Given the timing of the hurricane (sometimes a tropical storm), we ALMOST cancelled our trip. Thank God we didn't because it was the best vacation we have ever taken! We went for our 25th anniversary - and it was fabulous! We had been to Ocho Rios twice, but never to Negril. LOVED the west coast!
When we arrived, it had been raining, but the sun came out literally as we were pulling out of the airport. We had a full shuttle, with some rather loud, apparently drunk, young couples - which was a bit annoying, but the ride was only 90 minutes so it was tolerable. We made one pit stop at a small restaurant/shop with a bathroom.
I had waited too long to make the reservation and the beachfront suites that I wanted were gone, so we booked a garden view suite and I am SO GLAD we did. We had a ground floor suite, on an end. There was no "path" beside us, so we had very little "traffic" passing by. The veranda was covered on one side by lush tropical plants - LOVED it! It was very private compared to the beachfront verandas. I will definitely pick gardenview again over beachfront. We were still VERY close to the beach, and the street noise people on this board complain about did not bother us one bit. We did hear the frogs chirping, but got used to it, and if we shut the doors, we didn't even hear them.
I had taken some tips from previous guests and brought tealight candles to use at night on the veranda - and loved it. I also brought my own ketchup as I am very particular about ketchup (Heinz or none at all, thank you), but one day when I forgot to bring my little packets with me to the beach grill, I used theirs and it was really not that bad. I wouldn't bother to bring my own again. Extra ziplock bags came in handy for the wet bathing suits on the return home.
Because of the recent storm, it was REALLY windy for the first 2 days - still sunny and warm, but very windy, and the water was quite churned up. It didn't have that turquoise tropical color that it normally does, but it was warm - and there were waves! It was fun using the chair cushions to ride the waves. After 2 days, the wind stopped, the water calmed down and turned turquoise again.
We tried 4 out of the 6 restaurants and were happy with all of them. The Patois Patio had GREAT breakfasts and it was nice to be served, rather than being at a buffet, although we went to the Palms buffet twice for breakfast and twice for dinner, and that food was good too. One night they had a "super" buffet set up around the pool, which was very nice - they offered a bigger variety of choices. We ate at Feathers for our anniversary, and it was excellent, service as well as the food. Lunch was mostly at the beach grill, which offered great burgers, jerk chicken sandwiches (yummy!) and grilled cheese sandwiches. Their french fries and onion rings were really good too.
The swim-up bar could be a bit annoying as that seemed to be where the younger, drunker, louder crowd hung out. We had a drink at that bar once, but that was enough - when the drunk girl started parading herself around ON TOP of the bar, we moved on. I've already done my time at the Spring Break scene (many years ago) and didn't need to repeat it!
We spent most days at the beach, near the Bamboo bar (love the green flag beach service!) We never had a problem getting lounge chairs on the beach - there were tons available - which was nice compared to some other places we have stayed. We also loved the double hammocks along the beach.
The vendors strolling the beach were fine. I bought jewelry from Janice, who was very sweet. I wanted different colors in a necklace, and she left and came back an hour later and had made my custom necklace! We had some of the strolling reggae singers sing for us - which was nice. Better to spend $1 for 3 live songs than from a jukebox!
They also bring in vendors onto the property, so there was something different every day. That was nice. The only organized daytime activity I did was go to the beadmaking class - which was fun and I ended up with a nice bracelet! At night, we went to the show at the Palms just about every night. We went to the Aura nightclub after the Palms on our last night, but it was a bit too loud and crazy for us - and it doesn't open until 11pm. Guess we're getting old!
The staff could not have been nicer, in the restaurants, at the beach bars, at the shows - they were super plesant, always making sure we were happy. The grounds were spotless - I never saw one speck of trash out of place, not even a loose palm frond on the ground. It was unbelieveable.
It was nice having the Internet cafe so we could check in now and then with the kids, as well as do our online check-in and print boarding passes for the return trip. I definitely did NOT want to bring my laptop - pain in the neck to lug with us, and it reminds me too much of work.
The one thing we wished we had brought was an iPod loaded with reggae for when we were hanging out in the room or on the veranda.
We cannot WAIT to go back - and we will be going next year,and hopefully every year from now on. I LOVE CSA!
(Small tip for baggage weighing - you can buy a fish scale at WalMart for about $8 that is very accurate. It has a hook that easily fits suitcase handles. It is lightweight so you can pack it in your carry-on and bring it with you so you don't overload on the return trip!)