Our awesome vacation at Couples Swept Away Negril
Trip Start May 27, 2012
1Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
May 27 - June 1, 2012
My review - thoughts, opinions, suggestions, tips, about our amazing 1st vacation at
Couples Swept Away Negril Jamaica
I will not write this review mentioning what specific days we did this or that or what days we ate this and that, I'm just not good with those details, and it actually annoys me, so I will try and write this as if we are having a conversation, rather than writing it as a text book :)
Arriving at the airport, getting thru customs (under 45 minutes), and being greeted at the Couples lounge with a warm welcome, was a great start to our trip.
Tip, the more you have everything (documents, etc), together and in order the better off you will be, The least amount of "stuff" you have during customs and security check points the better, trust me on this.. People and their carry on things, unbelievable! enough about that, you get my point.
We were in and our of the Couples lounge in 15 minutes, WOW!
Our ride to the resort was smooth, and at first I thought it would be long and boring, but no one in our van wanted to stop, and although I thought we would and I wanted something cold to drink, it turned out to be a good thing, because the ride was not as long as I thought it would be, and our group was fun...But of course, it was the start of our CSA vacation!
Check in - we were greeted with a cold towel and glass of bubbly, very nice touch, loved that..Checking in went very smoothly, (about 1:45pm) our room was ready, but I requested a different room, more central, and although the room was not as central as we would have liked, it turned out good..We were in a 1st floor garden verandah as requested, but we were the first room as your exiting the lobby to your left. At first I thought, this is not going to work, (this was a busy area for staff, guests checking in) but it was not that bad at all. What I liked most was, our path to the beach was very short, and since most of our lunch was at Seagrapes, it was perfect, LOVE this cafe!. More on SeaGrape later..
Off we go to our beach bungalow, and I so adored this room. Trust me when I say, the pictures do not lie. What you see in brochures and on the websites are exactly what you get..If your are looking for any luxury you will not find it here...Let me repeat that, these rooms are not luxurious, ie; marble, granite, designer sheets, but, that's not a bad thing at this resort, because we were looking for rustic and clean, but we got so much more...Could they use a upgrade? Sure, a few pictures, maybe new cushions for the porch chairs, furniture, but we were comfortable as is..The very nice and huge Verandah, would cost you probably 2x as much in a five star hotel, and that's where CSA is so unique
Time to change the sweaty clothes and go find food!
We were starving, my heart was set on the snapper sandwich with fries, so our 1st stop before the 5pm tour, was the Cabana Grill.. I loved this sandwich! but I have to admit, SeaGrape snapper sandwich was even better, if you can believe that! never tried snapper before, but I am so glad I did....great start to many great eats during my stay...more on that later too.
Our next stop was the beach bar near the Cabana grill...I had my first of many Papaya smoothies, and boy were they good..My husband had his usual Tanqueray and cranberry juice, but after chatting it up with the bartenders, they added many twists to his boring drink and he loved it, almost too much!
Belly full, and still enough time to pack before our tour; from the looks of the pictures, and website it doesn't appear to be much room for clothing and such, but there actually is enough.
Tip, don't over pack, seriously! many people may disagree with me on this subject but, with two people, especially women, you will not run out of space..I could have used a few more beach dresses, and my husband a few more things, but if we had packed a bit more, we still would have room. Don't believe the hype about not enough storage, I bet people are just over packing.. There are rattan hooks on the wall for your clothes as well; In the GVS rooms there is plenty of floor space to put your sandals, flip flops etc. The bathrooms are a good size even for two people to share at the same time; the bathrooms are not luxurious but definitely clean!
Because we changed our room location, our room was not stocked with our pre-registration items, but that was cool, we knew eventually we would get what was requested, and we did the next day...Don't fret about it if you find that to be the case when you arrive to your room; there are plenty of bars around for a drink...some folks get pretty bummed out about this; relax, go have a drink or two; go explore the beautiful beach and see what else awaits you for your vacation week; give the staff time to stock, they are extremely busy getting those rooms ready for arriving guests, we saw that first hand, beings our room was also next door to the staff utility room
We did the tour on day one at 500pm, to get that out of the way...I can't remember the host name who took us around the property, but he we saw quite a bit of him during our stay, especially at the Palms. The tour is well worth the 1 hour or a less of your time, especially for your first visit...There are details that you will not have to ask about later, and just getting a general feel of the resort is made it worthwhile. My husband asked me during the tour, "are you sure you never been here before"? I said why you ask, he said, "because you are telling about things before the tour guide does". LOL! I said, 'sweetie, I research everything, you should know that by now"!
It rained off and on the first day, but in Jamaica, who cares! I heard guests complaining about this too! UGH!, seriously, I was only upset about how the rain ruined by hair, but otherwise I was cool! the next two days it rained some more, especially the 2nd day, it poured for at least 2 hours, but that did not stop anyone, including us...people were still hanging out at the beach bars, some brave souls were sitting up under the palapas sleeping, reading. During this time of year, its rainy season, we knew that before we booked, and now you know, just plan accordingly. We used the rain showers as a opportunity to relax on our Verandah, take a nap, etc..One particular afternoon, I had left the hubby at the beach bar, and started on my way back to the room; I had the umbrella generously provided to you by the resort, and all of a sudden it poured Niagara falls type rain, literally
Food = very good!! If you starve here, its your own fault, that simple. To say that there is not enough options for dining is ridiculous or you are just too picky...stop the foolishness!. I read many many good reviews about the food, and it was spot on..Can you pig out at CSA? Yes, but you can also keep it as healthy as you wish too! Don't eat meat?, no problem. This is where they really shined for me! I was experiencing some stomach issues prior to this trip, and my tummy is not what it used to be in terms of eating any and everything you want..Those days are over..So I was a little concerned about that prior to leaving; My stomach was just not on its best behavior at all, and I was telling my hubby, it would really suck if I get to CSA and can't eat the food...Well, let me just say, I wish I could live on this resort permanently! I think my digestive issues would be over!
SeaGrape and the Sports Bar were my saving grace
We made dinner ressies the day we arrived, (and as suggested), Feathers and Lemongrass. Did not make Lemongrass, had to cancel..The hubby was very tired after his long day horseback riding..His trip got delayed due to the rain, so it was a late start..he left the resort about 12noon, and did not return until about 6pm..He said during the swim in the ocean on horseback, his horse was last and guess what? His horse pooped and it splashed on my husbands T-shirt, socks, swim trunks; he tossed everything in the trash when he got back! YUCK! lol! The first thing he said, cancel our ressies for Lemongrass, not in the mood; I didn't argue, and canceled..
Feathers - great from start to finish..Do not expect to be rushed here..We were definitely on Jamaican time at the restaurant
Other places we dined at - The Palms every morning for breakfast. The french toast was our favorite..We also ate dinner here most nights, which was also very good. If I had to pick my favorite it would the Pasta Station. I am not a huge pasta fan, but this was very good with the different sauces and garlic bread. My hubby enjoyed everything, but he raved about the French Toast for breakfast every morning. Breakfast is also served at Patois but the Palms was very close to our room location, and after day 2, we would meet up with a a very nice couple from Baltimore
(Brian and Karen Williams) we met. More on them later..
The Beach, Entertainment and Activities = there is plenty to do at the resort, depending on how you planned to spend your time here..We saw that many people lounged at the beach bars, pools and beach most of the day, while you would see others leaving the resort for off site attractions, spending time at the sports facility (which was never crowded and one of the most serene and peaceful spots anywhere on the property); But the beach itself is a HUGE draw for many and I see why..The property truly is beachfront and with the design and layout you really feel like you are in a village that just happens to be beachfront..you could literally sit on the beach all day, at a beach bar or if your lucky enough, sit on your beachfront verandah, and people watch..
My hubby jet skied one day and with five minutes left of his 40 minutes, I was asked by the instructor "Cedric" if I wanted to try it; at first I hesitated, (I am not a swimmer), but with a push from the hubby and Cedric, I said what the heck, my 50Th birthday is coming up, what a great start it would be to say I actually did something adventurous!, So glad I did! I had a blast for those five minutes..Can't wait to do it again!
There are also other entertainment options that we did not engage in, but memos are posted throughout the resort daily..
We enjoyed the nightly entertainment at the Palms..We did not expect Vegas style shows, but what was offered was entertaining. We heard some people complaining about how amateur the shows were, but seriously, were you really expecting, Elton John, Celine Dion, or Beyonce on Stage every night, really? A must see - The The Steel Drum Band, very good…These young people are awesome, especially the dancers..
if you get bored, no one to blame but yourself..I have read many many reviews, and it really all depends on when you go and who is there, but most importantly, its totally up to you..We saw couples dancing at the Palms after the place cleared out, and they had the dance floor totally to themselves, and were enjoying it.
Talent night was good considering it was mainly the staff members, who tried hard, and did their best to entertain the dinner crowd. They worked hard and you could tell they were enjoying themselves, especially Shelly and Omar! Don’t go expecting to see Beyonce or Celine Dion, and you won’t be disappointed.
Honorable mention - I cannot remember the guest name who performed songs while her husband played drums, but let me just say this, she was great! I almost thought she was the singer Adele, she was that good. My hubby even liked her! Kudos to her and her husband! (at least I think that was her husband, or at least boyfriend)! We also enjoyed the Salsa dance routine with staff member Shelly and a resort guest! (he is in one of my photos sitting in the Palms restaurant).
Piano Bar - we spent one short night here, but it was very entertaining
BonFire = excellent way to end an evening! The highlight of our stay! (we missed the beach party, because we departed on Friday)..The singing at the bonfire, the open bar, of course the bonfire, and all the couples sitting around snuggling with their significant other was very romantic. Pictures were being taken, people were dancing to the music, just total bliss. It was a great way to reconnect with your partner and just enjoy the atmosphere! Kudos to Couples SA for this event! LOVED IT!
Swim up pool bar can’t say too much about this, and I still cannot believe my husband never set foot in it, and he LOVES swim up pool bars.. We walked past it everyday when walking the beach away from the resort, we dined at the Cabana Grill at least 2x, he ordered a few drinks from the pool bar, but not once did he step foot it in, and when I asked why, he said, “ I enjoyed the ocean with the beach bar and the Lap pool..OKAY!!!! After 18 years with this man, who knew
There were also several hot tubs scattered throughout the property, one being right near SeaGrape, that never seemed to busy! The busiest seemed to be the one by the swim up bar; one night it was packed with a younger crowd…We enjoyed the one in the Sports Center..
Spa = my hubby booked a massage at Oasis Spa, and overall he said he really enjoyed it, especially his foot massage; he raved about that! I think I will do that next time
Housekeeping = B+…No problems here. Room was cleaned every morning, refrigerator stocked when necessary, floors were mopped, towels/washcloths changed, turn down service in the evening, shutters closed, shades closed, but on that last night she got a late start cleaning our room, (it was after 4pm), but we did not complain, it was done to perfection and that was all that mattered..I did order a mini breakfast plate our 2nd morning just to try out the service.. It was just cereal, juice, and a small fruit plate
Local flavor off site = one thing we highly recommend is leaving the property to explore a little. (we did this everyday) Not suggesting you go far, which would be okay too, but venturing off site allows you to see and experience more Jamaican hospitality, bargain shopping and local cuisine. My hubby wanted Oxtails from a local restaurant; while walking up the beach after leaving Margaritville, (how we got to Margaritville was a joke and what I call bait and switch, more in a few minutes about that) we stumbled onto Norma's at SeaSplash resort..I was not really hungry yet, but of course he was not leaving without eating some Oxtails, and we met a lovely couple dining there who were staying at Negril Beach Club..My husband LOVED the Oxtails and we were just in time for sunset, which was absolutely breathtaking to see! What a great spot to be in at sunset
There are many dining options like Norma's and shops along the beach away from the resort, to explore, and we enjoyed it. Shout out to Destiny's gift shop near Norma's...nice young lady who works there!
Ricks Café…Tourist trap..nothing more to say about that! Visited once and that was enough for us, Not a bad place, but the staff, RUDE! Left a bad taste in our mouths..Our friends that we met at SA thought the service was not good either…The ride to the Café was $15.00; not bad considering it was round trip, and it gave us a chance to see some of the communities. Plenty of local restaurants along this route as well.
In the other direction, near the Beaches resort, we stumbled upon a local vendor who also walks the beach during the day selling his wood carvings, and either that was his girlfriend or wife working in a tent along side of him, who I purchased jewelry from, and from the gentleman I purchased a beautiful walking stick for my Dad. The price I paid for the stick, I know would have cost me 2x as much at the resort
About Margaritville - while we were sitting on the beach one day, we were asked if we wanted to go to Margaritvilles Mardi Gras party, with free shuttle service and entry..
We said sure, why not...Okay we like Margaritville (at least the one in Orlando we did), but this is one visit we should have skipped. Its pretty much a bait and switch to get you in the door and spend your money. The crowd was also a bit too young for us, but for others it may be just fine. We probably sat all of 5 minutes before getting up and walking back to CSA, which is under a 10 min walk, and that is how we ended up at Norma's...well worth the stop too and a lot less money LOL!
Other things I want to address that create big buzz on message boards...
Garden view verandah suites and road noise - Let me just start by saying, YES, there is road noise, there is no getting around it, The way the resort is designed, there rooms near the road; Was it bothersome, NO and here is why - I am a city girl, born and raised; I hear road noise all the time, cars, trucks, buses, sirens, fire trucks, dogs barking, you name it.
Room size. and decor..I don't know about the other rooms, but our GVS room was plenty big for us..Anyone who says that it was small, whatever! call it what you want, but I have seen 5 star rooms smaller than the GVS rooms. Are the rooms dated, Yes, but the right word would be rustic. Basic but clean and comfortable. minor wear and tear as expected. You can tell that past guests are just careless and messy, is that the resorts fault, NO! I have stayed in worst rooms that cost more money, enough said!
I remember talking to a young lady at the beach who was on her honeymoon, and they had just spent 4 nights at a "luxury" resort in Mo Bay prior to staying 4 nights at CSA, and she said, this place is just old, and the rooms are not luxurious at all, and the only response I had to that was " you don't read reviews do you?"...she just looked at me and laughed! She said yes I do, and I said, well Couples does not claim to be luxurious, and the pictures show exactly what you get, so why would you expect anything else..
I don't like comparing hotels, resorts, period..never did..Why? No two resorts are alike, and most importantly, if people are really, truly reading reviews, you get my point! its like beating a dead horse. Some folks will never get it!
Vendors on the beach! They come and go all day long. Are they bothersome, NO..Security does a great job keeping them at bay, and if you are interested in anything that have to sell, just walk yourself over to them from your beach chair, or take a nice stroll down the beach, pass CSA and you can find anything they are selling, its that simple. Jamaicans are trying to earn a living just like we are; yes they are aggressive, but a polite No will do just fine
Beach Chairs and Palapas! There are plenty of beach chairs, and you may have to drag a few here and there depending on the time you arrive at the beach, and find float cushions for them, but there are plenty..Palapas are there, not a whole lot, but people do claim them early..I am not going to get into the bickering about that because its just petty. I managed to snag one on a rainy day, when everyone was running to their rooms from the downpour, but it really did not matter to us, whether we got one or not. I'm hoping at some point CSA will update the cushions, they are starting to become worn from all that sun, sand and water, and of course the abuse by guests..
Crowds, large groups, noise - not much of this at all. I was a bit concerned about this as well, and there was a active, loud scene at the beach bars and pool bar at times, but that's it. We saw some large groups but not many..However, this place is very popular for weddings, and we saw at least 5 during our stay, but never large crowds with them..
The beach side private dining was done almost daily, and it looked very romantic, but a bit pricey for us
The Staff are 75% of this resort, IMO! They truly make this place special just as so many people have said. Kudos to all of them for the job they do and do well! We never encountered an issue with anyone. Some were a bit shy, but most were pleasant, comical and loved to talk.
Photographer - we decided on our last full day to do a photo shoot! I was somewhat hesitant because my hair was ruined by the rain and I should have had it braided, but anywho, I did it anyway, and it was fun. The pictures are very expensive, and we almost walked away from it all, but decided on the morning of our departure to order the 12 month calendar with pics..We chose the best pics for the calendar and that was $60.00 with free shipping..We should receive it in about 3 weeks..We thought that would be a great keepsake if we never do it again, but I decided when we return to Couples, we will do the photo shoot again, but this time I will be "photo shoot" ready! LOL!
Age Group - all ages were here, but I did notice a lot of young people, I would say between 25 and 30.. but no worries, there were people of all ages here!
New friends at CSA
Karen and Brian Williams - I first met this couple at SeaGrape Cafe
Stu and Deb from London England - I met this couple when they were walking by our room one day, and they stopped and asked me about the GVS room...they were booked in a Greathouse room and really did not care for the location too much, so I recommended they try and get the Atrium suite that they wanted. When I saw them the next day, as luck would have it, they were able to switch rooms to an Atrium suite..I saw them again and again, throughout our stay, and on the morning of our departure, we were able to say goodbye to them and they gave me their email address to keep in touch..
Well that about wraps this up..I had fun writing this, and remembering all the great things that happened during our stay, the nice people and new friends we met, yummy foods we ate, and most of all the resort and staff. Simply amazing! I highly recommend a vacation at CSA!