Club Med Turkoise
Turks & Caicos Islands
Sept 25 - Oct 2, 2004
Setup:We visited the Club Med Turkoise, Turks and Caicos from Sept 25 to Oct 2, 2004. We had initially planned to visit the Club Med, Columbus Isle, but Hurricane Frances and her 140 mph winds, which passed directly over the island of San Salvador, closed Columbus Isle for several months, and we diverted to Turkoise. This was our fourth trip to Turkoise, with the last visit there two years ago. As we were leaving two years ago, workers were starting to tear up some of the pool area to start renovation work. On this visit, the renovation was still ongoing, with probably about half of the rooms renovated. I would guess that about 30% to 40% of the village's rooms were closed for renovation the week we were there. The rest of the rooms were not highly occupied. We heard that there were about 175 GMs there that week, at a village that was designed to accommodate about 600 GMs. Needless to say, the village was not crowded. Quite a few of these GMs, and many of the GOs were at Turkoise because other clubs were closed, including Paradise Island, Columbus Isle, and Punta Cana. I can only wonder how deserted it would have been without these GMs who had been diverted from other clubs. At times it seemed that there were more GOs at Turkoise than GMs.
Facilities:We had one of the "renovated" rooms and it was a definite improvement over the previous standard rooms. They are the same size, but the "built-in" storage units are an improvement and the bathroom and shower area is a major upgrade. We felt the rooms were much more "liveable". The one downside was the bed. We had the requested king bed, but it was, to put it mildly, firm… very firm. We tend to be very active so most nights we were rather tired and managed to sleep well, but be forewarned. The common areas had been upgraded some, but we didn't really see any major differences. Some work was ongoing, such as refinishing some of the exterior floors and walkways and several whole buildings were closed for renovation. The only real negative impact we observed was that the annex restaurants down by the tennis courts were closed, although they certainly were not needed with the small number of GMs.
Storm Damage:It is probably worth mentioning that there was a little damage from the storms that passed near the Turks and Caicos. We talked to some of the GOs who said that a number of trees were uprooted and it was obvious that some had been severely pruned and put back in place. (I wouldn't bet on their chances for survival.) There were a number of repairs to roof shingles, including some still in process. None of the damage had any real impact on our activities. I suspect that the primary downside of the damage was that workers were shifted from normal maintenance and renovation to damage repair. Although not really "storm damage", the recent stormy weather, with quite a bit of rain, had resulted in a major invasion of mosquitoes. For the first time in our visits, we had to consistently use insect repellent in the evening to avoid major problems. The club boutique sold out of repellent and some people took taxies into town to find some. After a couple of days, the club started a rather vigorous spraying/fogging program, which appeared to help some.
General:General: Speaking of rain, it apparently rained hard the morning of the Saturday that we arrived. It rained a couple of times during the week, but mostly at night or early morning, so it did not interfere with any activities. Apparently the Saturday of our arrival was the first day in a week that most of the beach activities were "open for business". The entire previous week there were huge swells coming in from the storms (especially Jeanne) to the north, causing very rough waves along the beach. GOs and GMs there the previous week said that the waves were easily 8 to 10 feet high at the beach, and that was after coming across the reef. Sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling and diving were all closed down for the week. Since the weather was fine, non-beach activities such as tennis, were "business as usual". The morning of the Saturday we left, it rained hard again for at least an hour just before we left: it made leaving a little easier.
Getting there and back:As I mentioned previously, we had planned on going to Columbus Isle, but even with the last minute changes, we got reasonable flights. (Except, perhaps, for having to get up at 4:00 AM to catch the flight from Atlanta to Miami.) We got connecting AA flights through MIA (rather than the Delta non-stop to Provo.) but all flights were on time and reasonably comfortable. Our travel agent, Hal Segal of LeBeach club, was a great help in dealing with Club Med and getting us the best deal possible on the change of plans. As usual, Club Med set the departure (return) schedule such that we had a long wait at the airport in Provo. Since there were no lines to speak of at the airport, I suspect this early departure schedule is mainly to get us out of our rooms so that they can be cleaned and readied for the incoming GMs. As we learned long ago, we made sandwiches at breakfast and took them with us and ate at the airport. They were much better than the food that we saw for sale at the airport.
The Food:No matter what activities you might participate in, everyone eats, and eats well, at Turkoise. As expected, the food was not as good as at Columbus Isle, but there was usually at least one dish that was especially good. This time, the meats seemed unusually good (the beef tenderloin on Friday night was to die for!). Perhaps it was partly because of the GO Chef, Michael, who was the butcher. Michael was an unusual chef. Most chef GOs are quiet and reserved and mostly forgettable: not Michael. He was almost constantly chattering and carrying on with the GMs and other GOs. In another unusual move, the Chief of the Village, Alessandro, introduced the entire Chef team one evening after the show. We were somewhat disappointed in the seafood dishes. Seafood is usually so good in the Caribbean, but most of the dishes at Turkoise were relatively bland and unimaginative. We noticed that the rooms in the main restaurant were cooler than our previous several visits. I'm not sure if this is because they got the A/C working better, or because the restaurant was only half full. Even with the annex restaurants closed, the staff only set about half the tables at each meal. In any case, the rooms were cool enough to enjoy several cups of coffee after the evening meal and that was appreciated. All in all, I'd say the food was a small notch better than our last couple of visits to Turkoise. Pascal (a sailing GO) clued us in on a definite "Grade A Desert". When there were fresh Passion Fruits on the fruit table, we took a couple of those and scooped the inside part onto a cup of vanilla soft-serve ice cream: definitely a good discovery.
Enertainment:The evening entertainment was about the same as usual. They did not have as many of the normal evening shows, sometimes having other activities instead, including a "Comedy Tennis show", and two Circus related shows. The normal shows in the theater were some of the standard Club Med shows, but it appeared to me that the GOs had rehearsed more than usual and the routines were a bit smoother and less amateurish. After the shows, the "nightclub" was actually the open area around the main bar. Sometime around 2 AM, the main bar closed down and all activity moved to Sharky's bar, down by the beach, which continued until about 4 AM. (Or so we were told…. we never made it past midnight.) With the "Total all Inclusive" aspect of Club Med now, all drinks are included. Most of the alcoholic drinks were made rather weak, especially the pre-mixed specials and some expected drinks were not available: I asked for a brandy after dinner one evening (purely to calm a slightly sore throat) and they did not have any brandy at the main bar. I'm probably fighting against the tide here, but I'd really prefer to go back to the old mode where the drinks were extra cost, but were made stronger and a better selection was available. Since the adoption of the "all inclusive" mode, we have also noticed a much larger percentage of people who are "significantly overweight" and who primarily sit around the pool or beach and don't take advantage of any of the activities. They are certainly entitled to do this, but it does seem to have changed the "personality" of Club Med somewhat.
Sports Activities:Our main reason for going to Club Med is the quality and variety of the sports facilities and equipment, especially sailing, windsurfing, and snorkeling. Although there are numerous other sports available, such as SCUBA, tennis, soccer, and others, I'll only talk about the sports we participated in. (I will mention that the main Tennis GO was Ross, who we have seen at other clubs, including Turkoise, previously and he seems to be a very capable and tennis "Pro" and also turns out to be a very good juggler.)
Snorkeling:We went snorkeling twice and, unfortunately, the snorkel boat went to the same location both times (although the GO had told us we were going to a different place). We went to a site just outside the reef and I think there was still some sand stirred up from the rough water the previous week. Although the water was reasonably clear, it was not the same as we have seen there previously. The boat is very good for snorkeling and there are at least 5 or 6 different good locations that can be visited and offer some very good coral formations and fish for viewing.
Sailing:The primary sailboat at Turkoise is the Hobie Wave, a simple, safe, but unexciting boat. They also have three Club Med special Hobie 15s which we used most of the time. (The GOs only rigged one of the Hobie 15's, but we were the only GMs using it this week, so we never had to wait for it to be available.) The sailing GOs, Gui (Chief of sailing), Pascal (whom we had met previously at Cancun), Emilio, and Luigi, were all very capable. When we initially walked up and immediately asked for the Hobie 15 Gui was a bit hesitant, warning us of how easy it is to tip over. Since we have sailed them several times before, we were comfortable and Gui slowly came to have confidence in us. The 15s were in reasonably good condition, but the Waves were a bit rough. I think that the sailing team had probably done all they could without having a supply of replacement parts, but some of the rudder parts and tiller mechanisms needed replacing. The wind was OK most of the time, but not really up to where you could really have fun except for a couple of times. It was better than a couple of other times when we were at Turkoise and the wind didn't blow much at all. The sailing regatta was postponed on Thursday for lack of wind, and it was marginal on Friday when we did race. The GO team did do a good job on the regatta, laying it out and organizing it so that even the beginning sailors understood what was to be done and avoided any problems. The sailing and windsurfing area was severely restricted, compared to previous visits. It turns out that several weeks prior to our visit two GMs had taken one of the Waves several miles down the beach, left it on the beach, and took a taxi back to the club, arriving about 7:00 PM. Too keep this from happening again they had restricted the sailing area for everyone. On our prior visit they had a "sail-away" to a small island, but this had unfortunately been discontinued. One final comment is that the sailing team had the all too familiar "close up early" disease. While the sailing hours were 9:30 to 5:00, they were bringing the boats in by 4:30 and by 5:00 the boats were de-rigged, sails put away, and the GOs on the way to the bar. If you showed up at 4:30 you were definitely discouraged from going out.
Windsurfing:The winds were a little light for anything but beginning windsurfers most of the time, but there were several times when the wind picked up and I was able to get up on a good plane. The board selection was somewhat limited, with only one of the type (205 liter) that both Susan and I like to use. I used it most of the time and Susan tried several other boards, with little success. I finally moved to a smaller board and Susan had better success with the 205 board. Perhaps they just had a shortage of proper boards, but it bothered me that they were trying to teach beginning windsurfing using Bic 328 boards. I have used these in the past and have found them very unstable and tippy… just what you do not want for a beginner. The sail selection was OK, but for some reason they did not allow the use of some of the newer (and preferred) sails. For example, the better of the two 6.2 M sails was the normal heavy AeroTech rig, but there was a much nicer, new 7.0 M rig that they apparently did not want me to use. Likewise, when I moved to the smaller board, there were three of them in the rack; two relatively new ones and one rather old, beat up board. They gave me the old one, of course. Perhaps they were trying to completely wear out the old equipment, but it was frustrating to use the old equipment, with the new stuff going unused. The beach is good for windsurfing, although the prevailing winds are generally offshore, so the GOs were frequently in the safety boat retrieving the beginning windsurfers who could not work their way upwind.
A comment.....Some of the above may sound a bit negative but believe me, we had lots of fun. Most of the GOs were friendly and helpful, especially Pascal and Emilio. The beach is beautiful, the weather great, the water warm, and we had a grand time. I make it a habit to offer ways to further improve any resort we go to, but we always enjoy our visits to Club Med.
Odds & ends :The Chief of the Village was Alessandro, from Italy. We saw him around the village on several occasions, including seeing the snorkel trip off both times we went. He did not participate in the evening entertainment as much as some CVs do, but I'd rather see the chief around the village rather than in the shows.
Some Sample Photos
Sunrise at 30,000 feet, looking over some of the storm clouds from Jeanne.
This was on the way from Atlanta to Miami.
Grace Bay from the air. Club Med is about in the middle of this view.
The beach goes on for about 5 more miles to the right.
Main Bar area at night.
The pool is right in front of the main bar.
One of the Food displays at dinner.
The desert table in the evening.
The Chef is ready to hand dip some very good icecream
The Snorkel boat "on location".
Pascal, one the sailing GOs, in front of some of the Hobie Waves.
You can see some of the beach and a dive boat in the distance.
One of the Hobie 15s in front of some Hobie Waves.
(The 15s are much more fun!)
The beach, looking south toward the main part of Grace bay.
Sharky's Bar is located right next to the sailing area... How convenient!
Some of the rooms in the evening lights.
The Sailing GO team at the sports awards cermony
Left to Right is Gui, Pascal, Luigi, and Emilio
Sunset over Grace bay. Very peaceful!
The morning we had to leave, it rained for about 2 hours,
including this downpour!