Sans Souci Review 10/19/13-10/27/13
After a 603 day countdown, on 10/19 it was finally time for our first trip to San Souci. Because I obsessed over the message boards during our countdown to this trip (and prior to our wedding moon at Tower Isle in 2010), I promised myself I would write a review. So here it is:
Airport Arrival/Club MoBay: We decided that we were not going to purchase the departure portion as we liked to duty free shop once we were through security and didn’t feel we needed the departure lounge. I was very much on the fence about the arrival package. I didn’t want to waste money. I went to flightstats.com starting about 6 weeks out and looked at the arrivals for the day of week and time that we were scheduled to arrive. Our Saturday arrival at 2:10 p.m. had us landing at the exact same time as 2 other flights, and there were about 6 other flights scheduled to arrive within the hour preceding us. So, 2 weeks before our arrival, we booked and paid for the arrival package which was $100. I went to clubmobay.com and booked through their site.
Our flight landed about 15 minutes early. When we got to the end of the ramp after exiting the plane, there was a Club MoBay representative waiting, holding a paddle sign with our names on it. She greeted us and began walking us toward customs. She looked over our immigration forms to ensure that they were correctly filled out. (Great tip I found on this board - print out and pre fill in a sample immigration form for each of you and then when they pass them around on the plane you can simply copy your information onto the official form. It saves a lot of rooting around in bags looking for passports, flight numbers, etc. If you search the board for immigration form you should find the posting with the link) When we reached the point where the line began, which was before we had ever even entered the large customs hall, she said, please step to the right and follow me. We began walking past the line. She continued walking us along the back past EVERYONE. (I felt a tiny bit guilty that we were bypassing everyone). She took us to the last customs agent where there was one couple in front of us. Once through customs, we went to baggage claim and only had to wait about 5 minutes for our luggage to come around on the carousel. When we went on to immigration, we also were taken to a fast track agent and had no waiting. She then escorted us to the Couples lounge. We checked in and let them know we were there. Then we gave our bags to the Couples lounge bag person. The Club MoBay lounge is right next to the Couples lounge. We went to the Club MoBay lounge because they had rum punch and snacks. I tipped our Club MoBay representative $5. We had one quick drink, then we were off to our bus.
We estimate that the arrival package saved us at least 2 hours waiting in line, likely more than that. Our total time from stepping off plane to stepping onto bus was less than 45 minutes. For us, arrival package was more than worth the $100. It was a nice way to start our trip.
Bus: Well air conditioned. No stops along way for bathroom breaks. Safe driver. We tipped him $10.
Resort Arrival: The bellman asked the men to stay behind to identify bags and sent the women in to the lobby to check in. There were 3 couples checking in at the same time. I was given a cool towel and a (much needed) glass of champagne. Check in went quickly. When we had done our pre check in we had asked for a room in G block if one was available.. We were given our requested block. Evol escorted us to our room and showed us how to work the A/C. I noticed that our mini bar request we had done during pre check in had not been filled. I asked Evol if I should fill out a new mini bar card or wait and see if it was brought later, because I didn‘t want to make someone do it twice. He promptly called someone and asked for them to look on our pre check in and bring it. Our mini bar requests arrived 30 minutes later.
Room: I choose G block after much reading on the message boards. I am very glad that I did. We were in G3, a deluxe ocean verandah. We had a large balcony very near the walkway to the elevator. There were trees and a lovely ocean view. We had a lounger and a table with 4 chairs. The room itself was very cool, as in, the A/C worked great. It was larger than a standard hotel type room, with a couch and a chair. Our bathroom had a large walk in shower and two sinks. (If you go on oyster.com, search san souci, go to pictures and look for deluxe ocean verandah, this is the exact room that they show in the pictures) There was no dresser in our room so my husband used the shelf in the closet to put some things on and I left some items in my suitcase. We did not have enough hangers, so we called and asked if we could have more and they brought up another dozen.
On our first full day, I went to the reservation desk to set up things. The woman who helped us was so kind and so adorable. We made a reservation for 2 dinners, Dunns River Falls, Trading Places and RSVP’d to the Repeaters Dinner. We went back again mid week and made additional reservations. We had no problem getting the restaurants we wanted, the locations (inside or out) we wanted, or the times we wanted.
Bella Vista - we only ate here one night, our first. At 6:30 we did not have to wait for a table and were given one down on the beach. No reservations required here. Our food was very good, as was our service. The most stand out part of the meal was the rum cheesecake, which was one of the best desserts we had all week. Attire at Bella Vista is casual. I wore a dress and my husband wore shorts and short sleeve button down shirt.
Beach Grill - we loved eating lunch here. The food was very good. We liked being able to sit in the shade and escape the sun for a bit, but still be outside. Attire here is swimwear with cover up.
Palazzina - We ate breakfast and lunch here. At breakfast, it is buffet with a made to order omelet station which was delish. Reservations are required for dinner. At dinner it is buffet for salad and appetizers. Entrée’s and desserts are ordered off menu and there is a made to order pasta station that can be had as an appetizer or your entrée. We had two dinners here and one we ate inside and the second we at outside. The food here was very good. There are some feral cats that roam around the outside seating area of this restaurant. We are cat people so we thought they were cute and we were not bothered by it. However, if you are not a cat person, you might prefer to eat inside. Attire for lunch is swimwear with cover up and for dinner I wore dresses and my husband wore shorts with a collared shirt.
Casanova - Reservations required. We ate dinner here twice as well. The first time we ate outside and the second time we ate inside. We preferred inside. It is very pretty inside, there is a man playing piano and it is cooler inside, which is nicer for the guys since long pants and closed toe shoes are required at this restaurant. The food was so delightful here. We ate here on our last night of vacation and it was very romantic and beautiful and the mango cheesecake was heavenly. Attire - as mentioned, guys must wear long pants and closed toe shoes and a collared shirt. (We did see one gentleman turned away who was wearing shorts) I wore a dress both nights.
Beach Party (Tuesday): This was very fun. Tables are set up on the beach as well as different buffet stations. The food was very tasty, especially the jerk chicken. The dessert station was unbelievable. There were servers filling water and wine glasses, but if you wanted a cocktail or anything else, you had to go over to the beach bar. There was entertainment as well, fashion show of items available in the gift shop worn by some of the entertainment staff. It was fun and funny. Then a performance by an amazing steel drum band. Attire - shorts and shirt for guys, casual dress, or shorts or capris for women. Tables are on the sand so ladies should wear flats.
Gala (Friday): This was more formal than the beach party. It was on the lawn and had tents strung with lights. It was very beautiful. Lots of food stations. There was entertainment as well, but due to a run in with a few Bob Marley shots (you must have at least one if you go) earlier in the day, we didn’t stay past dinner. Attire for this event is pretty dressy. Most men were wearing pants, but a few wore shorts. As this is on the lawn I wouldn’t recommend heels for women, flats or wedge type heels are better.
Repeaters Dinner(Wednesday): As 2nd time guests we were invited. We are signed up for romance rewards* so they knew at check in that we had been there before. There is also a place on the registration paperwork where you fill in if you have been to a Couples resort before. Our invite was sent to our room on our first full day. You can either call to RSVP or do it at the reservation desk in the lobby. The dinner was in the Heliconia Suite. It was a very pretty banquet type room. There is no assigned seating. A resort employee sits at each table. We had Suzette who was the Bar Manager, at our table. She was great, telling us about the resort and about Jamaica, it’s culture and it’s people. The food was outstanding and it was lobster night at the resort. It was a sit down meal, all served, no buffet. Each couple was announced, along with the number of times they had been to Couples. (You are considered a repeater once you have been to any Couples. Example - this was our first time at San Souci, but our second time to a Couples resort, so we were considered repeaters). There were door prizes and the General Manager gave a nice talk about the resort itself, the Couples brand, and the Issa Trust foundation. This is a long dinner, about 3 hours. My husband doesn’t like to sit for long periods, so this was a bit much for him, but the evening was very, very nice and extremely impressive. We felt very special being there and getting to be among the repeaters.
*Romance Rewards - even if you have never been to a Couples, you should sign up for romance rewards prior to your trip. Go to the website and scroll to the bottom of the page. Instructions for signing up and an explanation of the program is available there.
Room Service: We utilized this a lot. Two mornings we ordered the continental breakfast. You choose what you want on a card that is in the room. Then it is placed on your door prior to 2am. You choose a time for delivery. It was on time each time and was very good. One morning we did a full room service breakfast. It was also very good, but was not as hot as we would have liked (it’s a long way from where the food is made to the G block). It also took almost an hour. That was fine for us because we had nowhere to be and weren’t terribly hungry, but the wait time should be considered if you have something you’re doing that day or are really hungry. We never ordered lunch or dinner to our room. Every day after we came up from the pool/beach to nap and/or get ready for dinner, I ordered a bucket of ice and a bottle of champagne. This was one of my favorite parts of the day. It was so nice to sit on the balcony and enjoy the champagne. Sometimes (if I didn’t finish it off that night) I’d have some with juice in the AM while getting ready for the day. For mini bar refills, you use the refill card provided and mark what you need. Then you place it on your door, prior to 2 am and it is delivered the next day, usually mid day when we were at the pool. When we came back in the late afternoon, our request had always been filled.
Bars: We spent most of our time at the swim up bar at the main pool. We did also go to the Balloon Bar and to the Beach Bar. Our service was good at all. We never had to wait for drinks.
Spa: I had a massage and it was very relaxing. There are some treatment rooms that are inside and some that are in huts that are outside. If you want one of the outside treatment rooms you need to request it when scheduling your appointment, or you get whatever is available. Spa staff CAN accept tips. Tips need to be paid in cash at the time of service and cannot be added to your bill for payment at checkout. My massage was $110 and I tipped $20.
Dunns River Falls: This was a very fun excursion - and a bonus that it is included and there is no additional charge. This excursion is every day at 10am except for Friday. You do need to reserve a spot for this at least a day in advance. It is a short ride from the resort to the falls. Your bus driver will explain the process to you on the drive over. Please listen to him - when he says you will get soaked - he means it. When he says don’t take your sunglasses, cell phone, believe him. You will need to bring your towel from the resort with you. You need water shoes. Sandals or flip flops won’t cut it. I bought an inexpensive pair at home before we went, but they do sell water shoes in the resort gift shop or you can rent a pair at the falls if necessary. I brought a waterproof disposable camera from home as well and at the picture taking stops along the hike up, the guides will take pictures for you on your camera. You go up the falls single file, holding hands, in girl, boy order. While at first this seems weird, it is helpful at some spots along the climb to have a “hand up”. After your climb you exit through a craft market. The vendors are a bit aggressive, but I ignored them and kept walking and it wasn’t an issue. You do need to be prepared to tip on this excursion. Bring all 5’s is my recommendation. There is a videographer who tapes the entire climb. We did not buy a video (they are $40) so I did not tip him. You may have more than one guide, so you will need to tip them both. I tipped the guides $10 total. I also tipped our driver $5.
Trading Places: If you are signed up for romance rewards, one of your perks is the option to “trade places” for a day at the other Couples nearest you. You do have to reserve a day ahead to do this. As we were married at Tower Isle, we were excited to go back and visit. We departed the resort at 9am and were picked back up at 4pm. We ate breakfast and lunch at the resort. I thought 7 hours might be too much time to be there without the option of our room to retreat to, but it was fine to be there for that amount of time. If you wish to go back sooner, you can pay for a cab ($20) to take you back.
Gift Shop: There are two floors. Don’t miss the basement. Any purchases will be charged to your room and you will pay at check out. There are also different vendors on the beach near the main pool every day. You will need cash for these vendors. Also on the beach party night there were vendors as well.
Miscellaneous: On our first full day, shortly after our ice and champagne that we ordered from room service arrived, a second knock came at our door. We were delivered a fruit and cheese plate and a nice Welcome Home note. We thought this was a very nice touch.
When we were in Ocho Rios at this same time of year, 3 years ago, there were no bugs. This time, there were. I got bitten some, my husband not at all. I had bug spray, but didn’t think to use it. Bring it!
Yes, there are steps. Yes, there are a lot of them. However, there are short cuts. The steps are not steep. There are places to stop along the way. If necessary, there is a van that will pick you up and bring you to your room. All that being said, I am in decent shape and walk on the treadmill 5 days a week and on the 3rd day, my calves were sore from the steps. Hah! Overall, the steps are NOT, in my opinion, a reason to skip this resort.
Although Couples has a firm no tipping policy, we did see tipping on 2 occasions, once at the swim up bar at Tower Isle and once at the Beach Bar at San Souci. It made us feel frustrated, like, we should be tipping too. But being aware of the policy and the possibility that a staff member could be fired, we did not tip and will not tip. We received the exact same service as those who tipped. No preference was given to them. I wondered if guests were aware of the no tipping policy? If you simply booked your trip and never read any reviews or looked into the website further, you wouldn’t be aware. Possibly they should include info in the packet you receive at check in stating the resort policy.
The staff is amazing. I could go on and on. Everyone was so nice. So friendly. So helpful. So fun. Also, the other guests we met we so nice and friendly. I did not hear one single negative thing from another guest about the resort during out stay.
Our vacation was perfect. Literally. Everything about the resort was amazing. We were able to completely decompress, relax and enjoy everything and one another. I cannot express enough how fabulous our trip was. We are in the process of working our way through all of the resorts and plan to try one of the Negril properties next, but we will definitely be back to San Souci. Thank you Couples for your amazing property and staff!
Link to my pictures on Face book - https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...1&l=ba992e86fd