The current Club Med incarnation is "Family-oriented". At Bintan, as has been mentioned in other TripAdvisor posts, the property is very rundown, with many of the concrete pathways crumbling and much of the facility needing repair. In fact of the 2 pool tables in the resort, 1 was "out of order", the other had an incomplete set of balls and no functioning cues. Of the other activities provided, most take limited number with less than 10% of the guests able to take advantage and require you to line up an hour or so before the activity.
I have been going to Club Med for 20+ years, including having my honeymoon in Club Med Tahiti, in the 1990s. My father, in his 70s, has been going to Club Med since the 1970s. My brother and his wife have been to Club Med once before. Our most recent trip to Club Med Bintan will certainly be the last.
To be fair, the overall staff (GOs in Club Med speak) were excellent, keeping the family entertained, fed and creating an all round good experience. They should be applauded. The senior management, well that's another story.
The raison d'être for our trip was to have "Christmas in July" where the whole family could relax without having to spend any more money due to the "all inclusive" package offered by Club Med. The total cost for the full family was in excess of $25,000 just for the Club Med portion of the holiday.
We were a group of 11 people from 3 generations of the family, ages 10 through 73. 7 came from Australia for 14 days and booked through Club Med in Australia, the 4 of us (2 adults and 13 and 11 year old girls) coming from Singapore for 5 nights had booked through Club Med in Singapore. Through Singapore, we availed ourselves of a NATAS promotion offering approx 40% discount from $300 per person per night, for 5 nights, which was paid in full in March. For a 4* hotel (they aren't really 4*), this is quite expensive, but when one considers the "all-in" nature, it doesn't seem quite as bad. Having spent the previous week in Bali, $300 was enough for 3 of us (1 adult and 2 girls), "a la carte" for a day, including 4* or 5* accommodation, quality meals and activities, including white water rafting, jet skiing and other offerings not provided by Club Med Bintan. Now I am not complaining about the $730 per day price for a family of 4, as it was all presented upfront and agreed upon prior to going to Club Med Bintan, where we have been a number of times before, but it is certainly not a "value holiday".
Where our holiday went pear-shaped was on the last day. My children, having enjoyed 5 days with their cousins and after noticing a display on a rotating LCD screen offering "Extend your stay with us with 20% discount", I thought to take another day, and receive a 20% discount (to fill an otherwise unused room) would be a great incentive to extend. We were due to leave the resort on Monday afternoon, at 4:15pm. On Sunday afternoon, I enquired about extending and was told it would cost $1,650 for 3 (my wife having already returned to Singapore due to work commitments). This was shocking when it was 126% higher than we'd paid as opposed to "a 20% discount". Which ever way you spin it, that price FOR ONE NIGHT FOR 1 ADULT AND 2 CHILDREN is ridiculous. Comparatively, $682 would get a Seaview Pool Villa at Banyan Tree, a true 5*, with breakfast, but no other meals or activities. Unfortunately, my family group was not staying anywhere else. Later in the evening I approached the Assistant General Manager (the GM was off on Sunday night), explained my problem and he then had the manager of reservations, Hafiz, speak with me who said "don't worry, stay in your room and we'll work it out tomorrow when Singapore is open". Excellent work, so I thought, suggesting that "It'll be worked out" when they have verified with Singapore, the price that I was paying. So I told my children, we'd be staying the next day and they we're thrilled as they could relax and not worry about "good byes" just yet. The next day (our original departure day), I went to the front desk at 10:30am, which is 11:30am in Singapore, figuring that the matter would have been sorted by then. The reception assured me that the room was blocked for us, but they were still awaiting details of the cost. So off I went to enjoy my extra day of holiday.
At 2:00pm, I returned to my room to do a little work. There was no message under the door or any other advice suggesting I needed to contact the reception or reservations. At 3:30pm, 45 minutes before our original, but now postponed, departure time, I received a call to say that my charge would be $1320, after the 20% discount. I was now caught between, being held to ransom and paying the $1320, for 3 people, or racing around to find my children, pack and be at the bus for 4:15pm or pay a penalty charge. Thanks for blackmailing me Club Med. Great way to finish off my family's holiday with a lasting memory.
As I am not one to be blackmailed, I raced to find my children and my wider family to let them know we had to go. My children did not get to say their farewells and even missed saying good bye to their grandfather as he didn't get there in time. As we left, my 13 year old daughter said, "The way they've done this has ruined my whole holiday", which was like a knife in my chest. I could have paid the ransom and kept them happy. Many might say I should have, but 80% higher after being offered a 20% discount was nothing more than deceptive marketing and a shakedown. Had they informed me the evening before, I would have accepted it. But no, they left me 45 minutes to discuss/negotiate with them, then pack and be ready for the bus. The GM, Mei, was back on deck as we left and didn't say a word to us, despite my objections to the reservation staff that I had conversed with and despite the fact that my children were in tears.
So rather than fill the rooms, when they had a large family group, they stuck to their guns, which they are entitled to, and created negative goodwill by the way they handled their customers' situation. And as a family group, we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with Club Med. Doesn't sound like smart business to me.
We will be having more of this type of holiday, as a wider family group with potentially more people, but Club Med won't be on any list, short or otherwise.
My advice to all, unless you are a "novice" traveller and Club Med generally makes everything "easy", there's better value for your money elsewhere…much, much better. And perhaps less extortion.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.