I'm back after a lovely week at Columbus Isle! Further travels and the press of work made it hard to get this written up, but I'm sure the info is still good, at least for the summer!
This was my 5th visit to Columbus and I think my 25th to a CM village. For that, the CM gave me 2 bottles of water in my room, ha ha! So nothing new there. But then as there were people in my group (the Reef Police) for whom it was something like their 98th time to CM, I suppose I am pretty much a newbie.
<b>Scuba:</b> As many of you know, this is why I go, so it takes first place. The scuba team this season is excellent, run by Jean-Paul and Stphane, who were there last year. Another familiar face from last year was Lauden, whose energy and enthusiasm make for a great day on the boat! And some of you will remember the fabulous, kind Aniella, who was there last August. Other excellent scuba GOs included Audrey, Eve, Saffet and Mathieu. Some of you may know Gary, a scuba GO who's been with CM for many years. And of course, the great boat captain, Tony, is still there! The team is animated, well-organised and hard-working, the way I like to see a scuba team operate.
The diving itself was quite good, with a lot of sharks this year (due to some other operations feeding them lionfish, perhaps?). I mainly saw reef sharks, but others spotted hammerheads, too. And on several of the dives, we spotted turtles, although I almost committed underwater murder on a stupid photographer who damaged coral while trying to get his turtle picture. Agh!
My only complaint about the scuba is about the weights on the dive boats - funny, because I've never complained about that before! For some reason, all of the weights were 3 pounds and there were only a few 1 or 2 pound weights available. As I was having weighting issues with my new wetsuit and fins, this meant I had to add another 6 pounds to be balanced. Not so much a problem underwater, as I just added more air, but coming back up that dive ladder was NOT fun. Fortunately, Tony was usually there to help me back up into the boat!
<b>Food: </b> The general conclusion of everybody was that the food was much better this year than in previous years. I didn't get a chance to go to the annex restaurant, Watlins, but those who did said it was excellent & some people booked to eat there almost every night.
The new thing was the change in the lunch service in the second restaurant, over the Sea Centre. In the past, it had been like the main restaurant with a buffet service. But this has now been changed into table service, with GEs coming over to wait on you. Personally, I liked it and was quite fine with the situation. But others (particularly divers who wanted to eat quickly so they could go on the afternoon boat) found the service taking too long and were going to the main restaurant to eat. It will be interesting to see if that stays. Having said that, I must add that Patrick, who runs it, is doing a nice job & the dish with the chunk of grilled tuna is to die for!
Also - when I arrived, the grill at the Azul Beach Bar was not opened in the afternoons, creating problems for those of us who crave a Caesar Chicken Wrap at 5pm. However, it then opened later in the week & I think it will stay open the rest of the season.
<b>Bar:</b> The service was good, even at crowded moments. Some folks had issues when they wanted a complicated cocktail and didn't get what they wanted. So I would warn anyone doing that to pay attention and watch the bartender making your drink! As I had my usual Mimosas, this presented no problems for me.
<b>Dress themes:</b> there was the usual elegant night and one night called "Colours", but that's about all I can tell you because the themes were posted near the main restaurant every day. As I'm a diver, I basically lived at the Sea Centre end of the village all day and then came to the main restaurant at night. It would be great if somebody could post the day's dress theme at the second restaurant as well.
<b>Reception:</b> The team is well run by Alex and Andranne was also a fantastic help. For some reason, I kept having problems with my wake-up call at 7 am: sometimes it came at 6:50 and sometimes at 7:15, etc. So if you're a diver like me, who needs to make that 8 am boat, you need to use your cell phone as a backup.
A weird thing occurred when I tried to stay for another 5 days. I was told that the village was very crowded the following week (due to the 4th of July perhaps) and that to stay, I would have to move to a higher category room, for which they would give me a discount, but the price would still be around $1250. With that and the cost of changing the planes, I just couldn't do it. Another member of our group was told something similar when she wanted to stay an extra week. And I do believe this was correct & that Reception wasn't playing games with us. But then, as this friend and I were hanging out by the pool Saturday morning before our flight back to Fort Lauderdale, she saw that she had received one of those publicity emails from Club Med, advertising last minute specials to Columbus for the 4th of July week with flights to CI from Fort Lauderdale - for under $1000!! So it sounds like the people who run the website at corporate need to communicate better with the Reception...
<b>Rooms:</b> I had what they call a "Club Room", which is one of those one story bungalows on a garden. Donny at Mill Travel managed to get it for me at a great price. Frankly, I've never been into the fancier rooms with the ocean views, as I see the ocean every day from the dive boat! But to each his own. And of course, this meant that I had my same housekeeper as last year, the lovely Maureen. It's great when you come back to a village and the people remember you!
Overall, it was a lovely visit, just far too short. Hopefully longer next year. If you have any questions, please let me know!
Dive now; work later!