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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    9

    Default CSA first timer's realistic trip review - 5/1-5/8 visit

    My husband and I returned a few days ago from our first trip to Jamaica and Couples Swept Away. I "lurked" on the Couples Message Board and Trip Advisor reading every detail that I could find prior to our trip. My review does concur with a few aspects of other negative reviews and parts of my review may sound like I'm another hard to please guest as things started out a little rocky; bear with me, by week's end, I got it....

    Arrived in Mobay later than expected due to weather delays. Flew through customs and immigration and easily found the Couples Lounge. Our shuttle was ready to leave so we barely had time to use the restrooms; no Red Stripes for us. The ride is rather lengthy and although our driver offered, we did not stop along the way. After dropping all the other passengers at Couples Negril, we arrived alone at CSA. We were provided with refreshing cold cloths and sparkling wine as expected. Check in was quick and easy. We were then escorted with our luggage, to our OVS third floor corner unit. I was so excited because this was exactly the room that I had hoped for; so far, so good.

    Our room was much smaller than I had anticipated and the bathroom left much to be desired; no problem, we're in Jamaica. Our expectations were under control; no marble or glitz was expected, simple but clean was all that we needed, however, soon I began to question our choice of destination. As we checked out our room, we found the floor in the closet and behind the cupboard door to be quite dirty, as well as the white bedcover having seemingly fresh stains from previous guests; not good. Not a big deal, but I had expected to find our beach towels placed on the bed shaped into swans; ours were lying folded on the bathroom vanity. No problem, the room was a very small part of the experience and we're pretty laid back and easy to please....our balcony has a great view and we're on vacation in tropical paradise. We decided to unpack later and left in search of a quick meal and some drinks.

    Another wrinkle; although aware restaurants were open-air dining, we were not fully prepared for this. Dining proved to be a little uncomfortable in the heat and we were not really enamored with the whole open-air dining experience. As others have stated, there is no point in spending time fixing your hair, as the humidity will soon destroy your "do". I quickly learned to adjust, gave the flat iron a rest and let nature take it's course.

    We continued to question our choice of resort, as that first day on the paths we greeted several staff members as well as guests and received very few greetings in return; in fact many seemed to avoid eye contact and deliberately ignore us. I was more than a little surprised after reading so much regarding the friendliness of everyone. We soon found ourselves comparing this experience to our recent vacation at an adult only AI in the Riviera Maya and at this point, this trip was falling way short.

    Fast forward two days....we are in heaven. Our room still isn't the cleanest, it's still hot in the restaurants, staff and guest friendliness is still hit or miss, but who cares!! We met some truly wonderful people, both staff and guests, the beach and ocean are spectacular, the grounds are gorgeous, the food is delicious and drinks are plentiful, our balcony has lovely partial view of the ocean and the bed is so comfortable....all this in a laid-back tropical paradise....who could ask for more!

    I strongly suspect those who have written less than stellar reviews got hung up on only the negatives. The important thing is to manage your expectations; despite all the glowing reviews you may read, not everything will be perfect. We too could have let a few small issues negatively impact our vacation but instead chose to focus on the positives, which by the way far outweighed the negatives. Although we don't typically return to vacation spots, we will most likely be back in the near future, maybe the same time next year! As they say, once you go you know!!
    Last edited by DebB; May 13th, 2010 at 08:25 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Sometimes it's best not to know a whole lot!

    Obviously, since I'm on this MB I am a great supporter of Message Boards. However, it is quite possible that first time guests may have expectations that exceed reality because of the many enthusiastic contributors to the boards. I'm guilty of researching every new destination with a vengence....and often I expect more that is offered when I finally travel. This does not mean the destination is bad...just that my expectations were a bit off-target. For this reason, it is a good thing that people with disappointing experiences are contributors to the board as well as people who are over-the-moon with their experiences. Then...it's up to the reader to form his or her own impressions...but...be willing to admit that things may be different when they actually arrive at their destination. Thanks for your honest review and for giving both sides. And...thanks for being flexible and allowing yourself to discover the "good" in the destination!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    190

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    thanks for shareing! We are headed back to CSA for our 2nd stay soon. We did not have a dirty room and did not mind the open air dining(and we went in july) I would have to agree with your statement on the staff, I dont think they go out of their way to be friendly. I have stayed at other AI hotels in Jamaica and the staff has been much more outgoing. This small disapointment would not however keep me from going back as I felt CSA was a great vacation all in all!

  4. #4

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    Love this before & after review style. Pretty cool the way you changed course 180 degrees without so much as a hint of what's to come. Very well done.

    There is a moral here, especially for the newbs: Temper your expectations and go with the flow.
    Ron

    Reading is fundamental. It's just that for some, it's more mental than fun.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    1,284

    Default

    DebB - thanks for taking the time to post your very well written review. On our first trip to CSA in 2005, we, too, were not blown away by CSA. We thought the room (a BFVS) was small, too, with very limited luxury EXCEPT for the breathtaking view of the sea and large verandah. Then we went to an AI in the Dominican Republic the following year. While it was a lovely resort, and the staff were beautiful people, it just wasn't Couples and Jamaica (it also wasn't a couples-only resort, just an adults-only). When we went back to CSA in 2007, we really GOT IT. We have been back to Couples ever since. That doesn't mean that we don't travel elsewhere in the summer. We love to see new places. However, as long as we can swing it, it will be Couples once a year from here on.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    644

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    topspin,
    I loved your post and how you really nailed it for me. We have been going to Couples since 2003, CSS & CN. This past April was our first trip to CSA and I totally over researched it to the point that my expectations were also a bit off-target. And, as you stated, having posts on this board with both disappointing and good experiences is beneficial to anyone trying to get an accurate evaluation to help in their decision.
    Better yet, "Sometimes its best not to know a whole lot! (Luv it)

  7. #7

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    thanks 4 the review.it was great!going jun 22/29 looking foward to .it

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    665

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    It's nice that you found a happy medium between your expectations and the reality. Just a few things...

    "I had expected to find our beach towels placed on the bed shaped into swans"

    In all the times we've been to all of the Couples resorts, we've never arrived to find towel-swans waiting on our bed...that has been done DURING our stay by the Night Turndown Staff.

    "we greeted several staff members as well as guests and received very few greetings in return; in fact many seemed to avoid eye contact and deliberately ignore us. I was more than a little surprised after reading so much regarding the friendliness of everyone."

    This has comes up a lot lately. I can't say why guests would ignore you....but I think it's such a strange Disney-like expectation that some people have of the Staff....please keep in mind that many of them are BUSY WORKING- that's their job - they are not on an all-inclusive vacation like you are - they have sick kids, fights with their spouses, concerns about finance and issues they're dealing with at home - just like you do!! Are you always cheery and bouncy at work? I'm not.
    We find 99% of the Staff to be warm and caring people - but sometimes you have to get to know people...please remember that it's a different culture from ours- and Jamaican men and women have different social values from us and from one another too....One Dept Head there told me her Staff is not encouraged to be OVERLY friendly to guests - although some departments obviously do encourage that...If you frequent the resort Bars ( we don't ) or spend time with the Entertainment team you will meet some very friendly people..as for everyone else, most are very friendly but really, they are just like anyone doing their job..and they work very hard....but they are not paid to entertain us !!!
    Last edited by WandA; May 14th, 2010 at 09:48 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    9

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    WandA -

    I don’t think you grasped the whole context of my review. I was simply addressing issues many first timers may face after reading all the glowing reviews, in which previous guests describe everything to be perfect. Did we let those issues detract from our wonderful vacation? No, but there are those who might.

    Not sure why you felt the need to address my small interjection regarding the beach towels, I was just making an observation and as I stated, it was no big deal. I read a couple of posts regarding guests who didn’t realize the towels shaped into swans on their bed were their beach towels, that’s all.

    Regarding the friendliness of guests, again only an observation; I could care less if guests speak to me when spoken to, I just found it a bit odd. I tend to smile and say hello when approaching people on sidewalks at home, so this was just different than what I expected. Again, not a deal breaker.

    As for the staff - I’m sorry, but I do believe they should return a greeting when spoken to; I’m not even asking that they speak first. Yes, they are working, but they are working because we choose to spend our hard earned dollars at the resort for which they work. We have gone on cruises and visited other AI resorts and at each, were greeted by almost every employee we met, including groundskeepers at the resorts. I don’t think it is too much to expect a friendly hello, especially when I have spoken first to them. Again, we did not let that detract from our vacation and as I stated, the resort was lovely, we had a great time and will most likely return.

    Respectfully,
    DebB

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    665

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    "I don’t think you grasped the whole context of my review "

    Sure I did, and I said at the beginnning of my post that you struck a balance between expectations and reality. I too, was just pointing out some minor issues. As for the Staff, like I said, this has come up a lot lately- not just in your post.

  11. #11

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    We were at CSA a few weeks ago, traveling with another couple. In our room, housekeeping always left us a surprise of a lovely towel arrangement on our bed...sometimes swans, sometimes hearts. Our friends were in a different block of rooms and housekeeping in their unit did not do "towels" at all. My friend would come and photograph our bed for her collection. I suppose it is up to the individual in charge of your room. In comparing CSA with other all-inclusives, often the "friendliness" of staff is directly tied to the expectation of gratuities from guests. Since Couples has a no tipping policy, the attention you receive from staff is genuine and not brought on for purposes of garnering tips. We've noticed that some staff people are quite shy...but are thrilled when you ask them about their kids, their interests, etc.

  12. #12

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    What was the palapa status ? Were you able to get one or as other reviews have mentioned these are locked up at 3 am ?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    665

    Default

    "Since Couples has a no tipping policy, the attention you receive from staff is genuine and not brought on for purposes of garnering tips. We've noticed that some staff people are quite shy...but are thrilled when you ask them about their kids, their interests, etc."

    EXACTLY !!!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    20

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    I understand what you were getting at Deb. I too just returned, and enjoyed myself. The weather was great, the scenery was beautiful. However, it wasn't for us. My husband and I love to dance, and they really didn't have a nightlife. Yes I went to the shows, but it wasn't really what we were looking for. I wish I could get the nightlife of a cruise and plop it on an island resort. (by the way, what is an AL resort?)

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    317

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    First, of all nice too the point review. Hope that u and your sweetie had a nice time. I do agree that reading this message board your expectations soar. To get over that I have stopped reading the board so often. I will also just wait until it's our turn to go. I know that there will be some ups and downs. I try not to make other peoples negatives about the resort my negatives about the resort. At the beginning, I second guessed the resort choice to death. My co-worker went in March and said her & her husband loved it. All she talk about now is going back to CTI. After that, I decided to stick with what we decided. I love reading other peoples reviews but, I definitely had to step back. Just read that person's experience, make my comments and move on. I just think that one thing we all need to remember about Couples is, it's not a luxury resort. No glitz or glam, just a nice place to relax away from home and work, for us to eat and drink all we want.

    I am sorry that some parts of your trip were not great but, as u too stated u both sucked it up, moved on and had a nice vacation. I do like that u will probably go back. Maybe the next time try another resort or do a split of resorts.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    766

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    The atmosphere is what brings us back. It’s truly a very relaxing and romantic vacation. We have become somewhat discouraged with some of the changes over the years but still can’t stay away. Good review

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    9

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    maywillcomehard
    The palapas were "reserved" by 5:30 each morning, not sure what time most were taken. We did have a palapa on several days as I tend not to sleep well when on vacation and was up by 5 or so. (BTW...we used it all day!!) Like others have mentioned, it is a shame when guests "reserve" their spot and it sits empty all day. I did talk with a guest for whom a lifeguard had offered to set them up. Noticed beach towels that had been folded into swans and a couple of magazines were reserving their spot on a couple of mornings. He hinted at providing a tip for this service, but I don't want to accuse anyone as I can't be sure.

    LisaD
    Did you spend anytime at the Aura Lounge? Several guests as well as members of the entertainment team were there most nights after Ultimate Chocolate's gig, around 11:00 or so. Awesome bartenders and pretty good dance music some nights. Maybe not quite the same nightlife as on a cruise, but it was fun.
    AI - All Inclusive; the font does look like a lower case L.

    spice505
    Thanks! We didn't actually think of it as having to suck it up, just needed to temper our expectations. Also, we fell in love with the whole laid-back vibe and the amazing beach and ocean. We've actually been looking at booking for next year...can't resist that $500 resort credit for early bookings!

  18. #18

    Default Dancing

    LissD,
    If you stayed at CSS, there isn't alot of dancing there. The Aura Lounge at CSA and the Piano Bar at CN provide a lot of dancing opportunities in addition to the nightly shows. (not sure about CTI, we didn't dance while we were there)

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    10

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    Just a note about the papalas situation. I just returned yesterday from CSA. I had a papala one day, because I got up at 530 to get one and used it all day. There were several couples that would "reserve' a hut with someone woking on the beach (this was offered to me as well) and they would reserve chairs down by the water as well. It seemed to be mostly older couples or Eurpoean couples, which I know they are typically on vacation longer and need the shade a lot more. It didn't really bother me, just the fact that some couples were reserving 4 chairs for 2 people. There is plent of shade under the palm trees too!

  20. #20

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jennyp View Post
    Just a note about the papalas situation. I just returned yesterday from CSA. I had a papala one day, because I got up at 530 to get one and used it all day. There were several couples that would "reserve' a hut with someone woking on the beach (this was offered to me as well) and they would reserve chairs down by the water as well. It seemed to be mostly older couples or Eurpoean couples, which I know they are typically on vacation longer and need the shade a lot more. It didn't really bother me, just the fact that some couples were reserving 4 chairs for 2 people. There is plent of shade under the palm trees too!
    based on a a couple of similar posts it appears if you want a palapa you can "arrange" to have this done that seems like it beats getting up at 5 am

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