One of the nice things about all-inclusive resorts is that they feed you. No, I mean they really feed you. Gout has to be a real danger for regular all-inclusive visitors. And, happily, the food at Club Med Sandpiper Bay is both plentiful and very tasty. Their buffet restaurant, Marketplace, has lots of food for everyone--vegetarians and carnivores, kids and grownups, those who like it hot and those who like it mild. It's a bit overwhelming. Tell your clients to take a walk around the room before making their selection (unless they see any prime rib--then all bets are off). Also tell them about the wonderous white chocolate bread, which must be tasted to be believed, and which probably gave me diabetes. It was worth it.
After breakfast, I headed over to the resort's spa, which will be getting an overhaul in coming months (more on that later). The therapist for my Signature Massage was Sandra Lamb, who pushed and pulled on all my muscles until I was wonderfully relaxed and zen. She also explained exactly what she was doing throughout the treatment and gave insights on why it was helpful. Request her by name when booking treatments for your clients--she really does a lovely job.
Soothed and relaxed, my little group toured around the resort for a few minutes, wandering around the adults-only infinity pool and different sports facilities. (In keeping with the family vibe, the resort has child-sized tennis courts so that smaller players aren't overwhelmed by a full-sized one. Nice.) We also checked out a Deluxe Family Room (one of the remodedled suites). The room has a gentle, nautical theme and nice touches like painted hardwood floors. It has plenty of room for four people (two bedrooms, two bathrooms), and lots of light.
And somehow, it was lunchtime again, and we dined alfresco at Soleil, the a la carte restaurant with a rather limited menu (some sandwiches, a few entrees and some snacks). Still, the food is part of the all-inclusive, and the views of the river are lovely, and it's nice to be able to sit and relax for hours and ask for cheese and crackers throughout a conversation. (So I hear. Ahem.)
Not content to simply taste food, we went around to a side room off of Marketplace for a cooking demonstration with sous-chef Erik, who showed us how to make a delicious duck breast over a rice pilaf. (I didn't know how important it is to score a duck breast before cooking it, so that the fat drains away. Learn something new every day!) The lesson was not overly complicated, and we were invited to ask questions about the preparation, the food and just about anything else involving cooking for a huge resort. (Apparently hot dogs and hamburgers are the most-requested dish for kids, and crabs legs are popular with grown-ups.)
And then came the moment I'd been dreading. Y'see, I'm terrified of heights. No, you're thinking I just don't like them. I mean I can't breathe when I'm up too high. (And "too high," for me, is about two feet off the ground.) On the other hand, I love great views, and I love trying new activities. And Club Med Sandpiper Bay has a full-size trapeze and a staff to teach guests how to fly, which is fantastic for anyone who wants to try a totally different kind of sport...but was just too much for me and my vertigo, alas. But encourage your clients to at least give it a try--if they can handle the high ladder, they'll be rewarded with a truly unique experience they'd be hard-pressed to find outside of Ringling Bros., and some great views while they swing to and fro. And we got to see some very small kids scaling the ladder and swinging happily above the net, so the trapeze is clearly popular among the junior set, too.
Before dinner, we stopped in at Slice, the resort's bar and nightclub, for a wine-tasting with Marcel, the sommelier, who explained what kinds of wine went best with what meals, and how to properly taste and enjoy different vintages. (Yes, we slurped the wine. Not very graceful, but it certainly does enhance the flavor!) Marcel, by the by, has some great stories in addition to a vast knowledge of oenology, and if your clients happen to spot him at Slice or when he isn't setting up wine in the Marketplace, they should see if he'll talk about his adventures around the world.
Of course, there is music every night at Slice, and families can gather to dance to Zumba or Club Med's signature Crazy Signs. And another nice feature: The nightclub serves complimentary cocktails (including frozen drinks and mojitos), but allows kids to enter so they can listen to music with their parents. Including the kids is what makes this a genuine family resort, rather than a resort with a children's program.