With regards to the umbrella issue:
a) if you are coming from the cruise ship the umbrellas and chairs are by Moomba.
b) For those who rent by the Surf Club or Ocean Club those chairs are for guests so cruise ship ppl can't use them
Here is a suggestion for the future, if you find a "friend" who also likes to rent an umbrella/palapa, make an arrangement to share with them. That is what we do, we split the cost with another couple and then we get a nice umbrella or palapa. You can rent for two days, then they can rent for two days and you each get a palapa with a view. If you can't get a good one, then rent umbrella but the cost is shared. It certainly is nice to have a free one but its just not worth the hassle.
Unfortunately, it is the same along Palm Beach at the other resorts (I am told). I hear stories of ppl getting out really early at Playa Linda too. Anywhere that is popular this is an issue during busy weeks.
All that being said , the Ocean Club has a longer beach for less rooms where as Surf Club is deeper for more ppl which is the reason not as much ocean view.
You are lucky to have returned to TO after the "deep freeze". Leaving in a few days and so looking forward to my spot on the beach...I hear it calling to me!
So the resort rents the umbrellas and not a vendor? And they don't rent chairs?
Sorry, I guess I was a bit confusing. The resort rents huts or you can get for free. The independent vendor rents umbrellas. If you rent an umbrella in the Surf Club or Ocean Club area you can use the chairs if you are staying at the resort. If you are from a cruise ship you can rent umbrella and chairs at the beach by Moombas. The huts or palapas are the Marriotts and of course, come with chairs.