CN review with CTI comparisons (looong read!)
We just got home today and I've been chomping at the bit to get this review written before i forget everything. Little background for you guys, we went to CTI last year in October. So we expected some big differences at CN in June. We had a hard time not comparing CN to CTI the entire time haha!. We had an excellent time at both resorts! I tried to include everything I could think of, specifically topics that I've seen trending on the message board. We're certainly open to any questions. I am going to do another thread about our packing list. what we used. what we didnt. we both agreed we packed the perfect amount of stuff this time.Anyway, here ya go guys. Enjoy the review!
Arrival: Customs was pretty standard at Montego Bay. The line was long and it felt like it took forever but I don’t think it took longer than 30 minutes to get through. Straight to the lounge and 10 minutes later we were on our way. We did the usual half-way stop on the way to stretch our legs. We kind of think this is not really necessary. We felt the same way last year. We just want to get there already!
Staff: most everyone was friendly and nice. The bartenders are amazing. For how busy they get, they do a really good job. And most of them are lively and entertaining, which hey, makes a difference. The servers in the restaurants were polite, but not nearly as enthusiastic and genuine as the folks over at CTI. They seemed a little robotic. Like they were just trying to get us in and out of there. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt; maybe they are having a bad day-you never know what is going on in people’s lives. But when it was every single restaurant we ate in I became disappointed. Not a big deal breaker by any means, just…like I said, disappointing, especially when we couldn’t help but compare to CTI. We ran into housekeeping a few times outside and they always said hello and asked if everything was ok. Even the grounds keepers stopped and said hello and asked if we were having a good time. However, at CTI, we never…not even once ran into a disgruntled employee. And this time, I’m sad to say there were a couple. Twice, employees had a pretty heated argument about something right in front of us. Unprofessional. So disappointing. *CTI vs. CN staff: CTI wins. The general vibe around the staff is much more pleasant.
Room: We booked the Deluxe Ocean View and that sucker was not an ocean view room by any means. We were on the east side of building five and had to lean out over the balcony to see the ocean. This isn’t a big deal breaker either, but had I known, we probably would have just saved a couple hundred bucks and booked a garden suite. Whatever. No big deal. Now we know for next time. Not like we spend that much time in the room anyway. And when we are in the room we aren’t worried about the view if you know what I mean! For some, that ocean view is pretty important so I thought I would include it in the review. Some of the rooms like ours DO have a decent view. But a lot don’t. Just a heads up. Our air conditioner worked great, but other couples we talked to said that they had issues with theirs. Word on the street is that they are working on updating them. We could hear the music from the resort next door on our first night. But I think we were so tired from traveling from the west coast, it didn’t matter. On our last night, our resort was having the Beach Party, and this time, we were so tired from the beach party, the sunshine and all the rum we drank all week it wasn’t an issue. Noisy/drunk guests coming back to their room or hanging out in the Jacuzzi behind watersports were slightly irritating all week. And I say slightly because once or twice it was more than entertaining lol. But…what can you do? Everyone is on vacation and having a good time. It was never prolonged yelling/drunken shenanigans so we didn’t care too much. The smokers all week were really annoying. We could smell it in our room and/or when we sat out on our balcony to relax at night and first thing in the morning. I get it, you guys have every right to smoke; but us non-smokers have the same right to fresh air. Just sayin. Around the resort we were able to somewhat move away from the smoke but when we’re in our room its like, come on! Give me a break! It was annoying. Anyway, moving on… I recommend taking your shoes off immediately when you walk in the door. The sand gets tracked in and that combined with our sunscreen that we always spray on before we leave the room every morning made the floor sticky and gross. Rookie mistake right?! I know. The bathrooms could use a little updating but they aren’t bad at all; but they are tiny. It was a pain for us to be getting ready at the same time in there but do-able. The “conditioning” shampoo, body wash, and lotion are actually not bad! Ladies, as long as you have leave-in conditioner and/or detangler you should be solid. Our hair dryer had a short in it. It would over heat if I used it on the highest setting. Just had to let it cool down and it worked fine. I definitely recommend bringing a small room spray. There is no fan in the bathroom, only vents next to the shower. Housekeeping was great!!! *CTI vs. CN room: TIE!. CTI is more modern, which we like. CN is more rustic, which we liked just as much. *CTI vs CN bathroom: CTI wins for being a little larger and updated.
Mini bar: Perfect! They have the bottled red stripe now, and any liquor you want. For newbies, just remember when ordering, they are full size bottles. Not the mini bar size. And whatever you don’t drink they have to throw it away when you check out. (little tid bit we learned from one of the managers at the repeaters dinner). Something new (or maybe just different from CTI?) is you have to actually call to order booze vs. writing it on the card and leaving it in your room for housekeeping. Each time you call, they want you to be in your room when they deliver it for you. This process never took more than 10-15 minutes. It seems like there is this new thing where there is never anyone in your room when you’re not in it other than housekeeping. *CTI vs. CN mini bar: CN wins this one only because I don’t know if they have red stripe bottles at CTI now and my husband really enjoyed having those this time.
Bars: They’re all great. The drinks are strongest in the piano bar. WOWZA! Lol! The pool bar is the bees knees during the day. Those guys and gals work really hard to keep everybody happy and the drinks are really really good. The beach drink service is fantastic. Much better than CTI. Probably because the proximity to the beach at CN is much closer. Our flag was never up for more than a couple minutes before some one came around and it didn’t take long at all for them to return with our drinks. The bar at the Heliconia Grill is nice. Unless its raining, it seems to always be quiet over there, even at night. We went there a few times to get away from the crowds. The main bar at the terrace was always a hoot after dinner. You could watch the show, have a drink and visit with new friends. All of the drinks are great. And the staff is always more than willing to make it exactly to your liking. Stronger? Not as strong? No problem. On the much talked about “cup” topic. Those darn plastic cups that everyone hates lol…We brought koozies that were great at keeping the drinks cold. Other people used mugs that you can buy in the gift shop or ones they brought from home. Most of the time, the bartenders would fill them up for people. But sometimes, folks had to just order their drinks and poor them in. There were a lot of these around the resort. Seemed to work out really well for a lot of people. And hey, it’s a great souvenir. *CTI vs. CN bars: CN wins this one. Bars at CTI are cool, but the drinks at CN are less watered down. Easy choice if you’re a drinker like us.
Food: This is going to be my least favorite part of this review. I’m so sorry. I hate writing this. The food was just not good. It was "ok". But there was only one meal where we were truly satisfied and that was the repeaters dinner which is a special menu you cant get anywhere else. I’m sorry not everyone got to experience that. Now please keep in mind this is just our opinion. Some of the couples we met said they liked the food. But compared to CTI it was really disappointing. Breakfast buffet: that’s pretty easy. It was good. The omlette station was great. It took forever but it was worth it. Lunch and dinner buffet: not great. Lychee was the Asian place and when compared to the one at CTI (Bayside) it doesn’t even hold a candle. Otaheite was a huge let down. This is the “fancy” one where you have to make reservations. The one at CTI (Eight Rivers) was incredible. The food melted in your mouth and the ambiance was very romantic. Quiet. Otaheite was nothing like that at all. The Heliconia grill was ok. It’s always nice to have the convenience of being able to get food at any hour. The food was decent. Nothing to write home about. And again, compared to the beach grill at CTI it was not great. So…*CTI vs. CN food: CTI wins by a long shot! (sorry CN. Really, I am.)
Beach: CN beach was very different from CTI. It’s not private. (well it is, but there are other resorts on either side) At CTI, it’s just you. CN is bigger and the water is nicer. But the water thing could be the time of year difference (June vs. October) The vendors walking up and down weren’t too pushy. The singers were really nice. We walked down the beach to go to the vendors to buy jewelry and I’m glad we did. It was really cool. A must do. What we liked most was there are a lot of shade spots. But you have to get there early in the morning to claim those spots. Early as in, 8 am or sooner. Watching the parasailers and jet skiers was cool. *CTI vs. CN beach: CN wins in our opinion. There’s more going on. If you’re more into a quiet, relaxing beach experience-CTI is probably right up your alley.
Catamaran: So much fun! We loved the slide! The boarding pass said cliff jumping and cave swimming. We were disappointed to find out that they don’t allow you to jump off the cliffs. If you’re wondering, these are not the cliffs at Rick’s Café. We did not go by there at all. It was super fun, though. We had a great time. The staff on board are not Couples staff members. You can (and should, in our opinion) tip them. We put a 10 in the jar and called it good. Worth it. I was never without a drink in my hand. *CTI vs. CN catamaran: CN wins. For the slide. Lol
Watersports: Get there a few days in advance to do anything you have to sign up for. (Catamaran, snorkeling, scuba, etc.) They fill up quick. If you want to sail, you have to get the lesson first which was every day at 9:30 and 1:30. Paddle boarding was cool, but only in the morning. The winds picked up in the afternoon and people were having a hard time. Keep in mind the time of year. June is the beginning of hurricane season. It was pretty windy and rained every day which can put a damper on water sports. *CTI vs. CN watersports: tie. They’re truly about the same.
Repeat dinner: Really cool! Started with cocktails at the piano bar and then dinner at Lychee. The place was reserved just for the repeaters and the menu was special. The managers were all amazing. Very friendly. Each table has about 4-5 couples and one manager. We sat with Abraham, the manager of operations. Very cool dude! Overall, the repeaters dinner is a must do. It’s nice to feel kind of special for a night ya know? And that’s exactly how the entire staff makes you feel that night. This was probably one of our favorite nights.
Tipping: ok so everyone always asks, what’s the deal with the tipping policy? Who do we tip and when? We realized a simple way to know when to tip. With the exception of the spa/salon services at the resort (who you should always tip for their services, even at home folks!) anyone not wearing a Couples uniform that provides a service is tip-able. Including: the bag guy at the airport, the driver from the airport to the resort (and back! Don’t forget to save a couple bucks for these guys on the return leg), the Catamaran staff, the staff at ANY off-resort excursion you do (dolphins, ziplining, etc.)
Water bottles: Last year at CTI they gave us water bottles. Like, just a nalgene bottle with the Couples logo on it. There were fountains spread across the resort where we could fill these up with already cold/filtered water. It was awesome. We’re huge water drinkers. I think we drink more water while we’re there than booze. Anyway, we didn’t take them this time, and found out when we got there that CN does not give those out, nor do they have water fountains throughout the property. They do however, sell mugs in the gift shop. The big ones are $18 and they have smaller ones but I’m not sure how much those are. We just got two of those to use for water for the week. It seemed to work out but they are so bulky and we missed our Couples water bottles. No big deal…just something we noted.
Bug spray: bring it. Use it at night. (must have DEET) We had a few drinks and forgot to go back to the room and spray it on our ankles once and I’m STILL scratching bug bites. Makes for a miserable plane ride home lol.I dont know if it was mosquitos or the sand flees everyone is always talking about or what. but they were rough.
Dolphin cove: A-MA-ZING. if you can, do it. Highly recommended.
Other guests: It’s tough to really gauge this one. We were at CTI in October, and CN in June. So we don’t know if it was the time of year (which is the most likely cause) or the resort itself that caused CN to have a lot more people there. I wont use the word “crowded” but…there sure were a lot of people around. There is plenty of room to spread out and places to go hang out if you want to be alone. CTI seemed pretty quiet in comparison. (I mean, not too quiet! There were plenty of people around to make it fun.) Also, not sure if it was the time of year or what, but the crowd at CN seemed to be a little younger.
Weather: June-November is hurricane season. It rained every day soon after lunch time. It didnt always last very long. Once or twice it lasted a few hours. For us, we're from Washington. We don't get much sun out here lol. so the rain was a nice way to get out of the sun. No sunburns for us! I couldnt believe it! When we went to CTI in october, it only rained once. Will definitely keep this in mind for the future.
Overall we had a wonderful time. We're already looking at booking again for 2014. We're thinking we'll give CTI another shot at a different time of year. I hope you guys enjoyed the review. If our opinions are not the same as yours, please understand that they are just that. opinions. we dont mean to sound negative by any means. we wanted to be honest. We cant think of anywhere else we would rather go than Couples for our vacations.