CN review 05/26/11-06/02/11
Hi everyone, I also posted this on tripadvisor, and will post a separate review here of our trading places day.
Settle in, this will be long…Hubby and I recently returned from our second trip to Couples Negril, and we were a bit worried there was no way it could live up to the amazing memories of our first trip last year. We had also convinced friends to vacation with us, and we felt the pressure of the way we had been hyping it for so long. No worries, mon, it still exceeded our (very high) expectations.
After clearing customs at MBJ and picking up your luggage (one tip, they don't let it run around the belt--after one trip it is taken off and set to the side, so check both the belt and off to the side), then head to the Couples lounge, which is easily found. Just enough time to grab a drink (already included!) and then off to our (included!) shuttle within 20 minutes. Another tip…the guys who carry the luggage out to the shuttle and driver are not Couples employees and expect tips. We did about $1 per bag to the baggage guys and about $10-15 to the driver, Stormin’ Norman, who was AWESOME! Norman gave us tons of Jamaican history and info on the way there.
At the resort we were greeted with our cool hand towels and champagne, with a very smooth check-in. We arrived around 1:00p.m., and were surprised that our rooms were ready and we got right in. Staff was great and put our friends in the room next door. There are no bad rooms or locations here—the resort is cozy, intimate, and nothing is a very long walk—we had the lowest (read: cheapest) level of room and still had a great view overlooking the spa pond.
The beach was just as we remembered it, amazingly beautiful, calm clear bright water, plenty of lounge chairs and floaties for everyone, shade when you want it, sun when you want, space to spread out, vendors going by adding some local flavor but not allowed to approach you unless you ask, beach bar and grill steps away but red flag service if you want to be a total slug.
The pool is also beautiful, we just prefer the beach and I was only in the pool for a couple of mornings of water aerobics. I did notice pool was never crowded either, although the swim-up bar gets lively in the afternoon.
Food was very good, although not quite as amazing as we remember it from last year. We did the kitchen tour last year and were very impressed with the head chef who had a background as a pastry chef. We were disappointed to hear he is no longer there, but food was still very good and much better than any other resort food I have eaten. We ate at Lychee (Asian) twice, and everything was excellent. Helconia is the restaurant the beach grill becomes at night, we ate there one night and it was excellent as well. Otaheite is the “nice” restaurant where you have to make reservations and dress up—this means closed toe shoes, long pants, and collared shirt for men, dress or nice pants for women. Excellent food here, leisurely pace with the service, very fun tables with love seats for the private tables. Tip: If you have a specific time you want, sign up early 2 days in advance for this, you can usually get a slot but certain times go fast.
We also did the repeater’s dinner on Monday night, very good food, served in Lychee during their closed night. My husband I don’t even like seafood, and we enjoyed the shrimp served at this meal. The table set up was a little difficult—it was large round tables and the room was very loud, so it was hard to hear others at the table. Still a nice thing Couples does and shows clearly how many repeaters come to Couples. CN only has room service for a continental breakfast, so we got this almost every morning (you fill out a door card and place it outside your room the night before) as our wake up call, and then went down to the buffet breakfast later if we still felt hungry. That banana bread is incredible, thank you Couples for not putting nuts in it so I can eat it!
We ate the buffet several times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and while service was attentive for breakfast and lunch, my only small complaint was service at dinner was slightly lacking. We had to track someone down a couple of times to order drinks and get water, but I think we only noticed it because it was such a contrast to the typical service at Couples, and overall not a big deal.
Drinks were great, we are not big drinkers but I loved the Miami Vice, and every night I had an amaretto sour—I swear those were the best amaretto sours I have had anywhere. Oh, and what is it that makes nachos taste so much better when you eat them on the beach?!?
We only left the resort a couple of times, once to take the church shuttle to the local gospel church (will also take you to the local Catholic church), and this was the most amazing experience of the trip. It was children’s Sunday and full of singing, praise music, and beauty. We sat in the balcony and there were lots of other tourist there.
The only other time we left the resort was for a trading places day to Couples Swept Away. I am writing a full review of this as well, but the short story is we much preferred Couples Negril as Couples Swept Away was much larger, felt more crowded, and the beach, while longer, was much more narrow.
There are plenty of activities included; you can be as active or lazy as you want. Our friends did the nature walk, kayaking, tennis, and water aerobics. We did the TV trivia night, casino night, aerobics, and used the gym a few times. We also did a bit of the movie on the beach and the bonfire but got too tired and left early. I was very sad to leave the bonfire so early—the acoustic guitar guy was amazing—I think his name was Moses Beckford? We need to look him up, would love to buy some of his music. You get “funny money” for all the activities you participate in, and can use them for the auction. We participated in the auction, and were happy with the rum we got, (and I know many will disagree,) but I’m not sure the auction is such a great idea. Some get very intense about it and left feeling frustrated, a VERY unusual feeling at Couples. (many also just take it for the fun it is, but I hate to see people uncomfortable and bummed out.) I wonder if they could do something like have a few things for people to “buy” with their funny money. Just an idea.
Speaking of activities, the activities coordinators are awesome and seem to work all.the.time. I mean it, you would see them in the morning and then again late at night. I really hope they get days off!
Vendors—I already mentioned they walk the beach but can’t approach unless you call them up, security keeps a tight rein on this. However, the musicians are so fun to listen to—you have not lived until you have heard “Country Roads” sung reggae style on a beach in Jamaica. They also have certain days they let vendors set up on-site, and I bought some beautiful jewelry.
We had a $500 resort credit from our early booking last year, and I loved spending it! I got a massage in the tree house, which was so relaxing. Tip: get massages early, otherwise you might get too sunburned. We spent the rest in the gift shop and brought home so much coffee, rum, and t-shirts, plus a wood carving of the Couples palm tree symbol. Thanks, Couples, for providing this credit.
Speaking of sunburn, I was surprised that it was actually overcast most days, with some rain but no total washout. Apparently June is when the rainy season begins, and it kept the temperature down. We still used plenty of sunscreen and avoided getting burned.
OK, I’ll stop now! Sorry to be so long-winded, I just know how much I enjoyed the detailed reviews before we went, so I hope this can help someone. You cannot go wrong at Couples, everything is amazing, the Jamaican people are so warm, and we can’t wait to go back—although we may try Couples Sans Souci next time, just to see the other side of the island, although Couples Negril is certainly a part of our soul now!