Club Med, Bali review: New tricks for an old clubber

Mighty makeover ... Club Med Nusa Dua.
Mighty makeover ... Club Med Nusa Dua. 

Read our writer's views on this property below

A multimillion-dollar makeover brings Club Med Bali into the 21st century, writes Christina Pfeiffer.

From the Nusa Dua area on the Indonesian island of Bali, the view of the Badung Strait shimmering beneath the silvery light of a full moon is breathtaking.

But the revellers at Club Med are not gazing at the moon. Most are busy sipping cocktails, swaying, shuffling or dancing energetically to the music. I'm line dancing in the main bar, trying to follow the steps of Club Med Bali's village chief (or general manager) Stephan Noublanche. Noublanche is up on stage flanked by two muscle-toned staff members known as GOs (gentils organisateurs).

Day and night, at Club Med, the GOs are undertaking the mission of ensuring the guests (called GMs or gentils members) are enjoying themselves.

And although you have the choice to do as much or as little as you want, the enthusiasm of the GOs, along with the myriad activities on offer, makes it difficult not to be enticed by yoga classes in the gardens, water aerobics, a game of bocce or a salsa lesson. There's a six-hole golf course, tennis courts, archery facilities, beach volleyball and a gym. The energetic can learn to windsurf, go on a guided reef snorkelling tour or join the circus, where the highlight is the flying trapeze.

For those interested in local culture, there are Balinese dance lessons, Balinese cooking classes and Indonesian language lessons. And the resort's Discovery Centre organises touring activities such as cycling through the countryside, rafting on the Ayung River or a day trip to visit Bali's famous temples.

Soon after I arrive at the resort, a GO whisks me off to the Mandara Spa for a Balinese massage. The massage is followed by an afternoon of cocktails by the pool, dinner and an entertaining talent show put on by the GOs.

Now, the mesmerising thump of disco music and the electric atmosphere around the main bar has me stepping to the beat of the nocturnal, synchronised dancing that Club Med is famous for.

Anywhere else, such exuberance might seem undignified but here in Club Med, where the parties are world famous, you seem to slip easily into the swing of things.

Many Australians might think of Club Med as a party destination for singles or a place for frazzled parents to sip cocktails by the pool while obliging GOs keep the children occupied.

But the global brand has undergone a repositioning. "We're going upscale with an all-inclusive package," said Club Med's chairman and managing director Henri Giscard D'Estaing, who was in Bali earlier this month for the official relaunch of Club Med Bali following a EUR8 million ($15.75 million) facelift.

The new marketing slogan is "upmarket, friendly and multicultural". Out of Club Med's 80 resorts around the world, more than half are four or five trident (the equivalent of star ratings). The company's aim is to appeal to high-income, time-poor and highly stressed people who want every detail of their holiday taken care of.

And with the global financial crisis affecting travellers worldwide, Club Med's all-inclusive concept - where return flights, accommodation, food, drinks, snacks and leisure activities are included in the tariff - is an attractive way of keeping the reins on the holiday budget.

Think limitless cocktails, all the food you can eat and as many free activities as you can cram into your stay, all covered by one payment before you go.

At Club Med Bali, families are well catered for with three children's clubs (Petit Club Med for two to four-year-olds, Mini Club Med for up to 11 years old, Juniors Club Med for 11 to 18-year-olds), babysitting facilities, connecting rooms and a baby corner in the main restaurant with food for the little ones. The Club Med Baby Welcome package offers in-room baby beds, baby baths, changing tables, high chairs, bottle warmers and strollers.

Club Med Bali was one of the first resorts built in Bali's upmarket Nusa Dua area on the island's southeast coastline. Melding indigenous concepts with hip contemporary designs, Paris-based designer Mark Hertrich, who trained at the French art school Ecole Boule, has brought this 1980s resort into the 21st century.

Those who visited before the makeover say the transformation is astounding. The shiny new oval open-air main bar looks as though it might have landed from space. And it couldn't have chosen a better spot to land, between the main pool and the beach, near lush green lawns with swaying tropical palms.

Scattered around the main pool area are poolside day beds with vibrant red curtains for privacy and pool lounges in red and white. There's also a quiet pool tucked away at the far end of the resort next to the spa for those who want a dip away from the crowds.

A total of 393 rooms are spread across five wings amid 14 hectares of beachfront land. Walkways meander through tropical gardens lush with bougainvillea, hibiscus and acacias dotted with beautiful Balinese stone statues, water features and lily-filled ponds.

Rooms have had a soft makeover and are comfortably furnished with Balinese timber pieces. But superior and deluxe rooms aren't luxurious (guests are encouraged to spend most of their time out of the room enjoying the extensive activities and well-renovated common areas). For those with luxury high on the list, the resort's nine suites offer extra space, quality furnishings and a private terrace overlooking the gardens.

The a-la-carte Batur Restaurant picks up on the colour theme where furnishings such as ceiling lanterns, curtains, wall decorations and furniture dazzle in red.

More subdued is the buffet-style Agung restaurant, which has three air-conditioned dining rooms where guests can feast in cool comfort beneath orange and saffron umbrellas in the Umbrella Room, surrounded by fresh white orchids and electric candles in the Orchid Room and among golden statues, silk lanterns and mirrors in the Divinity Room. The lantern-lit Dragon Room is an open-air dining area with two huge sculpted timber Nagas (dragons) to keep away evil spirits.

All the dining rooms lead to a central buffet, which each night has an extensive spread of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Malaysian, Italian and Western cuisine. My only disappointment is, surprisingly, that the buffet doesn't offer a great deal of Indonesian food - one of the highlights of a trip to Bali.

The writer was a guest of Club Med.

TRIP NOTES

Getting there

Garuda, Jetstar and Pacific Blue fly to Denpasar. Australians require a visa to enter Indonesia, which can be paid for upon arrival. A visa costs $US10 ($15) for seven days.

Staying there

The Pay 6 Stay 8 offer runs until April 30 (for travel until February 5 next year). Prices start from $2710 (adult) and $1850 (child). Prices include return air fares, room, all meals, drinks, entertainment, sporting activities, children's club, taxes and transfers. For bookings or more information phone 1300 855 052 or see clubmed.com.au.

Further information

See the Australian Government travel advisory (smartraveller.gov.au) for travel advice to Indonesia.