Have you ever been to a Club Med? It’s essentially a Kids Club for all ages (including me). Now, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would the all-inclusive model allow me to drink cocktails whilst my kids were off doing archery? Would the evening’s entertainment be a total cheese fest? Would my children be sobbing as we left? Would I be? The answer is a resounding YES.
In case you didn’t grow up coveting a trip to Club Med, their shtick is ‘premium’ all-inclusive resorts located world-wide. There are close to 80 resorts, varying from beach to snow. I had friends visiting us in Singapore and they wanted to add on a resort weekend, ideally without a flight. My friend also added in a plea for a Kids Club that would take his 2 year old for the entire day! This left us with only one option, Club Med Bintan Island. Bintan Island is part of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, a short boat ride from Singapore. There are a number of resorts to choose from on Bintan including the Angsana and Banyan Tree.
How did I book Club Med?
Rather than booking online, I ended up phoning the Club Med hotline as I had a question about ferry times. This also allowed me to inquire further about the rooms. It transpires that the basic room is actually two interconnecting hotel rooms. Even though I explained that we’d be happy to pile into one, there is no negotiation around this which means it is expensive (we paid SGD 2100 for two nights on a public holiday weekend). Bear in mind though that it is all-inclusive of ferry transfer, food & drink and activities.
How did I get to Bintan?
It’s such a joy not having to fly. We booked an 11am departure from Tanah Mera Ferry Terminal in Singapore. We arrived one hour prior to departure and that was plenty of time as there’s nothing to do in the terminal. The 45 minute crossing was straightforward, I had anticipated it might be bumpy but bring sea-sickness tablets if you are prone.
There was a bit of a queue at immigration and do check whether you require a visa. There’s no point rushing through this section as you have to wait for all the Club Med visitors at the ferry terminal. After you’ve collected your bags, you proceed to the Club Med counter where you get your wristbands. The drive to the resort is approximately 20 minutes.
The tone is set the moment you get off the bus with the staff singing and clapping you in. The resort is enormous and the beach/pool areas are stunning. Although our rooms weren’t ready, we were able to get stuck in to the activities straight away.
What was our room like?
We were literally miles away. If you are traveling with young kids and want quick access to your room from the pool, request a room that is closer to the main building. You can google resort maps with the building names. The rooms are nice, Balinese wooden style. One had a King size bed and the other, two twin beds. The decor is nothing to write home about but very clean with everything you need. We also had a balcony but beware of the monkeys!
How are the facilities?
You name it, they’ve got it; gym, tennis, archery, yoga, badminton, golf, volleyball, squash, spa…
The pool is located just in front of the main building and is a decent size. There’s also a shallower kids pool behind it.
How’s the beach?
This was my biggest surprise, the beach here is absolutely stunning. Powder sand, clear water, aside from the odd patches of tar. We were lucky enough to be there during the release of baby turtles, which happens once every two years.
So how does it all work?
Armed with your wrist band, you have access to all activities, Kids Club and Food/Beverage. There are certain activities you have to pay extra for e.g. round of golf. There’s a daily timetable listing out all the kids and adult activities plus the entertainment. There’s simply not enough hours in the day to enjoy all that’s on offer. Liberated from my children, who were happily swinging on the trapeze at Kids Club, I bounced from aerobics to Zumba to aquarobics to beach olympics to the bar. There was not one member of staff (or GO as they call them) who wasn’t enthusiastic and inclusive of the activity they were running.
How’s the Kids Club?
I’m warning you now, you will never experience a better Kids Club in a resort. This is why you’re here, so your kids can experience the most incredible activities whilst you head off and do the same (or sit by the pool, your choice). There are 3 kids clubs available;
- Petit Club Med (age 2-3)
- Mini Club Med (age 4-10)
- Junior Club Med (age 11-17)
The clubs run from 8.30 am to 5 pm and from 6.45 pm to 8.30 pm, every day. The Kids Clubs are housed in a big unit at the front of the resort. However, their activities are dotted around depending on what they are doing. You can sign them in for as little as long as you like. You can give older kids age 8+ the option to sign themselves out (but if you do this, you may find they turn up at your sunlounger and disturb you).
The GO’s in charge of the kids are just incredible. There’s so much fun and laughter, it’s no surprise Miss Mayhem had to be dragged kicking and screaming when they left. Here’s some of the awesome stuff they got up to:
- Putting on a dance show in the big theatre. After the kids had performed, they then opened up a ‘kids cocktail bar’ as a surprise
- Morning Trapeze lessons
- Foam Party
- Pirate treasure hunt
- Kids yoga
What’s the evening entertainment like?
There are programmes on nightly and Club Med are famous for their shows. On our first night, we watched an amazing dance show which turned into a neon disco party. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with my kids on the dancefloor. The second night was a hilarious music show, followed by a cultural fare, where all the GOs showed off an activity related to their home country.
A lot of time and effort goes into these shows. It’s only here you realise the skill of some of the GOs who’ve been running activities during the day – from amazing dancing to circus skills! You’ll also become addicted to the ‘Crazy Sign’ dances (you can find them on YouTube) – the GOs break out into them at every opportunity.
How’s the food?
I would say this is the only area in which Club Med let’s itself down. There are two restaurants available, the main buffet and the a la carte (which you can only book the day of). The Buffet is beautifully presented and there’s a dizzying array of options available. However, the food was always just a bit meh. In fact we would joking pick up the delicious looking desserts, dig in with excitement and then giggle with laughter when we realised it all tasted the same. There’s loads of stuff for kids, mine were very happy chowing down on the usual pizza, chips, bread options. To be fair, I didn’t get the chance to test out the a la carte but that was because it was always full!
They do also put out a mini snack buffet in the bar area behind the pool. Speaking of which, you can access drinks at the bar all day. Again, the cocktails all seemed to taste the same and if you’re into wine, bring your own! My kids loved helping themselves to fizzy drinks and milkshakes. Thank goodness the Kids Club were mainly parenting them!
There’s a lovely juice bar down by the beach, serving fresh juices early in the day and coffees/cocktails later on.
Would I go back to Club Med Bintan?
Despite the food, I would return in a heartbeat. I don’t think we’ve ever had so much fun at a resort hotel! I loved the sense of freedom it gave to parents, able to try out different activities knowing their kids were in safe hands elsewhere. Although I had reservations about the naff entertainment, if you drink the kool-aid and get stuck in, you’ll have a blast!