This will be our first trip to CSA or any Couples Resort so I've been anxiously reading every review on TA that I can find. I have read several now that say there are some staff who have sour attitudes and act like they don't want to be there. Should I be concerned?
I also read that some guests are secretly tipping although I see there is a strict no tipping policy. Are we to tip or not to tip?
Stop reading TA, it's full of junk from people who a) have never been to Jamaica, b) people who work for other resorts and are paid to put up the junk, and c) it's bad for your eyesight. Read this message board, that's where the truth will be found.
Tip the guys at the airport. Tip your driver to and from the resort. Tip at the spa. Tip no one else. Couples employees can lose their jobs if they accept a tip.
We've been to CSA 4 times, and to many other resorts. We have trips #5 and #6 already booked. I read the CSA reviews every day and have sometimes seen that mentioned. I have some thoughts on the subject. First, in our trips, we have, by and large, found the staff to be warm, welcoming, and hard-working. I am so happy when I am at CSA that, if a particular staff member at a particular moment is less than friendly, it doesn't faze me in the least. I haven't noticed this...honestly. I have never had a staff member be rude, discourteous, or unhelpful...ever.
#1. I think that there are people who think that it is their vacation right to be fawned over. You will hear them say things like, "I've spent a lot of money on this trip..." Therefore, they make few or no allowances for differences in personalities, temperments, or whether someone is having a bad day or a bad moment. Some staff at any resort are outgoing and bubbly, and some are more reserved. Will the more reserved staff members be called unfriendly by certain guests...possibly.
#2. I think Jamaicans as a rule are very proud and have a lot of dignity. The word "respect" is one of the most important words in their culture. They have had a difficult history and respect has been hard won for them. When you have a guest who is rude, abrupt with, or demeaning toward staff, they will get service, but with less friendliness and more of a reserved aloofness as a means of preservation of one's dignity. More than in Mexico, for example, you get back what you give in how you treat the staff at the resort.
#3. Culturally, Jamaica was a British colony. You won't find everyone to be bubbly and effusive with people they are just meeting for the first time like you will in Punta Cana, for example. In our experience, sometimes staff members who seem more reserved at first are the ones we've loved getting to know the most over time. This won't happen for guests who are supercilious, demanding, and/or rude.
#4. People who are used to visiting resorts in places like Mexico and PC, are, first, used to a tipping culture, where staff is in your face and falling over you sometimes looking for a tip, and also where the type of service is generally more fawning and, in the case of Mexico, more formal. Jamaicans are not fawning (see #2). I love this about Jamaica, and this makes me uncomfortable in Mexico. However, if you like to be "served" rather than just provided with good service, you may not like this.
I just don't require everyone I encounter in my life to be in a great mood all the time. At CSA, I've had staff members, from gardeners to crossing guards to waiters to housekeepers go out of their way to strike up conversations and engage with me. If I counted the people who were less than effusive, they have made so little impression on me that I can't even think of them. They are so far outnumbered by the ones who have impressed me positively. When one writes a review, which is the number that stands out? The 3 "sour" staff members or the 171 friendly ones. I don't get it.
Sorry for the long post. I promise, I am not an apologist for Couples. There are things I am willing to critique about CSA. However, not expecting staff members to be human beings with a full range of personalities and good and bad days like some reviewers seem not to grasp is something that does irk me.
Also, yes...please don't tip staff, even if you read reviews of people who have. It can get them fired and your $3 is not going to support their children.
No tipping, really...no tipping! and... TA is not the most reliable place to check reviews. Granted, all of the great folks on this MB are biased towards Couples but for good reasons. Most that post on here are frequent visitors to Couples and that in itself should tell you something.
I too check TA before traveling nationally or going to a restaurant etc. but I found it really isn't that hard to find a reviewer on TA that is not being totally honest. If you read enough reviews you can tell the ones that are just venting for reasons unknown and they tend to stretch the truth a bit.
We were at CSS last April and I left a review on TA (5 stars of course). When I went back a few days later to see if it posted, there was a bad review from a couple who claimed they were overcharged for excursions and actually insinuating that this must happen all of the time. Quite an accusation!
Mr. Abraham Issa graciously responded to that review and pointed out that the $5...yes $5... they were overcharged was the international transaction fee. They gave CSS 1 star and this was their main reason for the low rating.
CSA has over 3000 reviews on TA that are average or above (2001 of them are 5 star) and just over 200 below that. Those of us that have been to Couples many times can easily read the lies that are in those bad reviews. Its a shame that when people don't have the great time they expect to have on vacation that the resort is the first thing they blame. No resort is perfect but if you do your research and know what to realistically expect when you arrive, you will find no surprises and have a great time.
I always find it amusing when a reviewer states how rude the staff is at a particular resort. I think some people, and we've all seen them, feel "entitled" when they are on vacation and think their "demands' should be met with a gracious smile and a hearty "yes Ma'am" or "yes sir". The Jamaican people we have met over the years are very respectful and pleasant and they, like all of us, expect the same respect in return. I believe you get what you give in life.
Keep doing a little more research and you too will be able to distinguish between an honest review and a review from a person that just needs to vent because they had a bad vacation.
You will love CSA and the amazing beach, wonderful food and of course the amazing staff!
No tipping. We've seen it happen once in all our trips but we sure didn't like the feeling seeing it happen.
I read similar reviews before our second couples trip last September. I found them to be completely untrue. Every staff member at couples negril was always smiling and happy to help you with whatever you needed. The tipping part is true. Some of the guests do secretly tip. But you by no means have to. It is supposed to be against policy so its completely up to you.
Welcome to the couples family. To answer your question about "sour attitudes" I would say not the norm. Everyone has a bad day now again, and we have found the attitude you give is the attitude you'll get in return. So a hello, how are you along with a please and thank you goes along way.
As for tipping, please don't. I understand on your frist trip that your not sure if it's no tipping wink wink or of it really is no tipping. We have never been made to feel like we should tip and have seen employees refuse tips or throw the tip away saying $5 isn't worth my job. If you want to help remember their name and write about how great that person was in the comment section when you check out.
I am interested in this as well.
Since I wasn't long-winded enough in my earlier post, I'll just add that I do find TripAdvisor to be quite valuable. There are certainly shills for certain resorts and resort chains. If you read enough on there, it's not hard to spot them and take what they say with a grain (handful) of salt. The most egregious current examples are on the Mexico and Punta Cana not the Jamaica forums anyway.
However, most of what is in TA reviews are honest impressions of people's experiences. Everyone is different, and doesn't value the same things I do. However, I'm interested in reading what people have to say about the resorts I have visited or wish to visit. I don't let 2 or 3 reviews out of 7500 sway me. I look for patterns of compliments/complaints and trends. I've also been on TA long enough to know which regular members of various forums have tastes and opinions I respect and which are similar to my own. I give more weight to their reviews of resorts than I do to a perfect stranger's. I like to read the good, the bad, and the ugly of TA as well as this moderated message board. Bad reviews don't necessarily turn me off from a resort. Sometimes they turn me off from the reviewer or let me know that the reviewer and I value different things in a vacation (e.g. party atmosphere v. peaceful; buffets v. a la cartes).
I love this MB, but it would not be sufficient to help me with trip planning. I do not recommend ignoring TripAdvisor. I think the reviews and forums are full of useful information. I will continue to contribute to it and look to it for guidance.
I second what Nan said. :) She summed it up perfectly. Trip number 10 booked and I can't wait!
Just to add what Fawnridge said, besides the spa ladies, you can throw a few bucks in the tip jar on the bar on the catamaran cruise as they are NOT couples employees at CSA or cn.
Have we run into an occasional grumpy employee? Yes but few and far between. We are saving for trip #7 to CSA ,8 to a couples resort and can't wait to return.
If you need any more reassurance, keep reading this message board. There are numerous repeaters to the Couples family, some going back over 40 times! Why in the world would someone return that many times if it were a bad resort? Trust yourself, you made a very wise decision. Oh and if you didn't see it.... No Tipping!!! Have fun!
Thank you, everyone and I appreciate the responses. I certainly don't expect people to fawn over me - but it worried me when I read four reviews of staff that had a sour attitude and didn't want to be there. That is usually the first sign that the resort is starting to decompensate. I also wanted the low down on the tipping issue. I don't want to jeopardize anyone's job.
The beach is the draw for us and that was the main reason that we chose CSA. My other concern is reservations at the alacartes. Traditionally we avoid anywhere that we must make reservations. Are they really that hard to get? I don't want to spend my vacation eating at buffets.
I want to reiterate a few things Nan said (and quite well at that).
RESPECT and MANNERS are a big deal in Jamaica. Be respectful and use your manners and you'll be rewarded, many times over. The flip side of this...... If you're acting like a jerk, it should come as no surprise when you're treated as one. As far as I can tell Jamaicans generally don't wholeheartedly subscribe to the ridiculous notion that "the customer is always right" like we try to do in the US. I for one find this really refreshing. A GOOD ATTITUDE is the key to truly enjoying your vacation, Jamaica, and all it has offer.
Secondly, there are a certain percentage of people who just will not be made happy. They will pick and complain simply because that is who they are, and that's what they feel they need to do..... Some of them live this fresh hell every waking minute. Unfortunately some of these folks end up at Couples......., just like they do at the grocery store, restaurants, and sitting near you on the plane. Playing the part of somehow being offended, short changed, or otherwise being wronged is their badge and their power. Writing crappy reviews is part of this.
I'm not saying every bad review is written by people like this, but take the time to read between the lines. It's easy to see which bad reviews were from actual experiences, and which were from people who actively chose to be unhappy.
I'm just glad I'm not one of those miserable #%&$@'s. I've been to Couples eight times and CSA seven. I enjoy my vacations. We are going back in December, and I'm going to enjoy every single minute.
As far as TripAdvisor is concerned, I actually find it to be a very good resource. I read both the reviews of the place I want to visit as well as the actual Forum posts for that location.
As with everything in life, it is best to take ANY posting ANYwhere with a grain of salt. The opinions expressed on both TA and this forum are just that - OPINIONS….I read as much as I can from as many resources as possible (in other words, I do my homework), and act accordingly.
Nan - great post. Thank you.
I generally find that if I have a less than positive feeling about service, the root cause tends to reflect my mood at the time (yeah, I get grumpy...the service is likely just fine).
Yes people tip and yes some of the employees accept the tips. Just dont do it. We stayed at CSA one time. We usually stay at CN. I found, they aren't as friendly at CSA. But, I only stayed the one time and everyone has a bad day. So whatever. Love to all.
Nan - I honestly don't think it could have been said any better!!!
We have also been to many AI resorts in the Caribean and prefer CSA everyday of the week!!! The staff is what makes the resort in our opinion, of course the legendary beach doesn't hurt :) The TA reviews have been debated on the MB for years now and the biggest thing IMO is the expectation you go in with. As Nan mentioned above, this is not the grandious marble resorts you find in Mexico, this is more of a quaint boutique resort that blends into it's other wordly environment!
Go, have an amazing trip, respect and talk to the staff (many are very open to sharing personal details of their lives and really puts a lot in perspective while you are there) and then come home (the worst part of the trip) let your experience really soak in and then write your honest review... My bet is you will side with the rest of us!!!
We are generally here because we love Couples, so this need to be taken into account as well. We are far from unbiased, but I think for the most part we are fair.
TA is not the demon some here make it out to be, and it can be a very useful tool to find out about new places. I feel that the key to using it to your benefit is to be certain to do these things:
1) Ignore all the reviews that totally trash any resort. These are generally written by people who had some problem and decided to take their vengeance on the resort by posting exaggerated reviews of how terrible it is there.
2) Ignore all the review from people who are totally, head-over-heels, drunkenly in love with a resort! These people think that the resort they love is perfect and can do no wrong. Their love for the place allows them to totally ignore things or not even notice things, that might be a real issue for others on vacation.
3) Look for the balanced reviews that don't seem to have a pro or con agenda, but rather that highlight the wonderful parts of their vacation while also alerting readers to the things they think need improvement.
Have a great trip, and don't worry about Couples... we think it's (nearly) perfect here! :)
In 9 trips to CTI the only people we tip are not Couples' staff. They are the baggage handlers that 5 a ke your bags to your shuttle, your shuttle driver, any guide you hire, cat cruise staff, spa staff & excursion guides. We have NEVER felt like we have received subpar service because we didn't tip. The bellmen, bar staff and wait staff are the best!
This a a great post! Very honest and sounds like it's coming from realistic experience. Thanks!
Whenever I see a report here of a negative post on TA, I remember the days when someone posted there about how filthy and disgusting the swim-up bar was at SweptAway... a full year before it was built.
Chris, I remember that one too. TA has it's good and bad. One needs to read a lot about a location before making a decision. That being said Swept Away was never a hard decision.
We were there in May and had no problem getting reservations to both Feathers and Lemongrass. Keep in mind that Patois is ala carte for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Palms also does ala carte certain nights of the week. The buffets were very good, though. Loved Patois for breakfast and lunch.
Originally Posted by Nancy Saullo