Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - December 17, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - December 17, 2011
Club Med Ixtapa Talking Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo with Sailing Manager Vincent Cospain; Why Club Med is a Worthwhile Repeat Destination from Frequent Guest Winona Sanford; Talking Accommodations and More at Club Med Ixtapa with Hotel Services Manager Ricardo Rodrigues; Internationally Influenced Club Med Ixtapa Cuisine with Executive Chef Sheik Noorani; Fun and Kid Friendly Activities with the Club Med Mini Clubs from Mini Club Manager in Ixtapa Maria "Marifer" Fernanda Vargas.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

Travel Expert and Show Host Stephanie Abrams broadcasts live from Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mexico. To get there, she advises flying into Mexico City with Aeromexico and making a connection to the airport in Zihuatanejo, and from there it's about a thirty minute taxi ride to the Club Med Ixtapa. Mexico City itself is fairly well placed so it's not a difficult location to fly to. Stephanie flew in from San Francisco, and says that the Aeromexico flight was delightful, and a smooth and comfortable experience. "If you play your cards right, you can get to Mexico City early enough in the morning so that you can make a nice connection on the short flight to Ixtapa, and when you arrive you still have the best part of the day to enjoy," which allows you to not waste a vacation day in transit.


Link to this segment

Vincent Cospain, Sailing Manager, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Stephanie explains that a "GO" at Club Med resorts stands for "Gentils Organisateurs" (Gracious Organizers) and refers to staffers of the resort, while "GM" means "Gentils Membres" (Gracious Members) and refers to guests. She now welcomes a GO that she met at Club Med Ixtapa who has a particularly interesting story as to how he came to the resort. She welcomes Vincent Cospain, Sailing Manager at Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico to the show. Vincent lived and worked in Paris, France for ten years in the banking industry before coming to Club Med Ixtapa three years ago. When the financial crisis hit at that time, it changed the course of his life.

"You followed the kind of path that most families would like their children to follow," Stephanie comments, referring to his career trajectory from good education into good career, followed by the veering off into a Club Med career. But it turns out that Vincent's parents actually met each other in a Club Med Village in Spain. Vincent's older brother had actually worked as a GO as well, in several locations including one in Switzerland. He tells a sweet story about his brother catching a girl who fell on the ice while visiting, and now they're married and have a family in Paris. "There's a lot of love in your family as a result of Club Med," Stephanie adds.

Discussing the topic of how emotionally moving a visit to a Club Med can be, Stephanie reminisces about the first time she witnessed a departure, which is a big process that everyone attends after spending all week together, and it's enough to bring you to tears. Vincent explains that after spending so much time eating, dancing, and celebrating together, after that week everyone has grown close and feels like family. "When you are leaving Club Med all around the world, that's why we say not bye-bye, but see you soon."  Stephanie comments that at Club Med, there's always a big group of people waiting to greet and welcome you when you arrive and it's always warm and genuine, and she finds it emotionally touching that at departure, everyone turns out to wave and clap and give guests a very warm send-off. "We are very close to you," Vincent explains on behalf of the GOs. Stephanie adds that some of the dining tables are very large and you always end up meeting new, friendly people just at meals even if you're not participating in big group activities like sailing.

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For more information visit www.clubmed.com


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Winona Sanford, Repeat Guest, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Show Host Stephanie Abrams recommends that travelers investigate something called Priority Pass, which may help to give you access into one of six hundred VIP airport lounges worldwide. In Mexico City, she says that this is an extra added pleasure to have a quiet, comfortable oasis to wait out your flight connection. She says that being in an airport as long as you're comfortable isn't bad. In the Aeromexico upper class lounge, you can relax, be served drinks, and recharge your batteries - both those of your technology and your own!

Along the way on this trip, Stephanie met Winona Sanford of British Columbia, Canada, a repeat guest at Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico. "When somebody tells you that they liked a place well enough to go back a second time, that really speaks well of the place. But you've got to be doing it right to get a visitor to come back eight times." Winona came for six years in a row, and then after waiting out a renovation at the Club Med location, she was invited to go again. She was hesitant about what changes might have been made, but the redone style still met her expectations. After that she came for two years in a row.

Winona says that the Club Med Ixtapa is the only location that she frequents. Stephanie comments that each of the clubs is different, with their own flavor and sometimes demographic regarding guests. For instance, if there's no Mini Club then families won't be there. Some of the European clubs cater to winter skiers. Depending on the geographic location, each resort has different attractions to offer and thus a different clientele, and Stephanie adds that it's always possible to meet interesting people to spend your time with.

The Ixtapa location is convenient for Winona, not to mention that she's become comfortable with the resort itself. She jokes that she's older and enjoys the familiarity that she's grown used to. Stephanie remembers something called the "Forever Young" program, a marketing campaign initiated by Club Med in the 90s to appeal to an older generation of guest, and she thinks that Club Med itself is definitely something that will keep you young. Winona adds that although some guests complain about noisy children especially in the mornings, she actually enjoys them and that helps maintain youth too. Stephanie laughs that she's not up in time to witness this. She adds that Club Med offers an enormous breakfast spread of very high quality foods. She says it's still quite a plentiful buffet by the time she gets up though, so that says a lot!

Asked about her expectations before her first visit, Winona says that she was attracted by the fact that it was all inclusive and appealing to just be able to show up with some clothes and a bathing suit and not worry about anything else from there. Stephanie agrees that it's a comfortable atmosphere, and says that she's lived in places that were like glitzy resorts in that there was always someone judging someone else's wardrobe, and competitiveness was common. Now that she lives in Berkshire County, she's happy that it's a place that allows you "to go the way you feel like going."

Show Host Stephanie Abrams points out to Winona how highly it speaks to the Club Med resorts and especially the location in Ixtapa that she's been such a frequent visitor. She asks if there are any thoughts Winona would like to share about her experiences. Winona tells about meeting one server who was working on her English, and every day she taught Winona a word of Spanish and Winona taught her a word of English, and it was a wonderful and sweet breakfast routine. Another time she did an interview with a PR representative from Club Med and they presented her with a gift of a vase as thanks for her consistent patronage. "I think Club Med is a little bit of a home away from home. We know it's comfortable, we know what to expect," she concludes. Stephanie agrees, adding that many people who have never visited a Club Med have no idea what's there in terms of the wide variety of activities to enjoy and the great extent of the food.

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For more information visit www.clubmed.com


Travel Tips:

Stephanie says that arriving in Zihuatanejo after routing through Mexico City means that you'll already arrive feeling festive from Mexican culture and spirit, and singing a mariachi song.


Guests Include:

Vincent Cospain, Sailing Manager, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Winona Sanford, Repeat Guest, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Ricardo Rodrigues, Hotel Services Manager, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

"If you have never been to a Club Med, then you have no idea what you've missed," Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams declares. She's been to many of their destinations, including one in France located equidistant from Cannes and Nice, in the mountains. In the nearby town of Grasse, you can have special soaps and perfumes made to your personal specifications, and the Club Med there called Opio where you can also make your own perfume as one of their activities. In the winter there's skiing. She's also been to locations in Asia, all over the Caribbean, and in Florida in Port St. Lucie at Sandpiper Bay. The Club Med in Ixtapa has been an exciting experience for her, and in order to give listeners a better idea of the overall Club Med experience particularly from the hotel side, she welcomes Ricardo Rodrigues, Hotel Services Manager at Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.

Stephanie says that historically, the Club Med experience was focused on activities and not accommodation, but at some point there was recognition that an expectation existed in regards to this side of the experience. Ricardo has been with Club Med for seven years in Brazil at Rio das Pedras. Stephanie has visited here and says that the physical appearance of the location is glorious, and will make you think that you've died and gone to heaven. His work with the company took him through several more locations including  in Mauritius and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. He worked his way from bar manager to Hotel Services Manager. Stephanie is glad to hear that he's taken advantage of the excellent work opportunities available through Club Med and the hospitality industry.

Stephanie comments on how much has changed about the philosophy of Club Med, as there was once a time when there were no phones or TVs in the rooms. The philosophy intended for guests to be able to divorce themselves from the outside world and bad news and be able to come together, do sports, and enjoy life. Rooms were always clean and comfortable but weren't given important emphasis. Now she says her room has plasma screen TVs, WiFi, and all the modern comforts and amenities. Ricardo agrees that it was deemed important to enhance the vacation experience of guests. The important position that he now occupies was created in response to overseeing these needs and keeping guests happy throughout every facet of the accommodation sector. Stephanie comments that all of the responsibilities that fall under Ricardo's domain, including kitchen management, are huge and he must have a good sense of humor! He's got a great staff working under him and with a good facilitation of communication, they get things organized and taken care of successfully. "There are different ways of working," he explains, and adds that Club Med strives to attain consistency of quality throughout the resorts.

Show Host Stephanie Abrams mentions a crossword puzzle from a USA Today newspaper that she enjoys completing while traveling that relates to the philosophy that Ricardo upholds for Club Med. The underlying message of the quote was along the lines of "We cannot accept variations in our product, we have to have consistency in our product but we must accept and encourage variation in our people." The exact quote is attributed to Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric. It sums up the Club Med goals of standardization while at the same building on the uniqueness of the people who deliver the Club Med product. Stephanie adds that taking a trip to Club Med feels like a journey around the world because of the international origins of the GOs working at the resorts. Ricardo confirms it, and adds that staff at Club Med Ixtapa currently hail from Dominican Republic, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Italy, France, and Mauritius to name a few. He estimates eleven or twelve different nationalities among the GOs.

"You have this international culture, but there are some underlying French values, among them being cuisine and high expectations in terms of food preparation and presentation. But also that sense of joie de vivre, that when you come to a Club Med, you come to have your expectations exceeded," Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams explains. She mentions that when checking into their accommodations, she noted that the color scheme was "very Moroccan" and she noticed a use of leather on the closet doors and wrought iron on the lamps made it seem "as sharp and 21st century boutique hotel as you can get".

Ricardo shares that there are over three hundred rooms on the property in nine categories. These include fifty rooms of family suites and fifty rooms of couples suites in a different space with a concierge. There are forty-five deluxe rooms without an ocean view and nine with one. There are also connected rooms and standard family rooms with and without ocean views among the accommodation possibilities. There's also a convention center from which the show is actually broadcasting. With a facility like this, Stephanie notes that big family events, weddings, corporate events, and meetings can all be held there as well. Ricardo says that the conference rooms can hold six hundred people.

Related Photo Galleries:
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For more information visit www.clubmed.com


Guests Include:

Ricardo Rodrigues, Hotel Services Manager, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Hour 3

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Sheik Noorani, Executive Chef, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

The culinary aspect is a very important one for any Club Med location considering the underlying French philosophy of the resorts, so this hour Travel Expert and Show Host Stephanie Abrams welcomes Sheik Noorani, Executive Chef at Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico. Sheik first became interested in playing around in the kitchen when he was seven or eight years old, growing up in Mauritius. His mother was very happy to see him taking an interest in helping in the kitchen. Still, she never expected him to be a chef, and reminded him that his father wanted him to become a doctor. Stephanie notes that when parents hear that their kids want to go into the tourism and hospitality industry, they'll wind up never leaving the one location where they get a job, and it doesn't coincide with their own hopes of greatness for their children. "But look at you, Executive Chef!" she concludes.

After his education, he got his start in a South African restaurant and it was more of a casual thing that turned serious and he entered a culinary based school program in Mauritius. Eventually he says that the wind blew him towards Ixtapa. He started at a Club Med in Australia and then went on to the Maldives and eventually to Ixtapa, Mexico, where's been for three years.

Sheik reports that the kitchen at Club Med is very vast, and their only goal is to be the very best all inclusive resort and to always stay on top. With that in mind, he stocks his kitchen and staff. Sheik says he got lucky with a very good team in Mexico and good access to high quality products, such as fresh fish and seafood right from the Pacific Ocean. This fresh food combined with organic vegetables plus presentation helps set Club Med Ixtapa apart from other resorts, Sheik thinks. He adds that getting to travel while working for Club Med and learning the culture and tradition of other countries has influenced his culinary skills and what he brings to this work. His integration in food services from around the world has found its way into the offerings at Club Med, including Mauritian food which he says is not very common to find especially in resorts. He also provides Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Indonesian, Indian, and Balinese cuisines  and infusions as well.

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Link to this segment

Maria "Marifer" Fernanda Vargas, Mini Club Manager, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Travel Expert and Show Host Stephanie Abrams welcomes Maria "Marifer" Fernanda Vargas, Mini Club Manager at Club Med Ixtapa in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico to the show to provide some more information about Club Med's special programs for children, which offer supervision as well as fun learning activities. Stephanie warns that not all Club Med locations offer these services to an extent beyond basic child care, so if the kids are coming along on your trip, make sure that the Club Med you've picked provides the extra kid-friendly options.

Marifer is working at her fifth Club Med location and has been with the Mini Clubs for four years, starting in Cancun and moving on to Brazil in Rio das Pedras. Stephanie says that what she's found most exciting about the Club Med Mini Village program is that the children are learning and acquiring new skills, "so it wasn't just that I spent time, but that I invested time."

"That's why a lot of people come back after, because they discover that if the kids were shy, after one week they've completely changed and they participate in the show that we do with the kids," Marifer explains. Kids learn song, dance, trapeze, tennis, archery, and sailing for the older kids. They do a pirate themed day and a clown themed day, and of course a final performance show, "when they become stars". They also gain exposure to different sports, and "start to grow".

Stephanie agrees that it's important because they're not left with video games and expected to entertain themselves. Even water sports are part of the Mini Club program. The youngest children at Club Med Ixtapa are four months old and until two years are in the Baby Club. From two to four years is the Petit Club. Mini Club is four to ten year olds, and Juniors' Club is pre-teen and teen guests. In Petit Club, kids start to become adapted to the separation from their parents but also to establish a solid routine for themselves. They go on discovery walks to explore the flowers and animals of the area. There are also games to help them learn and discover through stories, such as treasure searches using clues and with special themes, like princesses and pirates. It helps a focus on images, sounds, teamwork, and learning autonomy.

Four to ten year olds do sports in the morning, such as flying trapeze, tightrope walking, trampoline, rock climbing wall, sailing, kayak, archery, tennis, basketball, football and sometimes an introduction to golf. Stephanie asks about safety issues associated with some of these adventure activities. Marifer assures that all Mini Club GOs are well trained and participate along with kids on the activities, and that's the difference between a GO and a babysitter who would look on while kids play by themselves. There are rules and precautions in place based on age levels, and special sports teams to assist with activities and maintaining professional precautions. Stephanie comments that she's seen the extent of the protective ropes and nets that are in place for some of the activities.

"Whatever makes a child uniquely this child is taken into consideration" in the way that the kids interact with the Mini Club activities, Show Host Stephanie Abrams comments. Marifer explains that kids can come and go as they please within the Mini Club program. Activities are offered as a menu and kids and their parents can pick which they'd like to enjoy. During the time that the kids are with the Mini Clubs, they are provided with healthy eating options throughout the day. And even if they're shy, they're encouraged to discover new things and participate. Kids that are well acquainted with the program are continuously challenged and surprised. Stephanie concludes that she finds it much more peaceful to be able to have one's children close by during travels and know that they're well cared for and enjoying the time themselves, but it's also nice for adults to be able to enjoy quiet meals on their own, and the Club Med Mini Clubs allow for all of this to happen.

Related Photo Galleries:
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Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
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For more information visit www.clubmed.com


Travel Tips:

To visit Club Med Ixtapa, it's best to fly into Zihuatanejo Airport from Mexico City.


Guests Include:

Sheik Noorani, Executive Chef, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

Maria "Marifer" Fernanda Vargas, Mini Club Manager, Club Med Ixtapa, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
www.clubmed.com

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