By Marilee Crocker
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Robin Applebaum is a mother of three and
a specialist in family travel in Minnetonka, Minn., working as an
independent contractor. Under the banner Kids Welcome Travel, she
has booked hundreds of clients at resorts selected, in part, for
the quality of their children's programs and has traveled with her
own children, age 9, 12 and 13.
"My kids love Club Med-Sandpiper -- the Circus Workshop,
learning how to swing on the trapeze and doing the circus show at
night. There is so much variety to choose from that they were busy
even if the weather was bad."
After spending two nights earlier this year at the property, on
the banks of the St. Lucie River, 45 miles north of West Palm Beach
Airport, we found the atmosphere unreservedly upbeat, carefree and
busy. "The spirit and atmosphere is different here," said Sylvio de
Bortoli, regional director of operations, who likened the village
to a cruise ship but "with a lesser sense of service and a better
sense of fun and energy."
Among the wide variety of guests on hand were a nurse, a pro
teaching golf here on leave from her Virginia golf school and a
Swedish couple. All were without children but had opted for Club
Med-Sandpiper even though it is, above all, a family resort. In
fact, when Sandpiper is full -- it operates at 88% occupancy
year-round -- some 200 of the 600 guests are children and are
enrolled in the Petit Club and Mini Club supervised activities
Like other Club Meds, Sandpiper is noteworthy for all of the
activities included in its price; for its communal dining featuring
buffet spreads accompanied by free wine and beer, and for the mix
of Americans and foreign travelers. Americans make up 70% of guests
in winter, 40% in summer.
Most distinctive is the carefree atmosphere facilitated by the
"GOs," which is Club Med lingo for its resident, multilingual staff
of sports instructors, hosts and hostesses, entertainers, tour
guides and child-care workers.
Also found here are an extensive family program, an intensive
golf program, a tennis academy, and, of course the Circus Workshop
program that thrilled Applebaum's children. The latter is offered
to both children and adults.
One afternoon, I wandered over to the Circus Tent, where a
trapeze lesson for adults was taking place. I watched with awe as
one brave soul after another donned a safety harness and climbed a
30-foot-high platform, where a GO attached them securely to a guy
There, under the watchful gaze of instructors, each grasped the
trapeze bar before jumping off the perch and swinging out high over
a safety net, where the daredevil tried various stunts before
dismounting to enthusiastic applause from fellow students.
Earlier, my friend Mayrene tried her skill at rollerblading
while equipped with knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and helmet.
She listened and watched as a capable GO demonstrated the
Rollerblading and trapeze lessons were just two activities
scheduled for a Friday. We preferred sunbathing and Ping-Pong, but
others signed up for a morning power walk, tennis lessons, step
aerobics, trampoline, juggling lessons, basketball, body sculpting,
a massage class, sailing and waterskiing. A morning yoga and
stretch class was conducted by a 76-year-old GO who earlier
performed a headstand on a dining-room table.
On our last evening, we opted for an elegant dinner on our own
in one of the two restaurants that feature fine dining and table
service -- for no extra charge.
For those with the energy, the day was capped off by a musical
show, dancing at the Disco, a flying-trapeze show and live music at
Through Aug. 22, weekly rates at the Club Med-Sandpiper start at
$1,050 per adult, based on double occupancy, and at $735 for
children age 6 to 11; children age 2 to 5 stay free during that
Note: Air-inclusive packages with American are available from
selected U.S. cities.
Because of a $6 million to $8 million face-lift this fall, Club
Med-Sandpiper will be closed Sept. 13 and will reopen on Nov.
Club Med-The Sandpiper, Phone: (800) CLUB-MED