Reader Trip Report – Club Med Turks and Caicos

A reader sent me this highly detailed and interesting trip report! It’s quite a bit different from the kind of travel I do, and certainly in a different writing style. I thought it’d be fun to post it here. The reader went to the Club Med Turks and Caicos Resort.


We have currently completed six large credit card “churns” since discovering DCTA.CA. The advice offered in this brilliant Canadian-focused blog has changed our lives. Over the past year we have gone to: Easter Island, an eastern Mediterranean cruise leaving from Venice, Paris bien sur, the Cinque Terra and we just came back from Club Med’s Turquoise resort, located on Grace Bay, Providenciales Island, in the British Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands (T&C) in the Caribbean.

This trip report is an ode in honor of the ongoing good times we are having thanks to the sound advice, entertainment, food for thought and amusement DCTA offers.


The adventure started a few weeks ago…

Suffering from a severe case of “Ottawa winter sucks, snow sucks, shovelling sucks, work (but we have to work for a living, at least until we can buy our groceries and pay our taxes on points) sucks” blues, we decided to run away to warmer climes to get sun-burned and drink multi-coloured girly-girl drinks, where the only choices to be made fall under the headings of gastronomy and sun-fun activities.

Winter had left both of us 50-something mid-century moderns too burnt-out to spend much time figuring out how to get from frigid Point A to sun-drenched Point B, so we decided to travel to a place where we could leave in the morning and drink blue-hued drinks on a beach in the afternoon without fear of intestinal complexities (even though they can help keep the figure trim, they do tend to dampen romance). While not too picky, we also wanted to stay at an adults-only all-inclusive resort, as family resorts tend to seriously reduce the opportunities to meet new people – families have a herd mentality and tend to flock together at meals and activities, to the exclusion of strangers.

A few minutes of window-shopping and we decided that Club Med’s Turquoise met our requirements – despite our general distaste for the Caribbean. Pre-armed with site-specific Trip Advisor wisdom, we knew in advance the pros and cons of the resort and the destination and were prepared to meet the not inconsiderable challenge of continuous drinking and relaxation.

Using points, we booked our round trip US Airways flights from YOW Ottawa (Canadair Regional Jet) to CLT Charlotte N.C. (Airbus Industrie A321) to PLS Providenciales (and vice versa return). Then, we called Club Med to book for a ten-day stay. While one can book on-line for full weeks, booking partial weeks is easier on the phone, and costs nothing extra.

Then the hard part… we had to wait for D(eparture)-Day and watch the snow pile up and our skin turn a paler shade of anemic snow white.

The night before leaving we laid out (for flight) and packed our beach vacation  capsule wardrobes, only roughly aligned with Club Med’s Turquoise non-obligatory evening dress code (Monday- turkoise and white; Tuesday – pirates / red and black; Wednesday – cowboys and cowgirls; Thursday – 45 and free t-shirt [available at Club Med’s le Boutique shop… if you really must have one]; Friday – all white; Saturday – jeans and elegant; Sunday – black and white).

  • Her: bathing suit, bathing suit coverup/sundress, white capris, black jeans, two shorts, four T-shirts [turkoise, red, white, black), underwear, sunhat, sandals, beach shoes, running shoes, sunglasses, toiletries and a fully loaded Kobo.
  • Him: bathing suit, two over-sized Hawaiian shirts (the only time he is allowed to wear his designer choice in public), two zip off pants (beige and black), four T-shirts [turkoise, red, white, black), underwear, sunhat, sandals, beach shoes, running shoes sunglasses, toiletries and a fully loaded Kobo.

The challenge was planning our clothes for getting to and from the airport – taking winter apparel would have required an extra piece of luggage, which would have meant checking luggage, which would have cost. So instead, we each added a sweater, and layered out way to and from the airport.

Waking-up at 4:30 in the morning isn’t normally one of our favorite things; however, a scalding hot shower (to shake the early morning “it’s bloody colds”), a triple espresso shot latte dressed with a plethora of pristine foam and dollop of diabetes-reducing cinnamon and a call to Blue Line Taxi at 5 AM and life was good.

Soon to be Very Good.

Arriving 5:30ish in the morning the at YOW where one is greeted by… nothing… No lines, no open shops, no stress. We walked, nearly virgin newborn baby fresh smelling passports in hand, strait to American customs we don’t normally check luggage unless we are going through European ports of call such as FRA (Frankfurt where we are often lucky in having our nearly empty luggage [all essentials being stored in hand luggage] being delayed, thus generating serious coinage for the “unexpected” inconvenience).

The flight was non-eventful; however the seats in the nearly antique CRJ lacked any cushioning, resulting in totally tragic tushy trauma.

Having completed customs at YOW on landing at CLT, we had a few minutes to grab a bizarre facsimile of a Montreal/Toronto Bagel wannabe at the Great American Bagel. The half-cooked bagel aspirant was slathered with melted butter drawn from a cauldron by the “charming” “young” serving wench and then wrapped in decorative paper packaging. We sat at one of the tables and people-watched as our fingers shimmered with excess butter that had formerly coated our breakfast. We then changed from winter footwear to sandals, allowing our tootsies to get into a more festive mood.

Our no-frill flight from CLT to PLS, while uneventful (a good thing) had a happy vacation vibe as a plane full of northern winter weather refugees envisioned sunnier climes.

PLS is a small, clean and efficient airport. Clearing customs/immigration was completed with British colonial efficiency. On leaving the front door of the airport, a happy-looking fellow with a Club Med sign invited us to board a van with other refugees from Montreal and Boston (the source areas for the majority of the people we were to meet on this trip).

Driving from the airport to the resort revealed a very clean, modern town lush with tropical flowering foliage with a surprisingly Canadian flavor – we noted that the principle banks appeared to be CIBC, RBC and Scotiabank and passed two IGA grocery stores. It turns out there is a very close relationship between Canada and T&C and every once in a while there is even speculation of T&C becoming Canada’s Hawaii.

On arriving at the club we were greeted by perky G.O.s (Gentil Organisateur) who offered us lemonade, slapped on Club Med armbands, which provided access to all the amenities, and asked if we were newbies or returnees. Newbies were regaled with an introduction to the club and return guests were promptly shown to their rooms. Much to our surprise, most people we were to meet were return guests, many of whom and been there 10-20 times. A vote of confidence if ever there was one.

From our room, on the top (3rd) floor, we could see the trapeze and a visual slice of Grace Bay beach which has been consistently voted one of the top beaches in the world… complete with impossibly turquoise colored water, and miles of pristine white sand beaches that can be fearlessly trod in bare feet without having to watch out for ouchy obstacles.

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The room was basic but clean. The resort provided shampoo, soap and lotion but no cream rinse – a must have in such environs. The bed was very hard. In order to get an adequate quantity of bottled water we felt obligated to leave a tip for the cleaning staff (when we did not leave a tip there were no bottles, when we did there were four bottles and extra towels).

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After unpacking we promptly changed into warm weather clothing, and took a lovely barefoot walk down the pristine beach for an hour. In T&C the beaches and access to beaches are public – the only demarcation from resort to resort is different coloured beach chairs pulled up well back form the surf. We then went to the bar and ordered the first of what were to be many drinky-poos.

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(These drinks were assembled for this photograph by the obliging bartenders, Evelyne and Gabriel)

Slightly tipsy, we took a quick look at the weekly ordre du jour to orient ourselves.

  • Monday – Cuisine: French; Dress Code: turkoise and white; Show: Twisted
  • Tuesday – Cuisine: Island; Dress Code: pirates / red and black; Show: Lost in Time
  • Wednesday – Cuisine: Mexican; Dress Code: cowboys and cowgirls; Show: “Just for Fun” Cabaret
  • Thursday – Cuisine: Brazilian; Dress Code: “45 and free” t-shirt [available at Club Med le Boutique shop… if you really must have one]; Show: Movie Factory
  • Friday – Cuisine: Gala Buffet; Dress Code: all white; Show: Unmasked
  • Saturday – Cuisine: Italian; Dress Code: jeans and elegant; Show: A Taste of Turks
  • Sunday – Cuisine: Chefs Choice; Dress Code: black and white; Show: Music Factory

For each day there was a timetable of the various water and land activities available.

We watched the sun go down feeling the stress peel away like a stripper in Pigalle.

We then changed into our turquoise and white eveningwear and went to the mess hall for dinner. Monday is French night and by far the best meal of the week. We sat with one of the Club’s three masseurs, Rudi, who hailed from Milano and spoke of cheese, wine and travel. We abstained from evening activities, as our primary mission was to catch up on sleep and engage in mild exercise. Furthermore, the excessively loud canned music was the worst of 80s – it was bad back then and is even worse now.

Nights turned into days which turned into nights… and we developed a cyclical daily routine… wake up, eat white chocolate bread with fresh fruit and a couple of cappuccinos, walk on the beach for an hour pontificating on the sponges and shells the waves brought in, go into the warm ocean and pretend to exercise for a half hour, shower, go to lunch where we would consume a bottle of barely drinkable red/pink/white wine (you can buy better wine, but since the bad stuff was part of the all inclusive we didn’t bother) and chat with whoever sat at our table, read trash novels on our e-readers, snorkel/water aerobics in the afternoon, pre-dinner drinks and music at Sharkies (the beach-side bar, which serves pub food when the mess hall is not open), dinner which was a repeat of the lunch ritual, a quick Crazy Signs dance, then off to sleep. The club had various physical activities available throughout the day (e.g., tennis, trapeze classes, exercise classes, boulles, beach volleyball, snorkelling) which we rarely participated in. On the couple of days the weather was too windy to go into the ocean, sunbathing was good enough to enliven our thawing souls.

We heard the song “Champs Elysees” every day at Sharkies… it was sung by the multitude of francophones almost as if it was an anthem is now forever stuck in our heads.

Club Med is a French resort, although at T&C English is dominant. The majority of people we met were French Quebecers from the Montreal area. Although we are both bilingual, we found speaking in our second language rather tiring – albeit useful practice in the subjunctive.

Pros

  • The beach.
  • Third biggest reef in the world.
  • Adults only.
  • Everything was easy.
  • Free snorkeling twice a day.
  • The GOs went out of their way to make sure no one was lonely.
  • Lovely landscaping.
  • Did I mention the beach?

Cons

  • When the weather was being naughty and water activities were closed down, the club did not offer a significant slate of inclement weather activities. Though one can always drink…
  • While clean, the resort is 35 years old and showing it, and is in serious need of a facelift.
  • No activities to meet people (introverts beware).

All in all it was a lovely way to escape winter. We came home relaxed and burnt. A good thing. Would we go again… probably not. It’s a big world out there, and DCTA.CA has shown us the way.

Comments

  1. “Easter Island, an eastern Mediterranean cruise leaving from Venice, Paris bien sur, the Cinque Terra” and Turks & Caicos is a lot of travel on six churns in one year.

    Though when I started reading this post I was expecting it to include which miles/ points were transferred to what. And I have no idea how the Club Med was covered (cash back, travel points, plain old out of pocket or some new technique I don’t know about).

    Would you mind elaborating on the points transfer/redemptions? I was thinking Membership Rewards to Avios for Oneworld but that would be a ton of Avios. Maybe MR transfer to US Airways? What about the hotel?

    Thanks much!

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