DAY 2 — (TURKS AND CAICOS) — So what if it’s not school vacation? Beaches, Sandals Family Brand with morning-till night activities and day care for infants, is packed.
In fact, it’s at 100 per cent occupancy—that means some 3,000 guests spread among 783 rooms in the huge (93 acre) beach front complex’s four villages. That includes 841 kids running, jumping, splashing and sliding down the water slides at the water play area.
There are some people here without kids—including a Michigan grandmother in her 80s who has brought her four adult children and their spouses. “A wonderful gift,” said daughter-in-law Gwen Hgheys.
Even in early January, nearly a third of this resort’s guests are kids and it’s like that all year round. Other Turks and Caicos resorts are more like The Somerset, where we’re staying—smaller, condo-type accommodations overlooking the spectacular 12-mile beach, Beaches is family vacation on steroids—all inclusive fun from parades and shows with the Sesame Street characters .
“I’m having breakfast with Elmo,” three year old Kelly Kane told me excitedly.
Let’s count them: water slides, surf simulators, scuba and snorkeling, 19 restaurants, Pirate Island aqua playground with nine slides, lazy river, surf simulator, water cannons, X-BOX Play Lounge with the latest games, more than a dozen bars, weekly activities including wine and cheese tasting a spa (the West Indian signature massage was excellent) and more.
If money isn’t an object—I’m talking $30,000 or more a week—opt for a four bedroom villa in Beaches new Key West Village with its own plunge pool and butler who can get you anything you desire at any hour.
I don’t know what they paid but Greg and Lisa Vogel brought her parents and brother and sister in law and their two young kids back to Beaches for a second year, opting for one of the four bedroom units with butler service.
“So worth the money,” said Greg Vogel, from Baltimore. The couple thought about renting a villa but Lisa Vogel pointed out that caring for two young kids is plenty of work—she didn’t want to be cooking, shopping, much less cleaning up.
“This is no stress,” said Lisa Vogel. “You tell the butler what you want and they set it all up,” said Greg, playing in the sand with his young son while the baby napped, with grandpa babysitting.
Sure there is plenty of child care, but with six adults to two kids, they prefer to keep the kids with them “We’re on a family vacation,” Lisa Vogel explained.
“We’ve been all over the Caribbean and this is one of the best,” her husband added. “The food isn’t five star but the service is impeccable, down to having sparkling water for Lisa and organic milk for their son in the fridge when they arrived. As long as you are OK with being around a lot of people…”
Of course all of these activities don’t come cheap. Even for a family of four, a vacation here can easily top $10,000.
“It is pricey,” said Marcy Kane, three year old Kelly’s mom who is here from Chicago. “I’m not going to eat or drink that much but the ambiance and the activities are the best.”
The Kanes aren’t even using the kids’ club, opting instead for family activities they can do together “We waited a long time to have Kelly,” Marcy explained. “This is my time to be a mom… our time to be a family. I came here to see her have fun. I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving her no matter how good the kids clubs are.”
The club here for the toddlers is better equipped than many preschools with its own 18 inch pool and sand pit Other young moms I met said the same thing. Lujan Fontanella, here with her three kids ages 3, 7 and 11, said: ”We love that it is one price for everything,” But the kids found the counselors “not so kind,” she said. “They want to stay with mama.”
That’s the thing about all-inclusives—no matter how good the facilities—and Beaches are among the best—the kids might not want to participate. “It’s a good vacation,” she said “but overpriced.”
“The beach is beautiful, the food is good for an all inclusive—I used to think I wouldn’t like an all inclusive said Amaya DiGiorgio, here from Toronto with her three year old. “I have no complaints.”
Another Toronto mom said she wasn’t using the kids clubs either for her two young boys. Instead they were playing at the water park and on the beach, which means though there is child care until 10 at night, she and her husband aren’t getting much alone time. “Vacation has a different meaning with young kids,” she laughed. “This is all for the kids. It is expensive but you get a lot for your money.”
That’s assuming you use most of what the resort has to offer.
As we were going to dinner at the adults-only Le Petit Chateau, kids were lining up to be part of a show on stage just outside.
The place — with parents and grandparents strolling everywhere with kids in hand and pushing strollers, lights over the pool, eating — feels a lot like Disneyworld.
Everyone was laughing. Money well spent.