Just arrived back to grey skies of Kansas after a blissful week at CN. Many thanks to all those who have put their tips and advice on the board to help those like me who had never been. There were many good ideas (especially pack light) that made the trip better. I always liked reading others' recaps of their trips as they made me feel better prepared as to what to expect. Before I get into the review I just need to say that before this trip I wasn't sure how anyone could go to the same place year after year. I now completely understand and can't wait to "come home" again soon.
We flew from KC through Atlanta with no problems on Sat., 12/8. Immigration only took an hour from the time we got off the plane to arriving at the Couples lounge. Our timing was perfect as I barely had time for a Red Stripe before the shuttle arrived. The bags were all loaded on carts and wheeled to the bus. This is about the only time when tipping came into play. We tipped a dollar a bag. If you forget, the red caps will remind you. Our driver, Vincent, was awesome! If you have the chance to ride with him do it. He got us to the resort in about an hour and 15 min passing vehicles left and right (or right and left as they drive on the other side). We did give him a nice tip for getting us there in great time. On arrival we discovered the Couples treatment. We were not allowed to handle our bags from the time we arrived until we got to the airport to go home. While the bags were taken to our room we got our cool towel and glass of sparkling wine while completing registration. This was soon done and we were in our room.
We did switch rooms because the first one had a strong smoking odor. All the rooms are non-smoking, but obviously the previous occupants didn't quite comply. No hassle, we were quickly given another room and got settled in. We were in Building 2 garden view. What I love about CN is it doesn't matter where the room is. It is easy to get to anywhere in the resort.
For the most part we spent large chunks of time relaxing on the beach. Chairs and floats were always plentiful and people were very good about respecting places if you go to eat, snorkel, etc. Our favorite time was in the morning while things were quiet but the sun was warm.
We did go snorkeling one morning which was great. It was amazing to see the fish inches from your mask. I did the free scuba training and dive while my wife stayed on the beach. Having never done it before Sugar and the staff did a great job preparing us and leading the dive where I saw a nurse shark, lion fish, peacock flounder, lizard fish and many more. We did do the sunset catamaran cruise. While we enjoyed it, it wasn't so special that we would clamor to do it again. We also did the glass bottom boat ride which was a nice diversion. We did the frog hunt our last night which was fun. The chirping of the frogs was a great thing to listen to and it was amazing to see how small the guys are.
The food and service were as excellent as everyone keeps saying. Lots of friendly people working hard to make your trip special (special shout out to Menard, Subrina, OBryan, Torray and Jevado). We hit all the restaurants at some point. Otaheite is a fabulous place for a nice dinner, especially on lobster night. You can only make a reservation 2 days in advance so suggest doing it early in the morning.
The beach vendors were not an issue at all. They have to stay at the waterline and will not bother you if you don't engage them. That being said, if Donovan stops with his guitar do take a listen and if so moved drop a small tip. He was by far our favorite. There were some vendors that set up higher on the beach. They will have some small items for sale, but only look if you are ready to be approached and are ready to deal. There is a Couples-led walk to a craft market where they have pretty much the same thing but are a little more forceful in their approach. Our experience was it wasn't really worth it. We did do the Times Square shuttle on the last day. If you're looking for the traditional souvenirs this is worth it. There are 18 shops close together and it's a more traditional shopping experience.
All in all Couples surpassed our every expectation and they were high to start with. We can't wait to go back!