Club Med refit keeps families with children in mind

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PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- Club Med Punta Cana offers activities for guests of all ages, but the village is an especially good fit for families with children.

Thanks to the completion last December of the first phase of a multiphase renovation, guests, known as gracious members or GMs, now arrive at a dramatic open lobby under a thatch roof with views of the swimming pool, the beach and the water beyond.

A half-sunken ship on the horizon looks like a Hollywood prop but is, in fact, real.

Guests will be surprised by the room size and layout, especially good for families.

Although there are no connecting rooms, a sliding door separates a double bedroom from a sitting area furnished with two daybeds that transform into twin beds.

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease on the trapeze offered at Club Med Punta Cana for kids and their parents. Rooms have separate bath areas, safes and hair dryers.

The decor is vibrant and sunny with intense blues, greens and a whimsical feel.

The real draw is the ocean view, which is especially nice from rooms with decks.

Punta Cana rooms have telephones and televisions with kid-friendly channels.

During the renovation, 334 rooms were converted into 243 larger rooms. Also new are the main reception area, a boutique, a main bar, a beach bar and an amphitheater.

The main restaurant and La Cana specialty restaurant were enlarged, and the swimming pool was transformed into a large pool with a terrace.

A second and final phase of the expansion, scheduled for completion in October, will include new bungalow-style rooms with bathrooms, to bring the total of rooms to 543.

At the same time, the Petit and Mini clubs will relocate to new facilities with their own pools and play areas.

Despite these welcome changes and additions, the village still retains that hut-on-the-beach feeling that draws legions of loyal GMs worldwide.

Guests can choose to do as little or as much each day as they want. Most activities, except for off-site excursions, carry no additional charges.

The Mini Club offers age-appropriate activities for children from 4 to 12 years of age.

The children's program runs daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a break at 5:30 p.m.

Parents can drop off their children later or pick them up earlier without hassle.

Children ages 8 and up can check themselves in and out of the club, with permission.

Parents might have trouble wooing their offspring from the lure of the kids' camp.

Children ages 4 to 7 typically spend their days swimming, playing tennis, practicing archery and -- most compelling of all -- learning to swing from a trapeze under professional supervision.

The circus, a trademark at certain Club Med properties, draws adults and children alike. Families who spend a week can perform in a show at the end of their stay.

Kids ages 8 to 12 years meet at the water-sports shack each morning, where they choose from a number of activities, such as kayaking, water skiing, sailing and snorkeling.

After that, they can play tennis, roller blade and play volleyball in a new sports area.

Those from 2 to 4 years have their own Petit Club, featuring a pool for toddlers and supervised activities.

New this winter will be a weeklong soccer program for kids ages 8 to 12, at an extra charge of $50 per child.

Youth staff members are chosen for their expertise in sports and in working with children.

Our 7-year-old's counselor was a bilingual certified teacher from Montreal.

The children's programs are not offered on Saturdays, when most guests arrive and depart.

While the children are off having fun, parents can relax by the pool, which is designed in an elongated, meandering shape, or on the beach.

Aerobics classes are set to classical music in a beachfront gazebo. Adults also can play softball or golf nearby.

Beverages, except for those served in the dining room, are not included in the overall price; tickets come in packets.

All meals are served buffet style and are very good, as befits a French property.

Menu items include regional specialties, fresh fish, kabobs, steak and kid-friendly burgers.

Salad bars, fruit, French cheeses and decadent desserts round out the offerings.

Wine and beer are available at no extra charge at meals.

Children get a daily afternoon snack and are free to dine with their parents at meal times or with their Mini Club friends in a separate area.

Evenings jump with nightly activities that range from musical productions and circus acts to a family carnival night.

Best of all are the absence of noisy watercraft, wet T-shirt contests, deafening poolside disco music and a swim-up bar emitting the smell of beer.

Club Med Punta Cana is about 10 minutes from the Punta Cana Airport.

A much-needed renovation at La Romana, a secondary airport an hour-and-a-half west, will be completed by the end of the year.

Club Med Punta Cana
Phone: (888) WEB CLUB
Web: www.clubmed.com

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