i know, i know. i’ve been scarce.
it’s been a crazy year. but no matter what the gods threw at us, we were buoyed by the idea that at the end of june, we were going to spend 8 whole days at club med sandpiper in florida, followed by some time in south florida capped off by a visit with my old friends plus a phillies game versus the hopeless hapless helpless florida marlins. sun, beach, fun — what could be better?
to be sure, we have been to club med sandpiper before. 3 or 4 times, to be exact. (sort of.) we loved the fact that the kids loved having fun in the kids clubs while mom and dad did anything from flying trapeze time (no lie) to water skiing, to rollerblading to golf (okay, well, BS is the golfer; i find golf snoozeworthy.) there was a man as old as methuselah who taught the yoga classes, there was an adult pool and a restaurant for adults only as well as endless, delicious food.
and the bread…
club med sandpiper has undergone a pretty big renovation. where there once was a patio where the kids ran and ran, there’s now another pool, a lovely one with chaises all around. but if you want to sit in one of those chairs, you’d better put your stuff down on one to reserve it by about 8am or you’ll be sorely disappointed, as we often were. at times, we escaped to the adult pool, only to find other adults bringing their children to it. (!) one day, one lady removed her bikini top (a no-no on the beach, despite the number of people who were not from the US of A) while two clearly-under 18 boys ogled. (only adults have the clear wristband.) one actually stood up and stared at her freed boobage. i walked over to beavis while his butthead friend looked on. you do know this beach is for adults, right?
hey, he replied earnestly, i’m almost 17.
there was a lot of this sort of entitled attitude i experienced here on my visit, a surprise, maybe because this time, there was a predominance of americans?
there were some pretty major changes in the dining, and not just that my beloved chocolate bread was only served at lunch and dinner. firstly, the adult-only restaurant was gone, replaced by a lunch/dinner/post dinner snack type restaurant with an unchanging menu. one time, the girl and i went to have a snack. she ordered a cheese quesadilla with guac. i ordered the crudities, which were tiny, itsy-bitsy pieces of vegetables. (the carrot portion of the dish probably consisted in total of 1/2 of a baby carrot.) good thing i wasn’t hungry.
the main restaurant is buffet-style. in the past, there were simply massive tables where waiters would seat you and others together, travelers as well as the employees (or G.O.’s, as they are called). this was actually wonderful, as you ended up meeting other people easily and felt part of a community of sorts. not so anymore. now, people sit wherever they want, and there is a serious predominance of reserved tables. sure, if you have taken your family of 18 on vacation together, you probably want to sit together. but there were tables of 4 which bore the little Reserved For signs and which we found rather obnoxious. (of course, one day, one of the tables had a sign that said Reserved for Korn. sweet! my BS exclaimed. there are rock stars eating here!) we only sat with another couple once, by our invitation. we never sat with a G.O. (of course, we sat with plenty of flies, which aboundeth.)
anyway, you care about the food, and i do, too. gone is the freshly squeezed orange juice; i’m sure some stupid americans complained that it was too difficult for them to squeeze their own o.j. and why should i have to squeeze my own juice — i’m on vacation! (spoilsport.) the omelette guy is the best thing about breakfast; every day, i had my egg white omelette and my oatmeal and was happy as a clam. (note to self: are clams really happy? how would anyone know?) especially important, considering there was no chocolate or white chocolate bread at breakfast. (have i mentioned how much i love this stuff?) curiously, the skim milk went M.I.A. most mornings. i’m not sure who you have to sleep with to get skim milk instead of whole or 2%, but it was annoying.
i’ll combine lunch and dinner. it’s easy to combine them now, as they are pretty much interchangeable. in the past, there were theme nights, and it was fun, albeit scary, for an american palate to encounter some euro foods. not any more. usually, there was some asian (read: fried rice or something indian-like/curryish) sort of food which was heavy on the salt and limited on the actual spice or flavor. in fact, BC thought that they must have a basic asian flavor that they use for all their asian food, and it isn’t even good. there are often pieces of fish or fowl and sometimes beef. crab legs one night. but nothing stood out. and the desserts were completely lackluster and repeated. in the past, there were different desserts cranked out by the bakers. now? it’s the same few sorts, rotated, plus cookies at lunch. so dull, the kids and i decided to eat our beloved chocolate bread for dessert.
waterskiing and rollerskating are no longer part of the program. (well, you can waterski, but it costs extra now.) i tried taking a golf lesson to attempt to catch up to my BS and try to play on the pitch and putt. the lesson: how to grip a club. the instructor spent 10 minutes berating me because i have a lefty grip. then, he told me to stand behind him and watch. oh, and whenever he said left, i should substitute right. thanks. after not being able to see him, i waited until the question and answer time. only, too bad for me — he had a cellphone call to take. i waited patiently for him to finish, then i approached him. only once again, too bad for me — i encountered a french-canadian golf gang hell-bent on monopolizing the teacher’s time. literally every time there was a break, i tried to get his attention. sadly, i am not cute and don’t speak with a french accent, so he continued to pay attention to these amazons from montreal. finally, fed up, i left the course. i had stood in 90+ degree heat and wasted my time for an hour. thanks, dude.
(the husband had a similar experience in the teacher’s intermediate class. so it wasn’t just a beginner neeb like myself.)
i spent some time in the weight room, which is nice but small. people hog the ellipticals and the one treadmill. and people also don’t wipe down the equipment. (the husband was stunned as i brazenly told a man next to me not to forget to wipe down his machine that he had drenched. yes, i am that lady.) once again, another situation where you have to fight to get to do something you should be able to do on vacation. another hassle. and as in most cases, the G.O.s are not paying attention and don’t want to get into any sort of situation with patrons.
the girl is old enough for the teen club; she was allowed to basically wander the place at will, which she loved. but the boy was not so entranced by his group, the manatees. and frankly, i had the feeling that the G.O.s who ended up with his group probably had somehow felt like they had gotten the short end of the stick. i didn’t sense that any of them particularly liked kids, which is such a vastly different experience than what i had had when my kids were younger. back in the old days, G.O.’s tried to create a fun pride in the group with cheers and songs. i didn’t see any of that happening here.
and then, there was the slapping incident.
jools tells me that he wasn’t allowed to eat dessert. i asked him why. he tells me that he said: ew, gross! when this one boy stepped on a grape. and then, the boy slapped him. now, two things should be evident here to any of you who are parents: 1) the story makes no sense, and 2) WTF? a kid slapped my kid? so, like any concerned parent, i went to talk to the G.O. well, yes, she said, jools lost dessert because he didn’t listen and went to get dessert before she said he could get dessert. (which, for reasons i don’t understand, they were only allowed to get the ice cream and not the cookies, which is absurd. oh, and they wouldn’t let them have soda. hello? this is VACATION. i paid for all this food. let my kid eat whatever he wants, thanks very much.) this had happened the day before, so she wanted to teach him a lesson.
okay, i replied. so tell me about the slapping part.
well, she continued, a boy did slap julian. i asked her what happened to that boy.
he lost dessert as well.
hold the phone. are you telling me that not listening and getting dessert is on the same level as slapping another person?
of course not, she said. i talked to his dad. (i don’t think there was any time for her to actually have spoken to the father, and there was never any apology. i doubt this ever happened.) so the next day, i had a kid who didn’t want to go back to group, and i frankly didn’t want to send him there because i wasn’t certain he was being treated fairly and kindly. considering the kids camp is the number one selling point of this entire operation, this is a serious dealbreaker. while i adore spending time with my kids, we have always adored club med sandpiper because the kids have fun and the parents get a break. and now? no breaks for mom and dad.
so basically, we have here uninspiring food, G.O.s who don’t seem to care a lot about the kids in their care, pushy people, an inability to participate in most activities because they are crowded, adult-only places where the adult-only place is never enforced by anyone, and just not a lot of fun to be had at a not-so-cheap cost. we used to hold all other vacations up to club med sandpiper — we didn’t care that it wasn’t the fanciest place. we l0ved the feel of the place. we loved the community. we loved the energy. and now? there’s none of that. sure, the physical plant is probably somewhat improved, but in general? a serious, serious disappointment.
and this was our big vacation for a few years. thanks for nothing, club med.