I found the reviews and posts about CN really helpful when I was planning our trip -- thank you! The review below is nearly identical to one I just submitted on tripadvisor. Overall we had a great trip and we would definitely consider another trip to a Couples resort. Please let me know if anyone has any questions!
I read a lot of reviews before booking our trip and I found them to be very helpful, so I wanted to contribute something in case it helps someone else. We booked four nights at Couples Negril in August 2011 as our first vacation away from our 14-month-old baby. We wanted somewhere with a nice beach and good food where we could relax and get some much-needed rest after a busy and sleepless first year with our daughter. This resort was just what we wanted.
I picked the Couples resorts initially because I know someone who went to Couples Swept Away and raved about it. As between CSA and CN, we picked CN because it was slightly less expensive and because it sounded from the reviews like the beach at CN was a bit quieter. I think another reason people pick CSA over CN is if they're interested in an active sports scene and nightlife, and since we weren't looking for those things -- mostly we just wanted to relax -- CN seemed like a better fit for us. Also, we generally don't do all-inclusives when we travel; we like to explore on our own, and we definitely didn't want an all-inclusive where we had to wear wristbands and hear loud music blaring constantly and felt pressure to participate in activities. (We rejected the "S" resorts for this reason, plus the fact that we didn't like the idea of having different "levels" of guests with concierge service, butler service, etc.) We also liked what we read about the Couples resorts because they're a Jamaican-owned business and seem more laid-back than other all-inclusives. I'm glad we chose CN. We were completely happy with the resort.
Details of our stay, from start to finish: We arrived at 11 a.m. on a Friday. We had checked one bag (mostly because we couldn't fit all the sunscreen we wanted to bring in a carry-on with the restrictions on liquids), and it was waiting for us by the time we cleared immigration and customs. I think we waited for maybe 5 minutes at immigration; the lines moved quickly. We did not wait at customs. We got our bag and went to the Couples lounge. We were greeted nicely and told that the shuttle to CN would be leaving in 20 minutes. We had just time enough to order a beer and use the bathroom, and they announced that the shuttle was leaving. The minivan wasn't brand new, but it was fine. In some reviews, people described the drive to Negril from the airport as harrowing, and I honestly have no idea what those people are talking about. The road to Negril wasn't THAT narrow, and our driver was completely responsible and safe, so I can only assume that other travelers had drivers who were reckless. We've been on much scarier roads in other countries. The driver asked us halfway there if anyone needed to stop for the restroom, and we all said no. The trip took about 1 hour and 20 minutes with no traffic.
We arrived and were given a clipboard and asked to fill out some forms. Someone brought champagne and a cold towel. About 5 minutes later we were given a brief verbal tour of the resort (including an explanation of the restaurants) and taken to our room. We had booked a garden deluxe room and I think we were upgraded to an ocean view room. We were in a corner room in the 7000 block which was nice because we had windows on two sides, and we had a nice, if slightly obscured by trees, view of the ocean.
I had read that the rooms needed a bit of refurbishment, and in some reviews people really seemed to blast the resort for issues like mildew on the bathroom tile, etc. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the room, and we had no issues with it whatsoever. The bathroom was modern and clean, and I am usually picky about bathrooms and easily grossed out if they aren't very nice. The bed was big and comfortable, with nice quality sheets (and I consider myself to be a bit of a sheet snob). As you can tell from pictures of the resort, the rooms are decorated in a colorful, tropical style, and the furniture is a dark wicker which gives the room a bit of a rustic/country feel. But none of that made the room seem run down at all. The floor was a spotless, cool tile. The flat screen TV was very nice. We filled out the sheet for the minibar and were surprised to receive full bottles of the liquor we requested; we had expected the small bottles you typically get on airplanes or in minibars. The housekeeping service was always very good. Some people mentioned seeing tons of ants everywhere in their room. We did notice a few ants here and there in the bathroom, but it wasn't a huge problem at all.
Our favorite thing about this resort is the beach. I truly can't say enough good things about it! The water was calm and very clear, and the beach there is a nice fine sand, with no rocks. There's a bit of seaweed right at the edge of the water, maybe for the first 1-2 feet, but then the water is perfectly clear with no seaweed. The water is very shallow for a long way out too, and I could still touch the bottom out by the buoys that kept boats away from the swimming area. As everyone says, we really liked the beach floaties they have on every beach chair, and I spent a lot of time just floating around out in the bay. We never had any problem finding beach chairs, and there was enough natural shade with the trees. The resort does not have umbrellas. However, we heard that the resort was only about 30% full when we were there, so I don't know if it's harder to find chairs during the busy season. I really liked that there was a little beach hut with self-serve soda and water right on the beach. I drink a ton of water when it's really hot, so it was easy for me to fill up the water bottle I brought from home. The resort does not distribute plastic bottles of water for ecological reasons, and that was fine with us. The water seemed fine to drink and we never had a problem with the food/water causing stomach upsets while we were there. Other reviewers complained about sand fleas, and we didn't notice any biting insects the entire time we were there.
We had been worried about being hassled by beach vendors. There were a few people walking up and down the beach selling things, but from what we could tell, they kept to the water line and didn't approach individual people in the beach chairs, and we were never bothered by them. We actually found it kind of entertaining to watch people walk by. The resort has security guards on the beach and we always felt safe.
We did the catamaran cruise on Saturday night. It was fun, but the music and the "everyone get up and dance!" atmosphere on the boat was a little over the top for us. Still, we enjoyed the boat ride, and it was fun to swim in the caves. No one in our group did the cliff jumping, which I had read about -- maybe because it was raining lightly off and on. We saw a couple of beautiful rainbows during the cruise.
Food: overall, we thought the food was very good but not excellent, and we felt like we might have gotten tired of the food if we had stayed for a full week or longer. We ate in Otaheite twice and Lychee twice. I booked a reservation at Otaheite as soon as we arrived, and it was not difficult to get a reservation there. Otaheite was very good, particularly the filet. Lychee was also good, but we felt the menu was somewhat limited -- it's basically just a menu where you pick your meat and pick your sauce (red curry, green curry, etc.), and then there's pad thai. I had been worried that the wine at the resort wouldn't be very good, and I thought it was fine to good. The beach grill was good for lunches, and we ate at the lunch buffet once. The salad bar was excellent. The breakfast buffet was good too, and there was a huge selection. The service was good at all the restaurants. One of the nights at Lychee, everything was a bit slow, but it was clearly out of the ordinary because the wait staff apologized repeatedly for the delay. All the bars at the resort were very good, and I enjoyed flipping through the cocktail menu and trying new drinks. Overall, the food was very good. We never felt like we had a bad meal. That having been said, I don't think we would rave about the food the way other people have in reviews; it was what we were expecting for a very nice resort, and we were completely satisfied with it, but I wouldn't characterize the food as the best we've ever had.
We didn't do a lot of the other activities because we just wanted to rest. I'm PADI certified and actually didn't end up diving, mostly because I was too lazy, but the diving facilities seemed great. My husband learned to sail a hobie cat and really enjoyed that. We liked the live music in the evenings and generally stopped at the main bar after dinner to have a drink or two, and that was fun. We did play tennis once, which we enjoyed. The tennis courts were really nice, and it was easy to borrow racquets and balls, which you get at the spa. It was just so hot that we didn't last more than 30-40 minutes out there.
Other things: the wifi didn't work in our room, but we got reception in the lobby, and we were able to skype with our daughter at home. We also got cell phone reception (through AT&T) the whole time we were there and were able to send and receive text messages easily. We used the computers at the resort once or twice/day to check our email, and we never had to wait for a computer. We found the "no tipping" policy to be pretty strictly observed, and we never felt pressured to tip and didn't do so.
We didn't spend much time in the pool area, but the pool was gorgeous and the swim-up bar was fun. We weren't interested in the au naturel section of the beach, so I can't comment on that. It was tucked away on one end of the beach and we didn't notice it at all or see au natural bathers in the ocean.
Finally, we'd been a bit worried about the weather because August is rainy season in Jamaica. We shouldn't have been worried. It was absolutely gorgeous every morning up through lunch. Then, predictably around 1 or 2 pm, the clouds would start rolling in, and we'd get a thundershower starting anywhere between 2 and 4. Generally we'd go back to our room for a nap around that time. Then it would usually clear up by dinner. So while it rained every day for an hour or two, we didn't find that it detracted from our vacation at all, and if anything the thundershowers were a welcome relief from the heat. Also, about the heat....I read in other reviews that people had problems with the AC in their rooms. That was not our experience. The AC worked fine and we never noticed any dripping or dampness in the room at all.
Leaving the resort was fine. The drive back took about the same amount of time, and we checked in easily for our flight. I wish the airport had more food options, since we got there with nearly two hours to spare.
Small things I'd change about CN if I could: (1) It would be nice if they offered pretzels or chips in the arrival lounge at the airport. By the time we arrived, it was past lunchtime at home, and I was hungry. It didn't seem like there was any way to buy food in the arrivals section of the airport, and after drinking a beer quickly before our shuttle left, I wished I had a little something in my stomach. I didn't need anything fancy -- just some pretzels would have been nice. I wished I had brought a granola bar from home. (2) I wish the resort would designate smoking and non-smoking areas on the beach. We live on the east coast in cities that have had smoking bans in public places for nearly 10 years, so I wasn't used to the smoke in public places at CN. I was really surprised to see so many people smoking on the beach, and the smoke definitely detracted from my enjoyment of the beach. However, I also acknowledge that I'm a lot more sensitive to smoke than most people, so it probably wouldn't bother everyone.
Overall, we got exactly what we wanted out of the trip -- a gorgeous beach, a laid-back resort, and some good food and drinks. We'd definitely consider going back to one of the Couples resorts in the future. We love to travel and have a long list of places we'd like to visit, so we aren't the kind of people who go to the Caribbean every year. But we loved this vacation for the rest and relaxation, and we thought we got good value for the money with this all-inclusive. We'll definitely keep Couples resorts in mind the next time we're looking for a relaxing beach vacation.