July 14th, 2014, 03:21 AM #1
- Join Date
- Jul 2013
A Couple Swept Away.. Our VERY LONG CSA Review
Settle in and grab a snack because this is going to be a record breaker. We went on our first trip to Couples and Jamaica in September and I've neglected to post this review until now. Forgive me! We stayed in an atrium suite 9/6-14. A little about us, we are early 30s living in Rhode Island although I am originally from Indiana and dbf is from Colorado. I sell jewelry for a living but I used to work in Hotels/Resorts and he's a chef. We're big foodies and we have high yet realistic expectations when it comes to Hotels/Restaurants. I'm so happy to report that CSA did not let us down. Although this property is certainly not perfect, it was definitely perfect for us. As we and so many others stated during our trip, if you can't have a good time at CSA, its your own fault. Lets dig in...
We arrived on Friday morning around 11am on Airtran. Because the first segment of our flight was on Southwest, we got the free checked bags which was a major bonus although in the end I probably could have pared down a bit on the packing. I booked Club Mobay arrival and departure before we left so that was a nice way to start the vacation, even if the airport was pretty quiet. We were escorted through the whole process and I would highly recommend it. Even though it did not save us much time in Customs due to it being early in the day and low season, we loved the VIP treatment! We were led to the Couples Lounge to check in, then we went right next door to the Mobay lounge for our first Rum Punch and some Jamaican sandwiches. Yum!! We chatted with a lovely couple who were headed to Tower Isle and after about 15 minutes, we were notified that the bus was ready to go. We were going to the resort with a lively group of older couples who were a bit loud with the dirty jokes, but we mostly just found them amusing. Some of them seemed put off by the porters asking for tips but I had read of this beforehand and was prepared. I can't really be mad at someone trying to earn a living, ya know? We tipped the guy $5 for 3 bags.
We had been hoping to use TimAir but decided to save the $$$ and take the bus which was fine. We sat near the front of the bus and the driver was entertaining and very informative, telling jokes, pointing out the local area and even some movie filming locations along the way. I did enjoy seeing some of the countryside and driving along the coast was beautiful. I loved all the goats! When we drove through Lucee it became very clear to me that these people are struggling more than I ever imagined. We saw one man whose rags were so torn, all his bits were showing! It hurts my heart to see how poor they are.
I felt very safe for the first half of the journey until someone pulled out in front of our bus and the driver had to slam on his breaks, barely avoiding an accident. About that time the clouds rolled in and there was a very heavy downpour. It made me a bit nervous, especially when the roads seemed pretty flooded as we pulled into Negril, but we made it safe and sound with a brief stop at CN to drop some couples off. Dbf had finished my rum punch for me at the airport and was needing a bathroom bad after the long drive so he ran off the bus in the CN lobby to find one and we were still on our way in 5 minutes time. CSA is only about 5 minutes past CN.
When we pulled up to CSA around 1:30 I was so relieved to be off the bus, but I think the rain was making me more anxious than anything. We tipped the driver $10 and I headed to check in. I wasn't exactly sure where the desk was at first but I guessed to my right (which was correct). Oddly that wasn't all that obvious at first. Although the front desk staff were very courteous, they were definitely not overly friendly. They had all my pre check in information so checking in was a snap. I asked if there was any way to request a certain room if it was available and I could tell the girl was not thrilled but she said that yes if it was available. I requested first floor in one of three buildings and she stated that she had a room for me but it was not quite ready yet. I was more than happy to wait and since it was still raining heavily, she sent us off to lunch at the Palms.
After lunch we headed back to get our room but it was still not done yet. No worries, we were patient. But I have to say this was one of the few times where we felt there was an area of opportunity for Couples. Because it was still seriously raining outside and we didn't have a room yet, we were pretty much stuck in the lobby. We wandered around, checked out the (tiny!) gift shop, then we waited in chairs for a while. By this point the combination of heat and rain was making it quite humid and uncomfortable. I had asked if we could get an umbrella, but the girl at the FD told me that those were only supplied in the room. It wasn't the waiting, that was our own fault for requesting a specific room, however we just felt sort of trapped in the lobby when we would have really enjoyed exploring the resort a little under an umbrella while we waited. Soon enough though, the room was ready around 3:30 pm, the rain was dissipating, and we were off to our atrium suite!!
The room was absolutely fantastic and very centrally located. We were in the front line of buildings so we were further away from the road. For those worried about road noise, its definitely present when you're closer to the road but from our room we'd usually only hear 1 or 2 distant sounds per day and it was never bothersome.
The furniture in the room was very fresh and simple - dark wood, crisp white sheets, and lots of light. One area of improvement in the room would be for them to remove some of the shelves in the closet and add an actual dresser. The shelves were slotted and really weren't ideal for storage and didn't provide much usable space for your things. Our first floor atrium did not have a view of the ocean, however we were only maybe 30 steps from the beach & bar. It was excellent to be able to go in and out of our patio door and we spent a ton of time with new friends on the veranda. Just be careful because several times our turndown person locked us out of the patio! We ended up having to leave a note on the door to keep the deadbolt unlocked. The Hammock was incredibly comfortable and made for the perfect location to take a nap during an afternoon rainstorm.
The bathroom didn't have a lot of light as has been stated, but when you stood right at the sink, I found it to be just enough to do my makeup, and the magnified mirror was excellent. The shower-head was the rainfall kind and we LOVED it (in fact we bought one for our shower when we got home!), great water pressure but it usually took several minutes for it to even get warm. One day I waited over 10 minutes and it was still only tepid. Also if we were both showering, sometimes only one of us would get a hot one. But its Jamaica - NO WORRIES! Cool water can feel great after a long beach day.
I especially loved the window in the shower. I know this may sound strange but I often felt like I was showering in a tree house! The window is high enough that you can leave it open as you shower and it was especially nice during a rain storm.
We did see a few of the micro ants in our room, however I discovered I'd left an unopened tiny granola packet from Seagrapes out and they'd found their way in. My fault! Besides, this is the tropics, bugs are to be expected from time to time. We both slept wonderfully and although the room only had screens, with the shutters closed and the AC on it was very cold and dark. The bed was on the firm side but I found it to be great for my back, very comfortable and I slept great. There was glass on the side of the room where the "atrium" is (facing the adjacent room) which was enough to keep all sounds from neighbors out. We only heard them on the balcony occasionally. One thing to keep in mind though is that at night with the lights on before those shutters are closed, you are totally on display to your neighbors.
One thing I was not prepared for was just how loud the tree frogs were going to be. I never thought I would say this, but there is nothing as enchanting as being serenaded to sleep by the tree frogs. At night, as we wandered the winding paths of CSA with a drink in hand, following the dim lights, listening to the music of the tree frogs, sometimes I just had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't just an amazing dream. But seriously first timers, imagine how loud you think they'll be then double or triple that - they're LOUD!
I know many people say - at CSA it insn't about the rooms - but for us I couldn't disagree more!! We absolutely loved our room and it didn't take long to feel like home. Our room was in the area of the resort overlooking the wedding gazebo/koi pond and this area is extremely quiet!! Because its right in the center of the resort, the only people who come by were heading to the rooms right there and they were few and far between. We loved sitting out on the veranda, it felt like our own personal jungle sanctuary!
To make it feel even more like home, we really enjoyed the kitties who visited us daily. They are very pleasant and many will even let you pet them! We made sure to give them plenty of treats so I'm sure that's why we usually had a pack on our porch at night, which we loved! One night they even caught a huge beetle that was under our hammock. Good kitties.
The resort really does seem like a total labyrinth and the first night I was worried we wouldn't find our way back to the room because at night the resort is very very DARK!! We followed some other's advice from the board and stuck to the beach when walking across property at night and this helped us immensely. However by the end of the trip we had explored so much and had a back way to get everywhere.
The very best thing that came from our room location was us meeting our upstairs neighbors. We happened to be on the snorkeling tour together on our 2nd full day and saw them on the balcony above us later. We ended up sharing a table at lunch and were pretty much inseperable the whole week. It was great to be able to break off and do some girl/guy time. They actually got married the next day and we were their only wedding guests! They are hoping to return with us in September!
Our housekeeper was so good we barely ever saw her! We usually stayed at the beach til sunset unless we had an early reservation at Lemongrass and every evening we returned to our room to find it magically cleaned (she even hung up clothes, I wish I could have her at home!) It was so nice to come back to the room looking perfectly refreshed. She always left ample towels and beach towels and made sure we were sand free again. If we were still in the room or on our patio, she would always check if it was ok to do her work. One day she was singing along to 'I Shot the Sheriff" playing from my ipod - loved her!
Turn Down Service - Again, it was amazing to come home from dinner and find the sand removed again, everything put away, shutters (which there were a ton of!) all closed, and the covers turned down. I think they only missed one night of 8. The cards they leave on the pillow we never really did anything with.
Mini Bar Service -We mostly used the mini bar for the water, red stripe, coke for him and the occasional homemade Rum Punch or Vodka Ting. Because we were literally 30 feet from a beach bar, this was really only necessary at night. Every day they supplied 4 waters and redstripes, and one each coke, coke light, ting. We did order most of the stuff but next time we'll only order a few things. But don't forget the sparkling wine so you can make mimosas with your room service in the morning!
The Palms - We had all 3 meals here and never had a bad one! Dinner here on Monday night was the international buffet which offered fresh carved lamb and made to order fajitas. The food was good but I would not rave about it as others have. It was just kinda that typical nice buffet quality food. We ate here again on Wednesday, the a la carte menu was good but I ended up forgoing my entree to eat at the make your own pasta station which was actually very good! Lunch offered fresh made sandwiches, seafood pastas, and a delicious dessert buffet. They were even making little pastries fresh!
The Breakfast buffet was probably my favorite here. The omelets to order were great and we didn't have to wait too long as we ate later in the morning. The bacon was cooked just right and the croissants were absolutely heavenly!!! We both really enjoyed the make your own mimosa/bloody mary bar as well. There were so many choices, anyone could find something to enjoy. The corned beef hash and breadfruit was surprisingly yummy - give it a try.
Patois - We ate dinner here our 2nd night which was Lobster night, and I wish we'd dined here more often. The best salad I had while at CSA I had this night - a fried goat cheese salad. Creamy warm goat cheese inside a light crispy coating on top of the greens... to die for!! The bread with dipping oil was yummy, the appetizers were delicous and the Lobster Tail with Pumpkin Buerre Blanc sauce was absolute perfection!!! To be honest I am not a big seafood person but I am always trying to expand my tastes so I made it a point to try as much seafood on this trip as I could. Lets just say, the seafood was probably my favorite part! We also tried the Goat cheese pizza and it was very tasty. I had a great Burnt orange cheesecake for dessert. Something I came to notice, although the cheesecake was very delicious at all the restaurants, it is served at room temp in Jamaica so if thats not your thing, you may be disappointed. Get it to go and chill it in your room!
We had breakfast here only once due to the fact that most mornings we ordered the room service and were still full from the previous night's dinner. I found the banana stuffed french toast to be good but a bit too sweet and rich to order on its own. The omelet with callaloo was awesome. After a few days we realised that pretty much everything was better with callaloo in it! We also enjoyed the fruit smoothie. Service here was always prompt.
This was not my favorite restaurant but we never had a bad meal here. We ate here twice, both times at 6:30 and we were seated on the coveted balcony by the torches. At that time of night it is rather warm up there but it was never too uncomfortable. The ambiance was so worth it! We loved the appetizer sampler so much we got an extra one for our group of 4 the 2nd time we went. I found the soups here to be a bit strangely flavored (especially the coconut one, i had it with beef and it was just odd to me) but my boyfriend loved the sweet and sour soup. The Pad Thai was good but not great, the Noodle Broth with chicken we ordered extra spicy and was delicious, the salad was very good, and the Tempura Banana dessert was the best I had all week! Although I loved the appetizers and dessert, the soups and entrees here just didn't wow me. Most everyone I spoke with including my boyfriend loved it though, so I think most people like it more than me. Also this was one place if you ate the appetizer and a soup or salad, one entree per person is more than enough if you want to be able to even taste your dessert. We were always completely stuffed leaving here and there would be plenty of food left over!
Our first day we decided to try to get in to Feathers that night and we were pleasantly surprised to find that they had many times available. We chose 8:30 so we could get a little beach time in. Unfortunately when we were unpacking we noticed that somehow he had forgotten to pack pants!! We went straight to the concierge in a panic asking where we could go buy some in a hurry and the gentleman was so wonderful, he told us to relax, they would loan us a pair for dinner! No worries mon. This was a real Wow because it easily could have put a damper on our stay. While waiting outside the restaurant for the pants to arrive, we met a tiny orange kitten who was absolutely adorable and very loving. I really enjoyed the ambiance in Feathers, it really felt like fine dining and your drinks were replaced before you finished them. Also if you sit in the booth side you get the squishiest comfiest pad to sit on - its really great!
The food was very delicious and rich! Some of the dishes that stand out are the Braised Oxtail Ravioli appetizer, crispy calamari, the Jerk Chicken Amuse from the Chef, the fork tender filet, and the lamb dish. The Lionfish with fried rissoto ball was out of this world delicious!! The deserts were decent but nothing that would make me want to go back for more. A couple downsides to Feathers, we ate there on Friday and Tuesday and the menus were virtually identical. I would have liked to see the menu change after 4 days however there was a new menu by the following Friday. Also our last night we made the reservation at 9 and we were the last ones seated. After a bit, we were the last 2 in the restaurant which was uncomfortable so next time I'd go earlier.
As to portion sizes, everything is small because it is designed to be eaten in many courses. If you don't want to try everything, order 2 entrees or double something. They have no problem accomodating you and often suggest you do this anyway if you're having trouble deciding. We always ordered surf n turf at Feathers.
We enjoyed eating here overlooking the ocean and swim up bar. Somehow we always ended up stranded here during a rainstorm but that was fine since it has covered tables, a bar and hot tubs right there. The food was typical pub type food with some Jamaican extras. We enjoyed the beef patties, onion rings, pizza, jerk chicken and nachos. My boyfriend especially loved the Jerk Chicken Sandwich and fries. I really didn't care for the burger, it kind of tasted like a meatball. There were a ton of bees here due to the self serve drink station being so close by. A side note, we actually enjoyed the Grace Ketchup and it tasted great on onion rings when mixed with the A1 they supply.
Probably the only place we ate every day without fail and there's a reason why - its so good!!!! We loved sitting so close to the water and I was glad seating here was further from the drink station and bees. The Snapper tacos and snapper sandwich were very yummy. The sweet potato chips with jalapeno dip were amazing as was the roasted veggie goat cheese pita (I wish I'd heard more about this one before!! Didn't try it til our last day and I was kicking myself bc it was so delicious!) Dbf loved the beet/goat cheese salad and had that often. We did try the Jelly Coconut but as neither of us are that into coconut water, it was just so-so. But thats just our taste, we saw many people enjoying them.
We ate room service breakfast almost every day and we found it to be very prompt. It was such a convenience to lay in bed at night and decide what time we wanted room service to arrive in the morning (this was our wake up call) and pick out our order. You just check off your choices and hang the card on the door. One night I did put the card out at 12:45 (they say put it out before 1am) and we woke up late realizing it never arrived... well I looked out and the card had fallen off the door. Not a big deal to us, just forced us to try the buffet at the Palms. We started off ordering the pastry basket but we soon fell in love with the croissants and started just ordering those so we could have more of them lol. We also tried the yummy fruit plate, granola which I found to be a bit bland but it did seem freshly made, and the yogurt which was just a dannon cup. One day I woke up early enough to secure a Palapa and we carried our room service breakfast to the beach. BEST BREAKFAST EVER!!!! Highly recommend you try that - just leave the glass in the room!
We were right in front of the Sunset Bar on the older side and that was pretty much home base. We always hung out on the beach next to it and with it being so close to our room, often if we were hanging out on the patio we'd just run to the bar for a drink. We had great service there most of the time and the drinks were sooo good. Favorites were the famous Dirty Banana which I must have had 100 of haha, Nutty Colada, and rum punch. Me and a friend went to get a few drinks for us and the boys one afternoon when it was sprinkling and we got talked into doing a bob marley shot with a few other people. It wasn't all that tasty but it was still pretty fun to do. I think I'm going to kick off our future stays with a Bob Marley shot!
Service here was almost always prompt and friendly. But remember, Jamaican time is a REAL thing! Expect to wait. One time I ordered a drink from a bartender who was washing a glass. Now in America, we'd put the glass down and make the drink first. This guy continued washing the glass, put a few things away, cleaned off his work space, then turned to me and said "Now I will make you your drinks". Go with the flow and RELAX. Don't sweat the small things like this.
Located upstairs in the Palms and just across from the entrance to Lemongbrass. This was very good but the drinks are STRONG! I especially loved the Chocolate Martini which I was sure to get when visiting Lemongrass. One time they even drizzled an A for me in my martini haha.
We rarely used the Bamboo Bar.
Manager's Cocktail Reception - This was on the same night as the Repeaters dinner and both are in the Great House area. When we got to the area I noticed tables of Champaigne outside and I remember thinking it seemed odd that it was outside. See the thing is, we were at the REPEATERS DINNER without even knowing it because someoene was standing directly in front of the sign! We all got Strawberry Kiss Champaigne cocktails - YUMMY - and were toasting when a lady walks up and introduces herself as the Hotel Manager. Now ladies and gentleman, I've read the boards enough to realize in that moment that we were in the wrong place lol! She asks DBF if we've been to CSA before and of course he says NO. Oh, she says, which couples have you stayed at before? Oh this is our first time - he blurts out. LOL, needless to say she VERY gracefully told us we were in the wrong place but asked us to stay and finish our drinks. We hightailed it out of there bc more managers were trying to talk to us lol, but not before grabbing another Strawberry Kiss!
Those cocktails had me pretty buzzed and I didn't even realize it yet. We went upstairs to the same room we did the Casino night in and one of the Mento bands from the beach was playing! We came in at the tail end so some of the stuff had been pretty thoroughly picked over but specialty drinks and snacks were tasty, By the time we left I was pretty darn buzzed and I promised to buy their CD on the beach hahaha.
Piano Bar - By the time we got to the bar the singing had already started and I have to say we were pretty underwhelmed. There seemed to be one girl who was sort of hogging the mic, and really the only people who could participate were the 15 or so people seated at the piano. Everyone else was sort of just supposed to sit around awkwardly listening to others sing and joke, but really it was hard to follow if you weren't seated up there. Needless to say we never went back. Maybe next time we'll plan to get there right at the beginning to grab a coveted piano seat. It could also have just been an off night.
Can't really comment because when we were there the party hadn't really started yet. We were too tired from long beach days to stay up dancing. That's what next time is for right??
We were very confused at first because we mistakenly thought this took place in the actual casino (which is actually what the guide says) but it was a ghost town and did not look appealing at all. We were directed to the room off of the Piano Bar. At first it was a bit empty but after a bit quite a few people showed up and we were pretty much obsessed with playing Crown & Anchor with Travis who was tons of fun! At the end we used our play money and even though another lady cheated (really guys, really??) we were lucky enough to get a big bottle of coconut rum that we then gifted to our friends since they got married the next day.
Snorkeling - We really could have done this a few times a day, we loved it so much! Next time we will book an outside tour though because they really push you to wear life jackets and that was a bummer. I'm not complaining, I get it for safety and I'm sure I could have taken it off but I felt pressured to wear it. As a very strong swimmer, it was hard to dive closer to the reefs or take underwater photos since you keep floating up! We went to Cuba, Mexico, and the Bahamas twice.
Snorkeling takes about 1 hour total. 15 mintues out to the reef where they give you some quick instructions then let you jump off the side and go on your own. They tell you generally where to stay while swimming and offered to assist people who were inexperienced. 30 minutes in the water, then about 10-15 minutes back to the resort. One of the things I found interesting was that the snorkeling site was straight out in view of the hotel. When we stopped at the reef, I could still see CSA back in the distance.
Bahamas was our first stop and is definitely the weakest of the three. It had TONS if jellyfish but they were almost entirely the small non stinging kind. I wasn't expecting them at first and almost had a panic attack when I jumped in and realized I was running in to them! Bahamas was also the deapest of the three sites, I'd say maybe 10 -15 ft deep.
Cuba had much more fish to look at and was shallower. We saw many schools of brightly colored fish here. Big gray clouds were rolling in when we got on the boat to Cuba and we were worried our trip would be cancelled. They still took us out and said they'd keep an eye on the weather. It did start to sprinkle which was not an issue but the water got really rough and I went home with a belly full of saltwater. Ick. Mexico was by far the best! We saw huge schools of fish, very large coral, andapparently thats also where there is some wreckage but we never saw it. I'd say both of these reefs were under 10 ft deep.
On a side note, they will ask you which ones you've been to so that everyone can try new locations. Our last time however, they just asked for recommendations and unfortunately that ended up sending us back to bahamas for our 4th and last time because someone called that first.
Our first trip was Sunday at 11am and we had a resort Photographer along for the ride. He was excellent!! He dove down for sea urchins and starfish that we could hold in photos and got some really great shots of us in the water. He even took a picture of every couple on the boat kissing which I thought was sweet. That was the only trip with the photographer, and I'm still trying to figure out if its common for them to go or not. All of our following snorkeling trips were not on the weekend and were usually later in the day so maybe that had something to do with it?
We will definitely invest in our own snorkel gear next time as it would have been useful on the beach and nice not to have to share equipment lol. We ended up plunking down $30 in the gift shop for a couple pairs of goggles about half way through the week.
We booked our Cat Cruise Friday night when we arrived and the first available was Tuesday. They told us that they were doing some sort of work on a boat I think so Mondays were canceled for the time being. We were a bit disappointed as we would have like to do it again if possible and ours ended up being a rainy one (but still a great time!)
It had started storming around 1pm and we weren't sure if it would go, but as the water sports guy said, if you show up, you go. The rain didn't hamper the fun at all and we still swam in the Bat Cave. Mary was such a hilarious host and she has some serious moves!!! She kept everyone laughing and having a good time. Drinks were strong and plentiful. I got really cold so i wrapped in a towel and we kept extra towels wrapped in panchos so they'd stay dry for after the swim. This was a lifesaver!
I only have 2 complaints about the cat cruise, first there was no slide on our boat!!! We were so disappointed. And second, well, for the first half of our vacation, the resort had a large group often referred to by many as the "Wisconsinites" (yes they had their own nickname) there for a large wedding. They really were not a nuisance at all however our cat cruise was probably 98% from their party. So there was one guy in that wedding group that had appeared to have had one too many rum punches (and a good bit of dehydration!), and by the time we passed Ricks he was shaking badly. Now I understand that things like this happen but at that point the whole wedding group (and therefore most of the people on the Cat Cruise) became centered around this guy and sorta made us feel like we shouldn't be having fun anymore. Oddly when we got to the swimming part, his family strapped him to a life jacket and had him get in! I did my duty and gave Mary my seasickness bracelet to give to him although he may have been too far gone for that though lol. Overall we loved the trip, got smashed, swam in a bat cave, got soaked in the rain, and even did the Conga Line. We can't wait to do it again in better weather!
Palms Entertainment - A few nights we were subject to the house band and they were just alright (in our opinion, but we saw many others including the large wedding party enjoying them). Nice for listening to while dining but I wouldn't stick around for it. However the Silverbirds Steel Drum band were pretty awesome! At first it started off slow and I thought maybe they were overhyped but then they let loose. Not only do they play but they dance too!! The dancing did eventually take over the show which was a bit disappointing. I would have rather listened to more of their beautiful music but these kids do have great talent.
Never visited, whoops... Only gained 1 lb though!
Not "hot" so much as really warm. One of the two by the greathouse seemed really steamy but it was full the day we were there to try it and the others just never seemed hot enough for me. The one in the center of the property can get a bit loud so be concious of that when booking rooms adjacent to it. It only takes one loud voice...
Wow, what can I say? Warm, calm, crystal clear water, breathtaking views.... ahhhh...
The beach is as amazing as you dream it will be. The water is so calm in the morning it seems unreal. We usually showed up to the beach between 8:30-10. Early in the morning and in the evening we'd find many starfish in the water on the beach! We loved walking up and down the beach, sailing the Hobie Cats, swimming, and just floating on those heavenly floaties. Laying in the cool calm water, sippng a dirty banana, listening to reggae music softly on the ipod... that was my heaven. The day before our trip I bought an underwater digital camera on a whim at Target and it was worth every penny!! Even just for the fun it was to take underwater pics of each other and of all of the fish.
I knew we both loved the ocean but I honestly was a bit worried we may get bored sitting around all day... bahahahahahahaha... Sand Gravity hit us so hard that the day we'd planned on doing our trading places to CN - we didn't end up going!
We also never made it across the street to the fitness facility or spa! We soon realized after arriving that this was to be our relaxation vacation and we'd have to come back for all the activities we missed!
These guys are hilarious. I also think they may have one of the best jobs ever! They swim, snorkel, take you out on the hobie cats, and when they're not doing one of these activities, they're playing beach soccer or shooting the breeze with everyone. Loved getting to know these guys. We especially enjoyed Clayton, who took us out for the hobie cat lesson after we missed the scheduled time. They had dbf convinced to do the Night snorkel but I chickened out so we didn't go. I've promised him we'll do it this time, but I'm still super nervous about it!
Ring ring ring, hello? hello? hello? (I couldn't resist!!)
The vendors are present but really not a nuisance at all. Some are more persistant than others but while you're on property, as others have said, a polite "no thanks" does the trick. The Ring Ring Ring guy got old by day 3 and became sort of a beloved memory by the end of our trip lol. Once you are off property though, you have no security keeping an eye on you and the vendors are much more aggressive.
Our first full day at CSA we had the brilliant idea to walk down the beach to check out the vendors and Margaritaville after lunch. By that time we were hot, sweaty, and still as pale as we've ever been. We had no Jamaican bracelets or jewelery on to make us look like we'd been there for a while. In other words, we were fresh meat. I made the mistake of bringing $35 dollars with us and we came back pretty much with no money after paying what we would later discover to be double the going rate for the stuff we bought.
One of their tactics is to shake your hand for a greeting and slip you "something" in the handshake. Just to try they'll say but its clear they expect payment. Sometimes it was hard to get them to take no for an answer. As we were sweating, they kept telling us not to be nervous and they would try to get you to come inside or sit down so they could then pressure you to buy something. I came to realize they don't really like you to browse like we do in the US. As soon as you start to look at something they start hounding you to name your price. I like to window shop before I buy so this got a bit annoying.
On our last full day we set out with a plan. Dbf wore his new bracelet, we both wore our golden tans and newfound confidence in dealing with vendors, and we set out toward Negril again. We decided if we were feeling pressured, we'd ask the other person's opinion. Their job was to offer to buy it for $5 or say no. This time I had the money in seperate parts of my little purse so I could just pull a few ones out at a time and not make it obvious I was carrying $40. We'd enter a shop or visit a table, choose one item we really liked, then haggle a bit on price. This led to a very successful shopping trip! It was starting to sprinkle so they were covering their items with tarps, but they weren't going home either. Rain or shine they were going to stay til they made a sale. We felt pretty good about having spread our purchases out amongst all these hard working people.
There were people selling shot glasses, massages, driftwood carvings, tshirts, ash trays, picture frames, jewelry, fresh cooked lobster, conch shells and even a lady making custom anklets! The jamaican anklets were so adorable and definitely my favorite accessory of the trip. It is a beaded bracelet that loops around your ankle then goes down the foot to connect to your middle toe. Who needs shoes in Jamaica?!
Beach Musicians -
We became huge fans of Mr. Iceblock. What a voice! Loved his interpretations, definitely my fav. Several other Mento bands came through with tons of personality. It was awesome to tip a couple bucks for a private show on the beach!!
Excursions - Only one we did was the One Love Pub Crawl and it was definitely the highlight of the trip!! I emailed Lenbert after reading in the CSA Meetup forum that people were going on Wednesday. He immediately confirmed a 2:20 pickup time. He showed up around 2:30 and loaded us on. There were more people than seats but we sait in laps and made it work, noone really had to stand. He took us to our first stop which was at a lady's house! She was awesome, she had a bar set up on her kitchen table and she'd baked little savory pastries for us! Her dogs were adorable. She was so friendly and she told us alot about Jamaica and the trees growing around her property.
There were 8 total stops, the rest were mostly bars or hotel bars. We stopped at Xtabi and got to go into the bat cave for some great shots. We also went to Beladonna's which is a Jamaican lady who spent time in Italy. She sold homemade pizza straight from the oven for $2/slice. The children trying to sell nicknacks here made me very sad. They were so grateful when I bought the last 2 slices of pizza for them. I had to tell them to share nicely lol.
We stopped at the famous Seastar Inn. It was rather dead but it was happy hour so 2 for 1 drinks - yea! The place had a great atmosphere so I can imagine when its busy its a lot of fun. Drinks most places were $3 but I think they were more expensive at Xtabi & Seastar.
Last stop was a great bar right on the cliffs with a perfect view of 7 mile beach and the sunset. We hung out with the Rastafari and danced our drunk butts away the whole way back to the resort. A group of us from the pub crawl had dinner together that night at the Palms - great making friends!
Bugs - Our first evening dbf decided to try the hammock out. I swear I turned away for a second, looked back and he had a tumor on his head! It was the biggest Mosquito bite I'd ever seen! Luckily I had bought a Sting Eze stick at the pharmacy before leaving so we were covered. You just rub a little solution on the bite and it immediately takes the itch and swelling away. You'll just be left with a tiny pink dot - not bad! The sand fleas were luckily never a problem for us and we did spend copious amounts of time on the beach at sunset. We bought curly citronella bracelets at the grocery store at home and they became our anti-bite lifeline all week. Never got a bite while wearing one. At night we'd always spray legs and arms before dinner and we walked the beach several nights with no issues.
I never saw anyone get stung by a bee but there was always a swarm around the soda dispensers and even at the bars we'd see many circling. I'm terribly allergic to bee stings so I was nervous. If you are too, don't forget an epi pen.
I was a bit nervous about this at first but after experiencing a sting, I now realize it wasn't a big deal. Dbf was first to get a sting a few days in. He started running like a mad man from the water yelling at me something was in his pants. Well it wasn't there anymore but it had gotten his bum - LOL! Luckily our room was so close he got to the shower fast but it didn't help. He went to the gift shop and bought hydrocortozone cream and the sting went away pretty much immediately along with the pain.
A couple days later we were swimming late day and someone with goggles warned us that there were many floating just above the sand. I decided to get the heck out of dodge only to run in to several while trying to leave the water. I had huge red welts around my knee, up my leg, and up my arm. I ran to the room, couldn't find the cream and made a quick decision to try an "all natural" remedy in the shower. Happy to report that works too. As soon as the sting was treated, again red mark and pain were gone. The pain was minor, more of an irritation.
Packing - I read every page of the "I wish i woulda thought of that" post and I was over prepared lol. When someone couldn't sleep I had ear plugs. When someone spilled I had a clorox wipe. When someone got bit I had my sting stick. It became a running joke lol. Things I'm glad I packed - extra bathing suits and coverups - you won't be wearing "real clothes", chlorox wipes, travel detergent, sting stick, citronella tea lights for patio, bug spray, hand sanitizer wipes, bug repellant bracelets, spray sunscreen for head/ears etc, & an underwater camera.
Things I could have left at home - bungee cords, bendy straws (carried them all week, only used once or twice), too many clothes, too many shoes, too many toiletries. Things I wish I'd brought - hydrocortozone cream, one more bathing suit each (we had 3 each), more cash in low bills, more gifts for employees, snorkel.
There is a tiny one as mentioned before in the main lobby. The other two are in the Greathouse. One is smaller and has mostly tshirts, robes, and a few souveniers. The other one is very large and has a ton of stuff. We later found that almost every item there is sold by the beach vendors and at a much cheaper rate so try to get what you can from them! We love Couples but these people can really use the business!
We had amazing luck with this if what I read on here is correct. We had a very healthy signal in our room, we even streamed a movie one night before bed and dbf watched James Bond while I was getting ready another day. We were able to use this to facetime with home several days as well. I even got to call them from the beach and show them our view! One thing I did notice is that the signal fades in and out as you move. There are actually several different signals and depending on your location, one will work better than the other.
On our last night a large group decided to have a LOUD gathering on their atrium balcony across from ours and this was disappointing for me. I had wanted to fall asleep to the tree frogs in the hammock but all i could hear were drunk people. Dbf told me to get over it and go to bed which i did lol. Our last morning we got up at 6am to enjoy some beach time before leaving. We had a farewell breakfast at the Palms and enjoyed our last Dirty Bananas and Red Stripes at the Sunset Bar before leaving. They picked up our bags at 10am, and we were to leave for the airport at 11 am for a 3:30pm flight. The front desk was pretty full of people waiting that morning but I was patient. We made sure to fill out every name we could think of on the comment card and the workers really seemed to appreciate it when we mentioned it to them. We had a bill of about $70 for the random things we bought and a couple phone calls. Phone calls from room to home were just a few minutes and cost just a few bucks per call.
After checking out and a brief wait, the busses arrived and we were on our way. We stopped at CN for 10-15 mins to pick up a couple people then our driver took off like it was a race and we were at the airport in just over an hour. Made sure to tip him extra for that! We went through the Mobay line but there really wasn't a wait for the regular line anyway. It was a bit of a walk to get to the Mobay departure lounge (which is probably 5 times the size of the arrivals one). I was so relieved when we went down into the lounge to be away from the airport because it was actually pretty packed with people. There were 3 rooms I believe, a regular lounge, a family one, and a quiet one. Ironically I poked my head in each and the "Quiet" room was the loudest. We enjoyed yummy patties, sandwiches, plantain chips, and as many amaretto sours/red stripes as we could swallow. Great service - they kept the drinks coming. LOVED Club Mobay both times.
This was the vacation of a lifetime. We couldn't stop raving about CSA to family and friends after returning. We're currently just 55 days from our first trip as repeaters!!! The very best thing about Jamaica and CSA was the people. They all had such a great attitude, even though they have so little. We asked how they liked working at Couples and they all said how well they were treated and how happy they were to be able to work there as opposed to other resorts. I guess some resorts work these people like animals! So glad Couples takes care of them. We took a few necklaces for the girls (I work in a jewelry store) and this year we plan on making goodie bags for the guys and girls. I have to show my gratitude to them some way other than just writing their name down and tipping is VERY strongly discouraged. Yes we saw it go on at a couple of the bars, No I never saw anyone turn it down but then again I never saw them pick it up either.
Whew, can't believe how much I wrote, but I hope some of you enjoy reading this review as much as I enjoyed reading them in anticipation of my first trip. Bottom line, if you go to CSA with a positive vibe and decide ahead of time that you won't get worked up over the small things, you will have an AMAZING week!! Looking forward to spending a week with some of you in September!
Here is the link to our photos, enjoy!
Aaly & Zach
Last edited by Aaly; July 17th, 2014 at 12:07 AM. Reason: Added photo link
July 14th, 2014, 05:06 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
Aaly & Zach, It was great meeting you guys....Your review is so on point I could have written it myself. We are headed back in November and plan on a One Love Bus Tour. Hopefully we will have as great a group this time as last. Having stayed at CTI and CN numerous times, I would find it hard to return to those resorts after going to CSA. The beach just cannot be matched. Hope you guys have fun in and make sure you post a review!
July 14th, 2014, 05:48 PM #3
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Great write-up. I understand why it took you 10 months to complete.
Love that area of the resort where your Atrium was located. So quiet and the Sunset beach bar becomes home. One of my favorite times of the day at CSA is 3-5 PM or so at that bar. They used to have a radio tuned to the local station. As Jeff Spicoli said: "All I need are some tasty waves and a cool buzz and I'm fine." Add in a Red Stripe, a VX and tonic or whatever and the sun shining on that gorgeous water and all is good.
July 14th, 2014, 08:25 PM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2012
"There were 8 total stops, the rest were mostly bars or hotel bars. We stopped a few times and got to go into the bat cave for some great shots. We also went to Jamaican lady who spent time in Italy. She sold homemade pizza straight from the oven for $2/slice. "
This made me giggle a little - we went on the bar crawl and for some reason, this lady charged me $8 for a slice and everyone else $2. She did give me a fresh mango from her yard though :-) I cut it up and used it to make mango water back at the hotel. It was a great time. Great review!!!
July 15th, 2014, 09:37 AM #5
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and well written review. Yup, I think you win the prize for the longest review ever! You even picked up on a couple of the small points that we would like to see improved, too, such as I would really like to see a full chest of drawers in the rooms vs. a few shelves. It was nice to hear the foodie perspective, too. And we also love the kitties!
July 15th, 2014, 02:46 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
haha jimpat1...great review! can't wait to go back! i want to find one of those foot anklet things for a dear friend of mine...how do i do that? the watersports guys are the best!
CSA 2009, 2014 [20th anniversary]
July 16th, 2014, 06:55 AM #7
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
Yes!!! You win the award for longest Review!! Great job by the way!
Question...when there were jellies in the water had there been a storm? Any rough surf? We've been there several times and have never encountered jellyfish. Just wondering...might it be seasonal? We're back to CSA in 30 days! Woo Hoo!
Loved your review and all the details you included. Thanks for sharing! Hope you get back "home" again soon!
July 16th, 2014, 03:02 PM #8
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
I REALLY enjoyed your review! Well written & you certainly covered EVERYTHING!! It makes me a little 'Home' sick for CSA! It appears to me that you & Bdf 'got it' on your 1st visit! As the saying goes...Once you go, You KNOW!! So glad you had a wonderful time! THX again for your review & WELCOME to the CSA Family!
July 17th, 2014, 12:27 AM #9
- Join Date
- Jul 2013
Thanks everyone for your responses, so glad you enjoyed my review! I just updated it to add the link to our photo album, so feel free to check it out!
Julric - We loved getting to know you guys as well and I thought it was interesting to hear how much you guys fell for CSA as I know you really loved CTI & CN! We fell under the CSA spell as well obviously, lol. Just wish we were able to make it back with you guys at the same time. We're really looking forward to doing the One Love Pub Crawl again this time too!! So fun.
Jimpat1 - "All I need are some tasty waves and a cool buzz and I'm fine." Too True.
Jennc - Thats hilarious, at least you got something for the extra cash. I wonder if she thought you just looked generous?
wileeandrr - Try this -
ginjoe - There were storms every day, mostly for a short time in the afternoon. I don't know if the jellyfish are seasonal or not, but we only experienced them 2 of 9 days so they're not everywhere. I think my fear of them has actually gone down now that I know what the sting is like - really minor. Just bring the cream. Also have a fabulous trip!!! And save some dirty bananas for us, we're there in 52 days!
Thanks Bobandjudy & Chickie, glad you enjoyed the review!
July 17th, 2014, 12:09 PM #10
- Join Date
- Feb 2014
Great review! I can't wait to actually be there myself!
July 17th, 2014, 04:05 PM #11
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
It was a great review and an honest one. I find the comments about the jellyfish interesting. I have seen others post comments about them as well, and in 9 trips we have yet to see one, not that we really want to. I am wondering if it is time of year related, we go in late October and mid to late February. Anyway loved the review and in 96 days we will be there, having a Red Stripe or Rum Cream on the rocks while sitting at the Bamboo Bar, because it is the closest to where we normally stay, and I am usually on a stool there from about 3:30 to 5 or so every afternoon, chillin and and a grinnin.
July 17th, 2014, 08:50 PM #12
- Join Date
- May 2013
This was a great review and sweet refresher. We were there last year and cannot wait to return soon. I am happy to see the renovations are paying off.
July 19th, 2014, 04:49 PM #13
- Join Date
- Jul 2009
Aaly...was wanting to get a little something of that sort for a friend of mine in Jamaica. She is in Philly...thoughts?! ty
CSA 2009, 2014 [20th anniversary]
July 22nd, 2014, 01:12 PM #14
- Join Date
- Jul 2013
Wileeandrr - Apparantly their official name is Barefoot Sandals. Do a search on Amazon or Ebay if you are looking for a gift and you won't be at the resort any time soon. Obviously more authentic if bought in Jamaica, but there are a lot of styles available online. Good luck!
July 23rd, 2014, 09:45 AM #15
- Join Date
- Jul 2013
I guess their official name is Barefoot Sandals. If you aren't heading to the resort any time soon and you need a gift, check Amazon or EBay for that name. Tons of styles available, just less authentic. Hope that helps!
July 24th, 2014, 07:14 PM #16
- Join Date
- Jul 2013
Wileeandrr - not sure why the moderator will now approve me to let you know where to get them. They're official name is Barefoot Sandals. Look it up. Good luck!
October 30th, 2014, 01:32 PM #17
- Join Date
- Oct 2014
Thanks for the detailed review and tips. I'm a making my list and I will be going to the store to purchase the items you listed.
November 1st, 2014, 12:42 AM #18
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Thank you for such a balanced and thorough review! CSA is our special place and we are booked to return in January for our 10th trip. We too love the beach, the kitties, the incredible food, the simple yet clean rooms, and the amazing staff. We also get frustrated by some of the large and loud groups who are becoming more frequent at the resort. But we remind ourselves that we are in paradise and all is good. Enjoy your next visit!!
February 1st, 2015, 11:44 AM #19
- Join Date
- Dec 2012
This is great, thank you!
I was at CSA in Dec/Jan. 2005.
The new area warm
Nt open yet.
Can't WAIT to get back in Nov 2015.
Thank you for this.
February 1st, 2015, 07:03 PM #20
- Join Date
- Feb 2010
Thanks for sharing, i enjoyed reading your review.
February 1st, 2015, 10:42 PM #21
- Join Date
- Dec 2014
Thanks for a great report! 1st timers for a march trip. I definitely took notes!
February 3rd, 2015, 10:44 PM #22
- Join Date
- Feb 2015
Love, love ,love your review! Returning in April for our second trip and wish we had had all your tips the first time around. Thank you for taking the time to share!