Club Med Ixtapa Pacific
Setting the StageWe are experienced Club Med travelers, having paid about 20 visits to 7 different villages over the past 20 years, but never a "Family village". We had an opportunity to visit a recently renovated village and find out just what is different about the family villages, so we thought it would be interesting to check out Ixtapa.
The main entry to the village
Getting there and backFrom Atlanta, Continental and Continental Express offered the best fare and a very reasonable schedule, leaving Atlanta at about 9:00 AM, connecting through Houston and getting into Ixtapa at 2:00. Since we were traveling on "off-days" (Monday and Sunday) Club Med provided a taxi for us each direction so that made it quick and easy. Baggage retrieval and customs clearance in Ixtapa were quick and we were at the village by about 3:00. The return flight, again through Houston got us into Atlanta about 10:30 PM.
Around the VillageThe Club Med Ixtapa Pacific village has just undergone a massive renovation and the facilities are really very nice. To be sure, there are a few rough edges, but we happened to visit during the official Grand (Re)opening week and there was still some final finishing going on. Club Med has been focused on moving "up-scale" over the past several years and the Ixtapa Village reflects this change. Don't expect a fancy Hyatt or Hilton type resort; it's not that kind of "up-scale". The lobby is not all marble and mahogany and the bars are not dark quiet retreats, rather the entire village has a very lively atmosphere: everything is very nice but not pretentious or stuffy. You would not feel uncomfortable or out-of-place anywhere in the village wearing a swimsuit and t-shirt. The "up-scale" strategy is not universally endorsed by many long-time Club Med fans: while we welcome some changes, others are a bit more troubling. More about that later.
Some of the well landscaped grounds.
A view of the beach as seen from the sailing area.
Along with the normal central facilities (reception, dining, bars, theater, boutique, etc) there are about 300 guest rooms, circus facilities, tennis courts, archery range, miniature golf course, rollerblade track, several pools, kids facilities, separate restaurants, and there is still enough open space so you never feel crowded. Besides the main pool (two pools, really) that is mainly for kids and families, there is also a very quiet adults-only pool (although there is no bar service close by, so it is not very popular). Everything is well maintained and very clean, including the public areas and guest rooms.
The main pool area early in the morning, before it gets busy.
The RoomsThe renovated rooms are very nice with updated fixtures such as the "rain" shower head and flat panel TVs (although with relatively few English language stations). They are well maintained and kept clean by the staff. On our arrival the maid had formed a cute little 'rabbit' from a bath towel and it was sitting on our bed.
Our room after we arrived.
Exterior view of our building, Iguana.
The GO TeamIf you have never been to a Club Med resort, you first need to understand the GO concept. GOs, Genteel (or Gracious) Organizers, are the mostly young staff who are the heart of the village. They organize most activities, provide lessons, and assist guests (GMs or Gracious Members) with anything they want. They are universally friendly, outgoing and helpful. The GOs that run the "mini-club" and some of the other kids activities must also be some of the most patient people on earth. GOs are not the "staff" or the "employees", they are your friends and companions for your visit. GOs are moved from village to village so if you visit other villages in the future, you are likely to see some of the same ones again. This time we were lucky and were able to meet up with several good GO friends, like Andrew and Brian, as well as make many new friends, like Jo, Kyle, Johnny, Peter, Kathleen and many others. Besides the GOs, much of the atmosphere of the village is set or determined by the "Chef de Village" (Chief of the Village) or CDV. The CDV is the "boss". The CDV can have a major impact on the spirit in a village and some GMs will go to villages largely based on who the CDV is (either going to or avoiding villages with specific CDVs). Jean-Marc was a very good CDV, mainly because he had assembled a very good (outstanding) GO team. Certainly (re)opening a village is a major undertaking requiring a lot of work but also providing excellent experience for those who wish to advance within the Club Med organization.
GOs and a few GMs doing "Crazy Signs"
Food and Dining
The "salad bar" part of the main restaurant
Some of the desserts at dinner, and a Dolphin ice sculpture overlooking the lobsters.
We visited both annex restaurants (reservation only) and they were generally exceptional. Whereas the main restaurant is buffet style (with wine and drinks provided by waiters), the annex restaurants were full table service and the servers were very attentive, although with the occasional rough edge typical of a recently opened facility. One evening we ordered coffee after the meal and it never arrived, so we just adjourned to the main bar and had our coffee there.
Luna AzulThe Luna Azul offers what they called a 'fusion' menu. Based on the menu and what we had, I'd translate that to mean that they offer some fairly 'standard' favorites, but with significant changes or enhancements to make them a bit better or different. We invited Andrew and Kathleen to join us and we all had very good meals: salads/soups, main course, and deserts were all tasty and well prepared.
Susan, Andrew, and Kathleen at Luna Azul.
Miramar'sThe Miramar is billed as an "Argentina Steak House" and, as expected, focuses on beef dishes, although it does offer several others. The menu and the dishes here were more "conventional" but still very good. Jo and Peter joined us at the Miramar and I believe we all enjoyed the meal.
Peter, Jo, me, and Susan at Miramar.
ActivitiesWe generally go to Club Med villages to sail, windsurf and snorkel, but these activities were somewhat limited at Ixtapa. The wind did not come up enough to sail until mid afternoon, and then it was relatively light. The village has about 6 Hobie Waves (easy to sail 14' catamarans) one 16' boat that was essentially a large Wave with a jib and one standard Hobie 16. We normally took the Hobie 16 if it was available (it usually was). The sailing area was a little restricted because of the rocks and reef about ½ mile offshore, but was sufficient to have fun. We didn't participate in the regatta as we figured that it would be more exciting for some kids or family to win that.
Sailboats up on the beach at the sailing shack.
ExcursionsWe did two Club Med organized excursions: the snorkel tour to Ixtapa Island and the "Prehispanic tour". Unfortunately, I think the excursion office needs some reorganizing and improvement of their offerings. They don't really provide enough information to the GMs about the excursions or what the GMs should bring. I won't go into details, but we felt the snorkeling tour was poorly organized and not enough information was provided. For example, we were told by the Excursion GO that there would be a Club Med representative on the island to help us. Well, as we got off the water taxi the "captain" said to look for the representative "by the green umbrella". Well, there were three sections of green umbrellas. We got it worked out, but it should not have been that difficult. As for the actual snorkeling, we could tell there were lots of fish, but the water was too cloudy to see very much. You might want to get a "visibility report" before booking a snorkeling trip.
A view of the snorkeling area on Ixtapa Island.
One stop on the prehispanic tour included a family baking different breads using a oven fired by coconut husks.
For Families !!But, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is really about families and kids. Couples and singles just don't go there very much because almost everything is geared for the kids. I was amazed at the effort and facilities that were dedicated to families/kids.
Some of the facilities for the kids.. there were lots more.
A bunch of kids participated in the Circus show and loved it.
A view of the Bazilian Beach Party from above.
EntertainmentThe week we were at Ixapa was somewhat special since they were having the Grand Reopening celebration. There were extra events, special bands ("Milkshake" for the kids), and extra entertainment. In some cases they had multiple "shows" per night and the night of the official reopening there were several shows, a Mexican dance group, and even a fireworks display (which got interesting when the trash from the spent "shells" started falling on the crowd gathered around the pool).
I'm not sure what a "Can-Can" number has to do with the Jungle theme, but it was lively.
Some of the action in the "Music Factory" show. Both kids and adults loved the show.
General CommentsAlthough the Ixtapa village is not the kind of village we normally go to, the great GOs and all the activities made it fun and we had a good time. of course, we are now looking forward to our trip to the Turkoise village in September.
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