This was our 14th trip to Jamaica but 1st to this resort. When wearrived to Montego Bay it was raining and we were told it had been raining for about the last 24 hours so roads were a bit flooded which made the trip to the resort slow...it took at least 2 hours. Due to this we took the TimAir flight back to Montego Bay at the end our trip which was a fabulous experience.
I had spent hours and hours on the message board and I will say it was full of fabulous tips but due to all the repeat guests it did perhaps give one a false expectation. Due to all our prior trips to the island we are aware of the difficulties with rust, moisture, etc but somehow that message board leads you to believe this place has overcome all this...not true but it is absolutely a gorgeous place and if you just allow for a reasonable amount of weather related "wear" you will not be disappointed.
When you arrive at the airport you clear immigration and customs as usual and then you proceed to an area just for Couples guests...the Couples Lounge. It will be obvious where you are to go but there are people in the airport asking where you need to go so just ask if you aren't sure. In the Couples lounge you can use the restroom, get a free drink and relax while the staff takes your luggage and watches it until the shuttle is ready which will be only a short time. The driver will ask if anyone wants to make a bathroom stop on the way to the resort.
At the resort you get off the shuttle and the men are asked to stay and claim their luggage while the women go to start checking in. You are offered a cold wash cloth and glass of champagne at this time. Check in was so easy and quick and we were escorted to our room quickly with our luggage covered from the rain. We were offered an umbrella but the rain was light at this point so we declined but it was a nice touch.
The resort is arranged as small buildings with just a few rooms per building (ours had 12 with 4 per floor and 3 floors but I know others have fewer). It was a bit of a walk to our room but the grounds are very lush and pretty and we were happy to be away from the hustle and bustle of the main lobby building.
Our luggage was placed in our room, we were given a "tour" of our room, asked if we needed anything and then left to settle in. Right off we noted a mildew type odor to the room which the message board had talked about so I had somewhat expected. Some folks suggest bringing things to combat this but I'm not one to pack this way so we had not and truthfully by the next morning we never noticed the odor again and our clothes did not smell when we got home. The floor in the room was very wet to the point of being slippery, and the linens all had a very damp feel. Having been in Jamaica before I knew the air in the rooms could have a humid feel but I knew this was excessive and wondered if the air conditioner had been off for a while and needed to catch up. We left to eat dinner and came back and the room seemed no better but upon some inspection we found the bathroom window open and with all the rain the humidity was higher even than usual. Once we closed the window it took a couple hours and the room was in much better shape.
We had a beachfront verandah suite and it was just exactly as the pictures on the website make it appear. The rooms are not glitzy...no marble or brass, shine and posh are not included which was actually quite appealing and seemed more in keeping with our location. The floors are terra cotta color tile, the bed linens are all white, white curtains on the french doors, white towels and shower curtain. Wood in the room as shutters on the window and storage areas. The bathroom was plenty large. The verandah has french doors, a chair and a sofa type seat and a ceiling fan as well as a light for night. If you have a beachfront room you are literally beachfront.
Housekeeping was fabulous at keeping up with sand we tried not to track in but inevitably did, changing towels, stocking toilet paper, etc. One day we were sitting on our verandah when she came to clean and she seemed almost apologetic for disturbing us...she came in the room and saw us on the verandah and let us know she was there. This happened one other time and she seemed more comfortable but still did not assume it was ok, she asked if she could clean, a nice touch. Turn down service at night offers a second opportunity for restocking TP, kleenex, etc and we noted that if our beach towels were laying out they left fresh ones...we thought we had to go to the watersports hut to do this ourselves.
Food was amazing! We did not eat at either of the reservation required restaurants as we really hate to have a schedule when in Jamaica but the other restaurants provided enough variety that we were never bored. We are vegetarian and both of us felt there were plenty of options. There is something open almost all the time, I think basically 24/7 though we didn't check out the early morning options but absolutely well into the night you can find food and a bar open. I could check my restaurant description again but I really think it's almost non-stop with something open. We didn't do it but I'm told you can take food back to your room as well...they don't offer "room service' except for a continental breakfast early in the morning.
We don't drink alcohol to speak of, a few Red Stripes. The beach bars have great menus of non-alcoholic drinks and the bartenders will make you something that isn't on the menu if you get through the list and want something different. We didn't use the flag service on the beach but observed others who did and it seemed to work nicely. We enjoyed getting up and walking to the bar and making friends with the staff there and it was a short walk.
The beach was gorgeous in spite of recent storms. Negril (7 mile beach) is a public beach so you have vendors walking along the water line but they are not allowed to come up farther onto the beach. If you don't make eye contact they leave you alone. If you do get asked to buy something a simple no sends them on their way. The folks with the horses never asked us again once I said we had horses at home and the guys with the parasails also left us alone once I convinced them I was terrified of heights and would never consider it. They did wave and say hi if we looked their way or were down by the water though so clearly no hard feelings. We did buy jewelry from Danny...super nice guy with better prices than any other place we saw but obviously a little less selection as he only has what he carries. Security does a fabulous job keeping them moving, in fact one day I was actually talking to one guy about his shells and security told me to hurry up and make my deal so if you really want to haggle or talk to them walk down the beach just off the resort where security won't care. You can safely walk the beach for long distances in either direction during the day, we didn't go at night so I don't know what type of security or safety there is after dark. Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville is literally a 5 min walk, if you are facing the water turn left. If you leave the resorts beach area security will ask you for your room number and name and write it down and then they ask you to check in when you come back so they know you are ok. Although we always felt very safe I thought this was a nice touch and after a couple times of walking by they just gave us a wave and a nod as they recognized us.
The staff have an uncanny ability to remember names, they will ask your name and the next time they see you they will greet you by name. How they do this is a mystery to me given the turnover rate and number of new faces they encounter. All the staff we met were friendly and looking to go out of their way to be sure we were having a good time and had all we needed. Our last full day while we were at breakfast and my husband was making a second trip through the buffet line I was sitting just gazing out at the view and wishing we had more time and our waitress came over and asked if I was ok...she must have picked up on that sad look on my face but she sure didn't have to follow-up on it. When I explained that it was our last day she smiled, empathized and reminded me that we would be back again next year.
As I mentioned in the beginning we took the TimAir flight back to Montego Bay. I was aware of this option and had done my homework including emailing TimAir for rate quote but we hadn't made the decision so didn't book the flight at home. A couple days into our trip when we decided we wanted to take the flight we went to the lobby and one of the staff there very graciously made the phone call, faxed the form (which I TimAir had emailed me and I had printed) and helped us with all the arrangements and upon check-out they arranged a taxi for the ride to the air strip just up the road. If you are at all interested in this option I highly recommend it. It's just a 5 minute drive up the road from the resort, about a 15 minute flight and the staff are very friendly. We felt in very good hands and it saved us a lot of time the day we left. Once you land they take you in to the terminal and right to the desk to check in for your flight home.
A few incidentals...you want to tip the baggage handlers (the ones that take your bags out to the shuttle) at the airport roughly $1 per bag and the shuttle driver $5-10 as they are not Couples employees, same would apply for the trip back to the airport. If you fly custom seems to be to tip the pilot $20. After this tipping will not be necessary as Couples employees are not allowed to accept tips. You can give gifts to the resort staff...they love chocolate so leaving a candy on the bed for the housekeeper with a note so they know it's for them is a nice touch. The Jamaican people also love T-shirts and ball caps with US stuff on it...state names, sport teams, etc.
Sunday afternoon a "reggae party" started up the beach, this had been announced over a bull horn along the beach which was annoying in the first place but we had no idea what we were in for. The music was so loud our windows literally vibrated for hours...from late afternoon until well into the night. This was not a party by Couples so I'm not sure they could stop it but it was annoying as we had really been enjoying the peace and quite of the usual resort ambiance. Also, one afternoon after we had been there several days a group arrived on the beach...it was clear they were repeat guests as they talked about what had changed and what was as they remembered. The conversation was a bit loud given the quiet we'd experienced all the prior days...it was a group of several couples who were indeed enjoying each others company but it was a little much for those of us who were liking the quiet. They also had their own music and played it loud enough for all of us within a pretty good area to hear. I didn't care for the type of music and also didn't want to listen to music at all so this was a bit disappointing. I don't know where they sat on other days as we didn't encounter them again. Generally this message board seems to discourage groups, people playing insturments on the beach, etc and while I always agreed with that sentiment I now know why first hand. The ambiance of the resort absolutely lends itself to peace and quiet and romance which was very much appreciated.
I would recommend that they come up with something for towels similar to the changing of bedsheets...there was a little card we could leave on the bed if we didn't want the sheets changed to save on water, etc. As they came through our room twice daily they changed every dirty towel and washcloth each time and while this felt very much like pampering I also recognize the cost of laundering things and feel if there could be a signal for which towels get replaced and which do not it may reduce cost increases in the future. We once stayed at a hotel where you threw towels in the tub if you wanted them changed otherwise they didn't replace them...just a thought.
I can't say enough positive things about this resort and our experience. You do have to realize the climate you are in...tropical, humid, salty...those things aren't resort specific but this place did do as good as could be asked at combating the elements. We absolutely fell in love with this place and will be back every year!
The TimAir airstrip is literally a five minute drive from Swept Away so you won't leave very long before your flight. I don't recall how long it was exactly...maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Just long enough for TimAir to complete paperwork, run your credit card and put your luggage on the plane. We plan to do it both ways next time as it was a great experience and it really did save time. If you can't afford both directions you want to do it on the way home as it will allow you more time at the resort on that last day and that's the day that's hardest to give up time.
Sherrynchuck - thank you for posting the detailed and well-written review. I'm glad that you were able to find lots of options as vegetarians. Did you have a chance to try SeaGrapes, or check out the smoothie bar at the Spa/sports complex? All great options for the veggie crowd.
It's funny how after you are there for a few days, you really come to crave the peace and quiet, and when a new group shows up it kind of changes the vibe. Luckily, the beach is big enough that we just wander around.
Sherrynchuck-Your review was well written. You definitely covered a lot of area. I have never read anything on the message board in reference to rust. I have read and seen postings about the mildew smell in the rooms. I just wish someone would of told me our first time there. It was a little over whelmimg for me and my husband our first time there. I am not going to tell you that after going for 13 yrs now , that I am use to it. I don't care for the smell and certainly don't like my clothes smelling that way. I take ordorzap with me and have been taking it for the last two years. Now I don't worry about the smell, because I just spray the room and my clothes every day with odorzap. Some people like the smell, we don't, but we do love the island and would never stop coming over a mildew smell. Jamaica is our home.
Tennyson11--I don't know that anything has specifically been mentioned about rust on the board, that's why I brought it up...it exists. If you are a first time visitor to Jamaica you don't realize what an impact that environment has on the structures and rust, peeling paint, warped wood, etc is impossible to avoid. Even having made so many prior trips I was almost led to believe that somehow this place was impeccable and it isn't and it isn't possible for it to be so. I'm not implying that it's falling apart I'm just saying that there are flaws anywhere you go so being honest is best so expectations aren't so high that a first impression on sight is shocking. Couple's does a fabulous job keeping up with the stress the environment doles out on everything.
As for the musty odor, I stated it had been mentioned that people take products to avoid it and I don't want to pack extra things for such an issue. I guess I'm not sure what the origin of this odor is exactly as we didn't notice it at the resort we used to visit. My suspicion is that it's related to the wood as I also noticed the same smell at Patios Patio the night we arrived when it had been raining for a whole day and was very humid. Since they have so much wood there I made that assumption but I could be wrong. To me it really didn't matter because as I pointed out in my review by morning we seemed to have adapted and didn't notice it anymore and our clothes didn't have the odor when we got home. I didn't mention it by way of complaint just by way of stating a fact. I did state in my review that we planned to return to CSA every year so it obviously isn't stopping us either and I won't be packing any room fresheners next year.
BobandJudy--we did eat at SeaGrapes and it was awesome, I stopped one day after filling up at the buffet to get chips and dip...good grief I would never eat like that at home! But even at the other restaurants there was always plenty of selection. We didn't get over to the fitness center even though we brought running clothes and everyday we said "tomorrow we are going over there". Next year we WILL make it happen! The problem with that big crowd and their music was that we could hear it even on our verandah so that was a little disappointing and I was happy that we didn't encounter it again. It certainly didn't ruin our trip and won't stop us from returning.
Jazzygirl--agreed, it's hard to leave. And if your flight is early enough in the day it can make for a pretty early morning so the TimAir lets you get a little extra sleep and a leisurely breakfast.
What a wonderful review you have left. I agree with you completely. My husband and I were there the same time as you, October 23-30th.
We stayed in a beachfront veranda room. The first room we had was on the 2nd floor. It was very rough and quite disappointing, so we asked to be changed. The smell was the worst part, not your typical Jamaican salty air smell. The staff was more than willing to move us be we had to wait 2 days. Not a problem, we just stayed out of our room as much as possible until Monday.
This was our first trip to CSA and our first trip to Couples to begin with. Our stay was to die for just like what you mentioned. The resort is so pretty. No it's not fancy, but the staff with their wonderful attitudes, and the food and charm, it all makes up for it. Couples is priced much higher than many places and I am usually frugal, but I would pay the difference in a heartbeat to go back tomorrow. The beach was beautiful and I have so many photos of it that I can't stop looking at them. We tried all the restaurants and were amazed. The food was absolutely to die for. I don't know what my favorite is, but the fish tacos and hummus with sweet potato chips at sea grapes is still on my mind daily. We met so many great people and we truly had an amazing time. We too took Tim Air home, and yes it saved so much time and staying as long as you can on your last day is important. I was terrified, as I am scared of heights and moving around in the air like that, but my husband had the time of his life sitting up front with the pilot and we were both so glad to not be on the bus back to the airport. We got into our taxi at 10am for a 10:15am flight from Negril to Montego Bay. That's how early you have to leave, not at all! I would have scheduled it 30 minutes later if I would have known we would be sitting at the airport as long as we did. Anyhow..
You did such a good job describing the resort. I too was annoyed by the beach party at the bar down from the resort on Sunday, it was very loud and irritating but when it stopped I thought the Jamaican "gods" had answered my prayers so I was happy once again.
Sorry to chime in and say so much. I wanted to get on here and give a review myself and you did most of the work! I would go here every year for the rest of my days if possible. Next year we are going with a large group and some of them are single people so it may not be a choice. Though if we could sneak away for 2-3 nights to be at couples, I think we will!
Have fun all of you who get to go tomorrow, next week and next month. It is well worth the money. Enjoy the food and drinks. Soak up the sun and even if there is a shower daily, enjoy that too. Some how, rain in Jamaica is much sweeter and nicer than rain here at home.