CN Review, 11-25Dec (LONG)
I haven’t been on the MB a lot lately due to time constraints, but I decided to do a review of this last trip.
BACKGROUND: Mike & I have been going to CN since 2004. This trip makes lucky #13 for us. For a while, we were going twice a year, but we started going for two weeks in December and were hooked! We were engaged in Otaheite in 2007, married on the beach in 2008, and will try to celebrate every anniversary at CN.
This year was a bit different because I had to deal with a couple of work meetings and two weeks of homework while on vacation. Couldn’t be helped, but my dear husband dealt with it better than I did!
We used to have direct flights from STL-MBJ with packages via Funjet or Apple, but since that market seems to be drying up for winter, we now find ourselves booking creatively. This year we booked AA through STL-DFW-MBJ and returned MBJ-MIA-STL. We liked the flight out – on time and good amount of layover in DFW. Flight to MBJ was a bit delayed because of a poor little girl who stopped about 3 rows in front of us and promptly threw up in the aisle and on the seats (I know, I have that effect on small children). Came to find out from our seatmates that she had been sick several times in the boarding area and the parents didn’t want to be re-routed to MIA later to make sure she was okay. AA got everything cleaned up and replaced, and we were good to go. Poor kid was sick most of the flight, but finally fell asleep.
CUSTOMS & IMMIGRATION:
Pretty painless but was a bit crowded as we landed right behind an Air Canada flight. Retrieved our bags and got through customs and on to the Couples lounge. Didn’t have too long to wait before the bus left – enough time for one beer and one to go. The driver was very entertaining for the most part of the trip. Light traffic (Sunday afternoon) and we made it with no major issues.
Check in was okay. It would be nice if the check-in staff didn’t require everyone to stand in a group to get the briefing, but relax – you’re on vacation. No real recognition of our anniversary – pretty sure I checked it on the card. We did receive our keys and repeaters package pretty quickly and headed off to our room 3306. Quick change and off to the dive shop and then time for a snack.
We prefer to stay in Bldgs 1,2,3.4 because these are close to the dive shop. If you are sensitive to noise, Bldg 3 may not appeal to you. There is road noise and noise from the airport. This doesn’t really bother us, but there was quite a lot of noise from a party at the RIU one night. It was worse than the construction noise they had a few years ago.
The room was clean and everything worked well. Weird feedback from the docking station when I put my phone in – never figured that out. It would be nice if guests didn’t graffiti their names in the baskets/drawers in the rooms. Safe held the dreaded work laptop and other things with room to spare.
Mini-bar service was pretty good. We did request sparkling wine and a bottle of red wine for Mike. We kept them busy refilling the Ting!
The in-room coffee is great. We actually liked it better than the coffee in Cassava. My dear husband made coffee for us early in the morning since I was usually up at 4am doing homework.
Housekeeping was wonderful, although we did have a couple of late days due to huge room turnover in checkouts on Saturdays. Not the housekeepers fault at all, and we just worked around it. Bed was comfortable and the air conditioning worked very well (too well for me!). For the most part, our neighbors were quiet with the exception of one man who had a realllly good afternoon. (I only bring this up because in the past, we have run into large drunken groups who have parties in their rooms). One other comment: “smoke rises”. Not a real issue for us except the day before we left – we had stored our dive gear out on the balcony to dry – thought it might not be good for our gear/luggage to reek of “product”, so we brought it all in.
No water pressure or temp issues at all. Karen and her team has that well sorted out!
We ate in every restaurant with the exception of Lychee. Too cold for me. We also skipped the repeaters dinner. With my homework constraints, it would have taken too much time.
Otaheite – What can be said about Otaheite that hasn’t been said? It is still wonderful. Menu seems to have changed a bit since Misja left, but we found it excellent. We had a table for 8 on our anniversary night (friends who were with us for engagement/wedding) and the kitchen was backed up, so that made for a very long night. Service was still top notch. We can always depend on Adrian, Omar, and Leroy for impeccable service. Darren and Christopher keep everything on track. We ate here three times this trip. Love it! (take a sweater, ladies!)
Lunch – (Beach Grill) Still hit and miss with the pagers and food service. It takes quite a long time to get an order. I generally have soup and then fruit or maybe something easy. The chicken Caeser salad is good, but a bit light on the chicken. Jerk chicken is great. Fish tacos were not my favorite. I still miss the pizza. The drink station arrangement works well, but it would be nice if people didn’t use the glasses to fill them with ice cream. Great to see the white (painted) floor gone and replaced with the new style of deck.
Dinner - We spent a lot of time in Heliconia this trip because of the aforementioned time constraints. Service: Marlon, Denver and Evon were the best! Food quality was good, portions were more than enough, and the scotch bonnet oil was addicting. Red pea soup was my favorite. Sorry, we have to say it: we MISS the GARLIC BREAD! Two items to mention – the desserts were good, but did not always match the description, and the Irish coffee was not up to par. Some confusion on whether it was available or not, as well.
Cassava Terrace – Breakfasts were the usual buffet fare we can depend on. I love the callaloo and being able to have the saltfish and ackee. I also liked having the individual portions of burcher muesli available. Found the new location for the scrambled eggs, so that was different this year. It is now time to make the annual comment: PLEASE, PLEASE get a new, improved style of toaster that toasts both sides evenly and doesn’t burn the toast. ☺
Lunch – I normally don’t have lunch in Cassava because it starts too late for me (12:30) and I don’t like to have a heavy meal before diving. Mike really likes the Asian buffet and I did try a couple of days here. Sorbet of the day was my favorite dessert. Food quality very good, service good.
Dinner – We ate dinner here one night and the food quality was quite good. Our service was a bit slow but we think that is due to the number of trainees in Cassava. Our server was very nice and polite, but I think she was just overwhelmed with tables. The ceiling fans are a bit high speed in the evening, so if you get chilled (yes, it is winter in Jamaica), consider a light wrap.
Service in Cassava overall was very good. Camecia runs a tight ship, but you can tell that there are some trainees who were not feeling it. Hopefully that irons out – I am sure with the occupancy rate, there was quite a bit of stress for everyone.
BAR SERVICE: Franklyn, Camille, Tanesha, Lyndon – great to see all of them. We are not big drinkers and don’t drink during the day (until after dives), but the drinks we did have were good and in some cases, too strong. We didn’t use the red flag service.
SPA: We did the repeaters massages in the spa and they were okay - relaxing. It would be nice if Couples would let the husbands assign their time to the wives as was done in the past. Mike doesn’t like massages, but he does it because he can’t give his time to me. He’d much rather sit on the beach with a bag of popcorn and his suduko, I’m sure.
GIFT SHOP/SUNDRY SHOP: A change for us this year that the sundry shop has been combined with the gift shop. Where was Kerri Ann? Never did see her. Gift shop is nice but difficult to navigate with the huge t-shirt island in the middle. LaLique (logo shop) was the same but nice to see some new things this year. I did pick up a lovely topaz sea turtle necklace and earrings set with our repeaters points.
DIVE SHOP/WATERSPORTS: New for us this year – Met Karl Reid, the new manager. Very personable and seems to have some plans for the new year. We hope to dive with him next year. Was great to dive and see our family and friends who we meet every December. Dive boat was super crowded each day but the dive masters managed. Visibility was a bit off as the sea had been churned up the week before, but it wasn’t too bad. Water temp ranged from 80 to 84F, but I am cold by the end of each dive. Saw an eagle ray, sharks, turtles - and I think I finally got a decent shot of a nudibranch. No dolphins this trip, so we’ll have to try again. Shout out to: Alain, Ashrayn, Richard, Sugar, Courtney, Kanai, England, Tafoya, Desmond and of course, the famous Rescue Diver: Jovane (aka Mr. Freeze), and everyone in the water sports department. Miss you already!
Since this is getting so long, I’ll jump to a few bullets of random thoughts:
• Hotel was FULL this time of year
• We need TWO (2) Newtons for the number of repeater divers in December. :D
• Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were done quite well. Silver Birds were great
• Didn’t make the bonfire again – too sleepy.
• Please let repeaters use their points for night dives.
• Christmas Eve cookies delivered to the room were a nice touch.
• Great to see Glasford and Derek in Cassava
• We miss the Rum Nut Fudge :(
• Dance party needs a boost.
• Some service issues here & there, but we think it is due to a lot of new employees.
• Wireless from the spa is generally good, except for the critical hour when I was trying to upload my final term paper. YIKES.. but I got it done. Was able to pick up wireless by the beach.
• Homework on the beach stinks.
• It would be nice if people didn’t leave their glasses and plates of uneaten food in random areas of the resort. Come on, people!
• ZUMBA with Shonnie was great! Wish I could have done more classes, but with trying to balance homework and sunsets with Mike, I just couldn’t do it. Please keep Zumba on the activities list.
• I did use the gym a couple of times and it was nice and cool. There really is some good equipment in there.
• Checkout was a breeze. For some reason, we were the only people on the darn bus.
• We won’t fly through MIA again. Just too chaotic in immigration.
Overall, it was a great trip with the exception of a bit of work and lots of homework stress.
Couples Negril is the one constant we can count on. I was thankful to be able to celebrate our anniversary at our home again. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and to get to visit with our dear friends that we see every year. We hope to see you all again next year.
Sorry this has been such a long review! If you have questions, please ask.