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Sunway / Club Med Fam Trip

Sunway / Club Med Fam Trip

Sunway Holidays took a group of travel agents to Club Med Da Balaia in the Algarve. Club Med were the founders of kids clubs, created the world’s first all-inclusive resort and it has the world’s largest sports academy. But does it have the X factor?

Club Med was recently bought by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang for a whopping $1.3 billion. He decided to reduce the number of properties from 127 to 66, upscale existing hotels and continue to buy new luxury properties. People generally associate Club Med with the Mediterranean but they have hotels all over the world, including 5-star adults-only resorts and cruises. They own the world’s only all-inclusive ski resorts, some of which are open for six months. Their resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, even has a Cirque du Soleil playground.

Club Med da Balaia fire show

As soon as we arrived at the resort we noticed that the atmosphere was very relaxed. There was jazz playing in the bar areas and staff who anticipated our every need. There were no loud noises from pool games and, overall, the resort seemed to be very quiet. Although the resort was fully booked, the grounds and bar areas are so spacious that it never felt full.

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Karen Fegan, Centre Travel; Phil Shipman, Club Med; and Gemma Duffy, Hannon Travel; enjoying some champagne!

From start to finish we were wined and dined at what can only be described as the best buffet I have ever experienced. In fact, buffet is probably not the correct term: ‘feast’ is probably more like it!

One of the many chefs eager to please at Club Med da Balaia

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Where else would you get beef tartare served like this in an all-inclusive buffet?

There were some typical self-serve stations as well as numerous chefs cooking in full view. Dishes were served to you in a similar fashion to what you would expect in a fine dining restaurant. The selection was one of the best I have seen. From oysters, fois gras, beef tartare to pasta, beef wellington or simple fish and chips. You name it, it’s there. Good wine is served by the bottle at your table, and replaced immediately if required. The staff to guest ratio is so high that there was no queueing for food or no waiting for another ‘batch’ to come out.

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Shane Cullen; Phil Shipman, Club Med; Erica Oglesby, Sunway; Catherine Murray, Globe Travel; Brian Corrigan, Travel Creations; Catherine Bowe, Bow Travel; Gemma Duffy, Hannon Travel; Lesley Brophy, Tully’s Travel; Karen Fegan, Centre Travel; and Colette Knowles, Manning Travel; enjoying lunch at Club Med da Balaia, Algarve

If buffet is not your thing you can also choose the a la carte restaurant, where you can visit as often as you like on the all-inclusive package. This is an area where Club Med differs from other all-inclusive resorts, because almost everything is included in the price. Food and drinks are served round the clock and there are heaps of sports facilities to choose from, all free of charge.

Flying Trapese Station at Club Med da Balaia

Flying Trapese Station at Club Med da Balaia

Collete Knowles, Manning Travel, one of 5 brave travel agents who tried the flying trapese!

Collete Knowles, Manning Travel, was one of five brave travel agents who tried the flying trapese!

There are eight different fitness classes each day, including aqua aerobics, zumba, pilates, as well as discovery walks and jogging in the morning. You can play volleyball, football, mini golf, tennis and even try kayaking, archery or a flying trapese. You can also practice your swing with free group golf lessons or tennis lessons. Private lessons incur a surcharge.

Archery at Club Med da Balaia

Archery at Club Med da Balaia

If you just want to relax, there is a large outdoor pool and a new infinity pool is being constructed during the winter, which will be for adults only. They also have a spa with numerous treatments available at a supplement.

Spa at Club Med Da Balaia

Spa at Club Med da Balaia

All rooms are being renovated during the winter months and have a fresh modern feel and spacious throughout the various categories.

All rooms are being renovated during the winter months. They have a fresh modern feel and are very spacious throughout the various categories.

On our first night we were treated to a typical Club Med ‘White Party’, a theme that is carried through all Club Med resorts. The main dining and bar area is decorated with white drapes and many of the guests oblige and wear white clothes. It is, of course, not compulsory but like most things in Club Med, the guests like to get involved. With complimentary champagne on arrival, it created a fantastic ambiance for our first night. As the name suggests, it had a party atmosphere and the entertainment centred around the bar area, with dance competitions and all around fun. Entertainment on the whole is quite mixed with theatre-style shows alternating with entertainment in the bar area each night. However, you should note that some of the theatre shows are in French.

The White Party at Club Med Da Balaia

The White Party at Club Med da Balaia

Their kids clubs are excellent with options for children aged 4 months to 17 years, all complimentary with the exception of the baby club. They have baby rooms with sterilisers, bottle warmers and even buggies free of charge! The separate baby corner in the restaurant offers fresh healthy food buffet-style. It also offers bottle warmers, mixers and microwaves, should you wish to make your own.

Some of the many facilities on offer at the Club Med kids clubs.

Some of the many facilities on offer at the Club Med kids clubs

We also had some time to visit other hotels that Sunway offers, and they did not disappoint. Our first stop was the nearby Villa Gale Cerro Alagoa. Situated in the new town of Albufeira, the indoor pool and spa facilities make it a popular choice with holidaymakers.

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Catherine Bowe, Bowe Travel; Erica Oglesby, Sunway; Catherine Murray, Globe Travel; Brian Corrigan, Travel Creations; Karen Fegan, Centre Travel; Gemma Duffy, Hannon Travel; Lesley Brophy, Tully’s Travel; and Colette Knowles, Manning Travel; outside the Vila Gale Cerro Alagoa, Albufeira

Next we visited the Villa Petra Aparthotel. I was pleasantly surprised at the high standard of accommodation and the excellent facilities on offer here, including free wifi throughout the complex. Even the studio apartments were spacious and overall the complex deserved its 4-star rating.

Pool area at the Villa Petra aparthotel, Albufeira

Pool area at the Villa Petra Aparthotel, Albufeira

After a quick look at the Grand Real Santa Eulalia, we took a tour of the stunning Epic Sana Hotel. This ultra-modern hotel offers the highest standards in design and facilities. The minute you walk into the lobby you get the WOW factor and you immediately understand why it is one of the best hotels in the Algarve.

A photo of on the terrace of the Grand Real Santa Eulalia

On the terrace of the Grand Real Santa Eulalia

Lobby of the 5* Epic Sana Hotel, Algarve

Lobby of the 5-star Epic Sana Hotel, Algarve

Erica Oglesby, Sunway trying out the beds at the luxury Epic Sana Resort

Erica Oglesby, Sunway, trying out the beds at the luxury Epic Sana Resort

And to round off what was a great trip we went off for a quick wander around Albufeira. Of course we had to stop off and watch the Ireland v Italy rugby match – sure it would be rude not to!

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All the gang in the Shamrock Bar in Albufeira enjoying Ireland beat Italy in the Rugby World Cup

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Sarah Slattery has been in the travel industry for the past 24 years, initially as a sales consultant and progressed to sales and marketing director of Skytours. Sarah’s experience and knowledge led to a regular slot on TV3 as the travel expert on the Morning Show. She has her own blog www.thetravelexpert.ie which offers advice on destinations and the best travel deals.

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