Hey all! We've been back from our second trip "home", October 3-10, to CN and so I finally had time to put together a quick review. I'll try and break it out the best I can.
We flew with US Airways this time from DFW to MJB with layover in Charlotted (and the same going back home). We'd never flown with this airline before and I have to admit, I was pretty anxious leading up to trip based on information I'd found online. While I know it can differ from flight to flight, we experienced no real "issues" (missing flights, cancelled flights, lost luggage) for any of our flights. It did seem that EVERY flight, coming and going, was late and there was never a reason provided, but by the time we were headed home it had become our joke of the trip as to how late each flight would be for taking off. Our first trip the van we travelled in from MJB to CN made no stops, which I actually enjoyed, however, this time around we made 2 stops. I wasn't really pleased with that, but to each their own. The first stop for more Red Stripe was okay, but I found the second stop to be a waste of time, especially as we all just wanted to get to the resort and start enjoying the vacation. I've read multiple times on this board that the stops are to places the driver has a deal with the owner(s) - where we stopped the second time was definitely this. They wanted $6 US dollars for a single beer and the food, if you wanted, was also CRAZY considering if we'd just all stay on the van we could start enjoying those already paid for meals and beverages. Again, to each their own but I do wish we'd just gotten on with it. Also didn't appreciate, but know it happens, the driver offering drugs at these stops. Drivers, both to resort and from resort, were great though as far as knowledge, stories, and safety of trip.
THE Beach/Pool/Pool Bar/Ocean/Watersports
Beach was SUPERB, as we knew it would be. Acutally spent more time on the beach this trip than at the pool which I fully enjoyed. Our first trip 2 years ago was right after a tropical storm so the beach was "dirtier" and water very choppy, so this time we got to really got to experience, AND FULLY ENJOY, what the other posters area always talking about as far as floating in the bay. This was one of my favorite things to do, especially in the morning. The pool, hottubs, and pool bar were just as clean and fun to hang out in as we remembered. Definitely had improved service and environment when (and forgive my spelling) Evelyn and/or Franklin were working the pool bar! Our first trip sand gravity, or pool gravity, completely took over so we never actually did anything else - THIS time we at least used the hobie kats - SO MUCH FUN! Had weather, aka any type of wind, been more prevelant more days we were there, we would have done this even more. Definitely recommend attending one of the 2 daily offered training classes so that you can use the boats anytime they're available from then on. Paddleboarding was boring for me, but this was personal preference. I do appreciate that Couples offers these, just as a form of exercise, though, for sure. There is nothing to complain about on any of these items. We could always find a chair, beach or pool, we could always find shade or sun, and there was always a floaty. We also LOVED that you don't have to keep track of, or keep little piece of paper, for the beach towels anymore - awesome change Couples!
We stayed in Ocean View this year, #7209. Loved our room. We knew to expect not to have a full and/or straight on view of the ocean and also knew that we might be getting a vew of the AN beach based on this room category. The room we were in, at least, actually had a really nice view of the garden/pond area over in that horseshoe of buildings and we actually ended up with a pretty nice view of the ocean, too. Room was as expected and nothing to complain about. It was clean and kept clean, had no AC issues, and had no bug problems either. Balcony was great little sitting area, as we expected, privacy was not an issue, and my husband was delighted to find the AC in our room had a "dry" setting that literally sucked out the humidity, so we used that off and on for his cigar case and it worked perfectly! We checked in several days before our arrival date online and except for a couple of small items, minibar was stocked. We tried this on our first trip and it didn't really work, but at least for us, this really isn't a big deal. We liked the change to just calling in anything you wanted, and as long as you were in your room, those items being delivered really quickly to the room instead of having to fill out the little form, override certain things on that form (what's offered, how many you can get) each day. Minibar isn't that big of a deal to us because you are always step away from being able to get anything you want, but I would say that in light of that information, we still are sometimes disappointed at the level of quality of liqour we can get, especially gin and scotch. Again, nothing we are actually complaining about, nothing that dappens our trip whatsoever, but just something to put out there for anyone planning a first trip. That liqour is definitely not anything even close to top shelf. Spa was great, again, as expected. Due to credits we had, from when/how our trip was booked as well as level attained as repeaters, we spent part of that to get a couple's massage and in the treehouse. Massages were relaxing, were performed at a high level, and definitely worth the money even if we hadn't had any credits to spend. We enjoyed using the treehouse, but word of advice - schedule those earlier in the morning if they're available and you're up. The RUI next door gets REALLY loud with music and employees over microphone, I would guess, and it can definitely ruin the vibe of the massage and trying to relax. My sister and BIL who came with us on this trip had their massage in the treehouse couple of days before we had ours scheduled and it was at 11, which is when the RUI crew seemed to really gear up and get loud, and it really did kind of ruin their experience. We scheduled our for 9:30 and had no such issue but only knew because of their experience.
Food was great, just as we expected as were drinks. We definitely ate too much and drank too much, but that was our fault! We ate at each resturant this time around so here are our thoughts.
Cassava Terrace - Breakfast always had a great range of food, from hot bar, fresh fruits, yogurts, breads, pastries, juices, smoothies, and egg/omelet bar. Really apprecaited that I could get my egg whites or omelet made with egg whites and had absolutely NO hassle from staff on that. Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar in the morning was also great, as expected, and definitely recommend partaking if that's your thing. Lunch is same thing; always a great range of food and you can make these meals as health or unhealthly as you choose to! I promise! (I eat clean at home, tried to as much as possible on trip without being crazy strict, and never had any issues) We didn't make it here for any nights the al a carte was on, so can't comment on that, but menu always sounded good, and nights we hit buffet were just as good, again, as other meals. Never had anything "bad" here.
Heliconia/Beach Grill - Lunch here was great (patties, jerk chicken, onion rings oh my!) between what you can get at the grill, the little salad bar, ice cream, coffee/tea service, soup, and nachos. For dinner, this would be the only thing I wasn't overly impressed with, but I think it had to do more with what I actually ordered than anything else. Drinks, breads (YUM!!!!!!!), soup, appetizers, and desserts were all great! I happened to order a mushroom risotto and it was pretty terrible, compared to any risotto I've had out or make at home. The consistency and flavors were just mush in the mouth and I think there was maybe one whole mushroom in the giant slop I got. But again, the rest of our table ordered other entrees and they were good, so that's nothing against having dinner here, just from me, I wouldn't recommend the risotto.
Lychee - All the food, from start to finish, was excellent here. We had zero complaints! Love that you can make any of the meal options as spice as you want to but can also keep fairly mild, and we loved the selections of apps, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts while we were at CN. No surprises here and no changes, for the worse, from our first trip to CN.
Otaheite - Excellent, again! We love the uniqueness of the setting, the menu options were to die for, and the "special" service at this one! The soups, especially, I always enjoy (this applies to most of them anywhere at CN by the way) and this time around was no different. Really wanted to steal the pot from the kitchen and eat it all myself! Wishing that we could have gotten here more than once, but maybe next trip. Make sure you get one visit in on your trip - you'll enjoy!
Drinks - We, like I said, enjoyed maybe a little too much at points, but definitely enjoy that you're not getting served bottom shelf liqour and crappy beer any/all bars and restuarants and appreciate that this is selling point for Couples. The specialty drinks at the resturants are always fun, always fun to order a drink fo the day at the bars, and we definitely enjoy the TOP shelf selection available in the Piano Bar. Drinks are always well made, never light or watered down, and bar staff is ALWAYS willing to grant your request of a rum floater or extra liqour in anything if something isn't made to your liking. House wine is house wine. We happen to drink a lot of wine and while I wouldn't consider us full on "wine snobs", we weren't impressed by any of the house wines, but we weren't expecting to be either from our first trip. The house wines are drinkable though and while it's not my favorite, I do enjoy the sparkling wine and would say it's more than just "drinkable". Yes there is a Manager's Wine List, but we found the prices to be SO outrageous, that for us at least, we decided to just have a glass of house wine when we wanted to, enjoy other cocktails the rest of the time, and save our money and/or credits for spa and coffee. I will say, as I've seen it multiple times, I do really wish that the selection of TOP shelf liqour was available at the rest of the bars. My husband, for example, is a Scotch drinker and there were certain times he really wished he didn't have to wait until the Piano Bar was open at night, to get a decent glass of Scotch. I would say the same for Vodka, my liqour of choice. Is this a true "complaint", no, absolutely not. But just our opinion. Didn't ruin our trip, I'm sure I probably could've gotten a drink or glass of whatever we wanted during the day if it was "that" big of a deal, but again, just be forewarned. Knowledge is key!
What is there to say about service that hasn't been said a million times already and keep Couples what it is??? I was TERRIBLE at keeping track of names this trip, but every employee we experienced, except for one day which I'll address in a second, from check in, guest relations, housekeeping, watersports, activities, bars, restaurants, etc...were all GREAT and it really does make the trips to Couples so delightful. We appreciate all the hardworking staff, the hours they put in, and the awesome attitudes they have all day, every day.
The only other things I can comment on are as follows. We attended the Repeater's Cocktails and Dinner and this was really fun to get to do. This was our first time, and we hope not our last. It was nice to be able to get to sit down and meet other repeater's and management level staff of Couples. The meal we had was AWESOME just like every other meal we had during our stay. Again, can't remember name, but we had the head of staffing at our table. She was so nice and informative regarding the resort, any questions we had (water, water bottles, upcoming possible merger, staff, etc...) and we just throroughly enjoyed this. I think it's just another really special and unique thing that Couples does that makes this brand so successful. We did venture off resort to walk down the beach to the true original Office of Nature. While it's not something we'd do every time, again just for us, it was something cool to do that was different and off the resort. We definitely enjoyed our time there and the lobster was the BEST! For the price, definitely check it out! (remember, blue tarps!!!) Vendors were never an issue and a simple "no thank you" was sufficient. Catamaran Cruise was so much fun! We actually never made it on our first trip (sand gravity is serious!) and we were kicking ourselves for not going our first time to CN and for not signing up to go until our last night at CN this time! Definitely go-you'll have fun! We got some great pictures and the boat crew is VERY entertaining! We also go to attend the Anniversary Party this time. Couples does a really great job on this. The amount of work and service behind this as far as getting set up, and broken down, and then putting this party on is immense and everyone did an awesome job. My only "negative" thoughts on this was that all the food was in stations and there just was literally too much. I really would have just preferred the appetizer and dessert craziness and then had an acutal "meal". I know, that's really something to "complain" about, it just really bothered me for some reason.
We had very few negatives on this trip but I would be remiss if I didn't include. Because it is the same staff that works during the day, every day as who put up, cleaned up, and served during the Anniversary Party, the next day we really experienced some not very nice service. Was it understandable due to their lack of sleep and, I would imagine, extra stress/duties, definitely, but you just hated to see it and wasn't great to experience in person. If this is something that happens yearly, you'd think there might be a way to have added staff for this to help unburden normal daily staff the very next morning? It was just sort of unfortunate. Again, it was just that one day after, so definitely wasn't the norm of what we experienced at all. I'm not sure if it was due to the anniversary party and the funds that have to be involved in putting that on or if this is just a change CN has made, but the entertainment was worse that our last trip, and it wasn't really anything to write home about on the first trip. Except for maybe one night while we were there, the showtime entertainment was the same group (and outside of anniversary party night) and just really wasn't that great in our opinion. Again, not sure if that's the new normal for CN or if that's just because of the added expenses of the party...just really didn't encourage us to be out after dinner, which then made it hard to either stay out to enjoy the little bit later things going on or to come back out from the room for those same things. Now, for this one last thought, I truly don't mean it to be TMI, so I do apologize if it is, but I haven't really seen this discussed on the boards so I'm really posting to see if anyone else will own up to experiencing this. I have no issue, AT ALL, for getting rid of the bottled water available to patrons on resort due to cost and environmental responsibilities. That being said, we say the water at the water stations being filled from tap, and then only "tap" water at meals/bars. The only reason I bring this up is because, as I've mentioned, my husband and I have visited CN before when there was bottled water available, and while we might have a glass with our meal or the ice in mixed/blended drinks, we never had any "stomach issues", however, this time, the 4 in our party had these issues the entire trip that started by 2nd day and stopped as soon as we were off resort and replinished with bottled water on way home/home from water. No one was "ill" where they couldn't still enjoy their trip, but it was definitely a pain to deal with. I can confirm that this was not due to food, was not due to drinks, etc...we also performed a little "experiment" of limiting water to what could be bought bottled in gift shop, one glass if that (which I know wasn't healthiest thing to do but one day one hurt anyone) at dinner or other meal, and limiting iced cocktails/blended drinks or amount of time to drink though to limit water intake, and the "stomach issues" went away pretty fast that day of the experiement too. Also, my other reason for bringing this up, is that I for one, don't want to experience this again but wouldn't do what we did on "experiement" day for a full trip and I drink a LOT of water. This reason would actually be a reason we have already discussed with keep us from coming back. Also, I think it would be a GREAT addition for Couples to have sparkling water available. If it normally is, any time we asked we were told "No", so not happy if that was the case, and if not, would be nice to have for those who choose not to drink alcohol or due to the water issue that our group experienced at least.
Anyway - that's our review. Hope it's helpful and thanks for reading! Outside of those few things, we had a FANTASTIC trip and love Couples as a brand and love CN and do hope to be back home as soon as we can, to any of the resorts!