Everyone kept telling me, "When you go, then you know." I thought,yeah right, a hotel is a hotel. I made plans to go here and there and everywhere. People said, "You will just want to sit on the beach." I thought, they don't know me. I like to be busy when I vacation.
Then, I arrived. And, um, can I just say that everyone was right.
We stayed the first week in Montego Bay at a small B&B called Emerald View Resort. So, we arrived at CSA on Dec. 13. The transfer was quick and easy with a short stop. We arrived to the much-anticipated champagne and cool towels. Check in was quick and easy, although we thought the shuttle driver was a little careless with our bags. The property was so beautiful, with lush trees spilling over wandering paths, flowers blooming everywhere and palm trees creating the perfect picture.
In no time, we walked into our suite in the Great House, 5106. I had requested something on the third or fourth floor and was so happy they were able to accommodate us! We did lots of research before we came. I practically lived on the Couples message boards, which were so helpful and interesting. It's a wonderful feature Couples offers. The room was just as I anticipated, simply decorated, roomy and clean. The balcony was our favorite. We could have spent the entire vacation enjoying the view, the breeze and the sounds of the ocean. We always slept with our door open so we could fall asleep and wake up to the crashing waves.
And, as others told us would happen, I immediately cancelled all plans to leave the resort. Maybe next time, but this trip we just tried to enjoy all the amenities CSA offered. I have to say, we failed! There was so much to do and see and eat that we don't feel like we experienced everything in just one week. I guess that's a good reason to repeat visit.
The first night we went to Casino night in the Aura lounge. My new husband cleaned up at Texas Hold 'em. Well, being from Texas, we had to represent. When it came time to bid, some other guests didn't follow the rules (only couples are suppose to pool money, not large groups) so we weren't able to buy what we wanted, but we don't hold that against the hotel. My stomach was a little queasy that night, so I asked for a drink to settle it. The bartender made me a girl scout cookie drink. Yummy. We closed the night, and several to follow, by sitting on our balcony after a quiet walk along the beach.
All the bartenders were quick and responsive. Sure, you might not have had instantaneous service, but we weren't the only guests on the property! I was slightly disappointed in drinks, which didn't seem very strong. I could only get a buzz by requesting a shot. We had a great time trying all the different drinks like the hummingbird and the Bob Marley (wow!)
The beach! What can I add that hasn't been said? The first morning, I jogged down the beach (to the left when looking at the beach) something I had been looking forward to for months. It was everything I wanted. With my headphones in, I didn't even have to talk to the vendors who roam the beach off-property. Even when we walked down the beach at dusk, we found that most people responded to a polite "No thanks." One time, I took the advice I had read on this board with a rather persistent vendor, telling him, "Respect, Mon. We said no thanks." We also noticed a big difference between Negril and Montego Bay. In MoBay, almost every person, including staff at Doctor's Cave and restaurants, offered us weed. At CSA, almost no one did.
I left a note with my sleeping husband when I went for the run. When I returned, I revised it to say I was at the Palms for breakfast. It was divine to enjoy the quiet as I ate my personally-cooked omelette (extra cheese) in front of the pool surrounded by so many people but in my own world. When I returned, he was still sleeping! So, I revised my note one more time and headed for the beach. Hee.
The sand was sugar soft. The water was warm and calm. Not much sea life. I spent hours sitting in a hammock or on a chair reading a book with my handy green flag. I almost felt bad using the flag because the numerous bars were always close. The chair cushions/floats were wonderful. For such a simple amenity, it added greatly to the experience. We enjoyed the traveling bands and meant to buy a CD. We always felt safe and the security guards never let you feel harassed.
The staff and service was wonderful! We started to feel bad because everyone could remember our names, but we kept forgetting people. We were shocked to discover that some of the staff we felt did the best job were practically new hires. That means CSA has a great training program. I would also add that most of the guests seemed to reflect the atmosphere CSA works so hard to create. Everyone was friendly and talkative and ready to share their vacation with us. If we had not been on our honeymoon, we definitely would have interacted more. Another thing to do on our next visit!
I tried to eat daily at the Sea Grape, always making sure to include those wonderful sweet potato chips, the red pepper hummus and some soft serve ice cream! We ate at Patois the most. Between my husband and myself, we would pig out on the great food, ordering three appetizers, two or three entrees and all the side dishes. Almost every dish was spectacular. The service was always top-notch, we never had a problem.
Reservations for Lemongrass and Feathers were easy to get. The night we ate at Lemongrass we enjoyed not only the food, but the entertainment. We enjoyed beautiful food while listening to beautiful music. Then, we went to the Martini bar for "dessert" while watching cultural dancers, fire dancers and a limbo artist.
We only ate dinner at the Palms once, but it was also great. My favorite was the cheesecake. Our table was on the edge of the dance floor, so we would eat some food and dance, eat some more and dance. Later, we went to Aura lounge and continued to dance. I wish you could make requests there, but it didn't keep us off the dance floor. We never had a complaint with the night life. There was lots to do until about 10 p.m when things quieted down. But that is just when we headed to the lounge again. It was great being just down the hall from the lounge, so convenient. It was amazing that we heard no noise from the lounge.
We really dressed up for dinner for Feathers. Like I was warned, we spent most of our time in bathing suits and coverups. Next time, I'll bring more swim suits, tops and skirts and fewer shoes, pants and shorts! The red wine there seemed above what the other restaurants serve, although I by no means am a wine expert. Upon a suggestion by the board, we requested the dessert sampler which did not fail to impress our stomaches or our eyes.
Unfortunately, we left our camera in the lounge and didn't discover it until the next morning. We were heartbroken to lose our honeymoon pictures. We called and reported it to security, just in case someone turned it in. The head of security surprised us by coming up personally to look into the matter. He had to search our room before he could file a complaint, which we understood. We couldn't tell if he thought we were stupid or lying or none of the above. But mostly we marked that up to not being familiar with the facial expressions and sense of humor of Jamaicans. Sarcasm and humor or difficult to get when you are part of the culture, so when you are unfamiliar it is easy to misread. But luckily for us, a couple we had talked with at the lounge (Alan and Dot, who visit for a month every year!) had our camera and found us by early afternoon. We absolutely hope to follow in their footsteps.
We went on the catamaran cruise. It was great to view the cliffside hotels and enjoy the rocking of the boat. The crew was interested in getting us to party. But I thought the rum punch was pretty icky. Beside, what did I need to drink up for? All my alcohol was free, booze cruise or not! I slide down the slide and dove into the water to explore a cave filled with large and small fossils. I was shocked at how strong the current was when you started to climb into the cave, which included a tiled-bar marked "Joseph's Bar." I cautioned my husband, who has back problems, not to swim all the way into the cave. I wish we had brought our snorkel stuff with us.
And we signed up for night time snorkeling. It was, as expected, a little scary, but entirely worth it, even with the small additional cost. We saw lobster, flute fish, sea urchin, octopus and a sting ray the size of a large coffee table.
Both the beach bonfire and the dinner on the beach were exciting and enjoyable. It was funny to listen to a Jamaican band play Christmas carols. We didn't go to the Casino, which was the size of a large living room and lined with slot machines and an electronic blackjack. And we missed out on Ultimate Chocolate. There was just so much to see and do! The Great House served us well! We also really enjoyed the computer room because we could sneak in late at night when it wasn't busy. My husband said they had the best coffee on the resort!
We visited the gym facilities. I had selected this resort over CN because of the gym, but again there was just so much to enjoy that I didn't get over there nearly enough. We enjoyed our free 30-minute massages. First, we visited the bar and had some flavored water and a smoothie. Then, we played a little pool before heading to the zen hot tub. How peaceful! The massages wrung out whatever little bits of stress or tension that had managed to hang on this long.
I wish all the schedules were in one place. The general schedule is easy to find and useful because it includes that day and the next, which makes it easy to plan. But the gym schedule is only at the gym and the water sport schedule, well, we never found it. In fact, we tried to take the water skiing class but an employee told us the wrong time, so we missed it. Hard to be disappointed when there is so much to do. We just took out one of the paddle boats instead.
We enjoyed a continental breakfast one morning, which made us feel spoiled.
The room was always cleaned and refreshed whenever we remember to take off the do not disturb. But we never get any of the towel animals. I don't want to get repetitive, but maybe next time.
We did tip toe off property once. The ATM machine on-property wasn't working, which was a small hassle. While we were off, we stopped by the local craft market. It was overwhelming and uncomfortable. Think of 50 vendors all with basically the same items who all want the $20 you have to spend. Too much pressure and the only time we felt unsafe. Instead, we did most of our shopping along the beach. Sure, the vendors are still pushy, but it was at least one-on-one. Beside, wether we buy a bracelet or not could have a significant impact on their weekly income. I might be pushy in that economy as well.
Our only real disappointment was with the mini-bar. It was a struggle to get it stocked and when it was stocked, it was definitely not with "top-shelf" liquor. When I think high-end vodka, I am at least thinking Grey Goose and such. This vodka was in a plastic bottle and had a Russian name. We still enjoyed the bar and drank it, but I think a tweak in the marketing or an upgrade in the liquor is needed. This is the only area we thought CSA over-promised and under-delivered and is in no way enough to keep us away!
Well, let me take one thing back. Our only disappointment wasn't the mini bar. Our biggest disappointment and one that still sticks with me to this day was leaving. It was so sad. We enjoyed our last breakfast at Patios (the waffles, yum!) walked the beach and said goodbye to our room.
I sound like a 16-year-old gushing about her first boyfriend but everything I am saying is true to my personal experience. CSA provided such a wonderful, perfect honeymoon, we started worrying about how we would ever top it.
I also have to give credit to all of you. My husband would ask simple questions (what type of electrical outlet and such) and I felt happy to be able to provide answers. Everything I read and the advice I received proved accurate. Next time, I know to believe you all!
This was our first all-inclusive experience and perhaps that makes a difference. We are laid-back, budget travelers who try to experience the real culture and be happy regardless. CSA sure made that easy.
Pixel, so great to see your review. We were first timers to CN at the end of November, so I remember you asking a lot of questions just before you went, same as I was. Of course, we weren't on our honeymoon (been married 18 yrs) but Couples brings the honeymoon back out in all of us. Such a great review of the trip. I agree with all you said about the help from the message board. I found the questions and information on here invaluable. I had the same thoughts you did about just laying on the beach, being in your bathing suit all the time, but like you, we found all that to be true as well. The goodbye bus comes WAY too soon and I have never had that happen before either. Usually ready to go home at the end of a vacation, but not this time. This was also our first time to a resort so maybe that is why we were so happy with it as well but Couples is definitely all they say it is, plus some.
Glad your honeymoon was so special. It is a wonderful way to start a marriage. We loved CN too....maybe sometime on a return trip you'll have to try it, and we will have to try CSA.
What a great review! Congratulations on your marriage. You stumbled on the perfect resort for "laid-back, budget travelers who try to experience the real culture and be happy regardless." Especially for your fist all-inclusive. We have been to many in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, and Mexico and CSA is our favorite. That may change in Dec when we give CSS a try.
Nice review pixel. CSA is such an amazing place. Our freinds wonder why we are going back for our fourth visit to the same place. I am one that almost always looks for different and new experiences, so it is hard to explain it to them. I tell them to try it someday, maybe then they will understand.
Glad that you enjoyed CSA and that we on the message board were able to help you out in preparing for the trip.
Pixel - I felt like I was there with you (almost!!) Do you remember the way the night air smelled?? That is something that remains with me....the combination of the flowers, ocean and sand really create a scent that is incomparable!!!
Thank you so much for the fabulous review!!! We can't wait 'til next Thanksgiving when we return to our paradise!!