Club Med-Sandpiper Keeps Guests Busy

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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. rollerbladers

"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 programs.

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 wire.

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 basics.

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 the bar.

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 period.

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. 21.

Club Med-The Sandpiper, Phone: (800) CLUB-MED

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