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Malaphax

Vacation - Turks and Caicos

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I'll make this a dumping ground of any media I manage to push out from my recent trip.  I didn't take a ton of pictures, but I do have like 9 hours of scuba diving videos, which I assume will get pared down to less than 10 minutes of cool shit. 

About the trip

Club Med - Turkoise
I chose Club Med because I've been to these resorts as a kid (when I was between 8-13) and generally got a sense that they offered plenty of activities.  This particular club med is adults only and I genuinely did not see any kids on the resort for the entire 2 weeks that I stayed there.  This does change the feel of the club significantly and I think it made for a much better experience - unfortunately this is one of the only club med resorts that's adult only, most of the others allow children and often try to segment part of the club for kids.  This is also one of the "smaller" club med resorts (590 guests, ~90 main staff and probably another 50+ support staff), the compound was still a 10 minute walk from end to end and spanned probably a half mile of beach (the beach is open to the public).  The resort is all inclusive, every meal, all drinks (beer/wine/liquor), and all activities (except scuba) are included in the price.  I did briefly look at similar all inclusive resorts (beaches/sandals was on the island) and they generally were much more expensive - although they almost certainly had nicer accommodations.

  • Accommodations - The room is ok, not great, I had the base model room, but my room was probably the best base model room available.  I had the second floor, and the second from the end of the hall, only 2 room neighbored mine and I didn't have any issues with noise.  The room included AC, a tv with limited cable, free wifi (throttled to hell, option of upgrading) and standard housekeeping daily.  I do have to point out that club med is basically a 3 star "hotel" - my shower would cut from hot to cold water frequently and according to other guests this was a known issue that had been present for many years.  That was the only real thing that bothered me about the room and it was a minor annoyance at most. 
     
  • Food & Drink - The food was pretty good, it was a buffet style with substantial selection at every meal.  There was nice variety in main courses and they served some cool stuff like: roast duck, lamb, beef wellington, tuna steak, swordfish, mahi-mahi, etc.  They also had healthier options available at all meals.  The side dishes were hit or miss, some were good, others were sad looking obviously frozen vegetables that had been reheated.  They also had a beach bar with a small grill that made smoothies and basic bbq food - the smoothies were good, but the bbq was mediocre, but it was another option.  The beer/wine was ok, they had an amber and lager on tap, if you wanted something "fancy" like a corona it was $6 a bottle.  The liquor/mixed drinks were mostly watered down (every glass is filled to the brim with ice), there were additional "top shelf" alcohol available for additional cost, very few people took advantage of that.  Most drinks were served in little reusable plastic cups, however if you brought up a thermos and asked them to fill it with something, they would legitimately fill it with whatever you wanted. 
     
  • Location - The beach is one of the best in the world.  The sand is bright white and very fine, in fact the sand is so fine it never got so hot as to burn your feet.  The water is 78° and the air temperature never dropped below 80° even at night or went above 88° - it was humid ranging in the 70% range.  The scuba here is some of the best in the world, which is partially why I went - although some people mentioned the conditions were not fantastic there were dives that had 80ft visibility - supposedly this can be 120-140ft visibility when conditions are perfect.  The island itself is a nearly featureless rock, there's no real greenery except what the resorts maintain and traveling to the backside of the island by boat the beaches were untouched but the surrounding land looked unremarkable.  The wind is mostly weak, sailing was ok but not amazing.  There were a few scattered showers when I was there, none of them lasted more than 30 minutes.  I did have one dinner in a restaurant off resort and it was decent but expensive, the currency is dollars but due to the location and heavy tourism focus, cost of living seems expensive. 
    Sidenote - They drive on the left side of the road (former British colony I guess) but almost all cars are imported from America and left hand drive.  That makes it rather interesting, their solution to blind corners seems to be: make every stop a roundabout.  I did not see a single stop light or stop sign on the 20 minute drive from the airport to the resort. 
     
  • Activities - The main activities were: Tennis, Sailing, Snorkeling, Trapeze, and Scuba.  I didn't play any tennis but there were 4 courts and they held lessons and tournaments daily.  Sailing was decent, they had 9 boats total, 2 smaller catamarans, 6 hobiecats 14', and one 6-seater dual sail hobiecat.  Snorkeling had a boat that went 2x a day to different snorkel sites.  Scuba had a whole host of different dive sites, although the best were a 1 hour boat ride from the resort.  They also had multiple fitness classes every day, a small gym, various other competitions (ping pong, beach volleyball, pool volleyball, etc.) and plenty of other opportunities to occupy your time.  This is still the major selling point of any club med resort - you have no excuses for being bored, there is always something to do.  Although there were some activities that had limited slots and did require lining up for in advance.
    I did try trapeze, I completed the simple "trick" a knee-hang, each time but I made an ass of myself the second time I tried it, and decided that was enough for me. 
    I'll briefly mention the parties.  Most evenings had dinner from 7:15 to 9:30, followed by a small dance routine at the bar, followed by entertainment in the stage/theater at 9:45 and then a party from about 10:30 until the bar closed at ~2am.  Friday night was their most wild party (many people leave/arrive on Saturdays) and that party went past 3am.  There is heavy drinking, loud dance music and sometimes some light entertainment provided by the staff.  Also all dinners/parties have a theme such as: white night, pirate night, etc.  I believe this resort in particular has a bit more of a party atmosphere since it's adult only, but other club med's have discotheques dedicated to partying/dancing which often go on into the early morning as well. 
     
  • SCUBA - I went from zero to hero at this resort.  I got my PADI open water, and then my PADI advanced open water in a little over 1 week.  The training was no joke, the coursework was taken very seriously and every set of questions was graded and all wrong answers were clearly explained by the instructors.  The practical tests (in the pool and ocean) were handled with seriousness and covered all the bases.  I genuinely was not expecting this level of difficulty from a "resort" certification, but was very happy to experience knowledgeable staff and good instruction. 
    The dives themselves were fun, I did try and fill out my dive log with time/depth and location for the dives, so I have some record of what I did.  Rough notes - my max depth was 108ft and most dives were between 45-55 minutes long, all dives had a maximum of 1 hour and there was a 3 minute safety stop at the bars under the boat at 15ft.  I did half the dives bare-chested with trunks and eventually bought a rash guard to prevent chaffing from the BCD (chest harness) since I had a mild sunburn.  The water was never cold, although they did rent short wetsuits to whoever wanted one.  There were some amazing sets of coral, a huge variety of tropical fish, plenty of nurse and reef sharks, a few sea turtles and one spotted moray eel.  I'll do my best to edit some footage and post it here eventually.  I recorded everything in 4k60 on my gopro hero 7 black and used the polar pro red filter (thanks again Tino).
    Humblebrag - I dove with several more experienced divers who said I was doing extremely well considering I had only had 1.5 weeks of experience.  Some of the instructors said the same thing (but they're paid to say that).
     
  • Guests & Staff - The staff was 70% French-Canadian (they have a recruiting office in Montreal) and most staff speak 2+ languages with English being the second language.  While there was certainly a french speaking bias, they generally gave instructions in English as most of the French-Canadian guests understood English.  The guests were split between older/retired couples, and younger couples, there were a few single/solo travelers but probably 5% or less.  I'd say the guests wer majority Canadian and probably 25% American, mostly from the east-coast.  The dining halls had both large and small tables to sit at and I generally crashed large tables and enjoyed most of the polite dinner conversations I had.  The staff also eats with guests, often joining tables (there is a rule about having only 2 staff members at a table to prevent them from creating little cliques).  Overall the guests were mostly polite and enjoyable with a few odd people sprinkled throughout.  The staff was courteous and always made sure guests were having a good time.

I'll write more later and answer any questions.  Overall I had a great time and was glad I went all out on this vacation, especially since it's been so long since I've had a proper vacation. 

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looks like a fun time. one day maybe i try one of these clubmed location. 

im assuming all the activities is additional cost ?

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No, all activities - except scuba - were included.  If you want to sail, just walk up to the people manning the sailboat area and have them write down your name/room # and you can sail.  If you want to snorkel, just line up at the snorkel boat before it leaves, they even provided free mask and fin rentals.  When I tried trapeze I just showed up and did it.  There are staff on hand to help teach you how to do any of these activities, they show you how to sail, how to play tennis, how to fly on the trapeze. 

The whole point of club med is that almost everything is included.  The stuff that costs extra is above and beyond like: unthrottle wifi, better booze, massage/spa, scuba, etc.  Additionally you can book "excursions" which are basically off premises stuff, tours or special events - the club just pre-screens these and makes sure it's all taken care of.  Or you can just walk off the compound and into town/wherever, if you want to see something yourself. 

Scuba has an additional cost because it's much more involved, they rent out gear (mask, fins, BCD, regulator, dive computer, wetsuit) and they also have to pay for other costs (instructors, air tanks, and boat ride).  Technically the scuba is handled by a third party contractor called seafari (https://www.seafaridiving.com/diving-centers/turks-caicos)  I only did instructor lead dives (I didn't have the experience or confidence to randomly partner with people) and they worked out great, especially since you don't have to worry about the navigation and can just be an underwater tourist. 
There were some people who brought their own gear and you could even do "buddy dives" without an instructor for reduced cost, but I spoke with a few of the more advanced divers that did that and they said that if you were solo and had to group up with a random buddy it was a total crapshoot - so it's really only a good idea if you have a friend/group you can partner with and have someone handle navigation.  One guy mentioned he partnered with a random dude and after 40 minutes of swimming got his attention and signed "where's the fucking boat?!?" because the dude was clueless and swimming in random directions. 

One point I want to mention again.  The rooms are really basic, so don't expect luxurious accommodations, some people are super disappointed when they find out there's no room service or robe/slippers and that the bed isn't super soft.  If you want to go somewhere and do all the activities they offer, then Club Med tends to be one of the better options. 
Also keep in mind that each location is going to be very different from one another.  I've heard the resorts in Mexico are super popular and also a bit crazy (not always in a good way).  They've been expanding in Asia (They're owned by a Chinese company now) but I've heard that these Asian resorts tend to be visited mostly by Asian guests and that leads to some... interesting cultural issues - one worker had been at the China resort and flat out said that almost every guest was super rude.  I bet the Bali resort gets a ton of Australian tourists, and that probably changes how the club feels. 

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good to know. 

can confirmed by personal exp or relative stories that Chinese people are RUDE AF. but yeah mostly cultural issues.

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I'm not going to go down a rabbit hole of cultural mores, but I'll say that Club Med only works well when people are in it together.  Part of the experience is randomly sitting with different people at meals and making small talk.  Sometimes you want to sail and might pick up a few other guests and let them join you on the boat.  You might share some cheer and congratulate someone at the trapeze when they land a cool trick.  Not to mention since the guests at many of these resorts tend to be Canadian and European they're often kind and reasonable. 
The staff member that worked in China mentioned one example of the Chinese Club Med being totally different was that no one ever held open the door for another person, all the guests seemed to care only about themselves.  That feels like it would complete shit all over some of the aspects that make Club Med what it is.

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This is my rough draft of the scuba video I put together.  I haven't done any color correction and some scenes are super blue (even with the red filter).  Keep in mind I have about ~9 hours of footage that I had to scrub through and figure out what was worthwhile. 

Also I have the video in 4k60 but google photos doesn't like more than 30fps... way to go. 

EDIT: REMOVED

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This album includes all my pictures and an updated video (with my amateur attempt at color correction):
https://photos.app.goo.gl/a786z1SiEfskpKcdA

I will also upload the video to youtube, since as I mentioned, google photos seems to limit videos to 30fps.  I'll probably get around to that this evening.
EDIT - I got around to uploading this... eventually.

 

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