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Crystal Shores at Marco Island 11/09

SueDonJ

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Well, we'll be off to Marco Island on Friday morning, looking forward to some sunshine and seeing the Everglades for the first time. Don's mom will be with us and we're going to try to find a boat tour there that will not speed over the water like H's does in the opening credits. Although we might be able to convince Don to use his sunglasses as a mood-setting prop ... :cool:

The sales office is closed there and I'm not sure we would have sat for a presentation anyway, but I do plan on taking some pictures to post here. Any requests? Questions? Suggestions?

kjd, your list is already in my folder, thanks.
 

TheTimeTraveler

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On your reservation, does it indicate what view you will have? i.e. does your reservation start with OF (oceanfront), OV (oceanview), GV (gardenview)?

Do they stick to what you're assigned or do they assign rooms based upon your ownership with Marriott (if you know the answer to that)?

Hope you enjoy yourselves there!
 

SueDonJ

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I pulled up the reservation at marriottrewards.com and it says we have a "gulf side view" and I've requested a high floor/handicap accessible (for Don's mom.) I'm guessing there isn't anything close to 100% occupancy because it's nowhere near sold out, so maybe they'll be able to give us one of the best "gulf side view" or even an oceanfront upgrade. Have no idea how they place exchangers but we'll find out. :)

I'm glad you asked, because I'd forgotten that this II exchange reservation is one of those that doesn't automatically have our Marriott Rewards number attached to it, and it can't be done online ... thanks for the reminder to put the card in my bag.
 

Kelso

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I do plan on taking some pictures to post here. Any requests? Questions? Suggestions?
I am anxious to hear your report. We are going in January and will be looking seriously to buy there. :D
 

Dean

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We are there in May and also have a Gulf side.
 

kenny1975

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So are you still there Sue? Just wondering what your thoughts / opinions are about the place? Is this your first time to Marco?

Hopefully they upgraded you to an Ocean Front!
 

SueDonJ

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So are you still there Sue? Just wondering what your thoughts / opinions are about the place? Is this your first time to Marco?

Hopefully they upgraded you to an Ocean Front!
Yes, it was our first time to Marco Island. We're home now, got back last night. Boy, the 41 degrees at Logan sure didn't feel as good as the 81 at RSW. :(

No Oceanfront upgrade but our 9th-floor Gulfside view was gorgeous.

We had a great time and the units at Crystal Shores are stunning. I'm going through my pictures over the next couple of days and will be back in this thread early in the week with a report and some pics.
 

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THanks Sue. I'm glad you had a great time! Looking forward to some pictures and hearing your stories. Pelican Bend has some of the best fish ANYWHERE...and you can't ever go wrong with Snook Inn! We love Marco and go as often as we can!
 

SueDonJ

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I've put a review and some pictures into the TUG database if anyone wants to take a look there, and will be back to add some pics into this thread probably over the weekend after I've sorted through and put them into photobucket.

Briefly, Crystal Shores is gorgeous even unfinished, and the staffing levels and activities/restaurant are all running at full speed. I had some misgivings about whether the cessation of development would negatively affect a vacation experience there but those fears have been put to rest.

This is probably way too geeky to admit, but one of the highlights for the week for me was that I saw my very first bald eagle EVER soaring up over the high-rises on the beach, thanks to the guy in the water who was yelling to his family about it. Don and his mom laughed their heads off while I snapped forty-eleven pictures and chased it down the beach. I guess what's even more geeky is that a few bird shots are the only ones I've put on photobucket so far - here's a taste:

 

thinze3

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Not too geeky at all.

This is probably way too geeky to admit, but one of the highlights for the week for me was that I saw my very first bald eagle EVER soaring up over the high-rises on the beach, thanks to the guy in the water who was yelling to his family about it. Don and his mom laughed their heads off while I snapped forty-eleven pictures and chased it down the beach. I guess what's even more geeky is that a few bird shots are the only ones I've put on photobucket so far - here's a taste:
Several years ago we traded into Williamsburg for a nice summer week, and one of the days I took my family to Jamestown Settlement. One of MY most memorable momonts happened while we walked along the bank the James River. A Bald Eagle swooped down less than 40 yards from us and grabbed a fish right out of the river. :)
 

SueDonJ

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I don't know, Terry, but if a Bald Eagle gave me that much action I'd probably be hyperventilating so much that the camera would drop in the river! Don and his mom would have a field day laughing at me then!

So, Crystal Shores. Finally.

Like I said, the thing I worried about most was that it would be understaffed and have limited activities/restaurant hours because the development has been stopped. That's not the case at all and I'd recommend that anyone go there if you get the chance.

Property Map:



As you come onto the property from the main drag (S. Collier Blvd,) straight ahead of you is the low registration building with a small corner concierge desk and a VERY small Marketplace Express with very limited offerings. Beyond that towards the beach is Stilts Restaurant with a decent lunch and dinner menu, a nice bar and plenty of seating on two levels with flatscreen TV's. To the right of that is the Main (adult) Pool, then the low Sales/Preview Center, then the Grotto (kids) Pool, then Building B. The footprint for future development is now a parking area with a little bit of landscaping. When (if?) it gets built out the furthest buildings will shield the resort from that main drag, but for now what is there feels much more "open" than other resorts we've visited.

This is Building A (Gulf front) and Building B (Gulfside and Gulfview) from the beach:



Floor 1 is ground level, floors 2-13 have six 2BR units each. Unit numbers from right to left are X01 - X03 - X05 (all Gulf Front) and then around the corner X07 closest to the beach, X09 in the middle and X11 at the back. All of the units face out from the interior of the property. I know there are 3BR units up on the Penthouse floor 14 but don't know how the entire floor is laid out. We were placed in 907 that had a mirrored image of "Typical 2-Bedroom Corner Villa" minus the side balcony in the master bedroom. This was our gorgeous view all the way out to Tigertail Beach ...:



and this was the view over the island looking to the right:



Directly across is the Hilton, separated by their tennis courts and some landscaping.

(cont...)
 

SueDonJ

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(cont...)

The villas are VERY nicely done with high-end appointments and a nice flow to them. Ours was handicap-access by choice but I think the only glaring differences would be in the second-bath (roll-in shower,) the doorbell (quite loud with flashing lights,) and the villa door (which closed verrrrrry slowly.) Maybe, hopefully, there is a difference in the laundry unit, too, because ours was an LG Steamwasher/Dryer that only needed to be loaded once but took forever and a day to do one load of towels - OVER FOUR HOURS! I say maybe because it could be that machine fits the energy-efficiency theme of the resort, too, but what a pain in the neck if they're in all of the villas!

The kitchen:



The dining area:



The living area:



and a terrible pic of the Master:



The BEST thing about the whole villa was the balcony. Sliding glass walls open from the living area and MB to it, and it was HUGE, with very nice outdoor furniture - a large round table and chairs with two lounges and a side table. What a difference it made to open up the space, and I liked the energy-efficient system with sensors that shut off the AC when the doors are opened. If you shut the bedroom doors, though, the AC will stay on in those rooms even when the main living area is open. Very very nice, but I only have one lousy pic:



{Edit} I forgot to mention - there is more than enough storage throughout the unit for the maximum eight guests' clothes, etc and food/drink; both bedrooms and the living area had flatscreen TV's with DVD players; and, the "AV2" port on the side of the living room TV was disabled somehow so I had to unplug the one on the back of the TV in order to plug my camera in.

(cont later ...)
 
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SueDonJ

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Thanks, TimeTraveler. :)

Now back to ground level beginning on the left side of the property with Stilts Restaurant ...

The main dining is up one level with elevator access and all of it is outdoor seating. Up the stairs at the back of the Registration Building is this uncovered seating area:



then through to the bar on the left:



and on into the main dining covered "room":



The lower level of that room is additional covered seating for the restaurant with two flatscreen TV's (lots of football fans while we there on Sunday afternoon); the rest of the lower level of that structure are poolside restrooms and utility rooms.

This is Stilts from the beach:



All of the poor chairs had little flags that you could raise to get food/drink service from Stilts, that was a nice feature of this high-end resort.

(cont ...)
 
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SueDonJ

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(cont ...)

Stilts overlooks the Main (adult) Pool and beyond that, the Sales/Preview Center which is open by appointment only at this time. No one ever asked us if we wanted to schedule an appointment.

This pool had a really nice layout with a zero-entry at the beach end and plenty of steps all around, very comfortable lounges and table/chairs, lots of umbrellas, and the only spa on the property:



The lower level of the Preview Center had private cabanas for rent (with comfy seating, a fridge and flatscreen TV,) covered seating and game areas:





On the other side of the Preview Center is the Grotto (kids) pool, with a pretty cool slide and more private cabanas:



That pool is surrounded on all four sides (Preview Center, slide structure, Building B and Building A) so it's quite shady most of the day. That makes for a real nice kids pool during the hottest months but almost uncomfortably cool at other times. Two nights during our week they showed "Dive In" movies at this pool.

On ground level at the zero-entry end of the Grotto Pool, underneath the Gulf Front building, there is a large seating area with modular furniture and oversize hammocks that they placed on our last day there. It was very comfortable with a nice constant breeze, and they told us that it gets a good crowd on hot summer days. I believe them - it was a really nice gathering spot:



(one more, cont ...)
 
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SueDonJ

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Overall, we absolutely loved the resort. It will be a shame if development doesn't continue when the economy rebounds, that's for sure, but until then what is in place works very nicely. It wasn't crowded while we were there (maybe 60% occupancy, if that?) but it felt practically empty. If every available unit was being used, there would still be enough space for everyone to be comfortable.

Every staff member was pleasant and helpful, right from the moment when you pull off of S. Collier Blvd. and somebody meets you there to direct you to the Registration parking area, to your front desk rep escorting you and your luggage to your villa with a property features tour as you walk through, to the MAZE directors who were smiling and laughing every time we saw them with a group of guests, to the concierge staff who it seemed knew everything about the whole of southern Florida, to the waitstaff at Stilts ... Heck, even the security guy who stopped me one morning to make sure I wasn't taking photos for a commercial publication (HA!) was pleasant, even if he was prepared to confiscate my camera and throw me in the brig. :eek:

Marco Island? Eh, it's not our favorite. We can't help but compare it to Hilton Head which we love. MI is more congested with high-rises that aren't allowed on HH, and it appears that during high season, MI will feel much more crowded than HH ever has. But that's all a matter of personal taste, and doesn't mean that MI isn't as "good" as HI. It definitely is! Now that we've seen the flavor of the island and understand what type of tourist visits/shops there, it's easier to understand the pricing structure that MVCI had in place for Crystal Shores. I don't know if the economy will rebound in time for Marriott to begin the further phases of development with those original prices, but I certainly agree that it should be one of the highest-priced offerings in their portfolio. It is, simply, stunning.

And finally, if you're a bird whacko and make it to the area, go on out to Big Cypress National Preserve and find Turner River Road. It's an unpaved 25-mile stretch with fantastic photo ops, quite comfortable as a car ride but you have to be careful of gators if you get out. We went in about five miles but learned from a ranger on the way out that if we had continued to about mile 10, there is a boardwalk to get the BEST shots. Next time. But in the meantime:

 

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Nice work, Susan. Did you ask all the people to move away while you shot the photos? :)
 

SueDonJ

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Nice work, Susan. Did you ask all the people to move away while you shot the photos? :)
:D I was out there early in the morning to take most of those, which is probably why it was so easy for security to notice what I was doing. But I think my strategy is backwards for the in-unit shots - those should probably have been taken before we got a chance to move the furniture and leave our crap all around. That nice big wingchair in the living area belongs to the MB but we moved it so that Don's mom would have a comfortable supportive chair, and the match to that small blue chair lived in our MB for the week. Plus, that round long pillow that I never know what to do with lived on top of our suitcases in the MB for the week.

Speaking of the living area, I really liked those cubes that had a convertible tray/seat top. I think somebody put pics on TUG of a similar cube thing in the refurbished Aruba Ocean Club units, and I hope they slowly make their way to all of the resorts during refurbs. Very comfy and practical too.
 

SueDonJ

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THanks Sue. I'm glad you had a great time! Looking forward to some pictures and hearing your stories. Pelican Bend has some of the best fish ANYWHERE...and you can't ever go wrong with Snook Inn! We love Marco and go as often as we can!
Geeeze, I completely forgot that folks usually do the restaurant thing, too.

Pelican Bend (just off the island a left on Capris out to Isle of Capris) definitely is one of the best low-key seafood restaurants we've ever been to. Great food, great prices, nice simple setting ... you can't go to Marco Island and not go to Pelican Bend at least once!

Snook Inn is another one you can't miss, on the island with indoor/outdoor seating and live music. We hit a line here with about a twenty-minute wait, but it'd be worth waiting an hour if that's what it took. Again, great food, great prices, nice setting. Plus the guy played Southern Cross by request. :)

Other than that and one night at Stilts (which was surprisingly good considering that it's a resort restaurant,) we used the grills on property to cook steaks and fish. And one morning, we roasted a chicken in the oven and then had chicken and gravy that night and chicken salad sandwiches the next day for lunch. Yum.
 

ciscogizmo1

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Great pictures and review... definitely on my list for a trade some day. Did you take any pictures at the beach. How was the ocean water?
 

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The beach was really nice, clean, and the water was warm enough for us New Englanders to swim all week. The sand isn't hard-packed enough to ride bikes on it (like Hilton Head,) but Don's mom has limited mobility and was able to walk across the sand with her cane with no problem. She even went to the water's edge a few times with Don and waded in the waves up to her calves, which she thought she'd never be able to do again. A couple of the days the waves were rougher but for the most part it was a nice swimmable beach for the most timid. The water's not as clear as I expected though - you lose sight of your feet when you're knee-deep.

There are huge groups of birds here that come along and roost at different spots every day. It's the strangest thing - there are a few flags set out on the sand for the water taxi companies but somebody also places a small gray-and-white flag in a different spot every day. We never did see who placed it, but the birds flocked to it! We were trying to figure out if they were trained?

There are lots of shells on the beach and you see a whole bunch of folks wandering around with their heads down. The resort has shell-walking every morning as an activity - they'll give you a mesh bag and there are tables to rinse the shells where you rinse your feet coming off the boardwalk into the resort. One of the water taxi companies also has a pick-up on the beach to bring folks over to an uninhabited island for shelling; I think that info is in the Marco Island guidebook in the villa.

There are rental chairs/umbrellas available from different huts along the beach that I think are outside venders. But the one closest to Crystal Shores has an agreement with them that the fees can be charged to the resort (so if you use your Marriott VISA to pay at the end of the week, you get the bonus points.) It's $99 for the week, and they set up your same spot every day. We asked for an extra arm chair for Don's mom (she can't use the lounges) and it was no problem/no extra cost.

Sunset is over the horizon, very very nice. A vendor is on-property to set up professional photographs at sunset, and you'll see quite a few people down there every night to watch the show. We didn't have any spectacular sunsets during our week, but really, who can complain about ending the day with a very very pretty sunset? ;)







 

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Ah Sue...we'll be there 2 weeks from Friday! I love walking over to stilts for a couple of late afternoon cocktails!! Great pics of everything by the way!
 

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Why did the sales office close? Did it sell out? My friend was there last week (at the hotel). He goes to MI often. He said it was the first time he did not get bombarded with sales pitches.
 

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Why did the sales office close? Did it sell out? My friend was there last week (at the hotel). He goes to MI often. He said it was the first time he did not get bombarded with sales pitches.
Far from that; they couldn't sell in this economy at those prices, at least not enough to retain a sales office there. Even at the third off or so "special sales," sales have been very slow.

Hopefully when the economy recovers they will have enough turnover to resume construction and eventually complete the project. Fletch had mentioned in one of his posts that the only way they would sell out there is by introducing the points program. Whether or not Marriott will assign it a relatively equitable points value (considering quality and location of the property) relative to other resorts IF Marriott does introduce a point system remains to be seen.
 
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