July 26th, 2012, 10:22 AM
Couples dilemma -- seeking the WOW! Experience
Iíve read plenty of travel posts where frankly, the posters come across to me as rather snobbish and having unrealistically high expectations that everything they do, see, eat and drink will be the gold standard. Hopefully, this post doesnít come across that way, as I definitely am not a snob. So whatís my dilemma? Every year at anniversary time, the wife and I look forward to being taken out of our daily routine for a week of total splendor and luxury at some nice, adults-only, all-inclusive beach resort someplace in the Caribbean. In our travels, weíve been to some very luxurious, upscale resorts that definitely have the WOW! factor. Last year was our first trip to Jamaica, and we stayed at CN. In my view, the location, beach, calm, beautiful water, beach activities and generous extras included at CN couldnít be beat. As far as the overall experience, Iíve never had a better time or a better trip. The resort, however, was a little underwhelming to us. Certainly, the accommodations and the food and staff and overall vacation experience more than made up for the lack of WOW! But there-in lies our dilemma -- I would love to go back to Jamaica again. However, while the overall experience at CN was terrific, the resort/rooms were merely adequate in our view and not up to the high standards we ordinarily look for in our annual trips. For you seasoned, repeat Couples customers, just wondering how the accommodations at CSA and CSS stack up in comparison to CN. For those who know, is there any more of a WOW! factor at the other Couples resorts, or do you think that our overall impression will pretty much be the same? Thanks in advance for any knowledge/wisdom/insights that other posters can pass along to help us make a decision about our next trip.
July 26th, 2012, 06:16 PM
Sorry, but if you were underwhelmed because of the rooms I think you will be underwhelmed again. I've been to 3 of the 4 locations with CN the only one not visited. There's no high-end furniture and no marble. CSS is a bit dated but not bad, it has a well-seasoned feel and quality. CSA is very caribbean with lots of wood, white linens and white tile baths. At CTI the decor is newer, more modern and contemporary which you might like but I would not define as "upscale". All of the locations are different and unique from each other but the things that made your trip great are the same.
I prefer a caribbean feel when on an island and will continue to return to Couples because of this feel. I hope to not spend that much time in my room while on vacation but if I do, I want to be comfortable and feel like it is a home away from home.
I see this subject alot as a disappointment on this board and tripadvisor. I understand your issue and I respect your opinion and your preference w/o thinking of you as snobbish. However, if the decor of the room where you sleep and shower is the most important part of your vacation then you might be better served to try a different resort. That said, I am a little confused as these are your words..."As far as the overall experience, Iíve never had a better time or a better trip." I think you have to decide - overall better time and value or pretty/fancy accomodations. I have stayed in pretty/fancy accomodations that are no where close to the "WOW" when compared to the upscale service, inclusions and staff that couples has to offer.
July 26th, 2012, 07:00 PM
Couples is NOT about faux glitz and glamor and false pretense. It is all about the true Caribbean luxury you get from the location, beach, calm, beautiful water, beach activities and generous extras included at all Couples and the overall experience.
To the real Couples enthusiasts when you add all the pretense of bulky mahogany furniture, faux granite & marble, ostentatious statues and all the rest that you deem "very luxurious, upscale resorts that definitely have the WOW! factor" it only cheapens the REAL WOW FACTOR of Couples.
I strongly suggest you look elsewhere for your WOW! Factor. You will not find it at Couples ......THANK the Heavens!
July 26th, 2012, 07:58 PM
I don't think you'll find that WOW factor in any rooms at any Couples but every time we go to CSA and see that beach, that's when I say WOW. Trip #5 booked. We have tried. CSS and the resort is wow gorgeous the beach is not IMO. Service, food and drinks were outstanding. Our suite was clean, comfy and large but was showing a little wear. It didn't bother me in the least but it might bother you. There is nothing really luxurious about Couples but that's ok with us. Good luck deciding.
July 26th, 2012, 08:46 PM
The WOW factor is the people, staff, food and other things you described. All the resorts are basically the same as far as bling is concerned. Most of the Couples lovers feel that the available WOW is more important than the room bling, since so little time is spent in the room, and more time is spent enjoying the other parts mentioned.
July 27th, 2012, 08:48 AM
I understand your dlemma, CN's rooms are my least favourite. CSA's rooms are very authentic, and look exactly like they do on the website. We have been to CN, CSA, and CSS, with CSS being our favourite. Now the beaches at CSS are not anything like Negril, but they are visually very pretty wtih the green water, and treed shoreline.
AT CSS, you can always eat or be outside. The entertainment is always outside under the stars, which to us is a wow factor. The rooms are a bit dated, but much larger and better laid out. I have been to some awesome resorts and I know that wow factor that you are talking about, but everything else lacked. Like everyone else has stated, its everything else that is the Wow factor at Couples, with no different levels of service. Good luck choosing another Couples.
July 27th, 2012, 10:38 AM
The WOW comes from the unpretentious , beautiful simplicity of the resort. It allows me to focus on things that are really important. The result - relaxation and tranquility unlike anything I have experienced before.
July 27th, 2012, 12:33 PM
I Understand that some people want that WOW room, but we dont necessarily go to Couples for that WOW room and the reason is because we spend such little time in our room and we feel the WOW factor is in every other aspect of Couples. We go to CSA and the rooms there, to us, have more of a "bungalow" feel. With that said, we feel the rooms fit right into the atmosphere that CSA is. Its not trying to have that Ritz Carlton high end room feel, its a romantic, tropical feel. I would rather them have the rooms they do which give them the opportunity to have the amazing food, service, and activities that they offer, all which is better than any AI out there. BUT, its not for everyone. Some want that high end luxury room and thats's great, you just wont necessarily find that at Couples.
Couples Ocho Rios 2005/2006
2012 x2/2013 x2
July 27th, 2012, 12:52 PM
Thanks for all of the useful and well-informed feedback. You all make very good and valid points. To Sea Ya Soon and Fluffin, I thought you were a little harsh, but I still totally get where youíre coming from and actually donít disagree with you. And to me, the overall vacation experience and everything that takes place out of the room is way more important than the splendor of the resort. Sooooooo, personally, I would go back to CN in a second for all of the reasons mentioned in my original post and, Iím sure, have the time of my life yet again. However, the wife was mildly disappointed with the accommodations, so I was just wondering if she might like one of the other Couples resorts better so that we could both get what we want. But what weíve found in our travels is that no one destination and resort has everything we want. So just like in life and in any good marriage, thereís always a bit of compromise involved in the vacation decision as well. But everyone has different tastes and individual likes and dislikes and everyone should base their decisions on what aspects of the vacation experience are most important to them. I know what my decision would be, but Iím trying to find some middle ground to please us both.
July 27th, 2012, 03:16 PM
We are simple folk. Our past vacations have included stays at exotic places like Florida and Maryland (beaches ya know). We stayed at places with WOW factors that included air conditioning and maybe a pool. The fine dining consisted of near by fast food or maybe an Applebees or some other chain restaurant. The fanciest place we visited was Disney in Orlando. All vacations save for the first couple included our two daughters.
For our 25th anniversary we wanted a place that did not fit with any of those descriptions. We looked long and hard and settled on CSA. We put down the money nearly a year before the trip and crossed our fingers. Maybe it was our simple taste or hopeful expectations but we were enchanted with Jamaica as soon as we landed and we fell in love with CSA as soon as we got off the shuttle bus.
WOW is in the eye of the beholder, if I may. For us the charm and elegance of CSA lies in the simplicity and authenticity of the distinctly Jamaican vibe that permeates the resort and the surrounding community. Not to mention my favorite beach in the world. Yeah, we were WOWed.
It ain't Trump Towers, but if it were we would be looking for something else. Something like we found at Couples.
July 27th, 2012, 03:59 PM
I agree that you will not find the WOW factor you seem to be seeking at any of the Couples resorts.
We stay in some luxe resorts on other islands and totally enjoy them. However, CSA remains one of my all time favorite resorts for the overall experience.
At the resorts we visit in MX, we choose more for the resort amenities and excellent service that our favorite resorts offer, as well as ocean front rooms with great views, a nice included wine list and top shelf everywhere.
At CSA, we choose for the fabulous beach, location, quality and variety of local foods and the romantic vibe as well as the great sports complex. Room luxury is not part of the equation, nor are high end public areas.
I cannot actually picture a Couples resorts that is high end luxury. It is just not who they are.
July 27th, 2012, 04:02 PM
When I read this thread, all I can think about it the "WOW!" That I experienced when we visted CTI for the first time. We arrived at night. It was pitch black... could only see the inside of the buildings and the pool area (which I have to say are beautiful!). When we woke up the next morning and I opened those drapes covering the big French doors leading me out to our balcony... there was the BIGGEST WOW! I had ever seen.
The turquoise blue waters, the beautifully manicured beach and property, Tower Island off in the distance, the palm trees swaying.... Then came the breakfast and the coffee and the wonderful Couples Staff...
It wasn't our first trip to Jamaica, but by far the BEST... We've been back to CTI two more times and to CSS once. We're heading back to CTI in 85 days for some more WOW!!!
Hope you all enjoy many more "Wows!" at Couples!
July 28th, 2012, 04:45 AM
I know exactly what you mean. My hubby and I stayed at a resort in Mexico with a Wow factor. It would be nice if we could have it all but that being said I think that the Wow factor might impede many of the things that we love about the Couples brand. For-instance, all those resorts with the posh environments also have strict dress codes. How can you have a laid back atmosphere and a "high class" atmosphere? You might have marble and glitz but you also have a class system based on room grades. So unless you paid top dollar you don't get the royal treatment. And I can't help but wonder what might suffer if they poured more money and time into changing the look of the resort. Would the staff still sing as they serve you? Would the food be just as great? Could I still feel at home there? Perhaps the resorts only need a little spiffing up? Replace the floaties with all new ones and get the bathrooms and other "worn" areas spruced up. Maybe then no one will even miss the Wow factor. Or it will be refocused where it belongs, on the people, the food, and of course the ocean.
July 28th, 2012, 10:04 AM
Reading through this, it seems to me that perhaps part of the problem is people equate "all inclusive" with "high-end luxury." Having been to CTI once (so far,) it seems that the Couples idea of AI is more "laid back, feel like you're a guest in our home" sort of vibe. The wife and I are not "world travelers" by any means, nor are we people who typically stay at 4-5 star hotels and resorts. We typically stay at Motel 6s / Best Westerns when travelling, and have once stayed at a (recently opened) upper-end hotel in Las Vegas (The Aria if you're curious.) The Vegas hotel was the highest end we had ever stayed in to that point (and then only because my employer paid for it!) and to some extent we felt at least a little out of place. We're jeans and a t-shirt most of the time sort of people, and it was moving into "suits and evening gown" territory.
Couples, we felt comfortable in shorts and t-shirts, or shorts and a casual button down shirt. The staff never made us feel out of place (even if that might only have been in my head in Vegas,) we always felt welcome and that we could ask any staff member for help if we needed it with anything.
Perhaps the closest we've come to a vacation with a similar vibe was when we visited my brother and sis-in-law at their home in Hawaii one year (he's a Jarhead and was stationed there for a couple years.)
Couples is a "home."
CTI again in:
July 28th, 2012, 11:27 AM
I also agree.
Originally Posted by caviargal
Interesting that this topic comes up just as I'm trying to write my review of CSS, and somehow explain what our WOW factor was when we arrived.
Looking at our previous reviews, the WOW factors were quite obvious, while CSS's is elusive.
For us, Couples San Souci's understated, refined and subdued caribbean colonial elegance and atmosphere contributed to a sophisticated and subtle arrival ~ one that wasn't WOW, but left us calm and relaxed. The rich ambiance of this beautiful tropical resort nestled in lush foliage and clinging on a dramatic cliff side was everything we'd hoped for and imagined! We went exploring the many secluded stone pathways, terraced and tranquil gardens ~ losing ourselves and feeling alone in the luxurious, lush foliage and towering palms ~ finding ourselves overlooking Jamaica's majestic emerald mountains in the distance ~ being seated and treated to a first perfect meal in paradise, with the sound of waves lapping at our toes, a soft tropical breeze with a hint of the scent of exotic bougainvillea wafting over us.
But it wasn't until a few hours later, literally at the beginning of our vacation, we were back on the huge verandah of the Gardenia Suite situated above the edge of the uppermost cliff ~ that we realized that we were "home" and decided then and there, that we would definitely come back to Sans Souci ~ this Xanadu!
Last edited by GardenGal; July 30th, 2012 at 09:20 AM.
July 28th, 2012, 04:23 PM
CN WOWs me every time. I can't wait to go back. I definitely respect your view infoman...good idea to look around for that special place that works on all leveld for you. Best of luck.
July 28th, 2012, 04:54 PM
We actually go for the trip itself, not so much for the style of the room, spend so little time elsewhere and so little in the room.
July 28th, 2012, 08:04 PM
We stay at CTI. We are wowed by the service & food. What wows me as far as the room is concerned is having a room right over the beach and hearing the waves. I am also wowed when I walk into the lobby and see the island. Once you go you know.
July 29th, 2012, 02:06 PM
You might enjoy the "wow" factor of the highest category of Beachfront Suites at CSA. These are the newly classified suites with the wrap around porch, and there are only a few on property. We've stayed in this category for a couple of our visits, and absolutely LOVED it! The interior set up is larger than your ordinary BFS, with a nice sofa and plenty of room. And the porch (in our opinion), is really outstanding....If $$ is no object, I'd definitely go for that!!
And BTW, we consider the rooms at CSA to have a Jamaican Zen-like feel. We really like the dark wood and white linens, and the whole minimalistic, peaceful feel to the room....We've traveled all over the world, and have stayed at high end resorts/hotels as well as more boutique-like properties, and CSA DEFINITELY ranks at the top of our list of places we love the most!!
I hope if you choose CSA that you'll love it as much as we do!
July 30th, 2012, 03:58 PM
I think I understand what you are saying here. To get the Wow factor I would suggest you look at the Great House Jacuzzi Suites or the Premium Beachfront Suites. They are very different from each other but I think they have a wow factor to them. We prefer the PBFS because of the large patios, screen (only) windows, no TV's and being so close to the beach. However the GHJS are very luxurious and have an amazing view of the ocean. The room we looked at had a huge bathroom with a separate shower and jacuzzi bathtub, 2 flat screen TV's and a telescope on the balcony. I'm sure one of those rooms would suit your tastes. But the biggest wow factor at CSA is the beach. It's beautiful beyond words.
It's been a long time since I've been to CSS but I think it has wow factor too. The grounds are beautiful. You might want to check out their top category rooms or perhaps the cottage. I can't remember the names of the room or the cottage but with a little research on this board I'm sure you can find more information and maybe even some pictures.
I like CN but I didn't get the wow factor there either but I did at CSA and CSS.
Good Luck finding your perfect place at Couples. It's there waiting for you.
July 30th, 2012, 08:15 PM
As a seasoned traveler as well, I have to respond to your idea of what you call WOW. I understand that the rooms and decor may be dated, but all the glitz and glam, in my opinion would actually ruin the Couples experience. Couples holds dear the true island experience of Jamaica. The hotels are simplistic, artistic, quaint, homey, and very clean. The true beauty of a Jamaica vacation lies within the island itself and it's people. You will never find anywhere the truly inspiring attitude, the warm welcome, the genuine smiles of the staff at Couples.
You can go to Vegas or Mexico for glitz and glam, lots of that there. If fancy decor is your WOW factor, then Couples is not for you, but we will never trade what is our WOW factors for fancy glitz.
When we went to CSS, our first WOW was the greeting of "welcome home" accompanied by a glass of champagne and a wet towel.
Another WOW was that the staff actually remembered our names.
Another WOW was the food.
Another WOW was the supreme service, whether the room staff, bartenders, servers, room service, or front desk staff.
Another WOW, which to us cannot be duplicated, is the ambiance. There is something about being at Couples, the feel, the attitude, the relaxation, the air, the ocean, etc. that cannot be compared to any experience that we have ever had anywhere.
You say that your CN vacation was great, but lacked the WOW. To me, granite and marble and fancy decor isn't a WOW. It's nothing. You can't see it in the dark. You can't see it when you sleep. You can't taste it, feel it, smell it, or live it.
A fancy hotel with rude staff and no ambiance is not WOW to me. Couples is. Maybe that's why CSS is our second home and the first week of October this year and next are already booked.
July 30th, 2012, 09:01 PM
Hi. We have been to many places in US and to the Bahamas. We've been home now for 4 days. Maybe we aren't destined to be 'out of the country' travellers...I posted a review on Trip Advisor...I said the beach/ocean and staff are the five stars of the resort. I'm sticking with that. We are simple travelers, who got frustrated coming back into the US, (it was awful) and I am afraid that colored our point of view on our vacation at CSA! We met wonderful new friends, the staff is awesome!!!, food for us, not so much sometimes. (Patios and Feathers, go for it) I think it was all because I had such high ideals from all of the boards I'd read! The rooms are just as pictured, simple and carefree, like the resort and people that work (very hard!) there! I've talked enough, let's end it with this...when we left the resort to smiles, fist bumps, and hugs, when we got to the airport, the world changed back to what it really is like. That was my WOW moment...we had experienced a truly special time in this rough ole' world, and thank you CSA for taking us away from it all to a great resort and happy memories! Oh, and Edwardo is the Man! We loved him, and so many others that worked so hard to make our stay wonderful...no problems, Mon, fist bump....
July 31st, 2012, 10:44 AM
I am going to couples in August and I totally understand your dilemma "infoman". I am a person who likes the whole package, being laid back relaxation and ambiance, along with nice rooms and a little luxury. Although I have been very encouraged reading all the great reviews about what my experience will be like in CN.. I'm a little worried that I'm going to be let down by my room. Now, I'm not saying that I'm a total room snob...I'm not wanting chandeliers and marble floors...I'm not wanting Ritz-Carlton/Trump Towers/Four Seasons but I do want a clean, comfortable, and somewhat modern room. I want a room on par with a Hilton garden Inn/Omni/Hyatt and not Motel 6/Days Inn/Howard Johnson. If that makes me snobbish..then I guess a little but I think the room is part of the experience and I think you would ALL agree that it is reasonable to expect a resort that sets a person back 2-4 grand to have clean and comfortable beds, clean and working showers, Minimal bugs (I understand this is the Carribean and some bugs may be unavoidable), and a decent television. So I really hope CN is the place for me because I am really looking for a great EXPERIENCE but I don't want to sleep in dirty,uncomfortable,or vastly outdated lodgings...because to me that's not a vacation. I feel like many people are fiercely protective of these resorts, infoman said nothing negative, he felt like the rooms were a little lackluster..."Fluffin" was definitely harsh. I guess I'm just wondering now what the rooms will really be like. Any un-biased information on that would be much appreciated.
August 1st, 2012, 06:33 PM
The rooms at CN are not the Hyatt by any means but neither are they Motel 6.
They are - IMO and IME - clean and comfortable with good AC, and a good size but are not modern. Nor are the bathrooms. This is not a new resort and the design does not attempt to make it look like one.
Our Couples of choice is CSA, though we have stayed at CN. We do not go to Couples for the rooms, but neither does that keep us away. If you are looking for Hyatt/Omni/Marriott type rooms you will be disappointed.
August 2nd, 2012, 09:51 AM
@ caviargal- Thanks,for the insight! Clean,comfortable,with working AC will prbly work just fine for me. I will try just about anything once, and definitely want to give CN a chance.