Folks, at long last my trip report.
Let me know if you have any questions!
Arrival and Departure
I flew from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale on Delta and then changed terminals (not difficult) to Spirit Airlines. The Club Med reps were there and got us checked in very quickly. The good news is that there are no weight limits or extra bag fees from FLL to Columbus with the Club Med deal. The bad news is that you’ve still got to get the bags to FLL, so you may have to pay overweight luggage (with all my scuba gear, I almost did). On arrival at San Sal, the GO team was there and we quickly transferred to the village (10 mins away), had a greeting from the CDV and then we taken to our rooms. All very well managed.
My departure was a bit hairy because I went to the Beacon Bar (near the Sea Centre) for one last drink with friends and then walked over to the airport. I thought I would miss the plane, but things move at a slow pace there and I ended up waiting with everybody else.
As I’m a diver, this was of course, the most important issue for me. Fortunately, the Scuba Chief, Jean-Paul and his assistant Fred are excellent, as is the rest of the team: Beth, Miranda, Loudyn, Dae, Stephane, Hannah, Kirby, Chris and the fabulous Yannick from Belgium, who unfortunately left on the 10th. Boat captains Tony, Pedro and Clive were also fantastic. There’s nothing like coming up in a rough current and seeing Tony’s reassuring face – you know he’s going to get you safely back in that boat. (My apologies for anybody I missed.) Although I bring my own gear, I could see that the Club equipment was of good quality and well-maintained and many experienced divers were using it. The big excitement was during my second week, when we had regular sightings of a giant manta ray! These animals are quite rare and to get to see one in action was unforgettable!
My visit was also great fun because I was diving for the first time with the Reef Police. Its organizer Adria and I met on Club Med Planet about 2 years ago and so it was wonderful to finally get together! (Thanks CMP! )
I didn’t snorkel, but the reports were quite good. It’s managed by Thomas, who is doing his dive courses (he’s a fish in the water) and will make a great future instructor.
Reception is managed by the fantastic Kate from Montreal and she and her team do a great job. This was a VAST improvement from my previous visits to Columbus, where I was scared to even approach the Reception people because they were so unpleasant. Kate and her team handled all sorts of issues with grace, charm and humor – just super! Re the internet: the Club’s ISP has been giving them trouble for several months, so sometimes it was down for several hours. You should not assume you will have full-time internet access when you go there (and hey, you shouldn’t spend your vacation on the internet anyway). Having said that, one of my issues was not the internet connection itself, but the fact that there are only 3 computers to use. This should not be a problem, but more than once, while I was trying to concentrate on my emails and deal with a crisis at the office, it was almost impossible to focus because there was a crowd of rowdy teenagers using the other 2 computers. Why anybody has to go on Facebook while they’re on vacation with such a lovely beach is beyond me, but yep, they were doing it – ugh!
I was in one of the formerly shared bungalows, not the main rooms. It suited my purposes very well because unlike the past, where I shared it with someone, this time it was all mine. I used one room as a sleeping area and the other room as a dressing/dive gear area (and I mean my stuff was spread EVERYWHERE). My housekeeper, the very kind Maureen, took it all in with good humor.
I didn’t sail or windsurf, but the people who did seemed fairly pleased. I'm told there was also pretty good waterskiing and “wake-boarding” (whatever that is!).
Food and Drink
The food at Columbus is far superior to that of Turks, for example. Although I hated the Asian night, other people loved it. And the Tex-Mex night was a big hit. Of course, the mint chocolate chip ice cream brought smiles to everyone. As I was diving, I usually went to the Annex restaurant for lunch (except Wednesdays, when it’s closed). I noted that the selection of salads and “cold things” was much bigger and better at the Annex. So I would recommend it even to those who don’t dive. And the view from the terrace cannot be beaten! But no matter where you eat, look out for the seagulls! They are really good at waiting until you leave your plate on the table to go get one thing – and then they SWOOP and snatch away your stuff! My last morning, this really nasty man watched them steal part of my pancakes. All he had to do was wave his arm and they would have gone away, but no, he wanted to see “the fun”. Agh! Well, one jerk in 2 weeks isn’t so bad.
The Bar team is also quite good: Aby, Luc, Arnie, Allan and Babacar all come immediately to mind, even 3 weeks later. If you meet Babacar, be sure to tell him you heard he’s really Michael Jackson and he didn’t die, just snuck off to CM to avoid the press! Arnie started this joke one day at the bar and Babacar has not been able to live it down!
Massage and Sauna
I didn’t have any massages this trip, but a friend had several and said they were great. She was usually with a woman called Rihanna or Rebecca and really enjoyed it.
Now I know you may be thinking, “What? They have sauna at Columbus Isle?” Of course they do, except it’s called the Theatre and 15 minutes into the show, you’ve sweated off several pounds! I’m told that in mid-July they would be setting up big fans, but they should have done it MUCH earlier.
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
The only real negative about going to CI in the summer is the bugs. I had brought some dramatic bug spray called “DEEP WOOD OFF!!! WITH DEET!!!” and I still got bitten like you cannot imagine. The weird thing was the bug bites really bothered me when I went to bed. Luc, the barman, told me that I was probably getting bitten by “no see ‘ums” during the day and those bites take hours to develop. So I guess the rule is that if you are tasty like me, you have to apply bug spray ALL the time, not just in the evenings.
A really special trip
This was a special trip for two reasons. First, as noted above, I got the chance to meet Adria and dive with the Reef Police. Second, I was able to attend the wedding of Vinny Dudenhoeffer, former GO scuba instructor and a dear friend. It was a lovely wedding – and you’d be amazed how beautifully the little massage hut overlooking the beach can be turned into a wedding chapel!
Let me know if you have any questions!