Columbus Isle, Bahamas
IntroductionThis was our fifth trip to Columbus Isle and 15th Club Med, and I’ve written several reports about Columbus Isle previously, so this will just be a quick "update" report.
Unfortunately, we encountered some problems and found there were several changes to the club which we did not consider positive. This was the first time we had visited Columbus Isle in the spring, so that may be reason for the differences we noticed. We traveled on April 23 - 30, 2005.
Getting there and BackWe booked through Mill Travel and they provided good service. I asked them to use Delta for the ATL - MIA flight, since the Frequent Flyer miles would be useful and we might snag a free upgrade. The Delta flights were on time and reasonably comfortable. The American Eagle (Club Med Charter) from Miami to Columbus Isle is were the troubles started.
Luggage?, what luggage??At the suggestion of the Club Med rep in the MIA airport, we verified with American Eagle that they did indeed have our bags from the Delta flight: so we assumed all was well. Upon landing at San Salvadore, Bahamas, the Flight Attendant made an announcement that, because of aircraft weight and balance problems, some luggage had been left in Miami and would be brought to Columbus Isle the next day (Sunday). As a pilot myself, I understand weight and balance issues, but this had never happened on our previous 4 trips, using the same charter, usually with full flights. When we got to the club, sure enough, both of our bags had been left behind. We were each given $100 vouchers to use in the Botique. (They were not doing us a favor; this is spelled out as a part of the required trip insurance. Besides, $100 does not go very far in the boutique.) But we had swimsuits and a couple of items in our carry-on, so we figured one day without our bags would not be too bad.
On Sunday we checked at the front desk and our bags had not made it! It would now be Monday before we had them. Now, understand that there were not just clothes in the bags but also medicine (blood pressure) and, most important, our shoes and harnesses for windsurfing and fins and goggles for snorkeling were in my bag. We were very ‘handicapped’ without these items.
Monday comes and they are happy to tell us that, "yes, we have your bag." OK, good, there’s Susan’s bag, now where is mine? "Oh, but you only had one bag!" We had to get our claim checks and prove to them that we did really have two bags. They started tracking and found the missing bag in Haiti!. I have no idea how it got there. Things went downhill from there, and rather than boring you with the details, I’ll skip to the end. We finally got my bag on Thursday afternoon! We were missing all my clothes, some of Susan’s, and all our equipment for about 80% of our trip. We were well known around the village as the couple with the missing bags. But none of the Club Med staff made any attempts to seek us out and offer any assistance, other than to tell us that my bag was still missing. I had to seek out the Chef de Village just before we left to lodge a ‘protest’.
They did tell us that Club Med was switching from American Eagle to Spirit Airlines for the charter flight and that it would be out of Ft Lauderdale (their hub) rather than MIA. Based on what I observed, I’m pretty sure that American Eagle was filling the aircraft with extra fuel so that they did not have to purchase fuel at San Salvadore for what I’m sure was a significant savings for them. But carrying the extra fuel, probably weighing several thousand pounds, means that luggage was left behind. So American Eagle disregarded their ‘customers’, causing the problem and Club Med did a very poor job of correcting the problem. When I complained to Club Med upon our return, they did give us a voucher toward our next trip, but I felt the voucher amount did not come close to reimbursing us for the loss of enjoyment.
Other ChangesAs I mentioned, this was our first visit during the spring, so perhaps the club attracts a different set of GMs in the spring, but there were some definite changes. The main thing we noticed is that there were many more children. On previous trips there were generally one or two children, usually infants, who caused little or no disruption. This time there were numerous children of all ages. I have nothing against kids (we raised a couple ourselves) but whenever we were relaxing around the pool it seemed there were crying and whining kids the whole time and they almost took over the pool. The ambiance of the whole village was definitely different, and not for the better. There were a couple of well-behaved teenagers there also, and they were pleasant to have around. Construction was almost complete on what appeared to be a new bar/snack-bar. It was located at the edge of the beach, more or less in front of the main bar. It will probably be handy for getting drinks and snacks while on the beach. You could also tell that there had been some significant reconstruction to repair the damage done by Hurricane Frances in 2004.
Other CommentsThe sports activities were about the same as previously. They had a selection of both Hobie Waves and the Club Med Hobie 15s for sailing and a slightly improved selection of windsurfing equipment. After getting my bag we went snorkeling once. We checked the schedule to make sure we were not going to the wreck (we’d been there about 4 times before) but they disregarded the schedule and went to the wreck anyway. As on our last trip to Columbus Isle, most of the GMs were French. They have a weekly charter from Paris and that brings in most of the guests. As usual, the food was good, but it did not seem to be quite as good as on our previous visits, with few really outstanding dishes. They did put on a very ‘showy’ meal for the "gala dinner", the night before the Paris charter left, but the food seemed more for show than for eating. Then again, perhaps the missing luggage had just left a bad taste in my mouth...
A view down the beach, past the main village area, in late afternoon.
The sailing area of the beach, as seen from the Sea Center
New Beach Bar, directly in front of the main bar.
The Sailing Beach and some of the sailing/windsurfing equipment
Some of the GM rooms.. 4 rooms to a building
A view around the pool area.
The patio area has been set for some outside seating for dinner.
Some of the "Gala" dinner, as set up on the deck area.
Sunset comes to the beach...
Another sunset view.