Castaway Bay: 12/9-10

Associated parks:
None

Monday, December 11, 2006 9:25 AM
Five words to summarize our visit: Thank goodness for indoor waterparks.

To provide some context: I have long complained about Cedar Point resorts being substandard at best---particularly those that are on-point. The attitude seems to be: "We'll sell the rooms out no matter what we do, so why bother?" In particular, calling Breakers a "resort" is really stretching the term. Yes, there's a beach, yes, there are pools, and there are a handful of non-park activities, but it doesn't compare to most places I would call a "resort".

I've now stayed at Castaway Bay twice. This is the first time post-room-renovation, and I am favorably impressed. There are still some small issues, but I think they can be corrected given the right feedback.

The physical resort is quite nice---very well themed, from a simple but very cute contact-paper design on the elevator doors on up to the quite impressive shipwreck in the lobby. The new common-area furniture also fits the mood nicely, and the public spaces have been upgraded. The theme is not Disney or Universal-level, but it is quite effective just the same. The holiday overlay that the resort gets is surprisingly good---the "sandman" near the waterpark entrance, the Mr. and Mrs. Claus beach chairs, the trees decorated with seashells, all really add to the atmosphere. It looks as though the Halloweekends brain trust was turned loose on Castaway with the goal of a Caribbean Christmas, and they've done a really nice job.

The rooms are getting better. They're not quite up to the standards one might hope, but getting there. The new carpeting and soft goods are nice (though the bedspread could be better). The decor is understated, but matches the resort theme. The bath&body works toiletries are a nice upgrade from the usual CP Resorts items. The room is still poorly lit, particularly the bathroom. It would appear that the mattresses were not replaced (I hope). We had a few minor housekeeping issues, but nothing major. Still plastic drinkware. I'd put these rooms a small notch below the Snoopy rooms in Breakers (which are also very nicely done), but a bit above any other hotel rooms that Cedar Point manages. Lighthouse Point is still the gem in Sandusky, but that's a whole different experience, and not really comparable.

The activities slate is geared primarily to younger children, but is quite broad. Santa was ubiquitous---watching him walk around the waterpark was a hoot. There was a seasonal puppet show in the lobby several times each evening. The Peanuts gang has several activities scheduled each evening, including bingo with several characters. The resort uses their Peanuts license to very strong effect---a definite plus for younger kids. This trip, kids 10 and under got coupons for cupcake cones on check-in, which was a very nice touch. I don't know if that is year-round, during the holidays only, or only during the Friday's renovation.

Staffing is generally very good, though there were exceptions here or there. The level of customer service is slightly higher than you might find on average in Cedar Point. Again, not everything you'd hope, but getting better. Sometimes the Rule Book still gets in the way of guest services. For example, a family with an autistic daughter was not allowed to wait for her in the splashdown pool of the large body slides. I realize that the Rules say you have to clear the pool, but at the same time surely an exception can be made in the case of disability, right? Apparently not. They also have a handful of Brazilians on their south-of-the-equator summer break, and they're not up to the standards set by the Eastern Europeans that Cedar Point hires in the north-of-the-equator summer. ;)

The hotel was not full, and neither was the waterpark, though it was not dead either. Apparently, early/mid-December, even on a Saturday, is a great time to go. (For the record, Kalahari and Great Wolf also had plenty of rooms as of Saturday morning.) Nothing ever felt crowded, and our longest waits for anything were maybe 5 minutes. At the same time, there were enough other people there to give the place some energy. I'm sure that's not likely to be representative of peak times, but it was great for us.

As for the waterpark---it's not huge, but there was enough to keep us busy for our visit, though I can imagine older kids might get bored. The offerings include three large body slides, a water coaster, a family activity pool, indoor/outdoor hot tub, smallish wave pool, and a bucket tower with the requisite slides and gadgets. The theming in the water park is well above most anything else CP does. You can probably experience everything once in a couple of hours, but we kept ourselves entertained from mid-afternoon on arrival to lunchtime on our departure day. The hot tub was only 99---quite a bit cooler than the 102 I keep mine at, but that was perfect for the kids who find ours just a bit too hot. The tub was warm enough to be outdoors for 10-15 minutes.

The food at Castaway is generally good. The waterpark stand serves Pizza Hut rather than CP-standard cardboard pizza. Prices were not completely outrageous, comparable to or a bit less than the amusement park. The breakfast buffet is, IMO, the best breakfast at CP year-round---it's the "usual" CP buffet breakfast, with the addition of an omelette and belgian waffle station. $10/adult, $6/kid. The coffee at the coffee shop mid-day was cold. As Friday's was closed (re-opens from renovations next weeked), we had dinner off the reservation. This was awesome, because we finally had an excuse to go to Chet & Matt's. Really excellent pizza, and a sports theme---but, focused on local high school teams primarily, which I thought was a really nice touch. The Laker's California Artichoke pizza is highly recommended.

Finally, competition is clearly good for the consumer. We got this room for $129 plus tax. Frankly, that's a steal, and I would visit again at that price in a heartbeat. The "normal" price of about $200 would still be fair given that we had a full weekend of family fun, plus a hotel night. Great Wolf's rooms were also discounted significantly this weekend. Kalahari's weren't as good of a deal, but as I mentioned there were still plenty of them available as of Saturday morning, so the higher price isn't because they were full.

If Castaway Bay is evidence of the direction Cedar Fair is going, it's a positive sign. The Sandusky property as a whole also seems to be paying more attention to theming, between Castaway, the upgrades along the Wicked Twister midway, the Dragster midway, and the new Maverick installation. While I know that CP is an amusement park, not a theme park, I really think this is a positive step. We'll see how well it works out in the ride park, but it's worked very well at Castway Bay, IMO.

The bottom line: if you are in withdrawal this offseason, and live anywhere near one of these parks, give yourself a weekend to enjoy one. You'll be glad you did.

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Monday, December 11, 2006 3:33 PM
I must say that was very well said and writen. It is good to see someone looking for the changes Cedar Fair is making, and putting care into whats happening to "our" parks.

I like your full detailed discriptions of the room accommodations. This is very important. Customers are always looking for the best when paying for a short lived getaway, or a long vacation at a "amusement" park. There is a standard from people that is saught after when purchasing a room for X amount of dollars. Very important.

I can't say that cedar point is a theme park myself, becasue I would be lying if I did.

I think that was "exceedingly" well thought out, observed and judged. Super!

Excellent TR!

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006 5:49 PM
Nice TR. I was wondering about that place since I got a "buy one night, get the second free" coupon. I think it's good into January, but I-80 in PA and OH isn't necessarily the best drive at that time of the year.
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