Review of CSA - 1st timer (long)
Thanks to everyone (especially Chris) who helped me in planning what turned out to be a fantastic trip to CSA from Feb 22 to Mar 8, 2010. I really appreciate it!
Here is an abridged version of my review on TA.
We stayed at CSA from Feb 22 - Mar 8, 2010 and overall we would describe our stay as a wonderful experience. It is in a beautiful location and the service and staff is absolutely phenomenal. The Management must be complemented on their excellent management philosophy and their choice in staff. The staff are pleasant, happy, very accommodating and genuinely friendly. The folks here treat you as guests in their home and country and make it very clear that you are on vacation and that YOU have no problems and that any problems are THEIR problems and not really your problems at all, hence "no problem mon".
.Check in at Couples Lounge- Friendly, laid back and professional. (9/10)
.Trip to Couples from Mo Bay - Rush hour traffic and you will really appreciate the fact that you have a professional driver and not some of the other folks that you see driving this insanely chaotic trek! It took about 1 1/2 hours and Jamaican drivers are the worst I have ever seen! (9/10)
.Check In at CSA - Great, simple and we were well informed. Champagne and a Ting and cold towels were perfect. (9/10)
.Room - Simple, clean and exactly what we had requested: Beachfront Verandah with a 3rd floor view and in a corner unit. Good tile stairs to climb up to the room and not a "taxing" chore to climb at all. Not a palatial room by any stretch, but it is large enough, with plenty of storage, hangers, drawers and shelves, with tile floors and no smells and a comfortable to firm mattress on wooden slats. There is no box spring, so this may be a little "hard" for some folks. I prefer a mushy mattress and I found this one a bit hard for the first few nights. I suspect that there are very good reasons for no box spring and CSA have done the best that they really can. The bathrooms are fine, although dated and most of the dated appearance is due to poor finishing of grouting and sealing repairs around tubs and tiling. I suspect that good maintenance work may be tough to get in Jamaica. It looked like I did the repairs and I suck at such things! I suspect that the Resort, if they are smart, will remodel the fixtures and bathrooms very soon. (8/10)
.Mini Bar – 26oz. bottles of: Appleton’s Amber Rum (not great in my opinion), Stoli Vodka (OK), Treachers Scotch (I don’t drink or like Scotch) and some kind of Gin (I rarely drink Gin). I am not a huge drinker so this seemed fine to me. I am sure that if we would have phoned the front desk that we probably would have been able to switch up some of the brands. Orange juice in cans, Ting, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, 6 Caribe Beer and Clamato juice in cans! Ironically there is no Clamato at any of the Bars at the Resort!
. Verandah - Great stuff. A couch with 3 pillows and a rocking chair. Spectacular unobstructed view of the ocean and vegetation (beautiful full coconut palms) and adequately large and private from "street" traffic below. (10/10)
Palms: Excellent for breakfast buffet, lunch buffet and dinner a la carte. It has great entertainment (music and dancing) throughout the day (guitar and cello at breakfast). There is a designated smoking area along the perimeter of the open air building that comprises about 20% of the entire restaurant. As smokers, this was our favorite spot! You must try the Curried Goat if you like curry...it is fabulous! Highly varied breakfast and lunch buffets with everything and anything you could imagine. (9/10)
Patois Patio: Excellent to very good for a la carte breakfast lunch and dinners. Try the seafood linguini at lunch, I had it twice and it really is exceptionally good. No smoking allowed at all, despite the open air design of the building. As smokers, we did not eat here very often. (8/10)
Feathers: Good, but with some reservations. Basa Fillets do not belong on the menu of ANY good restaurant, no matter what you slather that fish in! We ate there twice, the first time the service was by committee and was good to OK. The second time the service was very good although the poor waiter probably thought he did a bad job because of an unfortunate "accident" while serving dessert (it was actually funny and it was from trying hard to please...lol). The menu changed after we had eaten there twice and seemed to have been vastly better in the 2nd week. No smoking at all. Overall (7/10)
Lemon Grass: Good, but again it seemed to serve "dumbed down" Indonesian food and appeared to have a limited and uninspired menu. I tried the Pad Thai and found it very bland. Someone suggested that the waitress should have offered varying spice levels, but this did not happen. This was not our best night and we were in and out in about 45 minutes so it may have just been our mood that night. No smoking at all. (7/10)
Cabana Grill: Great beach food. Burgers, jerk chicken, pull pork sandwich, fish sandwich, with fries and/or onion rings. Outdoor "fast food" style and smoking permitted. Perfect for the venue! Suggestion - this place really needs a Cappuccino machine like at Sea Grapes!! (9/10)
Sea Grapes: Never ate here except for the sweet potato chips
and dip and a few Cappuccinos. I am not into "fresh food" bars and veggie food/tofu type stuff. The food looked fine and service was good. Outdoor "fast food" style, smoking permitted, but you will feel guilty if you do smoke...lol (8/10).
.Coffee and Milk – Coffee is good to very good, but really is not fantastic like most people rave about. We are huge coffee drinkers and it is really no better than our favorite grocery store blend that we can get here at home. The milk is 100% “Cows Milk” according to the milk box. It is not Goats Milk as someone suggested. I could not see the word Homogenized anywhere on the carton and the consistency suggests that the milk is skim milk, and on rare occasions it may be as high as 2% milk fat. It is definitely “low fat” milk at best.
.Bars- Excellent service and selection and most had top shelf liquor at all times (Grand Marnier, Drambuie, Courvoisier, Crown Royal and VO). I drank at the Sunset and Bamboo Bars on the beach and sometimes at the Palms. I was not into the "pool bar" scene at all. (9/10)
.Drink Menu- Poor to Average. I tried several blended or shaken tropical drinks since I hate “Slurpee” type frozen drinks and I found that most of them tasted the same and many tasted like cough syrup. It would not be that tough to make a decent Chi-Chi or Pina-Colada or real Rum Punch. Please get some decent Pineapple Juice and some Clamato Juice, so that a person can have a Caesar! (5/10)
.Pools - This is a beach place and not a pool place. The Palms pool (North pool) is small and suitable for lounging and reading a book (8/10). The Patois pool (South pool) is small and is basically only good for standing around in while you drink and socialize (7/10). There is a great big "Olympic" size pool for swimming laps and sunning yourself at the sports complex across the street (10/10). The sports complex is absolutely amazing, if you want to work out or play tennis (about 12 courts) or racquetball or squash or ping pong. It has a really modern "spa" feel to it and although it is not my cup of tea it is impressive and you can watch some sports on TV and have a beer while your wife/partner suntans.
.Beach - Fabulous. Well packed sand and absolutely no rocks. Meticulously groomed by the staff every morning and evening! Clear aquamarine water blending seaward into royal blue. It was very windy in our last week and so all water sports activities such as snorkeling, the glass bottom boat, catamaran cruise and fishing were cancelled. The beach was too windy (North Wind is deadly) to sit at for extended periods of time due to "sand blast" effect. Perfect time to get caught up on drinking and exploring. (9/10)
.Beach Loungers and Palapas - Very few (about 4-6) palapas that you must "reserve" prior to 6:00AM. Beach loungers/floaties were a small problem between the hours of 8:00AM and 11:00AM, otherwise if you are willing to scavenge chairs you will find enough in the afternoon to keep you happy. (8/10)
.Water sports- When it is calm, all variety of water sports are free and accessible. Hobie Cats, some Wind Surfing (?), Snorkeling, Glass Bottom Boat, Catamaran, Waterskiing, Fishing (cost) arranged at the water sports centre. For fisherman, boat trips can be arranged on a per person basis in conjunction with the tour Desk. The Charters are open charters with a minimum and maximum (4-6 persons) and are NOT private charters. (9/10)
.Beach Vendors- One guy selling cigarettes at the pre-tax cost or post-tax cost that is identical to the Gift Shop (depending on his mood and greed). He is not nearly as poor as he will try to convince you of apparently, and he will start shoving 10 packs into your beach bag if you do not stop him! He sells for $8-$9 per pack of 20 vs. $9 in the Gift Shop. I suspect that he makes out like a bandit! Two guys selling necklaces and wrist bands. One guy selling Conch shells for $30 and another selling head bandanas and Jamaican flag apparel. Three groups of guys (combos of three and singles) singing for money. Two guys who are essentially just begging and playing on their disabilities. One guy who just sells his "baking" and yes most will offer to sell you some "herbs" if you don't want the primary product. Don't be stupid about such persons, because not all is like it appears! Generally they are not a problem and a simple "no thank you" will suffice. Any other reply such as "no cash" or "not now" or some excuse will not work, since they are all willing to extend credit and they all "trust" you.
.Tour Desk - Very nice and honest people, if there is much of a mark up from direct booking then it is not a significant one (maybe 25%). I would not bother arranging trips online beforehand. The flexibility of onsite booking exceeds the cost savings of online booking. (9/10)
. Gift Shops- Typical gift shops, but not horrible rip-offs like many. It is a "cashless" system based on your initial Credit Card imprint ($300 deposit) that you draw against for purchases. You can clear the Credit Card imprint with cash when you check out. (9/10)
.Grounds and Jamaican Landscape Overall- Absolutely beautiful!! Well manicured and lush gardens with flowers and a variety of trees (variety of palms including varietal coconut palms ranging from small to large), Bamboo and Almond trees as well as many tropical "rubber tree" type plants and trees. The Jamaican topography is hilly to somewhat mountainous and covered with beautiful trees and flowers. (10/10)
.Weather and Climate- It was 83-86 daytime and 70-75 nighttime, with about 75% relative humidity and a 70 degree dew point. It rained once at night with thunder and lightning for about 2 hours. The only negative on the weather was the North Wind at 10-25 mph which will shut down water sports and at high velocity will shut down sun tanning at the beach. Despite being windy, it was always warm and pleasant in both the day and night. All that is required is a light sweater at night and on 2 occasions my wife was more comfortable in long pants denim in the evening (no dress code issues in outdoor restaurants of Palms and Patois). (9/10)
.Overall Staff and Service- This is what absolutely makes this place very special! They are warm and friendly and cannot do enough for you. They work very hard and are always very busy. (10/10)
We will definitely return to this resort when we need a winter vacation! We much preferred CSA to our Mexico vacation of last year, principally because of the climate, the beaches and the people working at the resort.
Suggestions for Food and Beverage Manager:
1. Caribe is a terrible beer for the rooms.
2. Try to set up a Cappuccino /Espresso machine at the Cabana Grill.
3. Get Clamato juice and a higher quality pineapple juice for your bars.
4. Look hard at the drink menu and shoot to get quality instead of quantity of drinks on the menu.
5. Try to get some real cream or at least homo milk for coffee at the restaurants.
6. Lose either the Scotch or Gin for the mini bars and substitute that bottle with a bottle of Rum Cream for the coffee.
We will definitely be back! There were certainly no "deal breakers" for us and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our stay!