Club Med is considered by many to be the granddaddy of the all-inclusive holiday. The holiday resorts scattered across the world, in far flung and European destinations, are a veritable haven for families looking for fun, adventure, luxury, relaxation and in equal amounts. They also offer a brilliant insight and base from which to explore the riches of the culture of wherever you are visiting.
There are more than 80 Club Med ‘villages’ around the world, from ski resorts to beachside properties. We visited the south peninsula of Bali, Indonesia, staying at the Club Med in the Nusa Dua area. Nusa Dua is a gated enclave of large 5-star resorts, 22km from Denpasar International Airport. Club Med Bali, has recently undergone a $15 million makeover, with some non-disruptive works still being done on areas of the accommodation, which will be completed early 2016. Terraced rice fields, beautiful bourganvillea, shining temples, golden beaches, strings of colourful flags, delicious Indonesian food and clear, sparkling seas: Bali certainly has a lot to offer adventurous families.
CLUB MED – WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Not to end a good thing before it’s started, but, just to set the tone, you will leave the Club Med all-inclusive resort in Bali the same way that you arrive… being waved, out or in, by a group of excitable dancing hosts (known as ‘GO’s’, or ‘group organisers’) flailing their arms and legs around to the strains of Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’. After a long flight, I couldn’t decide whether this made me feel ‘happy’, or not. But the thing about a Club Med holiday is that by embracing the excitement pretty soon into your trip, you’ll be dancing, too. And the kids love it. Alongside being a luxurious resort (complete with curtained day beds set around exquisite pools, and hundreds of staff tending to the immaculately manicured gardens and glamourous bars) the place has obviously been built with ‘family’ at the forefront of everything.
The GOs refer to guests as GMs, ‘gentle members’ – the lingo is translated from French, given the club’s history. Today, most of the people who visit Club Med do so with their family, so there is never a shortage of playmates to have adventures with. The first Mini Club (kids club) at Club Med opened in 1967, and they have been gaining and maintaining a superb reputation ever since. There are a selection of Club Med resorts for adults-only or without kids clubs, too. As the ‘all-inclusive’ title suggests, everything from food to accommodation, activities and drinks is included (apart from the Baby Club and Petite Club, excursions outside the resort, premium alcohol and spa treatments – check exclusions). We have seen a trend among all-inclusive resorts towards including all activities in the package, whereas historically water sports are extra. Happily, at Club Med, all activities are thrown in, from paddle boarding and kayaking, to pro tennis lessons, golf and even trapeze classes…
It was an unexpectedly explosive start to our holiday. Our visit to the Indonesian island was thrown into question, after a volcano on the neighbouring island of Lombok had begun to erupt. Throwing up clouds of fine ash, the international airport had closed and all flights were cancelled. Quite the quandary, especially if you have a family looking forward to a well deserved break away. However, sometimes, to reach such incredible destinations, you need an element of adventure from the start. Bali itself has two volcanoes, only one of which is active,
Yes, there’s no getting away from it, it is a long flight from London to Bali. But if you can prepare 14-hours worth of entertainment in a carry on bag, then Malaysian Airlines flight staff will do everything they can to support you. Far from cries on our plane, we heard fits of laughter from a toddler who was playing ‘peekaboo’ with an attendant. If only the same could have been said for us on the way back… sunburn is fairly uncomfortable after a few hours. Note: keep that suncream well topped up. Also, pack snacks. Let’s face it, airline food is still, for the most part, inedible, and it’s a long flight to be hungry on. You can change at Kuala Lumpur to catch a second three hour flight to Bali. We had three hours stopover at KL and made the most of it by having some Malaysian food, taking a nap and walking through the tropical gardens in the middle of the airport.
Arriving at Bali’s airport gives you an instant glimpse into the island’s culture. A sweeping, curved roof, multiple statues and ornate columns set the tone for what you will see when out and about on excursions. A driver picks you up in arrivals and takes you the 20-minute journey to Club Med, Nusa Dua, in that secure cluster of luxury beachfront resorts.
The resort of Club Med, Bali is rather large. A GO will greet you in reception after you check in to explain where everything is and to escort you to your room. But we would highly recommend taking a tour on foot by yourself to every corner, to ensure you won’t miss anything you’d really enjoy – like the mini golf course, or watersports area. The half mile beachfront setting is magical. Not pure white sand, but golden, set with huts on the shoreline perfect for watching the sun rise. The sea in front of the watersports area is cordoned off and shallow enough for little ones to play in.
The rooms are simply decorated in traditional Balinese colours, with interconnecting rooms available, an array of bed configurations and the choice of what you want to be closest to on resort. You can ask for a cot to be put in your room before you arrive, as well as any other essentials you might need but can’t travel with, like a baby bath, at no extra cost. Accommodation is comprised of 393 bedrooms spread over five buildings around the resort. There are three levels: Club, Deluxe and Suite. All styles come with an option of an interconnecting room.
A FEW ESSENTIALS
- As well as the brilliant kids clubs, there is an in-room babysitting service available.
- There is also the Pyjama Club – a group babysitting service with lots of other children and GOs.
- The Club Med Baby Welcome: For families with a baby aged from newborn to 23 months. This can include arranging a cot, changing mat, baby bath, high chair, bottle warmer and pushchair, to be in your room on arrival.
- Little Circus, Petite Chef and Baby Gym activity sessions can be organised through the kids’ clubs. Keep scrolling to read lots more about the kids’ clubs.
There are three pools, the first of which is located just outside the reception. It is the largest, and the traditional stone and wooden decor gives way to white sun loungers with red sun umbrellas and a large swimming pool, with separate paddling pool. The most unique feature is the canopy that hangs high above the water and provides ample shade over most of the pool. A necessity as temperatures can soar.
Floats and water play toys are available all day, and GOs are always about to play with the kids, if they aren’t in Mini Club – which has it’s own splash and play pool. The area around the main pool is used for the nightly entertainment, as is the nearby stage and auditorium. There is also the main ‘Kintamani’ bar near the family pool, which serves drinks all day and night. The Zen swimming pool does what it says on the tin – it is a haven for adults only to relax in. Perfect for making the most of while the kids are having the time of their life at the Mini Club. You can order drinks to your lounger, and enjoy a view down to the beach, which is only interrupted by palm trees.
CLUB MED ACTIVITIES
Make plenty of room in your schedule to take advantage of all the fantastic activities on offer at Club Med, Bali. There is a daily schedule posted in the reception area the night before so you can plan accordingly. On returning to the UK, we agreed that we wished we had stayed for two weeks, to make more time for sightseeing as well as being in the resort.
Golf (mini and a nine hole course), badminton, squash, tennis (on floodlit courts), watersports including paddleboarding, sea kayaking and windsurfing… You can also take a turn at the circus by climbing the heights to try the trapeze. The in-resort circus team help you and your children conquer any fears of heights, to soar off a platform, swing from the trapeze and land safely in the net. Definitely an experience to remember, just don’t forget to pack some leggings. We saw more children succeed at conquering the trapeze than adults!
Don’t miss… Signing up for free golf and tennis lessons from professionals
Club Med activities include:
- Aqua aerobics
- Beach volleyball
- Bungee trampoline (kids only)
- Circus skills
- Fitness centre/gym
- Golf (six hole course, driving net and practice putting greens)
- Pétanque (similar to bocce but played on sand)
- Pool table
- Table tennis
- Wind surfing
- Water polo
Visiting the buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner at Club Med is a culinary trip around the world. Alongside typical Indonesian food at the main Agung restaurant, you’ll find Italian woodfired pizza and pastas, Japanese sushi and kimchee dishes, and a fresh salad bar and fruit bar, alongside special Balinese and French ‘dishes of the day’. Snacks and tapas are also available at the main bar throughout the day and evening.
As well as Agung, there is a beach bar serving drinks all day, a spectacular circular bar inbetween the pool and the beach, and the ‘Deck’ restaurant which serves an a la carte menu for a late breakfast and a late lunch, as well as becoming a seafood specialty restaurant at night. Children are welcome at all food outlets at all times, with highchairs lining the walls, ready for action. At Agung restaurant, there is a ‘baby corner’. There are bottle warming facilities, as well as sweet and savoury baby foods. There are also high chairs and booster seats available in the restaurant and baby changing facilities in the public bathrooms all over the resort – male and female.
There are four kids clubs at Club Med, Bali, divided by age groups:
Baby Club: 4 months – 23 months
Petite Club: 2 years – 3 years
Mini Club: 4 years – 10 years
Juniors Club: 11 years – 17 years
One of the most outstanding things about all of the Club Med staff is how enthusiastic they are – all of the time. Kids will not only be happy to join in, they will be chomping at the bit to get there. And what a treat is in store! The kids club area is brightly coloured, well equipped and bursting with people passionate about showing your kids a great time. All clubs are open every day, with varying opening hours. Baby Club Med focuses on early learning activities and motor skills, going for walks and making and creating games to improve dexterity.
- Petite Club Med gives toddlers the chance to get involved with lots of outdoor games and encourages group play. Also, gym sessions, expression sessions (fancy dress, making music etc) and rest time.
- Mini Club Med offers action packed adventure with discovery and sports activities. Including sports, circus, dance, taking part in shows, cookery lessons and nature trails.
- Juniors Club Med gives tweens and teens the chance to meet up with their friends in the company of the GOs and take part in activities like archery, trapeze, watersports, dance shows and film nights.
Nusa Dua is a good location to explore some of the cultural sights and busy towns in Bali. Tourism is still relatively new, compared to South East Asian destinations, but this is all part of it’s charm. The Club Med offers a wide range of excursions which are worth taking up. We visited the Waterbom Park, which has been rated by TripAdvisor as the number one in Asia and number three in the world. We also took a boat trip to Lembongan Island, a tour of the temples and a trip to see the sunset in Jimbaran.
If, after you’ve exhausted all of those activities, along with yourself, take time to visit the Club Med Spa by Mandara. With 13 treatment rooms, and a few for romantic tandem treatments, it’s the perfect place to reflect on your Balinese adventure.
Visit Club Med in Bali, online to check out the latest offers for an all-inclusive family holiday