I'd like to preface our review with the following caveats: First, we were very excited to be finally coming to CTI after waiting for the reopening for three years. We were initially delayed by the virus which resulted in a quarantine keeping us from our U.K. friends. The second and third delays were due to renovations being behind schedule and a fire in the warehouse holding furniture and other items. We have visited CSA and only have this Couples location as well as CTI prior to her renovation for comparison purposes. We have visited Jamaica four times.
Renovation of CTI
In our opinion the renovations were well done in some areas like the lobby. The color scheme used is appropriate for a tropical location and the furniture is both elegant and functional.
The 8 Rivers Restaurant was the most major improvement as prior to its redesign, the mildew odor in this space was overwhelming. The high ceilings and lovely murals add a special Caribbean touch to the atmosphere.
The new-wing rooms are spacious with modern bathrooms and walk-in showers. The older rooms seem to be much unchanged with the exception of newer plumbing fixtures, sinks and flat screen TVs.
The new swimming pool & swim-up bar was a wonderful addition to CTI's grounds. It gives CTI guests the opportunity to sunbathe in two separate pool areas. The swim-up bar provides lively conversation and bar service was always prompt.
The new gym and exercise rooms are wonderful additions. The locations overlooking the original pool area and ocean are delightful during a workout. Towels, water and a TV are also provided.
The Veranda restaurant was transformed by the new upholstery and bright Caribbean color scheme. The banquette with loose pillows was a beautiful and comfortable area to enjoy one's meal. The other tables looked tropical and comfortable as well.
The new spa is a major improvement. Prior to the renovations, the old spa was a small, tired space. The new spa is spacious, providing both a zen atmosphere and the ability to provide any and all services one would expect. The hot tub and small pool were not only lovely to look at, but enhanced the overall atmosphere as well. Very well done redesign.
The tennis courts were once clay. Now Colin is able to provide his expertise on grass courts. This improvement is unexpected and most welcome as grass courts are not common at most clubs in the United States or Canada.
Staff of CTI
As with any resort, there are always a few stars who stand out from the rest. Exceeding one's elevated expectations at a Couples restaurant seems to be certain staff members' goal.
Foremost in our minds is the server, Courtney. This gentleman is truly a gentleman. He was always efficient and professional. He always greeted us with a smile, handshake, and warm greetings. We will miss hearing about his children and his wonderful parenting goals for them. He is a class act.
Kenesha, Antoinette and Paul set themselves apart as they did their very best to meet the demand at the bars. Never did we see them lose their sweet smiles or positive attitudes even when given ample reason to do so by intoxicated and demanding guests.
LaToya, the wedding coordinator, is truly an asset to any bride or vow-renewal bride planning on using CTI's lovely grounds. She went out of her way to ensure that our vow-renewal was as special as it should be. Although the US wedding coordinator made some mistakes, LaToya quickly noticed the oversights and rectified the situations as best she could. She provided both answers to questions as well as a warm and supportive shoulder to lean on as the big day approached. We will hold the memories she provided us very close in our hearts. Quite simply, we adored her.
Food Quality At CTI
As with keeping with Couples Ocho Rios' past, the food quality and variety is exceptional.
The change from Bayside's Italian menu to that of a high level Thai restaurant was a welcome one. In over two weeks at this resort, we frequented this restaurant the most due to its changing menu and exquisite food. Both the presentation and the taste of the Bayside's cuisine were exceptional. The chef often came out of the kitchen to visit the guests to ensure that their meal either met or exceeded their expectations. Such attention to detail and satisfaction level was a welcome and refreshing change.
8 Rivers Restaurant has changed in large and small ways-both of which are very positive. The atmosphere is greatly improved by the loss of the strong mildew odor. This was a distracting and unwelcome ambiance for fine dining. However, now that that issue has been so effectively dealt with, dining at 8 Rivers is a culinary delight. The service and presentation of the meals are second to none. The menu remained the same throughout our time at CTI, but due to the variety on the menu it was not a drawback. *We had our vow-renewal reception at 8 Rivers. The staff was exceptionally attentive and the cuisine was as special as the evening deserved. Truly a memorable evening.*
The buffet was never the same twice. Breakfast had mainstays like the omelet station with the charming Myra-Sue. Lunch had thin-crust pizzas which were difficult to get due to them being so delicious, unique and in such high demand. Dinner always had something for everyone's taste whether it be roast beef, fish or sushi. If one found reservations at any of the other restaurants difficult, dining in the buffet was guaranteed to have something to please everyone as long as you didn't mind serving yourself.
The new veggie-bar was another very welcome addition to CTI's dining options. The location was directly on the beach which meant that you could admire the turquoise sea while waiting for your selection. The staff, like Karon, were always ready and willing to serve you with a smile. The menu choices were exactly what the health conscience require, yet very tasty too.
The grill provided staples like hamburgers and french-fries at all hours of the day or night. This was especially appreciated by those who arrived long after the dining options were closed. However, one had to pity those who were unfortunate enough to be in one of the many new rooms above this area as the frying odors were quite strong at times.
Acoustics/Sound are a large problem at CTI due to the problem being in many popular areas of the resort.
The areas where this was especially problematic was the hallways to the guest rooms in the original buildings. The change from carpeted flooring to the new sisal-type rug is the originator of the lack of proper sound absorption. Sound reverbs throughout the hallways whenever a guest or staff walks the hallway. Whenever a door is shut it sounded like a small bomb had gone off. The acoustics when guests or staff were speaking in a normal tone of voice in the hallways also was very poor. It was even worse whenever a guest or group of guests were returning to their rooms in an intoxicated state. This was and is a serious problem for CTI to solve as sleeping is very difficult with frequent loud noises.
The other area where this is a special problem is 8 Rivers restaurant. During usual operation, the dining area was at a comfortable noise level. However, we attended two Repeater Dinners and the noise level at both was obnoxious, causing many guests to leave early. This was very unfortunate as the whole purpose of the Repeaters Dinner was to chat with your fellow Couples guests. Normal conversation was virtually impossible as it was often much too loud to hear those on the other side of the table without nearly shouting. This situation needs an immediate remedy-whether that be installing upholstery in the wall recesses to absorb sound or to limit the amount of guests invited to the Repeaters Dinner. Something must be done as it is unbearable in its current state.
The new games area which is adjacent the gym area also has a terrible problem with acoustics. The large room houses a pool table and a ping-pong table along with a large screen TV. The sound from the TV coupled with the reverb of normal conversation is a problem. There are absolutely no textiles in the space with which to absorb any or all excess sound. Perhaps mounting upholstered fabrics to the wall would help address this problem.
The Room Decor in the original buildings was a disappointment.
Since we changed our room upon check-in from a new room above the grill area to one in an original building, we were especially aware of the stark differences in decor. The original yellow valance above the French doors was liberally spotted with visible mildew. The sheers were also dingy from age and spotted with mildew. After reading many reviews touting the elegance and improvements of the major renovations, it was a let down to see the rooms in the original building were neglected. The minor costs associated with replacing the valances & sheers certainly could have been included in a multi-million dollar renovation.
Strong Mildew Odor in Piano Bar
Although the previous mildew odor which was a problem in 8 Rivers was rectified, the same can not be said for the piano bar area. The piano bar area had a mildew problem four years ago and it is still a problem. It seems that the staff is aware of this and their solution is to place the air-conditioning at a polar level to thwart any more mildew from developing. This results in the piano bar area being repellent for two reasons: odor and temperature. It is extremely unfortunate that monies were not spent in the renovation to solve this problem as was the case next door at 8 Rivers. Many, many guests commented on this issue both to one another and to management at the Repeaters Dinner. It was repeatedly requested that the air-conditioning be turned warmer. Those requests were denied.
Broken/Abused Water Sports Equipment
My husband is an avid sailor and wind-surfer. The neglected condition of the hobie-cats was shocking considering that CTI prides itself on providing water sport equipment for its guests. The repairs that the hobies required were minimal. That is why the lack of repairs done was such a surprise. While we were there we had many red-flag days which resulted in closed water sports activities. The time we witnessed the water sports employees wasting could have been put to much better use by repairing broken masts, broken booms, tangled lines, and other needed repairs which were overlooked and neglected.
The wind-surfer equipment was also in terrible condition. The surfboards were missing mast-base covers, foot-straps, and pull-up straps to name just a few. Again, time wasted during many red-flag days could have gone a long way in repairing and upgrading the condition of the resort's water sport equipment.
Poor Service in Morning Buffet
During our two-week plus stay, we would frequently come down to breakfast to find many dirty tables and no coffee available. Understanding that staff need ample time to bus tables and reset them, we gave them the benefit of the doubt the first few times it happened due to the resort being at capacity. However we quickly realized that this was a chronic problem, prompting other guests to complain to the breakfast management to no avail. There is no excuse to have so many staff working and no clean tables available upon arrival each and every morning. One would feel very fortunate to come down to find more than one or two clean, set-up tables ready to receive them on any given morning.
Coffee, or lack thereof, was another inexcusable problem for the breakfast buffet. The one universal drink nearly everyone expects and needs first thing in the morning is coffee. To be told there was none available was both maddening and extremely frustrating. When the coffee was available it was nearly impossible to have it refilled by a server. More than once I was brushed off by servers who apparently felt it a higher priority to rearrange the used dishes at a station than to refill my coffee. This prompted me to take matters into my own hands and walk across the room to the large coffee urn and serve myself. This resulted in guests competing for the large coffee cups which were kept under the coffee urn. Our logic was that since it was so difficult to get coffee-we wanted larger cups than usual to meet our needs. Other guests took their in-room coffee pots and filled them themselves at the coffee urn in order to have coffee throughout their breakfast without long, frustrating waiting time. This was a well known problem throughout our time at CTI and yet nothing was ever done to improve the problem.
Overall Impression of the New CTI
Our first visit to Couples Ocho Rios was a magical experience. We felt the overall atmosphere then was both relaxing and efficient. The staff were exceptional throughout the resort and no attention to detail in any area was overlooked.
Unfortunately, we did not feel that way after leaving CTI. We arrived full of high expectations based on the glowing reviews posted on this message board and the fact that CTI was award-winning based on its multi-million dollar renovation. Our attitude was one of hope that as our stay progressed, the problems which bothered us would be rectified. We did not witness chronic problems being handled in an efficient and professional manner which disappointed us.
We still feel that the staff Couples resorts hires are wonderful, friendly and eager to please for the most part. We truly enjoyed interacting with many members of CTI's staff and we let them know that we thought them exceptional.
However that magic quality that originally endeared this resort to us is gone in our opinion. Often times this happens after a resort undergoes a renovation or is closed for some time due to other circumstances. It is our sincere hope that with time CTI will be able to regain her former glory in achieving the high levels of guest satisfaction on every level.
Meanwhile, we will continue to think very highly of Jamaica, its loving people and the Couples resorts in general...and wait for better days to come.