Room Key: Club Med Buccaneers Creek

Address: Les Boucaniers, Pointe Marin, 97227 Sainte Anne, Martinique, French West Indies

Telephone: (011) 596-59 676-7272

Reservations: (800) CLUB MED

Web:www.clubmed.com

General Manager: Hendel Duplessy

Rooms: 293 air-conditioned rooms (176 at present, 117 more -- including 44 suites -- by  late April)

Rates: Land-only, all-inclusive seven nights from $1,120 per person, double, from April 22 to June 16, Sept. 2 to Nov. 3. From $1,260, June 17 to Sept. 1. Annual Club Med membership fees of $60 per adult and $30 per child are additional; promotions and packages offered at certain times of year.

SAINTE ANNE, Martinique -- Forget the Buccaneers Creek of old: the bar beads -- later followed by the paper bar tickets -- the sparsely furnished, dormitory-like rooms sans air conditioning and the buffet lines that had a boarding-school feel.

The Club Med Buccaneers Creek of 2006 is now in the big leagues in terms of amenities and facilities; decor and diversions; and cuisine and comfort.

This resort actually is the oldest of the Club Med villages in the Caribbean. The original Buccaneers Creek opened in 1969 and operated for 35 years without a pool or in-room telephones before closing in 2004 for an 18-month, $60 million makeover from top to bottom.

And what a makeover it was.

The Buccaneers Creek that reopened in December, with a first phase of 176 rooms, heralded not only the new face-lift for the resort but also the relaunch of the island of Martinique itself as a prime-time destination.

Mature, multicultural

Buccaneers Creek in its heyday in the 1980s was 90% young American single guests who partied hard, paired up and broke up, all in the space of a week -- and kept coming back for more, recalled a veteran Club Med guest, who admitted he had been part of that scene and now had returned out of curiosity and nostalgia.

We sure had fun, but this place really needed a face-lift when we were done, he added.

Today, the age of the average guest at Buccaneers Creek is between 45 and 55 years old, but I saw many who were older as well as severalTW.com photo by Gay Nagle Myers families with young kids -- even though this Club Med village does not promote a special program for children.

Haitian-born and raised in Canada, Hendel Duplessy, the charismatic chef de village, or general manager, whos been on the Club Med circuit for a number of years on several continents, said that Americans make up about one-third of the guests now. The rest are French, but we hope to get a 50-50 split pretty soon.

That probably wont be difficult once the word is out in the U.S. about the resorts three-mile-long beach, rimmed with soft sand barged in from Barbuda; the dining areas that overlook the water; and the curvy pier lined with water-skiers awaiting their turns to ski nautique around the bay.

Not to mention Bar le Madou, where Ti-Punch -- the signature drink of Martinique, made with two fingers of white rum laced with zest of lime and a dollop of sugarcane syrup -- is poured countless times each day, or the Creole-decorated spa, where a Moroccan-born masseuse kneaded out my neck knots.

In another departure from Caribbean norms of old, the Club Med Buccaneers Creek is definitely not the type of resort where guests are fenced in or discouraged from stepping beyond the huge stand of 3,500 coconut palm trees at the entrance.

In fact, the Discovery Desk G.O.s (gracious organizers, in Club Med parlance) circulate among the G.M.s (for gracious members -- otherwise called guests), suggesting guided tours to Mont Pelee volcano, the Foret de Montravail tropical rain forest, the village markets, Les Ombrages botanical gardens and the shops and galleries in the capital of Fort-de-France.

We encourage them to get out and meet the Martiniquaises and, in fact, 60% of our guests do do something off site, Duplessy said. They even rent cars. Driving is on the right, and the roads arent bad, but the dos danes [donkey backs, or speed bumps] are everywhere.

I didnt rent a car but instead walked some 15 minutes along the beach, up a stone walkway and past the white-washed tombstones of a flower-filled cemetery, into the village of Sainte Anne.

Small, inexpensive cafes offered seafood and Creole snacks. The euro was the currency here, as everywhere on Martinique, and the sole ATM got a workout from Club Med guests who wandered into the souvenir shop.

On the villages outskirts I found an open-air flea market where bikinis sold for $12 and homemade mustard for $3 a jar.

Creole flavor

Even if guests chose not to leave Club Med Buccaneers Creek, a sense of Martiniques place in history permeated the resort. From the local artwork that decorated the guest rooms to the Creole music comprising nightly entertainment, not to mention the replica of the only-in-Martinique yole boat in the open-air lobby, the island culture informs and entertains.

(Real yoles, by the way, crisscross Marin Bay, just around the point from the resort.)

Each building cluster at Buccaneers Creek carried a traditional French-Creole moniker. Sovedezo, the building where I stayed, translated to Safe from water.

Other Creole proverbs and expressions are carved into the headboards in resort bedrooms, and translations are included in the guest-room literature. 

My headboard saying read Adan jaden bokay, ni ampil bon bagay, which meant A mans home is his castle.

That goes for women, as well.

The 12-room beachfront tower at the southern, quieter end of the resort village -- an authentic structure still standing from the original fishing village, called Quartier du Port, that was once there -- is particularly popular with honeymooning guests.

The tower was the only building not demolished in the ground-up renovation.

The second phase of Buccaneers Creek, scheduled for completion in late April, will offer 117 additional guest units, including 44 suites. More growth may yet be in the works, as theres plenty of open land all around the Club Med property.

Club Med always has the best location, no matter where in the world the villages are, because we always get in first, Duplessy said. Here in Martinique, we are on the perfect beach, and we have the perfect weather, he added.

I second that. La vie en rose is alive and well at Club Med Buccaneers Creek. Salut!

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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For more details on this article, see Martinique aims to advance tourism.

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