Somehow in the last 10 years I missed the change. Club Med to me had always been about singles, drinking and wild beach parties. But after a recent visit to their Cherating Beach Resort in Malaysia I was pleasantly surprised by their focus on eco-tourism, families and a revitalised all-inclusive holiday concept.
Club Med will seem odd to the independent traveller. From the moment our plane arrives at Kuantan we are met and taken to our bus by a Club Med representative who looks after our luggage (the next time I see my bags they're in my room at the resort) and hands us our room keys and our all-important blue wristbands that you will need to wear as part of the all-inclusive concept.
PHOTO GALLERY: Club Med Cherating Beach
Once we reach the resort at the awful hour of 12.30 in the morning we are welcomed by GOs (gracious organisers) dressed in pirate costumes the theme from that night's show. I appreciated the welcoming cool drink and cold face towel I was handed to help me feel a bit more human after a full day's travel. You are then given a quick rundown on the resort and then personally escorted to your room.
It's up to you how much you embrace the unique Club Med village atmosphere and GOs but I say let your hair down and have a go. All the staff I encountered were friendly and always happy to offer help or share a drink with you later in the evening at the bar. The GOs also run a daily tour of the resort that is worth checking out as they will show you all the facilities and how to make the most of your visit. Best of all if you're a parent, your kids will love the village chief and his GOs and they'll happily keep your kids occupied during your stay.
So what's so appealing about Cherating Beach?
There's so much or so little to do: If you want to have an action-packed afternoon you can unleash your inner child and practise flying through the air and hanging upside down at the flying trapeze. Or test your fear of heights at the resort's new tree-top walk, or practise your swing at the golf range. At each of the activities you will get individual attention from one of the GOs and safety is paramount. Other activities on offer for adults and kids include archery, rock climbing, sailing, jungle walks, a ride on the resort train, tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, Futsal, squash … and the list goes on.
On the flip side Cherating Beach is peaceful. So if some TLC is what's needed it's possible to escape all the action for some quiet time on a lounger by the South China Sea. Guests can also book a beach-front massage at the world-renowned Mandara Spa or take a yoga class.
It's green: If you're conscious about your carbon footprint you'll be impressed by the Green Globe Silver and Earth Check Silver certifications the resort received in 2010. Cherating Beach is Club Med's first eco resort with 75 percent of the resort's 80 hectares still untouched by development. The resort is also home to a turtle sanctuary that protects the turtles when they come to lay their eggs on the beaches during April to September. If you're lucky enough to visit during this time guests can request to be alerted if the turtles come out at night to watch the scene by the beach. The resort is also home to the endangered clouded monitor lizard, the hornbill as well as macaws and gibbons.
Family-friendly: Parents will love this place. There are so many things for your kids and teenagers to do you'll be lucky to see them at all during your stay. Younger kids can visit the Petit Club Med and Mini Club Med children's clubs where they can participate in sport, craft activities and walk the jungle trail. Teenagers also have their own dedicated area where they can jam on musical instruments, play games and hang out. Themed shows in the evening and random "crazy signs" dance sessions will also keep them entertained throughout the day and night.
Kids will also love the cheeky monkeys that provide endless entertainment for guests particularly if they're being naughty. Guests are encouraged to keep all the doors and windows locked as you'll hear stories of clever monkeys gaining entry into guest's rooms and raiding their luggage.
Food, glorious food: Feel like French for dinner? Or Indian, Japanese or perhaps Italian? The selection of food in the main restaurant is mind-boggling at each service time and will no doubt appeal to a lot of international travellers. In fact there's so much on offer that I found it hard to make a choice each visit. There is a small selection of Malaysian fare on offer but I would have liked to have sampled more of the local cuisine. If you're after a romantic evening by the beach, guests can hop on the train and visit the à la carte restaurant on the other side of the jungle.
The all-inclusive concept: This for me was the best part of my trip as I've discovered that "all-inclusive" absolutely rocks. Not having to carry around cash is very liberating. In fact, the only time I had to whip out my wallet was the mandatory trip to the day spa for a massage and pedicure and when I needed to pick up a new pair of jandals from the Club Med shop after breaking my old ones. Being able to visit the bar, show my blue wristband and then request a bottle of wine, a cocktail or cappuccino is pretty damn good.
I won't deny it it's a long flight to get from New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur and then onto Kuantan. But if you're after an all-inclusive tropical trip to Asia it's worth it.
How to get there: Malaysia Airlines flys direct from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur. You'll then pick up a short flight to Kuantan where the Club Med team will drive you the 40 minutes up the coast to the resort.
The writer was a guest of Club Med. To book a holiday to Club Med, phone 0800 258 263 or visit www.clubmed.co.nz.