Backflips are a breeze on the bungee apparatus at Club Med Punta Cana’s Creactive park, the inaugural incarnation of a new joint venture between the venerable French resort chain and Quebec’s Cirque du Soleil performance empire. (It’s no coincidence that both companies are partly owned by China’s Fosun Capital Group.)
Resort guests of all ages learn dozens of circus tricks in this football field-sized playground of trapezes, tightropes, bungee cords and trampolines, which is part of an $18-million (U.S.) revamp of the property that will also see a new adults-only village and pool area open in December.
I roll back effortlessly, if not gracefully, when I pull my knees to my chest and push off the springy cords attached to the hip harness. The surrounding Caribbean scenery suddenly becomes a blur of blue and green, and I can’t stop grinning.
“Now we do the front, okay?” yells instructor Ivan Vladimirov, a veteran Cirque acrobatic coach. “Superman!” he hollers at the nadir of my bouncing, and I assume the horizontal arms-forward, legs-back position I rehearsed on a mat before being hoisted. But try as I might, I can’t turn the “Superman” pose into a flying front flip.
Still, I did nail the double back. I’m lowered to the ground, slapped encouragingly on the back and directed toward the lineup for the nearby trapeze. “Good job,” a few onlookers murmur. I may not be Cirque du Soleil material – I may not be kindergarten gymnastics camp material – but at least I can try.
Club Med Punta Cana was the only resort on the Dominican Republic’s easternmost tip when it opened in 1982. Thirty-three years later, this breezy, sandy stretch of coastline is home to a more-or-less uninterrupted string of resorts, golf courses, water parks and other tropical attractions that stretches more than 25 kilometres. The family-oriented Club Med is a breed apart, however, with its 500 metres of beachfront and 50 hectares of accommodations and amenities nicely separated from the surrounding development yet conveniently close to the airport. The football field-sized Creactive encampment, meanwhile, rises between the main pool area and a swaying palm grove.
Creactive’s intricate metal scaffolding, sinewy nets and colourful canopies certainly stand out, surrounded as they are by the enormous thatched cabanas that house the lobby, newly revamped fitness centre, restaurants and other resort staples. The modular design of the complex’s four main sections – a double flying trapeze, playground, tiered trampoline area and multipurpose “Acroplex” – means more than 30 activities can be offered. No more than 10 are available at any one time, however, with the menu changing from day to day.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
The schedule at Creactive is based on age – the place is a staple for the nearby kids’ club – with four- and five-year-olds getting the day under way from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and new age groups stepping in every hour until teens take their turns from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Until then, it’s a polyglot crowd of smartphone-toting parents and kids, with the latter learning the literal ropes and snapping selfies like there’s no tomorrow.
Creactive is free of charge for all wristband-wearing resort guests and is just one more amenity that Club Med hopes will set it apart from rival all-inclusives. The inaugural Punta Cana setup is an experiment, explains Xavier Mufraggi, chief executive of Club Med North America, which if successful could appear over the summer at as many as five other properties.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
It’s comfortably warm watching and cheering in the shade of the canopies. But I’m drenched in sweat the moment I start bouncing between the bungee cords. How the Cirque-trained staff do it for hours at a stretch is beyond me. (Could it have something to do with 15-per-cent body fat?) In short, Creactive could use a few of those cooling mist machines. Thankfully, the ocean and pool are steps away, so I make a beeline for the former as soon as I’m unhitched.
Creactive by Cirque du Soleil at Club Med Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, clubmed.ca. 553 rooms from $1,526 a week, all-inclusive, including airfare and transfers.
The writer was a guest of the resort.