Cheeca Lodge (Islamorada, Florida)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by viguera, Aug 25, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Just about finished with a week-long vacation down here and as always I figured I'd write everything down while it's still fresh... :)

    Somewhat of a long-ish review, so for those less inclined to reading, here are the Cliff's Notes:

    • Lower your expectations somewhat. As it's often the case, resort pictures and even tripadvisor reviews don't necessarily reflect reality, nor do they focus on rather important negatives.

    • Low season is a crap shoot because of hurricanes and occasional rain, but in exchange you gain some privacy and better rates. High season brings inflated prices and big crowds.

    Now on to the review itself...

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    Cheeca was high on the short list of desired destinations that needed specifically for this week, primarily because we needed a place that was family friendly (since we have a 1 year old) and that was within 3-4 hours by air (again because of the baby).

    We did some research and Cheeca came up, complete with Travel Channel show recommendations, high reviews, etc. Then a sale came up on sniqueaway and it was just too good to pass up.

    The whole "experience" begins when you arrive at the front (guarded) gate. You give your name and by the time you make your way through the winding path to the entrance, the valet is waiting (greeting you by name) and there's a porter waiting to take your bags. You leave the car and go to registration and by the time you're done your bags are already in your room.

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    They do a fairly good job of attempting to divide the resort into a "grown up" adult-only area (the Spa and lap pool is for adults only) and a "family" area, but chances are that if you're looking for a place where you won't run into kids, this place is not for you. It's very family-oriented, so you'll run into kids at the restaurants, running around near the lobby, etc.

    The resort has quite a few amenities, but this is where you start separating fact from PR hype... :) They claim to have an "1,100 foot long palm-lined private beach", which is somewhat true, except that beach access -- access to the water itself -- is severely limited. Most of the area is beach front, and you can certainly lounge by the water, but to get in it you have to walk quite a ways to one of a few areas you can actually walk into the water from. And even those are not necessarily pristine sandy beaches... the sand has a decidedly "reclaimed" feel to it, more like trucked-in hurricane-proof aggregate than sand.

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    They also have a "saltwater lagoon with native fish" that one of the guests described to me as "disgusting, to be honest" -- again, you can certainly lounge about in it, but someone would have to pay me to snorkel in there. :)

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    The water sports, sea kayaking, access to the tennis courts and golf course are all available for a $39 resort fee, which also gives you access to bicycles, fishing rods and other stuff. Valet and wireless internet are complimentary . There's also apparently a further elite "Club Cheeca" with a $15k "initiation fee" and $100 monthly dues that gives you access to additional stuff... whether that's worth it or not remains to be seen. :)

    Regardless, if you're traveling with kids you're limited to the "family" section of the resort -- which means no access to the spa or the grown-up pool (and they enforce this). The family pool ranges from 3 to 4 1/2 feet deep and is not necessarily huge. Even this week with supposed 50% occupancy, if you show up late morning or mid afternoon when everyone is around you'll be hard-pressed to find a chair (they're first come first serve) and the pool itself feels crowded with all the kids running around.

    There's supposed to be poolside service but we were never asked if we needed anything during our entire stay.

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    The rooms are the one place where you need to do the most of your homework, without a doubt. The resort is divided into "areas" that have very different room types.

    The "Lagoon View" and "Golf View" rooms are the smallest, at ~360 square feet. Regardless of the "glassed-in rain shower" these are not the nicest types of room by far. They're also separate from the property, which although might sound like a good thing, means you're walking to/from the restaurant, pools, beaches and other amenities in the main building.

    Next up are the "Beach Bungalows" which are slightly bigger at 415 square feet. They also have private balconies and other amenities but are away from the main property.

    The "Luxury Resort View Suites" are up next, with a rather spacious 680 square feet and with a separate living area (with a sleeper queen), soaking tub, etc.

    But the really nice rooms are actually the new ones in the resort itself. The "Premier Suites" (either island or ocean view, double queen or king) are the newest rooms since the building was completely renovated after a fire a few years back. They are 840 square feet and come with a private balcony, open air spa tub (with overhead filler) and a shower so big you can easily have a dinner party in there.

    My only gripe about the room was that the TV -- wall-mounted 45" -- was the only one in the room, and it was pointed at the seating area and would not swivel. With all the stuff going on it usually pays to keep an eye on the news or the weather while you're in bed, but with this setup it was rather difficult since it was at an awkward angle.

    The service overall was excellent and the food from the Atlantic Edge restaurant was very very nice, if pricey. The only thing I did not like was a rather inconvenient housekeeping schedule, with them showing up daily around 11:30 or so. Not usually a big deal, but more than once we found that we'd get up and have breakfast then hit the pool, then try to get back to the room for a quick shower before heading out only to find out it was right around the time when housekeeping was supposed to arrive.

    The Premier rooms have a mini fridge and a sink in a separate "mini kitchenette" area, but no microwave, so whatever you eat out there don't plan to bring back to reheat, although I do understand some of the rooms have full kitchens. There's also a coffee maker and a few bags of Starbucks House Blend which are replenished daily along with bottles of water in the fridge, but there's no minibar.

    The resort also offers an unlisted shuttle service which was actually a pleasant surprise. They will drive you 2 miles in either direction to any destination of your choosing and come pick you up when you're done. A great service if you're planning to head out to dinner to any of the numerous places nearby and don't feel like driving or you want to have a few drinks.

    FYI: Cheeca will request authorization for incidentals for $100 per person, per night from your credit card. Not usually a big deal, but it never hurts to point out these things.
     
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  2. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    A few more pics...

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  3. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    And a couple of more... damn this 5 picture limit... :)

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  4. Blue Skye
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    Blue Skye Silver Member

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    You would have been impressed with that place back in the seventies. In my youth, I babysat for their elite clientele's kids while the adults went off to boat, dine or whatever. It was quite nice and luxurious to a kid living on the island, pool hopping until we'd get caught and tossed out. LOL! Those were the days. ;)
     
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  5. uggboy
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    uggboy Gold Member

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    Thanks for the impressive reviews, very insightful into this property! Not sure it is our type of resort from style and do not love resort fees either! Having said this, thanks for the great review!:)
     
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  6. uggboy
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    uggboy Gold Member

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    Seems like these were the days indeed!:)
     
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  7. milestoburn
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    milestoburn Gold Member

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    nice review. seems like a ways to go from MIA.
     
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  8. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    glad to know that Irene passed you by and you got out okay
    of course, you're still in her path now that you're back home)
     
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  9. Bonnie
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    Bonnie Silver Member

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    Excellent report, viguera....and great photos!! We almost stayed there last month....instead went 'all the way' to Key West and stayed at the Marquesa Hotel.
     
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  10. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    it's out of the way but I think that's the idea.

    They're on mile marker 81, so it's a good hour plus from the mainland.
     
  11. WormHole
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    WormHole Silver Member

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    Why start a personal review of any hotel with a diss to brochure photos and Tripadvisor's reliability?
     
  12. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Hey, you don't like it you should demand a refund. :)
     

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