CSS review - Jan. 3 - Jan. 10, 2011
This is my review as posted to TA. Warning - it' long!
photos - http://picasaweb.google.com/diverdebbie
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 then moved to CSS Jan. 3 – Jan.10, 2011. If you’re interested I am also posting a review of Tower Isle.
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.
Transfer from CTI to CSS – Since we were just transferring from one Couples resort to another, we could pretty much transfer when we wanted. We ended up doing the 11:00 horseback riding that day at CTI, so we ended up catching the 2:00 horseback riding bus over to CSS. So after a quick stop to drop off the riders we arrived at CSS. It’s only about 10 minutes between resorts.
Check-in and room – We entered the lobby and were the only ones there. We instantly felt this serene calm come over us. It was a different, mellower vibe than CTI (which could be in part that it was now post holidays). Check-in was very quick and easy. We received another repeater’s package - 30 min. couples massage, $50 gift shop certificate, and massage oil and scented candle this time. They had our $500 resort credit (a promo when we booked) voucher ready as well. Our room was ready, so off we went. We had a deluxe ocean verandah room (G15a) in G “Gardenia” block, which is at the top level of the resort, up slightly from the lobby. We had to make our way up and around some stairs, then up yet another set of stairs to the top floor. It was like we were heading into an attic. The room was large enough, with the bed set behind the bathroom with a couple of windows looking out over the service road, but never mind the room. We stepped out onto our enormous verandah and our jaws dropped. We had an incredible sweeping panoramic view over the resort and the bay down below. To the left was the Casanova terrace, straight ahead the bay, and to the right the elevator down to the mineral pool. It was breath taking. Our verandah had a table and 4 chairs, a lounger and a sofa with a couple coffee tables. It was big enough to throw a party! The bathroom had a single sink but a spacious counter with cupboards below and a window looking over the verandah. The shower was a large tiled shower (no tub). We had a walk-in closet with the safe, and a mini bar (which we just requested what we wanted and they brought it all along with a bottle of rum - everyone wants rum, right? lol). Although we knew it would be a hike down to the beach, no complaints about our room.
Resort grounds – As you’ve probably already read elsewhere, the resort is set on the cliffs, so there are a lot of stairs throughout the lush grounds. We absolutely loved this about this resort. We did the orientation at 5:00 lead by Miguel (great guy), but it was fun to explore all the paths and stairways on our own and see where they lead to. One path lead to a couple of hammocks hidden away, with a peekaboo view through the foliage, and another lead to the mineral hot tub. There were terraces here and there and random seating. We truly felt like we were in a tropical paradise. Everything was so well kept, a huge job, no doubt with only 150 rooms on 35 acres.
Guest services – This is where we booked our dinners, which we did right away. Perhaps because we were now past the holidays, it was much easier to get bookings for the restaurants than at CTI, and we could pick our preferred times of 7:30 for Casanova and Palazzina.
Food – The food was amazing. We never had a bad meal. We ate at Bella Vista the first night and sat down by the beach. The food was great and the atmosphere so relaxing. The next night, Tues, was the beach party. That was lots of fun. They had tables of local cuisine set up, as well as a stage with entertainment. There was a fire eater then a limbo dancer, followed by the amazing Silverbirds steel drum band (who we also saw at CTI). We were joined by two members of management and it seemed the staff filled my water and wine glasses every couple of minutes. lol. Wed. we ate inside at Casanova. It was lobster night - delicious. The atmosphere was nice, with a pianist playing in the corner. We weren’t given the repeater’s invitation for Thursday. I’m sure they would have given it to us, but we opted to sit in the open air and ate at the Palazzina that night. The food there was very good and we had a couple of cats hanging about. We love cats, so every time the staff weren’t looking we tossed the kitties scraps of food. Our neighbours were doing the same thing, and hence we made some new friends from England. Friday was the Gala where they set up all the tables and food stations on the lawn. It was beautifully done and the food was delicious as always. They had another stage set with singers as entertainment this time. We had another great table of new friends, so it was a fun time. Sat. we went to Bella Vista again for another nice meal. We enjoyed our breakfasts in the Palazzina, but also just had room service breakfast delivered on mornings we went diving. We also had nachos delivered to our rooms a couple of afternoons as a snack. We never had lunch at Palazzina, as we loved the convenience of the beach grill, just steps from our beach chairs. The jerk burgers, snapper burgers and beef patties were all so yummy. There’s no veggie bar here, but we didn’t miss it. Sunday was our last night and our anniversary so we went back to Casanova but sat out on the terrace this time. We had scallops and they were melt in your mouth delicious. We returned to our room to find a bottle of chilling champagne and a fruit plate. It’s the little things that Couples does that make you smile (and return)
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, but the bartenders at the Balloon bar made me a decent Crantini. I did find that the red wine was a bit improved over our visit to CSA, but it was harder to get the Merlot at CSS than at CTI. It was only at Casanova and the special event dinners. It would be nice if they got some better wines, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Evening Entertainment – The first night was casino night. I’m not a gambler, so I thought – whatever. But Shellyann had the horse racing table set up and we played that all night. She’s so much fun. We won over $700,000 (in Couples cash) and ended up with a bottle of rum and a t-shirt. Other nights they had a band and entertainment also out on the Balloon Bar terrace. We didn’t always partake, but we could hear it wafting up to our room anyway.
The beach – No, it’s not 7 mile beach, but it’s still very nice we thought. It’s plenty big enough for the size of the resort. We never had any problem finding chairs and floaties and it never felt crowded. There were palms and palapas for shade and they weren’t all scooped up early in the morning. The beach there is private and peaceful. I must admit it was nice not to have vendors or lots of people with children wandering by. The water is very shallow a long way out, so it’s not the best for serious swimming, but it was nice and calm for floating. Being in a bay it seems to be much more protected than the beach at CTI. We also lucked out that the weather had improved. We had a mix of sun and clouds mostly and no rain. A couple of days were brilliant blue skies with no clouds at all. One day I was floating peacefully and saw a stingray below me. I looked up to signal my hubby but he was sleeping. I couldn’t resist touching the stingray (reminded me of Stingray city in the Caymans). It took off. A bit later we saw it breaching out in the bay. Perhaps I traumatized him. We never saw Spot again. lol.
Sunset beach – We only saw it after 5:00 at sunset when most people are clothed again. They had a sax player by the beach playing soothing music - so nice. The area has its own pool, hot tub and grill. If you’re into the nude thing it looks like a great spot to spend the day. Just not our thing.
Pools – There are three pools. The main pool with swim-up bar looked very nice, but we prefer the beach and an ocean view, so we never did sit there. The mineral pool is a beautiful location. Other than sipping a smoothie one afternoon we didn’t sit there either. The pools were a bit on the cool side. The other pool is the one up by the Balloon Bar terrace close to the lobby. I never saw anyone in it, but it’s a pretty feature for the terrace.
Hot tubs – There’s a hot tub over by Sunset beach, one by the main pool and one up from the mineral pool, mostly hidden in the foliage. That’s the only one we used a couple of nights. We were surprised to find no one in it. It was so relaxing to sit and look up through the palms and see the stars above.
Diving and water sports – After coming from a mostly red flag week at CTI it was nice to see the green flagging flying (or hanging) all week at CSS. We went early on to the dive shop and met the dive staff there – Philip, Dennis, Patrick and Leon. What a great bunch of guys. We ended up diving three days in a row in the middle of our stay. I dove a few times less than hubby, diving just once a day due to my cough. I’m sure diving didn’t help, but I couldn’t not dive. It’s not the best diving in the world, but the viz had cleared up, it was easy and relaxing. We dove a nice little wreck too, where we saw an octopus. We wanted to take a hobie out sailing, but there was usually no wind. We did take out a double kayak and went over to the spa where we stopped to run up and change our appointment to later. Then we went beyond to the next property where a couple of big dogs barked at us. Don’t get out of the kayaks there! lol.
Dunn’s River trip – We didn’t end up doing this here either. We just never really felt like going off the property.
Shopping – We didn’t do any shopping trips. We did visit the gift shop on site, but found it was lacking in Sans Souci specific logo items. Too bad, as we would have bought more t-shirts, hats and maybe another beach bag as we did at Tower Isle. They also blared awful music, so I was just anxious to get out. The jewelry store had some nice things, but I wasn’t looking for jewelry. There were vendors on the beach were you could buy things like painted shells, pottery and wood carvings.
Spa – We really enjoyed the spa here. The reception is down at the bottom of the elevator, but the treatment rooms are all set on the cliffs starting behind G block and the salon. The path and stairs winds down the hillside with 3 sided huts at all levels. They have stunning views out over the water. We upgraded our included massage to longer and made it a hot stone massage. Simone and Thelma were awesome. We were in the hut right down by the Hide Away. We could hear the waves crash. We decided to make another appointment for our anniversary, so we had a second hot stone massage combined with a seaweed treatment. This time we were in Tuck Away, again with a view and sound of the waves. We heard birds roosting in a nearby tree as we relaxed with the seaweed wrap. Oh so wonderful! What a way to spend our resort credit!
Check-out – All good things must come to an end. We were set to board the 12:30 bus, so we had breakfast and checked out then headed to the beach bar where we sat and enjoyed our last drinks. Lunch doesn’t start until noon, but I managed to grab one last beef patty. It was so hard to leave. As we were about to board the bus they handed us a lunch pack with 2 waters, granola bars and fruit. There was one other couple on the bus, coming from CTI, so we chatted most of the way back to the airport.
Overall we had a fabulous stay at Sans Souci. It’s in a stunningly beautiful setting resort, very different to CTI, but perhaps more similar to CSA with its lush grounds. The grounds were immaculate and gorgeous and the views breathtaking. It never felt crowded, and at times you seemed alone in the world, however we still met lots of great people. It was such a totally relaxing atmosphere. The staff were all so friendly and wonderful, always smiling even as they scale those stairs up and down all day!
Would we go back? Absolutely, although next time we’ll probably return to Negril and do a CSA and CN split to try the 4th Couples resort. It’s awfully tempting though to do another split but with CSA and CSS this time. We’ll see.
We are absolutely hooked on Couples resorts and we’ll be repeaters for a long time to come.