Trip review - Our fantastic vacation at Couples Swept Away! Its Long!
I won't get into the boring details about flight departure and arrival; our flight was delayed by a few minutes, but we arrived in Montego Bay safely without incident, enough said....
May 27 - June 1, 2012
My review - thoughts, opinions, suggestions, tips, about our amazing 1st vacation at
Couples Swept Away Negril Jamaica
My first tip - Do not stay less than 7 days, if you can afford it, trust me, you will wish you had if you don't! Okay, 6 nights is good, but anything less, you are setting yourself up for a big tease! I know we did, 5 nights was just not enough....
Couples Lounge at MoBay Airport!
I will not write this review mentioning what specific days we did this or that or what days we ate this and that, I'm just not good with those details, and it actually annoys me, so I will try and write this as if we are having a conversation, rather than writing it as a text book :)
Arriving at the airport, getting thru customs (under 45 minutes), and being greeted at the Couples lounge with a warm welcome, was a great start to our trip.
Tip, the more you have everything (documents, etc), together and in order the better off you will be, trust me! The least amount of "stuff" you have during customs and security check points the better, trust me on that too! People and their carry on things, unbelievable! enough about that, you get my point.
We were in and our of the Couples lounge in 15 minutes, WOW!
Our ride to the airport was smooth, and at first I thought it would be long and boring, but no one in our van wanted to stop, and although I thought we would and I wanted something cold to drink, it turned out to be a good thing, because the ride was not as long as I thought it would be, and our group was fun...But of course, it was the start of our CSA vacation!
Check in - we were greeted with a cold towel and glass of bubbly, very nice touch, loved that..Checking in went very smoothly, (about 1:45pm) our room was ready, but I requested a different room, more central, and although the room was not as central as we would have liked, it turned out good..We were in a 1st floor garden verandah as requested, but we were the first room as your exiting the lobby to your left. At first I thought, this is not going to work, (this was a busy area for staff, guests checking in) but it was not that bad at all. What I liked most was, our path to the beach was very short, and since most of our lunch was at Seagrapes, it was perfect, LOVE this cafe!. More on SeaGrape later..
Off we go to our beach bungalow, and I soooo adored this room. Trust me when I say, the pictures do not lie. What you see in brochures and on the websites are exactly what you get..If your are looking for any luxury you will not find it here...Let me repeat that, these rooms are not luxurious, ie; marble, granite, designer sheets, but, that's not a bad thing at this resort, because we were looking for rustic and clean, but we got so much more...Could they use a upgrade? Sure, a few pictures, maybe new cushions for the porch chairs, furniture, but we were comfortable as is..The very nice and huge Verandah, would cost you probably 2x as much in a five star hotel, and that's where CSA is so unique . The verandah becomes part of your room and you really feel like you are staying in your own beach bungalow/cottage without a kitchen...What I also loved about it, in many hotel rooms, you can hear your neighbors day and night thru the walls, but not here...The walls are cement/concrete, so if you hear anyone, they are probably sitting on the porch or walking by..More on the room later..
TIP - Use the SAFE! We did leave some things out, but my husbands Nook tablet, and our phones were in the safe most of the time when we were not using them. Theft can happen anywhere, so why take the risk, and then get pissed off later because one of your valuables was stolen.
NOTE - The beachfront suites are very nice..Keep in mind they are central to all the activity on the beach and is quite busy during the day, so you may want to keep that in mind. otherwise they look super nice.
Time to change the sweaty clothes and go find food!
We were starving, my heart was set on the snapper sandwich with fries, so our 1st stop before the 5pm tour, was the Cabana Grill.. I loved this sandwich! but I have to admit, SeaGrape snapper sandwich was even better, if you can believe that! never tried snapper before, but I am so glad I did....great start to many great eats during my stay...more on that later too.
Our next stop was the beach bar near the Cabana grill...I had my first of many Papaya smoothies, and boy were they good..My husband had his usual Tanqueray and cranberry juice, but after chatting it up with the bartenders, they added many twists to his boring drink and he loved it, almost too much! Belly full, and still enough time to pack before our tour..from the looks of the pictures, and website it doesn't appear to be much room for clothing and such, but there actually is enough.
Tip, don't over pack, seriously! with two people, especially women, you will not run out of space!..I could have used a few more beach dresses, and my husband a few more things, but if we had packed a bit more, we still would have room. Don't believe the hype about not enough storage, I bet people are just over packing..The bathrooms are a good size even for two people to share at the same time...The bathrooms are not luxurious but definitely clean!
Because we changed our room location, our room was not stocked with our pre-registration items, but that was cool, we knew eventually we would get what was requested, and we did the next day...Don't fret about it if you find that to be the case when you arrive to your room; there are plenty of bars around for a drink...some folks get pretty bummed out about this; relax, go have a drink or two; give the staff time to stock, they are extremely busy getting those rooms ready for arriving guests, we saw that first hand, beings our room was also next door to the staff utility room.
TIP - If you get a 1st floor room, ask for the patio key if you don't automatically receive it.. We used our patio doors for exiting and entering daily; hardly ever use the main entry door. We found it much easier when going and coming from the beach and restaurants. The key comes with a wrist band and that is where I kept my key at all times, around my wrist like a bracelet, so I would not lose it. If you lose it or don't return it, there is a $20 charge
We did the tour on day one at 500pm, to get that out of the way...I can't remember the host name who took us around the property, but he we saw quite a bit of him during our stay, especially at the Palms. The tour is well worth the 1 hour or a less of your time, especially for your first visit...There are details that you will not have to ask about later, and just getting a general feel of the resort is made it worthwhile. My husband asked me during the tour, "are you sure you never been here before"? I said why you ask, he said, "because you are telling about things before the tour guide does". LOL! I said, 'sweetie, I research everything, you should know that by now"!
It rained off and on the first day, but in Jamaica, who cares! I heard guests complaining about this too! UGH!, seriously, I was only upset about how the rain ruined by hair, but otherwise I was cool! the next two days it rained some more, especially the 2nd day, it poured for at least 2 hours, but that did not stop anyone, including us...people were still hanging out at the beach bars, some brave souls were sitting up under the palapas sleeping, reading. One particular afternoon, I had left the hubby at the beach bar, and started on my way back to the room; I had the umbrella generously provided to you by the resort, and all of a sudden it poured Niagara falls type rain, literally! it was unbelievable. I am standing there not knowing which way to run, and this couple who were sitting on their beachfront porch, called me over out of the rain...I looked and said, "who me?", they both laughed and said "yes, you", come on out of the rain..We must have laughed and talked about 20 minutes before the rain let up...A big shout out to them!!. they are the type of people we met throughout our entire stay! nice folks!
Food = very good!! If you starve here, its your own fault, that simple. To say that there is not enough options for dining is ridiculous or you are just too picky...stop the foolishness!. I read many many good reviews about the food, and it was spot on..Can you pig out at CSA? Yes, but you can also keep it as healthy as you wish too! Don't eat meat?, no problem. This is where they really shined for me! I was experiencing some stomach issues prior to this trip, and my tummy is not what it used to be in terms of eating any and everything you want..Those days are over..So I was a little concerned about that prior to leaving; My stomach was just not on its best behavior at all, and I was telling my hubby, it would really suck if I get to CSA and can't eat the food...Well, let me just say, I wish I could live on this resort permanently! I think my digestive issues would be over!
SeaGrape and the Sports Bar were my saving grace ! I had some of the best lunches at SeaGrape, and thanks to "Janet", and the lady at the Sports bar, I was in heaven..My favorites were the Fish tacos, Snapper sandwich, potato salad (some of the best I have ever eaten, and healthy), veggie burgers (yummy), and the sweet potato chips! At the sports bar, Papaya smoothie and watermelon, or pineapple water!! I also tried a veggie smoothie; not my favorite, but that was my fault, I asked for the works, NOT! It included every veggie they had! Janet added some Mango to it for me, and I was able to get thru it..So if you want a veggie smoothie, be specific about what veggies you want it, YIKES! lol!
We made dinner ressies the day we arrived, (and as suggested), Feathers and Lemongrass. Did not make Lemongrass, had to cancel..The hubby was very tired after his long day horseback riding..His trip got delayed due to the rain, so it was a late start..he left the resort about 12noon, and did not return until about 6pm..He said during the swim in the ocean on horseback, his horse was last and guess what? His horse pooped and it splashed on my husbands T-shirt, socks, swim trunks; he tossed everything in the trash when he got back! YUCK! lol! The first thing he said, cancel our ressies for Lemongrass, not in the mood; I didn't argue, and canceled..
Feathers - great from start to finish..Do not expect to be rushed here..We were definitely on Jamaican time at the restaurant. We arrived about 10 minutes early, and were seated at the bar, which in my opinion is a nice way to start your evening and the bartenders were pleasant; Once we were seated, the service was top notch..Everything was done very well, a bit slower than we are used to but, we used that time to chat and have a few photos taken, which is what I think the idea is behind the wait..Our food was very good, hot when served, and again, 2 thumbs up to the staff! on a scale of 1-10, we give it a solid 9...
Other places we dined at - The Palms every morning for breakfast. The french toast was our favorite..We also ate dinner here most nights, which was also very good. If I had to pick my favorite it would the Pasta Station. I am not a huge pasta fan, but this was very good with the different sauces and garlic bread. My hubby enjoyed everything, but he raved about the French Toast for breakfast every morning. Breakfast is also served at Patois but the Palms was very close to our room location, and after day 2, we would meet up with a a very nice couple from Baltimore
(Brian and Karen Williams) we met. More on them later..
The Beach, Entertainment and Activities = there is plenty to do at the resort, depending on how you planned to spend your time here..We saw that many people lounged at the beach bars, pools and beach most of the day, while you would see others leaving the resort for off site attractions, spending time at the sports facility (which was never crowded and one of the most serene and peaceful spots anywhere on the property); But the beach itself is a HUGE draw for many and I see why..The property truly is beachfront and with the design and layout you really feel like you are in a village that just happens to be beachfront..you could literally sit on the beach all day, at a beach bar or if your lucky enough, sit on your beachfront verandah, and people watch;. We have been many places, and we both agreed, we have never seen anything quite like this! very unique..
My hubby jet skied one day and with five minutes left of his 40 minutes, I was asked by the instructor "Cedric" if I wanted to try it; at first I hesitated, (I am not a swimmer), but with a push from the hubby and Cedric, I said what the heck, my 50Th birthday is coming up, what a great start it would be to say I actually did something adventurous!, So glad I did! I had a blast for those five minutes..Can't wait to do it again!
There are also other entertainment options that we did not engage in, but memos are posted throughout the resort daily..
We enjoyed the nightly entertainment at the Palms..We did not expect Vegas style shows, but what was offered was entertaining. We heard some people complaining about how amateur the shows were, but seriously, were you really expecting, Elton John, Celine Dion, or Beyonce on Stage every night, really? A must see - The The Steel Drum Band, very good…These young people are awesome, especially the dancers..
if you get bored, no one to blame but yourself..I have read many many reviews, and it really all depends on when you go and who is there, but most importantly, its totally up to you..We saw couples dancing at the Palms after the place cleared out, and they had the dance floor totally to themselves, and were enjoying it. We stayed because we enjoyed the singing. A empty club/dance floor does not equal boring, it means more room for you to get your groove on! I know it can be more fun with people around, but what are you going to do, start knocking on room doors asking people to come out and play? You either make your own party, or call it a night!
Talent night was good considering it was mainly the staff members, who tried hard, and did their best to entertain the dinner crowd. They worked hard and you could tell they were enjoying themselves, especially Shelly and Omar! Don’t go expecting to see Beyonce or Celine Dion, and you won’t be disappointed.
Honorable mention - I cannot remember the guest name who performed songs while her husband played drums, but let me just say this, she was great! I almost thought she was the singer Adele, she was that good. My hubby even liked her! Kudos to her and her husband! (at least I think that was her husband, or at least boyfriend)! We also enjoyed the Salsa dance routine with staff member Shelly and a resort guest! (he is in one of my photos sitting in the Palms restaurant).
Piano Bar - we spent one short night here, but it was very entertaining. Everyone was enjoying themselves with the sing a long, and one lady sang the classic song, “At Last”, and she was fantastic. Sang it very well! Kudos to her! We did not stay up late enough to enjoy the nightclub; we were just too tired..The sun and beach will do that to you, Lol
BonFire = excellent way to end an evening! The highlight of our stay! (we missed the beach party, because we departed on Friday)..The singing at the bonfire, the open bar, of course the bonfire, and all the couples sitting around snuggling with their significant other was very romantic. Pictures were being taken, people were dancing to the music, just total bliss. It was a great way to reconnect with your partner and just enjoy the atmosphere! Kudos to Couples SA for this event! LOVED IT!
Swim up pool bar can’t say too much about this, and I still cannot believe my husband never set foot in it, and he LOVES swim up pool bars.. We walked past it everyday when walking the beach away from the resort, we dined at the Cabana Grill at least 2x, he ordered a few drinks from the pool bar, but not once did he step foot it in, and when I asked why, he said, “ I enjoyed the ocean with the beach bar and the Lap pool..OKAY!!!! After 18 years with this man, who knew; he is not a beach person, after an 1 hr or 2 he is ready to go, but I think when he saw how central the beach was to the beach bars the swim up bar did not phase him! I did not complain, because I love the beach, and that allowed me more to time to enjoy it! Hehe!
There were also several hot tubs scattered throughout the property, one being right near SeaGrape, that never seemed to busy! The busiest seemed to be the one by the swim up bar; one night it was packed with a younger crowd…We enjoyed the one in the Sports Center..
Spa = my hubby booked a massage at Oasis Spa, and overall he said he really enjoyed it, especially his foot massage; he raved about that! I think I will do that next time.
Housekeeping = B+…No problems here. Room was cleaned every morning, refrigerator stocked when necessary, floors were mopped, towels/washcloths changed, turn down service in the evening, shutters closed, shades closed, but on that last night she got a late start cleaning our room, (it was after 4pm), but we did not complain, it was done to perfection and that was all that mattered..I did order a mini breakfast plate our 2nd morning just to try out the service.. It was just cereal, juice, and a small fruit plate. It was delivered as scheduled with a tap on the door, someone said, room service, I opened the patio door, and their it was..Where the person went for me to thank him, I don’t know, because he or she was gone with the wind! Poof! When we returned from the Palms an hour later, my tray was gone! Again never saw the person who delivered or picked it up! Nothing to complain about that’s for sure!
Local flavor off site = one thing we highly recommend is leaving the property to explore a little (we did this everyday) Not suggesting you go far, which would be okay too, but venturing off site allows you to see and experience more Jamaican hospitality, bargain shopping and local cuisine. My hubby wanted Oxtails from a local restaurant; while walking up the beach after leaving Margaritville, (how we got to Margaritville was a joke and what I call bait and switch, more in a few minutes about that) we stumbled onto Norma's at SeaSplash resort..I was not really hungry yet, but of course he was not leaving without eating some Oxtails, and we met a lovely couple dining there who were staying at Negril Beach Club..My husband LOVED the Oxtails and we were just in time for sunset, which was absolutely breathtaking to see! What a great spot to be in at sunset! After I purchased a few things from the vendor next door (who was comical to say the least), we headed back to CSA..
There are many dining options like Norma's and shops along the beach away from the resort, to explore, and we enjoyed it. Shout out to Destiny's gift shop near Norma's...nice young lady who works there!
Ricks Café…Tourist trap..nothing more to say about that! Visited once and that was enough for us, Not a bad place, but the staff, RUDE! Left a bad taste in our mouths..Our friends that we met at SA thought the service was not good either…The ride to the Café was $15.00; not bad considering it was round trip, and it gave us a chance to see some of the communities; Plenty of local restaurants along this route as well.
In the other direction, near the Beaches resort, we stumbled upon a local vendor who also walks the beach during the day selling his wood carvings, and either that was his girlfriend or wife working in a tent along side of him, who I purchased jewelry from, and from the gentleman I purchased a beautiful walking stick for my Dad. The price I paid for the stick, I know would have cost me 2x as much at the resort!
About Margaritville - while we were sitting on the beach one day, we were asked if we wanted to go to Margaritvilles Mardi Gras party, with free shuttle service and entry..
We said sure, why not...Okay we like Margaritville (at least the one in Orlando we did), but this is one visit we should have skipped. Its pretty much a bait and switch to get you in the door and spend your money. The crowd was also a bit too young for us, but for others it may be just fine. We probably sat all of 5 minutes before getting up and walking back to CSA, which is under a 10 min walk, and that is how we ended up at Norma's...well worth the stop too and a lot less money LOL!
Other things I want to address that create big buzz on message boards...
Garden view verandah suites and road noise - Let me just start by saying, YES, there is road noise, there is no getting around it, The way the resort is designed, there rooms near the road; Was it bothersome, NO and here is why - I am a city girl, born and raised; I hear road noise all the time, cars, trucks, buses, sirens, fire trucks, dogs barking, you name it.. We were at a beach resort; not the same as home; major difference, we tolerated it! Also, I read trip reviews and message boards almost daily when deciding on places to stay, and after I book our trips, I continue to read them. There is a big debate about this, and honestly, if road noise is what you absolutely don't want, I suggest you splurge for a beachfront or ocean view room, period. However, these rooms attract a different type of noise such as people, carts, staff, etc...We knew what to expect and dealt with it..When I wanted to spend time enjoying my verandah, but wanted to escape some of the noise, I put my music on and plugs in my ears and chilled out..If not that, I would pack my beach bag and head to the beach, find a nice spot and people watch or Nap...Would I stay in a GVS room again, sure would..enough said!
Room size. and decor..I don't know about the other rooms, but our GVS room was plenty big for us..Anyone who says that it was small, whatever! call it what you want, but I have seen 5 star rooms smaller than the GVS rooms. Are the rooms dated, Yes, but the right word would be rustic. Basic but clean and comfortable. minor wear and tear as expected. You can tell that past guests are just careless and messy, is that the resorts fault, NO! I have stayed in worst rooms that cost more money, enough said!
I remember talking to a young lady at the beach who was on her honeymoon, and they had just spent 4 nights at a "luxury" resort in Mo Bay prior to staying 4 nights at CSA, and she said, this place is just old, and the rooms are not luxurious at all, and the only response I had to that was " you don't read reviews do you?"...she just looked at me and laughed! She said yes I do, and I said, well Couples does not claim to be luxurious, and the pictures show exactly what you get, so why would you expect anything else..
I don't like comparing hotels, resorts, period..never did..Why? No two resorts are alike, and most importantly, if people are really, truly reading reviews, you get my point! its like beating a dead horse; Some folks will never get it!
Vendors on the beach! They come and go all day long. Are they bothersome, NO..Security does a great job keeping them at bay, and if you are interested in anything that have to sell, just walk yourself over to them from your beach chair, or take a nice stroll down the beach, pass CSA and you can find anything they are selling, its that simple. Jamaicans are trying to earn a living just like we are; yes they are aggressive, but a polite No will do just fine! Its not that serious, really! If they bother you that much, then you are staying at the wrong resort. Did I mention, thats what reviews are for...
P.S. We enjoyed the beach musicians too!
Beach Chairs and Palapas! There are plenty of beach chairs, and you may have to drag a few here and there depending on the time you arrive at the beach, and find float cushions for them, but there are plenty..Palapas are there, not a whole lot, but people do claim them early..I am not going to get into the bickering about that because its just petty. I managed to snag one on a rainy day, when everyone was running to their rooms from the downpour, but it really did not matter to us, whether we got one or not.
Crowds, large groups, noise - not much of this at all. I was a bit concerned about this as well, and there was a active, loud scene at the beach bars and pool bar at times, but that's it. We saw some large groups but not many..However, this place is very popular for weddings, and we saw at least 5 during our stay, but never large crowds with them..
The beach side private dining was done almost daily, and it looked very romantic, but a bit pricey for us.
The Staff are 75% of this resort, IMO! They truly make this place special just as so many people have said. Kudos to all of them for the job they do and do well! We never encountered an issue with anyone. Some were a bit shy, but most were pleasant, comical and loved to talk.
Photographer - we decided on our last full day to do a photo shoot! I was somewhat hesitant because my hair was ruined by the rain and I should have had it braided, but anywho, I did it anyway, and it was fun. The pictures are very expensive, and we almost walked away from it all, but decided on the morning of our departure to order the 12 month calendar with pics..We chose the best pics for the calendar and that was $60.00 with free shipping..We should receive it in about 3 weeks..We thought that would be a great keepsake if we never do it again, but I decided when we return to Couples, we will do the photo shoot again, but this time I will be "photo shoot" ready! LOL!
Age Group - all ages were here, but I did notice a lot of young people, I would say between 25 and 30, but no worries!, and many of them were hanging at the beach or bars a lot..It really depends on where you are, we noticed many of the older set enjoyed the Palms in the evening, a more of the younger set were at Piano Bar, at least it seemed that way.
Check out, simple and sweet. They are very organized in this area; leave your bags in your room, and the next time you see them is when you identify them to be loaded in the Van..
It was sad seeing everyones faces on check out day...staff member Shelly was sitting in the lounge with guest singing goodbye songs; she is truly a Diva!
The ride seemed longer going back to the airport than it did coming when we arrived..We did not stop, but because it was a Friday morning, many people were out and about, and it was nice to see that.
New friends at CSA
Karen and Brian Williams - I first met this couple at SeaGrape Cafe. They had just arrived and their room was not ready, but they were starving for something to eat, and I recommended the fish tacos..From that point we came CSA buddies..Karen and I, and my hubby and her hubby Brian had some very personal things in common; Karen and I talked for hours on the beach about our families, husbands and children, and especially our Mothers, who both passed away, with my Mom being the most recent in December 2011..I knew from that conversation we would build a friendship, I just wish we had more time to spend with them, but on our last night we had a great dinner and drinks in the Martini bar...I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will all meet up again at CSA or CN next year..
Stu and Deb from London England - I met this couple when they were walking by our room one day, and they stopped and asked me about the GVS room...they were booked in a Greathouse room and really did not care for the location too much, so I recommended they try and get the Atrium suite that they wanted. When I saw them the next day, as luck would have it, they were able to switch rooms to an Atrium suite..I saw them again and again, throughout our stay, and on the morning of our departure, we were able to say goodbye to them and they gave me their email address to keep in touch..
Well that about wraps this up..I had fun writing this, and remembering all the great things that happened during our stay, the nice people and new friends we met, yummy foods we ate, and most of all the resort and staff. Simply amazing! I highly recommend a vacation at CSA!
Now if only I can find a money tree! Wishful thinking! Time to start saving those pennies again ;)