We are back from our 4th trip to CSA, which ended with us "riding out" Sandy! The entire island seemed to be prepped for the worst (good) but it seems that Kingston got the worst of it. Negril only experienced windy conditions, not even any rain!

This will be a detailed trip report, my first actually, even though this was our 4th trip to CSA. I felt compelled to write this report because out of the four trips, I would have to rank this one the worst. It wasnít that the trip was horrible (it IS paradise after all), it just wasnít as magical as we have been accustomed to, not in the Couples way we are accustomed to. We noticed some details that have changed over the years that changed the experience.

We traveled to MBJ from GSP via CLT on Saturday morning with our couple friends who were on their 2nd trip to CSA, thanks to us! We arrived early (just before lunchtime) and went straight to the lounge. There were a lot of folks arriving around the same time, and we filled a whole bus just to CSA and another just to CN! We were only there for about 5 minutes before they were ready to load us up! The driver was great and the ride was easy, as always.

When we arrived at CSA, the old familiar feelings hit and we knew we were home. Check in took a little longer with so many arriving but they already had rooms pre-assigned. I wanted to get a room away from the road but no such luck-the young lady checking us in seemed uninterested in considering moving us. Coincidentally, our traveling buddies did get their person to move them closer to us. The road noise was louder than normal but I didnít let it keep me from sleeping. I just prefer the sounds of the nightly entertainment at Palms or the tree frogs. SN: Maybe Couples should consider adding surprise room upgrades to the Romance Rewards program, to reward those who have been committed to Couples over the years.
Arriving in the room, we checked everything out to make sure it was to our satisfaction. The bathroom showed definite signs of wear, our floor actually looked dirty in some places but it was really just badly chipped. The bedroom area and patio were well kept though, as expected.

One of the issues we had problems with was the stocking of the minibar. Despite twice completing the card, we never got restocked at all. We only had one TING drink, and since my husband doesnít drink, TING is his drink of choice (and my fave as well) while we are there so we usually only ask for TING and WATA. That was disappointing, because this is the only place you can get it in the bottle (tastes better). On Tuesday evening when I called to inquire, they had just suspended minibar service (for the duration of our time there) so we were out of luck.

A major issue was our housekeeping service. After being on the message boards since 2008, I finally remembered this time to bring candy to give out to staff providing great service. Most of it was intended to be for rewarding the housekeeping staff, that has always been great, but this time our service was poor at best. Housekeeping is one of the areas I have always raved about because they have always been so attentive. In fact, we usually try to meet our housekeeper and carry on a conversation getting to know them by leaving notes on the bed daily and asking questions about their life and learning Patois phrases. We only received turndown service ONCE during our entire trip. It was only offered one other time that we were in the room, around 6:30 as we were getting dressed for dinner (of course we had to decline). Only one night was the special turn down card left. Most days our room was not serviced until 1 pm or later. Of course it was understandable on Wednesday due to the storm, but more on that later. Additionally, since we worked out every morning, we always asked for an extra set of towels so we would have dry towels for our evening shower. Half of the days we got 3 towels instead of 4, and sometimes none unless we specifically asked that day. It seemed like it was a nuisance to them.

As of Monday night, we were oblivious to any storm approaching (our fault, as we chose to leave the TV off mostly, and away from NEWS channels). So imagine our surprise at the Repeaters Dinner when we found out from a couple we had dinner with about the impending storm on Tuesday and then on Tuesday morning, we heard about closure of the airport for Wednesday! The resort did not do a good job of providing information early on, and several couples were asking staff about the storm. However, on Tuesday, they sent a briefing to our rooms and the General Manager addressed us at the Palms on Tuesday night. After that, the communications were regular (written letters placed in our rooms) as well as information boards posted at every restaurant and in the lobby. I felt they did an outstanding job keeping us up to date on the latest information once the storm was imminent.

That being said, due to the storm, the following activities/venues were affected:
  • Bamboo, Sunset and Pool Bars were closed Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday
  • Main Bar, Patois Bar and Disco Bar were open
  • Cabana Grill was running inside Patois (did occur) and Seagrapes was supposed to be at Lemongrass (not sure this happened before Thursday)
  • Watersports was cancelled Tuesday afternoon through Thursday
  • All entertainment was moved to Aura Lounge on Wednesday
  • Lemongrass and Feathers were closed on Wednesday and Thursday (had reservations for Feathers on Wednesday, our last night)
  • All meals served buffet style at Palms and Patois on Wednesday
  • No off-site excursions on Wednesday

All of these were understandable adjustments that needed to be made to prepare for the storm. Additionally, minibar service and housekeeping was suspended beginning Tuesday night. Some rooms were serviced by housekeeping on Tuesday evening.
The Sports Complex staff was amazing. My husband and I worked out every day and they were very helpful and sympathetic to us being so exhausted from working out in the heat! Also, the tennis pro (Branton?) was great as usual. The staff at Oasis Spa was also awesome, especially my masseuse, McNeil. The watersports guys were friendly and helpful, even answering some of our questions about local music. Kemar from the Bamboo Bar was full of personality and always ready to chat about anything. The entertainment staff seemed to never sleep and always managed to keep the crowds engaged, even playing life-sized Jenga on Wednesday! The Repeaters Dinner on Monday was very good as usual.

The beach is still great; however you can see the toll that erosion has had on 7-Mile Beach. It is immediately obvious when you are laying on the beach because the vendors are much closer to the property than they used to be and some are a bit more aggressive. Still, there are some great spots along the beach for pure relaxation. All the restaurants we frequented were tasty as usual. The jerk chicken, burgers and coco bread at Cabana Grill always hit the spot, and Patois Patio didnít disappoint, except when they did the makeshift buffet on Wednesday (food was not that great). There was always something for everyone at Palms and Lemongrass (our favorite) was great.

Due to the closure of the airport on Wednesday, there were also no checkouts on Wednesday. As you can imagine, there was a larger than normal crowd checking on Thursday morning. Even so, there was only ONE staff member (Chad) processing checkouts. Chad was so amazing. Despite having at least 8 couples waiting to checkout out, Chad never lost his cool and was pleasant and helpful to each couple. Even couples who walked up to the desk with questions, he dealt with them in such a professional manner and was so apologetic to everyone for us having to wait for an extended period. Our shuttle was supposed to leave for the airport at 8; however, we did not leave until 8:30 due to the backlog of people trying to check out. Only around 8:15 did another staff member finally come to assist Chad with the checkouts.

All in all, of course we had a nice vacation but it did not live up to the lofty Couples standards we have come to know and love. Let me know if you have any questions!