LONG LONG and ver much OVERDUE Review of CSA
I will preface this with a couple things:
1.) This trip happened July of 2010.
2.) No longer have the same boyfriend no fault of couples of course ;-)
3.) I didn't finish writing the review last year, so it does stop somewhat abruptly & there are names that are left as blanks because I have long since misplaced my notes of all the incredible people...
4.) Booked for September-October and CANNOT wait to share this amazing place with my AMAZING man =)
CSA: Sit Back and Get Comfy, it’s a Long One!
As with most things, possibly the most important part of reviews is context; that being said:
Him- 44, golf professional and has traveled the world 40+ countries, living in 7 of them, including an AI resort in the Mexican Caribbean for a year; quite hard to please, especially when it comes to spending money on things like vacation.
Her- 28, Director of Sales and has only been to Mexico and Canada (aside from 43 of the 50 states); food and wine snob with very high expectations going into Couples after spending years reading the website/chat boards/TA/etc.
Them: Been in a relationship for two years, not married, living together in Orange County, California and are surrounded by the best of everything in any direction. He works 12-15 hours per week and can’t understand why she, who works 50+ hours per week (making about the same money as him), is dragging him to Jamaica for vacation. According to him, “we live 8 miles from the beach, it is summer and warm here already, All-Inclusives are lame, why don’t we just spend a week in Laguna and save half the money….etc, etc…” This is her vacation, “so deal with it and at least pretend to have a good time.” First major vacation together, first time to Jamaica for both and first trip to Couples.
Despite the picture I just painted, we really are a fun couple who are super friendly, out going, social and are fairly easy to please, but just want it to be noted that we do have our things about which we are particular and that we live in, perhaps, the most high maintenance area in the country before I start my review…
I will preface this with everything turned out fine in the end and we will use a travel agent again, just not this one (who we got from the Couple’s website). Long story short, she booked our flight 1 full day early from our hotel reservations. Because I am anal, I went on the airlines website two days before we were supposed to leave to make sure everything was ok and found the error. After some last minute scrambling we are able to rearrange our schedules, car service to the airport and got an extra day at Couples plus $100 spa credit for free. All this to say, even if you have booked your trip through a travel agent, DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING before you leave. Had I not looked, we would have showed up to the airport 24 hours after our flight had already left and subsequently missed our entire vacation!
Transportation to Couples:
After a horrific flight schedule (think redeye out of LAX, followed by a 5 hour lay over in Dallas starting at 4:30am) the sight of the Couple’s Lounge in Montego Bay was like a beautiful Oasis in the middle of the Mojave. We were greeted by a baggage attendant and the Couple’s desk assistant; neither could have been more sincere with their salutations and warm greetings. This was our first glimmer of what our vacation was going to be. They got us and our baggage all squared away, checked in and within 3.5 minutes we had our first Red-Stripe and Red-Stripe Lights in our hand. We made sure to tip the baggage handler and bartender and got pictures with our first Couple’s friends. I think we were in the lounge for a total of 7 minutes before they let us know that it was time to go.
The shuttle, was a van with roughly 12 of us, filled to the brim with people and luggage but remained cool with plenty of air conditioning. The ride to the resort, as some have described as “horrific, terrifying, scary, etc.” were descriptions left by people who have obviously never driven in or around LA. Neither of us found it the least bit uncomfortable, yes it took a minute to adjust to being on the opposite side of the road, but other than that it was totally harmless. This would be the first of 20 or 30 times on the trip that I uttered the phrase, “I just can’t understand what people are complaining about…..”
There was a bit of traffic and I think the slight amount of rain that was falling caused our transfer to the resort to be a little longer than normal, just over 2 hours. Unfortunately because of the World Cup game on at the time we didn’t get the normal commentary from the shuttle driver about the scenery, just 2 hours of Vuvuzelas, but being a once in four year event, we didn’t mind. We took the normal midway stop for overpriced beer and nic-nacks, but no jerk chicken and within 10 minutes we were back on the road again.
As noted time and time over, ice cold towels and champagne along with very friendly staff greeted us. The men were asked to stay with the luggage while the women were brought into the check in desk. Since arriving back, I have read someone complaining on the boards about this set up as chauvinistic. I’m probably as feminist and liberal as it goes when it comes to women’s rights and WOW, I don’t understand that complaint at all. I took it as the women got to sit down with our champagne and check in (not a bad assumption that the women would have travel documents in purses) while the men had to help deal with the getting the bags accounted for and squared away. To be honest I preferred it this way….but I guess everyone as an opinion about everything.
Check in was smooth and we immediately went over to the Concierge to set up dinner reservations at Lemongrass and Feathers. Lemongrass was available for 7:00 the following night (Wednesday), Feathers 9:00 for Thursday. Again, not understanding the complaint of “not being able to get dinner reservations,” as long as you are flexible in your dining times, they will have something available. In addition to dinner we set up golf for Thursday morning, the 8:05 shuttle. We decided that was enough “planning” for our first 5 minutes and wanted to get to our room.
This is when we met the first of our memorable staff members, our bell hop, Delmar. He was extremely friendly, helpful and patient with our questions. We never got the feeling that he was just “acting” nice to us, he was very genuine and made one of our first impressions of the resort staff a very positive one.
We opted for an Atrium Suite as the TV wasn’t important to either of us, and since I have a hard time saying “no” to that one more cocktail, it was better that I didn’t have direct access to a mini-bar 24 hours a day ;-) One of the things that initially drew me to CSA was the crisp white linen, dark wood shutters, and over all simple style of this room category. This led to yet another “I don’t get the complaints” moments. We did ample research as I am sure that most do upon spending thousands of dollars and traveling to a foreign country and everything is/was exactly as advertised. I don’t understand people who write negative comments on the rooms being simple and boring; in real life, they are exactly what is shown on the website. If it didn’t appeal to you in the picture, why would you think it would be magically different when you got there?
We love love loved everything about our accommodations! The room was clean, no mold smell, no cracked tiles, fresh flowers in the bathroom and next to the bed; everything was pristine! Not having the glass on the windows let in a symphony of sounds every night which to fall asleep. Every afternoon one or the other of us would take a nap on the fabulous hammock. Through the lush vegetation we could see the water. It seemed like every day there was a new “critter” to great us in the morning; a cat, iguana, lizard, woodpecker, or other beautiful birds and we loved them all. The only bugs of which to speak in the room were little sand fleas (I think) and yes, we both did get eaten quite a bit by them and mosquitoes, but once again, you are going to a tropical location, why wouldn’t it be an expectation that you are going to get bug bites and then a pleasant surprise if you don’t?
Location of our room was perfect! We were on the first floor which he thought would be bothersome to have people above us, but it turned out to be perfect. We were steps off the patio away from the main walk and maybe 200 yards from the Palms complex. We didn’t hear any crashing around by service staff (and I am a very light sleeper in the morning) day or night. We weren’t on the wedding gazebo side, so we didn’t get any noise from weddings either. We really couldn’t have hand picked a better location, and on our return we will probably do our darndest sweet talking to try and get that spot again!
We ordered the coffee, fruit & breakfast breads early every morning for “1st breakfast.” It arrived every morning as requested, and talk about the best hotel wake up call ever! We woke up every morning to a little knock on the patio door that had a smile behind it. When was the last time you were at a Hyatt and got that?
Every morning there was a slightly different fruit arrangement and it was all FABULOUS; papaya, mango, starfruit, chermoya, watermelon- my mouth is watering thinking about it. If there was anything that I was “disappointed” in, it would have been the coffee. It was good, but I think I probably had my expectations a little too high for this one. He also felt that while it was good, it wasn’t anything terribly special. As far as the pastries, after the amount of calories we figured we were taking in on a daily basis, we decided to cut them out after day two- but they were great as well.
I had often read another complaint about the maid service, which I now don’t really understand either. Our maid, Marlene, I believe, was great! We would leave at varying times and come back at varying times and I swear she must have had our door on video or something because not only was the initial morning service always somehow magically finished but our turn down service, without fail was always done without any disruption to us. The night time turn down service might have been one of my favorite perks of the trip. To come home (pretty late) every night after a long day of drinking, being in the sun, and then dancing or enjoying the other various activities to a room that had been “tidied” up was such a treat. Especially in the Atriums where there are several shutters that need to be tended to, it was wonderful to have the room “ready” for bed. A+ service in this category for sure!
The short version: Overall- Keeping in mind that I consider myself somewhat of a foodie- ABSOLUTELYFANTASTIC!!! We did not have one bad meal, or even a single course of a meal that wasn’t at least decent. I had read people complaining that the portions are small; well, first of all, in the US the portions are MUCH too big, secondly every meal has 5 courses and thirdly, if you want more of something or want to try two different selections, just ask, and they are happy to accommodate.
Due to it’s proximity to our room, this is where we enjoyed dinner the first night. For some reason I had it in my mind that it was strictly buffet service, so I was pleasantly surprised when we got there that there was a menu service option in addition to the salad bar. Unfortunately I cannot tell you what I ordered, as 5 course meals everyday for 7 days can become something of a blur, but it was fabulous. Being open aired, we preferred to sit under a fan, and as long as they had it available, the staff was happy to accommodate our request.
The other two nights we ate there it was buffet only (International Night on Monday & the Shipwrecked Beach Party on Friday). This was a great place to try a lot of different Jamaican foods since they had so many stations and we had a fun time trying some of the local fare. We loved the collared greens, plantains, bread fruit, vichyssoise, Jamaican sweet potatoes, and on and on. They dessert station was always great because there was a live action something going on and it usually involved bananas. Again, I don’t think we tried anything we didn’t like/love.
We ate breakfast once here and it was buffet in the morning, not a bad thing by any means, but just so you know. We always ate 1st breakfast on the patio, so we really didn’t load up here at all but it was nice to get a little protein. The morning we at there, Meletia was manning the omelet station and could not have been sweeter! She was pleasant and engaging with conversation. Most of the time “back of the house” type roles aren’t the most social, but she was great!
This was dinner for us on the second night we were there. We got 7:00 reservations and that was probably about a half hour too early. As others have stated, it is open air (and GORGEOUS by the way) so a recommendation for this restaurant would be to get later reservations as the sun is just going down. Once the sun went down, it felt like the patio cooled off by 5ish degrees. If you are really bothered by the heat, just request to sit inside where they have the fans.
We loved the ambiance of this restaurant. Between the torches against the sunset, the glow of the multi-colored lanterns, the beautiful table linen and runner paired with the excellent presentation of all of the food, it made for a unique meal. From a food standpoint, it was just “ok” as Thai food goes. It wasn’t the best we have ever had (but then again we were in Jamaica and not Thailand, so what are you to expect) but it wasn’t even close to the worst either.
This was the place that I made my first “high-maintenance” request. We each ordered different things so we could try a little bit of everything, including dessert. Well there were parts of his dessert that I liked and parts of mine that I liked, so I asked Ulesa if I could have a blend of the two. “No Problem, Mon!” and boom, within 10 minutes I had exactly what I requested for our dessert after the dessert. Talk about an impression!
Due to it’s proximity to our room and lighter fare, we basically enjoyed lunch here everyday. Since dinner was mostly heavy and we typically would eat breakfast two separate times this was a wonderful option. I was pretty shocked by the fact that the menu had new offerings every couple of days. Salads, fruits, soups, sweet potato chips with the most amazing dips EVER, Coconut water straight out of the coconut, fresh smoothies…it was all amazing. Plus, being able to sit and dine with your toes in the sand is great!
This was probably the one place that the service was either AMAZING or not great. __________ waited on us several days and was one of our staff highlights for sure. She was always super prompt and even friendlier. Behind the counter, ________ was one of my favorites. Everyday he had a smile bigger than the one the day before.
I would say of all the places this was my biggest disappointment. I am sure that if we had been staying on that side of the resort I would have given it more chances, but between the food selection mostly being greasy and it taking F O R E V E R each of the two times we tried it we just decided that we preferred Seagrapes hands down. I did try the snapper sandwich and thought it was just ok. The other item I tried here was the Conch Fritters, another item about which I wasn’t so crazy.
Again, due to location we really didn’t find a need to go out of the way to get down to this restaurant everyday. We did try breakfast & dinner one time each. I did like the option of having a served breakfast and the omelet special was quite good. Probably due to the hype about the banana stuffed French toast my expectations might have been a little high on this one. It was good, but personally didn’t think it quite lived up to the reputation that preceded it….which means more for someone else who is crazy about it =)
Like everywhere else, dinner was very good. I had Mahi Mahi and the bf had the pizza. Another 5 course meal and two more very happy customers! The service here, like pretty much every where else was outstanding! _________ was a doll and extremely accommodating!
AMAZING! AMAZING! AMAZING! This restaurant by far and away had the best staff and most delectable menu. We were lucky enough to dine there twice and the second time just happened to be the first Saturday of Lobster Season…lucky us! The first night we were there we saw some friends that we had met earlier on our golf excursion and asked to relocate next to there table, which was a request that was quickly granted. We happened to have pretty late reservations that night and ended up completely shutting the place down and then some. NEVER once were we asked to leave or felt like the staff was trying to push us out.
The manager_________ was phenomenal and our waitress Stacy-Ann was so great. She could tell that we would be a fun bunch and played along with us, giving us a hard time about everything. To have people who are working for you that can read clients and know when to be staunch and when you can have fun with them is a gift! _____ ______ ______ are all incredible assets to this already fantastic restaurant.
Two paragraphs about this restaurant and haven’t even spoken about the food, which was OUT OF THIS WORLD! It is always so much fun to try new and interesting dishes for the starter courses and then of course enjoy great standbys as well. The ambiance was beautiful, intimate, elegant, but also fun. From a fine dining experience this was probably as 5 star as you can expect and certainly exceeded any expectations that I had going in.
Ok, so technically this is not a food stop, but just need to rave about this place as it was were we spent a lot of our free time. Of course, as everyone has mentioned the drinks are unending, top shelf, unique, fun, etc etc, but the alcohol wasn’t the reason we spent so much time at this fun beach hut. The staff there was BY FAR the best on the beach! Every day Ruel, Marlene, _________, & __________ made us laugh smile and on our last day even cry a little. Every day they seemed like they loved their jobs, and made the days go by even quicker. They were fun, playful and of course made killer drinks! We missed this crew from the moment we started walking away. MUCH MUCH LOVE!
As so many have stated before; incredibly clean, soft, white, clear water, perfection! There were plenty of chairs, floaties, and shade to go around. Every day the great aforementioned staff from the Sunset Bar went around with cold towels, water, lemonade, the drink of the day & fruit skewers. Didn’t need to use flag service as we were always near enough to the bar, and if we weren’t we figured we could use burning the excess calories anyway.
To address issues that I had read many times:
The Palapa Game- Get over it. Yes, people must have gotten up at all kinds of crazy hours to “reserve” their hut. We personally weren’t interested in playing the game so we didn’t. We still managed to find plenty of great places to lounge in the shade and in the late afternoon even managed to get a Palapa twice. Life is too short and vacation time is too precious, no worries, Mon!
Jellyfish- My bf actually did get stung twice on two separate days in two completely different areas of the water. He got a bit of a sting, we did the usual methods and it helped a bit, but be aware that they are out there, at least they were while we were there.
Vendors- Completely unobtrusive and we actually enjoyed the color that they brought to the beach. To be honest, in our opinion, the vendors that were actually on the property were much much more aggressive than the ones on the beach. We did, gasp, buy a couple of Cuban Cigars which my bf enjoyed very much. I think we paid like $10 each for great quality cigars and were great to have in the evening with our after dinner drinks. We also enjoyed the musicians when they stopped and played a little…although I am pretty sure that I heard “Everyt’ing is going to be alright” about a half million times. Plus there is still something soothing about the word “SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEELLLLLLLSSSSSSS”
WOW! WOW! WOW! (and the part that this is going to cut off a bit).
We play A LOT of golf, are both in decent shape and went in with low expectations....that being said...
They don't call it Negril Hills for nothing. My nose bleeds from the quick elevation changes lasted two days (ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration but it was intense). We decided to walk 18, like we typically do at home - big mistake. In retrospect we wish we would have just planned to play 9, as this would have been more than enough. We did only bring one set (he just hit my TM Burners as me hitting his clubs would result in catastrophe) but with the hassle of traveling with them we should have just rented as with the conditions of the grass(es) it probably wouldn't have mattered one way or the other. Course lay out was very choppy with absolutely no real flow. The course itself was an amalgam of grasses so fairway/rough didn't matter, all about the same lie, just like the course- incredibly tight.
Possibly because we never have to pay for golf, it increased our perception of what the value of the experience should be (above our low expectations) but it was probably the low light of our entire trip. We spent $80 total ($20 per caddy tip, $14 per caddy charge, $12 for water for us and the caddies) and for us wasn't even a little bit worth it.
For some reason, in all my extensive research, I somehow missed that there was a show nightly at the Palms. We loved them! It was so much fun to have dinner and a show every single night. Other fun things that we enjoyed at the Palms…..Pool (in a nice air conditioned room) Chess, Tie-Dye Class (inside because of the rain), the great Martini Bar……
Ultimate Chocolate and the Aura Lounge:
SOOOOOOOOOO much fun! We got there early enough for ultimate a couple of nights and it was super entertaining. My bf is not a dancer and even after long days, lots of drinks and non-stop fun, we still managed to close the place down every night. We had so much fun with the different themes and meeting people that it was never a question of whether or not we would go, always what time would we get there. All in all, loved it every night!
Work out Facilities:
Loved the gym, ping pong, spa (did the couples massage, which was so-so), juice bar, it was all awesome! Got a short work out in most days, nice to have the option to do so.
There were so many miscellaneous things that fall into this category…..and I can’t wait to enjoy them all again…
More than a year later and I can’t wait to see all of the smiling faces at CSA, but the two that are at the top of the list are AKEEM and RUEL.