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  1. #1

    Default Beergirl's CN/CSS split review

    We were fortunate enough to have enough airline miles to cover our airfare this year, so we decided to extend our vacation from the usual 10-11 days to 14, Dec. 3 to 17th. This is our 7th visit to CN. Twice, we've split our stays between CN and CSA. So, after much discussion over many beers, we decided to give the north side of the island a small try this time, just 4 days at CSS. We didn't want to miss any time with our Brit friends that we meet at CN every year, and we were bringing a newbie couple from home with us.

    We flew out of Des Moines on Friday, December 3rd, just missing Iowa's first major snowstorm (whew!) We flew through Atlanta for the first time (we've always gone through Memphis). Flight was uneventful, though Delta changed my seat assignment at the gate, so I couldn't sit with Ken. Even though we were late getting off the ground at Des Moines, the flight arrived early. We had just enough time (1 hour 15 mins) to grab a quick bite and make our MBJ flight. It was, as usual, very humid at MBJ when we got off the plane, but the transfer to Negril was quick and easy. The new road through Montego Bay cut at least 15 minutes off time. Once at CN, we were greeted with hugs and champagne. We were originally assigned a room second floor room block 7. From past experience, we learned that room block 7 is noisy late into the evening, as it is very close to the Cassava Terrace stage, where the evening entertainment performs. The front desk staff was very gracious, and we were allowed to move the next day to room 2103, which, as it turned out, was the exact room we had last year. We prefer a first floor room for convenience, and room block 2 is very quiet. We spent a couple of days showing our newbies around, and reconnecting with staff friends and guests.

    The weather played a big part in our vacation this year. The surf was higher that we'd ever seen it, and it was very windy for several days, to the point of driving us off the beach. The service was for the most part, very good. Our days started with room service coffee, then a walk on the beach, then off to breakfast and the beach. There was never a problem getting loungers in the shade. We occupied our normal spots by the beach bar every day. I, again this year, got bitten up by bugs, mostly in bed at night, on my arms. Mosquitoes or no-see-ums? I came home with at least 30 bites again. I had mosquito spray with me, but didn't realize I needed to wear it to BED!

    A photo shoot was underway for 3 days while we were there. Couples is updating their web shots and brochures, and brought in models and photographers for the shoot. They closed certain areas for a few hours each day (we got a letter stating which areas and when), and it was really no bother. It actually made for some very entertaining people watching and head shaking, especially when it took 2 hours to get one shot through the beach massage hut. Pam and I offered our modeling services, but they turned us down politely, as soon as soon as they stopped laughing hysterically, that is!! The shooting areas were swept, folded, ironed, new plants planted, swept again, raked.

    They were just finishing up replacing the boardwalk and deck boards while we were there. The last couple of days, they closed the walk-up portion of the swim-up pool bar, and set up a temporary bar under the towel hut on the beach. It was OK for simple drinks, but no blender. The new boardwalk is beautiful, dark wood and no more splinters!

    The days drifted by, as they always seem to do. The catamaran cruise was good, and we saw the prettiest sunset I've ever seen while returning from the cliffs that evening. The resort photographers were very visible, but not pushy. We received our t-shirts and Romance Rewards resort credits without delay. The biggest hiccup was the water temperature in our room. For some reason, we could only get lukewarm water, no warmer. This lasted the entire time we were there. On the same note, our friends 2 doors down, on the same floor, had hot water. Hmmm... Our repeater's massage was wonderful, especially since Millicent was available for me. Nellie from the entertainment staff took special care of us, greeting all of us, and she even took us on a frog hunt one evening (it lasted about 7 minutes till it started to rain!). But, we did find a frog!

    The hair dryer in our room blew up while Ken was using it - it was kinda scary. It went BOOM, shot sparks, dimmed the lights in the main room, and sprayed black soot across the bathroom counter! The front desk staff couldn't believe it when I called ("You are JOKING me, right??"), but maintenance arrived after about 15 minutes, and installed another dryer.

    As always, we felt very "at home" at CN. We met a couple who were very unhappy, and felt misled by the glowing reviews. So... here is my disclaimer: Couples Negril is NOT a new, glitzy, marble, fancy or fussy resort. It is more like a friends' vacation home, where we can put our feet up and relax if we feel like, and not have to worry about the carpet.

    The food in all of the restaurants were very good, as usual. We were a bit disappointed by Otaheite this time, though. The staff couldn't seem to get our coffee and dessert there at the same time (we ate there twice), and the meals took almost 2 1/2 hours to complete. We were especially pleased with Lychee - both the food and service. Vaden took very good care of us.

    A few things I noted on my card:
    1) CN needs ice buckets in every room. Why provide a mini bar, and a large container of ice at the end of each building, and not provide something to carry it in?
    2) CN needs to eliminate the "maximum 2 beers" in the mini bar. We don't drink anything besides beer, and it's a pain to keep running to the bar for canned beer. We're gonna drink the same amount, whether it's in the room or at the bar.
    3) The beach soda machine no longer dispenses plain water. So, we're wasting hundreds of plastic water bottles each week on a resort noted for its environmental policy. Huh??
    4) The beach grill cooking staff still needs work on speed and coordinating the main dish with the fries or onion rings so they're both still hot when finally served.
    5) The beds at CN are way too firm for us. We had the head of housekeeping at our Repeater's Dinner table, and she said they had a few foam pads, but they must have been out of stock, as we didn't get one when we asked. I am very pleased they finally have sheets long enough, so they don't pull out at the bottom any more.
    6) They need to get rid of those awful, heavy duvets on the beds. Why would they have something that heavy and unwashable in the tropics?

    The day soon came to transfer to CSS. We were excited to try something new, and made arrangements with the front desk for a 7:30 am transfer. There were 4 of us (2 couples), and we didn't stop at the airport, but went straight through, using just a small van. We did make a stop about 3/4 way to stretch our legs. The transfer took exactly 3 hours, door to door. So, here's my take on CSS:

    CSS is beautiful, drop dead gorgeous. The mature trees, vines and plants, and the beauty of the intimate resort layout is hard to describe. Since it is a smaller beach resort, we expected it to seem crowded, but we couldn't believe how quiet it was. We reserved a beachfront Jacuzzi suite, and were assigned A-3 and our friends got A-5. Very handy for visiting, and just a few steps to the beach, bars and 2 restaurants. The rooms were absolutely beautiful; marble bathroom with 2 sinks, large Jacuzzi tub, and separate shower. The main room was divided between bedroom and sitting room, with sliding door to the patio. I can see where people are fond of the large balconies of the suites on the hillside, but we thought this was perfect for us. The weather, however, continued to be awful through most of the 4 days; windy, cloudy, and it rained almost non-stop our last day. So, we didn't get any water sports or glass bottom boat rides, like we had hoped. We attended the repeater's dinner here as well, and while the food was excellent, the room was VERY noisy with guests visiting. There were 42 repeaters at the dinner, but they had tables set for twice that many.

    The stairs were a daily challenge, and we regularly got a bit lost trying to get up to the internet cafe or Casanova restaurant. We ate in each restaurant at least once, and didn't have anything we didn't like. The service and cuisine at Casanova was outstanding, but the piano playing was too loud for the small room. We didn't especially like the idea of having to make reservations for 2 of the 3 restaurants (Bella Vista, the beach grill, was the only one not requiring reservations). Evening dinner through room service also requires calling in your order before 2:00 pm. We did order nachos a couple of times through room service, and they were very good, served with melted cheese, sour cream and guacamole. Service was prompt, and room service is the only way to get ice. A hot breakfast is not available through room service, we were surprised to note. No meat or potatoes, just pastries and fruit.

    The CSS entertainment staff was.. well.. entertaining! We joined them in a musical trivia game that was fun, and they were always visible. Although, when we tried to go to the pool bar on a rainy afternoon, we found them tying up most of the stools playing dominoes with each other. I also felt the Palazzina wait staff was a bit more stand-offish, and involved with themselves rather than the guests. There seemed to be knots of employees visiting with each other. Several mornings, we were awakened before 7 am by staff shouting very loudly to each other outside our door, and while walking along the path towards Watersports.

    The swimming portion at CSS is very small, shallow, and the sea bottom was very muddy. There are not enough pads at CSS for all the lounge chairs, so finding one was a challenge, even when the beach was only half full. We did not visit Sunset Beach, even after 5:00, as the weather was so cloudy.

    Breakdown - in our opinion:

    Rooms: CSS by a mile - though the resort is older, it's a much classier room style
    Beach: CN by 7 miles (as in the beach!)
    Staff: CN for friendliness and the way they conduct themselves
    Food: Really equal, though CN's pastry chef is much better, with moister and flakier pastries.
    Spa: CN for quality. CSS cliff massage huts are very cool, but my massage wasn't very good. It just felt like getting lotion applied.
    Bars: CSS by a hair, just because they weren't as busy, so we got better service.
    Restaurants: Casanova vs. Otaheite: Casanova by a hair, for the amazing beef tenderloin and impeccable service.
    Cassava Terrace vs. Palazzina: Very much the same food, but the fried chicken at CSS was great. There's not as many black birds at CSS, but I like the open air feel to Cassava Terrace.
    Heliconia grill vs. Bella Vista: Bella Vista service was faster, and we liked the personal pizza option. Love the nachos at CN, though!
    Lychee vs... ?? No Thai or Asian option at CSS

    Bottom Line: All in all, even though CSS is beautiful, we missed CN. We missed the long beach for walking, and we missed the musicians and vendors for watching. We missed the large swimming area at CN. Although CSS is very nice, and we can fully understand the draw, our hearts belong to CN and Negril's beaches. We'll be waiting for CN to welcome us home once again next year.

    Beergirl

    PS - I took lots of pictures, and will be making another slideshow after the holidays. Have patience, Tony from NY, soon come!

  2. #2

    Default

    Great review. Our paths crossed a year or two ago on your last day at CN and then you were going to CSA. We left CN on Dec. 4th and I thought I saw you but didn't say anything because I wasn't sure. Looking forward to another Beergirl slide show!!!!!

  3. #3

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    Hi Beergirl,I know we spoke quickly at CN but didn't realize you were off to CSS.Great review,as we were thinking about one day trying CSS but I love CN. Funny we wrote the same thing about needing ice buckets in the room. Julie and I also offered our services to model as I told Karen and the photographer that while the models were beautiful and young that is would be nice to have a few older models. She politely said thank you but that the older models were coming the following week.LOL We did get to meet Mr. Issa and had a wonderful conversation with him.
    Sorry you got bitten up as no one in our group got one bite this year. We were also a bit bummed about the red flags up for 2 days and the yellow for the 3 days after but you just never know with the weather. The wind was really the worse I have seen it in the last 7 years of going. Still it was a great time.
    Can't wait to see the slide show. We are already booked for next year to CN so maybe we will see you there again.

  4. #4

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    Great review. We have been to CN 7 times and have wanted to try CSS. We kind of felt we would be cheating on CN thou. We still may try CSS some time.
    Can't wait to see your pics.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Kim

  5. #5

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    Great review as we are contemplating the same "split" as you just did for our 3rd trip, so I was very anxious to read your details. Thanks for the information and I'm sure you already have your countdown going for your next trip to Negril.

  6. #6

    Default Mo - you should have said hello1

    Hi Mo -

    You should have said something!! Of course, I remember sharing the shade on the beach with you guys! Thanks for keeping our loungers warm for us. Hope you had a great time at CN. Slideshow soon come...

    Beergirl

  7. #7

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    Hi Beergirl - What an Interesting and Informative Review!!!! Very enjoyable reading - Thanks for all the details!!! Although we've heard wonderful things about CSS in the past, I'm thinking A & F are going to stick with CN!!!!
    Happy New Year to you both and hope to see you again at CN!!
    Cheers!!!
    Art xo Francine

  8. #8

    Default Couple Questions

    Hi Beergirl:

    We are going to CN this summer we have been to CSS the last two summers. I have a couple of questions:

    1. We are also beer drinkers. At CSS I drink Heineken every night in the ballon bar. Will I be able to get it at CN. I need a break from Red Stripe and wouldn't drink Miller Lite if you paid me to.

    2. We usually get at Cassanova three times or so in a trip. Will be find food similar to that at CN. I don't eat Asian food at all.

    3. Unlike most people, we actually spend alot of time in the room. I am a very early riser (about 4), my husband is usually at least 4 hour behind me getting up. At CSS I sit on the balcony and read and watch the water. (We stay on the hill). We have booked an Oceanfront room at CN, am I going to be able to sit out on the balcony and watch the water.

    4. At CSS we ordered room service every afternoon, because we eat dinner late. Is there a place to get a snack(nachos, salad, etc.) around about 5 o'clock.

    Thanks in advance for your time.

  9. #9

    Default

    Beergirl,

    Glad to hear you had a great time.

    Nice review.

    Life is good

  10. #10

    Default Francine - we missed you

    Hi Francine,

    We really missed seeing you and Art this year - I think it's the first year we haven't met up with you.

    Happy New Year - see you down the road to Negril!

    Beergirl

  11. #11

    Default Answers for Hawgfan

    Hi Hawgfan,

    I'll try to answer your questions:

    1. Heineken: While we've heard Heineken is available in the Piano Bar, we've never bothered, and we can't seem to stay up late enough to enjoy the Piano Bar much. Red Stripe is great for us. If you don't like Red Stripe, you probably don't care for Caribe, either. If you just NEED the Heineken, try going across the street to the convenience store. They MAY sell it there, and you can load up your mini bar as needed.

    2. Restaurants: You'll enjoy really great food at CN. Be sure and reserve Otaheite as soon as you arrive. You can only make one reservation at a time, but pop up daily and see what's available. You'll enjoy the food there - very similar to Cassanova in choices and service level. But, don't sell Heliconia or Cassava Terrace short. I had the best mushroom rissoto I've ever eaten in Heliconia this year.

    3. Balcony: Yes, you'll love sitting on your balcony/patio watching the water. You'll be much closer to the water, and the soft sound of the surf lulls you into a sense of tranquility. While the balconies may be a bit smaller than some rooms at CSS, they're wonderfully relaxing. We had a garden room, with a view of the spa, and watched the egret, heron, turtles, woodpeckers and doves every morning. If you're up reading at 4 am, though, I'd consider taking a book light, as the balcony sconces aren't bright enough to read in the dark.

    4. Snacks: Yes, you'll be able to get snacks all afternoon at Heliconia (Beach Grill). You can order burgers, jerk chicken, fries, onion rings, etc. Plus, there's a self-serve meat pattie case, and self-serve nachos with hot cheese sauce and trimmings. Don't forget the self-serve ice cream and soda machines! You can take the tray from under your coffee pot, load it up with snacks, and take it back to your balcony to enjoy if you want an afternoon snack. Much faster than room service, in our opinion. There's also a popcorn machine in the Games Room, always stocked. You won't go hungry, I promise.

    I think you'll enjoy CN. Hint: Don't spend all your time in your room. I don't think you will, as the rooms aren't as beautiful as at CSS. The people are very friendly, as well as the wonderful smiles of the staff.

  12. #12

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Beergirl View Post
    We were fortunate enough to have enough airline miles to cover our airfare this year, so we decided to extend our vacation from the usual 10-11 days to 14, Dec. 3 to 17th. This is our 7th visit to CN. Twice, we've split our stays between CN and CSA. So, after much discussion over many beers, we decided to give the north side of the island a small try this time, just 4 days at CSS. We didn't want to miss any time with our Brit friends that we meet at CN every year, and we were bringing a newbie couple from home with us.....

    Beergirl- I enjoyed reading your critique of both CSS and CN! I would love to see the slideshow when completed. I have only been to CSS (May 2005) but now might be inclined to look into CN after our visit this year to CSS in Feb. 2011.
    Jon & Heather
    May '05, Feb '11 - CSS

    Making arrangements for February 2012!

  13. #13

    Default

    Beergirl, great review and comparison between CN and CSS. We LOVE CN and would love to see the other side of the island and CSS is the one I would consider, so it it is good to see someone who loves CN compare them. One note...you said the water dispenser didn't work in the beach grill...we were there in November and the soft drink machine DID dispense water....i have it every day with my nachos. I agree it would be a waste and not environmentally friendly to use the water bottles all the time. Maybe it wasn't working and hopefully they will fix it.

  14. #14

    Default No water at beach

    Hi Cleversole,

    I think you're thinking about the dispenser inside the beach grill (by the nachos and ice cream). I'm talking about the dispenser directly on the beach.

    This is the one that was NOT giving out tap water in early December. All we could get was soda water and Pepsi products.

    I agree it needs to be fixed, but at that time, even if you asked the red flag staff specifically for ice water, they would bring bottled water rather than tap ice water.

    Beergirl

  15. #15

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    Beergirl, you are exactly right. That is the one I was thinking about. Can't wait to go back. No countdown yet....TOOOOOO Far away.

  16. #16

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    We also love CN, but CSS captured our hearts to in a different way. This year we are doing a split going to CSS for a week and then CN for a week. We figure we will end up at our very favorite resort to "cap off" the trip in grand style.

    Hawgfan, just for clarification there is only room service available in the morning and it is the same options as CSS. You will have a fabulous time. We usually end up getting a bowl of nachos in the evening before heading to our room to get dressed for dinner.
    Juliann & Jeff
    Jamaica Soon Come

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