April 30th, 2013, 02:56 PM
Longest Ever Review of CSA
I am going to attempt something here…to write the longest review <ever> of CSA. It will be multiple posts in this thread. I know each year prior to going I become obsessive reading these reviews, so I hope I can pay that enjoyment forward.
We traveled to CSA Thursday 4/18 – Saturday 4/27. 9 Nights. Our third trip in as many years to CSA. Our previous 2 trips were 7 nights, and we always left the resort so sad, wanting more. We think 9 nights is prefect, at that point we will missing home.
Arriving in Jamaica on a Thursday morning, I think around 1030am, was a breeze. From landing to getting to the lounge was maybe 15 minutes. We only had time to use restroom and get a few drinks “to go” before we were boarding the bus. We hit a lot of traffic in Montego Bay, but the (very quiet) driver made up the time and we were at resort within an hour and 15 minutes.
Checkin was easy because it was only us and 1 other couple. Our room wasn't ready, no problem, come back around 3. We went and had a few drinks at beach bar, then off for our annual first meal at Seagrapes for fish tacos and sweet potato chips. Afterwards we headed back to the lobby to check on our room. It was mayhem. Couples needs to improve on this. I mean you could just look around and see people huffing and puffing, already thinking about the bad review they’d be writing on TA. It’s not a terrible process, it’s just not organized, so it leaves a lot of people not knowing what to do/wondering if they know I am here/where am I in the order/did they forget about me. Just assign everyone a number, then call out the numbers. Then everyone knows what is going on.
Thankfully, after about 15 minutes of waiting, the original girl that checked us in came up to us to say our room was ready, and she was able to give us ground floor is the building we like. Thank you! She handed us the usual packet of info, including our Romance Rewards credits, and off we went.
For the third trip in a row we had a garden room. Funny, I almost didn't book this resort the first time because beachfront wasn't available. Thankfully my travel agent convinced me otherwise. We have always been on the old side, which we prefer, and we love the ground floor. First, because it is private with lush vegetation/blocks noise, Second it’s so easy to walk out back door and you are at beach in about 30 seconds, and Third when you get room service breakfast they just leave it, no need to wake up and open door. Next trip we may try atrium to see how it compares.
The people that complain of road noise in the GVS, I think this is the exception, not the rule. I think probably a handful of rooms or a building or two have the issues. If you get one of those rooms, just asked to be moved. You may have to wait a day, but they will move you no problem.
The bathroom lighting is still way too dark for me. But I get used to it a few days in and it doesn't bother me. And really the rest of the room is great. Always clean, simple, comfortable. This year it seems our AC wasn't as powerful as previous years. I was NEVER hot, but years prior I was freezing and layering PJs.
Our first day it rained throughout afternoon and most of evening. The second and third day it rained on and off in afternoon, forcing us to leave beach. We were getting nervous. Our previous trips were in May. We booked April specifically hoping for less rain. This was worse. But…that was the last of the rain. For the next 6 days not a drop of rain, perfect weather. I would guess mid eighties. Warm, yet comfortable. Nights were never sweaty or sticky sitting outside to eat.
Now, I may have freaked you out a bit if you are going in May, thinking it rains all of the time. Let me explain. Our 2 experiences in May I would guess out of the 14 days, it rained 10 of those days…BUT 12 of those days the rain lasted less than 10 minutes. No big deal, usually after 3 or 4 pm, trust me. However, I am that person that gets bitten up by bugs. Sand fleas, no see-ums, whatever you call them. A lot of people have the theory “they come out after it rains”, so we wanted to try a dryer month.
Well that theory is untrue for me. As I mentioned, those last 6 days of our trip this year, not a drop of rain. And yet I got over 60 bites. And yes I was spraying myself with deet. All day. I was not on beach at night. Well, one of last nights, but I already had bites at that point. Again, not to scare you. My husband didn’t get 1 bite. In fact, I only met one other person all week that got bit up. I did however meet a lot of people that like to say “the bugs like you because you are so sweet”. Unfortunately their kindness doesn't help me itch any less.
That’s all for now…will write more tomorrow…hope you enjoy!
April 30th, 2013, 05:05 PM
Looking forward to reading the rest of the longest review ever!
April 30th, 2013, 08:12 PM
Great review, we just booked our first CSA trip for December. I read where mosquito's are attracted to certain types of people. My husband is one of those. I rarely get bit...but they just chew on him all the time. Has to do with the scent of a person that draws mosquito's to you or not.
Originally Posted by rachlm927
Our travel agent quoted us a price with garden suite, but after reading the board and trip advisor, decided to go with ocean view.
We wanted to be the near the hot tubs...husband has really bad back and knee's.
April 30th, 2013, 11:30 PM
Wha? Is it over yet?
But do you have any details! We want details!!
dirtleg & sandyfoot
May 1st, 2013, 04:46 AM
I look forward to the rest of the "Longest Ever Review of CSA". I like the installment version!!!
May 1st, 2013, 07:42 AM
Wow, not a word makes me rethink our first trip in August (110 days.) Thank you so much for the post and can't wait to read the updates! I can't wait to try the fish tacos and sweet potato chips! Sit on the beach with a drink and just relax in the sun. Seeing as Oklahoma is getting ready for hopefully the last freeze of the spring!
May 1st, 2013, 11:51 AM
Part 2…The beach
This trip the beach, specifically on the old side, seemed smaller. Several people think this had to do with Hurricane Sandy. No doubt it will come back. I got to the beach each day around 9am, never an issue getting our preferred spot – which is in front of beach bar(Sunset Bar), under palm trees, providing partial shade. Never once did I see an issue with finding chairs, but if you had large group you might need to move chairs together to your desired location. (BTW the resort was 100% capacity our entire stay). When you walk to newer side, the beach is huge and has rows and rows of open chairs. But that side doesn't have as much shade as the old side.
Chair and hut saving is happening just like every other resort in Caribbean. There is so much shade to be found by trees, but if you insist on 100% shaded hut you need to be up early (or really late, depending how you look at it). I saw a few empty this trip, especially after lunch they are easier to find.
The water was perfect, easy to drag you chair pad out to and float the day away.
We went through 3 cans of spray sunscreen. So we had to buy more in the gift shop. Beware the cheapest was $19. Bring at least 1 more can/bottle than you think you need.
We enjoy the beach vendors, reminds me I am in Jamaica. A simple “no thank you” always keeps them away. Don’t ever try to give them excuses – such as “I don’t have any money on me” or “maybe later”…this will make them think you are interested and they will try to sell to you more..they will say ”I can wait while you go get your money” or “I will come find you later or tomorrow”. The beach musicians are great, but please don’t ask them to stop and sing your favorite song if you are not going to tip them. We always brought a few dollars to beach each day for this purpose.
Security on the beach is amazing. You so much engage with a vendor and within a minute security is by your side. It blows my mind that they somehow keep track of people walking on beach, who is guest or not. We saw a couple (try to) walk up to beach bar, and immediately approached by security because they were not a guest (they thought they could buy a drink).
Speaking of beach bars, both were great as usual. We spent majority of our time at Sunset because that is where our chairs are…but many afternoons we would walk down to Bamboo to visit with Terrello who we spent many hours with last year. Green flag service was happening, but we never use that. Not only is it quicker to get your own drink, give you a chance to stretch legs and chat with bartenders/other guests.
After a few days, the bartenders get to know your drink/type of drink you like. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. At Sunset we had great time/good service from Diane, Lincoln and Michelle. Diane is really good with crowds. They might be really busy and she engages with you so you know you haven’t been forgotten.
The beach bars open each day at 10am. They have staff there starting at 8am prepping for the day. As I sit right in front of beach bar, each morning I heard people come up before 10 asking for drinks. And most are fine when they are told they open at 10. But every day I would hear at least 1 person argue with them...”Come on, you are here, you can’t make me a drink?” As if they are sitting around with premade drinks in front of them but not serving because of some silly rule. In fact, one day I heard someone get so mad, that the bartender made them a drink. Then at 10am, they still weren’t ready to open because of this…people had to wait a few minutes.
Bottled water is no longer being handed out from beach bars (yeah, what a waste!). Each bar now has a self serve water cooler. They provide cups, but I bring from home a reusable large cup with top and straw.
I really wish they would put signs in the room to not carry beer bottles or drinking glasses from room to beach. Twice during the week we found a piece of glass in the sand. No one was hurt, but this is an accident waiting to happen.
I think that covers the beach…
May 1st, 2013, 12:50 PM
Hello! I am going the last week of May for my honeymoon and would like to request the room you described! We have a GVS (is that what you meant by garden room?) and I too am nervous about the road. The thought of having breakfast left on the porch sounds amazing. Thanks!
May 1st, 2013, 12:51 PM
Looking forward to reading more.
May 1st, 2013, 04:17 PM
We are going the first week of June. Our first visit ~ can't wait! Your review sounds awesome, especially after the "not so good" ones I've been reading. Look forward to hearing about the rest of your trip!
May 1st, 2013, 04:59 PM
Great review so far, thank you.
May 2nd, 2013, 04:49 AM
I love the beach at CSA.....for every reason you listed here. Felt like I was there.
May 2nd, 2013, 10:23 AM
Thank you everyone for the positive feedback!
Part 3…the Food
WARNING: Food opinions are highly subjective. Each and every person has a different pallet, different taste buds, and different likes/dislikes. Please take everything I say as only my opinion, and I hope I don’t deter you from trying everything and proving my opinion to be different from yours!
First, we have been to many all inclusive and cruises, and the food quality and variety at CSA is so much higher than anywhere else. That being said, it is still a resort catering to a few hundred people. You shouldn't expect every meal to be the best meal you have ever had.
Seagrapes – I think we love SG most because it is so unique to anything else. Thinking about it now, I can’t think of ever seeing something like it at a resort. I don’t think you have to be a vegetarian or health nut to love it. If you appreciate good, fresh food and some unique combinations you will enjoy it. Service is a little laid back here….you just grab an open table and wait for service. In the past this could sometimes take a while, but this trip they were really fast. Make sure to look for tables that have been “re set”. Meaning clean place mats and silverware. I think this helps letting the servers know you are a new customer. Everything here is great, but don’t miss out on the fish tacos (or sandwich) and sweet potato chips.
The Palms – I better break this into 3 meals.
Breakfast – Buffet each day, pretty typical what you would expect: omelets, bacon, sausage, pastries, breads, etc plus each day they would have a few special items like maybe breakfast pizza or stuffed French toast. We are not big breakfast eaters, so only ate here twice and it was good both times.
Lunch – Buffet each day, different theme each day with some of the same items like make your own sandwiches and salads. I am obsessed with their salads (very fresh yummy veggies) and in house made dressings, my husband is obsessed with their soups. That being said we ate here for lunch at least half our days. Each day they would have a grilled fish item which was great…so on Mexican theme day I made my own fish tacos with Mahi. The best part of lunch at Palms is how fast you can be in and out and back to beach!
Dinner – Yes, it’s true. They added another buffet night to the Palms. So on Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sunday it is a la cart and Monday, Wed, Fri (beach party) it is buffet. We ate 2 a la carte dinners here and 1 buffet. Everything was always good, temp it should be, and good variety.
Breakfast Room Service – As I said earlier, we are not big breakfast eaters. So everyday but one we got room service. They provide you (just like most hotels) with a door hanger than you mark what you want and what time slot. They have coffee, tea, juices, cereals, pastries, yogurt, and fruit. The banana bread, mini croissants, and granola cereal were my favorites. They don’t give option for cream, only milk. I wrote cream on the order form, but still only got milk. So every few days, I would grab some of the creamers from the self serve coffee stations at Palms or Patios and save for my breakfast. Service was always on time.
Patios – This year we did not go to Patios for breakfast or lunch. We prefer to spend as much time on beach, and in previous trips we felt that the meals could be an hour plus (which may not be your experience, just ours). We did have dinner one night here, would have been more but one of our favorite servers, Dayne, was working nights at Palms so plans changed. Our dinner was great, pizza for me and steak for him. Everything was fast and delicious.
Feathers – We went twice. Both times making reservation day prior no problem. We do like to eat late, so that probably gives us more options. Did 3 courses the first time, 4 the next. Everything from food to service was fantastic. Some of our favorites: Lionfish, Pumpkin Soup, Cauliflower Soup, Tenderloin, any dessert with cinnamon ice cream. It’s funny, I heard someone on our last day, who was at feathers the night before (when we were there), complain how bad it was. It just proves that each person can have such a different experience at the very same time.
Lemongrass – Previous years we loved LG, this year we didn't have such a great experience. Things were a bit slow that night, but I think more so is the menu has been the same the past 3 years. Actually correction, because I had an “old” menu, and my husband was given a “new” menu….which is weird…the new menu had one or two different items but that’s it. If you have never been here, please go. The ambiance is BEST at this restaurant. Don’t worry if you don’t care for Thai, you can get sauces on the side.
Cabana Grill – We had lunch twice at Cabana. They have a new system (since our last trip) that you walk up, and someone takes your order and gives you a number that you place on your table. Food was always good. We had one of those “I think I may have drank too much last night” days, and after a much needed burger and fries from Cabana we felt much better! We also visited many late nights, after Aura, for french fries to take back to our room. That is not an easy job, being the late night/over night cook. He was very friendly and fast.
Snacks – The Cabana grill now has a self serve nacho station. This was great for a few late afternoon snacks. I wish they had a few more things like this. We are always hungry around 5/6pm so we actually brought a few snacks from home to have in room. Sometimes you just want chips or a cookie.
Overall food was excellent. It would be difficult for even the most picky eaters to not find something here. Don’t miss trying the soups (yes I know it’s hot out, but soups are worth it), salads, fresh and local fish, veggies, and fruit. Try to eat everywhere at least once and form your own opinions.
May 2nd, 2013, 02:02 PM
Love reading your perspective of it all....keep it coming
May 2nd, 2013, 05:46 PM
Kidding aside, I am enjoying your reviews very much. Thanks for all your work putting it all down for us to read.
A quick comment; we almost always eat lunch at Seagrapes, something we learned last year was to go to the Palms for a bowl of soup to carry out to our table at Seagrapes to enjoy while we wait for our order to come out. Best of both worlds! Also, if the swim up bar was not too crowded we would drag our food from Cabana to the bar to eat while hanging out at the pool bar (always on the dry side, no food in the pool please!!). We will have to try the Cabana for late night munchies. We used to visit the old late night grill outside Palms for midnight burgers or hot dogs. It was like a late night picnic and we missed that atmosphere when the grill went away.
Looking forward to your next installment.
dirtleg & sandyfoot
May 2nd, 2013, 10:47 PM
we leave on Saturday....LOVE reading your reviews...keep them coming!
May 2nd, 2013, 11:31 PM
May 3rd, 2013, 12:10 PM
Love your review so far. We were at Swept Away for the first time in October, after 4 straight trips to CN, and your perspective on Sea Grapes is right on. I think Sea Grapes and the Beach Bars (Bamboo and Sunset) are the main reason we will come back to Swept Away again and again. We will also continue to go to CN, but only as long as Paul Tucker plays the piano at there Piano bar which we enjoy much better then the one at Swept Away. Great review anxiously awaiting the nest post.
May 3rd, 2013, 03:07 PM
Part 4…Bars, Nightlife, Crowd, Groups
Sort of random topics, but not really
In my previous review on the beach, I spoke of the 2 beach bars. Which were probably our favorite bars overall. That is because of staff/service, vibe, view/ambiance, quality of drinks. BTW in case I didn't mention, drinks are not weak. I am no light weight, and drink regularly….and some of the drinks they made were pretty stiff. If it’s not strong enough for you, just ask to add more liquor.
Martini Bar – Funny, our previous 2 trips we spent majority of our nights at this bar. Those 2 trips, Shawn was bartending there. Since he moved to Aura, we moved too. We did visit Martini bar 2 nights. No complaints, they were very very busy one night, not anyone’s fault but it took a while to get our drinks. If you don’t know what you want, browse their menu. One of my favorites is the blue mountain martini. It’s a great pick me up.
Aura/Piano Bar – As I mentioned, since Shawn is at Aura, after dinner most nights we headed over there. Previous years we wouldn’t get there until after 11, now we were arriving around 10 for the piano bar show. Which is great fun, but really repeats itself quickly (many of same songs sang each night). Great staff at this bar – Shawn, Onique, and Fraizer. Our glasses were never empty, they knew what we drank right away, Aura was a great time, and was packed most nights, lots of people dancing and having good time.
Main Bar aka bar at the Palms – not much to review here as it’s not a bar you hang out at. But while dining at Palms, you may prefer to get your drinks yourself from the bar. Most times we don’t feel the need, but once in a while it’s called for. The bartenders here are friendly (Cindy is an old favorite of ours) and you will get your drinks quick.
**Palms Bar** at breakfast, and I think lunch as well, they have self serve mimosas, bloody marys, that sort of thing….don’t miss this…if you are standing in front of bar it is to your right
Patios Bar – can’t review this, never got chance to go…kept meaning to and never made it
Pool Bar – We are not pool people in Jamaica. We have a pool at home, and only do beach on vacation. So can’t review this one either. I can report that this is a bit of a louder crowd (not in a bad way) so if that is what you are looking for head over there. If that’s not your scene hit the beach bars.
Before I get into nightlife, let me explain a bit. Nightlife is important to us. We don’t go to bed at 10pm. But we don’t go to “clubs” or party until 2am (well some nights). Mostly we like to have a few drinks, be entertained by conversation, music, people, etc and usually turn in between 12 and 1. Years ago we stopped doing AI and instead did cruises because lack of nightlife. Once we got sick of cruising, and it was time for honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go to 1 of the 2 couples in Negril. After speaking with our travel agent, she strongly recommended CSA for more nightlife. And she was right. Every night we found something going on.
Every night at Palms at 9am is “Showtime” live music. Or you can head over to Aura, at 9 in “Blazing Piano” 5 nights, the other 2 nights is casino night and dancing lessons. Then at 11 Aura turns into disco and plays music. Each night a different theme. You will hear a lot of current songs, as well as popular party songs from over the years (think Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Bon Jovi).
Nightlife at CSA is what YOU make of it. If you sit in corner at Aura by yourself, don’t enjoy the music, you probably won’t have such a great time. I’d encourage you to socialize at bar with guests or with the bar tenders, dance, or requests songs that you do like.
Moving on to next topic…a lot of Nightlife will depend on the crowd. Our 2 previous trips were at the end of May. And 9 out of 10 people you meet are honeymooners. This also means the average age is late twenties to late thirties. April, whole different crowd (in our experience). More like 5 out of 10 are on honeymoon. So I would guess the avg age of crowd increases 10 years or so. Neither way is better. We are in our late thirties, no kids, like to party, but not so much to see how many bob marley shots we can drink in an hour…so we find ourselves sort of inbetweeners (is this a word?) but really enjoy “good” people and good times, age doesn’t matter to us. I think most at CSA share in this attitude.
But, that being said, the later it got at Aura, usually the younger the crowd was. So I can understand when people who go at very high (code for: expensive) season may be an older crowd, and may lead to some of those reviews that say “resort is dead after 11”.
Groups – There were several large wedding parties during our stay. I know some people will not like that but it doesn’t really bother me. Can they be loud and annoying sometimes? Yes. I would be too if I was drinking with 10 of my best friends. Wouldn’t you? Now some will argue that people go to Couples to be romantic and all that, which is a valid point. So in the restaurants those groups should have their own private area…but again, I didn’t see or hear anything that bothered me or took away from my vacation. If this really bothers you, go during high season when large weddings are less likely.
Lastly, something I didn’t cover in the bar section…liquor. Everyone is always so concerned about vodka brands. I saw Stoli everywhere. And yes, you usually have to ask for it. I saw Goose at Martini and Aura. I think 1 bottle per place per night. One of our nights, I watched someone order 8 frozen drinks with Goose. Then came back for a second round. They killed the bottle. On frozen drinks. So the poor guy wanting a good martini was out of luck because of frozen drinks. No, really. OK I’ll stop being sarcastic, that just blew my mind. Frozen drinks.
Anyway, the next night, Aura had a nice shiny new full bottle of Grey Goose. That is why my theory is they get 1 per night. But I could be totally wrong here. Just a theory.
Wait one more last point. Wine. I am at heart a wine drinker. So most night starting with dinner and on, I just drink wine. White wine (I drink red when its cold). I have to say, they changed the house wines at CSA this year, for the better. Still a Chard, but less oaky and much easier to drink. To be clear, I wouldn’t buy this wine at home as it’s not my particular taste, but its more than fine, and much better than previous years.
OK, I think I exhausted that topic. Still want more? I have a few more topics, but post here if you are looking for something specific. My list is Spa, Fitness, Housekeeping, Minibar, giftshop, 1 Love Bar Crawl, Checkout, Club Mobay, summary of changes since last trip.
Until next time…
May 3rd, 2013, 08:53 PM
Rachel, we should be friends. I am finding my self nodding in agreement with almost everything you said. Then I read it... "Frozen drinks"
Good lord that bugs me, especially given the possible bottle limit!
I am all for having decent booze in whatever you drink, but with a frozen drink you will not taste the difference. If you drink good vodka bc it's cleaner and you don't want as wicked as a hangover, guess what? All the sugar in a frozen drink will kick your butt in the morn no matter what vodka you put in it!
I too, like to drink Wine and good liquor. I would have shed a tear seeing that poor guy try to order a martini only to find his goose went in a purple rain. (Or whatever).
Now that I got that off my chest, I love your reviews!!! Please know how much we appreciate them! Gotta get your couples fix!
May 4th, 2013, 12:06 AM
Spot on! We've been to CSA 18 times over the last 25 years. You've nailed every aspect of the experience. Bottom line, it is what you make it, CSA gives you every opportunity. Thanks.
May 4th, 2013, 04:12 AM
Love that statement about the swim-up pool bar. I've spent 40 or so days at CSA and the "least sober" days included time at the swim-up bar. I don't understand why though.
The beauty of it is, you can go to the beach and before you even get to the Bamboo Bar (50 yards?) you forgot it was back there. And then you have the rest of the beach down to the Palms from there. So much room.
May 4th, 2013, 06:54 PM
This is so much fun to read. I just got back on the 20th of April. I used to love reading these before my trip...having never been there to see what it was gonna be like. Now I love reading them...having been there and seeing what other peoples opinions are.
May 4th, 2013, 07:32 PM
Great review...this will be our first time, so much information about CSA is awesome.
I was wondering, how late do the two beach bars stay open?
May 5th, 2013, 11:20 AM
I must say that this is the best written, most accurate & honest review I have ever read on this board or anywhere else. Why, I feel like we were right there with you guys..oh, that's right, we were..lol.. Awesome job Rachel.