We had honeymooned at CTI in Ocho Rios back in 1984 when it was Couples Ocho Rios and went back in 2009 for our 25th anniversary after the renovations. (Kids are now older so we're not obligated to bring them on vacation anymore?) While we loved CTI, my expectations for CSA were especially high-after reading everything and anything on the message board, Trip Advisor and also since it is the most expensive of their resorts.
Last year we had stayed at the “R” resort with our son so we fell in love with Negril and the beaches-the “R” not so much-it was OK but not up to the caliber of Couples Resorts. Everyone at the resort goes about their business, the staff were not overly friendly, and the guests overall kept to themselves.
This trip we were celebrating my 50th birthday and cousin’s wife’s 50th (they hadn't been to Jamaica in 24 years-honeymooned in Montego Bay). Age wise we were probably in the top 20%. Majority of guests were honeymooners-20's and 30's and so very happy and then there were also couples with ages ranging from 60s to 70s.
Departed on July 3rd from Newark, NJ was a nightmare-seems like Continental is still experiencing problems with their United merger to the detriment of its customers.
Arrival on a Sunday at noon in MBJ was a piece of cake (go figure) zipped right through, waited about 20 minutes for shuttle to resort, enjoyed the ride, and were checked in by 2:30 to our BFVS. As expected cold towels and champagne were handed out to all of us arriving. Check-in was painless taking hardly any time at all and our Romance Rewards package was given to us at check-in as well. I had requested a third floor corner room but we were put in a room right next to our relatives (newbies) on the second floor. The gentleman at check-in did say if the room was not to our liking to come back and he’d change it for us.
We made our reservations for Feathers and Lemon Grass as well as the catamaran cruise prior to Colin showing us to our rooms as he was scattering up umbrellas for all of us.
Tried doing orientation on our first day but due to rainy weather it was cancelled. We ended up exploring on our own and loved the whole tropical, jungle feel to this resort. Even as our week was ending we kept finding new paths and things that we hadn’t seen previously and that was after doing the orientation the day after we arrived.
The room was just fine-exactly as shown their website, etc. Location was great-view slightly obstructed by the palm trees but that’s what I wanted to see-that gorgeous ocean view from our verandah with a palm tree framing it! I loved leaving the doors to the verandah open at night to sleep to the sounds of the ocean. I spent so much time on the verandah. Hubby and I found the bed to be quite comfortable-we both liked the firmness of the mattress. My only complaint was no plug in the bathroom except for a funky shaver plug so I plugged my Oral B toothbrush out in the room (not that big of a deal). Housekeeping was outstanding especially after you’re constantly tracking sand in and the nightly turn down service together with their towel art and the mini bar replenishing was all done to perfection. Our relatives had a problem with their toilet flushing the first night-by the time we returned from dinner it was fixed!
We ate at every restaurant and loved all the food-since my family aren’t big seafood eaters and I love it, I ate seafood at every meal I could and it was all so good!
Our days began with a pre-breakfast as in the continental breakfast delivered to your room. Always on time and exactly what we ordered. We’d then go on to our real breakfast either in the Palms or Patois. From the made to order omelettes, to the breakfast pizza to the banana stuffed french toast it was all delicious.
Lunches were normally at Sea Grapes since it was so convenient and had so many different interesting choices that changed during the week we were there. The snapper sandwich, sweet potato chips with humus and kebabs were as good as others have previously written.
Dinners were an event unto themselves. From appetizers, to soup, to salad, to the entrees and desserts, the presentation was always commendable and the food delicious. The only food item I wasn’t especially fond of was a jerk burger at the Cabana grill. Feathers was fine dining at its best and eating with chopsticks at Lemon Grass was quite comical. Definitely gained some weight but it was all so worth it. My husband who is an extremely picky eater became quite adventurous and tried everything. Now that we’re home I’d love for someone to pull out my chair and put a napkin down on my lap! Guess that’s not going to happen in my reality.
What is amazing is the level to which their staff treat the guests. They remember you, what you drink and as they may rotate from restaurant to restaurant they can recall what night you were where and what drink you were having. We had an ongoing joke about the never ending wine glass. Our cousin who drank wine at dinner every night would have his glass refilled before it ever close to half way down. Service was impeccable.
As we had previously stayed at CTI we were invited to the Repeaters Dinner. Mr. Bowleg the GM was very courteous and genuinely seemed to enjoy hearing our praises and any concerns brought to his attention. We met many nice couples at this dinner that we continued to run into during the week we were there.
On the night of the steel drummers we had already eaten at Lemon Grass and were going to The Palms to see the show. Christopher removed the table setting from a table right up front for us and that’s where we sat to watch the show. Very talented musicians and probably our favorite entertainment offered at The Palms. Beach party on Friday had to be moved indoors since it had been raining earlier. That show would have been so much better outside but it was still very good. The Martini Bar was quite good and Chocolate Martinis are decadent!
Enjoyed Ultimate Chocolate at the Aura Lounge on a few evenings. He is a very talented gentleman that captivates his audience with his personality. Lost my voice (don’t think my husband minded that) participating in the various sing alongs. The only negative issue I mentioned on my comment card at departure was the smell at the Aura Lounge. It must have something to do with the air conditioning being so cranked up (it’s the coldest room in the entire resort) and the humidity factored in together with the carpeted floor. On our last night there we couldn’t stay for very long as the odor was truly horrendous. Perhaps had we imbibed more we wouldn’t have noticed it!
Our group participated in a ping pong tournament over at the sports complex and that’s where we had the pleasure of meeting Akeem. I think he drew the short straw on being nominated scorekeeper for this but we found him to be one of the kindest and entertaining of the entertainment crew.
Did a yoga class on the beach, went out on a Hobie (had a hard time getting back to shore but eventually did -I think we had the water sports gentleman in stitches), had a blast on the Catamaran Cruise, got to see dolphins and swam through the caves. We also had an informative tour on the glass bottom boat ride, our cousin did some water skiing and he and hubby played some racquetball.
Stayed at the beach bonfire for a short time as I think we were exhausted that night? In walking the path back to our room with one of the staff chatting, we realized we had walked right past our room and ended up at Patois. The young man felt terrible but we didn’t-he was very interesting and a delight to chat with.
The Negril beach is the most glorious beach ever and for the most part that’s what makes us come back. The floaties in the water, green flag service and cool towels are delightful. The local musicians we heard were actually quite good and entertaining. Our normal spot in the shade was right next to the beach wedding site so we got to watch numerous weddings. Yes the palapas are hoarded, many the night before. We did score one once but preferred the shadiness of the trees instead. When I mentioned to a water sports gentleman that our relative had sunburn and we needed shade he advised me to let them know and they’d help to accommodate but they never had to, shady areas were plentiful. We walked the beach quite a bit off the resort to the left and to the right.
The other couples you meet, whether on the bus going to the resort or at any of the bars, restaurants, or excursions seem to have a camaraderie that is how Couples entices us to return-as well as the level of friendliness of their staff and their expectations that anything you desire is granted. All the guests we encountered were extremely friendly and you become known by the state in which you live if names escaped you!
A couple we met has been to CSA every year for the past eight years and have no desire to try another-they feel when you find what you like why deviate from it. I have been getting harassed by co-workers to try another island-and all I can say is “once you go you know”.
The resort was extremely quiet at night; probably any time after 11:00 p.m. or so; you may hear some far off music playing from other bars on the beach but nothing disruptive.
We ventured off the resort on a private tour to the Pelican Bar and Black River Safari and used a local fisherman to take us out to both. That’s definitely the way to do it. Had lobster and conch for lunch at a restaurant on the river that was quite good. Loads of fun doing these tours and we were planning on also doing YS Falls the same day but ran out of time.
Since we participated in the Romance Rewards program we received t-shirts on arrival, a $100.00 resort credit (I treated myself to a warm bamboo massage-their spa with Buddha pool as well as my masseuse were extraordinary) and a departure pack of granola and waters in a lunch bag.
We had to be on the bus at 10:00 a.m. for our 2:30 p.m. flight. At check-out you’re handed your portfolio to look over and return to the desk to settle any charges. I had noticed right away that our resort credit had not been included and brought it to their attention. Again “no problem”; we were given the credit and informed when our bags arrived that they needed the credit voucher that was included in our check-in materials. Arrived at MBJ by 11:30 a.m. to mass confusion. Probably took a little over an hour or so to get through it all. Still had plenty of time to shop and eat before boarding our flight. Club Mobay lounge would be a good option for those running late as you’re whisked through all lines and perhaps if you’re very early as it would be a more comfortable area to squander your time.
Well that about covers everything-this review has become quite lengthy but I wanted to give my impression to all who have written prior to our visit with their impressions and opinions.
Enjoyed how spread out the resort was with that whole jungle thing going on with the restaurants and entertainment anchored at either side. We all need to walk a little to work off all those meals you’ve eaten and drinks you’ve had.
So now which one to return to. As much as I loved CTI with it south beach art deco motif, beautiful oceanfront views and of course their outstanding staff; I would have to say that CSA is where we’ll return (as long as future price increases are not too exorbitant!).
Lori & Ron