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  1. #1

    Default Planning Our First Trip...Any Help Appreciated, and REALLY Needed!

    Hello, my husband and I are planning a trip for our 10 year wedding anniversary in August 2014. We have 4 kids and haven't had a trip away in 7 years, so we're hoping to have an amazing escape. We're only planning on 3 nights (I know, I know. TOO SHORT! But it's not easy to have someone watch your four kiddos for much longer, since we live states away from nearest family.), and are SO excited to do so many things. I am hoping I can get some insight to help us pick the right resort, and see if it's even feasible to do all the things we're hoping in such a short time. I'm looking for any advice, and wondering if you think it's worth our time to try so much.

    It seems like CTI is the best bet to DO all of these, but I'm more interested in finding out where everyone thinks is the BEST resort, even if it means not doing all of our "wants".

    In no particular order, we're hoping to:
    try SCUBA (intro course and dive)
    snorkeling--"see something amazing" according to my husband
    catamaran/sunset cruise/night snorkeling (is this all the same thing?)
    Dunn River Falls trip
    horseback riding
    eat fantastic food

    I have read the beach at CTI is a little small, and there's not much in terms of playing in the water right by the resort, is that accurate?

    I really appreciate any and all info you'd like to throw my way! We're super excited !

    Have a great day and THANK YOU !

  2. #2


    Not trying to be a Debbie downer but, your list would be difficult to do it all in a 7 – 10 day trip, not realistic for 3 nights. You will really only have three evenings and 2.5 days. After getting off the plane in Montego Bay it will be probably be at least 2.5 hours before you get any of the resorts. On your return you will leave the resort 4.5 hours before your plane departs to arrive back at the airport 3 hours prior to your departure. We consider our first and last days just travel days - not much else happens. I would add a day or two if at all possible.

    I have been to CTI and the size of the beach is fine for playing in the water, that should not be a concern. It is a lovely resort. Eating fantastic food is the easy part - but plan on making dinner reservations as soon as you arrive for Bayside and Eight Rivers.

    Given your time constraints you will have to shorten and prioritize your list. You have to sign up for the scuba class and don't believe that you can dive on your last day before flying home and it takes up about 1/2 a day in the morning. Same with the Dunns River Trip. Snorkeling offered once or twice daily – weather permitting but that is only about an hour total.

    Don’t know about horseback riding but would assume that is a multi-hour commitment. The catamaran / sunset cruise
    Is about a 3:30-6:30pm event and also does not go out every day. Evening snorkeling is separate extra cost event and also not offered daily. Check the schedules on line to see the offerings.

    Good Luck

  3. #3


    Oh I don't think you're being a Debbie Downer at all! I know we must be nuts to try and make it with just 3 nights, and completely agree with the travel days. I was thinking the same thing about the SCUBA and time constraints w/ flying. I really do appreciate the information though, with the lengths of activities. I seem to not be able to find everything I was looking for answer-wise, so to the MB I went! I think we've got a lot of decisions...basically, do we go this year, or book for next/longer??
    Thanks again!

  4. #4


    azbiohaz, I agree with luvbeaches. It isn't a lot of time to do all, but with 4 children and I'm sure a very very busy schedule for both of you. Why don't you and your husband take the time to just be with one another. You are taking a vacation but continue to go 100 miles an hour. Try to do those other things another time when time allows you to, Maybe when the kids are older, but for now don't you think you need a (recharge your battery) vacation? Slow down and take it all in. Your time there will be a blur instead of a memory. Sorry, I hope I didn't ruffle your feathers, just trying to be realistic.

    Don't miss the beach party barbecue on Monday night if you happen to be there.

    Have a great time!

  5. #5


    I wouldn't even go to Jamaica for less than 5 nights. Like the poster above pointed out, your first and last days are travel days. I might go to DRF but that's it.

  6. #6


    Go to one of the Couple resorts in Negril. The water is calmer, the beach is unreal, forget the falls. You'll be able to Cat., snorkel, and just chill out on the beach. You gotta just sit and relax. The food will be great but you have to "feel", just sitting on the beach!

  7. #7


    Definitely the time constraint stinks. Try and get a super early flight in and late one out.

    Horseback riding/Dunn River Falls are each a day's commitment. SCUBA will probably also kill a lot of time. Do snorkeling (couple hours) and the sunset catamaran cruise. Just make sure to book these when you check in.

    The beach and waterfront are plenty big enough to splash around in. Look at traveler's photos on Trip Advisor. I loved the CTI beach.

    Fabulous food is all Jamaica knows how to do, so no worries there.

    I'd never discourage someone from Couples. Your time will be super short, but you can do a lot of what you want to do. I think CTI is a great choice for you guys. Have fun!

  8. #8


    I would add, try to get into Montego Bay on the earliest flight you can. This will get you to the resort in time to enjoy some of the activities. We try to get in by 1pm if not sooner. And, CTI is our favorite. Trip 6 coming in August. It has all you have listed and more.

  9. #9


    My hubby and I have been to CSS for 3 nights before. The trip was brief, but it was fun. I agree with everyone else, don't pack in too much in. Just relax, hang out and reconnect with your hubby. I also agree about considering Negril. When we were at CSS in December of 2011, watersports in Ocho were red flagged every day so we couldn't even go snorkeling. Maybe it was just the days we were there. I'm sure others can chime in about the differences in the water if this is the norm. We normally go to CSA in Negril, which we love.
    Last edited by klmurphy2005; May 9th, 2014 at 02:58 PM. Reason: typos
    CSA - May 2009, May 2010, March 2011 (wedding), December 2012, May 2014 CSS - December 2011

  10. #10


    I totally admire you wanting to do all of those things and I feel your excitement. However, I would personally recommend for you to experience island time. It is a wonderful thing but you can't just go out and grab it, you have to let it come to you. If you are too busy doing the other activities it won't have a chance to take hold, and trust me, you'll enjoy it. My wife and I spend a lot of time together and I enjoy every minute of it. Thing is, each time we've been to CSA it somehow brings us even closer. It is our time, we relax, we enjoy the warmth of the sun, our toes in the sand and being together with all worries on hold. If you want to wind down and relax, 3 days may work.
    CSA 2010, 2013
    CTI 2015

  11. #11


    Thank you everyone!
    I think we're seriously reconsidering our efforts here, and hoping we can make a wonderful trip out of just snorkeling and relaxing! Hopefully we'll be able to determine the best snorkeling (and still really want to do the night time this part of the catamaran? I know the snorkeling has an extra fee..) location....Ocho or Negril!

    Glad I'm not feeling like I have to make a whole different vacation plan

  12. #12


    I would go with Negril, it's not as far as Ocho Rios which I find a very long drive.

  13. #13


    If this is your first trip to Jamaica, I would recomend CN or CSA. While we LOVE CSS, I really miss the long beautiful beaches, which do not exist at either CTI or CSS. Also, the rdie to them is about 15 minutes shorter than to Ocho Rios. Also, as you obviously haven't booked yet... try and squeeze at least on more night out of your budget!! All the effort to get there for just 3 nights seems a shame!!

  14. #14


    If you choose CN or CSA, you may also want to think about taking a flight to and from the resort. CN is pretty much across the street from the landing strip, and CSA is about 5 minutes drive. This will give you extra time that the bus ride may not afford you (although we've always taken the bus, so I'm not an expert here)….

    Also, I know at CSA if you are flexible with your dining times you should be able to fit in Feathers and Lemongrass (the 2 reservations restaurants) without much problem (and don't forget to bring "appropriate clothing" for the hubs if you plan to dine at the fine dining restaurants at any of the resorts - they really shouldn't be missed).

    CSA is on the main part of 7 Mile Beach, so if you want to feel like you're getting something of a sense of "local flavor" while you're at the resort, it's fun to walk up and down the beach and maybe stop in at some of the waterside bars for a quick Red Stripe and some conversation.

    There is a charge for night snorkeling, and they only go out if they have (I think) 4 or more people. And snorkeling is not part of the cat cruise, but swimming is….

    As far as horseback riding goes, there's a stable somewhat near CSA / CN if you're keen to do that - there are also horses on the beach in the morning and early evening, but they've always looked a bit emaciated, so I don't know that I'd recommend them, but if you really want to ride on the beach, that might be an option.

    Regardless of which resort you choose, don't forget to take the Orientation Tour. It is painless, and a good way to quickly get acquainted with all that your resort of choice has to offer.

    We LOVE CSA, but I'm quite sure you won't go wrong regardless of which resort you choose. Just remember to allow "island time" and "sand gravity" the chance to work their magic!!!

  15. #15


    Hi azbiohaz,
    I see from your profile you are traveling from ND, so it will be difficult to arrive early at the resort, so most of your day will be a travel day. An option you might consider if possible, is to leave the afternoon/evening before, stay overnight at an airport hotel in your plane-change airport and then take the first early flight out the next morning in order to arrive early in Jamaica. This way you arrive both early to take advantage of a good portion of the day and also arrive more rested.

    Each of the Couples resorts are a great choice -- we just came back from 8-days at CSS which was absolutely perfect. But we also love CSA and CN on the Negril side. If you are looking for water activities (beach, catamaran, snorkeling), then you may enjoy CSA or CN a little more. As noted earlier, I would not consider trying the scuba course, horseback riding or Dunn River Falls with such a short amount of time (unless that one of these is your #1 priority).

    It sounds like one of your biggest "needs" may be some "us" time. If so would suggest the focus be on "being vs doing". As mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, Jamaica, Couple resorts, are a perfect to just totally relax, go with the flow, maybe get a couples massage, hold hands, enjoy the beauty and vibe of the beach. Whatever you do, am sure it will be a most wonderful and memorable experience. As they say, "once you go, you know". Happy Anniversary...

  16. #16


    Where will you be flying from? I'm sure no matter where someone here can comment on the rhythm of your arrival, i.e. do you arrive at around noon like we do, or do you arrive at 4:30 in the afternoon? Same for departure. I agree with Luvbeaches above. Your first and last days have to figure in the logistics.

    As for resorts, we've only been to CSS of the Couples brand and it is about a 1.5 hour drive. The beaches are nice but can be rough and you will be right in the middle of hurricane season, so consider that as well. We've been to Negril but not CN, but it sounds like that may be more to your liking. Although, that may rule Dunn's River completely out but I personally feel it is a bit overrated and touristy. But some love of it!

    Lots of Jamaica vets on here so ask away!

  17. #17


    To help with your Ocho verse Negril decision...I've been to Swept away and San Souci 2 yrs ago. Negril hands down has a better beach...soft sand in and out of the water...Ocho to me, was more scenic and had a "jungle" feel but the beach isn't as nice...has lots of rocks and stuff in water. I love negril for it's beach and I love Ocho for it's grounds!

  18. #18


    If you go to CSA you can take a trip down 7 mile beach. If Margaritaville is on your bucket list no fear, a 5-10 walk down the beach will take you right there. However, I do consider it to be one of those been there, done that don't need to do it again sort of places. Take the cat cruise and you'll venture by Ricks cafe. It'll stop there for a few minutes so you can see some of what happens there.
    CSA 2010, 2013
    CTI 2015

  19. #19


    The night time "snarklin", has an extra fee and it is not part of the Cat. from Swept Away. You can however snorkel from the Cat. when it stops at the cliffs, but you have to bring your own equip. as you cannot use the resorts. Negril's waters are usually calmer as stated, and that would transfer into better visibility. Snorkeling, fish tacos at Seagrapes, a cold Red Stripe, and a lounger on the beach at Swept Away. Yep... It IS that good!!!

  20. #20


    Thank you again everyone! MrCrabs, we would be flying in from STL, and looks like the flights would arrive either 11:40 or that part seems good, we'd have about a half day. Hurricane season, I know, I know. It's really the bane of our existence, our honeymoon was actually cut in half by a hurricane 10 yrs ago, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about booking in August...but that's what travel insurance is for, right?
    We really appreciate all of the tips and advice, on both sides of the topic, because it's all something to consider!

  21. #21


    I would also book club mobay services. The arrival will let you skip past all potential lines. We used it this year, and even though the lines were short, we were still able to get on an earlier shuttle than we would have if we had not done mobay. The departure will help add a few hours on to your vacation experience, because you will get to sit in a nice quiet private lounge with unlimited drink and food, on comfy chairs and couches.

    As for resort choice, if you have decided to cut down your activities to just snorkeling, I would choose CN. The sealife is much more varied there than on the Ocho side. We saw rays, puffer fish, non stinging jelly fish, squid, and hundreds of other kinds of fish. CSS it was mostly sea urchins, and a few fish. Also, take some bread or cereal with you from breakfast. Keep it in the bag or balled up in your fist, and let a little out at a time. You will have hundreds of fish swarming all around you!

    We also prefer CN over CSA because CSA is just too big, and on e you are off resort, you are in vendor territory. We weren't even abke to walk the whole beach because we couldn't enjoy ourselves with all the vendors trying to get our attention or coming up talking to us. There are only 6 - 12 vendors that walk the negril beach, and they are much more laid back. We even Had a nice conversation with one of them (his name is Juicy).
    Is this Love that I'm feelin'?

    CSS March 2013, April/May 2014, April 2015, April 2016 Soon Come
    CN April 2014

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