CSA July 2013 Review...
Ah where do I start.. My wife and I picked CSA in 2011 for our 20th anniversary and loved it so much we decided to do our 22nd anniversary there again this year, it's been a week since we got back home and I'm already "second" home-sick, first day back to work today and I'm already thinking of planning for the next trip to CSA but unfortunately with kids going to university it might be a few years before we have a chance to go back. My review from our trip, please be advise, this could be a little long so excuse my long-winded posting...
Just a quick note... our first CSA trip was for 4 days, this time we decided to stay for 8 days. We usually fly out of Detroit but this time we got a better deal flying out of our home town London, Canada and kudos to Air Canada both ways went extremely smooth with no issues and couple of our flights actually arrived early.. wow. A huge difference then our past "adventures" with Air Canada, hope this trend continues.
Arrived at the airport in MoBay with no issues we were welcomed back by the customs officers because it was our second time, proceeded to Couples lounge and grabbed my Marlboro lights (vacation treat) and of course our complimentary Red Stripe at the Couples lounge. The staff at the lounge greeted us and we signed in anxiously waiting for our shuttle to CSA. A couple of Red Stripes later and our shuttles were ready to go, boarded and off we went. On the shuttle we had a mix of people of which we had one "too many drinks on the plane" Texan, he was more entertaining then annoying I must say. Our bus driver Captain McKenzie was awesome! After he put the "Texan" in his place for being few decibels too loud, he was worthy of a large tip from us, I think for the rest of the crew also, that was a fun ride. p.s. The weather couldn't have been more then perfect!
Finally arrived at CSA, we were greeted once again by Colins who amazingly remembered me from 2011 and also Dwayne who is now the porter and who also remembered me from working at the Aura club as a bartender from 2011, unbelievable, it was great to see familiar faces. Got our glass of champagne and the welcoming cold towel, we proceeded to check in. Adrian check us in, we requested the same Atrium suite we had in 2011 but unfortunately it was taken, so they put us in the building behind our old and in front of the reception building, perfect. This time we actually had 2 views of the ocean and was surprisingly quiet and also close to most of the amenities. The Atrium is how we remembered, roomy with a beautiful balcony. Two issues we did noticed, AC remote didn't work and the shower handle fell off, no biggie, one call to reception and one of the staff came almost immediately and took care of it. Settled, unpacked, ordered our bar liquor for the week.. ahhh....paradise!
Since we've been to CSA already, we've learned to start booking our reservations for Feathers, Lemon Grass restaurants and of course, the Catamaran cruise, done. Now, change, beach, drinks and get my jerk chicken and jamaican patties at the Cabana Grill, YUMMY! This is our late lunch, from there a couple of drinks at the pool bar where Kavian and Dwight did their magic. A walk down the familiar white sand beach... we were home again, my wife kept saying she couldn't believe we were here already because we booked out trip at Christmas time.
The Cabana Grill:
Great snack stop, opened to wee hours of the night. Quality is still great, this is your stop to get your Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Onion Rings, Jamaican Patties and sandwiches. They have a pop machine and ice cream station for those awesome floats!
Our favourite breakfast and lunch place, usually a buffet filled with fresh fruits, juices, fish and a good variety of meats to cater to everyone. This is also the spot to go at night for any scheduled shows and entertainment. Hit the cappuccino and espresso machine if you need to wake up in the morning for your days worth of activities. Buffet dinners are usually pretty good.
Feathers and Lemon Grass Restaurant:
Quality still outstanding for a nice romantic fine cuisine experience, make sure you visit the Martini bar and get an "apertif" before your dinner at the Lemon Grass, well worth it! Reserve your seats early they fill up quickly.
Usually a full service restaurant, if you get a chance ask for the smoked marlin eggs benedict for breakfast, exquisite and our favourite!
If you're looking for a good session of drinking while sitting in a pool, this is your place. Great place to meet new people and it's also a "hang-out" spot for repeaters. Although we did have one day where a younger crowd kind of took it over and setup a beer pong float and was getting a little rowdy, oh well, there's always the backup pool in front of the Palms, just as good and usually quieter.
Aura / Piano Bar:
This is usually our end-of-the-night stop. If you want to end your night with a little dancing, some blazing piano with "Chocolate" and air conditioning, this is the place for you. It's really quite something to experience.
We had a better time this year partly because we stayed longer and got to relax instead of rushing trying to do everything. If you're a first timer, make sure you take advantage of the free water sport activities ie. Paddle boards, kayaks, sailboats, paddle boats, water skiing, wake board. The fitness center across the road is amazing, olympic size swimming pool, jacuzzi, spa, tennis courts, workout gym, yoga room, squash courts, pool/ping pong table and the health bar.
These are an absolute MUST:
Catamaran cruise (book early) it's free and it's one of my favourites. A boat cruise along the cliffs of Negril beach, sites are incredible, catamaran will stop at a cave where you can swim in and then take advantage of the water slide that's on the boat, next, a close up stop to Rick's Cafe where you can watch the cliff jumpers and then a beautiful sunset cruise back to the resort. While on the boat, they will serve a wicked rum punch that will knock your water socks off and beer. Relax with some local tunes and let "Mama" take good care of you as the hostess with the mostest.
Wow and Wow, we did it twice this year and both times were awesome. If you get Julian, Oliver, Devero or Seymour as your host, you're in for a treat. The resort does offer night snorkeling for a small fee, we unfortunately did not get a chance to do this but heard it's a whole new world underwater at night, next time we will definitely do it.
Ok, this will be the only complaint I have for the resort. CSA gives all guess one free resort scuba certification and one dive (40 ft maximum dive). Unfortunately to qualify you MUST do a ~400 meter swim, front crawl, non stop and can't touch the ground but you can take your time. Now, this sounds easy but it's not, I consider myself a good swimmer and some-what strong swimmer, my wife is even stronger but 8 laps non stop in the Palms pool I think is a little much. They call this "basic" swimming skills, 400 meters front crawl non stop is NOT basic swimming skills. They even tell us that almost 50% of the people fail this test and that makes me kind of think. I have several friends who are full PADI certified divers and they even think that's ridiculous for a resort certification, and I can swim better then half of my friends who are PADI certified :) When we were there that week, we saw a lot of people sign up but not a lot passed the test. Too bad, would of made our trip that much better if we went scuba diving. It was really the only disappointing part of our trip.
The resorts offer several outside fee-based excursions, ie. YS/Black River, Mayfield Falls, Appleton Rum Estate etc. We really wanted to go to Mayfield falls but the resort won't do the tour unless they have at least two couples, our names were on the list but no one sign on so we didn't end up going. However, there was a spot on the YS Falls excursion but being our last day we decided to stay and enjoy the resort. Just be advise that these tours are usually 3/4 of your day, if you have days to spare then I hear they are well worth it.
There is so much more I can write here but these are really our highlights, there's the private dinners on the beach, the full blown fitness center included with your stay, the special events that goes on pretty much every day/night, the walk on the beach out off the resort to Margaritaville, shopping at TimeSquare mall or downtown Negril, Trading Places with Couples Negril if you're a repeater etc etc. You can honestly spend two weeks there and not be bored. If you get a chance download the activity list from the resort and just check the things you would like to do from Monday to Sunday. Our room was beautiful but honestly, it was really only used to take a shower, sleep, get change and back out again. (among other things :))
Every night we did the walk on the beach from room to restaurant or to an event, it's calm and the sky is so black with countless stars. The staff is phenomenal and the people we meet are incredibly nice, there's always a handful that are not "as" friendly but we find that after a few days there, they start being friendly because it's kinda contagious there.
We love it at CSA, unfortunately it will be a few years before we return because we are putting kids through university but I'm hoping to squeeze in a trip in between. I hope that when do return we will still see familiar faces there.
These are staff that made our trip extra special on top of the already incredible workers at Couples Swept Away, Thank you again!
- Tashaya, our garden tour guide, incredible! We loved your garden tour, keep up the great work, Donovan, she did great!
- Stacey Ann, our server at Feathers, thank you for making our anniversary dinner so special.
- Colins / Dwayne, porters, was good to see you again and thanks for remembering us from 2011
- Martin / Michael, resort photographers, good job guys and keep supporting Nikon
- Nicole, server at Lemon Grass, great service, dinner always taste better when good service comes with it.
- Alison / Caralee, housekeeping, thanks for keeping our rooms always clean and welcoming.
- Kevin, ENT, was a pleasure to deal Texas Holdem for casino night, thanks for keeping Tamicka inline :)
- Alex, ENT, what a voice!
- Kavian / Dwight, Pool Bar Bartenders, thanks for keeping the drinks cold, full and the Bob Marleys comin!
** Tamicka (aka Tammy) - ENT, What can we say... My wife says you're the only person in years who actually has gotten me on the dance floor to dance and now she's got video proof, that's worth more then gold! :) We will miss you the most, keep in touch and we wish you the best in the future.
** Seymour, Jason, Julian, Clayton, Oliver, Devaro - Water Sports, I think these are one of the hardest workers on the resort, they make sure the beach is nice and tidy and prepped for the guests and they are also the water sport gurus. If you need anything, these are the guys to go to. We will miss you guys and we hope you will still be there on our next trip.
Sorry for the long post, believe it or not, it's actually condensed LOL
Thanks for the review, hope you get back soon :)
FYI, you can always get a private tour company to take you to Mayfield Falls. That is what we did on two of our trips. We used the same company both times. Too much fun had by all.
Thank you for posting such a well written and detailed review. I love that stroll along the beach at night going to and from dinner. The stars are amazing.
thank you for all of this personal experience! Exactly what we were hoping to find here as we get ready to visit for the first time in September!
Thanks for the great review! I was glad to hear someone comment on the swim test. I would say I'm an average swimmer but I was completely caught off guard. I did manage to complete it but wow it was hard. Reviews like this make me look forward to our return trip next summer!
Nice ! Glad you had a great time!
Is the buffet T Palms still Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday? We return 9/1
We were there one night and it was plate service but the buffet was also open for salads, soups and dessert. Not sure which night it was though.
Swim test is required for all scuba certifications by the licensing agencies so its not something Couples is making up. Kind of like having to pass the parallel parking test to get your driver's license. If you do decide to get certified you only have to do it the one time. If you do the resort dive each year without gettign certified then you will have to do it each year.
We probably could of made it but I think we ate too much breakfast before which didn't help and they threw all three of us in that pool at the same time for the test and you know how narrow that pool is. We were swimming into each other constantly where it narrows down in the center of the pool. Funny thing was that the night before we went to practice at the Olympic size pool at the fitness center and swam 4 laps there without any problems.
Ya, we almost went with the private tour but then being our last day there we made the executive decision to spend it at the resort. We met a really nice couple there and wanted to spend some time with the staff. Just gives us the incentive to come back and do the falls next time ;)
Originally Posted by Bearso
+1 on the scuba diving test. I am a very good swimmer and I was way worn out at the end of the test. I didn't really want to do anything but lay down for the rest of the day because it was so energy draining. Great review!!
Great review, i am surpised at the SCUBA swim requirements...
Amy - regarding the swim test, yes it is a certification requirement. However, I can tell you from experience that the swim test at CSA is much harder than the one at CSS. At CSS, I was required to swim four lenghts of the pool (the large one near the beach) with any stroke of my choosing. I can swim the breaststroke for hours. I cannot, however, swim freestyle (or as Damenc calls it a front crawl) for any length of time, which is what is required at CSA. So I agree that the swim test requirement at CSA is a bit unreasonable.
With respect, the Palms pool is only 19 meters long. We have always asked for divers to swim back and forth 4 times.
Not 400 meters... :-)
Since I haven't written a review, I'm just going to second this one, since my wife and I were there at the same time and look forward to returning.
The Canadian Cleveland Browns fan from Saint John, NB.
76 meters (4 laps) sounds much more reasonable. Sounds like Scuba crew at CSA needs a talking to...?
I think 4 full laps would be 152 meters (8 lengths of the pool x 19 meters) and this sounds like a reasonable test. I was worried about the 400 meters come December.
It wasn't four laps, we were told 8 laps (meaning 1 lap = one end of the pool to the other, not there and back) and it was almost equivalent to 400 metres. I doubt both my wife and I heard wrong unless he meant 200 meters which sounds more accurate. That would be almost equivalent to 8 laps. I know for sure it wasn't only a 4 lap test or my wife and I would of passed, we both did 5 laps, my wife actually did 6. The pool looks small but when you actually swim a lap from one end to the other non stop front crawl, it's a lot harder then it looks. I hope you all the best of luck!
Originally Posted by randymon
Aha - now I see. 1 lap is considered down and back so it's 8 lengths of the pool or ~152 meters.
Damenc, is it a direct flight you took out of London or did it go through TO??? We also live in London but fly out of Detroit because I find you can get 10-14 days at the resort for the price of 7 days out of Toronto. We always try to find the best deal... Please let me know.
You're right Damenc - I think this is done to winnow out pretty much any and every body from doing the intro dive....less work for the dive guys....
Originally Posted by Damenc
the first time we went to CSA in 2011 we drove to Detroit and flew out from there, at that time it was the best price. Air Canada has been quite aggressive with their prices since then. We flew out of London this time because it was much cheaper then doing the detroit departure route and we didn't have to drive, stay overnight to catch an early flight and pay for park and fly.
We flew out of London to Toronto and then directly to Montego Bay. We actually booked through Couples.com first but then found a much better deal online, saved about $800. We also booked in January which gave us better rates, as you get closer to your departure date the price starts going up.
Originally Posted by kcsiemens
Trust me, it's a lot harder then it sounds :) I thought I could too until I tried it, good luck!
Originally Posted by laharlson