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CLUB MED'S BAHAMIAN GEM
 
(2017 - Fall Issue)

Writer: BARBARA KINGSTONE



On the small island of San Salvador, Bahamas, about an hour’s flight from Nassau, the Bahamas capital, sits a hidden surprise: Club Med’s Columbus Isle.

Although the property has a 4.5 Trident-rating, it should really be rated a luxury 5 Trident accommodation as are the Club Meds in Mauritius; Cancun, Mexico; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Originally called Méditerranée SA, they are now all known worldwide as Club Med.

A UNIQUE JOURNEY

Never having travelled to San Salvador or experienced a Club Med “village” (as Club Meds are referred to), I had no preconceived ideas of what I should expect.

Started 67 years ago by Gérard Blitz, a Belgian, and Gilbert Trigano, an Italian tent maker, the first village opened as a simple property with rudimentary huts and tents in the Balearic Islands. After some growth and some added luxury, thanks to Baron Edmund de Rothschild, who enjoyed his stay so much that he invested in the company, the Club Med concept grew widely and was soon recognized worldwide. Today, there are 68 “villages” internationally.

While the original nature-dedicated camp was a far cry from the glamour of Paris, its all-inclusiveness was well received. The French are loyal to their brands and constitute 50 per cent of the guests at Columbus Isle, which boasts the largest return client rate of all Club Meds.

Ninety per cent of the company was sold a few years ago to a Chinese behemoth company, Fosum International Ltd., with no plans to change the successful formula but to enhance it and build more “villages” worldwide.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

After landing at the San Salvador Airport, just five minutes from the “village,” we learned about all the activities available, both at sea and on land, where staff and guests partake equally in the games and evening events.

Each small building reflects a colonial Bahamian architecture style and is painted in a bold-coloured palette: hot pink, teal blue, stoplight red and egg-yolk yellow, all trimmed with white wooden cutouts. The huge property resembles a botanical garden with flaming red trees, blossoming flowers and bushes. The backdrop is the bluest of skies above an equally blue Caribbean Sea.

Since the property is so very large, I had my site inspection by car but did walk along the pristine sandy beach that borders a diver’s paradise. Water activities include scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, surfboarding, fishing and more.

FOR LAND LUBBERS

For those with a penchant for staying on dry land, there are well-kept tennis courts, walking and jogging trails, and a very popular spa.

L’OCCITANE Spa uses the eponymous French-manufactured skin-care products to which many guests relate and, although only in its third season of using these lotions and potions, spa appointments “have to be reserved before arrival or as soon as possible thereafter,” Shannon, the spa manager told me.

 Here the reception area is bright while the seven treatment rooms are for quietude and relaxation. Shannon’s two most popular massages are the Columbus Isle Signature and Aromachologie massages. The aestheticians are Club Med-trained and all are native Bahamians.

You can’t keep me out of a good boutique, which is conveniently located off the lobby. There are fine summer togs for men, women and children. Kate, a Canadian, had several items that would find themselves in her return luggage. Clothing comes from France and Miami. Kate, a snazzy dresser, thought all were “terrific.”

ALWAYS CHIC

You can take the French out of France however, every night, French guests dress elegantly for dinner and entertainment regardless.

Columbus Isle was so named because it was Columbus’s first landing point in the New World. Named after one of Columbus’s three ships, the recently opened La Pinta is Club Med’s first tapas venue and not to be found in any of the other international “villages.” Chef Kawiwi, a South African, helped create the impressive menu. The other on-premises restaurant is the open-sided, buffet-only Christopher’s Restaurant, which overlooks the pool and features an international menu and an indoor seating section as well.

Lauren, a staff member, told me, “You can always pick out the French by their attire.” Another French-speaking group from Québec enjoyed all the offerings and met nightly at the popular Verve Lounge. They and other Canadians make up 30 per cent of guests while the remaining 20 per cent are from the U.S. and Europe, mostly Italy.

I spoke with many guests who all thought Columbus Isle was a great high-end vacation bargain. So did the 16 excited guests who had just returned from one of the neighbouring island excursions available at the resort. So much to do; so little time!

Destination weddings are on the charts for next season, with packages that include a Reverend, flowers, table settings, a pergola or canopies. For impulsive couples, there are even wedding outfits available for rent.

Age is just a number here: the enthusiasm is the same for all.

Travel Planner

There are direct flights from Paris, Montréal and Miami to San Salvador’s airport. Columbus Isle is open November to August, closing during hurricane season for safety and maintenance. Since there isn’t a mini Club, there are no counsellors or babysitters for toddlers and young tots at Columbus Isle. However, children are welcome. For more information, visit clubmed.com.

 
 
 
 
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