My fiancé and I stayed at Cheeca for three week-nights in May. Overall the hotel is stunningly beautiful and the grounds are really large and well-maintained. Would be a five-star if not for the awful service we received. Here are our reflections:
-Beachfront: The hotel has really huge water frontage on the eastern/Atlantic side of the island. This means lots of sun during the morning, and tons of chairs facing the beautiful ocean. This isn’t one of those swimming/body-surfing types of beaches. The water is very calm, and the sea floor is rocky and/or full of seaweed or small shells, so it isn’t so pleasant to walk on barefoot. They do have two “beaches” where you can walk down into the water, but there is a lot of seaweed in this part of the ocean and it tends to accumulate on the beaches.
-Pools: The resort has three large pools—two right near the beach and another full-size lap pool (theoretically adults-only, with lanes and everything) next to the spa and fitness center. The main pool by the beach has plenty of lounge chairs and food service, but also, often, a lot of kids. There is also a salt-water pool that was very nice, although maybe not so clean and is also populated by a friendly school of rather large fish. There are also two hot tubs: one by the main beach pool (often filled with kids) and another “secret hot tub” behind the tennis courts. We found a condom wrapper carelessly tossed by this second hot tub, which may indicate how secluded it is from the rest of the resort but also how terrible the service/maintenance staff is (the wrapper had clearly been there since at least the night before).
-Activities: There is a mandatory resort fee. This is just a way for the hotel to artificially deflate their room prices, but even so the price is reasonable for what you get. The amenities we made most use of were the free sea kayaks (great for exercise and exploring), free unlimited DVD rental, and fitness center (quite impressive for a hotel gym, with plenty of weights and machines). There is also free golf, but golfers be warned—the course is kind of a mini—the biggest club you need is probably a nine-iron. Plus free tennis on nice, lighted courts, and free bike rental. The hotel will also rent you these fun-looking one-person sailboats or a paddle-board for not-outrageous prices, and take you on a variety of boating tours.
-Service! The manager, HR department, and most of the staff for the Cheeca Lodge should be fired immediately. My fiancé and I were continually surprised with how terrible, unfriendly, unprofessional, and incompetent the staff at Cheeca Lodge were. Examples include:
1) Being kept on hold for 20 minutes while the operator (or manager?) tried to reach the front desk staff to see if there were any other rooms available for use to move to, and then having no one call us back despite being promised they would do so;
2) Having hotel staff operating a large, noisy tractor to clear seaweed from the beach at 11 AM—prime beach time—right in front of our beach chairs;
3) My fiancé (who’s almost 25) being carded at the tiki bar while standing there in a bathing suit that obviously had no pockets and ultimately being refused service when she explained that her ID was in the room (even though we were both served champagne when we checked in without so much as a glance at either of our IDs);
4) Being told we could go on a snorkeling tour in the morning only to be told later the same day by another staffer that there was actually no tour scheduled;
5) Being told by the front desk that we could use the spa’s sauna and steam room for a daily fee then later being told by spa staff that we’d have to book a spa service to use the facilities;
6) General lack of regard for the wellbeing of guests – the condom wrapper, overhearing staff members grumbling about having to serve people by the pool, glass bottles and cocktail glasses left in the sand on the beachfront without being cleared;
7) And the icing on the cake: receiving blank stares and no apologies at all from the front desk staff when we told them about all of the problems we’d had with the staff. Unclear if they were partially deaf or just ignorant.
Overall, the impression we got from staff was that nobody was in charge, the left hand had no idea what the right hand was doing, and that nobody much cared if that made things more difficult for guests. Wake up Cheeca Lodge and get your act together!
-Restaurant: The lunch and tiki bar food was mediocre, which was pretty disappointing given what a great location the hotel is in and how luxurious it feels (if you can ignore the terrible service). The restaurant dinner prices were simply too high for us to be willing to risk it after our experience with the fare at lunch. Who pays $50 for a steak unless you’re at a renowned fine dining establishment? Especially when you can get a delicious one for $29 at Morada Bay across the street, and dine directly on the waterfront while watching the sun set.
The other thing to know about the restaurants is that they’re really just one restaurant with three different menus (and maybe different chefs). The space is all connected. BUT: if you want the best seating (on the veranda with views of the ocean) you have to be willing to pay the exorbitant prices for the “main” restaurant. And if you want to eat sushi, you have to stay indoors at the sushi bar. Ridiculous seating policies if you ask me.
-Thin walls. We could hear the TV and conversations on the other side of the wall quite clearly. Kind of ruins the romance to hear the couple on the other side of the wall arguing over a sports game or talking loudly on their phone.
Bottom line: this place is beautiful and it would be truly magical and luxurious if the staff could be properly trained and managed. We’d return, but not until those staff issues are fixed.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The "Queen of the Florida Keys", Cheeca Lodge & Spa has been an exclusive hideaway for celebrities, business leaders and U.S. Presidents for over 70 years. Set on 27 private oceanfront acres in Islamorada, Cheeca has been constructed with a porte-cochere entrance, traditional Florida Keys architecture, chic West Indies décor, and spirited tradition of “barefoot elegance” -- a term coined at Cheeca. Along with a new breakfast bistro and lobby bar, Cheeca boasts three distinctive restaurants: Nikai Sushi Bar and Lounge offering the Florida Keys’ freshest sushi, Asian-inspired fare and a unique selection of Japanese sake and wine; Atlantic’s Edge with a seasonal fine-dining menu of fresh local seafood, prime steaks and organic local produce; and its family-friendly Limoncello Italian restaurant serving up Tuscan favorites in a casually rustic setting. Cheeca Lodge & Spa features 2,400 square-feet of retail shops with a Cheeca Signature store featuring the latest designer fashions and accessories. An expanded roster of activities include offshore and backcountry fishing, parasailing, sightseeing, eco-tours, paddleboards, water trikes, kayaks, golf, tennis, pickleball, shuffleboard and more. The resort’s signature features include a classic 525’ wooden fishing pier, tropical gardens, crossing palms archway, nature trails, Tahitian-style Spa Lagoon, spectacular purple sunsets, 1100 feet of beaches, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, Camp Cheeca children’s environmental activity program, and access to world-class sportfishing. Located just 90 minutes south of Miami International Airport in the Florida Keys, Cheeca Lodge & Spa is just a few hours by air or drive from major East Coast U.S. cities. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Cheeca Hotel Islamorada
- Cheeca Resort Islamorada
- Cheeca Lodge And Spa
- Cheeca Lodge Florida
- Cheeca Lodge Islamorada
- Cheeca Lodge & Spa Islamorada, Florida - Florida Keys