CTI review - Dec. 27 - Jan. 3, 2011
This is my review as posted to TA (warning - it's long!)
We’ve now stayed at 3 of the 4 Couples resorts. In 2008 we were married at CSA. It was an amazing wedding and vacation. This time we decided to return to Couples but try Tower Isle and Sans Souci in a split of one week at each. We stayed at CTI first from Dec. 27, 2010 – Jan. 3, 2011. If you’re interested I am also posting a review of Sans Souci.
Staff and service – Right up front I want to mention that the staff is what sets Couples resorts apart from any other resort we’ve ever visited. This was consistent at all three resorts. They were all so friendly and helpful and the service was exemplary. These amazing people truly make your vacation wonderful.
Couples lounge & drive to resort – When we got to the lounge it was packed with people. They informed us our bus would be leaving shortly. I barely had time to use the washroom and we were on our way when I realized that I didn’t even grab a beer. Our bus was completely full and we already started making new friends. Our driver drove very safe and sane. We stopped for a short washroom and beer refill break. The 2 hour trip passed quite quickly.
Check-in and room – Despite our full bus, check-in was well organized and we breezed through. The ladies at the desk were very sweet. The front lobby area is gorgeous with its retro décor. It’s quite a central social area. It was about 3:00 pm and our room was ready. We had a deluxe ocean room in building 4 on the first floor - 4101. The balcony is up a bit from the ground which means no walk outs. We liked this. It gives a better view and makes it more secure. The room was clean, bright and plenty large enough. The bathroom had a single, modern flat sink which wasn’t great for rinsing out bathing suits, but there’s always the shower, which is a tiled shower with a built in seat. No tub. We had an incredible view of the ocean, overlooking the swim-up pool to Tower Isle. No complaints about our room. We did have a few ants, but this was our fault for leaving some croissants from breakfast. Don’t leave non-packaged food in your room (particularly on the first floor) and you shouldn’t have a problem. Just a side note about washrooms – there were several around the resort and they were all very modern and clean.
Guest services – When we checked in we were given our repeater’s package – 30 min. couples massage, $50 gift shop certificate, and t-shirts. However we realized we weren’t given an invite to the repeater’s dinner, or given our $500 resort credit voucher (a promo perk when we booked). No problem. We just went to guest services and it was all quickly sorted out by Soshauna (sp?). She was always so sweet and helpful. This is also where we booked our dinners and included excursions, which we did right away. Since the resort was so full we could only get 8:45 times for dinners at Bayside and 8 Rivers, but it was worth it.
Food – The food was amazing. We never had a bad meal. We started with the repeaters dinner on Mon. We were served a set meal which included a cream of cauliflower soup. I hate cauliflower, but this was incredible. In fact, all the soups we had were delicious. We ate again another night at 8 Rivers and had another tasty meal. We also ate at Bayside once. Unfortunately I picked up a bug on the plane down which affected my appetite somewhat, mainly that night. The food was good though, and the atmosphere and setting out over the water is very romantic. We ate at the Verandah twice and had fabulous meals. We preferred the atmosphere over 8 Rivers. It was much cozier with its comfy décor and lower ceilings. Don’t miss this one. You don’t even have to reserve it. We only had one dinner in the Patio buffet restaurant on our last night and it was fine, but its not my favorite. Breakfasts there were good other than watery scrambled eggs day one, which we easily remedied by getting made to order eggs instead. Every day we had coffee and sometimes croissants or fruit delivered to our room. It was so nice to sit with that view in the morning. We only had one lunch at the Patio. Mostly we ate lunch from the grill or just had sweet potato chips and dip from the veggie bar. The adorable ladies at the veggie bar also make some yummy smoothies.
Bars and drinks – The service at all the bars was always quick and friendly and the drinks were very yummy. We tried all sorts of different drinks and they had a different special every day. The only thing I missed was the martini bar at CSA. Here they didn’t have ingredients for specialty martinis like sour apple. Oh well. There were lots of other options. I did find that the red wine was a bit improved over our visit to CSA, particularly the Merlot. I tried the white and thought it was horrible. It’s really sweet. It would be nice if they got some better wines, but it’s not a deal breaker. The bartenders are always so nice and accommodating so who can be upset? They even made me a lime and honey drink to try to help with my cough. Oh, I should mention, as several people discussed this, it would be nice if they had some chairs around the main bar like CSS does. I wasn’t fond of the piano bar as it has a musty/moldy smell I noticed nowhere else. It was so much nicer to grab a drink and sit out on the lobby terrace instead and listen to the waves.
New Year’s Eve – They really did it up! First we had drinks and appies on the roof top patio, where it was decorated with ice sculptures. We met up with some new friends there. (We met a ton of super nice people at this resort). Then we went and found a table around the main pool. The Patio was cleared out of all the tables and chairs and they had set up all sorts of stations and tables of food. The food selection was ridiculous. There was so much food, and it was delicious. Using our resort credit we bought premium wine, then a couple bottles of champagne for the table (they did have champagne but we bought nicer stuff just because). There was a stage set up by the pool with entertainment including the Silverbirds steel drum band. They’re very talented. After dinner the staff buzzed around and cleared the food tables from the Patio and set it back up with tables and chairs. A band came on stage and everyone was given hats, tiaras, beads and noise makers. It was a real party atmosphere. The band rang in the New Year and everyone made lots of noise. Then there was dancing. It was a blast!
Entertainment – Other nights they had entertainment on the stage in the Patio. We caught the tail end of some dancers performing who were very good. Since we had several very late dinners we seemed to miss a lot of nights. We couldn’t hear a thing way down at our room.
The beach – We already knew it was small, so we weren’t surprised. Due to the fact that the resort was at full capacity for New Year’s, and the island was shut down most of the time due to dock repairs and or the weather, the beach was quite packed by late morning. We went early, so we found chairs and floaties ok. It felt a little crowded, but it wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think it would be like that at a less busy time of the year. Another thing to note was that the weather was cool, cloudy and windy for the first couple of days, so when it got nicer everyone seemed to be on the beach or around the pools. We barely swam due to the weather, but liked that it drops off fairly quickly. Plus it’s private and peaceful. I must admit it was nice not to have vendors or lots of people with children wandering by. For those who like shade it’s easy to find, as the buildings as well as the beautiful tall palm trees cast a lot of shade over the beach.
Pools – There are two pools (three if you count the spa plunge pool). They are very modern and clean and have fabulous views over the ocean. Unfortunately due to the cool weather at first and the fact they aren’t heated, we didn’t use them. We sat by them but no one was swimming, at least until later in the week. I tried but it was cold. The swim-up bar was more popular on the dry side. The chairs at the sunny side of the pools were taken very early in the morning, so you had to be early to get them. Again, I think this was due to the resort being at full capacity.
Hot tubs – There are two hot tubs with views of the ocean. These were great for soaking and socializing on the cool first days, or in the evenings. There are also two more over at the spa.
Diving and water sports – Due to the red flag flying we did absolutely no water sports. We went and chatted with the guys at the dive shop early on and showed them our cert cards, but the couple of times the dive boat went out we weren’t aware, as the red flag was still up until it went out. The flag only went yellow for brief periods. The viz was apparently not great anyway, and probably better not to dive with my annoying cough.
Nurse – Just a quick note that I saw the nurse for my cough. It’s a free service unless they need to call a doctor. She was very nice and gave me some could and sinus meds.
Cat cruise – This was very booked up and wait listed due to the full capacity and the weather cancelling most trips. They really try their best to accommodate though. They even ran extra trips on the good days. We did get out on New Year’s Eve day. The water was a bit rough and waves crashed over the bow. We went for a short swim but it was chilly. It’s not as scenic as the Negril cat cruise I thought, but it was fun.
Horseback riding – We did the included horseback riding and had a great time. It’s a tame ride, in that the horses just walk, but it’s more about the nature tour. It’s a nice way to see the countryside as you ride around the plantation, stopping at a couple of viewpoints. The guides point out plants, and then you stop and dismount for a presentation about the fruits where they give you samples of coconut and coconut water. It’s very well organized.
Dunn’s River trip – We didn’t end up doing it, but people we spoke to really enjoyed it, especially if they went when there were no cruise ships in port.
Shopping – We went off resort on one of the shopping trips so that hubby could get a t-shirt from the Hard Rock (he collects them wherever we go that has one). Otherwise the Taj Mahal shopping centre sold the typical stuff in a bunch of similar stores. This wasn’t a craft market. The scheduled two hours we were there was way too long. We wandered off but weren’t in the mood to be harassed, as we instantly were (perhaps not feeling 100% affected my sense of “adventure”). So we went back to the shopping centre and got a beer. I wouldn’t do that trip again. We got all that we needed at the two gift shops on the resort (using our resort credit). They had quite a selection of Tower Isle logo items. There are also vendors on site. Yes, it may cost more, but it is hassle free.
Spa – The spa area is very modern, clean and “Zen” like. We upgraded our couples massage to longer (using our resort credit). Clover and Geni were our masseuses. It was so nice and relaxing. They will give you a massage as firm or gentle as you like. There are two hot tubs there; one on the men’s side and one on the ladies side. After 7pm they’re open as co-ed. We did use them at night. It was so nice to listen to the frogs. They also have steam rooms, which no seemed to use but me (which was good, as I wouldn’t have sat in there with others with my cough). They spritzed peppermint and eucalyptus in it to help with my cold. All the ladies at the spa were so nice.
Check-out – Since we were heading over to CSS instead of the airport, we could pretty much transfer when we wanted. We ended up doing the horseback riding that day (due to cancelling an early trip due to me not feeling well), so we checked out after breakfast around 10:30 then went on the 11:00 ride. We put our valuables in lockers at the spa along with a change of clothes and left our luggage in the lobby. After riding we had quick showers at the spa. I mention this because if you have a late flight this is the way to do it. We then ended up catching the 2:00 horseback riding bus. So after a quick stop to drop off the riders we went to CSS which was right across the road. See my review on that resort if you are interested.
Overall impression – We had a very enjoyable stay at Tower Isle. It’s a very clean, modern, elegant resort. It’s very different to CSA or CSS but special in its own unique way. Staff were always cleaning and painting to keep it white. The grounds were immaculate. The property is smaller than the other Couples resorts, but the plus side of this is that it’s not such a hike to go back to your room or to get to the bar or a restaurant. You can navigate from one end of the resort to the other either inside or outside along a concrete walkway in front of buildings 3 and 4. It’s great that most of the rooms have an amazing view. Another plus about the compact size is that you seem to run into people you’ve met (both staff and guests) more often, which makes it great to get to know them better. The staff are truly the resort’s best asset.
Would we go back? Yes, we would, although next time we’ll probably return to Negril and do a CSA and CN split. I think CTI would be better in the spring or summer when the weather is typically hotter and the water perhaps calmer, so that the pools, ocean and water sports can be enjoyed to the fullest, and at a time when it isn’t at full capacity so it’s not quite so busy.
We are absolutely hooked on Couples resorts and we’ll be repeaters for a long time to come.