Putting together a travel itinerary is, although fun, perhaps one of most tedious parts of a holiday. Questions like where to go, what to do after which activity and — when traveling with family or any big group — whose ideas to prioritize, are asked over and over again until a solid schedule is set and, fingers crossed, everyone is pleased.
I remember having a hard time enjoying a vacation I took with a group of people to Bali years ago, as everyone had to constantly wait on each other before going places they may or may not have been interested in. While half the group had in mind a day of relaxing and sunbathing, the other half wanted activities that called for a bit more motion and energy. I have since sworn off traveling with groups of more than four people, keeping in mind that more isn’t always merrier.
It’s not that all the different things we wanted to do were unavailable. The popular tourism destination that it is, southern Bali no doubt provides a plethora of options for visitors of all kinds; the only issue is that many of them may not be conveniently situated near each other, requiring time, sometimes a full hour, to be spent getting from point A to point B.
My returns to the island since have been well-thought-out and carefully prioritized, consisting mostly of trips to the beach and visits to the nearest possible restaurants to give my Jakartan soul — jaded from daily encounters with the capital’s notorious traffic jam — maximum convenience.
It was no wonder, then, that I found myself pleasantly surprised when a staff member who welcomed me at Club Med Bali during my latest trip to the island explained the range of activities that guests like myself would be able to enjoy throughout our stay.
A pioneer of the premium “all-inclusive” resort concept, Club Med resorts the world over are dedicated to ensuring that guests are provided a range of unique experiences during their holiday, all within the confines of the establishment.
In its Bali facility, first built in 1986 and located in the quieter Nusa Dua area, a holiday retreat becomes a lot more than just luxury resting spaces or a day out at the beach.
Touring the resort we were shown tennis courts, badminton courts and golfing areas, where guests can practice or — when feeling competitive — join a daily tournament.
For those feeling a lot more adventurous, exploring other hidden talents in more unconventional sports is an option available almost all day long. Venues for activities like flying trapeze and archery appear to be some of the more popular places at the resort, where trained instructors patiently guide visitors of all ages through everything they need to know before finally giving it a try.
Out at sea, the options for water sports include windsurfing, kayaking and snorkeling.
“Many of our visitors, especially those from European countries, stay for two-week lengths or even more,” says Bruno Courbet, Club Med’s country manager for Indonesia.
And for some, with consistent and regular training, the amount of time spent during the length of a vacation is enough time to go back home with a new skill to show off (sure enough, I found myself browsing for venues back in the capital where I might possibly follow up on my newfound interest after my introduction to archery).
With the activities over, one can always head over to the beach, where a small bar is conveniently located, grab a drink and put the muscles to rest while enjoying Nusa Dua’s secluded shoreline, far away from the crowded Kuta area.
Here, drinks are enjoyed at peace, without the fear of receiving a surprising bill at the end of one’s stay, as, in line with the resort’s all-inclusive nature, drinks, meals and all activities are included in the price of the stay.
Even when a variety of facilities is guaranteed to keep both sporty and lazy vacationers entertained, in most holiday experiences, those traveling with family are often forced to compromise their vacation to ensure the comfort and safety of their younger ones.
Parents, for instance, are likely to spend their day by a pool watching over the kids and consequently get to spend a very limited amount of time doing or seeing other things they may be interested in.
To ensure both kids and grown-ups get the most from their break, Club Med runs what it calls the Mini Club, where all day long children aged 4 to 12 years old are introduced to an array of activities. From casual singing and drawing to pool games and outdoor nature walks, the younger ones are never short of fun and educational things to do.
Parents, in turn, get to have time to themselves to lounge around at the main bar — still with the same open bar system — or at the resort’s age-restricted Zen Pool, the latest addition to Club Med Bali built for adults looking for a quieter space away from the programs going on at the main pool.
In the months to come, Courbet said the resort was looking to improve its kids’ program and extend a helping hand to parents with children who are even younger.
“Soon we can take care of babies as young as four months,” he says, emphasizing that those assigned to take care of them are certified and professional baby-sitters. The program, Courbet adds, has been introduced in a number of other Club Med properties, and the Bali resort hopes to follow suit soon.
When night falls, everyone is invited to attend the daily evening entertainment show that incorporates dancing, acrobatics and theatrical skills, presented for guests by Club Med’s very own staff and, sometimes, willing guests and their children.
“The shows change every day for 15 days, because we don’t want guests staying for two weeks to have to see the same show during their stay,” Courbet says.
For many, a big part of a vacation lies not only in the day-to-day itinerary, but in meeting new people and making new friends. A staff member explained upon my arrival at Club Med that it was on such grounds that the resort runs its own unique culture when it comes to guest-staff relations, something that proved true throughout my stay.
The resort staff — comprising individuals of diverse nationalities and backgrounds who are regularly rotated to the different Club Med locations all over the world after a six-month or one-year period — are not only busy in their own different posts, but also constantly up for a nice chat over breakfast, lunch or dinner. During these meals at the main restaurant, the mood is highly casual and friendly, and both guests and staff alike are encouraged to mingle and converse with one another as they please.
Over three days at the resort, strangers slowly evolved into familiar faces I’d run into daily over sporting activities, drinks and the regular evening parties. One can only imagine how much these relationships can grow over the course of a two-week stay.
Talking to Club Med Bali’s business manager, Sally Do Nascimento, over lunch one day, I learned that the connections made within the resort are often the very thing that leave a mark, as much for the globe-trotting staff as for the guests.
“People have cried leaving Club Med at the end of their vacation,” says Sally, who is from Johannesburg and fell in love with Club Med and soon began working for it after visiting as a guest. “Because you don’t just meet them and say ‘hi’ or ‘how are you?’, but you actually build bonds.”