CSS - First Time Visit Review - LONG
We were at CSS from Sat, 3/16 until Sat, 3/23. All in all, we had a BLAST and will be back. Here is our review. Yes, it's a little long. I'm sorry for that upfront.
Shuttle to CSS: It took us just over 2 hours to get to CSS. Unfortunately, we were with 2 other couples in a smaller shuttle bus and they all had golf clubs. So it took a while to get the entire luggage in and settled. The other couples had filled a cooler with Red Stripe and Red Stripe Light. So I knew the ride would be interesting. Donít get me wrong, I like to have a good time but they were a bit loud, etc. They were going to CTI. Our driver was Patrick. He didnít give us a ďtourĒ per se, but did answer any questions we had. He was nice but he actually drove a bit slow for us. Weíve been to Negril many times and this was our first trip to Ocho. I thought he would drive the same. Nope. Was a bit surprised by that. LOL And be careful if you are wearing flip flops and get out of the shuttle. The rubber mat area is slippery as I almost took a tumble getting out at the pit stop. We were fine with driving straight to CSS. But the 2 couples with us, wanted to stop. *sigh* So we stopped a little over Ĺ way there. They got more drinks and went potty. My hubby and I just stood outside and looked at the view. :) Funny thing was, they brought my hubby a beer but didnít bring me anything! Not that we asked them to, but I thought that was kinda weird. Guess they didnít like me though I never really spoke to them and neither did hubby. LOL
Arrival: We arrived around 3:45pm. Our room wasnít ready yet. Was just a little surprised by that since it was almost 4pm. So we walked over to make dinner reservations. While we were doing that (which I thought we might not be able to do since we didnít have a room number yet), someone came over and gave them our room number. We knew we were going to eat at the Bella Vista that night since we got in late, but we wanted to book the rest of the nights. Well, the only times available at both restaurants for the entire week were 8:30pm or 9:00pm. We were a bit disappointed in that as we donít normally eat that late. I thought maybe the first reservation and possibly the second would be late but not the entire week. So we booked the Cassanova and the Pallazina twice each. We then went down to the Beach Grille to get a bite to eat and wait for our room to be ready. We went back to the lobby around 4:45pm and our room was ready just then. A driver drove us to our room and they carried our bags up. Very nice guys. Pretty painless but I kept wanting to follow the driver to the van instead of waiting for them to come up to the lobby entrance. He got a kick out of that. LOL
Room: We booked the Beachfront Suite. I requested the A block and either the 2nd or 3rd Floor. They granted my request and we were in A25. 3rd floor, corner room next to the B block. Very pleased with the location. The room was fine. Nothing fancy but comfy. But being Couples repeaters, we knew all that. The bathroom sink plungers didnít work well and if you ran the water, the sink would fill up instead of draining. But besides that, no real issues. Water pressure was very good (maybe a little too strong actually) and never ran out of hot water. We didnít use the Jacuzzi tub. I called housekeeping after we settled in as there wasnít an ashtray in the room. I used an old water bottle instead. They said they would bring one down. Our mini fridge wasnít filled as requested per the pre-check in I filled out. So we called down and they brought up a few things. I didnít bother asking for the additional stuff I had originally wanted. We were fine with water, soda and Red Stripe. When we went down for dinner, I just asked the Beach Bar bartender on our way back to the room if I could have an ashtray to bring back up with me. When we got back to our room, they had been there for turndown service and had brought an ashtray.
Food: We ate at the Beach Grille after we arrived. The food was very good and service was excellent. We did have to wait about 45 minutes for a table the first night. So we walked the beach in the dark for a while, got a drink and then we were seated. Just a side note: They turn the water off at the little shower stations to rinse your feet, etc. by the beach at night. Wasnít able to do that before dinner. The Beach Grille was our favorite lunch place all week. We only ate at the Pallazina for lunch once. Which was fine but we preferred the Beach Grille. We also ate dinner there one other night besides our arrival and loved both meals. Service was a bit more spotty the second time we went but still good. We were seated right away the second time. We had reservations at the Cassanova twice but ended up only going once. We actually didnít care for it at all. The food was okay but not as good as I thought it would be. My steak wasnít cooked correctly but I didnít send it back as it was close enough. The service wasnít as good either. No one smiled and it just seemed a bit too stuffy for us. Now, Iím not the type of person that requires everyone to smile and gush over me. But just a little bit of friendly exchange is nice. My hubby agreed so we changed our second reservation we had there to the Pallazina. Our first visit to the Pallazina for dinner was great. Food was very good and service was spot on. The second night (the one we changed to after cancelling the Cassanova reservation) was just okay. Service was really slow for some reason. We waited about 40 minutes for them to just take our order. And they ran out of the dessert we wanted. :( We ate at the Pallazina every morning for breakfast. My hubby loved their buffet. I enjoyed it too. He got an omelet once and I got one twice. Good but they use just a little too much oil. But still very good. We had room service for dinner once. It was okay but not our favorite. I did order 2 snacks from room service as well. The Nachos made me laugh. They used Dorito chips instead of tortilla! Kinda a weird taste. LOL
So our favorites:
Pallazina for Breakfast
Beach Grille for Lunch
Bella Vista/Pallazina for Dinner
WaterSports: The only water sport thing we did was the glass bottom boat which was nice. Weíve done that one in Negril. Hurricane Sandy did do some damage but still saw some cool stuff. The best part was one of the fisherman boats came over to our boat on our way back. They chatted with the 2 boat guys and they had been out spear fishing. They caught a marlin. They sold the body and sword but showed us the head. OMG!!!! That thing was HUGE! No way would I have gotten in the water with something that big and shot at it. LOL So that was pretty cool to see. We kept meaning to go snorkeling, do the Cat boats, paddle boats, etc. but just never did. My hubby did do the PADI certification while we were there. I bought it for him for his 40th birthday present (which was just before we left to go to CSS). It only took 2 days (Mon & Tue) from 8:45am to about 1:00pm. I just hung out on the beach or around the bars while he was gone. He said it was the best present ever!!! he dove again on Wed but then picked up a small cold so couldn't go on Thur or Fri. We plan on doing more when we go back. Promise! The beach towel exchange was easy. I would just switch ours out at the end of the day so we would have fresh ones in the AM. We dropped them off later on Fri and got our exchange ticket for checkout. Very easy and all of the people at the Water Sports area were nice.
Beach: IMO, the beach isnít as good as Negril. But we knew that when we booked the trip. It is still a nice beach. A little rough in spots and there was much more sea grass than I expected (thankfully I brought water shoes). It is much smaller than Negril of course but still plenty of space for everyone. If you came down late, you did have to scrounge for a lounger and floatie and sometimes you were SOL on the floatie part. Same for finding a shady spot if you wanted it. There was definitely some ďgetting up early and reserving the prime spotsĒ happening every morning. I found a decent spot near the lifeguard stand using the stand for shade and then when that disappeared, I moved over in front of the Beach Grille. Worked for me. Didnít lounge around the pool but did see a spot or two there from time to time. We didnít go to the A/N beach at all. Kept meaning to for sunset but missed it each time! Will definitely have to put that on the ďto doĒ list next time.
Grounds: We walked around the grounds twice. The day after we arrived and the day before we left (to take pics.... I always seem to forget to do that until the last day!). It is very beautiful. So lush and green. And the views are to die for. The huge tree was cool and the pond was neat to see all the birds, etc. Yes, there are steps. But we actually didnít have too much of an issue when we were exploring (and I have a bum knee from riding horses for too many years!). The hardest hike is from our room to the lobby area.
Mineral Pool: We did go into the mineral pool one afternoon for a while. It was much cooler than the beach pool and the ocean. But very refreshing. The smoothieís at the bar were awesome.
Pool Bars: All of the bartenders were awesome at both bars. I found that the ladies actually made the drinks a bit stronger than the guys did. Had my first Bob Marley shot. We spent a lot of time at the bars. LOL Earlier in the day, it was kinda quiet but picked up later in the day. I think I only drank the same drink a few times. I kept telling them to just surprise me. And they did. I only had one drink that I didnít care for the entire week. Not too bad. :) Chairs were more comfy at the pool bar.
Vendors/Gift Shop: We bought a few things from the vendors on the beach. Very nice people, not pushy at all and had some nice stuff. We also got a few things at the gift shop. They had some great deals!
Activities: We didnít do anything. We planned on the Dunns River Falls and to go Horseback Riding. Nope. Didnít make either. LOL Itís all goodÖ we will try next time. I did play one game while we were there at the pool bar. And ended up winning! The activities lady (I canít remember her name!) was so nice and what a beautiful lady! We didnít go to the Beach Party. Hubby and I arenít ďbig groupĒ type people. So thatís when we had room service so canít comment on that. We didnít go to the Repeater Dinner either. Went to the Pallazina instead. We did go to the Starlight Gala. The decorations and food were awesome. The entertainment was okay. Just singing so we left after about 15 minutes. We were leaving the next day so were tired and wanted to pack and such.
Spa/Sports Complex (Tennis)/Golf: We didn't do any of them. I was going to get a massage but didn't get around to booking it!
Departure: Our flight was at 12:40pm. They slipped the departure info under our door while we were at the Gala. Our shuttle was to leave at 8:30am. Luggage was to be picked up at 7:30am. Check out at 8:00am. Very smooth departure. We grabbed some breakfast when the Pallazina opened up at 7:30am and then headed up to the lobby. The shuttle back was much better. Driver was a little faster and the shuttle was bigger and had better air conditioning. Everyone was pretty quiet. I'm sure it's because we were all sad to leave and just a bit tired. We got to the airport around 10:15am.
Summary: All in all, we had a great time and will be back (probably next SpringÖ we are booked for Negril this Fall). We met some really nice people from all over the world. The staff were awesome (for the most part) and we enjoyed ourselves. I want to give a shout out to the bar folks we met Ė Jheanel, Peter, Caprice, Demar & Anthoy. Also, my hubbyís dive instructor Phillip was so nice and fantastic. I didnít catch too many other names but there were a lot of great people. We loved the size of the resort. It never felt crowded though it was at full capacity. My only improvement suggestions would be: Better wifi. It was good down at the beach but sketchy in our room. More comfy beach bar chairs. The ones at the pool bar were more comfy so we ended up there more often. Have one other option for dinner w/o reservations. So we didnít have to eat so late all the time. Of course, these are just small nit picky suggestions.
I know this was long and I applaud anyone who got through it all. It was our first time there and I found other reviews very helpful before our trip. The more details the better! So hope this is helpful to someone. I have lots of pics that I took so if you are interested in seeing any of those, I could forward them on. I also took pics of some of the details in the room binder for activity times, room service menu and mini bar stuff, etc. Just let me know. My e-mail is LSM1212@gmail.com.
Peace be the journey....