Camelback Mountain Resorts in the Poconos is a popular vacation destination for family getaways, bachelorette parties, and even weddings. But should it be?
After my latest stay at the resort my answer, sadly, is “no”.
If I were giving Camelback a grade it would be a C-.
I have been going there for years and my last three visits were beyond disappointing; Between increased prices and a steep decline in service and amenities, it’s just not what it used to be.
And while the issues seem to have appeared post-Covid, I don’t know if that alone is the cause for all that is wrong.
Is it all bad?
No, but if you want to get away and get you money’s worth, there are other options in the same area!
Read on to find my full review, giving you a breakdown of where service is good, where it’s lacking, and why. Then you can decide for yourself!
Camelback Resort: Disney On The East Coast
Before we get into it, let me give you a quick overview of the place.
Camelback Resort is like a mini Disney World, minus the Disney Characters. Located in the Pocono Mountains it is one of 3 resorts in that area with an indoor and outdoor water park, for 365 days of fun- just like it says on the website.
And it is a lot of fun.
In addition to the water park, there is skiing and snowtubing in the winter, an onsite arcade, bumper cars, a rock climbing wall, as well as the recent edition of a Speakeasy and Escape room.
It’s also convenient to stay there, as they have several places to eat on site, so you don’t have to leave the resort if you don’t want to. Overall, a great set-up designed for convenience and enjoyment.
Now, let’s get into specifics…
Food: Grade D
Food can make or break any resort, and for Camelback it’s definitely ruining the experience.
The grade for food is due to a combination of quality of food, price, food selection, and lack of service/availability.
To start, while it appears there are quite a few places to eat, that’s not really the case. The food is repetitive, with burgers, chicken tenders, and salads being offered at most of the restaurants as their main offerings; so out of nine food venues, five of them have the same menu.
And it feels like fast-food for the most part, which gets old quick. It also doesn’t help that many places are closed for certain seasons, further limiting your options.
Oh, and for those who have visited before, they have done away with their souvenir refill cups! You used to be able to purchase a big cup for $15 and refill it for a $1 (most places didn’t even charge you). Although they initially eliminated them because of Covid, when I asked a manager they said there were no plans to bring them back.
FYI: Many places can’t or won’t accommodate substitutions; at the swim-up bar my sister wanted a plate of grilled chicken (which they offer with a salad) and was told she can only have it in the salad.
She can’t eat lettuce and didn’t want the fried options, so she had to leave the pool area for lunch. Not ideal when you’re away.
In addition, not all the places are located in the main hotel, so they require short car rides.
Only three: Trails End, Berrelli’s and Massino’s, offer dinner. And their dinner menus are limited in scope, so it can feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over.
Last, but not least, those three main restaurants require reservations, which no one mentioned upon check-in. I encountered no less than twelve families who checked in on Friday night complaining because they could not get a seat at any of those restaurants.
Vanessa, 34, from Philadelphia, said it best:
“I’m paying $750 a night, I just checked-in and now I have to get back in my car and find somewhere to eat?! Why doesn’t it say on their website reservations required? Why doesn’t anyone tell you at check-in?”
FYI: You need to make a reservation in advance; all three restaurants seat under 150 people and the hotel has 453 rooms, which can mean slim pickings when it comes to getting a reservation.
Mark, 52, from Florida, told me he tried to make a reservation two weeks before with no luck. So he is staying at an “all-inclusive” resort, but still has to travel off-site for food.
Now, for those already planning to visit Camelback, here is a quick synopsis of the main eating venues:
-Cafe & Bar Coffee by La Colombe: in the main lobby, has breakfast sandwiches (4 of them), a few salads, and limited pastries, along with coffee and a bar that serves alcohol.
-Hemisphere’s: a breakfast venue in the main lobby. For me their breakfast buffet was a standout because of its size and offerings. However, post-Covid they have eliminated the “live” omelet, crepe and smoothie stations due to a lack of staff, which is a big disappointment.
An overall good deal at $22.95 for adults and $13.95 for kids. But with the increase in pricing overall, it’s just one more service that makes me question paying more for my stay.
-Trails End: my favorite of all the restaurants due to the ambience. It’s located in the main hotel at the base of the mountain, so you can watch the skiers as you eat and they have live music on the weekends.
The menu is pretty diverse, the food is tasty (I recommend the loaded nachos and shrimp tacos) and the prices are fair. The main drawback is limited seating, as the place is small.
-Berrelli’s: a 2-minute walk, located right next to the main hotel. Like Trails End you can watch skiers, although it’s not as breathtaking of a view as theirs. Berrelli’s has more high-end offerings, like Tomahawk steaks, and their prices reflect that.
However, the food is average and the menu is quite limited. There are only four pasta options, eight appetizers, and six main entrees. Of the main entrees there is only one chicken option, your standard chicken parmigiana.
And did I mention they are pricey? Spaghetti is $20 and if you add the meatball (it is quite large) it’s $30; steaks start at $45.
-Burgers & More: located in the water park and has your standard burgers/chicken fingers/pretzels and pre-packaged salads. It gets a bit monotonous if you’re there for a few days.
*Tip: you can order from Graffiti Pizza and bring it into the water park; no other outside food is allowed in, although we did manage to sneak some snacks and sandwiches through one day.
-Graffiti pizza: located next to the water park entrance, has good pizza, as well as a salad bar, and their prices are decent. Best value for your money, but how many days are you going to eat pizza?
-Massinos: part of the speakeasy and located downstairs from Berrelli’s. They feature a VERY paired down Berrelli’s menu, along with some flatbreads. This is more of a place to drink and nosh as opposed to sitting down for dinner.
Waffle Cabin (waffles to go) and Meatball Mayhem (a food truck) are located by the ski areas.
Big Pocono Eatery: near the ski area as well, with mostly grab-and-go options. And finally,
Thirsty Camel: also open and located at Camelback Mountain Village. Again, food is similar to Burgers & More and quite limited- 14 items in total on the menu.
Amenities: Grade C
There’s a lot to do at Camelback, but not everything is available or the service is bad, which is why it gets a C. Here’s a closer look as to why:
Water park: There is an indoor water park as well as an outdoor beach in the summer, both of which are great.
The water park is big, loud and the wave pool is a blast; so is the lazy river, where I spent most of my time. For adventurers there are slides of all sizes and styles. Little ones have a special section to splash around in safety. Oh, and I can’t forget the swim-up bar, a place every parent needs to visit. Service was extremely slow when I was there, but the drinks were strong.
*Tip: at the swim-up bar they offer the same food as Burgers & More, but at higher prices; if you want to eat, do it before or after you grab your drink.
Last, but not least, they have a phenomenal indoor/outdoor hot tub. If you swim through a flap door to the outdoor area, you can sit in that lovely hot water while you watch skiers on the mountain! Too bad it was closed until our last day there, so we had limited access.
When I brought this to managements’ attention, I was told the water park is included in our stay, so they could not compensate us. Yes, the water park is included, but at the prices you pay per night it’s really not “free.” And the amenities are why you stay, so when something doesn’t work it lessens the value of your trip.
Another issue was they were letting kids of all ages into the hot tub, and they were splashing and carrying on; I had to complain at one point because two kids had water guns in there! Definitely not relaxing. Usually hot tubs are reserved for ages 16 and up.
Also, seating around the wave pool is limited, so you need to go early to grab chairs or a table.
*Tip: Go when they first open and grab a spot; if you leave towels on the chairs no one will move them, so you can leave and go back to your room if you need to.
Snowtubing: I snow tubed for the first time on my last visit and while I had a blast, there were a few hiccups.
To start they have 40 lanes, but only half were open; which means you have less time to go down during your 2-hour session. So for $45 (we did the galactic snowtubing with the colored lights) I only got to snow tube twice.
There are always lines, but on average it takes 23 minutes to make a run on an average day, according to the workers; when I was there is took 47 minutes for one whole trip, nearly double the time.
That being said, it is a gorgeous view and a ton of fun.
However, it was very disorganized. Once we got to the top there was one employee there to tell you when to go. There was no help getting into the tube or pushing off. No instructions on what to do or not to do… like can my arms hang outside the tube or will I lose a limb?
My sister’s tube came to a stop three-quarters of the way down and NO ONE helped her. The employee at the bottom of the hill watched her crawl the rest of the way!
Arcade: By far the biggest disappointment. There are fewer machines because they added two escape rooms and a mirror maze. I tried both and while they were fun, little kids are not going to really care- especially about the escape rooms.
The machines they do have left appear to be mostly claw-style and carnival games. Some of the games were out of order too, so it was a bit annoying. My son and husband were both upset the cornhole game was gone, among others.
The biggest annoyance was their ticket prizes. The prize area seemed smaller than before and there were definitely less options. Plus, unlike when you go to similar places, like Dave N Busters or the Jersey Boardwalk, they don’t let you pay the difference if you don’t have enough tickets for a prize.
You can only purchase a prize with tickets, which is an obvious ploy to make more money off of visitors; if you buy credits and don’t win enough tickets you have to keep purchasing credits. They charge enough for your stay, so for me this was really tacky.
Bumper Cars/Rock Wall/Laser Tag/VR: These are located on the main level and are fun and affordable. The bumper car area is small, but it gets the job done.
The one area I can’t comment on is skiing because I’ve never done it; but from what I hear from others they have great slopes of all difficulties.
Service: Grade C
The biggest complaint I have is their check-in routine. Even though we checked in by phone, we still had to go to the desk for bracelets and to check in our cars for parking. Which means you still may end up waiting in line.
And check-in times can be a nightmare. We managed to get our room early, but on my prior visit we got there at 7 P.M. (check-in is at 4) and our room still wasn’t ready. Even worse, a family from Boston arrived at 7:30 to discover their room type had been given away and they were being downgraded. And they were just one of several who this happened to!
I spoke with a manager who said these things occur on occasion but they try their best to ensure everyone gets their room. As for delayed check-in times, that does occur due to the number of rooms they need to prepare; obviously they need more staff.
On the plus side the staff is friendly and they do try to make things smooth. However, service was slow and spotty. I had to call three times to get towels for our room and no one came to clean the room; each day I had to ask because they were behind- no wonder some people couldn’t check in on time.
The rooms are a good size and the beds are comfy. The prices are comparable to other resorts, depending on when you book. On my last visit, which was March 4-6 of this year, we paid $549 a night for the double queen bed room- on a non-holiday weekend!
Before Covid, you could get a standard room for between $199 an $249 a night during the week, and between $279 to $339 a night on the weekend; holiday rates could go as high as $500 a night and deluxe rooms and suites started at $479.
I spoke with a front desk manager, Jackie, who informed me that they tend to charge higher in the winter because you can go snowtubing and ski (for an additional cost). That, coupled with post-Covid pricing, is what accounted for the higher price.
Overall, Camelback suffers from inflated prices and diminishing services. Especially when you consider that Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari are just minutes away. Great Wolf is perfect for younger kids while Kalahari is ideal for all ages. Both are set-up just like Camelback, so if you’re going to spend the money, I’d do it at either of those places instead.
These days you want the best value for your money, and Camelback just isn’t it.
Come back soon for my reviews of Great Wolf and Kalahari!