Friday, April 1, 2011

10 things to love about Club Med Sandpiper

Back when I was single, I'd visited a couple of Club Meds—Turks & Caicos and Martinique—and had a memorable time (and some of it not so memorable, thank you, piña coladas). So I was glad when Club Med Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie invited me and a bunch of other writers to visit for a few days; I wanted to experience Club Med with kids. What rocked:

1) Sandpiper is the only real all-inclusive in the U.S.—food, beverages (including mixed drinks, wine and beer), sports, Kids Club, the whole shebang.

The family suites have a large room with a king bed and a separate room with bunk beds for the kids. The suites do not include a way to make sure your kids do not crash in your bed anyway.

Max (who introduced himself to everyone as Purple Spaghetti Max) appreciated the purple decor in the lobby and the fact that a roof in The Marketplace, the main dining area, was entirely painted purple.

2) This place caters to kids. I wasn't sure how the Mini Club Med would handle Max; I always call in advance and discuss his needs. I was told that they probably wouldn't be able to provide one-on-one attention except for feeding and swimming and yet, anytime I peeked in on him, a GO (Gracious Organizer, as staffers at Club Meds are called) was hanging with him. There was another boy Max's age who also had special needs and I noticed a GO constantly by his side, too. The GOs were generally a very friendly, helpful group who were in such glowingly great shape I felt about 77.

Max got attached to this bike, which they gladly let him pedal around the resort (with either me, Dave or a GO trotting after him). There are plenty of kid activities—sports, dance, Circus School (including aerial gymnastics, trampoline and juggling), crafts in the art studio, splashing around, learning how to mix Mommy and Daddy piña coladas (OK, not that). There's also a teen program and lounge.

3) The bread bar. OMG, THE BREAD BAR.

Trust me, nobody will stare if you eat a lunch consisting of one slice of raisin bread with butter (appetizer); two slices of cheddar bread (main course); and too many slice of chocolate bread to count (dessert).

Come to think of it, there were plenty of other food offerings: pasta, seafood, stir fry, salad bar, pizza, Asian, Indian, French, dessert bar, pretty much anything you wanted. But my heart (and love handles) belonged to the bread bar. There was heated debate among guests—debate, I tell you—about the white chocolate bread vs. the dark chocolate bread. I'm a dark chocolate chick.

If you or the kids have allergies, the chefs will personally prepare your dishes. A server there noticed me using a serving spoon for one pasta dish in another and nicely warned me not to do that, because of allergic reactions. Can't take me anywhere.

4) The four pools.

The water park, in the Kidz Village, was Max's fave place to hang. On our first day there, he grabbed a bucket of water, ambled over to a pregnant lady sitting on the side of the pool, plopped down next to her and flashed her one of his big grins. "Hello!" she said, charmed. Max dumped the bucket of water all over her belly, and cracked up. Oops. Thankfully, she laughed right along with him.

The pool in the center of the resort isn't heated, so it was a leeetle chilly but still fun. Revelation: I need more gigantic lounge chairs in my life. Also, the time to lie on them.

The adults-only infinity pool. Wish we were there.

5) Sports, sports, sports. There are 21 tennis courts, an 18-hold golf course, a practice facility with a putting green, and excellent pros. There's also sailing, beach volleyball, soccer, and daily exercise classes including yoga, power walking, and Zumba. There were no signs specifying how much you have to exercise to work off a piece of dark chocolate bread, which is probably a good thing.

One day, Dave, Sabrina and me took a boat ride (Max = not into boat rides) and saw a bunch of dolphins. Dave and Sabrina were far easier to capture on film.

And if lounging happens to be your sport? You will have a most excellent time (see "Mini Club Med" and "adults-only pool" and "piña coladas"). You will not, however, be easily able to access the Internet, as service can be slow (and costs extra). But then, you're better off tearing yourself away from real life. And eating some chocolate bread.

6) The sommelier. Dave and I went to to a wine-tasting one evening (the club typically offers them around 5:00 each day), and learned a whole lot from Michel Bargeton.

A few tidbits: Hold a wine glass at the stem, instead of cupping it in your hand (which warms the wine); once you've opened a bottle of champagne, drop in the stem of a spoon to keep it bubbly; when you're pouring wine for guests and don't want to klutz out, spread melted butter around the rim of the wine bottle to catch drips.

7) Did I mention the dark chocolate bread?

8) Trapeze!

Yes, this could be YOU swinging around up there once you're shown how! But not me, because of my bad knee. Come on, wouldn't you rather see this guy? Go on, gaze, your husband isn't watching.

9) The shows at night. The staff does them, and they vary—there's a circus show, a ballroom dancing show, and my favorite, the kiddie variety show performed by the Mini Club Med kids. They were beyond adorable to watch. Sabrina, for the first time ever, actually participated and did a super-cute routine to Firework.

10) It's the vacation equivalent of pushing the "easy" button. Really.

Still thinking about that bread? Here's the recipe for the Club Med chocolate bread. If you HAPPEN to make some with dark chocolate and you HAPPEN to have extra, come on over!


  1. This sounds fantastic! I love that there are plenty of activities for the entire family to enjoy, but also lots of fun stuff for grownups to do while the kids check out the kids club! And the story about Max dumping water on the pregnant woman's belly? Classic!

  2. Would seriously be all about that trapeze if I wasn't, you know, big as a house. Sounds like a lovely thing to be invited to.

  3. That sounds delightful and you certainly deserved a vacation! So nice to read that they were able to give the one-on-one attention - I'll have to look in to it next time my family plans a vacation. Please god, I hope that's soon! Glad you enjoyed yourself.

  4. Oh wow - a bread bar - that was made just for you. It would have been totally perfect if they also had a pickle bar and a grilled cheese bar but it seems like you managed to truly enjoy your chocolate bread and all of you had a great time with all of the other wonderful offerings (food and otherwise).

  5. Oh, Ellen! Cheddar bread? Chocolate bread? I'm drooling over here! (Not to mention that the pool looks so beautiful... *sigh*)

  6. I think I was channelling Max this morning. I ate a purple breakfast of blackberry and apple yogurt wearing purple pj bottoms, a baggy purple t-shirt and a stripy purple hoody. I only realised half way through.


Thanks for sharing!