If you're like me, you're likely having a couple of thoughts:
"Club Med still exists?!?"
"There's a Club Med in Florida?!?"
The answer to both of these questions is "yes!" I remember hearing about Club Med as a child is the 80s & 90s, and the only place I can imagine that happening was when it was a prize on game shows, such as The Wheel of Fortune. The idea of these all-inclusive resorts in exotic destinations sounded so exclusive and luxurious. Then, something happened, and I'm not sure what it was. I never heard of them again until a few years ago when I was searching for an affordable solo travel option during Spring Break as a college professor. That is what got it back on my radar, but I still never met anyone who had any experience with Club Med.
In early 2020, just before the COVID pandemic was a real thing, I arranged for a weekend stay at Club Med Sandpiper Bay, which is an hour north of West Palm Beach airport, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. My original trip was scheduled for late March, but that was canceled while the world shut down to figure out how to function again. I reached out to reschedule, and was able to visit in mid-November. Continue reading for a review of my experience.
Note: It might be interesting to read about the history of Club Med here. The founder is Belgian, and the first Club Med was sort of a campground on an island off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The concept was to connect with people through sports. Gérard Blitz, the founder said, “the aim of life is to be happy, the place to be happy is here, and the time to be happy is now." There is also a focus on yoga, which I am just now realizing!
Check-in and COVID Protocols:
It worked best for me to rent a car, so after stopping for a lovely waterfront lunch at The Stuart Boathouse, I arrived at Club Med at around 2:00 pm. I was greeted my a friendly man at the gate who checked my name on a list and allowed me in. When I drove up to the main building, it wasn’t clear to me what I should do, so I parked and walked up to a desk outside, where two women were standing. They told me that they actually do curbside check-in, so I should go back to my car and wait. They asked for my ID and credit card so that they could get started. After waiting about 5 minutes in the car, one of them came to window with a clipboard and all of the necessary information. After signing a couple of things, she gave me a map, a schedule of activities, and told me where to park. It was a friendly, smooth process.
Like everywhere, Club Med has their own health & safety protocols because of COVID. They call it “Safe Together.” Masks are required in buildings, and I was VERY impressed with my fellow guests for abiding by this rule! Hand sanitizer stations are plentiful, and a little kiosk takes your temperature and makes sure you’re wearing a mask when you enter the dining room. Speaking of the dining room, it is called The Marketplace and is normally a buffet. Instead of being a buffet, they have food on plates for your to pick up and take to your table. For certain dishes, a person behind the counter assists you. More about the dining experience later.
Sometimes the room is a place you want to show off on social media, and sometimes it's not. This was not a room to show off, but it wasn't bad. I believe the current word for it is "basic." Honestly, although my stay was only two nights, the more time I spent in the room the more homey and comfortable it felt. It was actually sort of "endearing."
Approaching the room you can see signs of age on the buildings and walkways. The buildings have three floors with a nicely landscaped courtyard in the middle, and the rooms are entered from there. That is a plus for people who don’t want to walk through a lobby to get to their room. The door had a sticker stating that it has been sanitized. As I entered, there was a familiar scent. It didn’t smell bad, but it smelled like an old hotel room. Everything appeared to be very clean and pretty well maintained.
The bathroom had two vanity areas--one with the toilet and shower and another just outside that door. There was an enormous walk-in closet, and the mini-fridge & coffee station was between the bathroom & closet. The bedroom had a king bed that could be divided into two twin beds, and there were two sleeper sofas facing each other, with a coffee table and desk nearby. The room had a water view across a lawn, with a patio outside the sliding glass doors.
Overall Property, Pools, etc.
Walking around the resort is a lovely experience. There is a sidewalk that follows the water around the property, and the landscaping is well maintained. I must mention that this is not an oceanfront resort. However, it has a beach. Club Med Sandpiper Bay is on the St. Lucie River. If you didn't know better, you would think it is on a lake. There is a small beach area, with some nice seating, and this is an excellent place to watch the sunset!
The resort is referred to as a village, so at the center of the village is where you go for meals, the main family pool, a bar, the gift shop, front desk, etc. It's really a nice area, with lots of seating. If the rooms appear to need updating, this area does not. It felt new, current, well maintained, etc, and there was plenty of seating everywhere.