Will wed my beloved in May 2012 and we are trying to decide on a honeymoon destination. We both want sun, sand, and surf and would prefer an AI-style resort. We were considering S but aren't completely sold on them. Today I started looking around at Couples and reading some of the many posts on the MB. Though the Couples resorts sound less glitzy I am impressed by the many positive reviews both here and on MB external to the Couples site.
I am particularly interested in the perspective of those who've been to Couples resorts as well as "the others". I would appreciate any helpful information you can provide. My email address is in my profile if you would prefer to answer directly.
Hope I am not breaking any MB rules with this message. Just trying to make a good decision. Couples sounds like a great place to be!
We have been to S many times and have recently found Couples and stayed there earlier this month. I looked at your profile but didn't see an email address. We may have to be friends on here, so I sent you a friend request. I will be happy to send you my thoughts privately.
Boy we can really fill you in on this topic - we were married in Jamaica three years ago at an "s" property and have switched over to couples for the last 2 years and are already pre-booked for next year. We will give you full details if you want through emails but here's the shorter version.
Just like you, we couldn't decide and were going back and forth between couples and s. I worked a golf show in Chicago and happened to be right next to the s booth so we were swayed by talking to so many reps for three days. Booked our wedding/honeymoon and were happy. Now for the horror. Six weeks before leaving they closed the property we were supposed to go to for renovations. We had booked a higher priced room but they were only offering to switch us to lower rooms with no compensation. It took three weeks to get a new room/property (and since we were getting married there i was a wreck). We still ended up with a lower category room. We had a great time but it was hard to get over that we were charged for a suite we didn't get. Several attempts to contact them with no replies left us feeling VERY disillusioned with the way they handle their customers. So the following year we went to CSS and loved it. We could not believe how genuinely nice everyone was and that people were all treated the same - no class warfare.
Now there are some differences and only you can decide what is important to you. Our only expectation on our trips is relaxing, meeting some new friends and romance. We love the staff and laid back vibe that we get at CSS. Below is a short comparison list (just remember that we have only CSS to compare the other place to):
STAFF - hands down CSS - yes we had a few staff at the other place that were great but overall ALL the staff at couples seem to go above and beyond. On our last trip it was so great that some of them even remembered us from the year before. We have gotten to know so many on a personal level - they are family.
ROOMS - our room is bigger at CSS. The other place had the granite and better furniture but not worth the extra bucks. Every room at CSS has a mini bar, room service, robes, ... not just the upper level rooms like the other place.
PROPERTY : just like the rooms, it is not as glitzy but the grounds are amazing. So many walkways and paths plus the lush vegetation makes you really feel like you are in Jamaica. No road noise either.
POOLS/BEACH: we are pool people not beach people but we like the beach area for walking along or gazing out on the water. A big plus was no vendors walking by trying to sell stuff - very private. As far as the pools the other place had a huge pool!! But there are several smaller ones to chose from so we don't feel we are lacking. Plus there is SSB which is a must try for everyone - it really is like being in your own little world over there.
FOOD: This is something that everyone will have a different opinion on. The other place had a much better variety of food. You had the buffet place, jap. steakhouse, Italian restaurant, pizza oven, beach grill and a fancy one. We like the food at CSS but do wish there was bit more variety. (to everyone reading this, please don't beat us up over this comment - remember this is our opinion)
EXTRAS: we paid for a trip to the falls our first year but it is free at couples. Don't bother paying extra for a private dinner on the beach at CSS - just eat at Bella Vistas (our favorite btw) We payed for cab to take us shopping while at the other place but shopping trips are also included at CSS. We felt like the other place was always out to get more money - they even provided snacks in your room but they charged you if you ate them.
We have watched prices go up over the last couple of years but the other place has really raised their rates. We know we would have to book an upper level room at the other place to get the same perks available at couples and just cant see shelling out the extra cash for glitz. And if we were to book a lower category room with "s" we witnessed the different treatment those guest received.
I have only been to one AI other than Couples. It was a family resort in the DR. We will never go to a resort that allows kids ever again. Other things that make Couples awesome:
It's Couples-oriented. So, no "spring-breakers".
No wrist-bands, or service dependent upon which room you book. Everyone is treated the same!
The no-tipping policy.
The amazing customer service.
These things and more always bring us back to Couples. They have everything we could want in a Caribbean destination - other destinations always come up short when we consider all that Couples offers. We fell in love with Couples on our honeymoon in '07, and we'll be back for our sixth visit this January.
In a few weeks we'll be at CSA for our 8th trip, so I'm a bit biased.
That said, I've stayed at the S resorts in Ochi and also at an Italian owned resort near Cancun. You mentioned glitz, and honestly, if that's on your list of "must have's," you should rule CSA off your list. The vibe at this resort is Zen-like and very peaceful - the rooms are EXACTLY like they look on the Couples website and there's no marble in sight.
We love CSA because it is a quiet and peaceful place for us to de-stress and re-connect. Both my partner and I are in high stress jobs, and he travels a LOT, so we like to make sure that our vacations are either "learning oriented" (i.e. traveling in Europe), or "relaxation oriented" (CSA for sure)!
Be sure to do your homework and check out the various other websites that rate resorts - I think you'll get some very honest feedback which will help you to decide if the Couples brand is for you.
Good luck, and congratulations on your upcoming wedding!