Saturday, March 2, 2013

Beaches --Turks and Caicos, with the kids

(my apologies in advance; I don't know why this won't space properly!) I always considered writing for a travel magazine, because travelling is truly one of my greatest joys, right up there with crafting, reading, cooking... okay, I have a lot. However, my passion was put on hold after the birth of my children because I really enjoy the "backpacking" sort of experience more than anything. My husband and I once spent two glorious weeks bouncing around Eastern Europe with no particular plan in mind. However, I don't feel like that is realistic with two small children. So, we've made some smaller trips (which I think I will review as well at a later date), but we had our first big adventure this past week to the Beaches Resort at Turks and Caicos.

I have never considered myself a resort type of person; I don't particularly care for crowds, all you can eat anything, or group activities, so I was a bit leery. However, my husband received some deal through his job and he asked if I wanted to go last minute. I hesitated; I panicked; and finally I said, "OK, Just book it." (I believe I was actually quite perturbed at being pressured and was frustrated that I had to decide while both kids were beckoning me and he was somewhere warm and glorious away from it all!) Well, we were committed.
We arrived and were treated quite well and of course, seeing Elmo on arrival was too much of a good thing. We were escorted to our room in the Bahama area which was, eh. I've definitely been in much nicer and the four of us in one room was not anything to look forward to (at the time of the vacation the kids were 4 and 2 1/2). Sitting on the patio while they were asleep wasn't that great either. It was tiny and not very comfortable, without a view of anything. The pool in the area was okay. There wasn't a kiddy pool, however. THat made it a little bit labor intensive for us since our kids don't swim yet. But, at least we were in a warm tropical climate in January, right?
However, we got lucky. One night there were some shenanigans from the room above and our air-conditioner broke. Of course, I complained. So we packed up and they allowed me to "view" the room before we got our new one. It was a suite in the Italian Villa and it was PERFECT. We had a room for the kids and a ground floor sliding glass entry to get to the pool. The pool, by the way was gorgeous!! The kiddy pool was large and shallow, the adult pool was also shallow and had a great swim up bar, and the warm pool... perfect for the slightly colder days. It was also very close to the beach which was nice.
Okay, the room was good so now it was the perfect vacation, right? Not so fast... the food was the worst! It was horrific. Now, I will admit, I am a food snob in a big way. I have lived in either New York City or Philadelphia most of my life, but... ugh. We did find one half way decent place down by the beach, but that was it. We hired a sitter one night and went out for an adult meal and my husband couldn't even eat his fish; it tasted freezer burnt and just gross. I had scallops that were like small rubber balls.
What made bad even worse was the service. Yes, there were a lot of people at dinner time, but aren't they supposed to be able to handle this? If you are a "family resort" then you cannot expect people, who are pretty much forced to eat at your poor choices for restaurants, with small children to wait 45 minutes for food. Perhaps if it was excellent I would have been more tolerant, but not so much. We found one restaurant that we did like; it wasn't great, but it was the best of the bad choices. It was close to the beach and it was in the sand so the kids could play or sit at one of the kid sized picnic tables. We ended up eating all of our meals there. Although, the buffet (gag!) in the French Villa wasn't too bad and it was a prime spot to see the parade and shows at night.
Speaking of entertainment, there were a lot of add ons that you could do. We tried three of them and in all honesty, that are expensive and not worth the money in my opinion. 1) Breakfast with the characters: It was TOO crowded. Yes, the characters came to each child, but you could experience that if you just hung out at the pool long enough. The food wasn't anything above the ordinary either. 2) Cruise with Abbey and Elmo: Save your money again! Conceptually, it was a great idea. Sailing aboard a beautiful, huge catamaran, while the kiddies have some fun. They didn't even raise the sail when we were on it. We motored out ( I felt sick!) and then back in. There were a couple of games played with to little space and a photo op with each character. 3) Photo shoot by the beach: This was fun, I have to admit. However, our photographer wasn't all that friendly. We had some okay pictures, but nothing better than what I took myself. And, just to get the pictures, I waited almost 1 hour in the photo shop!
But wait!! They have a kids camp. Okay, I have to admit, I am the wrong person to judge this since my kids are basically home with me and the older one only goes to preschool half a day, but when we walked in and a little kid came sprinting and launched himself over the half wall to escape, I reconsidered. The people working their seemed bored and the one hour we left my kids, I could tell they weren't that happy. This might be because they were too young. The kids at the older camp seemed VERY happy.
We did utilize a babysitter one night after the kids went to bed and that was REALLY nice! Also, you can rent a wagon instead of lugging your stroller with you. That was something I very much appreciated.
The shows were actually a lot of fun and so was the parade. The water park was GREAT even for non-swimmers. So, in a nutshell.... for customer service, I will give this Beaches location 4 stars out of 5. (There were a couple other issues.) For food, I will be generous and give it 1 1/2 stars. For entertainment, I will say 4 stars. It is a very expensive trip and we were lucky to get a big discount through my husband's job, plus the upgrade, plus we had free airfare. If we had to pay full price, I don't think I would go back. All in all it was a great vacation. We were relaxed and really enjoyed the amenities.

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