Hello my TA friends and family (ok to call you that?),
This was a monumental decision to stay in the country the week of my wife's bday and our annual trip so we wanted to make sure we picked a place that truly celebrated July 4th. Well, Cloister definitely did that. As I typically do I will break down categories and a quick overview of our family. We travel super luxury; 4 seasons Paris, Sandy Lane, St. Regis Miami, etc....
Room: We had an ocean villa (1st floor) and choose it because when we stay somewhere a week we want a living room, kitchen and typically more than one bathroom (when the kid goes to bed). We really like the room and everything was comfortable it had 2 balconies. It felt like a really nice cottage, but nothing was over the top (which is typical of this resort). Please request above floor 1 as you can barely see the ocean through trees and your back about 200 yards from the water. The Ocean Villas are sort of far away and if you don't need the space definitely stay in the beach villas or main hotel. As you need a golf cart ride every time you go do anything on the resort. Yes one pool by Ocean Villas and absolutely no one uses it (no restaurants or bars or anything there). I'd give the room a 4 out of 5. Again nothing wrong with it but nothing extra special. Paid around 1K a night. *** give big bottles of molton brown please!
Kids Club: They charge 120 a day for the full day (that included gratuity) and its "OK". They take them swimming and provide lunch also. Most of the resorts we have been to this is complimentary and yes you pay for lunch. For a one week trip that adds up a ton. She never did any really cool projects or anything. For July 4th they decorate bikes (however this is additional charge). Everything that is a real project or craft seems to be outside of the regular fee (tie dye shirts - 25?)... The instructors were really nice and the place clean, but again sort of that missing top of the line items that give places 5 stars. Review: 4 stars!
Restaurants: The breakfast at the beach club restaurant was barely average. One day we got omelets and they said they will bring them out to us (this is a buffet, but with chef station). No joke they came out runny, almost scrambled or looked like someone through them off the wall and put them on the plate). We never complain on vacation and I asked the manager to come over and she literally said "what is that?" .... don't serve that if it got messed up! They had the basics but again nothing memorable. We ate in town one day and it was fantastic! I did like the ice cream bar for the kids, and snack shop that you can pick up and sit outside quickly to eat when the kids are hungry. **** Here is one that I still can't get out of my head. They had the worst beach and pool menu known to mankind. Yes I went there, terrible. Not a single dip, hardly any classics (quesadillas, bento boxes, guacamole, chips, etc.) Nothing they had lettuce wraps with fake canned crab and one mandarin orange from a can. Disgusting, wake up! Review: 3 stars (we did eat at the Italian restaurant and the fancy one at cloister - so so again)
Service: By the second or 3rd day at least 10 people on the staff including the golf cart guys knew us by name and were incredible with my daughter. She actually remembered those conversations and really made our trip. They are extremely kid friendly, I never thought to sit at a high chair at a bar but here not one person would look at you oddly. They actual welcome it. David the manager was outstanding fielding my 800 email requests for my wife's bday. They even made her a cake that looked like LIPS!!!! Review: 5 stars
Pool/Beach - The beach has no real high end products (put out some real cabanas!) They have a decent couple pools but crowded and no real shade for kids which is disappointing. The pool service is terrible and the beach water is brown(not dirty just not what I expected). The adult pool is super boring (put a bar there and get the party started!) Review: 3 stars
Monte - Question everyone is asking... Would you return? I'll put it this way, I hope my friend gets married there but otherwise probably not. I really liked everything, but I did not truly love any part of it. The July 4th parade was incredible and the only thing they did not charge for all week. Even the gym was 20 dollars a day if you stayed at Ocean Villas (I'm paying 1K a night, seriously?)
You will not have a bad time there, but again the overall experience left me wondering where is Monte going next (not when am I coming back).