CSS Review (10/22/13 - 10/30/13) & comparison with CN and CSA
This is going to be long, so I will probably do 2 or 3 posts.
This was our longest wait in the lounge, at a whopping 10 minutes. I actually had time to use the restroom, change my shoes, AND have a beer this time! lol
I don't remember our driver's name this time, most likely because he was fairly dull and did not say much. We made the customary mid-way stop. The drive was about an hour and 45 minutes.
It generally went smoothly. We were greater with the customary cold towel and champagne. Gust relations was friendly and we got the requested D block penthouse suite (D27). However, upon arrival in the room, our mini-bar was not stocked according to the pre-check-in I completed online a week in advance. We were missing the requested red wine and champagne. Also, our welcome gift was not given to us on check-in and it was not in the room when we arrived. It literally took 2 days of calling guest relations to get the wine and champagne brought to the room and 3 days to get our "welcome" gift, which was finally given to us when we showed up in the lobby for it. Of course, everyone was nice whenever we called about these things, but we shouldn't have to wait days and make multiple phone calls to get the things that were supposed to be in our room on arrival.
Penthouse Suite D27:
The room was fantastic! The view was stunning! The balcony was huge and we spent a lot of time out there. The bed was a little softer than CSA and CN, so we were happy about that! The one thing that was a problem was again the service. All of the resorts have different ice policies and at CSS we were told to call room service to have ice delivered. Well, hubby and I unpack as soon as we get to the room. Since we didn't have the cold champagne we had requested, I called for ice to be delivered so we could have a vodka and ting while unpacking. After 30 minutes of waiting, I called again. After another 30 minutes of waiting, we were finished unpacking and just left the room. A couple hours later (we had arrived at the resort before 1pm), we were back in the room to shower and change for dinner. When we first arrived, I called for ice. 30 minutes later I called and said "this is the 4th time I've called for ice in the last 5 hours and I have yet to receive any ice." That time I got an apology and the ice arrived in 5 minutes. I'm on vacation….I really don't want to have to complain, but I rather have an ice machine in the building they go through that again. I won't go into more detail about it, but this was not the only day we had problems getting ice. In fact, we had more problem days then quick ice delivery days. One evening, I ran to the balloon bar to get my ice bucket filled because we just didn't feel like going through the hassle.
It was absolutely beautiful! Yes, the beach was tiny, but there wasn't a big crowd on any day we were there and could always find two chairs, even if we had to drag them together. We even got a palapa around 11am one day! The resort was at 85% capacity, so there must have been a ton of people going au natural while we were there. We loved the floating platform in the ocean. All but one day, we could find chairs at the pool when we wanted them. We swam in the lobby pool at some point almost every day and were usually the only ones in there. At most, there was one other couple. We swam in the mineral pool a few times, but didn't spend too much time hanging out at it. We loved the feel of the resort, like an old cliff-side fort. It was beautiful and I took lots of pictures of the pretty flowers. Sometimes the stairs were a bitch…I'm not going to lie. lol 84 steps from beach level to our penthouse. After a few too many at dinner or the pool bar, it could be daunting.
Our favorite was the balloon bar, but the service at all of the bars was excellent! I cannot say a single negative thing about any of the bartenders. I want to give a special shout out to Noxroy, who was truly awesome! Our first night, I asked if he could do a lychee martini, which I fell in love with at CN. He didn't have lychee's but told me to come back the next day and he would have them. He did, and he had them every night of our 8 night stay. I would walk up to the bar and he would already be making one (with Grey Goose, my fav). All of the martinis he made us were awesome, and most weren't even on the menu.
The only issue we had at the balloon bar was outside during evening entertainment. We had just gotten out from dinner at Cassanova and I was standing on the edge of the terrace, by the stairs smoking a cigarette. I was at least 20 feet from the nearest person, which I did on purpose, even though it's open air, because I happen to be a considerate smoker. Well, we weren't bothering any other guests, but "linguini" came over to us and said if we "must smoke" we had to use the smoking section. I might point out, the area they had blocked off for the smoking section was on the other side of the wall I was standing next to and was actually 5 feet closer to the other guests. Plus, there was no ashtray to indicate it was a smoking section (or I would have gone there to begin with) and they only had chairs, no tables. I guess us dirty smokers should just put our martini glasses on the concrete. In then notices, over the course of the next hour of listening to the entertainment, that numerous other people lit up cigarette much closer to the action and nothing was ever said to them.
Generally it was pretty good, especially the entertainment at the balloon bar. They are finally listening and one of the singers (who was fantastic) mixed in reggae. By the way, anyone who tells you that D block is quieter during the entertainment at the balloon bar is lying. lol Even with the doors shut, we heard it loud and clear. That wasn't a bad thing though. We enjoyed dancing on our balcony to the music. It also was finished before we ever went to sleep, so it was no big deal.
Bella Vista (dinner)
Other than the beautiful location, on the beach, and the attentive service, I unfortunately have nothing positive to say. We had soup that seemed to be leftover from the night before at Cassanova. Everything we ate was either over-cooked, or it had sat around for a while (we ate toward the end of service). The food just wasn't good. It's a good thing we had only planned to eat there one night.
The grill (late night):
We only went there once late night. The cook said he could "make anything" for us. I asked for grilled cheese. He said he couldn't do it. Really? It's bread and cheese. I asked for a beef patty. He didn't have any. Ugh, I just ate french fries.
The grill (daytime):
We ate there several times and it was generally good. The fish tacos were awesome, but they were out of them frequently. In fact, they ran out of things all the time. There were no onion rings one day. They had no mayo another day. They were always running out of ice cream. Everything we tried there was pretty good though.
Fantastic! The food was excellent and the service was attentive.
The repeater's dinner:
The food was great, but I do wish they had given options. The only comparison I had was to CN and you had (I think) two options for every course. We had read that the repeater's dinner was buffet at CSS, but it was sit down with the same menu for everyone. The food was all excellent though. It was a little longer then we would have liked though, probably because of the huge size of the group. The wine service was also slow, to our table anyway. My glass was empty more than it was full. It was very enjoyable though.
The food was great and they kept everything well stocked. The entertainment was decent as well. We also had a problem getting wine glasses filled here. I don't suck down wine like it's a shot or anything. lol I don't think a third glass of wine when sitting at the table for 90 minutes is unreasonable though.
The food was great, but they were slow to restock things. When we got to the buffet table at the first line we waited in, there was one dish out of 6 or 7 that had anything in it. Again, the wine service was slow. My hubby ended up walking over to the beach bar twice to refill our wine.
Private dinner on sunset beach:
This was phenomenal! I can't remember our chef's name or our server's name (bad, I know), but they were both great and the food was relish! The problem? Guest relations again! When I booked it, I asked the procedure for getting there. (At CSA, there is a meeting spot where everyone with a dinner that night goes and your waiter meets you there with a glass of champagne and walks you to your table. At CN, your waiter goes to your room with champagne and walks you to your spot.) I specifically asked "do we walk over to SSB, or does someone come to our room to get us?" I was told someone would come to the room to get us. So, at 7:45 (dinner was scheduled for 7:30) hubby calls guest relations to ask what's going on. He was told "they are waiting on you at the nude beach." Classy. So, after jogging across the resort to SSB, I apologized profusely to the chef and waiter for being late and explained the problem. The waiter says "oh, you are supposed to call the bellman when you are ready and they will drive you over from your room." WTF? That was nothing close to what we were told. Thank God the dinner was delicious, the service was excellent and the night was beautiful!
The food was pretty good, as was the service. As we were sitting there outside (the inside, which would have been our choice was booked with a wedding party), all of a sudden, everyone starts coughing and sneezing. I realized it was similar to an accidental incident in law school where I discharged a squirt of my pepper spray into the classroom. They were adding the scotch bonnet peppers to the hot skillet at the past station and the breeze was basically pepper spraying the whole outdoor area. Hubby and I were least affected where we were sitting and actually found it kind of comical, but people were running out of the restaurant mid-meal. I informed the staff what I thought the issue was. They seemed clueless, but by the next day everyone we met was talking about it, so I guess they figured out I was right. lol Pepper spraying your dinner guests = not good.
Palazzina (breakfast and lunch):
There was a pretty decent selection of food for both meals. I liked the different themes for lunch. The service was okay. The day they had Asian themed lunch, I went out to the pad thai station. The woman cooking said she would bring it to my table and asked where I was sitting. I told her. Meanwhile, I had soup and a salad….so did my hubby. Then I watched him eat the rest of his food. She never brought my pad thai. I said screw it, I'll get something from the grill in a little while and we left. As I was leaving I saw the cook joking around with some other employees. Hey, I'm all for having fun at work, but you should actually do the work. She just flat out forgot about my food.
The veggie bar:
We only got sweet potato chips one day that we were there. Mostly because they other two days we tried to get them, they were out. They were good the one time we had them though. We didn't have anything else there.
We had breakfast room service our last day and it was good. It arrived quickly as well. We had coffee delivered every morning. We didn't eat any full meals through room service. We just got snacks a few days. Everything was tasty.
We went snorkeling once. It was okay. I've been snorkeling all over the the western hemisphere. It's not the best. The trip was enjoyable though. We weren't in the mood to dive this trip, so we didn't. We did miss the sunset catamaran cruises though. We were pretty much beach and pool bar bums for this trip and loved it.
Guest relations strikes again. First, the back story. Hubby and I fly standby because he is an airline employee. We had initially planned the trip through 10/29, but a week before the trip saw that the 10/29 flights were pretty full and the 10/30 flights were wide open. Upon arrival, we booked and paid for an extra night. I told them we would give them our return flight info mid-week (after checking seat availability on the few flights we had as an option). Mid way through the trip, I went to the front desk with the flight info and watched the guy type it into the computer. Fast forward to our last night there. It's 7pm and I notice we have no check out info in the room. I call the front desk. They say they don't have our flight info. Um, huh? What did that guy at the front desk type it into? Hopefully not into someone else's room. So, they tell me the check out time, the bus time, and the time our luggage should be out in the morning. After dinner, we did have check out info in our room. So, the last morning. We put out our luggage at 9:00 am. It was supposed to be out by 9:30. I notice at 9:45 that the luggage is still there. I call the front desk. Without even asking for the room number, they tell me not to worry, that they would get the luggage. We leave the room at 10am to check out. The luggage is still there. I get to check out and again tell them that our luggage hasn't been picked up. No worries, it will be done. The bus arrives. Okay, everyone make sure your luggage is here. Ours is not. The bellman had to rush over and get it. <sigh>
Oh, one more fun fact about guest relations on check out….They tried to charge us a second time for the extra night we stayed. I had to show them the receipt and pulled up my bank account on my iPad to show them that the money had even come out of my checking account already before they would believe I didn't owe the money. Is it time for a new computer system or something?
So, all and all we had an excellent trip. We relaxed. We opened and closed the pool bar most days. We had some great food. Someone just really needs to beef up customer service and improve organization though. Literally every time we had to go through guest relations for something, it was a problem. Also, the ice situation needs to be resolved. Oddly, when we ordered food AND ice, it came faster then when we just ordered ice. So, we learned to order something, even if we weren't hungry.
I will do a comparison with CN and CSA in a few days. For now, I will just say that CSA remains number one in our hearts. CSS is now a close second, but the customer service issues, which we did not encounter in our longer stay at CSA, prevented it from having a chance at number one. Despite the service issues, however, we did prefer the resort itself over CN.