The wife and I just returned from a six-night stay at CN on Sept. 5-11, 2011 and had a wonderful time. To give you the perspective from which we’re reviewing the trip, we’ve vacationed before at all-inclusive beach resorts in St. Lucia, Punta Cana and Cancun. This was our first time to Jamaica and our first time staying at a Couples resort. I’m not going to bother to go through a day-by-day or feature-by-feature review of the resort because quite frankly, if you’ve read the travel reviews, both in this forum and on tripadvisor.com, then you already have a very accurate picture of CN. It was our experience that pretty much everything that other visitors thought was great, was in fact great, while things that others thought were lacking, were. Therefore, I’m going to organize my review into the following four categories:
-Suggestions for Improvements
So, here goes:
-The Beach: It’s billed by many travelers and travel web sites as one of the best and most beautiful in the world, and we absolutely agree. The length and width of the beach, the relative seclusion, the natural beauty, the beautiful, soft white sand and the postcard-perfect calm, clear aqua water must be seen to be believed! It’s an absolute paradise.
-The Food: For the most part, very good. Not great, but as all-inclusive beach resorts go, the food was very good. And in an added nicety, while the food at the beach grille wasn’t great, it was very convenient and the grille stays open until around 4 a.m. You could practically eat around-the-clock if you wanted to.
-The Grounds: Again, not as upscale and palatial as some other top-end resorts. But what is there is very and neatly maintained.
-Check-In/Check-Out/Shuttle Service: Very efficient and hassle-free.
-The Water: The water is indescribably clean, clear and beautiful. And the protected feature of the bay made the water very still and calm. This was a great bonus for the wife, who isn’t a strong swimmer. At other resorts, she would just take a brief dip in the ocean water. At CN, we swam and floated for hours upon hours. Again, absolute paradise!
-The Drinks: Neither of us are big drinkers, but we had several drinks every day. All were good and did not have that watered-down taste that you sometimes get at some other resorts.
-The Lobster: We’ve been disappointed with the preparation and taste of the lobster that we’ve had at other resorts. In fact, we walked down to Office of the Nature on our first day and had the most delicious lobster experience imaginable. This was a strategic move to ensure that we had at least one good lobster experience in Negril in case the CN lobster was a disappointment. However, on lobster night at the resort (every Friday during lobster season), we were very pleasantly surprised at how good CN’s lobster was. Yum!
-Entertainment: I’m a music buff and much prefer live music to the dance troupes and Michael Jackson impersonators at other resorts we’ve been to. This was a real wild card for us, because I asked around before we left for CN and couldn’t seem to find much information about the entertainment. Consequently, we weren’t expecting much. Again, we were pleasantly surprised at the nightly live music that included a very good house band and other featured singers along with a high-energy steal drum group. The beach party on Thursday and the movie on the beach also were very nice touches that helped to make the entertainment a real unexpected bonus, particularly for a resort of this size.
-Beach Vendors: Yes, the beach vendors. Usually, they’re an annoyance. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the vendors and felt as though they actually added to the experience. We met some very interesting characters and never felt threatened or harassed. Do expect to be offered illegal substances on a regular basis. But a simple no and a “respect” fist-bump, and they were on their way. Also, the vendors stayed close to the shoreline and never bothered people lying in their beach chairs. And if you did engage a vendor in banter or barter, there was always a watchful security guard close by making sure that you weren’t ripped off or taken advantage of. And for us, the best part was all of the local musicians giving their mini-concerts on the beach while hawking their CDs. Also worth mentioning were the T-shirt and jewelry vendors up the beach towards the RIU. The wife and I enjoyed shopping there and putting some money into the pockets of the locals. For a very small amount of money, we came home with a bunch of nice trinkets and souvenirs.
-The Weather: Being it was the rainy season, we expected a daily downpour. In fact, it only rained a couple of times and for the most part cleared up very quickly.
-Water Activities: Again, a real highlight. We went on the sunset Catamaran cruise, the glass-bottom boat ride and a snorkeling outing and also took out a 2-person kayak for a spin. Everything was great, free, well-organized and no-hassle.
-Value: The inclusions were far and above what we’ve had at any other resort. Just about anywhere else, a Catamaran cruise, glass-bottom boat ride and snorkel trip will cost you extra.
-Service: Again, the service for the most part was very good, but not great. For instance, while eating at the buffet at other resorts, the staff brought us our drinks. Not so at CN. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind at all getting my own drinks. But it’s just an illustration of why I don’t give the service at CN a higher grade. We didn’t encounter any rude or cranky workers. But at other resorts, we always managed to cross paths with an over-the-top friendly type that we wanted to adopt and take home to the states. Didn’t happen at CN. So why do I give the service a Better-Than-Expected grade? Because we had two problems while at CN, and both times, the staff was extremely responsive and was there to fix the problem with 3-4 minutes.
-The Room: We knew it wasn’t going to be luxurious, so our expectations were fairly low. Still, the rooms were even less than expected. Very bare bones and sorely in need of modernizing, upgrades, paint jobs, etc. Basically felt like we were staying in a Holiday Inn. This wasn’t a deal-breaker for us, as you really don’t spend that much time in the room. But if you’re looking for the special, ornate, upscale, “wow” look, this is not the place for you.
-The Pool: Nothing to write home about. Again, not a deal-breaker. The beach was so incredible that we had very little desire to spend any time at the pool. However, for those who use the pool as their focal point, you might be a bit disappointed. Like some other CN features, it’s nice, but lacks the “wow” quality.
-Otaheite Restaurant: This is the most upscale restaurant at the resort and the only one that requires you to dress up and make reservations. Consequently, we were expecting great things. It was a very romantic setting and the ambiance, service and presentation were first-rate. The appetizers also were rather tasty. But the entrees were a little disappointing, and we ended up liking the Asian restaurant, Lychee, much better and ended up eating there three times. The appetizer platter and Phad Thai are truly wonderful!
-Inconsiderate Guests: I thought the people who reserved the beach hammocks all day were extremely inconsiderate (more on this later). Also, there was a very nice acoustic guitarist who played and sang at the Thursday night beach party. I really wanted to listen, but was distracted by numerous people who sat on the deck by the music and then rudely engaged in non-stop conversation that made it very hard to hear the music. I mean, if they didn’t want to hear the music, why did they sit there?
-Rick’s Café: I enjoyed the outing and was glad that I went. However, it was made far less enjoyable than I was expecting due to the incredible pushiness of the people passing around the donation jars on behalf of the cliff-divers.
Suggestions for Improvements:
-We really missed not having bottled water available. This is the first resort we’ve stayed at where this was the case.
-A very small thing, but there wasn’t anything to write with in our room. Would have been helpful since there are things to fill out, such as the daily form to re-stock the mini-bar and the room service order.
-As everyone has stated, the beach chairs are extremely plentiful, and they never run out of choice locations. This was a real treat not having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the beach or pool to reserve a spot. And the hammocks on the beach are a very nice touch and I highly recommend using them, as they’re very relaxing. However, there are only a handful of hammocks. Because of that, I suggest that the resort implement a rule about not reserving the hammocks. There were some very inconsiderate guests who laid out on beach chairs next to a hammock and thought that entitled them to have exclusive use of the hammock for the entire day. Even worse, some people put their towels, clothes and bags down on the hammocks. Then, they would spend perhaps a half-hour or hour at the most in the hammock, but it wasn’t available for others to use the rest of the day. Frankly, I always found an empty hammock to use when I wanted one. But that might not always be the case. And even so, I thought the practice of claiming a hammock for an entire day was extremely rude and inconsiderate and should be discouraged.
We absolutely loved the trip and had tons of fun. I don’t think we’re going to become one of those Couples groupies who return year-after-year, but I highly recommend CN and hope to go back some day.