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    Default Csa review 12/3 - 12/10 - very long

    Another great trip to Couples Swept Away. This was our fourth trip to CSA and we are already booked for 2010 and 2011. While we had a great time overall and will be returning, we did find a few things that can be improved upon. There isn’t anything major to complain about and nothing that will stop us from coming back, but a few things that would make everything perfect. Please don’t think that we’re two of those hard to please people because we really aren’t. I’m just pointing out some of the things that bothered us on this trip. Sorry for the long review and although it may seem that I’m complaining a bit, we love it at CSA and will keep on returning each year. I figured that people was to hear the bad as well as the good.

    Arrival at airport – Flights were all on time and we arrived at MBJ without incident. Immigration was a breeze as there were no lines when we arrived. We were on a larger plane on the trip from Charlotte to MBJ and getting our luggage took a long time. Normally, our luggage is waiting for us by the time we get through immigration. By the time we got to the Couples Lounge, we barely had time for them to check us off the list and we were immediately put on a bus with others who were on our flight that got there ahead of us. We didn’t have time for a beer or a bathroom break. This was OK with us as we were eager to get to the resort.

    Ride to resort – The ride to Negril was also pretty uneventful. Our bus was full. We had a more boisterous group on the bus than we’ve had in the past so the ride was a little loud and we couldn’t wait to get there. There is some road construction on the way, once we got out of MB, but it didn’t delay us very much and we made good time. It started to rain when we were close to Negril and we hoped that would be the only rain we saw all week but it did rain a few more times off and on.

    Check-in – This is one area that could use some improvement. There were only two people there to check in the 8 couples that arrived on our bus so things went very slowly. I suggest that they separate the repeaters from the new guests so that repeaters can be quickly checked in and on their way without having to sit through the orientation and detailed instructions on how to fill out the paperwork. We’ve always zipped right through check-in in the past so we found the process very slow and frustrating. Cold cloths and champagne were distributed quickly, as usual. Our repeaters gift was ready at check-in, along with our repeaters gift certificates and $500 bonuses. We were given 2 XL men’s t-shirts for our repeater’s gift, which is not what I asked for, but I didn’t bother to have them exchanged. We left them behind when we left.

    Room accommodations – We were promptly shown to our room once check-in was complete, a first-floor corner room which I had requested (Room 4104). We stayed in the newest verandah suites so we were surprised at the condition of several aspects of the room. The cabinetry that houses the minibar and the closet/shelving area could use some updating or replacement. We had problems with drawers sticking and one drawer that we pulled out could not be put back in again. Our bathroom door rubbed on the bottom in two places on the bathroom floor and made a horrible screeching sound when the door was opened. We did not complain about it to anyone as it could not be easily fixed. Not a deal breaker, but annoying in the middle of the night when we were sleeping. The new flat-screen TV is nice, however they installed it on the wall over the cabinetry that once housed the old TV so it was hard to change the channel when lying in bed as the cabinet got in the way. The cabinet that housed the TV now holds the mini-bar items (liquor, ice bucket, glasses). No issues with cleanliness throughout our stay. Loved the new magnifying mirror in the bathroom. Still love the bed at Couples. We find it the best hotel bed we’ve ever slept in.

    Restaurants – We ate at the Palms (5 times) and Patois Patio (2 times) as well as the two beach grills for snacks. We were quite happy to see that service was as good as the food this year. We had some serious issues with service last year where drink orders were taken by 3 different people but were never delivered and entrees were delivered to wrong tables. Service this year was spot on perfect. The food was great, the staff was excellent, keeping water and wine glasses full. One comment is on the menu selections. We found that the exact same food was served on the exact same night as it was last year. On our last night, we took one look at the menus for that night and knew immediately where we wanted to eat because we had eaten the food last year. I understand that it is really hard to feed so many people night after night and week after week but would have thought the menu would have changed in a year’s time. But I guess if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right!!! Breakfast was always great. We mostly ate the buffet at the Palms. Never made it lunch at all as we ate large breakfasts in mid-morning and were just not hungry at lunchtime.

    Room Service - Beyond the menu, the only complaint I have is about the room service continental breakfast. On previous trips, we enjoyed eating breakfast on our verandah almost every day. We only ordered it once this year as we were at the gym early and didn’t know what time we would end up eating. Unfortunately, the one time we ordered it was the morning of our vow renewal when I had a 9 AM appointment at the salon. We ordered breakfast for 7 – 7:30 AM. It showed up at 8:50, long after I had to leave the room. We received a call at 8:15 saying they were running late and I ended up running to the Palms to gulp down a cup of coffee and a few pastries before heading to the salon. Not the way I wanted to spend the morning of the ceremony.

    Bars – Had great service and great drink quality at all the bars. They certainly do not skimp on the drinks at Couples. Love the bar service on the beach. They started bringing drinks around at 10 AM, followed by delivery of the green flags, fresh fruit and cold towels. Green flag service was great. I did not see anyone get impatient about waiting for drinks.

    Beach – CSA has one of the best beaches!!! Plenty of open space for everyone. It never felt crowded on the beach despite the fact that the resort was completely booked. I do have to mention the early risers who hoard the palapa every day. We sat in the same spot every day and laughed about one couple who grabbed the palapa near us early every day and then gathered 4 – 6 lounge chairs for their friends who tried to all crowd under it. We were more upset with those who claimed the palapas by putting their towels and belongings there and then never showed up all day. Don’t quite understand the purpose of that. There is more than enough shade under the trees for everyone.

    Spa/Salon – We had the $350 spa credit this year and ended up going home with a large balance left, unfortunately. My husband had a deep tissue massage after the 10K race on Dec 5th, and I had my hair done for our vow renewal. We also had our 30-minute couples’ massage so we never got around to spending the balance. My husband loved the massage he got. The couples’ massage was my first massage and probably the last. They did a good job and the spa is very relaxing and impressive, but I’m just not that big into the whole spa experience.

    Gift shop – We also had a $150 gift shop credit and a $50 repeaters gift shop credit. We were hard-pressed to spend the money and ended up buying more t-shirts and souvenirs that we would have otherwise, just to use it up.

    Wedding services – As mentioned, we did a vow renewal for our 25th anniversary on this trip. Overall, it was a great experience. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and the ceremony was on Monday. By Friday afternoon, I was getting concerned that I had not heard from the wedding coordinator yet for our appointment so I made my own spa appointment for Monday and had to stop by at the wedding office to find out what was going on. They seemed a little offended that I barged in to ask the simple question of when we were meeting, but I didn’t know what to expect and there was nothing included in the package we received at check-in. We met on Sunday morning to finalize the arrangements. We had a very small, low-key ceremony (just the two of us) so we didn’t upgrade anything or have any special requests. The wedding coordinator came by our room just before the ceremony to walk us to the gazebo. They found two witnesses for us (the photographer and someone from the entertainment staff) as we were on our own. The ceremony went off without a hitch. We had the vanilla cake with our champagne. We purchased the 24 picture package from the resort photographer and they did a really nice job. He was knowledgeable of what poses most couples want but was open to anything we wanted to do. We chose our pictures on Monday afternoon and the album was done on Tuesday afternoon. I expected just a small album, as the pictures were 3 x 5 but the package came with a really nice large-sized album and a disc with electronic pictures on it for additional copies. We’re very happy with the wedding experience. We were able to witness several weddings during the week we were there which is always nice to keep the romantic vibe going.

    Large groups – This has been a topic on the message board lately so I thought I’d comment on it. During last year’s trip, we were disturbed several times during the middle of the night by large groups yelling outside our room. This year, we were not disturbed that way, but we were impacted by several large groups who were there for weddings. At several mealtimes, we had to wait to be seated or had to sit next to large groups (12 or more). This put a damper on the quiet intimate atmosphere of Couples and took away from service as many servers had to devote their attention to serving the large groups. On the beach, these large groups got rather loud as they gathered lounge chairs into a circle and had to talk over each other to communicate. I understand Couples’ need to encourage these groups to keep the rooms filled, but it does distract from the intimate atmosphere that we enjoyed in the past as CSA.

    Housekeeping – Overall, housekeeping did a great job of keeping the room clean. The only issue I have with them is that they didn’t keep the same cleaning schedule each day. On our first day, they were there at 8:45 to clean the room. The next day, they didn’t get to our room until 4:00. As a couple who spends the mornings on the beach and the afternoons in the room (due to the heat), this was an inconvenience at times. We never took advantage of the turndown service provided as they showed up at 6:00 when we hadn’t even left the room for dinner yet.

    Check-out – Check out went smoothly. We received notice the day before we left about what time we had to have our bags packed and outside the door and what time the shuttle was leaving. We had a 3:30 flight and left the resort at 11:00. There was a bit of a scramble at the time of departure as the buses (there were a lot of people leaving at 11) arrived before the luggage had been brought up. Next year, I’ll be sure to take advantage of the early checkout the night before to speed the process along. It took a bit of time to get our resort credits applied to our account so we could settle up. We received our repeaters snack bag for the trip which we never got last year. Nice touch.

    Return trip – The ride to the airport was again uneventful except for the road construction. We had a great driver who made the trip enjoyable. We breezed through check-in and security within minutes and had plenty of time to shop. Bought duty-free rum this trip (first time) and got a great deal. We bought two 1.75L bottles of Appleton Estate (and they came in plastic bottles!!) for a lot less than it costs here at home. Here a 750ML bottle of Estate costs about $22 and we bought 1.75L bottles for the same amount. We managed to make room in our suitcase to pack it once we got to Charlotte and it arrived home safely.

    In conclusion, we had a great time at CSA this year and will be back. We look forward to our vacation every year with the same anticipation that many feel about Christmas. Just a few small tweaks here and there and our perfect vacation would be even better.
    Last edited by tammye; December 14th, 2009 at 06:51 AM.

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