LONG review of CSA
We visited CSA from Sunday 12/9 through Sunday 12/16, 2012. We flew from Minneapolis to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Montego Bay. We had stayed at CN just two years prior to this so were anxious to try another Couples property.
Arrival/Tim Air: Once we arrived in Montego Bay we were quick getting through immigration to get our bags and quick through customs – 15 minutes total probably. We booked Tim Air to take us to Negril from Montego Bay. Tim Air was great! They had someone waiting for us at the Couples lounge. We grabbed a beer and headed to the other part of the airport to get our Tim Air flight. There was another couple that arrived around the same time we did so they put us together on the flight. It was the same price, which I thought was a little odd since it was supposed to be a charter flight. We paid $122 per person one way and were quoted $236 for round trip per person. We crammed into the little plane. You have to give them your weight – yuck! They put the poor other woman behind me in the tiny little seat by all of the luggage and she was crammed in there. Then my husband and I were in the middle two seats and her husband sat with Collin, our pilot, up front. Just a few minutes later we were in the air over the beautiful sea. Collin pointed out things along the way and it was just beautiful. I felt safe the whole time. We landed 12 minutes later, tipped our pilot $20 and got a cab to CSA. It was $7 per couple for the cab – we gave him $10.
Check in/Lobby: We arrived and our first impression was the lobby was just not as impressive as CN. At CN you get the view of the pool and the ocean behind it and it just takes your breath away. This was very nice though with a view of the lush gardens. We had our cool towels and champagne and started the check in process. We were to get a $300 resort credit for booking early and also a $100 repeaters credit. They had the $100 one, but not the $300 one even though I had verified it twice through e-mails (which I had printed out with me). We had requested a 2nd floor premiere beachfront suite and they had our request and that is what we got. Room 1226. It was not quite ready as we arrived around 1:45. We went to the concierge and they gave us a voucher for our $300 resort credit with no problem at all. We did receive our welcome bags with t-shirts that we designated we would like as our repeater gift. We made reservations for Lemongrass while we were there. We headed out to explore and grab lunch.
Room: In all fairness we compared almost everything to CN, which was our basis of Couples properties. When we went to CN it was our first all-inclusive and we loved it. So – a lot of this review is our comparison between the two and totally just our opinion. They are both beautiful resorts with awesome staff! We reserved a premiere beachfront suite and it was a beautiful location with a perfect view. The room was much smaller than the beachfront suites at CN. There was a shower (no tub) and a sink and toilet. There are outlets in the bathroom for a curling iron. I used the blow dryer they provided and it was fine for my very fine hair. In the bathroom at CN there was a separate Jacuzzi tub and a large shower with rain like shower head. There were double sinks and a little extra counter space with a mirror. Just seemed much bigger. The wrap around porch at CSA was awesome and very relaxing! There was air conditioning in the room and after a while finagling it I finally was able to get it to 16 degrees Celsius, which was still never very cold, but worked. Housekeeping would turn it off every time they made up our room though and turn our fan off. Made for a warm entrance and took a bit to cool down. The closet had quite a few hangers, which was nice. There were 3 very large shelves to lay clothing on for un packing. The safe was in the closet and you set your own 4 digit code for that. We had no problems at all with our safe and leaving our I-pad, Kindle, cash, wedding rings and expensive jewelry in there. The mini fridge was in the closet too. There were tiny little bugs in the bathroom on the counter every morning and evening, but that is to be expected in the tropics! I just swooshed them with toilet paper and they were gone. If we had a glass from a drink we tried to wash it out and leave water in it so it did not attract more. Another difference with CN verses CSA is when we had the beachfront suite at CN we had appetizers delivered to our room every night while we were preparing to go out and it was so lovely. Just a very nice addition to the night. That does not happen at CSA.
Mini-Fridge/In room bar: We did the romance rewards pre-check on-line and know that it can take up to 24 hours before your room is stocked with the liquor and things you requested. We had a few bottles of red stripe in the fridge and coke and diet coke, some Ting and Sprite and juice and bottled water. We called and requested the liquor. 45 minutes later, when we were done unpacking, we called again and they were there in about 10 minutes so total of about an hour. We requested vodka, whiskey and rum. We got Teachers brand Vodka and Whiskey and Appleton Rum. At CN our mini bar consisted of Absolut, Jim Beam and Appleton. I am not sure if it is because it was 2 years ago and things have changed at CN as well, but it was a marked difference. They stocked us with more juices and bottled water and replaced the two red stripes we drank in the hour we were there! We filled out our form every night, hung it on our door and it was restocked every day while we were out. We requested gin at one point and they just added that to our other three bottles. We also had a bottle of sparkling wine.
Beach Bars/restaurants: We had to wait an hour or so for our room to be ready so we headed to the first beach bar we saw. Bob Marley shots! They were out of the top liquor that goes on it, but found something else that worked just fine. They went down like usual – I have to chase it with a huge glass of water! They do not have bottles of water at the bars, but have big water bottle you can fill cups with or just ask for water from the bartender and they fill a glass for you – that was just fine with us. The bees are bad around the bars with all of the sweet liquor around. I was swooshing my hand around to get them out of my face and the female bartender reprimanded me “If you swat at them they will sting you!” Okay – like we don’t have bees in the states. It became a joke with my husband and I that every time we saw a Couples employee swatting at the bees we said to each other “if you swat at them, they will sting you!!” We never did get stung, thankfully! We got a few drinks and headed to the Cabana Grill. I got the turkey sandwich with sweet potato fries. My husband got the burger. They were both excellent! The self-serve nachos are awesome as well. Another comparison to CN – at CN they also have jalapenos and sour cream for the nachos along with fruit, soup and salad out that is help yourself. Another couple of notes: They do not have top shelf liquor at the beach bars, but they mostly make mixed drinks which don’t usually need the top shelf stuff. They ran out of red stripe on tap at the bar once! They also were out of banana’s a lot, I heard them tell someone they were out of bloody mary mix too.
SeaGrapes – we had read about the fish tacos and sweet potato chips and oh my- everyone was so right! We could have had those every day! They switched the menu though half way through our stay and had a fish sandwich instead of the tacos, which was okay, but the tacos were so much better. I also liked the black bean hummus and spicy pumpkin dip better than the artichoke parmesan and spicy tomato dip, but they both were excellent with the sweet potato chips! They have self-serve red stripe and soda here. Also – the self-serve ice cream machine is here tool Yum!
Lemongrass: We made reservations here our second night at CSA. We totally misread (or didn’t read) the dress code and dressed formal for this. My husband in linen pants and closed toe shoes and me in a dress and heels. You do not need to dress for this at all. I mean not a bathing suit, but shorts and shirt is fine. There were some with t-shirts on, but most had shirts and tommy bahama type shirts and women in sundresses. We went to the martini bar ahead of time. That was very nice. We tried several different martinis, which were all good. They had Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire when we were here – and all other top shelf liquor. The next time we were there though for just a few drinks they were out of Grey Goose. There was a jar of what looked like pickled I don’t know what and we asked what it was. The bartender told us “goat nuts”. I almost spit out my drink. We mulled that over a bit and decided there was no way they really were. We asked “is that a name for a nut”? She said “No – goat nuts, want to try one?” My husband said yes – she got us both one in a cup. I felt it and it felt like rubbery squid! I threw it back in the cup and said “No way!” and she laughed and said “They are Lychee fruit soaked in vodka”. Ha-ha! She said if we hear her telling others they are goat nuts we have to go along with it – like our inside joke. It was pretty funny. I ate it, and it still tasted pretty awful! We were seated at Lemongrass and it was so hot! We did not sit under a fan, but still – we were both sweating so much. The dinner was okay, but our waiter was not very friendly. It was like Chinese takeout for me. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing. The beef in the stir fry was very tender and good, but just was not for me. Could have been we were both just too warm to enjoy our meals.
The Palms: We ate here the first night we arrived. I got the snapper and my husband got the steak. The snapper was pretty good. The steak though was the worst he has ever had. He said he does not even think it was steak! We ate breakfast here almost every day we did not get room service and it was good. They had great sausage and eggs benedict and made to order omelets or eggs how you wanted them. Tons of fresh fruit and smoothies made to order. Banana stuffed French toast on the buffet and made to order coconut, whole wheat or regular waffles. The coconut ones were amazing. We never had the lunch buffet.
Patois: We had our repeaters dinner here and it was amazing. Steak and lobster. So yummy! We also had dinner here on our own one night. I got the goat cheese and pine nut pizza and my husband got the calzone. Both very good. We had lunch here as well. I got the fish sandwich, which was okay. We had the sea food chowder, which was excellent. My husband got the meat pizza which was very good.
Feathers: This was by far the best place to eat. We made reservations for Thursday night. I realized Thursday morning it was lobster night Saturday so we tried to make reservations Saturday night for Feathers as well, but you cannot have two reservations at a time. I was able to make them the next day, but not until 9:00 p.m. Saturday reservation. Thursday night we ate here and it was amazing! Had the shrimp cocktail, she crab bisque, steak and asked them to add the black tiger shrimp and scallops as well. The steak was so tender and perfect. We got the dessert sampler plate and everything was good. Staff and service amazing. Our second time we ate here we arrived early to be able to have drinks at the bar. They had all top shelf liquor here and it was air conditioned! I had the best lemon drop martini! We ordered almost the same thing the second time as the first, but had the steak and lobster! So good and same amazing service.
Piano Bar: Our first night we stumbled into the piano bar before they were really open. The bartender, Neveah, I think was her name, was taking inventory. We started chatting and she made us a few of her signature drinks – Grape Crush. We got to be fast friends with her and visited her often after that. She was so fun and made everyone feel like family. After the repeaters dinner we went up there again and were able to see Ultimate Chocolate. He is quite an amazing pianist! His counterpart is a lot of fun too and a very good singer. We never stayed long enough for the night club!
Casino: We did visit the casino a few times. They have a card table you can play your own cards at. They have a computerized roulette table and slot machines along the sides. My husband played the black jack slot machine and won some money. He cashed out and it emptied the machine. I wanted to play it once he cashed out, but the person working there did not refill the machine after it was emptied. We went in there again a few days later and he won again, but the person was out to lunch for over an hour. We were worried if we cashed out the machine would not have enough tokens so we sat there and continued to play and lost enough that we could cash out safely and leave and come back the next day to get the cash for the tokens.
The beach: The beach was as beautiful as ever with white powder sand and crystal clear see through water. We never had a problem finding chairs with pads. The palapa’s were always full and they were reserved with towels early every morning so I do see what people are talking about there. We were not there to be in the shade though so never really noticed. The water this trip was much warmer than two years prior at the same time of year. We floated for hours and hours hanging onto our floaties and drinks! They had green flag service, which we used and was great. Saturday night they set up champagne and a chocolate fountain right on the beach at sunset. They made champagne with blackberry brandy in it and also some with apricot brandy. It was very good and just perfect for our last night there. The first day my husband and I both were eaten alive by sand fleas! We swear they were in our bed somehow! We were at the beach at 11:00 and left by 3:00 so were not there early or late. I had huge itchy welts on my legs and the backs of my arms. The next day we parked it at the pool to let the swelling go down on the bites, but the next day I had more! I had one on my stomach, and I did not have on a two piece. I had brought bug spray – several different kinds (skin so soft bug and sun, lemon eucalyptus, and deep woods with 60% deet) and I generously applied that to my legs, arms and bathing suit and my towel and reapplied after going in the water. I still got bit. We pulled back our covers every night to look and did not see anything. We asked them to change the sheets every day. Oh well. We got bit a few more times that got really swollen and raised up. I went to the nurse. He said that yes they were an allergic reaction to sand fleas. They did not have Benadryl or anything over the counter. I did have hydrocortisone I was lathering myself with. He said they would call the doctor to come treat me for immediate relief and also for long term. I asked if they took insurance and he said it was too confusing from the states to try to do that, but they give you a receipt to submit when we get back. I asked how much and he said it was $150 to have the doctor come plus the cost of medication. I said that I would just keep rubbing the hydrocortisone on and suffer through! They are still on my legs after being home for 2 days. They are getting better though. It did not ruin our trip, but was SUPER annoying!
Scuba: My husband was going to do the resort certification and free dive. I am not that strong of a swimmer and knew you had to take a swim test so I opted out (8 lengths of the pool). He loved it and ended up getting his open water padi certification. It was $250, but then all dives are free. He had to spend about 4 hours getting the certification between the first two days, but it was well worth it. Franz was his dive instructor and he really was great. Very knowledgeable and safe.
Snorkeling: This was the only resort excursion we did. It was a lot of fun and very neat to snorkel over a coral reef. We saw lots of fish and beautiful plants and sea life.
Beach Party: This was Friday night. It was beautifully set up with paper lantern lights on the beach and tons of nicely lit tables. The food though, was just okay. I know everyone said to try all of the soup and we did a few times, but we were so warm most of the time soup just did not sound good at all! They had sautéed seafood that was good and the jerk pork was good too. They had entertainment after. We were lucky that we could see the stage from our room so we sat on our balcony and watched the show. It was very entertaining to watch. African dancers, a fire dancer/limbo guy and a contortionist.
One Love Pub Crawl: This was something I found out about through these message boards. I e-mailed Lenbert, who is the owner/driver and he was incredibly fast getting back to me. It is a free tour, but you should tip him. We tipped him $20 for us both. He picked us and three other couples up at CSA about 2:30 on Wednesday. It is a nice air conditioned bus with Bob Marley video’s playing on a TV up front. He took us to about 7-9 different local bars/restaurants along One Love Drive and up the cliffs. There were about 30 of us on the tour and a few people did have to stand on the bus, but the drives were short in between the bars. Drinks were about $4-$6. My husband and I both had a drink at almost every bar. Also – at one of them the owner had set out appetizer like food and it was $5 for a plate of food and a drink. There was a 14 year old boy selling candy bars at one stop when we were getting back on the bus. They were about $2 each. We bought two and tipped him as well. We spent about $100 between all of the drinks and tips. This was a wonderful excursion and so worth it! At one place we were able to walk down into the caves and take a few pictures. I talked to Lenbert and he is quite the entrepreneur. He has been doing it for only 15 months. I can’t believe nobody has thought of this sooner! He said he realized that tourists want to experience real Jamaica, but don’t know how to go about it and the locals need the business. He had the bus he said and just started it and it has taken off! He is booked solid all the time. He wants to get another bus and driver. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for time dates/times he will be at your resort and reserve a spot!
Sports Complex/Spa: I scheduled a pedicure for the first full day we were there. We headed over to the sports complex in the morning. Security helps you cross the busy street with no problems at all. We went to the bar and they have one big screen TV with sports on and some tables and chairs there to watch. They have a pool table as well. The bar has red stripe and I think there were a few bottles of rum or something too. We got smoothies and the pineapple smoothie was incredible! We also drank the cucumber infused water and it was so refreshing. The lap pool was beautiful and not one person was in it. My pedicure was great and my toes were ready for vacation! It was $45 for the pedicure and I tipped $10.
Conclusion: We had a wonderful time and met a lot of great people – guests and staff. If we book Couples again I think we would go back to CN. I have a feeling that has changed too in the two years we had been gone, but it just seems better for us. We still loved CSA and had a wonderful, wonderful relaxing enjoyable vacation!
Thanks for the very detailed review! We were there for our Honeymoon in September. I just read it for my husband and we both felt as though we were right back there! I cringed when I kept reading about top shelf alcohol running out - we experienced the same thing while we were there and it really drove me nuts! Totally agree about Seagrapes....we had lunch there every single day and really really wish they had the same place at all Couples resorts, as I'm a vegetarian. We are thinking of booking CN for our 1 year anniversary. :) Which resort do you think had better food? The 1 day we spent a CN, the food was really lacking, but I think it was just an off day? (example: salad bar was out of lettuce, lol!). But it could have been because the buffet was closed for repairs so we only had Helconia. Does CN have anything comparable to the food at Seagrapes?
Thank you for your in-depth review - we loved Room 1226 - we were upgraded to this room years ago, and it was our first experience with the wrap around porch - such great memories!! We felt like a king and queen!!
I think your 1 day visit @ CN must have been off because the whole 7 days We spent there we never encountered one morsel of food we didn't enjoy. I am don't remember there being something similar for vegetarians @CN. If there isn't then you'll have limited selection of food there. CTI apparently has an amazing vegetarian restaurant with many rave reviews about it. We go there in April for our 10th Anniversary. Perhaps you should look into CTI.
Originally Posted by killafee
Thanks for a very thorough review. We are headed to CSA in June for our seventh visit and I very much enjoyed reading your opinions. I most appreciate the information on the "one love pub crawl". We have been considering this since last summer and your descriptions and information have just about locked us in on doing it. Glad you had a wonderful time, despite the bug bites. Hope you have fully recovered from them by now.
Wonderful and in-depth review! Thank you!
Yup, the bugs are nasty! They love me but hubby doesn't even notice them. I've tried everything for repellants but they still find me.
Heading back to CSA in July for trip #3 and can't wait!
Huckens - thank you for taking the time to post such a detailed and well written review. We head back to CSA next month, and I think you sold us on the One Love Pub Crawl.
It is interesting about the steaks - the beef tenderloin tends to be very good at Feathers and for the repeaters dinner. Otherwise, the steak is just not all that good at the the other restaurants. I don't necessarily fault Couples, though. When in the Caribbean, we try to stick to local fare like seafood, fish, and chicken.
The sand fleas also love me. I do have to practically bathe in Deep Woods Off. And Bob might get one single bite the entire trip.
yes, thank you for the reveiw--I have bookmarked it so I can reference it before our trip in May. This will be our 9th couples trip and 11th Jamaica trip! We have also been to CN the first 6 trips and then CTI the last 2 trips. We are going with Jason's sister/hubby--they have been to CN then CTI and wanted to go back to Negril so we thought we would try CSA.
Can't wait! I really think the sand fleas depend on the time of year--some trips I have welts all over, other trips I don't have one. But you are right--they are miserable.
Just curious...do you think you'll be forever biased since CN was your first Couples exerience? We went to CSA Sept 2011 and then literally flipped a coin to decide to go back to CSA or try something new, and the coin told us to book CN so...we went in Sept 2012. Of course we compared everything to CSA and when we did the day visit to CSA we asked if we could switch resorts but no such luck. As our vacation went on we did find things that we liked about CN but...now we're looking at booking a trip for 2013 and I just don't know if we should try CTI or go back to CSA. I don't like that feeling of "I wish we would have..." I know all the resorts are loved by so many. It's a tough decision! And just a note from your review - I completely agree about the nachos at CN, they're better/more options than CSA. And when we were at CN a few months ago, we definitely didn't get Jim Beam & Absolut so maybe that's something that changed? Not sure. Thanks for all the info in your review. It's interesting to read someone else's thoughts on CSA. :)
Hi again! Just to answer some questions from the responses.
Killafee: We did like the food better at CN, but this was two years ago and things may have changed! There was nothing like Sea Grapes so if you are a vegetarian I can see how that would be a huge plus for CSA!
Bellasmumma: Yes – I do think we are forever biased to CN. It was our first all-inclusive and we were with friends. We had a great time. That does not mean we did not really like CSA as well though! Did you stay in a beachfront suite at CN? I am not sure if that was the upgraded alcohol because of the suite or not. Also – I think only the suites got the appetizers every night as well. We met a lot of people at CSA that asked us which we prefer and when we said CN they were appalled as they are CSA all the way. I don’t think you can compare though with just a one day trip, which most were. I think a lot of it was the room for us and how much nicer we thought the beachfront suite at CN was compared to CSA. They were both great though. I just read some other review of CN and they indicated there was no hot nacho sauce there so things may have changed since you were there too! I think it is totally different depending on when you are there and what changes they have made at the time.
We are looking into what to do for 2014 and will probably head back to CN. I hope we are not dissapointed with all of the changes!!
Most people fall in love with their first Couples Resort and spend at least a year or more romanticizing everything they experienced there as Couples knows how to do all inclusives. The problem is that after building up much of what we all experienced there in our minds the return to reality at another trip just does not live up to the memories we cherished so fondly, and often embellished, in some instances. Just human nature. The policies at Couples in regard to the better drinks offered at the bars and in the rooms changes at times and is consistent at all four resorts. Yes, there are cost savings applied at times just like any other business but Couples does respond to its guests like with bringing the Red Stripe back to the room bars. We were married at CSS and have been both there and CSA three times each as well as a day at CN with trading places. We are doing a split trip this year between CTI and CSA. CSA is our favorite resort with so many food options, beautiful grounds, things to do, friendly staff, top notch spa and sports complex, and amazing beach to swim, sun, and walk down. We also stayed in the Premier BFS and loved it. The shower is huge and does have the rainfall head. The louvered windows with no glass to let in the sounds of Jamaica are amazing. We also never had a problem cooling down our room and we always turned off the ac and opened the louvers each morning. CSS had a Jacuzzi tub in our BFS but we really never used it so it was never missed at CSA. If we wanted to soak it was in the warm Caribbean waters or a very relaxing pool. It is too bad you are allergic to the sand fleas. Neither my wife or I have never had a problem but I know others have. They are not an exclusive problem of CSA though as they exist on most beaches of the island. Mother nature does not always have a sense of humor. The little bugs you see on the vanity and sink are small ants that exist throughout the Caribbean islands. We had them in St Lucia as well.
Little in reality ever lives up to things that exist in our memories but I have a hard time finding fault with CSA even though CSS was our first Couples. We love this place!