We have been to nearly all the club meds in Asia and it is hard not to compare them. I summarize below the strengths and the weaknesses if this resort.
The best aspects of this club med are the sports and activities, beach, and GO team. The beach is gorgeous--hard to believe this is not far from Singapore. White, fine sand and crystal clear water surrounded by picturesque rocks/hills. The water was clean and waves fun enough to surf in but not too big for kids to enjoy. We went sailing most days with the kids, and snorkeling trips are offered twice daily in the dry season. They stopped on the day we wanted to go--November 1--due to rainy season arrival.
There is a nice bar on the ocean front with lounge chairs all along the resort under thatched umbrellas that protect you from sun and rain. Very beautiful and relaxing.... The only shortcoming at the beach is the limited number of chairs. We were not there during high season, yet nonetheless, several days during our stay we were not able to get a chair since guests would put towels on them early in the morning to stake out their places for the day. When we asked for help to find a place, staff were rather indifferent. Finally we dragged chairs from the lawn onto the beach where we were quite comfortable under the many palm trees. Management should make more of an effort to manage the issue more proactively--either remove towels on chairs that no longer appear to be used or add more chairs. (Phuket club med has someone looking after the beach chairs and guests--might be worth adopting in bintan)
Amazing golf!! We spent several days on the neighboring golf courses. Club med arranges transport and t time booking. The GOs in the golf center are fantastic. They offer lessons every morning and organize trips to courses with guests. We participated in an ambrose tournament which was so fun and very well organized. Ria bintan course is simply stunning. The first 9 holes are on the ocean, with jungle and pond OB areas. The other 9 are also beautiful--on the forest side. Don't bother looking for OB balls...there are snakes and monkeys in the jungle which adds to the excitement of the place. We wanted to play other courses in the area but kept coming back here since it was so great.
There is a nice sports center which, despite being in need of an upgrade, has 6 tennis courts, 2 covered badminton courts, basketball, gym, archery and exercise classes ( Pilates, muscle fitness, aerobics, etc). Yoga is also offered two times a day at the spa on a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea! Teachers are top notch. After yoga you are given a lavender scented cold wet towel and a refreshing cold herbal tea. There are daily tennis tournaments organized by the GOs.
Spa is clean, nice and service is professional and worth the 'resort' prices. I had a strong massage but wish I had more time to book other treatments.
Kids club is great--kids loved the outdoor activities and performing in and watching nightly shows. Evening shows and parties were lots of fun for the whole family.
Ok, now the areas where things could use improvement...there are two main shortcomings at the resort. First is the food, second is the administrative and process management.
Food ... Food at this club med is a sizeable notch below other Asian club meds. Maybe it reflects this club med's noticeable absence of French management, or maybe a decision was made to keep food simple--- but dinning was overall disappointing. In the morning the staff begrudgingly cooks eggs to order, pointing to the greasy, over cooked mass omelets set out in the buffet. Dinner menus and choices lack special items like a wider variety of seafood and delicacies. cheese selection was pathetic. We ate at la terrace for diner and found the food better there than in the main dinning hall. This is a beautiful, intimate outdoor area on the beach. To eat there you need to book first at the large restaurant--so don't waste your time tying to book at reception or in the terrace restaurant directly.
Service--aside from the excellent GO team, service in the dinning room, housekeeping and the reception was sub standard. Part of the problem seems to relate to the resort's policies and internal processes, part of it also seems to be a silo mentality problem. Staff doing their own thing somehow in silos rather than working together to offer good service.
--Tried several times to book golf, but our family's busy schedule meant that we missed morning hours (9-12) and evening hours 5-7 pm when the pro shop was open. Reception would not book it for us directly until I insisted rather emphatically.
--dinning rooms are large, noisy and service for coffee very slow and inefficient. They have one espresso machine where guests queue up for a tiny cup. For families with small kids waiting in line can be stressful. It can take staff over 10 minutes to fetch it for you, if they don't forget (which they often did).
--one afternoon while playing golf we needed to pass on an urgent message to the kids club GO but found that the reception did not do it, which was upsetting to our son and caused confusion.
--bar was often out of ingredients needed to make drinks (tomato juice, mint, olives)
--the hotel has a policy of not providing bottled water in rooms each day. I understand the need to conserve plastic use but, it is very inconvenient with 3 small kids to care for coming back to the room to find no water to brush teeth and have to drink over night and in the morning. We requested that bottles of water be added to our room each day, but staff often forgot. Reception vould not arrange delivery of water during times when house keeping staff were on lunch break or in the evenings. We suggest that the resort put water coolers in each of the room buildings so guests can at least get water at times when needed and the hotel is not able to provide it.
Finally, the resort is in need of refurbishment. Tennis court nets have holes, communal places are worn down and dark, and rooms are dark, a bit dirty and shower doors are clumsy.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Island of Bintan to the south of Singapore is full of history, marked by fallen empires. Its tranquil bays were long used by the Orang Laut pirates as a refuge. This is where Club Med Bintan Island, a haven of tranquility and refinement combining modernity with Asian tradition, now nestles. From the terrace of the Bar, feast your eyes on the mass of lapis-lazuli blue, mother of pearl and emerald, from the pool to the lush gardens. Nearby, Ria Bintan Golf Course is also a golfer's heaven. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Club Med Ria Bintan Hotel Bintan
- Club Med Bintan Island Riau Islands
- Bintan Club Med