A very long review from a Newbie............
Iíd read all of the reviews prior to going and spent a lot of time on the CSS message boards. I felt I went with a very open mind. My BF and I are very laid back people and not high maintenance at all. That said; my review is going to be long and cover everything I can think of. Yes, some comments might be redundant to previous reviewers however, I know when I was reading the reviews I still appreciated all of the personal insights.
Unfortunately, we were traveling from Nevada and it was a very long red-eye, layover kind of experience. We arrived in Montego Bay on Monday 5/1 at noonish. We checked in and were told it would be about 25 minutes before the shuttle for the resort would leave. We had traveled 3 hours to Sacramento from Carson City, 5 hours to Atlanta, 2 hour layover then 3 hours to Montego Bay. I admit I was tired and a bit cranky. We didnít get anything to drink but needed by bathroom stop.
You do need to tip the baggage handler outside the Couples area for watching and taking care of your bags; you do need to tip the shuttle driver who takes you to CSS. They are not Couples employees and tips are expected. I don't want anybody to be surprised. Our shuttle driver didn't really give us a lot in the way of a tour. My BF has spent a lot of time in Jamaica and he told me lots of interesting facts along the way. No one wanted to stop for a break so we drove non-stop to the resort.
We were unloaded at the entrance without a lot of explanation of what to do next. By the way it was raining... just another tidbit to add. We stood there waiting for someone to tell us something. Finally half of our group wandered inside which was what we should have been told so we could check in. AhhhhÖ. champagne and cool cloth. We finally got our room assignment B-9 and wandered off to find it. "B" Building is very centrally located however; we were on the ground floor. That meant a lot of foot traffic outside our patio and I didn't feel comfortable leaving the curtains open so we did end up feeling a bit closed in. I wanted to change rooms and I understood from previous posts that CSS will do everything to make your stay enjoyable including changing your room. The BF was fine with our room and didn't want to go to the trouble.
Make your reservations for the restaurants after you check in. Here is another little helpful tip. Bring a little calendar, notebook or something to keep track of your reservations. You have reservations for the restaurants, water sports, spa, excursions, etc. They will give you a little appointment card for the restaurant reservations but we didnít get one for watersports (glass bottom boat ride, snorkeling, etc.) and we missed our snorkeling time. With the weather what it was it really didnít matter.
The room itself was, as posts say "dated", but since I love shabby chic it was perfect. The bathroom was big and the tub was huuuge. My other disappointment with the room, besides being on the ground floor, was the fact the bed was hard as a ROCK. I ended up having sciatic trouble half-way thru our stay. I'm going to email CSS and see what options they can offer for future visits. Oh yes there will be future visits!! We did have to call Guest Services when our A/C was malfunctioning; it took 3 calls to finally get someone out to look at it. I called Guest Services because I needed a little table on the patio to prop my legs up on, they were swelling quite badly. No one responded by phone. Our housekeeper happened to be coming by and she just said to take the little coffee table outside, after all itís our room and make it comfy. We ended up bringing a plastic table from the beach. One day after the torrential rains our patio had a lot of standing water on it, it never went away. I guess we could have called guest services because we couldnít enjoy our patio without getting our feet/shoes all wet. You will have 2 beach towels in your bathroom. You can exchange them whenever you need to at watersports. We didnít realize that those were our beach towels, used them and housekeeping ended up taking them. So, it pays to read all of the information provided. There was a little card with the towel information on it however, when you first get there and itís your first time everything is just so new.
This resort is fabulous; from the sweeping panoramic views to the incredible food it totally delivers. I found most all the staff very engaging, there were a few who seemed to just be going thru the motions but then again maybe it was me. The weather didn't cooperate because it rained most of the time we were there except for the very last day, figures huh?
The night of the Beach Party, just as they announced the party was starting, it started pouring rain, not sprinkles Iím talking downpour. They had to scramble and move the party into Palazzina. Had I not read the reviews I wouldnít have known what they were doing and nobody told us. It was already 7pm and it was another hour before we were able to eat. Nobodyís fault but the weather.
The Starlight Gala was set up indoors since the weather was being so unpredictable and yes, it rained some more. I can't go on enough about the food, from the Beach Grill, Palazzina to Cassanova. I'm not a gourmet food/dinner kind of person so Cassanova wasn't my favorite however Palazzina was! Yuuuum... we didn't get a chance to try dinner at the Beach Grill. The pastries, breads and desserts are out of this world, I guess that's why I gained 6 pounds!!
We ordered room service the 2nd day we were there and it was promptly delivered.
Sunset Beach: My BF didn't think I would go but I was game. Hmmmm I understand SSB is the best au natural around, except for Braco which has gone to families instead of couples and no au natural.
For the most part it was nice. The free-standing 4-seater hot tub was definitely a turnoff, the bubbles didn't work and the head rests came unattached and floated around which wasn't very appealing. The pool was nice however, half of it only 1.5' deep, why is that? The swim up barstools are gritty, maybe to keep you from slidding off but very rough on the nekkid bum. The SSB shore is a bit different. The White River empties into the ocean at this point so you have to cross the river (brrrr cold water), walk across a small sandbar to the ocean. I understand Negril has beautiful white sand beaches, not so at SSB. There weren't any creepers while we were there, no real problems or concerns, everybody was respectful of the fact you were au natural. I really enjoyed it and look forward to going back next May.
Watersports: Hmmm one day all 3 pedal boats were there, the next only day only 1. The hydro bikes were fun but only one was working on the last day. The glass-bottom boat ride, it was okay but don't expect too much it's only about 30 minutes. Because the weather was so bad we didn't go out snorkeling and didn't have time to go on the Hobey Cat.
Now for the sensitive subject of chair/palapa ďsavingĒ; the first few days I didnít do it and if you wanted to be under a palapa or have a good spot you had to snag it early in the morning. Only 2 days did I venture out about 6:30am to put towels/bag down and save loungers. I noticed that others must have been out way before me because the premium locations were already taken! My motto for the trip was ďIt is what it isĒ.
We did make time to wander the property; yes there are a lot of stairs in the upper buildings. If you want the exercise go for building F or G but I would prefer to stay in either building A or B due to the proximity to the pool, restaurants, beach, etc. Behind Building A there is an awesome pond which has turtles, fish and birds. Speaking of birds the ugly duck is blind, so kindly take bread to him and hand feed him. He is usually most hungry in the mornings. Our routine after breakfast was to pile a plate of bread for the turtles and "Ugly" as I called the blind duck. Ahhhhh mimosas, a danish and feeding Ugly were highlights............ speaking of birds there are 2 parrots on the property, one is located on the way to the pond/au natural beach. Hilarious, walk past and hear him saying "Hello...."
I'd read reviews about the cats on the property and imagined there would be quite a few. Not so, we only saw maybe 3, they do like to hang out by the restaurants for treats. One of the kitties has only one eye, God loves him.
On the Sunday of our stay I wanted to go to mass at a nearby church. Iíd been told that a shuttle would take me to Sundayís 10:30 service. If you wanted to go any other time you would have to pay for a taxi. I arrived at Guest Services at the time they told me to be there, 10:15 and asked who else would be going, uhhmm just me. Iím not the brave sort to be roaming around Jamaica by myself and told them if it was just me I wouldnít go. They reassured me that I would be fine going by myself and they called the shuttle. I guess I should have known better but, again, Iím not the roaming around a strange country kind of gal. I got in the shuttle and there was a sign hanging from the rear view mirror saying that tips were customary. I only $20ís on me and I didnít think it was okay to make change in the collection plate at mass. I understand that the average Jamaican only makes about $5 A DAY! This shuttle driver got a $20 tip for taking me to mass and getting me back safely.
The day before our departure we found a note on the door stating all of the times we needed for the following day. What time our luggage would be picked up, what time we needed to be at check out, the time our shuttle would be leaving and our flight times. This was a very nice service provided.
I've rambled on enough about everything I can think of........ a great time was had in spite of a few speed bumps. A vacation is what you make of it....................... ya mon!
I almost forgot... Slippery when wet!! The floors in the rooms are tile and when they get wet they are slippery!! There are walkways throughout the resort that are tile, my advice is be careful. My BF nearly took a spill in a walkway and I overheard another guest saying she had fallen and had to see the resort nurse.
A few general tips? Take the time to read all the information in the binder provided in your room. It has all of the times for services and just plain good information.
What I took that I really didnít need: sports bottles, too much clothing, make up (with the saltwater and the humidity it just didnít stay on)Ö.
What I took that I really liked: Iíd read the reviews about the Boca Towel Clips and purchased the parrots. They were kewl for holding your towel to the back of the loungers by the pool.
Lastly don't forget your sunscreen (saw too many lobster people) and bug spray.. Be diligent with your sunscreen and bug spray and have a great time!