Just returned from CSA after a brief trip with another couple. First time to Jamaica and first time to CSA, so bear that in mind when reading this. If I had to describe the experience in one word it would be INCREDIBLE. Fortunately, I'm not limited to one word.
Trip from MoBay to Negril was as advertised. But we'd done our research and knew what to expect, so no worries. Same is true for check-in. Everything was a breeze. Keys in our room didn't work initially, but that was fixed promptly with a smile. Air conditioner leaked on day two--no problem--fixed by the time we returned to the room later that day.
Stayed in GHVS 5101. Room was not glamorous, but we weren't expecting it to be. It was clean, the bed was comfortable, air conditioning worked, veranda fan kept things cool, and we had a partial view of the sea. Not much time spent in the room anyway, so we were very pleased. Location of the room was great because we were a few steps from our bed each night after leaving the Auro Lounge. Slept with our door open for two nights and had no problems with noise, even though we were very close the road. Did not care about the TV or wet bar. Only turned on the TV once while waiting for my wife to finish showering. And had only one drink from the wet bar. Why mix your own when there's so much available just a short walk away? Would have been completely content with a room having neither. On our next trip, and there definitely will be a next trip, we may go for a beachfront or ocean-view suite, which seemed to have more of a resort feel to them.
Food was better than expected. My wife and I tend to eat very healthy and were able to do that for the most part on the resort. We could have stayed completely healthy, but we had to splurge a few times to enjoy what was offered.
Some meals were great, others were just good. We loved Lemongrass, especially the deserts (worth the splurge--steamed banana cake was magnificent). Even my wife enjoyed it, and she's not much of a Thai fan. Favorite dining spot was probably Sea Grapes. Loved the fish tacos, sweet potato chips and hummus, crudites plate, fruit dish, and the salt fish sweet potato salad was out of this world. Debbieann was our waitress every day and was wonderful. It was a great place for a late afternoon bite to hold us over for a late dinner.
Really enjoyed the many options for breakfast at the Palms, although the stuffed french toast at Patois is a can't miss. The fresh fruit at all of the restaurants was amazing. Had some new fruits we'd never even heard of before--star apples, sour sops, and others, plus amazing fresh mango, bananas, pineapple, and melon. Feathers was probably our least favorite, but that is perhaps because we were expecting much more. The atmosphere was charming and the food was good, just not a meal that left any of us in awe. I had the seafood appetizer sampler, crab bisque, and a prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast with sweet potato glaze. Good, but not great. Service, however, was exceptional. Dane was wonderful. Also, the coffee at Feathers was the best because it's served in a french press, rather than drip which really brings out the bold flavor of the beans.
Drink service on the beach was amazing. Loved the green flags, but usually got off my butt for the few steps to one of the many bars, which allowed much more interaction with other guests and staff than just sitting around keeping to myself. Not much of a fruity drink kind of guy, but really enjoyed the Hummingbird, Dirty Banana, Pina Colada, and others. Plenty of Red Stripe in between to keep me grounded. Wife isn't much of a drinker, but also enjoyed some of the fruity creations. (Be warned, the Diet Pepsi in Jamaica is horrible, even from the bottle in the wet bar--clearly not the same mix as in the states). Beach bar staff was great, and we really had fun with Reynauld, a trainee at one of the bars.
The beach is the highlight of the resort. Sand and water are postcard perfect. Spent most of our days wasting away the hours on the beach or in the water. No problem finding chairs or, when necessary, a spot of shade to put them under. Plenty of trees in the middle of the beach to park under, even if you get to the beach later in the day. Palapas would have been nice for late afternoon when the heat really kicks in, but there's a nice, cool sea a few steps away if the heat is really that bothersome so, once again, no worries.
Watersports were fantastic. Went snorkeling a few times, took out the kayak, gave water skiing a go, and our friends took out the Hobie Cats. Loved every minute of it. Marlon and OBrian (who likes to think he's Irish--he doesn't think, he knows)were, hands down, our favorite staff members. They made everything so enjoyable and entertaining, even on a snorkeling trip that was not that great because of the high wind. We also did the catamaran cruise and had a blast. Swimming in the caves was fun, as was diving off the boat or going down the slide. But we really just enjoyed the relaxing cruise and the time to interact with other guests.
The pool bar seemed okay, but we only spent a few minutes there. One thing we did notice, however, is that the guests around the pool bar seemed a little more interested in getting their drink on than at other locations. Nothing too loud or obnoxious, just a little more of a party atmosphere. If that's your thing, it's a good place to be.
Exercise facility was superb. Great weight and fitness room, air conditioned exercise room, and a wonderful running track, not to mention tennis courts, racquetball and squash courts. Prepare yourselves for the humidity, running in Jamaica is a whole new experience--even early in the morning when it's cooler. No matter how hot you get, you can always cool down with a smoothie and cucumber water from Adrian at the smoothie bar. What a treat.
Nightlife was just what we were expecting--not too wild, but plenty to do. 9:00 each night we had the option of enjoying a live band at the Palms or piano at Auro Lounge. We did both, but really enjoyed playing name-that-tune at the piano the best. After hours at the Aura was great each night as well with dancing and drinking. Spent one night just sitting on the beach, listening to the waves, enjoying a nice Cuban and a cold drink. Entertainment staff was great too. We really had fun with Akeem.
Got a kick out of the beach vendors, all of whom were incredibly pleasant and always accepted a simple no thank you if you are not interested. Had plenty of conversations with those folks, even if we weren't buying their wares. Knew we would be offered drugs, but was surprised at how frequently we were offered as soon as you step off the resort the offers are non-stop. Still nothing harassing or uncomfortable. If you're looking to purchase gifts at a much lower price than on the resort, we really liked the little yellow stop-n-shop just to the left of the resort (facing the sea). The guy working there, Chris (I think is his name--he's the young, my guess would be Indian or Pakistani, gentlemen working in the shop), was super-friendly, not pushy at all, and provided so much helpful information.
Other than the pure beauty of the beach, the one thing we will take with us from this trip is how incredibly friendly and accommodating the Jamaican people are. This friendliness was not limited to paid staff members. We received the same treatment from our luggage handlers, custodial staff at the airport, customs and immigration officials, virtually everyone we encountered. It's humbling to see this type of treatment, especially after making the driving from Negril and seeing how little the people of Jamaica have in comparison to those of us in the U.S. (and likely elsewhere abroad).
If there was anything we thought could have been done better it is to keep one of the beach bars open during the evening/night. Really enjoyed sitting by the water at night, but that also required a trip to the Palms or Patois to get a fresh drink. Heard some people complain about their rooms or the food, but I'm pretty sure these people just like to complain. Don't like your food? Then get something else--it's that simple!
I just wished we had more time. There's so much more I'd liked to have done--scuba diving, martini mixology class, some off-site excursions, more at the fitness center, etc.
Thought it was odd to see so many repeaters on this board. No more. We will definitely be repeaters and will make CSA our home away from home. Next trip may have to be to a different resort just so the kids can experience Negril and Seven Mile Beach, but CSA will beckon us back before too long. Loved Jamaica, loved CSA, and loved the people.