Fois gras, beef tartare, oysters, beef wellington, all cooked and plated in front of you. This surely isn’t a ‘buffet’? At Club Med resorts, it is!
Once I had kids, Club Med was definitely on my radar. I had heard about the excellent facilities and the fact that it was French owned gave it a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’! However, recently Club Med was sold to a Chinese billionaire (for a staggering $1.3 billion) and I wondered whether service or standards would change. Luckily for me I got the opportunity to visit Club Med da Balaia in the Algarve to check it out.
With subtle jazz music playing in the background, the first thing that struck me was how quiet and relaxed it was. Although fully booked the resort is so spacious with massive grounds that it almost feels empty! I was told that Club Med resorts are all similar in this way, lots of wide open spaces, no scrambling for sun beds in the morning and certainly no loud pool games or pub quizes. Hearing ‘bonsoir’ from dashing french waiters, helps too – so far so good! Personally all inclusive resorts are not my thing, in fact I usually run a mile from them, but Club Med is not the same as other all inclusive resorts…
One of the massive differences is the food. The clients are mostly French and we all know how they love their food so I guess, it had to be good. There is an a la carte restaurant to choose from but we ate mostly in the buffet restaurant. Buffets are not normally my thing either, but the word ‘buffet’ doesn’t adequately describe what is on offer. Club Med da Balaia is a 4 star or actually a 4 trident resort (Club Med have their own unique star rating system). The buffet here was better than any I have even seen, even in a five star deluxe hotel. Fois gras, beef tartare, oysters are just some of the delicacies on offer and each cooked and plated for you. I had the most succulent beef wellington and if I had paid for it in good restaurant, I would have been delighted.
If you want plain food, there are plenty of self serve stations serving fresh pasta and pizza, chicken & chips, all home cooked. They also have a corner for babies with suitable foods and even a blender if you want to make your own. Everything was hot too, which lets face it doesn’t happen in most all inclusive resorts! There was no queuing and no one hanging around for the chefs to bring out more because it is all cooked in front of you. Likewise no need for plates piled high with food – a pet hate of mine! The whole dining experience was quiet and relaxed, no noisy chairs scraping across the floor and plenty of staff to attend you. Wine is served by the bottle at your table and it was good! Too often the wine at all inclusive resorts is not easy to drink, not in Club Med, I had no problem 🙂
The other main reason for booking a Club Med holiday is the facilities on offer. Club Med invented kids clubs and they offer some of the best you are likely to find. They cater for children from 4 months – 17 years, all free of charge with the exception of the baby club, which needs to be pre-booked.
The bright airy clubs with excellent facilities is just one of the reasons that kids are delighted to come here. The sports facilities are the other. They have free tennis and golf lessons, a flying trapese school, archery, kayaking, mini golf, football, volleyball, the list goes on! They also offer great facilities for adults, with lots of fitness classes each day, from pilates to zumba, you name it, its here. They have a large swimming pool and are currently building an adults only infinity pool during the winter. Although all rooms are very spacious they vary in style and standard, depending on which block you choose. They are however, currently renovating all rooms this winter making them more modern with bright colourful furnishings.
Another surprise for me was the number of adults here without children. I initially thought it was mainly geared towards families but in fact there were lots of couples there who love the food, sports facilities and the spa. The resort is situated on a stunning sandy beach too, perfect for a swim for a stroll. Club Med have 66 resorts worldwide including cruises and adults only resorts. Although the name suggests the Mediterranean, they even have resorts in the US, China and the Maldives. They offer the only all inclusive resort in Florida and offer ski resorts which open for 6 months each year! Maybe it’s time for a Club Med World sub brand?
Evening entertainment varies from parties in the bar area to theatre shows. The white party which is common throughout Club Med resorts is a great night, where most guests wear all white (not compulsory) and champagne is served on arrival. White drapes are scattered all through the resort and it has an ocean club feel. They also have dancing competitions and even a fire show. Although on certain they have theatre style shows, sometimes these are in French. They do offer multilingual shows and circus style or singing where language isn’t an issue, but not every night.
Overall entertainment is low key, if ‘Chocolata’ or Karaoke is your thing, look elsewhere! If on the other hand, top class food and sports facilities is what you seek, then look no further than Club Med.