I'm currently sitting in the airport on my way back from our first trip to Couples (CSA) ever. It's been an interesting ride, and I'll write about it below, but first a little about us.
My wife and I are 29 and 31, respectively. I did most of the research for this website, reading a LOT of threads on this forum, and trip advisor, to prepare for the trip. We ended up going through a TA to book the vacation, as well as the airfare. My expectations were set largely by posts on the forum and on trip advisor, regarding what to bring, what to expect, what to look out for, etc, so perhaps others who do a lot of research like me might get something useful out of this review.
Traveling to Couples:
The schedule was for us to fly out of New Orleans on Monday, May 23rd to Miami and then on to MBJ, arriving at around 11:45am MBJ time. Our flight out of MSY was at 6am, which meant we got up around 3:30am to get ready, get to airport, park, security, etc. Got on flight with no problem, and all seemed to be in order. Arrived in Miami on time, and made it to our gate with an hour to spare. We were loaded onto the airplane, ready to go, and then we were told that due to an air traffic controller strike in Jamaica, our flight status was going to be pending until 11am (1 hour from that point) at which point they'd make another announcement regarding our flight. 11am came and ended with the cancellation of our flight, and a frantic rush to figure out what our options were, get booked on a backup flight, get on standby for the next flight, etc. The flight we were put on was to leave Tuesday evening at 7:30pm, which needless to say, was very upsetting as we were expecting to have been there a day and a half by the time we were then being told our flight was leaving.
To make a long story here short, we did standby on the approximately 1pm flight to MBJ, with no luck (approximately 70 others on the standby list as well). The next flight was Monday night at 7:30pm and we were told 40 people were on that standby list, but we stayed around and somehow, some way, at the last moment, were put on standby on the plane (despite being #37 and #38 on the standby list). We had already called Couples to let them know we probably wouldn't be making it that night, so I called from the plane letting them know we would indeed be there.
Lessons learned for others: If you think your flight might be cancelled, get the contact number of the people who can rebook you on a later flight and call that number IMMEDIATELY when they announce flight cancellation. Trust me, you have 40 other people calling that number within 2 minutes of the announcement, so speed matters. Next, get to a gate and get on the standby list for the next available flight and show up and hope to get lucky. No matter how bad your odds are, show up...others might have given up in the face of the bad odds as well, and who knows, you may get lucky.
Arriving in MBJ
We arrived in MBJ around 9pm or so, with a customs form for my wife and one for me. (Tip: fill out all sections so you don't have to be reminded that you missed a section, like me and my wife, and have to fill it out in the airport waiting line). When we arrived, there was a long walk through customs, but short lines and it moved quickly. We found our way pretty easily to our luggage, and then to the Couples lounge, where we gave them our name (weren't expecting us, as shown before, but it was OK). We sat at the bar there in the special couples lounge and had a few beers and rejoiced that we actually made it that day in spite of our setbacks.
My wife is a mingler, and she quickly made friends with others waiting in the lounge, some going to CN and some to CSA. After about 20 minutes or so, we all got loaded onto a shuttle, tipped the baggage guys, and were off, riding through Jamaica in the dark, around 10:30pm. The shuttle ride took about 1.5 hours, and was pleasant, with the bus driver giving us some interesting tidbits about the area. They dropped our new friends off at CN and then drove the 3 miles or so to CSA and dropped us off there, slightly around midnight.
Checking in at CSA
Our bags were unloaded, we were given a cold towel, and a glass of fairly tasty champagne, and our spirits lifted a bit more. After the constant troubles we faced at the airlines, trying to find ways to get to Jamaica that day only to be met by airline agents telling us that the strike wasn't their fault, and there was nothing they could do, and not seeming very apologetic about it at all, just a "tough luck" attitude, things were looking up.
But then, we get to the front desk, and after the other few couples get their rooms, we're told that our Ocean Verandah Room was given away because they thought we weren't coming, and there wasn't one available that night. My defenses started to go up slowly, fearing that I'd have to fight to get some form of compensation for yet another issue that came up where I didn't get what I paid for and planned for, but before I could even say anything, after the news that our room had been given away, it was followed quickly by a paraphrased "I'm sorry about that, we know it wasn't your fault and we try to take care of our Couples customers. For this inconvenience, we're going to give you a resort credit, and refund you the difference between the room you requested, and the one we're giving you for tonight, and tomorrow we'll put you in an Ocean Verandah Room." I was pleased, as that was a fair result that I didn't have to fight to receive. Felt good. Wayne S was the manager who delivered that news in a professional and apologetic tone, and it was much appreciated. Good start Couples, that's definitely how people should treat their customers.
First Impressions the next day
First impressions of CSA were that it was a very beautiful property. Walking around the property, I was struck by how true to life the pictures of the property are. Some of them I could've sworn were photoshopped, with the colors accentuated, because really, water can't be that blue, the sky can't be that clear, the grounds can't be that clean...but they are. It's pretty amazing. You see people raking the dirt, cleaning the floors, pruning the trees, moving the chairs here and there, ALL the time. It's nice to see such an effort being expended keeping the property nice.
Just walking around, the property is a good sized property, and easy to get turned around in, at least at first. Major eating areas are on opposite ends of the beach, with Lemongrass, Palms, and Sea Grape being all the way down on the right as you face the ocean, and the Cabana grill, Patois, and Feathers being on the left.
All in all, my first impressions were that this was truly a beautiful place to be, and that it definitely lives up to it's reputation of a wonderful beach, wonderful water, wonderful most everything.
Our first meal was at Patois, and they had omlets, banana stuffed french toast, and much more. I got the stuffed french toast option the first time based on comments on the forum, and while it was good, it wasn't great as it was a bit dry and not so much like american french toast, where the bread is still a little soggy with the egg it was soaked in, but more like a bigger slice of french bread slightly dipped in batter, and cooked for quite a while where it wasn't too moist...but like I said, it was good. I had some bacon, and scrambled eggs which were good too.
So from here on out, I'll just post by topics as they come to mind. Sorry for the disjointed review, but it's not all chronological in my head .
We made reservations after breakfast on the first day for Feathers for Wed night, and Lemongrass for Thur night. Wed night came, and while it was raining, we took an umbrella to the restaurant after dressing up, and met up with my brother and sister in law for dinner there. I don't remember exactly what I had, but I think it was crab bisque, rack of lamb, calamari, caesar salad, and a dessert sampler.
The crab bisque was OK, the calamari was pretty good, the caesar salad wasn't tasty, the rack of lamb sounds like it'd be substantial, but it was 3 little pieces of lamb on a bone that looked like a pork chop, but the combined meat on those bones was less than 1 normal american pork chop. The dessert sampler was very good though.
My wife had the tenderloin which I tried, and it was pretty good, with the sauce it was in being very good. My brother had the tenderloin as well and liked it.
All in all, I wasn't terribly impressed with Feathers quality or quantity, although I imagine had I ordered the steak I would've been more satisfied. (I'm not a picky eater, quality or type wise).
This was our next reservation for Thursday night, and it was very good. It's located above the Palms restaurant, and it is next to a little-frequented Martini Bar on the second floor as well, manned by two entertaining guys Damon and Shuan (I think I spelled those right). They will make you some good martini's, with my favorites being the Top Shelf martini, a chocolate martini, and a Key Lime martini. I'll do more on that later.
We were seated on a balcony, again with brother and SIL, and the view was great. Feathers was indoor, air conditioned, while Lemongrass was outdoor, but felt great. Our waiter (Rayan maybe?), brought us our appetizer sampled quickly, which was VERY good. An assortment of asian appetizers and it was very good, so good that several of them we asked him to bring more of. Next up was the soup, which was some kind of coconut milk and our choice of meat, and it was very good too. The whole time, we had them bringing martini's from the bar, and my brother was enjoying their Pina Colada's, which were absolutely delicious (highly recommended). Then the pad thai came out, and I had shrimp and duck in mine, and while it was tasty, I have two gripes - one is that the shrimp was very overcooked, and the other (which was my fault) was that there was too much meat. But the flavor was great, and we enjoyed it, with my SIL getting the yellow curry and chicken, which was very good.
I'm not sure exactly what the desserts were that we got there but they were very good too. We decided that this was a repeat dinner, so we booked it again for Saturday (friday lemongrass is closed due to beach party) and the second time I just got shrimp in the pad thai and it was much better (although still overcooked the shrimp). There was lemon sorbet too for dessert, and it was great. Quick note: ALL the sorbets we had during the trip, with lime, mango, lemon all being VERY good.
To sum up, Lemongrass, if you like asian food, is great. The only grip I had was with the shrimp, but even that couldn't prevent me from greatly enjoying the night, the service, the ambiance, and the food.
Patoi's is an "off the menu" order restaurant, with some good food. I had pizza there which they allowed me to add shrimp and bacon to, which made it very good. My wife had a vegetarian lasanga (which wasn't great), and again, had a Caesar salad there which again was not very good at all. The tiramisu was just OK, while again, the sorbet was VERY good.
Each time we went here, the food was above average, but nothing I desired to repeat. One interesting note though is that we saw a few people eating some crabs they had caught (or bought) and I asked the waitress about this, and apparently they brought them in themselves, and gave them to the chefs to cook, and the guy eating them said they were cooked perfectly. The time we were there wasn't lobster season, so if you love crabs, maybe there's a way to find some and have them cooked up specifically for you by your own resort chefs.
A buffet style dinner/lunch place that offers a fairly good selection of items which was probably our most reliable dinner option due to a wider array of options each meal. They have an ever changing menu so commenting on the food isn't too helpful, but they also have a good dessert bar with a lot of options which was nice. Again, the proximity to the martini bar upstairs has benefits of having good martinis with dinner, or mixed drinks at the lower level bar if you like.
All in all, a fairly good place to eat most nights, usually with a cool breeze blowing through, and several nights there was live entertainment, either with a staff/guest talent show, pirate night, or just other things going on that make it a nice place for dinner.
I tried the jamaican sushi here and it was not bad, and worth a shot if you're a sushi fan just to try it. The sweet potato chips weren't anything to write home about, and my wife had a veggie burger which was OK. Also, there's an ice cream machine near seagrape that's on all the time, with some tasty ice cream, but unfortunately the cones are usually stale. It sounds at this point, I'm sure, that I'm a critical eater, but seriously, I'm not.
The junk food section of the resort, with comfort foods like nacho's, burgers, etc. They also have jerk chicken which I was excited about initially, but it turned out just to be OK. The burgers were also quite dry, although my wife and brother got a Jerk Burger, which was doused in jerk sauce and a bite of that burger was pretty good, with the sauce providing some needed moisture. The nachos were very good, and are what I'd recommend there if you're in need of a snack.
The Various Bars
The two bars that stand out as being very good were the one in the middle of the beach, and the martini bar. They seemed to have the most friendly bartenders, and the best quality drinks. This isn't to say anything bad about the other ones, as I don't think I had a bad drink the entire time I was there. From martinis (some I didn't care for, but it wasn't because they were poorly made, just not my style), to mixed drinks, to sports smoothies across the street at the sports complex. If you can't find something to like there (might I suggest a Hummingbird, Dirty Banana, Day Dream, and any of the daily specials they have) you're doing something wrong.
And just a separate shout out to the smoothie bar at the sports complex across the street. The whole time I was there, we visited the complex about 5-6 times and each time there were only a handful of couples over there. Even if you're not going to work out, go over there to try out a fruit smoothie (no liquor over there, only beer and smoothies), but they have some good options, plus ping pong, and pool are fun to occupy some of your time as you recover from the damage you're doing to your skin .
First of all, if you're at all interested in Scuba diving, absolutely plan on taking this class. You must sign up a day ahead of time, and just a note, if you answer NO to any of the question on the waiver they have you sign, you have to get a doctors authorized note in order to participate, so keep that in mind if you're iffy on any of the questions (not suggesting you lie, just know ahead of time that there are some conditions you may have that might require a doctors note ahead of time. If you're serious about scuba, it might be worth calling ahead to check on them, to prevent you missing out on any dives, as we hear it's a little more cautious at CSA than most other places people have dived).
The class was great, and started with swimming 7 laps in a pool, without stopping. THat was BY FAR, the hardest part of the class, and requires participants to be in fairly good shape, but nothing outstanding as you can go slowly if you like. Anthony did a great job with the 7 of us taking the class, and was patient even though it had to be frustrating at times, and he was entertaining as well. We started around 8:30am and ended around 12:30pm after having tested out the dive equipment in the pool, getting used to doing basic scuba tasks like clearing mask, breathing underwater with tank, and other necessary options.
I suggest getting breakfast delivered to your room early, probably 7-7:30 to give you time to eat, put on sunscreen early (out in pool for a couple of hours training) and let food settle before class, as it takes some energy to do the class and you'll regret not eating before hand.
All in all the class was great, and I can't say enough good things about Anthony, and how he handled the class, took pictures of us underwater, and just made the whole experience very enjoyable. (It was likely my wife's favorite part of the trip).
I had never played squash before and was curious about the sport, the rules, and the game in general. The on site expert was friendly and helpful, and taught me the rules and played a few games with me, as I was really the only other one who showed up. He did a great job of playing at my level at first and then increasing the difficulty level as I began picking it up. If you're interested in racquetball, tennis or squash, it's hard to pass up these opportunities of free lessons...very good, and nice to work up an appetite.
The weather during our stay was slightly disappointing. It rained every day, and unfortunately for us, it was several hours each day (May is rainy season apparently). The good thing is that most of the mornings it was clear, but around 2-4 it rained for an hour or so, and rained again most nights for another hour or two. Like other people say though, it clears up pretty fast and life goes on.
Aside from the rain, the weather was warm and humid most of the time, but on the beach and in breeze-ways, there was a good breeze most of the time. The rooms were very nice though for a retreat with the air conditioners removing a lot of humidity, and adding cold air.
Great trip. Again, no additional cost, like most everything I'm posting. The guys who ran the ship were entertaining, booze was flowing, the swim at the cave was very nice and fun, with a slide off the top of the boat into the water. All in all, a great time, got to see the sunset and some of jamaica we hadn't seen before. Again, it rained on us on the way back, but we all huddled under the cover and dealt with it. Great time, don't miss it.
We brought bendy straws but didn't use them.
We brought insulated thermoses but aside from one or two times, didn't use them. Drinks are too plentiful to come by and are consumed quickly.
We brought clothes pins for towel on chair but didn't use them.
Ping pong tourney was fun, and not well attended.
We wanted to take a trip to Couples Negril, but when we had time on Saturday, we were told they only do it on Wed and Friday (and another day I think), so we were out of luck. Don't remember being told that.
Couples massage was nice, and worth doing for a basic overview of massage techniques.
My wife had a deep tissue massage and said it was very nice.
If you have a verandah on the first floor, do NOT lock yourself out by going out of the verandah doors, which allow no re-entry. Try hard to ONLY leave through the front doors. We spent 1 hour one day waiting for the guys to come unlock our door as we had latched the front door lock (both locks, the night latch and regular latch) and left out the verandah doors. NO FUN. Just leave through the front door.
Some water sports require you to sign up a day in advance. If you're interested in an event, call the front desk and inquire about how long you have to sign up for them in advance.
Pictures there are fairly expensive to get negatives for, at $15 per picture, so consider bringing your own camera and tripod for beach pictures and other times.
Bring more sunscreen than you need, as they're about $20 per bottle (8oz) at the gift shop.
When you get there, look over the schedules and identify the things you REALLY want to do, and plan your schedule around those events, leaving plenty of time just to lounge. Some events don't occur very often (martini mixology we missed out on).
Spend time at the Martini Bar, it's a cool place, good drinks, top shelf liquor, and a good ambiance.
Wifi works most places at CSA, and skype works okay, although the bandwidth isn't high enough to have a good video connection continuously. Good enough to check mail, surf internet though which is nice.
No HBO when I went, even though it wast listed on the TV guide. Some other movie channel in its place.
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, even though it's not specifically listed on the menu. I added shrimp and bacon to my pizza (items were on menu for other options) and it made it much better.
Well, that's about it for now. Hope it didn't come across as too critical, because I had a great time. Loved the property, the food was better than average, the drinks were great, the people were great, and we really enjoyed ourselves. I'd say the best thing about CSA is the visual appeal of the place, and what I think needs more improvement overall is the food, although it was okay.
If I think of other helpful things to add, I'll post them below. Hope you enjoy your trip if you're planning one and I'd be happy to answer any first time visitor questions anyone has, to the best of my ability at least.