I spent the countdown to my trip reading every review on here and always appreciated the long, detailed, honest reviews. I find that the reviews certainly helped with my expectations going into the trip. So, I find it only fitting that I return the favor. We were at the resort July 6th through the 14th. Overall, we had the best vacation experience we have ever had. Of course, some parts of our trip weren't perfect, but no vacation ever is. This was our second trip to Jamaica. Our first was to Couples San Souci, three years ago. We are a couple in our thirties, 2 kids, married 12 years, and very laid back. We are absolutely in love with the country of Jamaica. While we love Couples resorts, we don't go to Jamaica just for the resort necessarily. We are there to experience the people, the culture, and the beauty of the country. Because of this, we tend to spend part of our vacation off the resort itself. I recommend that you try to venture off the resort with your trip some as this is when you get the true taste of Jamaica.
Airport and check-in: We arrived in Jamaica at 3:30 on a Saturday. I was expecting very long lines in customs, after reading all of the reviews. We even considered purchasing the Club MoBay. Wow, was I wrong! Because we arrived so late in the day there were absolutely no lines in immigration or customs. Our flight basically walked right through, in about 15 minutes. We arrived to the Couples lounge and had time to down about 2 beers before heading to the resort (be sure to ask for a "roadie" for the ride). The ride to the resort maybe took about an hour and a half. I personally would've loved to stop along the way (this is like a free ride to experience part of Jamaica....why not?). However, other people on the bus were very adamant on going straight to the resort (and almost rude about it). The driver didn't really give us the option anyways, probably because it was so late in the day. Check-in went very smoothly and probably only took about 30 minutes total (and we chose to go last in our group...we had champagne to keep us happy).
Our Room: We stayed in room 1132, an Atrium Suite. Our room was located right next to Seagrapes and the Palms, beachfront. Overall, although the room was dated, I really enjoyed it. It certainly was not glamorous and ritzy, but to me it was perfect as it felt like the true Caribbean experience. I am a light sleeper and was worried about staying in the Atrium (there are only screens on some of the windows). However, I have never slept so great while on vacation! I do contribute this mostly to being so exhausted by the end of the day and I can see how some would have trouble. The entertainment at the Palms continued until 10:30 every night and it sounded like a party was going on in our room! Several nights I could barely make it until 10 and found myself worried about falling asleep. However, I was so exhausted that I never had a problem. The only time I had any problems was related to other guests (which I will comment on later). Never did I have a problem being hot. In fact, most of the time, I was freezing and had to ask my husband to turn down the air!
As far as cleanliness, I never had a problem with our room. We did get ants quite often, but this was due to us leaving out food or drinks. They are sugar ants and are completely harmless. You are in a rainforest...there are bugs. We just learned to put our food and drinks out on our porch when we were done with them. We loved the porch with the hammock and would spend our mornings sitting out there and drinking coffee. Overall, would I do the atrium again? Most definitely - I already missing sleeping to the sound of tree frogs!
Restaurants: Overall, the food was good. It was spotty - some items were fantastic and some were bad. I think this can be expected with a large resort.
Palms - We spent a lot of time at the Palms (buffet), mainly I think because it was so close to our room. We usually ate breakfast here as it was close to our room. My biggest complaint was that I usually have eggs every morning for breakfast and the only eggs offered were hand-cooked omelettes. The line for omelettes was always really long, which frustrated me sometimes (but usually worth the wait). There were always a lot of different options for breakfast. Lunch here was always good. They always had fresh fish (be sure to have the mahi-mahi). I also really enjoyed the pasta here. I always thought it was weird that everyone commented on the soup being so good - why would you want soup with it being so hot?! However, try the soup!! It was always delicious and actually was perfect at the end of the day.
Patois - We ate here a couple of times and found it to have the best service and best food! I had an amazing Pumpkin soup here one night and the banana stuffed french toast was amazing!
Feathers - We only dined here once and found it to be really good. We were lucky enough to dine when they had the lionfish. Our whole group ordered it and found it to be delicious. However, the restaurant is air conditioned and I found myself freezing through the whole meal!
Lemongrass - The food here was just okay. I don't really get why the resort chose to go with Thai food (doesn't seem very Jamaican). I actually really enjoyed the appetizers and the soup was delicious. However, the entree ended up being really disappointing. The ambiance at this restaurant is really nice as it is on the second floor, situated on a balcony, and overlooks the beach and pool. I would recommend going at least one night, for this alone.
Beach grill - I didn't eat here at all and can't comment. It serves the typical grill food - hamburgers, fries, etc.
Seagrapes - Definitely my favorite! The fish tacos are delicious! However, you only get one with your order. So, be sure to order more if you are hungry. The sweet potato chips are probably some of my favorite food of the trip. I think I had an order of these almost every day.
Bars: If you are worried about not getting enough liquor, no worries! I occasionally couldn't even finish my drink because there was too much liquor in it. I was disappointed by the pina coladas (my fav) as they would use a frozen base out of a machine and just pour liquor on top of it. Also, the beer seemed to always be warm and sometimes served out of warm glasses. With this being said, we had some delicious drinks and had no problem getting drunk! The Dirty Bananas and Jamaican Jewel were both my favorites. Sometimes I would just ask the bartender to give me something fruity with rum and would not be disappointed. If you go to the beach bar there is a drink menu that gives you many different options. We almost didn't do the martini bar as we are not fans of martinis. However, we went and ordered the key lime martini, and now we are craving them back home!
Nightclub, piano bar, entertainment, etc.: We only went to the piano bar/nightclub two nights and there was a good crowd. It was ok for us. We don't really go to Jamaica to sit in a nightclub (we can get that back home) and we were usually exhausted by 10 every night. The piano bar was fun for one night. However, each time we walked by it, the same songs were being played. We had really rude service here one night (and probably the only time our entire stay) where the bartender yelled at us because we did not just give our full drink order at once (rather, each person in our party told him separately what we wanted). They were really busy so I could feel his frustration, but the rudeness was not warranted. The only time we experienced the entertainment at the Palms was during our dinner (we didn't really hang around, so to speak). However, it was always something different and was pretty good. They did seem to sing a lot of really corny American songs. I would've preferred to hear some true Reggae every night as that is why we are there!
Excursions: The catamaran cruise is a must do! We actually ended up doing it twice. Be careful of the rum punch. It is strong and we found that some couldn't handle it! Be sure to go to the back of the boat and talk to Rasta John (and tell him his friends from Colorado say hello!). He will give you some history during the cruise and is fun to talk to. Also, the crew is not part of Couples. So, be sure to bring some money to tip. The second time we went to a different sight to swim in the caves (due to the sea being really choppy) and found there was a school of jellyfish at the site. Some in our group ended up getting stung by the jellyfish. However, no problems at the usual sight. (Be sure to sign up for the cruise, restaurants, etc. the minute you get to the resort as they fill up quickly)
We did snorkeling at the Cuba sight. It was actually probably the best snorkeling we have ever done. Saw pufferfish, stingrays, schools of fish, etc. and it is in very shallow water. If we hadn't done it on our last day, we probably would've gone several times more.
Beach: The beach was amazing!! It will be hard to ever beat and we will find ourselves coming back to CSA for this alone. We would float on our mats in the ocean all day long. I am frustrated by the many who complain about the beach vendors. To me, this was part of the experience. They are people, trying to make a living, and feed their families. They walk the beach all day long, in extremely hot weather, and often deal with rude tourists. A simple "no thank you" will do and you can talk to them! They are people! Also, why spend hours haggling with them over prices?!? Chances are, because you are on this vacation, your life is pretty amazing. These people don't have much but the clothes on their backs. With this being said, be sure to walk the beach. It is a nice experience and there is some great shopping along the beach (and much cheaper than on the resort).
Pools: We only went to the swim-up bar once, only because it was raining. The service and drinks were great at the swim-up bar. Bring a deck of cards with you and ask the bartender (Favian, I think) to do some card tricks - you will be amazed! The only reason we didn't spend a lot of time here was because of the amazing beach. We did try out the lap pool on the other side of the resort once. It was really nice and completely empty when we were there. As a swimmer, I really enjoyed this and, if we had spent more time at the resort, probably would’ve spent more time there. There is only one other pool, near the Palms. We never used it, but quite a few people would pay volleyball there on occasion. If you’re looking for really nice pools on your vacation, this probably isn’t your place. However, you will find that you enjoy the beach so much that it won’t matter!
Guests: This is probably my biggest complaint of the trip! We often found many of the guests to be very rude and felt very entitled. The guests staying above us would blast their country music all day and felt they had to yell and holler all the time. There were also many times where guests would party on their balconies until 2 in the morning, disturbing everyone's sleep (the atriums have no windows!). I understand it is your vacation and you should do as you wish, but there are places on the resort to carry on and party till all hours of the night. I like to party sometimes too, but I can do this and still be considerate of other guests!
Service: Overall, the service was amazing! Some of the service will sometimes be very quiet and to themselves, which I think sometimes people misconstrue as rude behavior. However, if you are nice to them, they will be nice to you!
Off-site excursions: I won't comment on what we did off of the resort much as I will cover this in other reviews. However, I did want to briefly comment. We did the One Love Bus Bar Crawl. It is a great way to experience Negril and all of the different bars! I would highly suggest it to any first-time visitors. Be sure to bring your swimsuit as there are opportunities to cliff dive along the way. We also did a South Coast Tour with the Black River Safari, YS Falls, and the Pelican Bar. All were great, but the Pelican Bar was my favorite! If you can do this, it is an experience you will never forget!
Whew..if you're still reading, sorry for the long review! I know it may seem like I'm complaining a lot above, but I wanted to be sure to mention the hiccups, so you know what to expect. Overall, we absolutely loved our vacation (and CSA) and are already planning the next! If your wondering whether to book CSS or CSA, both have its advantages, but if you're a beach person, I highly suggest CSA.