Associate editor Paul Felt attended a "Super Fam" at Club Med
Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. His report follows:
uper fam, super fans. Club Med
created both recently when it invited about 300 travel agents and
me for the first such gathering at its resort at Punta Cana.
The agents were completing the familiarization portion of Club
Med's specialist program. As a newcomer to a Club Med anywhere, I
was there just for the familiarization part.
The occasion gave resort officials the opportunity to unveil
some initiatives that seemed to please the agents. It gave me a
chance to unwind and pick up some new skills.
As for the initiatives, Club Med announced it was raising its
base commission for specialist agencies from 10% to 12%, giving one
complimentary night for every booking of three nights or longer,
and making the open-bar bracelet program available at nearly all
North American villages.
The agents liked that.
"Our ability to be there for [Club Med] depends on our ability
to continue to make a living," said Dennis Groat, co-owner of J.
Fire Travel, Manhattan Beach, Calif. "It makes it much easier to
work hard for a company that is going to support you."
That's good, I thought. By now, I was contemplating
"They're keeping up with the times, and they understand what
people want," inserted Groat's wife, Denise, who shares ownership
of the agency with her husband. "Now Club Med has something for
everybody. It used to be [mainly] for the swinging singles."
I'm single, but, hey, this was work, right? Accommodations,
food, recreation -- that's what I needed to focus on.
Having never been to a Club Med before, I enlisted the help of
Gulcin Brunson, an agent with Valerie Wilson Travel, New York, who
has sold Club Med since 1971 and has been to eight villages over
Brunson said she saw a marked improvement in the quality of the
rooms compared with those of other village locations she'd visited
in the past.
Brunson was especially impressed by Punta Cana's children's
programs, broken up into Mini, Junior and Petit Club Meds.
"The staff was attentive and the kids were well taken care of,
entertained, taught and directed," she said.
Although she liked the kids' entertainment, Brunson said the
shows for adults weren't up to the quality of other Club Meds and
the ventilation in the theater could have been better.
But with 300 people with so much in common together in one
place, most agents made their own entertainment.
"We were just letting everything hang loose," said Frank Kelley,
president and owner of Cyberspace Travel Tours, Hempstead, N.Y.,
for whom this was a first-time stay at a Club Med.
Indeed, no one seemed self-conscious about anything. One
patriotic agent even turned up in a Speedo with an American flag
Kelley continued: "The group we had was so happy and joyful ...
the food was a plus ... and the employees they have there love
their job and love working with people. It was like these people
would almost do it for nothing."
The employees Kelley was referring to are Club Med's Gracious
Organizers (called G.O.'s) -- a staff of mostly 20-something,
multilingual social butterflies from all over the world. A nice
quirk about Club Med culture is that it's often difficult to tell
the staff's G.O.'s and its guests, or Gracious Members (called
G.M.'s), apart. The ratio of G.M.'s to G.O.'s is 10-to-1. The
overall guest-to-staff ratio is 1-to-3.
Am I losing you with discussions of G.M.'s, G.O.'s and ratios?
OK, let's talk about sailboating. The Punta Cana resort is
especially conducive to all types of water sports. Protected by a
reef, the Caribbean is clear and calm and ideal for sailing and
I took a group lesson and tried my hand with a sailboat. (I
would have gotten my feet wet with windsurfing if I had had a few
more days.) After a lesson explaining the theory behind
sailboating, instructors took their students out on the water one
With my coach on board, I was able to sail away from shore and
turn around. That may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but
take it from me, it's not easy to remember how and when to do what.
Once on my own, I found my tacking and turning skills eluded me,
landing me in the water pretty quickly.
Nevertheless, I'd jump at the chance to return to Punta Cana to
improve my sailing and to continue my familiarization with Club
Med, where all things combine to make for a gentle learning
Room key: Club Med Punta Cana
Address: Apartado Postale 106 Higuey, La
Altagracia, Dominican Republic
Phone: (809) 686-5500
Fax: (809) 687-5287
Reservations: (800) CLUB MED (258-2633)
Chief of village: Youssef Dahri
Rooms: 543 air-conditioned rooms.
History: Built in 1980. Renovated and expanded in
Rates: From $1,010 per person, double, for seven
nights, air-inclusive from New York (Kennedy).
Location: Set on a half-mile strip of white sand
beach on the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic, a short
drive from Punta Cana's airport.
Raves: Overall buffet meal selections are
terrific, especially at dinner. Charter flight food is surprisingly
good. Fun, playful atmosphere. Great location for swimming, sailing
and windsurfing. Newly built, neatly appointed rooms. Well-staffed
Children's Club program. Exceptional value.
Rants: Village is huge, and it is a long walk from
the activities and restaurants to guest rooms at the edge of the
resort. It can get hot there. Booking excursions should be made
more seamless and clear for guests.