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ON A BUDGET

Civilization has its price at Club Med

The once-simple resort chain has gone all-inclusive, with costs to match. But summer brings family discounts at some of its venues.

July 02, 2006|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

THE first Club Med I ever saw was on the islands of Guadeloupe in the 1960s. At that time, some of its accommodations were cots on a white-sand beach under an open-sided tent. Nonetheless, I thought it was the most exciting tropical resort on Earth.

One of the staff members, barefoot and clad only in khaki shorts, was a former Air France executive who had discovered the company on a business trip to Guadeloupe. He resigned from Air France and said he would spend the rest of his life in paradise.

The transformation of Club Med since then from a collection of happy-go-lucky, children's-summer-camp-style facilities (doors that didn't lock; rooms without phones, TVs or fans) into a slick chain of all-inclusive resort hotels, similar to Sandals and SuperClubs, is a development that causes me sadness. It no longer offers a simple respite in the tropics. Club Med has upgraded its lodgings (locks on the doors, TVs and telephones inside, air conditioning and 300-thread-count sheets) to do battle with the traditional all-inclusive hotels. And the French resorts no longer describe themselves in ads as "the antidote to civilization."

An interesting question is whether the new policy is succeeding.

Recently, the president of Club Med for North America left the organization, and discount offers began appearing in Club Med advertisements. The most attractive is a Club Med "Family Plan" for $1,999, which allows four members of a family (two adults and two children) to have a seven-night, all-inclusive summer holiday. The special is good at Club Med in Sandpiper, Fla.; Ixtapa, Mexico; or Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

It seems that Club Med -- while touting its new "world-class" accommodations and general elegance -- is cutting prices to fill its rooms.

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Storm-hit resorts try for a comeback

CANCUN, Mexico, its hotel industry severely damaged last fall by Hurricane Wilma, is also discounting to encourage a revival of tourism.

An air-and-land package offered by Funjet Vacations is among the best. It includes round-trip air to Cancun from Los Angeles and three all-inclusive nights (room, meals and drinks) at the Dos Playas Hotel, for $495 per person, double occupancy when booked electronically on www.funjet.com. The rates are good from July 17 to Aug. 14.

Another special offers the same package, during the same period, of $550 per person, double occupancy for air and three nights at the slightly better Flamingo Cancun.

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QM2 cabins to be had at a discount

CABINS for July sailings of the Queen Mary 2 are being sold for as little as $845 per person for a one-way Atlantic cruise (six to eight days, depending on day and destination) by several discount cruise brokers. Who knows what the price will be in August on this giant vessel?

Call White Travel Service at (800) 547-4790 or log on to www.cruisewizard.com. White was also selling cabins for $1,041 per person on the 16-day repositioning cruise of the Norwegian Jewel, sailing April 22 from Miami on a leisurely, six-day crossing of the southern Atlantic to Madeira, Portugal, followed by several days through the Mediterranean to Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples and Crete, ending in Piraeus (Athens). That price comes to $69 a day.

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