CSS Review by 1st time Couples guests (kind of lengthy)
My wife and I just got home late last night from our first ever trip to Jamaica, let alone a Couples resort. I want to start off by saying that the resort exceeded our expectations! We met some wonderful people, other guests as well as staff members. We are already booked for next year, but might be changing the dates to coincide with friends we made return visits.
At the arrival in Montego Bay, we didn't have much of a delay in the immigration lines. Being a Tuesday, we really lucked out. I think the walk from the plane to the immigration desks took longer than the actual process. Once that was done, we were warmly greeted at the Couples' Lounge. We got checked in there, had our bags marked for the trip to CSS, and were told we would be leaving shortly. My wife had a couple Red Stripes & I had a couple cokes (I'm not a beer drinker). No sooner than we got hooked up to the wifi and had our drinks did they tell us to head out to the bus for the ride to the resort. Everyone was wonderful at the airport, and one of the guys even offered to take our picture in front of the "Welcome to Jamaica" sign while we waited for the luggage to be loaded in the bus. There were about 5 other couples on the bus with us. The ride to CSS from Montego was interesting. Driving in Jamaica is not like here in Virginia. About 1hr 45min ride and we were finally at our destination at roughly 4pm local time.
Check in was rather quick, only one other couple from the bus was going to CSS. The other couples continued on to CTI. For anyone that wonders about the credit card hold for check-in, we didn't bring one with us since we primarily use a debit card. When the staff saw the card was a debit card, they said they would just note it in our account and we could just settle the bill on check out. A bellman then escorted us to our room with our bags. Housekeeping was just finishing prepping our room and we were given the "grand tour" of the room by the bellman. Our room was nice, nothing overly done or fancy. We were very satisfied with our room, G-4, it had a huge balcony with a good view of the ocean and the huge walk-in shower.
After getting settled in the room, we were hungry from the long trip so we headed off to find some food. Being a Tuesday, they were preparing for the Beach Party but we were able to make it to the Beach Grill before they closed at 5pm. We both ordered Jerk chicken to dive right into the local cuisine. It was fabulous! Just the right amount of spice and very moist chicken. After the meal, we wandered the grounds exploring. The grounds of CSS are very beautiful! 7pm came quickly and we headed down to the Beach Party. The food they had was fabulous. There was a very wide selection of salads, fruits, veggies, breads, meats, & deserts. We sampled the cuisine and listened to the opening band. Being our first night there, we were exhausted so headed up the hill to our room to get some much needed rest.
We had placed a breakfast order with the door cards and requested delivery at the 8-8:30 block. Our food arrived as ordered, but about 30 mins late. At least they did call and apologize and tell us the food was en-route. Breakfast was delicious and we headed out to find the beach. Being our first real day there, we figured we'd go try the A/N beach & pool. Figured if it wasn't our thing, we could at least say we tried it. We arrived at SSB, and being "newbies" headed to the right away from the pool to find an isolated spot to layout. We got situated and before long were getting warm and needed to cool down. Mind you, it's still before 11 and the beach wasn't very busy. We grabbed our stuff and headed to the pool to find some loungers so we could get in and cool off. There were several pairs of loungers with stuff on them indicating that they were "in use". We found a couple, not in much (if any) shade on the shallow side of the pool. We then stepped into the pool to cool off. As we rounded the grotto, we expected to find the pool pretty full from the number of loungers "in use". Much to our dismay, we only found a few people on that side as well. We soon realized that people were coming out, putting stuff on loungers, and then going off to do other things on the rest of the resort. This practice we found to be annoying as it should be "first come, first served" to people that are actually planning on staying at the pool. However, we didn't let it ruin our moods and headed to the bar to find something to drink. One couple introduced themselves and commented on seeing us on the message boards (which turned out to be a common theme through out our stay). We spent the remainder of the morning at the pool (in and out) enjoying the sun. Being our first day we didn't know what to expect about lunch, so we stayed there and ate the food that was brought over. The food at lunch once again was fabulous! We ate, got back in the pool for awhile, and then headed to the lobby to make reservations for dinner at the Pallazina and the Casanova for the next couple of nights.
Dinning at the Pallazina was fantastic; I think it was my favorite restaurant. When we arrived for dinner, we were seated inside (still trying to acclimate to the humidity). Our server arrived to take our orders and explained how the meals work. The salad and anti-pastas are on the buffet, then there is the pasta station on the patio (also serves as the omelets station in the mornings), the server will bring the main course, then dessert menus, then dessert. All the food was delicious, and I'm a picky eater! After dinner, we headed back to the room to recover from the first day. The housekeeping staff had come and turned down the bed, closed the curtains, and had a couple lights on so we weren't coming back to a dark room.
We found that even though we were on vacation, it was difficult to sleep in very late. Part of that was due to the sun creeping into the bedroom as it came up. We discovered that if you place the extra two pillows up against the curtains, that helps to block the sun from coming in there. Closing the bedroom door also minimized the sun that comes down the hall from the living room where the curtains don't block much light.
We got up, packed a bag for the beach, applied sunscreen (so we didn't look obscene at the beach while applying it LOL), and headed down to the Pallazina for breakfast. Once again, the food was fabulous! There is just about any type of tropical fruit you want, cheeses, bacon, sausage, cereal, potatoes, beans, french toast, pastries, breads, omelet’s, waffles, juices, bloody mary mixes, mimosas, fruit smoothies, and I'm sure other stuff I'm missing. Needless to say, you can't go hungry here! After breakfast, we walked back to the spa and scheduled our couples massage for Monday. Then it was off to the beach again (SSB of course!). Once again, we arrive and find many "reserved" loungers and yet we were one of the first ones there that morning. We spent another day lounging around and in the pool. The entertainment staff arrived to play trivia before lunch; we joined in and had some fun. At lunch time, we headed over to the Pallazina for lunch. While the lunch food at the Pallazina was fantastic, we didn't realize until we had gone to lunch there for the next couple days that it was pretty much the same food they bring to the grill at SSB. Another afternoon in the sun/pool (while we could because there seemed to be a pool volleyball game every afternoon during the heat of the day). After a couple hours, we were roasting, so we went back to the room to get ready for our dinner at Casanova. We arrived at Casanova a few minutes early, and were taken right in to be seated. The wait staff was fantastic (just like they are at Pallazina), and the food was delicious! All the courses at Casanova are delivered directly to your table. Sitting inside afforded us the chance to listen to the piano player while we dined. While we really enjoyed the Casanova, the more relaxed atmosphere at Pallazina was more suited to us, so we only went the one evening.
After dinner, we wanted to relax and cool off. We'd heard people talking about the soothing waters of the mineral pool, so we decided to finally get our swimsuits wet! We made our way down to the mineral pool to find that there is a sign saying it is closed after 6:30pm. Disappointed, we figured we head to the main pool to see if it was open for swimming. When we got to the pool, there were a couple security guards hanging out at the bar and we asked if it was ok to swim since it was empty. We were told "No problem mon" and in we went! It really felt good after being in the humid warm air. As we were swimming around, it started to rain lightly which just made it that much better! Little did we know, we could have walked on over to SSB and gone for a moonlight skinny dip....but that's another night!
Friday morning was like ground hog day. Up by 7:30, breakfast, SSB, and reserved loungers. One saving grace, today was going to be the last day for some of the large group that meets in Jamaica every year. They were leaving over the weekend a few each day. We did notice that loungers were much easier to come by once they left. No offense, but that just isn’t our style to get up before dawn to reserve a lounger you may not use until well after lunch. Today was the day we figured out lunch at SSB was the same as Pallazina. The jerk enchiladas were so delicious! Wish we had the recipe!!! That afternoon, we called it an early day and went to relax before the Friday Night Gala. The food at the Gala was all very good, we were getting spoiled! We met a nice young couple on their honeymoon. They were asking about the resort since we’d been there for a few days and they had just arrived that afternoon. We mentioned the swim up bars and they eagerly asked where those were. We explained that there were two, one at the main pool and one at the au natural pool. The look of fear on the young bride’s face was priceless as she asked if the whole resort was “au natural”. We reassured her that SSB was the only place that naked people were and she relaxed. After dinner, we joked that we’d probably not see them much the rest of our trip, as we planned to hang out at SSB as often as possible.
Saturday was another great day in paradise! That morning, we decided “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and I headed off to SSB before breakfast to try and get some loungers in the shade. That day most of the people from the large group were leaving and it really thinned out the “crowd” at SSB. We met some of the new arrivals and quickly made some great friends. They say most people are more friendly at A/N beaches/pools, and we finally saw that on Saturday. The other group of people were not un-friendly, just not welcoming to new people. It was also nice to not have a volleyball game take up the water in the heat of the day! That will be a great new feature when they expand the pool to allow for swimming AND volleyball at the same time!
Like I said before, we’d scheduled out massages for Monday. Every day a couple of the spa employees would come over and ask if anyone needed to sign up for any treatments. I overheard one of them telling another guest of their “$99 special”. I waited until she was done and asked about it. Boy am I glad I did! For $99/person you can have the 50 min massage and a 10 min body scrub. The couples massage is $210 and is also 50 mins, but doesn’t include the body scrub. We rescheduled our through her and boy was it worth it! Saturday night was dinner at the Pallazina again, and as typical the food was awesome and the staff was too!
We were quickly getting into a routine with Sunday being not much different. One major change was that I had booked a private dinner at the Spa gazebo at sunset. The setting was beautiful, we sat and watched the sunset right there from our table! Our server, Deron, was awesome! Very personable and made the dinner fun! The food was cooked nearby by the wonderful Chef Janel. She too was very personable and everything was exactly as we requested! We aren’t much for eating soup, but decided to go ahead and try the pumpkin soup. Very good choice! Janel even gave my wife the recipe! The main entrees and desserts were fantastic. I had requested the package for dinner that included a Chinese whishing lantern. We’d never lit one before, and it was very awesome! Deron had us go over to the pool deck of the mineral pool due to being more “open”. Once the lantern was lit and inflated, we let it go. Panic quickly set in as it started to drift towards the resort and not towards the ocean. We could imagine the resort catching fire from our lantern, how embarrassing would that be? LOL Soon the wind currents caught the lantern and it went back over our heads and out to sea. We had made plans earlier with others from SSB to meet back up after dinner at the A/N pool for a skinny dip. We headed back to the room, changed, and back to the pool! Swimming at night in Jamaica was everything you could imagine it to be!
Monday was our couples massage at the spa. One regret, we didn’t know you could pick a location when making your appointment. We just had one of the standard square huts, but it was still fantastic! We arrived at our scheduled time and filled out the needed paperwork. Our masseuses escorted us to the hut (the one right across from the bathroom/showers at the spa) and gave us time to undress and cover up on the table. Our couples massage was done by members of the opposite sex (not sure if that is the norm, but it was fine by us), I had Ruth and my wife had Kenneth. The massage was very relaxing and as Ruth said, I lost my virginity in Jamaica (it was my first ever massage). At the end of the massage, they applied a coarse salt solution and scrubbed. On my sunburned shoulders, it was a little much, but I survived it just fine. I’d recommend not getting sunburned before the salt scrub. All salted up, we were escorted to the showers. I quickly realized that you can’t be modest (even though so far I’d spent every day naked at SSB) when Ruth walked into the restroom behind me and asked me to give her the sheet I’d used to cover up for the walk to the shower. My wife said that Kenneth gave her the chance to walk into the shower and pull the curtain before asking for the sheet, go figure??!!?? LOL
After the massages, we headed back to SSB for another day of drinking and skinny dipping. More people arrived each day, and we continued to make friends and enjoyed just relaxing, drinking, and swimming. After lunch, the weather took a turn for the worse and we decided to head back to our room mid-afternoon. No sooner did we get in the room, the sky opened up and it rained….a lot! We took a nap, and when we woke up it was still rainy so (not having reservations at a restaurant) we ordered room service. When I called, I was placed on hold for a long time, hung up, called back and got through quickly. I was told it would be about 2 hours, we agreed and placed the order. It only took just about 45 mins before the food arrived, much quicker than anticipated.
Tuesday…another day at the pool (it was great to not have to rush down to find a couple loungers) and then the Beach Party again. We met nearly everyone that spend the day at the pool at the beach party and pulled a couple tables together. It was one couples’ last night, so we all exchanged email addresses and got photos. The entertainment at the party was good, the steel drum band was very entertaining. We were disappointed in the “commercial” between acts. The resort put on a “fashion show” of stuff you can purchase in the gift shop. Seemed a little odd to us. As there was an after party at the SSB pool, we couldn’t meet for a night time dip again.
Wednesday was another bad weather day, but it was mostly overcast and light rain. We toughed it out and spent the day at the pool drinks in hand! It was the last day we’d have our favorite bartender, Veronique, as she had Thursday and Friday (our fly out day) off. Another couple we had become friends with was leaving Thursday, so we all met for one last night at the pool. It was sad to see them go, but we were thrilled to have met them. Currently, we are hoping to all meet back next year at CSS.
Thursday, was better weather after the early morning rain storm. More and more people were spending their time at SSB and in the pool. Talked to some great people, one couple that had seen us here on the message boards. Being their first time to an A/N facility, they were apprehensive to join in conversations earlier in the week. I really wish they would have, because we really enjoyed our conversation for just the little bit we talked to them that afternoon. Hopefully one day we’ll see them again at CSS!
When we got back to our room, we got the dreaded checkout information sheet. It includes the time for your luggage pick up, the time for your check out at the lobby, and the time your shuttle bus leaves for the airport. I suggest if you haven’t done any souvenir shopping, as soon as you get the slip, you call and try to get on an earlier shuttle bus. We ate our last dinner at the Pallazina, great food and service as usual!
Friday had come way too fast! Our luggage was going to be picked up at 9:30am, check out at 10am, shuttle departs at 10:30am, flight departs at 3pm. Unable to sleep in still we got up by 7am, went to breakfast, dropped off the towels at water sports to get our receipts, and then headed back to the room to pack. Our luggage packed ready to go by 8:45am. I called to see if we could get on an earlier shuttle so we could have more time to shop at the airport. We were told the earlier shuttle was full, so we couldn’t change our time. We waited until 9:45 and walked the short walk to the lobby. At the front desk, they got our bill together and showed us the amount due. **word of advice** if you have a resort credit, verify it BEFORE check out. We had been given a $300 credit when we booked, I verified it again a couple months before arrival, and yet they still had no record of it in our account. The CSS desk had to call the corporate office to get them to verify the credit. This process took about 15 mins, good thing we were early! After that was all settled, we boarded the bus and began the drive back to Montego Bay. Our driver, Patrick, got us there in a decent amount of time (about 1.5 hrs) considering the traffic.
At the airport:
Our bags were unloaded and the bus was separated in groups based on airline. We were on Delta and were escorted to the delta lines. We had printed out boarding passes at CSS, so we got right in line for baggage drop off. The line was rather long to drop off bags, I’d say we had to wait about 20 mins. After bags were checked, we headed to the gates. We easily spotted the Club Mobay sign near the security check point and after showing our tickets, we were whisked through customs. Best money ever spent. We probably saved 20-30 mins by them. After the security checkpoint, it was now about 12:30ish. We were hungry, so we just grabbed some food in the food court since we had no idea how far it was to the Club Mobay lounge and we needed to shop for souveniers. Lunch wasn’t that quick, so we were really rushed to shop. Luckily I had time to pick up a bottle of Rum cream. $12 for 1 liter! Wish I’d bought more! We found some stuff to take home to the kids and headed to Club Mobay. Our flight was scheduled to board at 2pm, and it was now about 1:30. We sat down to put the rum cream into out carry on and were asked if we would like a drink. The server suggested a rum punch, so we ordered one each. Let me say, that was some strong rum punch! A little bit of punch, a WHOLE LOT of rum! We sat and relaxed for a short time, and then headed up to the gate to wait for boarding. What a bittersweet moment; we were glad to be going home to see the kids and pets, but wished we could have spent more time in Jamaica.
We’ve already booked a return trip to CSS, dates are probably going to move if we (all the friends we made) can get a common time to return. The friends we made (Bryan & Karin, David & Karen, Jeff & Bev, Rich & Jodi, Mike & Janette) while there made the trip that much more special! Hope to see you all next year!
Vacouple, thanks for posting!! My husband and I will be going to CSS in Feb. 2014. I noticed on your post for Tuesday , it said something about an after party at SSB. Is that for everyone? Are you supposed to wear your swimsuit? Thanks, Mya
Yes, the after party at SSB on Tuesdays is for everyone. To my knowledge, they discourage not wearing a swimsuit at those events even though it is the A/N side. We never went over to SSB after the Gala or Beach party (the nights they have the after parties), but there was talk about one young lady that was the "life of the party" at one. Apparently she got really drunk, not sure if clothing came off or not.