Gosh, I sure do hate to begin a review with a negative, but I feel it’s important to get this out of the way. Unfortunately, I do have major complaint about our four nite stay at Couples Negril.
IT WAS TOO FREAKING SHORT!!!!!!
So how’s that for a major complaint? We loved our all-too-brief stay at this incredible resort.
DEPART FROM CTI/ARRIVE AT CN
We took the Wally Transfer, which means we had the non-stop ride from CTI to CN – no stopping at the airport to pick up any additional passengers. The van drove off the property at 6:20am, arriving at CN exactly at 8:47am – 2 hours and 27 minutes on the schnozz. There was a solid 10-15 minutes added to the trip time due to the road construction going on just past the Mobay airport.
Interestingly enough, when we arrived, unlike at CTI, there was no greeting by a resort ‘ambassador’, altho that could largely be due to the fact that there are probably not that many guests arriving before 9am on a Saturday morning. So we just kinda moseyed on over to what appeared to be the check in area and announced our arrival. A gentleman handed us some paperwork and asked us to fill it out and return it. Can’t quite remember what it was we had to fill out, but we did so and after returning it, he said someone would get with us shortly. So we just hung around the lobby for a few minutes, taking it all in. Altho 180 degrees different from the lobby at CTI, CN’s version was gorgeous in its own right. Earthier, more rustic, even a bit bohemian – Jamaican style of course. As we walked to the edge of the open air lobby and looked out over the large pool and further out onto the beach, the first word that popped into my mind: stunning.
However, after a few minutes, I think our hosts forgot us, so I returned to the check in desk and was greeted by Shanique (sp), who must have sensed that we were a bit out of sorts. She advised that our room would not be ready for a while – quite understandable considering the time of our arrival. She first assured us our bags would be looked after, then also offered the office behind the check in station for us to leave our hand bag, so that we didn’t have to lug it around as we meandered the property. Since we were already geared up in our bathing suits, we left the bag and headed downstairs and checked out the property. After a couple hours of bopping about, which included breakfast (featuring the infamous Wally omelet) at the Cassava Terrace and a nice walk along the beautiful beach, we returned and located Shanique again, who advised our room was ready. Even tho there was no reason for her to feel bad for our room not being ready, I think she did anyway, as she personally escorted us to our room, which I thought was very sweet of her.
It was a Garden View room, #1307, which is Bldg 1, 3rd floor, room 7. I should point out that we originally requested a ground floor room, but after meeting a couple who also had a ground floor room and didn’t like the lack of privacy, we requested the higher floor. I didn’t think I’d be crazy about trudging up 3 stories every time I wanted to go to our room, but it turned out to be no biggie at all, in fact we appreciated the small amount of exercise it provided for us.
Like our room at CTI, this one had two important features that mattered to us: a comfortable bed and a nice hot shower. The king sized bed was also super comfy, altho the pillows weren’t quite as cushy as those at CTI. The bathroom was small here as well, but again functional. The shower/tub was nice and again the water was hot, plus I thought the pressure in this shower was a bit stronger than it was at CTI.
This room also included a mini fridge stocked with some beer, soda, juices, and water, something we did not have at CTI, so this was a nice little added feature. Granted, we didn’t utilize it all that much, but it was still nice to have it handy. And yes, these rooms also come with bathrobes!!
It rained for most of the morning on day one, and it was largely overcast the rest of that day, plus most of day two. However later on that second afternoon and for the rest of our stay, it was nothing but pure unadulterated sunshine. It doesn’t get as breezy in Negril as it does in Ochi, and subsequently it was at times quite humid. But that same humidity also helps keep the sea water warmer, which I’ll touch on in a bit.
Unlike CTI, where I guessed the median age of the customer base to be around 30 years old, at CN it appeared that the median age for this crowd was closer to 40. It also seemed that based on those we spoke with, I’m also guessing that there was a higher percentage of repeat customers here, which helps explains in part the older median age.
THE RESORT LAYOUT
I understand CN is the only one of the four Couples resorts built from the ground up, and to me it shows. This is IMO the best overall layout of the four resorts and it flows beautifully, starting up at the top with its centrally located lobby, and then flowing down to the largest pool in the chain, also centrally located. On either side of the lobby and pool lie the restaurants, the various blocks of rooms, and other features of the resort. Beyond the pool is the magnificent beach. The grounds are very lush, thick with tropical foliage and ponds are filled with fish and other aquatics. You can walk along meandering paths to your heart’s content.
Sorry Ocho Rios loyalists, but now that I’ve had a chance to experience the beaches from both regions, I have to echo what many Negril enthusiasts often state: there simply is no comparison, Negril beaches rule. Now I do agree with two somewhat negative aspects. They do contain a lot of non-Couples foot traffic, being they are public beaches, and this includes a number of vendors hawking various goods. Plus there are virtually non-stop jet skis and parasails running up and down. None of these problems are an issue at the Ochi beaches. But these matters aside, it’s just amazing how fantastic the beach here is. Wide and deep with soft sand, and the ocean is like bath water, it’s so warm. It’s a swimmer’s (or in my case a floatie’s) paradise.
There are plenty of lounge chairs and shaded areas, and it doesn’t appear as if the guests at CN are up super early “reserving” prime beach spots as their counterparts do at CSA (more on that a bit later). And on several occasions, usually each morning after breakfast, we traversed the length of the Bloody Bay with a nice, casual stroll. We’re normally not much on being beach people, but with this place how can you NOT be? Heavenly.
THE POOLS & JACUZZIS
If you were to merge the main pool and swim up bar pool at CTI and turn it into one super pool, you’d pretty much be describing the centrally located main pool at CN. This is pretty much the heart of the resort. The pool is very popular, serving as the primary swimming pool, the site for the volleyball games, and of course the swim up bar. There is a second pool, which I recall is near the Spa, but it’s hardly ever in use, at least it wasn’t the four and half days we were there.
I only distinctly remember one Jacuzzi, which is attached to the main pool. I’m sure there are more, but if you recall in my CTI review about my stupid sunburned feet preventing me from enjoying this feature, hopefully you’ll understand why I’m not sure as to the number of them. Sorry about that.
It has three sections. There’s the main Spa, which is the largest. They also offer guests a chance to have a massage at either the beachside hut or the treehouse. As part of the repeaters benefits, Rosa & I were each awarded a 30 minute massage. It was no cost to have it in the main Spa or if I recall it was an additional $10 each to have it at the beach hut or the treehouse. We opted for the no cost option and had it done at the main Spa. A young gal by the name of Keisch performed mine. It was very relaxing, very soothing.
We only booked four nights at CN and because we did most of the planned excursions in Ochi, it was our intent to treat this leg of the vacation with a bit more of a casual, laid back attitude. Therefore, we only did two excursions.
We were disappointed that we could not do the CC in Ochi, so we were determined to make it happen at CN. In fact, we went out in it on the afternoon of our arrival. Altho it rained most of that morning, it pretty much cleared up by the time the CC set sail, and it resulted in a fantastic time. As others have attested, this is pretty much a party boat, with the music blaring and the rum punch flowing. They eventually settle out by the caves, where folks can now either swim to them, as well as stay more local by having some fun with the big slide into the drink, or just hanging on the boat sucking down more rum punch. Altho it was a bit tame on the way out, once everyone had their fill of swimming and stuff, on the way back is when it started getting more rowdy, and of course I mean that only in the fun way. Folks started dancing and singing and hootin’ and hollerin’. The highlight (or lowlight as it were) had to be when a number of them broke out that mad rendition of the Macarena. Is nothing sacred any more? Seriously, it was a ton-o-fun. I’m so happy we had the opportunity to do it.
I believe they offer the snorkel trips twice a day – in the morning and afternoon, weather permitting. Our only opportunity came on one of the afternoon trips. I was told in advance that in general, the morning run is a bit better, that there are more fish to view. They were undoubtedly right. There really wasn’t much to see. Having snorkeled in such fish-bounty waters of the Hawaiian Islands, Cancun, and Cozumel, this trip paled in comparison. Had we paid for it, I would have been greatly disappointed. But since it’s free, hey it’s all good in da Couples hood mon! I understand the night snorkel, which is a charged event, is far better. We just didn’t find the time to do it. Oh well, gives us a reason to return, yes?
This is CN’s version of the Patio at CTI - the only place that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner – all three in the form of buffet dining. And as there, I also found the buffet food here to be an average experience. But it also seems to be quite popular. Again, it is quite convenient and if variety & volume rank amongst your key criteria, you can hardly go wrong.
CN’s formal restaurant, this is the only one requiring a reservation, and of course the only one requiring the guests to be a bit more gussied up. We dined here twice, once by reservation and the other occasion via the Repeater’s Dinner. IMHO, this is without a doubt the most beautiful of all the Couples restaurants. And its food is to match. Fantastic, simply fantastic. One strange thing that occurred tho at the Repeaters dinner. As you might expect, with everyone seated in grouped tables of eight or more, the conversations got very loud, as in really, really loud. Something about the acoustics in the place made it so that a conversation taking place at another table could be clearly heard at our table, as if someone was actually talking over our shoulders. It was hard to understand why at first until Scott, one of the guests at our table, pointed out that the concaved center of the ceiling acted as a microphone of sorts. Weird but funky, altho it did nothing to deter the grand atmosphere of the evening.
We ate here once and had a great meal. Like Bayside at CTI, the menu here is an adventurous fusion of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese dishes. We opted to start with the sushi platter for two as our appetizer dish. Not bad really. The other dishes, including the soups, salads, entrees, and desserts were very good. Perhaps not quite up to snuff with Bayside, but very good nonetheless.
A beachside grill for lunch by day, it transforms into a nice outdoor and romantic Italian restaurant come dinner time. It features simple, yet tasty Italian faire, and how nice to have dinner right on the beach. We enjoyed our only dinner there. And once dinner time is over, the Heliconia returns to its grill roots for the rest of the night and into the wee hours.
One of the highlights of the entertainmnent portion of our stay was the pleasure of listening to local Jamaican legend, Frankie Paul, aka the “Jamaican Stevie Wonder”, perfom at the Cassava Terrace one evening. Like Stevie, Mr. Paul is almost completely blind, but it didn’t stop him from belting out many popular reggae hits. It was a joy to watch and listen to this legend.
The house band was also very good, altho I’m afraid my feeble memory can’t recall the group’s name. But they were fun to listen and dance to.
Main Pool/Swim up Bar
The anchor bar of the resort, this is where the daytime action is, baby! Gotta say tho, better get a seat here early because they fill ‘em fast. Super social spot to hang about and meet some friendly faces. Loved it there.
Pretty much open from 10am thru the late hours, this served as the hub for drinks during the dinner and entertainment at Cassava.
I liked this version better than the one at CTI if for no other reason than its size and layout allowed for the bar to also double as a disco of sorts, with a sizable dance floor to get your groove on. Plus it has one of the most stunning light fixtures. I guess it would technically qualify as a chandelier of sorts, but it’s actually a series of stringed lights that shape themselves into a disco ball-looking feature. Hard to explain, but simply beautiful. There was also a guess-the-song contest held one night there. A lot of fun was had by all.
The official beach bar, you can always race up from the beach to grab a quick drink; that is if you choose not to engage in their outstanding red flag service on the sand, which utilizes the Heliconia for its base of operations.
TRADING PLACES PROGRAM– CSA
We were fortunate to have two friends we met while at CTI to serve as our “tour guides” at CSA. Lenny and Tracy first stayed for 4 nights at CTI before moving over to their home base of CSA for a week, so they were at this resort when it came time to engage in our TP program. They met us at the lobby when the van dropped us off around 10am. We immediately went straight over to their BFVS to drop off our bag and check out their room. Nice room, nicer balcony, even nicer location, literally right on the beach. Easy to see why many CSA loyalists love these rooms. After dropping off the bags, we took a casual stroll around the various paths that meander throughout the property. This is far and away the most walkable of the four resorts. Size-wise, it’s about as big as CSS, but since all of it at beach level, there is much more surface area to walk about. In fact, there is so much to walk around and see we never even made it to the sports complex, which is its own separate mini-resort of sorts in and of itself. They showed us the restaurants, the Aura Lounge, the mini casino room, etc. They’re somewhat spread throughout the resort, unlike the more centrally located venues found at CN and CTI.
We took a long, leisurely stroll down the beach – no way would we come close to covering the five mile length of Long Bay, but we at least covered the resort, then walked down a ways beyond the property line to a short distance beyond Margaritaville, before heading back and settling in at the beach bar for some serious drinking.
I’ve noted for many months now what appears to be an often friendly (but at times not so friendly) rivalry between CN and CSA loyalists as to which resort boasts the superior beach. CSA diehards point to theirs being the longest beach, while the CNers claim the greater depth makes their beach better. From my perspective, I’m not sure either side has a real case. Granted, CSA’s beach appears to be longer, but not by all that much. Frankly, I was surprised when I realized after we walked from one end of the property line to the other as to how quickly we reached it. It really doesn’t seem all that much longer than the length of CN’s. Conversely, I thought the depth of CSA’s beach was pretty much on par with that of CN. So I decided to declare it a draw – both beaches are outstanding!!
Now I did notice a lot of ‘reserved’ loungers in the shaded areas of the beach with no one around them throughout the time we were there. Of course in fairness, I’m sure many guests were enjoying the water itself. After all, CSA is very beach-centric, no doubting that. Can’t expect people to be hanging at their loungers every minute of the day, that’s for sure. But there were some I noticed that as long as we were there had never been visited, altho the clothing and other items used to declare possession were in full view. Len pointed out there are a number of people who are up as early as 5am staking out their turf. LOL – oh well, guess every resort has its own special character or flair, so I suppose this would give CSA its unique identity.
After a great visit with Len and Tracy, we headed back to CN. I’ll say this much, I understand why CSA has arguably become the most popular resort in the Couples chain. It’s a fantastic property, no doubt about that at all.
Not only is the staff at CN a hard working crew, many of them seem to go out of their way to make sure you’re having a good time, sometimes simply stopping by and asking so. What a great touch. The activities personnel in particular are always mingling with the guests, keeping everyone involved. Interactive participation, human style!! So with that said, some major shout outs to (and again, apologies for any misspellings):
Simone – the activities director, who was one of the key people for not only working the Repeaters dinner, but also running the nightly entertainment.
Nellie, Nana, Angelica, Diana, & Travis – the activities crew, these guys are everywhere at all times. Don’t they ever sleep? The were always actively engaging the guests to have a load of fun, often organizing games, contests, auctions, dancing, etc. Such positive energy always emanating from this outstanding young group.
Shelly Ann – Guest Relations. We often crossed paths and at every turn she made sure to ask if we were enjoying ourselves and if there was anything she could do for us.
Shanique – Can’t forget our gal who took us under her wing that first day at check in and escorted us to our room. The few times we’d see her throughout the rest of the week, she always had a great big smile waiting for us. What a true sweetie.
Comeica – the morning hostess at Cassava, this hard working gal was always running about in the morning making sure things were running smoothly with respect to getting people tables, often personally escorting them, which was a really nice touch.
Dwayne – bartender at the swim up bar. Not only did he always make a great drink, but kept the conversation flowing just as freely as the liquor. My man!
Being here only four nights vs. seven at CTI, we didn’t have as many opportunities to strike up as many acquaintances, but we did manage to make some great friends.
Jim (aka RDYJMJM on the MB) and Jean – regrettably, we only had the first day to meet these nice folks, as our first day was their last. But at least we got to chat some, and I made Jim stick to his promise of ‘buying’ me a Bob Marley!! Nice to have met you big fella!
Art and Francine, who go by the same monikers on the MB – we often found our paths crossing, whether it was at the pool bar, the beach, dinner, or late night entertainment. These are incredibly nice people and it was a sheer joy to have spent time conversing and partying with them. Oh, and here’s a little secret….Francine is the true Queen of the Dance Floor!
Scott and Lisa – our good friends from Wisconsin, aw you betcha!! We also got to meet their good friends of theirs, Doug and Laurie, who like us are first timers (but future repeaters of course). We enjoyed hanging out with them and participating as judges with Scott and Doug in that mixology contest performed by some of the resort’s bartenders. Hey, it netted us a small bottle of Appleton, yes? I remember Scott giving his MB name, but I forgot it, so buddy, we’ll need to set up an email addy exchange. Great meeting you guys!
Jay and Beth – ok, seriously….43 visits to Couples? Are you guys insane? Because if you are, may we please join your asylum!! We met them at the same time we met Scott and Lisa, at the Repeaters Dinner, then had the good fortune to run across them on several other occasions, usually at breakfast or on the beach. Jay was also one of the three chief judges at the mixology contest – guess seniority comes with its privileges. This is one very sweet couple and we loved getting to know them. Oh, and here’s a fascinating little bit of trivia. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Beth, for it was she who, on a few of their gazillion trips years back, use to bring inflatable floaties, which served as the inspiration for Couples to introduce the floaties that we now use and love. Ms. Beth, you are my hero!!
There were others, but perhaps too much imbibing prevents me from remembering names. Like that couple at the swim up bar that first day when we were waiting for our room assignment. It was they who advised us not to take a first floor room. Or that sweet British couple we dined with at Otaheite, who like their fellow Brits at CTI, were ‘stranded’ at CN due to the volcano – tough life, eh chaps? Or the soon-to-be-weddingmooners from Quincy, Ill, a town where one of my brothers lived for over ten years and where I visited a number of times. He was also a judge in that mixology contest and we ate dinner with them at Heliconia. It’s a small world at times, yes?
We ended up going with Tim Air to leave the resort, and it made a huge difference, for which our departure transfer card will attest (and which I still have in my possession). They initially scheduled us to leave the resort via the bus at 9:15am, but once we committed to Tim Air, they changed it to 1:00pm. Yes that’s right, an almost 4 hour difference!! Think that was worth the $214 we paid to fly out of there? Are you kidding me?!?! That’s almost 4 hours of precious beach time along with an extra meal we were able to enjoy that we wouldn’t have had if we left via the bus. Bargain city, baby!
Ok, for this summary, I’m going to keep it simple and to the point:
CN is not a resort, it’s a state of mind.