Ryan Aldred Rotating Header Image

all-inclusive

Day 7 and Final Thoughts – Club Med Charlevoix

No rest for the weary this morning – it’s time to get on the road. Up at 7 am and off to the buffet for breakfast. I devoured one last delicious turkey and cheese omelette, then dashed down to pick up a luggage cart.

How difficult could that be? Many of the guests were checking out today, and they might be in short supply.

Thankfully, it was a non-issue – I spotted one the moment the elevator doors opened to the first floor. I even managed to catch the same elevator back up to our room.

My wife wisely suggested that I put something on the luggage cart so that it wasn’t taken. So I did. But it might have worked a bit too well, as someone soon knocked on the door to accuse my son of taking the luggage cart!

Thankfully, he accepted my explanation that I had – in fact – picked up the luggage cart on the first floor. But I’m glad that I’d listened to my wife, or I’d undoubtedly have had my own cart pilfered in an endless cycle of luggage-based revenge.

With the cart claimed – and the rest of the family back at the room, packing up – I once more hiked the 1,000 metres or so back down to the parking lot, again wishing that I’d just paid that $25 for the final night of indoor parking. I then drove the car up to front of Club Med and positioned it as best I could past yet another tour bus and a pair of extra-large Mercedes vans.

I had to wait a bit for my wife and kids to arrive with the luggage cart. In the meantime, I spotted a young girl trying to shove a luggage cart through the front door. I pointed out the extra-tiny accessibility buttons that I’d initially struggled to find. Hopefully she too will pay it forward, because those buttons are difficult to find on their own.

Check-out wasn’t entirely seamless. There was some confusion on check-out as Club Med initially thought we were part of the large group that was heading out, so my wife stayed behind to sort that out while I loaded the rest of the items into the car. Not everything fit quite as neatly as it had on the way down, but we managed to squeeze it in. Then we were on the road once more.

Quebec City appears in the distance, about an hour from Charlevoix

The return trip took about 8 hours – an hour longer than the way down, due largely to the slush storm that hit us in the home stretch. We even stopped at the same McDonalds that we visited on the way down because we’re adventurous like that.

We’d debated taking our electric car, but hadn’t yet set up the roof box and we needed as much storage as we could handle. I was pleased to see that Club Med had ample charging spaces. Maybe next time.

A hotel charger and an empty spot? A rare treat indeed.

Which brings us to the big question… will there be a next time?

Club Med Charlevoix – Rating and Summary:

Overall, we’d give Club Med Charlevoix 4.5 stars out of 5.

The Best: A true all-inclusive experience at a world-class ski resort

The Worst: Children running rampant

Next Time: Visit in the summer for a change of scenery and excellent hiking, or continue to visit in December for a good deal. Also, consider adding in a trip to Montreal or Quebec City to break up the trip.

The 4.5 star rating might seem surprising given how much we’ve complained about various aspects of this resort – the check-in experience, children using the theatre furniture as a jungle gym, the layout, children screaming, inconsistent service, children without any regard for basic hygiene – you get the idea.

But the core elements of this vacation – the food, the entertainment, the hiking, and the skiing – were all excellent. And they were good value for money, too.

Club Med has its own infographic on its site, which I think is hugely informative:

Source: Club Med

But no matter how good of a value it is, there are still points that Club Med needs to improve before they get that last half star.

To sum up the main points to improve:

– Improve the ratio on childcare, both by increasing staffing in Mini Club and having some reasonable expectations for children’s behaviour in common areas.

– Continue to identify and address gaps in service, such as the lack of communication during check-in regarding the room being ready and the inconsistent table service in Le Chalet.

– Laundry is at the very edge of affordability / accessibility. $20 for a load is the absolute max, and at that price Club Med should be careful to ensure that their washer and dryers are fully functional (and that guests don’t have to argue for an extra token to finish a load.)

But there’s also a lot they should continue to sustain:

– Lots of children’s activities that are worthwhile, like the juggling classes and aerial circus lessons. Passworld (teen club) was also a huge hit.

– Food and drink were very good, particularly from the buffet or when ordered directly from the bar.

– Skiing experience is convenient and economical. Hugely civilized to be able to pull your gear from your locker, step outside and start skiing.

And will we be back again? That’s certainly the plan. We’re hoping to go back in the summer of 2025, where we’ll try out more of the hiking and mountain biking in the area. (To our surprise, our hike turned out to be one of our daughter’s favourite activities of the entire trip – and I expect it’ll be even more enjoyable when the weather is nice and we’re not sliding around everywhere.)

Thanks for joining us on this journey, and please don’t hesitate to post a comment if you have any questions.

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

Day 6 – Club Med Charlevoix

No lessons today, so we were able to sleep in all the way until 7:30 am. Don’t tell me we don’t get crazy in the Aldred Household.

Off to breakfast, where it is definitely busier than the day before – though we still had no issue getting a seat, nor in getting ourselves fed within about 20 minutes.

My wife also spotted someone enjoying a breakfast beer, so that answers another question – yes, those taps of Maudite are fully functional throughout the day.

We also seem to have finally figured out how the lockers work and – though crowded – we were able to get ourselves out the door in record time.

And the gondola was working! Could it get any better than this?

Well, yes. Because it was -20C this morning.

They say that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. But that’s thin comfort when a razor-sharp Arctic wind is whipping at your face.

Still, this isn’t our first ski trip – when we previously made the mistake of dressing ourselves based on the weather report from the bottom of Tremblant rather than the peak. That was uncomfortable.

We’ve since learned our lesson. Everyone was decked out in thermals, balaclavas, and glove warmers. So we were relatively comfortable, if not quite toasty.

No new runs open this morning, sadly. It’ll be the weekenders that will gain most of the benefit of Le Massif’s efforts, as it looks like they are close to mapping a route from the top to the bottom.

As for the existing runs? They’re showing their use, and starting to get icy.

But that didn’t stop us from doing our usual cycle – several runs of La Bouchard, and La Simard. Conditions gradually warmed up and the gondola stayed open the entire time.

I’d hoped to get some video via my GoPro, but unfortunately it was too cold for that particular piece of technology – it only lasted a single run. Oh well, we’ll try again next time.

We came in a bit later this time – after 11:30 am – and so we managed to miss the chaos of little kids and magic carpets.

This being our last ski day – sad face – it was then time to load the equipment into the car so that we wouldn’t have to do so first thing tomorrow, which should (theoretically) mean that we could sleep in a bit later.

It was a pain to have to walk down to the parking lot, warm up the car, drive up to the lodge, gather all the ski equipment, and then load it into the roofbox – but I was still glad to have it done.

My wife then wisely suggested that I could ask about parking indoors for our last night (at a cost of $25), which would’ve made it easier to load the next morning. The car was already back at the parking lot at that point, but I think it’s something I would consider next time.

And if the weather was bad throughout the trip, I think I would just park indoors – it is a vacation, after all, and no one wants to brush a foot of snow off their car when they’re on vacation.

Then off to lunch, where we had crispy fish nuggets and rice:

A tuna poke bowl:

And roast beef and French fries:

We’d originally thought that I might run another D&D one-shot, but the kids were mostly off at lessons. So we decided to leave it at just the one. I’m glad I brought my supplies, though, and plan to do so again for future trips.

On the plus side – it meant I got another nap time, followed by some more pool time.

The pool was again quiet until about 3 pm, when lessons wrapped up. I also managed to get in another couple of steam room sessions. This has been incredibly relaxing – particularly after a day of skiing – and it’s probably the part of Charlevoix Club Med that I’m going to miss the most. (My wife agrees.)

Back to Le Chalet to read and relax for a bit – and to enjoy a few bites of poutine:

Then we went to the theatre for another round of aerial circus lessons. This time my daughter did the trapeze, which may have been her all-time favourite.

The other kids were about the same as before – more climbing over couches, a couple of minor head injuries. We’ve been able to get high-top tables every night we wanted one so this has been less of an issue since the first day or two.

I’d forgotten to mention what happened the previous night, when they were having the kids’ club festival: my daughter had gotten some cotton candy and – after she finished – a girl came around to ask if she could have the leftover cotton candy cone. We agreed, but were confused as to what possible use a pre-licked paper cone could serve.

I spotted the girl later, and she had a row of these cotton candy cones on her fingers as though they were claws – each of which had been licked clean by another child. Blegh.

Someone also left a tin of chewing tobacco on the floor near where the children were playing:

So… yeah. Keep an eye on your kids.

Amazingly, our appetites had not been completely destroyed by recent events so we went to dinner, where I enjoyed some seared tuna:

As well as some flank steak that was so good, I never managed to get a picture of it. We got three orders of it and demolished every single one of them. Oops!

Back to our room to pack for a bit, and then my daughter and I took in one last round of Just Dance.

And that was it – six days, gone in the blink of an eye.

But stay tuned for details regarding our check-out experience, as well as some final thoughts about Club Med Charlevoix, including our rating and whether we plan on returning at some point in the future.

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

Day 5 – Club Med Charlevoix

7 am start today, as we had to get my son fed and prepped in time for his snowboarding lesson at 8:30 am. Quick trip for breakfast and back to the room to change, then down to the lockers where I discovered that both of our lockers had their codes changed in the night.

How was that possible? Well, I’m embarrassed to say that I had not realized that the locker numbers matched up to the room numbers.

This means that – for the past 4 days – we had been stealing not one but two lockers that belonged to other guests.

I’m not sure how I missed this the first time, when our stuff ended up in the ski shop. But I did.

Anyway, we soon found our proper locker and moved all our gear over. Problem solved. (At least until karma rears its head and someone puts their stuff in our locker.)

The temperature had dropped precipitously, and it was now around -12C outside not including windchill – and there was quite the windchill. What’s more, the gondola was also not running this morning. (Which I suspect was related to the wind speed.) So we’d have to trek past the gondola, across a bridge, and over to the chair lift.

Getting back down? Likely the same – a trip down on the chairlift followed by an extended trek back to the hotel.

This is what we somehow missed the day before. And let me say, I’m glad we only had to do it the once.

But – the conditions were further improved today, and we had another series of beautiful runs before we decided to call it a day before heading back to the room around 11:30.

Fortunately, the gondola was running again by the time we got back. Unfortunately, the magic carpet was jammed. The signs ask you to leave 2 metres between the guests, and for good reason – otherwise people start to pile up at the disembarking point. Particularly when those people are 5 years old and have only spent 84 minutes on skis in their entire lives.

Anyway, we made it. Not without incident, but we made it.

Our son arrived back not long after. His lesson had gone well – though he claimed that it was more of a ski-together session than an actual lesson, and that he hadn’t really learned anything new. Regardless, one lesson was enough for one trip. He wanted to ski with us again tomorrow. And who can blame him? We are pretty awesome. (And aware that he is not going to want to ski / snowboard with us forever.)

Lunch was busy that day, and we can tell that the resort is ramping up for Christmas and the holidays. Still, no issues finding a seat and the waits for food were minimal. I had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and onion rings.

This was followed by a banana-caramel cake and some sort of strawberry whipped cream cake.

All very delicious.

We were running ahead of schedule for once, so I managed to get in both a power nap and a trip to the pool. With the hill reopened, the pool was all but deserted – the lifeguards outnumbered the guests.

Our daughter once more ensconced herself in the hammock, and I had the chance to visit the steam room, pool and the outdoor hot tub. The hot tub was a little cool, but had a great view of the ski hill. There’s something meditative about sitting in steaming hot water while you watch others engage in winter sports.

The steam room continued to steal the show, however – and after two successive trips, my back felt almost as good as it had before we made the 7 hour trip to get here. (Just in time for another 7 hour trip in 2 days time.)

Hard to believe, but this trip is already drawing to a close. We’re already strategizing as to how best to load up the car before our departure.

And how are we feeling about leaving? Will we be bereft to depart this not-quite-winter wonderland, or relieved to leave the troupe of destructive capuchins ahem children behind? Methinks it’s too soon to say.

Back to Le Chalet, where I enjoyed this spectacular view with a cappuccino:

And then off to the theatre for another round of Aerial Circus lessons, this time with silks.

Then off to dinner, including beet ravioli:

Lamb shoulder:

Breaded calamari

And pineapple shrimp

Followed by gluten-free opera cake:

I have to say, the gluten-free desserts have really been punching above their weight during this trip. They’re often better than their gluten-laden alternatives. Really impressive.

Early night for us tonight, as we are planning to get back on the hill again tomorrow morning.

Which is a shame, because we just discovered the Aperol spritz:

Which paired well with the tail end of tonight’s show:

And that wrapped up Day 5. One last day left to enjoy the drinks, skiing and entertainment.

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

Day 4 – Club Med Charlevoix

Our day got off to the usual start with an 8ish wakeup, followed by another great breakfast – and a debate.

What were we going to do today?

The leading choice was a visit to Baie-Saint-Paul, where we could stop by a bookstore, visit a café, and perhaps pick up a new pair of Blundstones for my son’s ever-growing feet.

But looking around at the other families dressed in ski clothes – wolfing down their artisanal mini-pancakes in anticipation of a day on the hills – we began to reconsider.

Even after breakfast ended, we still hadn’t decided. So the kids took in the juggling class while the adults put our heads together to weigh our options.

I went down to the Le Massif desk to see if they had any updates on the hill status and / or how much trudging would be required to make this work. Grooming had apparently broken up much of the ice and there was a working chairlift for the top third of the hill. We wouldn’t be able to ski down to Club Med but we could take the gondola down, have a short walk and then ride the magic carpet back up to the top. Far less trudging than we’d feared.

Phase 1 of Operation Finally Go Skiing

But… it was -11 C and conditions were only set to improve as the week went on, so it made perfect sense to head into town today.

So naturally, we decided to go skiing.

The morning was not without its little annoyances. First off, I couldn’t get into my locker – after many failed attempts, I finally learned that the locker had been emptied and that our equipment was stored in the ski rental office. No idea why. But we got that sorted out quickly enough.

Then we got down to the gondola – where we couldn’t figure out how the passes worked, and had no idea where to go. Reaching the chairlift required us to traverse flat sections – the bane of all snowboarders and the skiers who end up dragging them along. Everyone was rusty, and there were icy patches.

It was also breathtakingly beautiful. And it felt so, so good to get back out there again.

Source: Le Massif facebook page

We managed about 4 runs before we decided we’d had enough for the day, and made our way back down the gondola. As expected, we had a bit of a slog to get from the gondola to the magic carpet.

It took perhaps 5 minutes across flat terrain – not as bad as we’d feared. Then a quick trip up the magic carpets, and we were back at Club Med.

Then, back to the locker room. A few minutes later, our gear was stowed and we were on our way back off to lunch. Very civilized, indeed.

Lunch today included the usual offerings plus tacos. They were excellent.

The family whose infant daughter was watching music videos at top volume? Less excellent. But thankfully they wrapped up before we did, and so most of our lunch was spent in relative peace and quiet.

We also haven’t had any kind of issues finding tables at the buffet restaurant, and we’re often able to get a seat right by the window.

I went off for my power nap, while my wife and daughter headed down to the pool. Teens’ club was mostly out on the hill but there were enough kids around that our son found ways to keep himself occupied until Passworld officially reopened at 3 pm.

Then my wife had to deal with her least favourite vacation duty – laundry.

The good news was that Club Med has self-serve laundry, so we would not be required to have the hotel dry clean our items at the cost of $8 per sock.

The bad news? It costs almost $20 to run a single load of laundry – and you need to go get tokens from the front desk.

To make matters worse, a $10 token was not enough to dry our not-very-large load of essentials. So my wife had to go back to the front desk again to get another token. They comped this one at least. (And woe betide anyone who tried to get my wife to pay $20 to dry a single load of laundry.)

The process took several hours, but finally it was done – and we’d be kept in socks and long underwear for the remainder of the trip.

Then we were off to Le Chalet for a bit, where I spotted Big Foot:

Then it was time to head off to the theatre in advance of Aerial Circus Lessons.

We had noticed during juggling that there were far fewer children around, and that those present were better behaved. Could the weather hold the key to reducing the rampant rambunctiousness? Were we only an open ski hill away from peace and civility?

Ha ha… No. If anything, the children were worse behaved compared to previous evenings.

Even so, our daughter deeply enjoyed the lesson and got to attempt the suspended hoop three times during the lesson.

We then headed back to Le Chalet for a bit, and tried to relax – despite the two young girls who somehow managed to concuss one another during our brief but memorable stay. (I jest. No one who is concussed could possibly scream that loudly.)

We then left Le Chalet for our fondue night which was at… Le Chalet! Seriously, it’s not at all clear how premium meals work at Club Med. Even the staff weren’t entirely clear where we should go. But they figured it out, and we were led off to enjoy a sizeable spread consisting of soup, salad, fondue and dessert:

Sweet potato soup with crispy onions

Salad with parmesan, balsamic and honey dressing. I found it a bit too salty, but my wife really enjoyed it.

Fondue or fondue-not – there is no try.

The fondue was a bit of a gamble, as our kids hadn’t tried it before – but they ended up enjoying themselves immensely. It was also a lot of fun as we ended up dripping cheese everywhere, dropping pieces of bread in the pot, and so on.

Though fun, it wasn’t exactly cheap – it worked out to $45 per adult and $30 per kid, at a total cost of $150. But it was less than it would have cost to take our kids out to a meal in town, and we saved ourselves the hassle of having to get into the car to go somewhere.

(Our world-exploring travel skills are clearly on full display this week.)

Our son wanted to do group snowboarding lessons tomorrow, so I went to go sign him up for that – he’s old / experienced enough to count as an adult, so I don’t need to register his equipment at kids’ club. He can just go outside at the appointed time (8:30 am) and head off. The registration process was simple, only took about 5 minutes.

He again headed off to teens’ club while my wife, daughter and myself went off to get a little bit more to nibble on. (The fondue was filling, really, but who can resist checking out the other desserts?) We also found duck breast sous vide atop sweet potato puree. It was really, really good.

We followed that up with a serving of pouding chômeur (aka maple pudding cake, though the literal translation is akin to ‘unemployed man cake’) which was also excellent.

It’ll be an earlier start tomorrow, so we’re going to skip the Family Show in which the kids’ club get to demonstrate all they’ve learned over the past week.

But while we are nestled in our soft little beds, the staff of Le Massif are fighting to reclaim even more precious territory…

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

Day 3 – Club Med Charlevoix

Further negotiations with our children resulted in a wakeup time of 7:45 am, 15 minutes earlier than the day before. My wife and I can only hope this isn’t the start of a trend.

Back to the breakfast buffet for our usual delicious fare, again with a commanding view of the St. Lawrence. Huzzah! The rain had finally ended. Service also continued to be excellent – we’ve yet to have any difficulty finding seating or having our plates cleared away.

We then voyaged out of doors for the first time in 36 hours to attempt to locate a suitable hiking trail. And what a trail we found…

We thought this was picturesque – we had no idea what was to come. (Also – bonus points for a well-signed path.)

Forest art! Brilliant idea…

The path was a bit icy, but nothing we couldn’t manage – and I’m glad we went when we did, as Charlevoix is expecting a sudden drop in temperature that will transform the soft, melted snow into sheets of pure ice.

As it was, I had one heart-dropping moment where I slid within inches of tumbling over the edge. That was plenty.

But how can you complain with views like this?

We returned to Club Med a few hours later, somewhat damp and bruised but much improved from having the chance to stretch our legs and take in some fresh air.

My son had decided that he hadn’t been spending enough time with us, and so opted to join us for the rest of the day. Just kidding, he went to Passworld.

We hung out in the lobby then watched Zumba and the kids dance party for a bit, and we were off to lunch. There was a poutine bar this time, along with roast chicken. I opted for fresh bass with onion rings, followed by one of their ever-present hamburgers. I’d thought the patty might be a bit dry, but it was quite good.

Bass and onion rings. The fish at the buffet has been consistently good.

Vanilla torte and chocolate brownie. Looks better than it tastes.

I also had some sort of vanilla torte and a chocolate brownie, which weren’t fabulous. (Though I could have gone up and gotten some gelato if I was still hungry.) But I wasn’t, so I went off to get ready to play some Dungeons & Dragons.

My son and I have been playing D&D for a few months now, so we decided to see if we could run a quick one-shot sometime during the trip. Passworld was closed from 1 pm to 2 pm, so the timing was right. And… it went really well. We ran Temple of the Basilisk Cult by Arcane Library (link), and played some pre-made characters with my son and one of his friends. They enjoyed it, which is all that matters.

Meanwhile, my wife and daughter went to the pool to enjoy the hammocks (and steam room) once more until the Passworld crew arrived for Marco Polo. (An evolution from water polo the day before – I’m waiting for Water Marco Polo tomorrow, in which I expect the child will close their eyes and attempt to peg other children with a ball using only sound as clues.)

But I digress. With my son gone, my wife and daughter relocated to Le Chalet and I dropped off for a brief power nap.

After a refreshingly quiet interlude, back to the theatre, where I grabbed a distant high-top table in preparation of the latest round of aerial circus lessons – this time with giant suspended cubes! Errant barefoot children continued to leap from couch to couch but we were well out of the way for once.

We’d been eagerly checking the Le Massif website, awaiting news regarding tomorrow’s ski conditions. Then word came through – they will be open, but there is not a single run that goes all the way from the top to the bottom. So that’s interesting. It’s looking like this might be a ‘game day’ decision as we decide whether we’re willing to trudge 10 minutes between runs whilst lugging all our gear. Skiers should be fine but snowboarders may be in for quite the hike.

Meanwhile, I discovered my favourite made-up drink of the trip – the strawberry tequila slushy.

We stuck around for the first few sets of the live band, and then off to dinner. More lovely offerings tonight including calamari, pork stir fry, beef sous vide, and chicken pho. I had a cupcake for dessert as well as the gelato for once. It was delicious – heavy on the chocolate, and not too sweet.

Despite this being a buffet, many of the dishes – like this pork stirfry – are plated for you.

Chocolate gelato, heavy on the chocolate.

I then played a few rounds of table tennis with my son, ending with a 3-3 tie after six games. We hung out in the room for a few minutes, then off to the theatre for Challenge Night – which could be some kind of obstacle course or miniature Hunger Games, depending what you want to read into Club Med’s entirely ambiguous event notice.

Will there be an obstacle course, trivia or bloodsport? Yes!

Myself and our daughter stayed around for trivia, while my son and wife went to Le Chalet for some quiet reading time – which mainly involved my son raiding the buffet restaurant for second (third?) dinner.

We asked the kids how this scores on the list of family vacations, and so far it’s ranked behind Great Wolf Lodge. Our son puts it ahead of Tremblant because of kids’ club, and our daughter ranks it ahead of Tremblant… also because of kids’ club.

For us? The jury is still out. What Club Med does right, they do very right indeed – the buffets, the booze, the drinks, the continuous activities. But so many kids remain out of control, and it’s tough to separate the resort from the terrible weather we’ve been having. Today’s hike was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise drab start, but what about the rest of the week?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

Day 2 – Club Med Charlevoix

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the day dawned cool and wet. But on the bright side, we had a bonus waterfall just outside our room.

Part of the bargain struck with our children was that – due to them staying up late the night before – we would all sleep in that morning. (“Sleeping in” is relative – and in our case meant 8 am.) To our surprise, the kids managed to make it to about 7:45 am. Well past time for breakfast.

Off to the morning buffet, which was just as good as dinner the night before – barring a few minor misses, like lukewarm hashbrowns. But I’m nitpicking – there were fresh-made omelettes, and local sausages and cappuccinos. Very tasty.

But it was time for the moment of truth – how long could we keep our family entertained when Le Massif remained exceptionally closed?

We headed off to the juggling class, and it wasn’t long before our kids were practicing devils’ sticks and juggling scarves. Then they set up a ‘circus course’ of obstacles, which was also a huge draw. Our kids were there for close to an hour before we managed to pry them away so that we could go swimming.

The Club Med Charlevoix pool was nicer than we’d expected, and we had no trouble getting a lounge chair – despite the impromptu rain day. The water was a bit cool when we first got in, but we soon got used to it. There were also a large number of beach balls, noodles, flutter boards and other water toys.

They’re multiplying

We batted around the beachball for a bit, and then moved over to the kids’ pool. It was a bit warmer, and the kids really enjoyed bouncing around on some oversized plastic rabbits. There were also a pair of splashpad elements which the lifeguards kindly turned on for us.

The kids were enjoying themselves enough at this point that my wife and I were able to duck out to enjoy the steamroom – and its clean, fresh scent of eucalyptus – for a few minutes. It seemed a bit cool at first, but then we realized the temperature increased dramatically the higher we were seated. Our muscles – stiff from all the driving – were soon loosened. The steam room is an adults-only space, which we deeply appreciated after the juggling class.

Beyond the pool, kids’ pool and steam room, there’s also a 16+ hot tub outdoors. It was still raining at this point, however, so we decided to give it a pass.

It was closing in on 11 am, so our son went off to check himself into Passworld while our daughter enjoyed the magical hammocks while we enjoyed the exceptionally comfortable lounge chairs. I think she would have spent far longer there, but it was time to head back to the room so that my wife, daughter and I could shower and get ready for lunch.

(We tried to bring our son along too, but he elected to dine with Passworld instead. You might be noticing a theme here…)

The lunch buffet was excellent – I had mushroom ravioli, fingerling potatoes with hot raclette, fried catfish, breaded fish balls and lemon meringue pie. All delicious, and table service was once again prompt and efficient.

I went off for a bit to get some work done, and take a nap. My wife and daughter spent the afternoon at Le Chalet, watching the mist roll across the St. Lawrence river. She tried kids club briefly, but it’s not her scene – she’d rather hang out with us. Fair enough. We are pretty awesome.

Not pictured – the wading-pool-depth of water recently dumped on this scenic hillside

It was around this time that the news came down – Le Massif would remain exceptionally closed for Tuesday, too.

We talked to the excursions desk, but there isn’t much available at this point. We could catch a bus into Quebec City for about $35 a person, or do a guided bus trip for $173 (presumably per person, but at that price we weren’t enquiring further).

We could drive ourselves into Quebec City, but that’s about an hour and a half away, and frankly none of us are feeling it. Dog sledding? Closed. Skating? Closed. Hiking? Enter at your own risk.

The logical option would be to visit the nearest town of Baie St. Paul.

So naturally, we’re going hiking.

There were more activities available in the afternoon – including trivia, one of my son’s favourites. But to the surprise of all, he elected to stick with Passworld. We stayed in Le Chalet, and once again tried the food – this time opting for an order of poutine. It was excellent, as were the shifting moods of the St. Lawrence.

It was then time for Aerial Circus Lesson – this time with silks and a trapeze bar. My daughter gave it a shot, and really enjoyed it. Then we enjoyed the live band for a bit, as well as the pre-dinner mini-spread of chips, cheese, guac, and crackers.

We managed to pry my son out of Passworld long enough to head to dinner, where we enjoyed tandoori chicken and leg of lamb, followed by a gluten-free chocolate caramel dessert that I forgot to photograph. (Sorry. It was delicious.)

Teens’ club were off to dinner until about 8 pm, so my son and I went off to play some table tennis – except that his friends were already there playing. I stayed for a single game, and then left him and his friends to their own devices.

There was a family-oriented dance party that night instead of Just Dance. It included some fun activities, like freezing when the music stopped and joining up into groups of 3, 5, 10, and even 25.

The dance party was unfortunately marred by the large number of children who were treating the lobby bar couches like their own personal jungle gym. This is mildly annoying if no one is sitting there but outright irritating when they are climbing between tables and under legs that were carefully maneuvered to prevent children from passing through. We’re not trying to claim vast swathes of territory here – perhaps 6 linear feet? – but still, they tried to run through.

Some parents caught the hint and spoke with their children. Others… not so much. Assuming the parents were around somewhere?

This is perhaps my biggest gripe with Club Med – it seems to be popular with overly-permissive parents who are all too happy to let their kids run wild – and into people. (Though these same parents might view us as grumpy sticklers with no sense of fun.)

Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. We’re now sitting at the raised bar tables instead, which we’re hoping will keep us out of the line of fire.

We closed out the dance party, and then it was time for bed – having officially survived our first rain day.

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

Day 1 – Club Med Charlevoix

Throughout human history, there have been many similes to describe uselessness…

As useless as a screen door on a submarine.

As useless as a chocolate teapot.

As useless as an accordian player on a deer hunt.

As useless as an inflatable dartboard.

The list goes on. It’s quite exhaustive. Still, I believe I’ve found a new one.

As useless as a ski hill in a rainstorm.

This is not the result of many hours spent brainstorming new material, but instead an unhappy accident due to our upcoming holiday – we’re off to Le Massif hours before the mother-of-all-nor’easters is set to make landfall on our vacation destination.

4 inches of rain, landing smack-dab on an early-season ski hill – and then a flash freeze.

This might be all right if we were heading to some place we’d been before. A family cottage perhaps, or an oft-frequented hotel.

Instead we’ll be headed to the Club Med Charlevoix – never having stayed at a Club Med, and having only the faintest idea of how to navigate its labyrinthine all-inclusive programs.

Charlevoix is about an 8 hour drive from our home, so we made the decision to head out early in the morning on the day of our departure with the hope of arriving early and outrunning the rain.

That meant loading up our car the day in advance. The result was something like this:

And this:

We do not travel light.

Apart from stuffing our poor Honda HR-V to the point of bursting, the departure went smoothly – we were on the road by 8 am amidst a light splattering of rain.

There wasn’t a trace of white on the ground – perhaps another clue as to the foolhardiness of our plan.
But the snow started to appear on the outskirts of Montreal and grew deeper as we approached Quebec City.

It wasn’t a bad drive, all considered – not much traffic, only a few quick stops, and the monotony managed by a mid-way switch-up of drivers. The only thing that seemed strange were the pairs of animals, lined up to board a large wooden boat. I kid, I kid.

We even managed to make it in 7 hours, as opposed to the 8 we’d expected. So far, so good. That brought us to Club Med Charlevoix at 3 pm, hopeful that we’d be able to settle in before dinner.

It was a bit of a rough arrival.

First, you need to unload your own bags. Fair enough. But the unloading area was largely blocked by a tour bus and the sidewalk was covered with ice. The accessible doorways were also near-impossible to spot. All of this combines to create a hilarious montage of a middle-aged man attempting to push an overladen luggage cart through the snow.

This may look like a picture of a garbage can, but it actually shows the exceptional measures you need to go to spot both the accessible door and its associated open button

Second, our room wasn’t ready. That’s also understandable – check in isn’t until 4 pm, after all. Except the front desk said that our room might not be available until 5 pm. Which meant that we’d need to leave our bags in the parking garage whilst we waited for the much-longed-for call that meant we could finally access our room.

In the meantime, I was able to unload the rest of our ski and snowboarding gear and put it into lockers. This was when I started to get some glimpse of Club Med Charlevoix’s better side – the stylish interior, the immaculately clean floors, and the very handy lockers that will (hopefully) allow us to make the most of this ski-in, ski-out winter wonderland.

Fun Fact: If someone claims to know what this artwork truly means, the bar will cut them off

Then back to the lobby bar to wait a bit longer. Still no call. Minus a point from Club Med.

But! The drinks are included, and service was quick. So – following a sip of tasty gin and tonic – the point gets added back on.

I eventually went back down to the front desk to inquire about our room – to discover that it was, in fact, ready. How long was it ready? Why didn’t they call? These are the mysteries of life, never to be answered.

I took the luggage cart up to the room, and then whisked the kids off to kids’ (and teens’) club to get them registered. The staff was incredibly helpful, but the process is complex – particularly if you want your kids to join skiing or snowboarding lessons. There’s lots of show-up-here and get-this-sticker and all their gear-stays-here.

I have to admit, I didn’t follow it very well – but I’m not sure I see the point in doing so until we know when (if) we’ll be out on that hill. So we pushed that to another day.

But we did meet another family with kids around the same age as ours, so that was another pleasant surprise. Clearly Club Med is trying to cultivate a family-friendly atmosphere.

Though there are times – such as when kids are climbing overtop of you as part of a spirited game of hide-and-go-seek – when we wondered whether this might be perhaps too family friendly.

We went off to Le Chalet (the a-la-carte between-meals restaurant) for a quick bite, and the hit-and-miss continued – we sat in a beautiful window-facing booth and were served quickly, only to receive a glass of sparkling water instead of sparkling wine, a club sandwich without any chicken and a Caesar salad with both ranch dressing and tomatoes and chicken. Possibly from the sandwich. So bizarre.

Staff were apologetic about the mix-up with the wine – but we still didn’t have the replacement drink by the time we left some 20 minutes later.

From there, we went to collect our eldest from teens’ club (or Club Med Passworld, as they call it), and found him all-but-impossible to dislodge. He had discovered a Foosball table and Nintendo Switch, and already made several new friends. He was in his happy place.

Happy place or not, he still had to eat so we went off to the buffet for dinner. We were wary after our less-than-stellar Chalet experience, but the buffet was better than expected. Some of the offerings included freshly made pizza, salmon, curried pork udon noodles, chicken and dumplings, stuffed ricotta and chocolate fondue – to name just a few.

Table service at the buffet was also excellent – faster than on our cruise last summer, although in this case there were far fewer options.

From there, we went back to our room to hang out for a bit before taking in some of the evening activities. Gradually, we are beginning to realize that the most economical room option was probably not the best fit – while storage is ample and we have 2 separate, albeit small bedrooms, we’re lacking any kind of a desk or seating that isn’t a bed.

Wisely – and perhaps essentially – Club Med separated the toilet from the shower. But they didn’t give it its own sink so you have to walk across the foyer to use the sink in the shower room. And really, a toilet without a sink is gross, and shouldn’t be found in any high-end resort. Or really anywhere. (Though of course you can avoid this little annoyance with one tiny upgrade from ‘Superior’ to ‘Deluxe’.)

But seriously, Club Med – even prison cells have a sink next to the toilet.

Our son once again disappeared into Passworld after a brief period of downtime, and my wife, daughter and myself sat down to wait for the Just Dance event.

We passed the time by engineering fortifications with legs and tables to prevent errant children from charging across our row of seating. It actually worked fairly well. You live and learn, apparently.

Set up continued and we noticed that there was a stage, and the children were wearing pinnies. That seemed ominous. I was waiting to see if there was a table full of grumpy-looking judges with score cards at the ready.

Thankfully, it basically involved them playing gameplay videos from Just Dance and the kids (and parents) following along as best they could. Within a few dances, my daughter and I were up out of our seats dancing our little hearts out. It was truly great fun. Score many, many points for Club Med for this one.

Anyway, we’re now back in our tiny deskless room, far past our bedtimes, waiting for a torrential rain storm to hit. Le Massif has officially announced that they are “Exceptionally Closed” (Ferme Exceptionnellement) for tomorrow, and we have no idea whether the snow base will be able to handle the massive rainfall inbound.

What comes next? Stay tuned to find out…

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)