearly so on most trips and the SCUBA trips varied from almost a full boat to very few. A new Chief of Sports, Mo, had just arrived a week or two before our visit and she seemed to be very involved in all the activities.
Our primary activity is sailing and we had a pretty good week for that. The wind was reasonable most days and it was generally an off-shore (easterly) wind, so there were not many waves on Grace Bay. It always helps to know the sailing GOs and have them know you. We had met the Chief of Sailing, Luis (“LuLu”) in Cancun a couple of years ago and he remembered us and knew that we could sail fairly well. We had also met Emily previously and quickly got to know Fizz and Coco. There were a good, friendly, and hard working sailing team.
The sailing team at sports awards: Emily, Coco, Fizz (in front) and Luis: a good crew.
The weekly “armada” (or “sailaway”) to Iguana Island was scheduled the day after our arrival and Luis slightly manipulated the drawing for who got to go and on what boats so that we had the lead boat. It really made sense because we had done this trip probably 7 or 8 times in the past and had been the lead boat previously.
About to leave on Armada: our passengers and boat are in foreground.
We had 2 other couples on the Hobie Getaway with us and we gave them some history and information about the Grace Bay area as we sailed to Iguana Island. Even with 6 people om the Getaway, it is still faster than the smaller Hobie Waves (with 4 people) so we had to intentionally slow down most of the time.
Heading for Iguana Island and looking back at the other boats following us.
Once at Iguana Island we fed the Iguanas some fruit, led some of the people for a walk around the island, and then relaxed until time to sail back to the Club Med village. You can get an idea of the beach and all the boats in this video. All in all, it was a pleasant and relaxing afternoon; the sailing team did a very good job organizing and running the armada.
All the boats are beached at Half Moon Bay on Iguana Island.
The other main event that the sailing team organizes is the weekly Regatta (sailing race). Susan and I usually do not participate in this any more as we have found it more fun to stay on the beach and watch the antics of the beginning sailors. We were going to do that this time, but a man we had met the day before, John (from Savannah) wanted to race, but his lady friend really didn’t want to participate, so he asked me to be his “crew”. The wind was very light so having someone as heavy as me, put John at a definite disadvantage. However, John had sailed before, a lot, on all kinds of boats, and he was good. It took us a few minutes to get our teamwork going: he to know what I could/would do and me to know just what he wanted me to do. Once we had it figured out, we led most of the heat race and all the final.
Luis is greeting “Captain John” and I at the end of the regatta.
As has been our custom lately, on our last night we got a table on the deck and a couple of bottles of good wine and had the sailing team join us. It was Coco’s day off so she did not join us (I cannot blame her) but the rest of us had a very pleasant dinner telling sailing and GO/GM stories.
Fizz and Susan cutting up a bit before dinner. They could literally see “eye-to-eye”.
Toward the end of our stay we had a couple of days with very little wind, so that made them “snorkel days”. We did the morning snorkel trip on both days and the water was about the clearest we have ever seen it in the Turks & Caicos, especially on the second day.
The Club Med snorkel boat, “Miss Turkoise”
Both days we saw quite a few fish, but mostly relatively small ones, not many large fish, except perhaps the always present Parrot fish. Some people spotted two sharks (probably Caribbean Reef Sharks) but we missed them. Apparently, the larger fish and much of the coral is still recovering from the hurricanes of 2017 but some of the more knowledgeable snorkelers said both the coral and the fish are slowly coming back.
One of the larger coral heads.
Some of the more interesting fish we saw was a couple of squid. Whenever I have seen them, they seldom seem very afraid of people and appear to be watching us as much as we are watching them.
This squid hung around a long time, observing us.
On both days the boat was close to capacity, which is 40 people. On the second day I think we were the last people in line and were numbers 38 & 39.
The evening shows were mostly the standard ones, with a few variations thrown in. The standard circus show seemed a bit tame but there were circus based “acts” in a number of the other shows.
One of the “Circus acts” in the theater.
On “white night”, when there were many tables set up around the pool deck, the show was largely on the trapeze apparatus set up over the pool. Here is a video of one of the nicer routines over the pool that evening.
Probably the most popular show is “The Music Factory”, which has snippets of many different songs with GOs “impersonating” the singers and bands. This is a show that I think the GOs really enjoy performing and the audience usually gets into the mood also. The star of the show is really Diesel as he appears several times and his most famous “act” is his impersonation of Tina Turner.
For many years, we have been helping take care of the cats that hang around the village and we have seen at least one of them for the past 4 or 5 years. The one we have known the longest has a “Tortoise Shell” coloring and we call her “Miss Tortie”. She tends to hang around the building where we were this time, probably because some of the GOs in the nearby GO rooms also feed her.
Miss Tortie came to see us (and get some food) about every day.
There are a couple (2 or 3) of very similar looking cats that hang around the reception and main bar area. We could count on seeing at least one of them every evening before dinner.
One of the cats around reception: she was there every evening and some mornings.
As we have done on our last couple of visits, we walked to the nearest food store, the IGA Gourmet, and bought a couple of 5 pound bags of cat food. We gave the cats some of that and, when we left, we passed on the remainder to the people who feed the cats on an ongoing basis.
Grace Bay and its beach has not changed much since our last visit. The area around the Club Med and to the Southwest has a wonderful wide, white sand beach and usually calm waters.
Looking Southwest from Club Med along Grace Bay Beach: the larger buildings are the Seven Stars.
If the 2017 hurricanes had any affect on this beach, it was to make it even wider and more beautiful. In the other direction from Club Med, to the Northeast, Leeward Beach has lost some sand over the last couple of years, making the beach narrower and, in one place, impassable without getting rather wet.
Unfortunately, there was some significant construction in process. In the Leeward area there were several buildings that would be either small resorts or very large villas under construction just a little off the beach. The biggest construction project is a new Ritz Carlton, right next to the current tallest resort, the Seven Stars. The Ritz Carlton will be 12 stories and will tower over the current 7 story Seven Stars and all the other resorts. As you can see in this video of Ritz Carlton construction, they still have a long way to go to get to 12 stories. In that video, the guy walking by in the white T-shirt is “Marvelous Max”: he is a very pleasant vendor for Para-sail rides and, if you ask him how he is doing, his answer is always “marvelous!”. We saw him almost daily on our walks along the beach.
Just some “odd and ends”
A standard practice for several years is to have a special “reception” for GMs who come often enough (and spend enough money) to qualify as “Gold members”. In the past these receptions have been on one of the docks or in some open area. This time it was held in and around the CdV’s residence. While that sounds nice, it was a really bad idea because the space was very crowded and had multiple levels so people, especially ladies in heels, were frequently stumbling and almost falling. It would have been fine for 8 or 10 people, but not for the 25 or 30 who were there. Also, in the past some of the Club Med “management”, including the CdV, would mingle with the GMs so we could discuss any issues, problems, or just plain questions. This time, there did not seem to be any of the management team above the team leaders, such as Luis, Chief of Sailing, in attendance. Autero, the CdV, stayed at the entrance, welcoming people as they arrived and saying goodbye as they left, but not getting into any conversations. Perhaps the management team does not have time to talk to the guests.
Autero, the Chief of the Village, also deserves a mention. I understand that he may only be a temporary or interim CdV until a permanent one is assigned, or he may be given the permanent role himself, but he needs to assume more the role of a CdV, and less that of the primary entertainer. He is an excellent dancer, with some very athletic moves, and had a major role in almost all the shows, but he did not seem comfortable interacting with the guests. Even when he was supposedly greeting people as they entered the restaurant, most of the time he was off to one side with his cellphone stuck in his ear. He needs to leave his “Chief of Entertainment” role behind, talk to his guests, and become a true CdV.
I will restate a continuing complaint. We have been going to Club Med mostly because they used to have good sailing equipment, such as Hobie 16s and Hobie 15s. Over the years, these have been replaced in the Caribbean area by Hobie Waves and Getaways which are MUCH less fun and exciting boats. The Waves are easier for beginners and I don’t begrudge having them available for the less experienced sailors, but the desires of experienced sailors are being ignored. It would not be so bad if this had happened worldwide, but Club Med continues to use the Hobie 15 as the standard boat at most (if not all) European villages with sailing. It certainly appears that American sailors are not as important as European ones. We used to come to Turkoise for the Hobie 16s, but now we primarily come to meet some friends who like Turkoise. When the time comes that we no longer meet them, we will have little reason to return to Turkoise anymore.
Seems appropriate to end with a sunset and a sailboat going by.
Videos in this report:
boats on Iguana Island https://youtu.be/g9l-hJuNrbM
Aerial act over pool https://youtu.be/yhbNgXoUOUU
Diesel’s impersonation of Tina Turner https://youtu.be/lYPd3on3rWQ