One of my favorite places to go on vacation is Club Méditerranée, a chain of resorts that is not only strategically located but I’m happy to say it also has a history of following environmentally conscious practices. They have been a popular vacation destination for Europeans since the first one was introduced in Mallorca in 1950, a modest collection of straw huts with communal washing facilities that offered war-weary Europeans a place to get away from it all. Most American travelers have never even heard of Club Med. I suppose that’s probably because the primary language spoken in the resorts is French, but most employees also speak
several other languages English.
A Short History…
Club Med was the first all-inclusive resort. It was the brain child of Gérard Blitz, a Belgian water polo champion. His goal was to provide a vacation experience unlike any other: one which integrated the resort into its host country in the least obtrusive way possible but at the same time offered guests the opportunity to meet and mingle, to recharge, to be entertained, and to participate in a variety of activities. From the beginning, Club Med has adhered to the practice of sustainable development, always conscious of its impact on the environment. In the late 1990’s, the Club Méditerranée Foundation was created to encourage employees to participate in solidarity initiatives in the towns and villages near the resorts. There are currently more than 80 of them located all over the world, one of which is here in the U.S. in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
In the early years, most of Club Med’s guests arrived by train, traveling in cars that held eight people. Many of them would get to know each other on the way to the resort, so to further encourage the blossoming friendships, the tables in the resort’s restaurant were configured to seat parties of eight. The same holds true at Club Med restaurants today, and guests are encouraged to eat together. Club Med employees (known as GO’s or Gentils Organisateurs) also sit with the guests (GM’s or Gentils Membres), getting to know them and introducing them to each other. There is a real spirit of camaraderie at Club Med.
The first Club Meds were located near the ocean, thus the symbol of the resort is Poseidon’s trident, which symbolizes his mastery over the water. The trident also serves as a point system for grading individual resorts… the ones with five tridents being the most luxurious. One of the GO’s at Vittel told me that the trident also represents spear fishing, which was one of the original sports at Club Med.
I have visited a few of the resorts, the most recent being the one in Vittel, France. This year marks the resort’s 40th anniversary, so the spirit there was quite festive. Many of the guests there were regulars, with most coming from France and Belgium.
The resort itself was beautiful, even though it was not on the water. (We chose it because it was close to Germany, where we had tucked away our 16-year-old in soccer camp for two weeks.) Our rooms were located in the former Grand Hotel, since the Palace is now used to accommodate the GO’s. At first, we were disappointed not to be in the Palace – until we found out many of the rooms had nightly visitors: bats!
The kids had a blast. We signed them up for the Mini Club, but they only went for a couple of days. They preferred to hang with us – sleeping in til 10:00, then leisurely deciding what to do… either swimming, playing soccer or tennis, roller blading or archery.
Every evening at around 5:00, everyone would congregate out on the bar patio for drinks and snacks, and there would be a band playing or the GO’s would put on a performance of some kind.
Club Med is a great choice for people who are active and social. And if you have kids, there are children’s camps at many of their locations so you don’t have to spend your entire vacation trying to entertain them. The kids can go when
they you want, leaving you to do other things. Everyone is happy!
To me, Club Med represents everything that is good about vacation. When you choose to go to one of the villages, you become part of the “club.” You leave the world behind, and since it is all-inclusive, you don’t have to worry about money – food, drinks and even most activities are covered. So it’s really a no-brainer…..you are guaranteed to have fun! And in the end, isn’t that what a vacation is supposed to be all about?
VIVE VACANCES! 🙂
Where do you like to go on vacation? Please share your favorite spots…..