CSA Review May 31 to June 8
We were at CSA from May 31 to June 8 for our weddingmoon. Just the two of us, no guests. I am 31 years old and my husband is 34 years old. This review covers CSA as a whole, but not the wedding part. I will post that, as well as my review of Diana Campbell in the wedding section.
We arrived in Montego Bay at 8:45 AM. Flew through immigration/customs. Went to the Couples Lounge, had a couple of beers. Within 15 minutes, our bus was ready. At that hour of the morning, it was just the 2 of us. Given that we had been up since 1:30 AM and were on less than 3 hours of sleep, neither one of us was too talkative, but the shuttle driver was nice and pointed some things out along the way. We were at CSA a little bit after 11AM. We were greeted with champagne and cold towels. Very nice. Obviously our room was not yet ready. They told us to periodically call back to check if it was ready. We put down our stuff, took our map, and headed to Cabana Grill for lunch. Ate, and hit the beach. Around 1, we called to check on our room. No luck. Called again around 2. No luck. Finally at 3, it was ready. Expected, but given how early we had been up in the morning, earlier access to the room would have been nice. Also, it had started raining around that time and we had no where to go. When we went back to the lobby, my husband felt that the front desk staff kinda laughed at him as they matched the face up with the person who had been calling about room status (but they had told him to check back). Not the best initial impression.
We had requested an Atrium Suite. We were here for our weddingmoon, so I loved the idea of no tv and a hammock. On the pre-check-in, I had requested a 2nd floor room near the center of the property to be away from noise at either end. We were given one of the rooms I had requested. From our verandah, we could see a tiny peak of the water between the palm trees. Two issues when we first walked in. First, the shutters were open, so the room was HOT. My husband is a sweater, so he was not too happy. We closed the shutters and requested that they not be opened by housekeeping during the week, and they were not. The air conditioning worked well for our stay. The second issue was the open ceiling between the bathroom and the rest of the room. This is probably for air flow/humidity issues, but my husband kind of freaked out. I was expecting it, although I had learned about it after we had booked our room. We ended up asking each other to hang out on the verandah if we needed privacy. It was just fine. I loved the hammock and no tv and would choose it again in a heartbeat, but my husband would probably want a tv next time, so we would probably get a garden suite. I brought earplugs, but never needed them. I found the tree frogs very calming, plus the sun wiped me out so I fell asleep no problem. We could sometimes hear music from the palms, but no problems. I was not bothered at all by sounds of carts or woodpeckers, like others have been.
With the shutters closed, and in general, the room was very very dark. A lamp on each side of the bed, a reading light in the middle and a dim bulb over the mini bar. The rooms could definitely use more light. However, I loved the pitch blackness at night. We also found that our bathroom was very clean. No mold or mildew, maybe due to the good ventilation from not being entirely enclosed! Love the clothesline. Necessary for all the wet clothes, although we also would put them on the floor of the verandah. I loved the bed. Way firmer than I use at home, which initially worried me, but I found it to be extremely comfortable and will keep that in mind when buying a new mattress. I have not slept so well in a long time!
The floor is made of stone tiles. My poor ipod dropped our last morning there (from about 18 inches) and got cracked. Be careful with electronics! Wifi was fine. Sometimes took a bit of time to connect, and could be a bit slow, but it was nice to have especially without tv. My husband was able to watch short videos on espn and stuff like that. Also nice to be able to send quick e-mail home.
Although I had been reading the message boards for months, I wanted to do the tour on our first day at 5, to get the lay of the land. We showed up in the lobby at 5. I asked the concierge desk about the tour and she said it starts at 5, we have a few minutes, come back at 5. I said that it was 5, and she kept saying it starts at 5, come back at 5. We went back and forth a tiny bit, before I wrote it off to Jamaica time. 5:20 comes around and nothing. I go back and again she tells me it starts at 5 and I won't miss it, not to worry. She was a bit rude both times. Finally at 5:40 a guy comes out and asks who is there for the orientation tour. My husband, me, and one other woman stand up (her husband had given up). He calls us over, has us introduce ourselves to each other and then tells us that the tour is canceled due to bad weather. The other woman quickly said that it would have been nice for them to tell us this 40 minutes ago instead of us just sitting and waiting. He did not have much response to that, but she became my favorite person at that moment. We never ended up doing the tour because we didn't want to risk that happening again.
I had never been to the Caribbean before, so I thought the beach was just phenomenal. I have never seen such beautiful clear water. We never had a problem getting a seat in the shade. We did get a palapa our second to last day when my husband happened to wake up at 5:30 and decided he might as well get one. That was nice. We used it on and off for the whole day, so it was put to good use. I did find that when I sat under the trees/plants, I was more likely to get ants crawling and did get one little bite, which was surprisingly painful! I loved having the float cushions. Floating out in the water next to my husband was just about the most relaxing thing ever.
We bought a CD from a musician Iceblock. He does original songs and sang one for us. Very romantic. My husband also tipped musicians in order to be able to play the maracas with them. He enjoyed it very much! Otherwise, the vendors were good at moving on if you said no thank you.
We ordered room service for breakfast almost every day, pretty early since we had plenty of things planned early in the day. Simple, but I enjoyed it - cereal, assorted pastries, coffee, tea, juice. We ate at the Palms once for breakfast, not too impressed. We ate at Patois three times. I did enjoy the banana stuffed french toast very much. We found if we got there on the later side, service was slow, but earlier, around 8, 8:30, service was quick.
He ate at Cabana Grill every day and had a burger and fries. Nothing fancy, but he tends to like plain, simple American food. I ate there about half the time, but tried most of the things on the menu. We both enjoyed the self serve nachos very much. Perfect while we were waiting for our food. I really enjoyed Sea Grapes. I do not like fish, but decided to try the fish tacos and am so glad I did! They were excellent. I had them 2 or 3 times. I also liked the sweet potato chips and hummus. The veggie pita was also delicious. Fruit smoothies were good. Sea Grapes was slow with service and we saw a couple of orders forgotten about. We also drank coconut water out of a coconut at seagrapes.
Palms - We ate here our first night and vowed not to go back. The food was fine, but we are not big fans of buffets (I know they have a la carte, but we never caught those nights). Also, our first night was a Friday and it should have been Beach party night, but it rained, so it was moved inside to the Palms, so I guess that was most of the food there that night.
Patois - We ate here 4 of our 8 nights here. My husband liked being able to get a plain pizza. I enjoyed branching out and trying lots of different things. What people have said about food portions is true. The menu is made for a 5 course dinner - appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert. If you are like my husband and usually will not eat 2 of 3 of appetizer, soup, and salad, you may get hungry, and will quickly learn to order extra entree. However, ordering all 5 courses worked very well for me. One appetizer that stood out was a really delicious sweet potato crab au gratin, which I never would have ordered at home, but loved it. The crab flavor was mild and delicious.
Lemongrass - We ate here our third night and happened to be there when the power went out all over Negril. There was no backup generator so the Palms was cleared out, but with the tiki torches out on the verandah by Lemongrass, our dinner continued uninterrupted. I thought the food was very good. My husband liked it, but prefers our Thai food at home better, plus, he only ordered entree and dessert and had not yet learned to order 2 entrees, so he was hungry.
Feathers - I cannot say enough good things about this place. We ate here twice - on our wedding night and our last night. Stacey Ann was our server the first time, and we requested her the second time because we thought she was fantastic. She set my husband straight and told him that he should never go hungry and just to ask for more of what he wanted. Our second night when I was showing concern for what he might eat, she told me my husband "was hers tonight" and she would take care of him. She did an excellent job. I think she even got him to try a couple of things he might not otherwise have tried! Our first time we both had some type of steak. Our second visit, I had surf and turf and he had double steak. Feathers was truly a wonderful dining experience and I wish we had that experience in other places. It was so quiet and romantic.
Overall with dinners - As others have said, the soups were fantastic! Get any you can. I had a chicken coconut soup at lemongrass, pumpkin yellow pepper at feathers, pumpkin beet root at patois, shrimp bisque at patois, cream of vegetable at patois, and cauliflower white bean soup at feathers.
Desserts were disappointing to both of us. Some were delicious - a tia maria chocolate cake. The creme brulees were delicious, but so tiny, only 2 bites. Others started getting a bit too fancy sounding, yet lacked much flavor. Plus, again tiny little portions. I had told my husband I was going to bring snacks for the room, and he was sure he would be able to find cookies to munch on all the time, like he could on a cruise. This was obviously not the case, and I was glad to have brought 2 bags of twizzlers and a package of cookies, although next time, I will bring 3 twizzlers and 2 packages of cookies. Even the palms, which had tons of desserts, were not great.
Overall, I wished the restaurants were all air conditioned like Feathers, especially at dinner time. My husband was generally in khaki shorts and a polo, but we would be sweating the entire meal. It was better when we were sitting under a fan, but this was not always the case. He and I both would have preferred to be comfortable when eating dinner, especially since we tended to dress a bit nicer for it. The restaurant temperature was not a deal breaker for my husband, but it was close. Overall he enjoyed breakfast and lunch, but it went downhill for him at dinner. He adapted. Overall, I LOVED the food. I like the opportunity to try things I would not have at home without the risk of spending money on it.
We tended to do most of our drinking at the beach bars, trying many of the different mixed and blended drinks. I really enjoyed the Hummingbird. He liked his Miami Vices. He also got addicted to Red Stripe Light while he was there and has requested that be the beer we buy at home from now on to keep the Jamaican feeling with him at all times. I tended to get sparkling wine with dinner, nothing special, but different from what I drink at home, which was my main goal.
We never made it to the martini bar, but that is on my list for next time.
We went to the piano bar our second night there. Ultimate Chocolate was there. He was good, we enjoyed it, but it was not really our scene. We did not end up spending any time at the Aura Lounge, mainly because we tended to be completely exhausted from our days by 9:30 or 10 at night. We went to the casino the night the power was out at the other end of the resort, mainly because there was power there and we weren't sure if our room had power. Maybe nightlife is what you make of it, but neither one of us are club type social people and my husband is not much of a bar person. Here is where he missed comedy nights, shows, etc. like on cruises. Entertainment that does not rely on too much on being social with other people.
We had hoped to go to the Beach party our final night there since it had been rained out our first night, but that did not happen. We had a reservation at Feathers, plus I was not feeling well. Looking at the setup of the beach before it started, plus what we heard from our room, I am sorry we missed it and will make every effort to catch it the next time we are here.
Sorta in terms of nightlife/nighttime - my husband thought the paths were not well lit. I was okay with it. I liked not having tons of light, compared to at home. A couple times though I did almost trip, so maybe there is a point to his concern...
He went to the gym the first half of our visit, and then had to stop due to a painful blister. I went our first couple of days. Apparently this is a good gym, size-wise, machine-wise for the caribbean, but being used to cardio machines with tvs and air conditioned buildings, it was a bit of a letdown for my husband and me. We went early in the morning, 7 or 8 AM and it was just so hot. Again, air conditioning would have helped because later in the day, it was just too hot. Our first day at the resort, my husband went at 4PM and had to stop the elliptical early because he was just so sweaty. I had never seen him soak a t-shirt like he did. It then took 3 days for the shirt to dry. So yes, air conditioning would be a plus.
Spa - I got my hair and makeup done for my wedding there. It was great. I will cover that in more depth on the wedding board.
My husband and I got the coupons for free 25 minute massage I guess for honeymoon. He does not like massages, so he skipped his. I had never had a massage before, so I was eager. I found it lovely. I got there early and hung out in the relaxation pool. Perfect temperature, about 90-95 degrees, great because the hot tubs are a bit warm for me. This was heaven. It smelled nice there too. The massage was wonderful and I look forward to massages at home, as well as using resort credits in the future toward massages. We also did the couples massage class. The woman running it was not my favorite, but she did a good job. Because my husband does not like being massaged, we only stayed for half, where he massaged me, and when it was time to switch, we said thank you and left.
Housekeeping and Mini Bar
Housekeeping was always good. Plenty of clean towels. Turn down service seemed to be hit or miss. Sometimes they would come, other times no. I am not sure why that was, but a few times, I would have liked ice, but didn't get it and never saw turn down service to ask about it.
The minibar was great. It was stocked when we got to our room with what we had requested in the pre-check-in. Halfway through the week, I started making mimosas at breakfast with the sparkling wine and orange juice. I felt they were excellent with keeping it stocked with what we requested. Sadly I didn't even use the rum or vodka I had requested the first day. We stuck to Coca Cola Light, water, juice, beer, and sparkling wine.
Lumping laundry in here. My husband got one pair of khakis laundered. I think it was $4.50. Picked up late in the day, returned the next day. Simple. Easy. On future visits, I might use resort credits to cut down on bringing gym clothes.
We did the glass bottom boat ride. Nice coming attraction for what we saw snorkeling later that day. We snorkeled in the Bahamas, I think? I had never been snorkeling before, so I enjoyed it and took some good pictures with our underwater camera.
We took a trip with our wedding photographer off resort for a second day of pictures and went to Mayfield Falls. The drive to and from Mayfield Falls was definitely bumpy and the quality of the roads went down as we got more off the beaten trail. Lots of turning to avoid big potholes. But once we were there, I loved it! First of all, the water was COLD! Absolutely great after 4 days of heat. My husband never quite got used to the water temperature, so I don't think he liked it as much as I did. Our guide was great, leading us through the falls and showing us safe spots to step. It was definitely a bit physical, especially when we were standing posing for pictures between 2 strong falls. We were both quite tired after that, even though it was not a long excursion and we are both in pretty good shape. I definitely would like to go back and spend more time there when the main focus is not getting good pictures because it was refreshing and beautiful.
We did the horseback riding excursion which we booked through the tour desk (Wild Crocodile). The owner of the property Paul Washington came and picked us up and took us to his ranch 20 minutes away. Neither one of us had been on a horse before, so it was a lot of fun. We rode through the property to the beach and then the horses took a swim. The horse I was riding had a 3 month old baby who came along with us and it was adorable to see the mama horse make noises when her baby got too far behind. Our guide Javin explained this is how the babies learn the trail, etc. This excursion was one of our favorites.
We did the catamaran cruise as well. We enjoyed it. We were not able to go all the way down because the waters were rough. We swam in a cave by the Castle. The bats in the ceiling were cool but creepy. The currents in the cave were surprising strong and my legs got a bit banged up by the rocks.
We also went to Dolphin Cove, booked through the tour desk. My husband had done swimming with dolphins before. I had not. Definitely worth doing once in my life, but probably would not do again. It is just so expensive for such a short period of time. We swam with 2 dolphins each. Very cool. Then of course we wanted the DVD and pictures, which were again very expensive.
We also did jetskiing, which we rented from Spiderman. I think we paid too much, and will do better with bargaining next time. Spiderman was nice though because he remembered us, but did not constantly hassle us like some vendors.
I did the basketweaving! My husband laughed at me for it, but I had fun. It only took a half an hour, and my basket is so cute!
I definitely want to take out a hobie cat next time, as well as a couple of other things from water sports. I also want to do tie dying!
We checked out shortly before 11 on our last day and then mostly hung out on the beach. Our shuttle left at 2 for a 6:10 flight. Around 12:30 or 1, it started to rain, only the second time that week. And it definitely did pour, which was good because there has been a drought this year. We picked up one couple from Couples Negril and went to the airport, arriving well before 4. At the airport, soon after arriving, the smoke alarm started going off. We ended up being called to board our plane earlier than expected (maybe due to smoke alarm), and we were in the air by 5:55 for our 6:10 flight. Arrived home earlier than expected, which was nice.
In terms of packing, I think we did pretty well. I had 6 bathing suits and 5 coverups, would probably bring 1 less of each next time. I had 6 dresses for dinner, again one less would be good. I had brought 2 pairs of shorts, 3 t-shirts and 3 tank tops for the gym. I would scrap the t-shirts altogether next time because the gym was too hot for t-shirts. I had brought extra underwear which was unnecessary since I only wore it at night since I lived in my bathing suit during the day. One or 2 extra pairs, maybe, 5, no. Had too many socks since I did not make it to the gym as much. I had brought 6 bottles of sunblock, large 16 oz bottles. We used 2, but I stayed out of the sun a lot the second half of our trip after getting burned on our wedding day (I had not wanted to hurt my dress with sunblock). So I did have too much for this trip, but we could have reasonably used 4 16 oz bottles, which is what I will bring next time. The travel luggage scale I bought came in handy. The bug spray was necessary, although I kept forgetting to use it, so I came home with many bites. I had brought insulated cups for water or soda. We did not use them, but my husband said he would have used them had he remembered them. I did use a few safety pins from my sewing kit, so that was good. I used the bottle of aloe I had brought from Trader Joes. My first aid kit came in handy. We used lots of bandaids, some triple antibiotic ointment, cortisone cream, advil, and pepto bismol tablets. I bought a cute sun hat, but never wore it. I definitely needed my own conditioner for my long hair, but the shampoo they had there was fine, so I will skip my own shampoo next time, as well as body wash. Although all my toiletries were travel sized, I still didn't use them much, so overall, I will cut down on them (I did not need 2 face washes and a scrub, even if trial sized!). The only makeup I wore was eyeliner and eye shadow, maybe a tiny bit of blush, so makeup will be less next time. I had brought my own hair dryer since I had read the one in the room is not powerful. I never tried the room one and used my own every day. Should have checked to know for next time. Oh well.
Overall, I had a great weddingmoon. I had done all the research and read the boards, so everything was basically as I expected, except for maybe how hot it was at the gym and restaurants. Again, air conditioning. My husband was not as prepared as I was for some of the more rustic aspects of the resort, again mainly air conditioning. He also was not prepared for how little American food there was. I expected Jamaican food, so I was fine. He is used to cruises where he could have a basic steak and baked potato every night. Not so here. Jamaican time also started wearing a bit on both of us. In a restaurant if we finish our drink, we do expect that it get refilled quickly. Sometimes it took a while for that, which would not be a big deal if not for the fact that we were so HOT!
I hope this did not sound negative because overall I had a fantastic time and my husband called it a dream wedding and honeymoon. I think our next visit will be great since we will both be prepared for aspects that were a surprise to us this trip.