Hi, My now husband and I were married in Nov (2009) at CSA and loved the whole experience. Our only comment is the rooms. They were cleaned and well kept but we prefer more refined digs. I know they're many CSA repeaters and pls know I mean no disrepect, I simply would like some reviews/comparisons with CSS. We are interested in staying in the one bedrm oceanview suites and from the pictures it appears to be more our 'style' but would love to hear from someone that has stayed in this room category. If at all possible from those who have stayed recently at both resorts (within last year or so) and what the pros and cons are for each when it comes to accommodations and beach. I know the mountainous terrain of Ocho Rios is like apples to the orange that is Negril's Seven Mile Beach, but I would like to hear a comparison.
We did the same - we started at CSA and, after three visits, tried CSS. Here's our opinion. We were at CSA in December of 2008 and CSS in October of 2009.
The rooms are bigger at CSS and you get amazing views of the ocean. The balconies are big (we stayed in a penthouse, but the suites you're talking about had big balconies, too). Decor-wise, you can tell from the pictures - white and blue motif with tiled floors versus CSA's white linens and wood slats.
The people at CSS are very nice. The food is really good. There's lots of hidden nooks and crannies and paths to explore. The spa huts where you get massaged cannot be beat - they are on cliffs above the ocean, so you can hear the ocean lapping against the rocks during your massage. Amazing. Very private-feeling, too. You don't see people walking along the beach like you do at CSA. Finally, CSS has CSA beat because of its proximity to Dunn's River Falls. That's something everyone should do at least once. Also, CSS provides an au natural option - not important to us and I can't comment on those facilities, but if that's something you're looking for, CSS has the edge there. CSS also has the mineral pool which was fun to get into. It has the mineral grotto, too, which was neat.
Now, for where CSS was lacking for us. First and most important (to us) - the beach. I read this critique on the message board before I went so I was prepared, but I was still surprised at how different the beaches were. The sand at CSS is squishier and of a little bigger grit. It's not powdery and white like at CSA. There is some more plant life in the water (seaweed and such) at CSS than at CSA, and I didn't like the feel of that stuff or the sand as well. At CSA, we'd walk around and play in the water a lot - at CSS, we found ourselves getting in the water and immediately on the raft because the bottom felt yucky. The beach is also nowhere near as long, and, having come from CSA, it felt cramped to us. There weren't tons of people, but you don't have this vast expanse of beach to walk along. The swimming area is thus smaller.
Second, there are fewer restaurants (basically 3 dinner choices) so if you're there for a long period of time, you might feel like you're repeating meals. Third, there weren't the spinny drink menus at CSA. We missed that a lot.
In a nutshell, the resorts for us are tied for food quality, drink quality, employee friendliness, and all of the things we think are Couples "standards." Neither felt crowded or cramped. It was easier to get reservations at CSS restaurants day-of than at CSA. The spa at CSS beats CSA's spa because of the location. The services at both were very good, but you can't beat the cliffside massage. The beach at CSA beats CSS's by a mile in my opinion, and we missed that enough to rebook CSA this year. It was by no means a wasted vacation to try CSS, though. But if the beach is important to you, go knowing it will be disappointing. There are other things to make up for it, though. Only you can determine which would win out. Again, though, I can't imagine you'd go and be so upset by the difference that you wouldn't enjoy your time at CSS.
We last stayed at CSA in Feb. of 2008. We stayed at CSS in January, 2009.
We have always booked a beachfront verandah suite at CSA. We booked an ocean jacuzzi suite (Blcok B) at CSS. The sitting area in the room at CSS is very nice, along with the double sink in the bathroom, and of course, the jacuzzi. The balcony, though, was smaller than the one in a BFVS. I really missed having a lounger/couch on the balcony like there is at a BFVS. Yes, the CSS room is a little swankier than at CSA, but not by a whole lot. I am sure that the Penthouse suites at CSS would be more to your liking. However, what I missed more than anything at CSS was sleeping with the verandah doors open (like we do at CSA), and listening to the tree frogs and the sound of the gentle waves. That was simply not possible at CSS - one, we were too far away from the beach to hear the waves, and secondly, almost every night, the beach bar was open late, and there was noise coming from there. We could not hear the noise if we closed the doors.
Elaine is right, you simply cannot beat the spa location at CSS. There is nothing to compare to having a massage, listening to the waves, and feeling the gentle breeze. Absolute heaven.
The Starlight gala at CSS is spectacular; very different and more elegant than the beach party at CSA (which is also a lot of fun).
The beach - we did enjoy the private beach at CSS (no vendors), but missed the wide expanse at CSA. We personally LIKED the seaweed and rocks at CSS, since we like to snorkel, it gave us more to see.
Of all things, the computer lounge is much better at CSA vs. CSS (more equipment).
We actually liked the food a bit better at CSS, and liked having the room service option, although we didn't use it too much.
We did not like having an au naturel beach at CSS. I may catch flak for this, but we felt like it "segregated" the guests during the day. Nothing wrong with it, but we didn't enjoy this vibe.
We adore the sports complex at CSA, although both CSS and CSA have nice jogging trails. I missed the 25 meter lap pool at CSA (which I use every day), although it was kind of nice having TVs to watch and air conditioning at the fitness room at CSS (also a spectacular view).
Well, I guess I could go on and on. I won't even touch on the steps at CSS, since it wasn't a huge deal for us. We love both resorts, although they are both very different. But I guess this is telling - we are going BACK TO CSA in less than 40 days!!