CSA review from first timer (long)
Couples Swept Away Feb 18-25, 2012
Long review but when I was planning our trip, I spent hours and hours reading reviews of hotels , and messages on boards, so I thought I should reciprocate. Background - hubby 53 yo, me 49 traveled mostly through US, Mexico, and cruise in the Caribbean. This was our first trip to Couples and Jamaica. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and my upcoming 50th b-day.
Flight out of Seattle - redeye on US Airlines thru Charlotte, into Mobay by 10:45 am. Customs was a breeze, walked right through and into the Couples lounge. Checked in, got a Pepsi (just too early to try a Red Stripe), and we were off to the shuttle within 20 minutes. The shuttle driver (I think was Andre?) asked if anyone wanted to stop but no one was interested so trip was a little over a hour (no traffic on Saturday). Andre was an excellent tour guide who gave great info along the way and was very proud of his country.
Pulled into Couples and a cold cloth and glass of Champaign was waiting for us. Front desk staff was busy but polite when telling us our rooms wouldn’t be ready until 3:00. No problem. I packed my bathing suit on top in my bag and just pulled it out, got a locker at the fitness center to store my stuff, then hubby and I went to find food and explore. Back to front desk a little after 2:00, no room yet. No problem – off to explore the fitness center. Used the pool walked around, back to front desk at 3:00. Room still not ready but they said they can give me a different one. Unfortunately it was right next to Seagrapes and Palms, which is actually a great location if you’re young and want to stay up late. Not us! Called the front desk and asked if we could switch rooms. Nothing available until the next day. Next day moved to another Atrium suite, 2nd floor (2216). Very nice, loved the room and hammock, but I found I really couldn’t block out the tree frog noise and road noise. I ended up buying ear plugs from the gift shop and problem solved. We didn't miss the tv in our room. Housekeeping (Nadine) did an outstanding job of keeping our room clean, towels were plentiful, and lovely towel art on the bed every day. Wet bar and turn down service was very nice. Overall impression of room and service was excellent! Hubby and I LOVED the breakfast delivered to your door every morning. Coffee, juice, yogurt, and croissants was just enough to get us going through a morning workout or walk on the beach.
Restaurants – We tried all of them and did the private beach dinner. Our first night lobster dinner at the Palms was outstanding. Other times at Palms was hit or miss but we always found things we enjoyed and there was always plenty to choose from. We seemed to eat there more than Patois mainly due to timing. Patios was very nice, loved the french toast for breakfast. We enjoyed Feather’s menu more than Lemongrass but Lemongrass has the better ambiance by far, although Feather’s has air conditioning! One of my favorite dishes was the grilled snapper sandwich on cocobread at SeaGrapes, and the sweet potato chips. Hubby loved the self serve ice cream too. Service in all the restaurants at all times was excellent. Coffee at breakfast and wine at dinner were always refilled quickly. I also drink a lot of water and never had a problem with refills. Make sure to sign up for Feather’s and Lemongrass ahead of time (3 days in advance is earliest). The private beach dinner was one of the highlights of our trip. Samantha, our server, did an amazing job of decorating our table and taking care of us. The only weird thing was when a few people (locals?) strolled by our table and kind of slowed down like they wanted to see what was on our table. I’m not sure if it was a security guard coming towards them or someone else but they quickly moved off after slowing down. I had the beef tenderloin dinner and hubby had lobster. Both were great, but my beef tenderloin was one of the best I’ve ever had. The chef came out to chat with each table which was a nice touch.
Activities – there is SO much to do at CSA or very little if that’s your preference. We tried a lot of things and still had time to do nothing. The fitness center is top notch and tennis courts are well cared for! I’m not a tennis player but hubby wanted to try a lesson (they’re included). I decided to give it a shot. I had such a great time I signed up to do it again the next day. It’s hard to beat a private one-on-one lesson with a pro! Narsan (sp?) was extremely patient and had me volleying the ball and feeling more confident after one lesson. We played golf (9 holes) which turned into 8 because it was a busy day/slow play and it was HOT. We decided to cut out the last hole and grab the shuttle back to the resort instead of waiting for them to come back for us. We snorkeled, did sea kayaks, and strolled the amazing beach. Hubby wanted to try the hobie cats but we never found the time to take the required lesson. The entertainment staff, Duwayne (aka Skippy), Jodi, Andre, and Omar are extremely hard working folks who are very sweet and fun to chat with if you get the chance. I had the pleasure of doing bead jewelry with Jodi and Andre, and then had the whole crew together towards the end of the week for Jamaica Day (kind of a round robin of activities). Hubby and I weaved a basket which was a lot of fun and relaxing. Doing the resort activities was a great chance to talk to the instructors and your fellow guests. I met a lot of truly wonderful folks from all around the US, Canada, and England. Look for the posted activities on the reader boards by the restaurants. I heard one couple complain they never knew what was offered. If you can’t find the info just ask at the concierge desk. You’ll want to make your reservations for Feather’s and Lemongrass there too. The concierge staff was hit and miss but Althea was definitely a hit. She was SO fun to talk to!! We are both early risers so we didn’t make it to most of the nightly entertainment. We did see the steel drum band which was outstanding!
Beach & bars – There are no words (at least none I can think of) that describe how beautiful this beach is. I understand now why the Travel Channel ranked this beach as #4 in the world. The resort does a great job of keeping it clean and we had no problem with seaweed or garbage on the beach. Beach loungers were plentiful, although some areas on the beach were more crowded than others. We split our time between beach (morning) and pool (afternoon). There was plenty of shade if you wished, although all the palapas were occupied. We noticed they were building more palapas while we were there. Beach vendors stroll along but no one bothered us, even on our beach walks off the resort. A simple no thank you keeps them moving. I noticed beach service (green flag) but never seemed to take advantage of it. The bars are always hopping and the servers are very nice. One afternoon at the swim up bar we had a blast but paid for it the next day. Moderation was a much better idea! The bars have a board with different drinks listed. Try something new. If you don’t like it tell the bartender and they’ll make you something else. Hubby and I both enjoyed the Red Stripe and Red Stripe Light.
Now we’re back home and missing all the little things that make Couples a wonderful place to vacation. Was everything all rainbows and butterflies– no – but we were on vacation and didn’t let little things bother us. Yes, we noticed some areas seemed a little worn. CSA isn’t a marble and brass resort like we had in Mexico. It felt comfortable like being at home would. When I mentioned I was going to Jamaica people would say, “oh aren’t you worried about the crime?” I never worried, and found the people I met were lovely and very proud of their country! My hubby and I were fortunate enough to visit a local school and could see how much they value education (kids start school at 3). If you want to engage staff or locals in conversation, they’ll be happy to talk with you. If you prefer to keep to yourself, they respect that as well. We are already planning another trip to CSA and dreaming of our next trip “home.”