Let me preface this review with some background info so you can get a better sense of our experience…My husband & I are in our early 30’s with 2 young children. This was our first, much anticipated vacation without out the kids!! I booked CSA after hearing about it from someone who was booked but had not yet visited. I did extensive research on TA & also here on the Couples Message Board so I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I did so much research upfront that I knew all the things people complain about. My husband & I had quite a few laughs at the things people complain about & all I can say is that CSA far exceeded my expectations!
My husband & I both agree that this was the best trip we’ve ever taken as a couple (honeymoon in Hawaii included)! Maybe we are more appreciative of a vacation like this at this stage in our life but we also believe that that CSA helped make the vacation so special. The other thing we loved about CSA was the staff…I can’t tell you how many of them I got to know. The funny thing is that they approached/started conversations with us versus the other way around as I had expected. This resort is now a special place to us & we look forward to returning to renew our vows on our 10 yr anniversary in 2013.
We were lucky to be traveling on a direct flight from NY that arrived at Montego Bay early in the morning. We breezed through customs at this time of the morning & headed straight to the Couples Lounge where we enjoyed 2 Red Stripes before our van arrived for transfer to Swept Away. We did not have to wait long, maybe 15 min or so. We were pretty tired from the early morning pick-up/flight so we both slept on the van. We were so happy to be on property by 10:45 am! We were greeted with a freezing cold towel & glass of champagne upon check-in. We knew our room wouldn’t be ready until later in the day so we changed into our swimsuits upon arrival. We called throughout the day on occasion to check on our room & think we got it somewhere around 3 pm.
We chose an Atrium Suite for the tropical feel & hammock. Upon arrival I requested a 2nd floor for more privacy/vaulted ceilings & they were able to honor my request. The Atrium Suites are located in the older section of the property near the water sports hut. We really lucked out because our suite had a partial ocean view! We loved this room & location within the property. The rooms are noisy with the wooden shutters but we didn’t find this a problem as people are not in their rooms all that much or on different schedules. We did have the ants in our bathroom as some people mention but they are very tiny & housekeeping seemed to get rid of them at least twice a day so they didn’t bother me. Housekeeping did an excellent job overall!
We loved the look & feel of this property. The resort had such a natural beauty compared to larger resorts that cut down all the trees for more ocean view rooms. Walking through the property behind the beach line was always an adventure but in a good way. We called it the jungle & were happy to have read a tip to bring a small flashlight with us. The property is long & narrow so you do have to walk to get from one end to the other but in my opinion it is not far at all. I know a lot of people complain about this which I just can’t understand.
This beach is by far the most beautiful/perfect beach we’ve ever been to & we’ve been to Maui, Kauai, Bermuda, DR, Mexico, Virgin Islands, etc. The water & sand are just perfect. My husband is actually not a big fan of the ocean & I thought he’d make me sit by the pool all day. This was not the case here…he loved the ocean, sand, everything! We are early risers (6:30 am) so did not have a problem grabbing one of the huts on the beach at that time. We had heard from others that they were all gone by 7:30/8:00 am. There was no issue with availability of beach chairs no matter what time of day but I don’t think it was the busy season. The floats on each of the chairs were a wonderful addition both for comfort & floating in the ocean or pool.
The bar service on the beach was outstanding! Big shout out to Dermon who brought me drinks even when I didn’t want them! He was so pleasant & I will forever remember his sayings…”strictly business”, “don’t be afraid” & “don’t worry, I’ll get you drunk”!
The walking vendors did not bother us as we were set back a bit from the “property line” but a simple “no thank you” was sufficient if you were not interested. We did travel slightly over the property line to pick up a couple of souvenirs & it was a fine experience.
We did not spend much time here at all. I think we had one drink in the pool bar when we first arrived. There were people having a good time but I wouldn’t compare it to a spring break atmosphere as others have described but I would assume it’s very dependent on the crowd week to week.
Being that my husband & I are always on the go with our jobs/kids at home we went to CSA with the hope of doing almost nothing. We found we weren’t very good at sitting around all day so we did end up utilizing a variety of the offered activities.
The cruise boards at 3:45 pm & is back by 6 pm. The boat takes you out to swim in the caves & view the cliff divers at Rick’s Café from a distance. Swimming in the caves was a fun experience as well as sliding down the boat slide. It was nice to see the cliff side of Negril, it’s beautiful. The cliff divers were entertaining but we weren’t there long enough to see many of them. The boat ride back was fun once people loosened up a bit from the rum punch & beer! Overall, it was a good time but something I wouldn’t necessarily do again after doing it once.
My husband decided to get his PADI certification & it was overall a good experience. The cost was $250 for a lifetime certification. He spent a couple hours in the pool, had to do some reading/quizzes on the beach & completed 2 dives throughout our stay. He was excited & surprised to have seen a sleeping 10 ft shark on his 2nd dive!
This is one of the few AI resorts that actually includes greens fees/transfers (cart & caddy extra) which was a huge bonus for us. My husband golfed twice & had an overall very good experience. He said the course was tough but that he was on vacation so didn’t care how well he played. He would leave around 8 am & was back around lunch time.
I am very active at home & had planned to use the fitness center so I packed my clothes accordingly. The gym portion (treadmills, weight equipment, etc) is outside so I stuck to the group classes. I took the following classes…Beach yoga – Very nice & relaxing way to start the day on vacation, I did it twice. Spin – Great workout as usual & the bikes were in great shape. Pilates – Ab focused exercise class versus classical Pilates which I’m used to. Boot camp/Cross Fit – This workout was intense which I would normally love & did but found myself thinking…I’m on vacation, why am I working this hard?! The Aerobics room was air conditioned but it was very humid so make sure you bring multiple bottles of water with you. I was more than happy with the variety & quality of the fitness classes as well as the instructors.
This activity was recommended to us prior to going go we thought we’d give it a try. It was offered for an additional fee of $35 per person. The boat went out around 6:15 pm when it was still light but it got dark very quickly. Each person is given an underwater light & the group sticks very close together. We didn’t see many fish but certainly saw some things that we never have before like an octopus and eel.
This is something I’ve always wanted to do so I was very excited to try it. It was surprisingly easy, especially in the morning when the water is calm like glass. We took the boards out a couple of times & I would highly recommend it.
EntertainmentWe did not actively seek out any of the nightly entertainment but did manage to stumble upon a few things…Ultimate Chocolate at the Piano Bar – Very nice start to the evening followed by a good time at the Aura lounge. Beach Bonfire – Very romantic evening & the acoustic artist was so good that my husband didn’t realize it was a live performer at first. Steel Drum Band & Magician –Entertaining but I wouldn’t have made a scheduled effort to see them.
We made sure to make our first 2 dinner reservations at the concierge upon arrival as suggested. Cabana Grill- My husband loved the jerk chicken & had it almost daily. Seagrapes- The sweet potato chips were a great afternoon snack on the beach & my husband loved the fish tacos. Room Service Breakfast – We ordered every morning for coffee & a light breakfast, no complaints with service. Lemongrass- One of the two reservation restaurants & the food was much better than expected as neither of us are big on Thai food. Feathers- We were lucky to have eaten here twice…the food was excellent! Patios- We had a least one Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner here & it was very good for all. Palms (Buffet) - We only ate here for dinner once & I was not impressed.
I can’t take credit for these as I thankfully found them prior to leaving on the Couples message boards. Bring the following…can cozies (they fit the glasses on the beach), small flashlight, bendable straws (sounds really lazy but they did come in handy while trying to drink on the beach chair or hammock), bug spray, anti-itch cream & lots of sunscreen (3+ cans for 2 ppl per wk).
Thank you for taking the time to post such a detailed and well written review. Every time we go to CSA, we end up favoring a certain restaurant. This past trip, it was Lemongrass. We have lots of Thai restaurants at home, but Lemongrass is really more Pan Asian. Plus the view!
Great review. We have been to CSA three times and are going back in Dec. 2012. We have not been to many other island resorts so it was good to hear that you, being experienced travelers, enjoyed it as much as us.