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Bahamas Hotel, Resort & Villa Reviews

Club Viva Fortuna 01/26/03
Reviewers Rating: Good
Trip Report – Club Viva Fortuna Beach, Grand Bahama Island

What my wife and I, both 37 years old, were looking for was a relatively warm place to get away from it all on a long weekend (Jan 16 – 20). Our criteria was to spend less than $2000 for the entire 5-day, 4-night trip, to a warmer (than North Carolina) destination, where we wouldn’t spend an entire day traveling each way. Grand Bahama Island and accommodations at Club Viva Fortuna Beach seemed to fit the bill. We paid $1625 to the travel agent for airfare, all-inclusive lodging, and hotel/airport transfers. We paid another $40 for island departure tax, $40 for airport parking, $24 for island cab fare to a shopping destination, and $40 for off-property meals and drinks.

On Jan 16 we left home at 5:40 am and were on the beach by 12:00 noon. Check-in was uneventful and we were told we had one of the nicest rooms there, an oceanfront 2nd floor end unit near the pool and dining hall. If that was the nicest room, I’d hate to see the worst. The entire room, inclusive of bath and closet, is relatively small 12’ x 23’. There are no king beds available, so the two queen beds take up most of the room. The room was reasonably clean, though the bathroom tile grout had some mildew. There was no towel bar, the toilet was very noisy, and you always had to fiddle with the handle to get it to stop running. The plaster on the bathroom ceiling and walls was peeling, as were the fabric mats on the framed art. The furnishings were spartan but serviceable. Anything made of metal was horribly rusted, including all light fixtures, the metal part of coat hangers, the suitcase valet, and all door hinges. Bedding was not luxurious, but comfortable, especially the pillows. There wasn’t enough light in the bathroom, and the balcony light consisted of a broken plastic fixture will a bulb hanging from wires. We really liked the room’s tile floors in terms of keeping things clean. However, carpet would have helped dampen the overall noise level better (more on that later). The balcony window a nice view, but the window was so dirty it was not possible to enjoy the view from inside. The balcony itself contained two plastic chairs and a broken table, and was not very private, being separated from the adjoining balcony by open lattice. I could sit on the balcony and view the sleeping area in the adjoining room. The louvered screens at the balcony and bathroom created nice breezes, but one set of louvers in the bathroom didn’t work. The louvers also meant there was no way to block outside noise. In keeping with the spartan theme, there was no pen, paper, coffee maker, clock, radio, or mini-bar. The phone had horrible static, and despite two complaints was never fixed. We made one nearly unintelligible 7-minute, $21 call to North Carolina to let family know we had arrived safely. We tried but failed to make a local call to confirm our transportation to the airport for departure, and ended up going to the front desk to make the call.

The public areas at Club Viva are nice, though not opulent, and since the place was only about 1/3 occupancy, none of the public places were overly crowded. The beach area was expansive and clean, though many of the plastic chairs were broken. The beach and pool staff were nice enough, but not overly friendly, and the two bars were well staffed. The bartenders will try to make anything you want, and usually succeed in pleasing. Most of the drinks are quite good, and definitely not watered down. If you are a beer drinker, I recommend bringing your own plastic pint glass, since the 8 oz cups don’t go very far. You can purchase a 20 oz cup from the gift shop for $8.50. I tired quickly of the radio station playing hip-hop music at the beach bar. We never made it to the disco – too tired – so I don’t know how nice it is. The water activities were fine, including snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing. However, only one small sailboat was seaworthy so you had to wait longer than you should. Many of the other activities seemed a bit infantile, but consider that they are catering to families. My kids would probably have liked some of them. The nightly entertainment was, at times, enjoyable, and there are some talented staffers there. But. the Club Viva dance they ask you to do at the end of the show is totally lame. I would have preferred some live music, but none to be found.

The open-air dining hall was spacious but the logistics of the buffet setup were not optimal. I found myself constantly dodging people with a full plate of food. I would give the food in the dining hall mixed reviews -- breakfast was outstanding, lunch was barely tolerable, and dinner was hit-and-miss. The best thing I had at lunch was an unattractive but edible hamburger. Except for breakfast, I had better food at the YMCA camp my daughter and I attended last summer. I recommend making reservations at the Italian restaurant, which we did as often as we could. The food is good, but repetitive (all the tomato-based pasta dishes taste the same), and the atmosphere is better than the dining hall. One caution, don’t get the table wine – it is awful. We also ventured east down the beach to eat some conch dishes at a small restaurant called Club Caribe (you won’t get the local favorite at Club Viva). The food was acceptable though more expensive than I thought it was worth. The service was very slow, and the cashier would not give me change in American dollars.

One day was cloudy and somewhat cold, so we took a taxi to Port Lucaya for shopping. I recommend shopping there, though I thought most of the merchandise in the straw market was junk. Clothesline seemed to have the best clothing, and I also recommend Esperanza Imports, Gone Bananas, and Linens of Lucaya. The House of Rum had the best prices on bottled liquor. The food at The Pub was very good, proving that you could get decent food for a decent price on the island.

My biggest complaint of the entire trip was the nighttime noise at the resort that kept me from getting a good night’s sleep every night. Since there are not sound deadening materials in the buildings, every bit of noise bounced off surfaces and carried. For example, the clang of dishes from the bus station at the dining hall echoed endlessly in our bathroom. You could hear the pulsing beat from the disco, and hear every word (and song) from the late night partiers on the beach. Every time an entry door or balcony door closed it sounded like a bomb going off. Thankfully, vacations afford naps to make up for lost nighttime sleep, so we took a nap every afternoon before dinner. But the consequence was that we didn’t see a single sunset.

On some of the message boards I heard complaints about the Viva Vacations Club sales staff pestering them. At check-in, we kindly but firmly told Dolly that we were not interested in the Vacation Club or the 90-minute presentation and were not really bothered ever again. Perhaps the key was telling her we were more than willing to pay “full price” for the off-site excursions and activities rather than spend up to 2 hours of our relatively short vacation in captivity.

On Jan 20 we left the compound at 6:30 am and were home for lunch by 1:00 pm, with plenty of time left in the day to catch up with the news and take care of other household chores. All-in-all, we had an enjoyable time, so some credit must be given to Club Viva for that. Given the criteria we started with, I would probably make a similar choice again, though I would try Our Lucaya resort instead. If I were willing to spend a little more money and travel a little farther, I would probably try Jamaica or Virgin Islands since the weather is likely to be nicer farther south, but there are no guarantees. A friend traveled to Jamaica for her honeymoon a week earlier, and it rained 3 of the 4 days they were there.

Scott Mathias

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