Club Med Helps Guests Feel the Rush

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Inclusives editor Cathy Carroll visited Club Med in Playa Blanca, Mexico. Her report follows:

PLAYA BLANCA, Mexico -- Placing my toes over the edge of the 2-by-4-foot plank suspended more than two stories high, I reached out to grab the trapeze bar.

The Club Med instructor holding my safety belt from behind calmly dictated that I lean my hips forward, and when he gave the command, I was to lift the bar, grab it with my other hand and step off the plank. I knew that the net below and the safety ropes attached to my belt made it virtually impossible for me to get hurt, but nevertheless, my heart raced and my palms became moist. "Hup!" he shouted, and I was off, flooded with the rush of arcing out into the still, warm, afternoon air. Playa Blanca

It was this -- along with horseback riding, rock climbing, kayaking and plenty of parties on the picturesque cove here -- that enables this village, one of 120 Club Meds on five continents, to uphold its reputation as one of the most active places for young singles and couples. "It is a place where people can live their dreams amid good times and friendship," said village director Houria Osmani.

Judging by the week here, Club Med seems to have found a successful formula under a recently announced reorganization. The plan is aimed at rejuvenating its reputation and becoming profitable by the turn of the millennium, when the club will mark its 50th anniversary. The company said it will achieve its goals mainly by renovating and expanding its properties, launching an advertising campaign emphasizing its inclusive features and lowering the prices at some villages.

What does not need much change, however, is the program and ambience, which seem to be satisfying guests. Club Med reports that each visitor, on the average, returns to a Club Med village four times.

The expertise of the GOs (gracious organizers), who are the hosts and hostesses, sports instructors and tour guides, is an essential aspect of the club's atmosphere. For instance, in the intensive English riding program here (at an additional charge of $330 per person), the instructors' deft guidance enabled me, a beginner, to feel far more confident and skilled by week's end than I thought I would.

In true Club Med tradition, however, it was not all hard work. Thanks to what I learned in the ring, my instructor placed me in the intermediate group for an afternoon trail ride. We cantered through the woods to a crescent-shaped beach, where we joined other guests who had walked or kayaked to the spot to body surf and sip margaritas.

Buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner offered a wide array of fresh and interesting choices, such as dozens of types of freshly baked breads and pastries; homemade tortillas fresh off the griddle; homemade pasta made to order, and wine and beer. Evenings were dedicated to the enjoyment of comedy, dance and circus shows performed by the GOs.

Agents should prepare clients for accommodations that are comfortable but not luxurious. For instance, guests are required to carry their luggage to their rooms, which can be atop several flights of winding brick stairways here.

The resort's season runs from November to April. Club Med said it has not established rates yet for the coming season. Pricing for seven-night stays here last season, with Sunday departures from New York, was $1,099, including air.

Club Med, Phone: (800) 258-2633, Web: http://www.clubmed.com

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Club Med's "savings season" -- through mid-June and starting again Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, offers 11% to 24% off regular prices at most Club Med villages in the North American zone -- the Bahamas, Mexico, the Caribbean and the U.S.

Combined land-air packages are available from six major gateways: Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Some examples of the per-person, one-week land/ air package prices during the savings season are:

  • Huatulco, Mexico, from Boston, New York and Washington, $1,099, a 13% discount, and $999 from Chicago, a 19% savings.
  • For Ixtapa, Mexico, the price is $1,199 from all six gateways, which represents a savings of up to 19%.
  • New York to Eleuthera, in the Bahamas, at $1,299, carries a 13% savings.
  • Boston to Turkoise, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, at $1,399, is a savings of 16%.
  • Sonora Bay, Mexico, from Los Angeles and San Francisco is priced at $899, a 17% savings. Boston, New York and Washington to Sonora Bay is $999, a 24% savings.
  • New rates appeared in a summer-fall brochure, released in March. Club Med also offers a program to discount 50% off the land cost of the second week of two-week stays at any North American village. This can amount to savings of more than $500 per person, according to the company.

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