Trip Report - Couples Negril 1/19 - 1/25/2003

Jan 28th, 2003, 09:40 AM
  #1  
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Trip Report - Couples Negril 1/19 - 1/25/2003

My husband and I (32, no children) just returned from 6 nights at Couples Negril -- our first all-inclusive vacation and really our first beach vacation in 6 years. Usually, we're not good at sitting on the beach type vacations, and usually take busy trips to Europe or touring a few U.S. cities. Out last big trip was 10 nights in France -- 5 in the Loire and 5 in Paris (our third trip there).

I was pretty nervous about how we would be at an all-inclusive, and imagined that we'd get bored just sitting on the beach. But we were able to get pretty last minute frequent-flier tickets and the weather here was awful -- so off we went!

Overall, I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed it. We really WERE able to fill our days by sitting on the beach, sailing, reading, eating, and enjoying tropical drinks. And Couples Negril -- while not perfect -- seemed like a pretty great place to do it.

I'll add some general thoughts in the next post and am happy to answer any questions!
K_in_DC is offline  
Jan 28th, 2003, 09:52 AM
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I would be interested to hear more. What was the standard of restaurants like? What about the bedrooms? I have heard so many bad reports about Sandals that I have wondered about Couples hotels.
fiona is offline  
Jan 28th, 2003, 10:01 AM
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Flights -- we took American from DCA to Montego Bay, changing planes in Miami both ways. All flights were uneventful, but one of our 2 checked bags didn't make it to Jamaica as fast as we did. We ended up getting the bag around 11 p.m. on Monday night (we arrived at about 2 p.m. Sunday), so it wasn't a tragedy. But it was our first experience with the laid back Jamaican attitude -- we were never really sure WHERE our bag was or IF all the bags were off the plane or WHEN it was coming, but it did get there and that's really all that matters.

Transfers -- we did the transfer by shuttle and not a tiny little plane. Each trip was only about 1 hr and 15 minutes , but both ways we were travelling on a weekend.

Room -- we had booked a "deluxe garden view" but were told that we were "upgraded" on arrival. I guess it must have been to an ocean view (we were in room 5301), because we did have a pretty clear view. I guess I had hoped for a room that was a bit more luxurious. It was fine, but not special in any way (is thei typical of beach resorts because of sand, water, etc.?). The bathroom could definitely have used a little freshening and we were up 2 flights of stairs (fine for us, but perhaps not for others). One slight annoyance -- you were issued 2 beach towels and could trade them in for new ones but you could never get more than two. You also had to turn in your towels at the beach the day you left and get a "towel receipt" or they would charge you $15 for each. Seemed strange.

Food: Big breakfast buffet in the main restaurant was the only option (other than room service). It was good, pretty typical of a hotel buffet with added Jamaican specialties. The made to order smoothies were a nice touch, but the quality of the food was not as good as, let's say, the Paris Las Vegas breakfast (I am not a Las Vegas person or a breackfast lover, but it is really good!).

For lunch there were 2 options -- a beach grill that served hamburgers, Jamaican jerk patties, etc. OR a buffet in the main restaurant. Usually, we did the buffet, and the quality varied. Some items were actually VERY good -- and it seemed the simpler (grilled fish, roasted corn, etc.) the better. About half the time, the buffets were themed (Asian, Mexican, Jamaican).

At dinner, the beach grill turned into a casual Italian restaurant. We ate there once, and I was not impressed. Two nights we went to their "fancy" reservations only restaurant. The entrees and desserts were generally very good and the service was friendly -- just a bit "Jamaican relaxed." The other nights, we went back to the main restaurant where you sometimes ordered from a menu and sometimes reverted to a buffet.

a little more to come . . .
K_in_DC is offline  
Jan 28th, 2003, 10:17 AM
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Other Facilities -- the lobby and restaurants were quite pretty, and the beach was wonderful. Incredibly soft sand, shady palm trees, hammocks, plenty of chairs, and very shallow, calm water. If you wanted a prime spot by the pool, or a float at the beach, you had to get there pretty early (by my standards on vacation, about 8:30). Many people draped towels to claim early in the day. It would be nice if there was a bathroom closer to the beach, but maybe that's a zoning thing. The hot tubs were always packed with people, often smoking, drinking and eating. Kind of gross, or maybe I'm sensitive!

Excursions -- we only did 2, the catamaran trip and the shopping to Negril. The sailing was great, the shopping awful! The shopping trip had three stops, the first a store in downtown Negril where you were supposed to spend 45 minutes and I couldn't spend 5. The second stop was at the craft market -- which was somewhat light on crafts and essentially the same stall repeated 25 times. The last stop was at a small group of typical Caribbean duty free stores (perfume, jewelry, watches). If you have something in mind, it might be worth a trip. And if you want to skip the first 2 painful stops on the excursion, you can take a cab there (which is $30 roundtrip, while the excursion is free).

Overall -- I don't think we got our money out of the "all inclusiveness", we just don't drink enough. But it was wonderful to go grab a couple of Pina Coladas whenever you wanted and not worry about the cost. And in that way, it was the most hassle-free, stressless vacation I've ever had. I definitely recommend taking the hobie cat sailing lessons early in your stay -- really easy and so much fun. Also, we often followed the suggestion of others and requested blender made drinks instead of the slurpee-like concoctions that came out of the machines at some bars -- so much better. We had a GREAT trip, beautiful weather, and would definitely do it again if we were in the mood for a lzy, sit on the beach, relaxation trip. If the rooms were just a little bit nicer it would have been about perfect!
K_in_DC is offline  
Jan 28th, 2003, 10:29 AM
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K
thanks for the informative post!
fiona is offline  
Feb 6th, 2003, 08:36 AM
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Great trip report! I am planning a trip to Couples in Dec, probably the "Double Take" program. But trying to decide if that will give me enuf time at each resort, or if I should just decide on one or the other. Were the activities offered on a daily basis, or just 2-3 times a week? Was the watersports equipment in good shape (have seen posts saying it's not)? Was it any problem making reservations for the "fancy" restaurant, and was it really that much nicer? I'm also curious, if you don't mind, did you pay the rack rate or get the "Early Booking Bonus"? When you say you don't think you got your money's worth, it's hard to know what that means without having an idea of what you paid. We are not big drinkers either, and have really struggled with whether it would be more cost-effective to do "ala carte" rather than AI. But with the discount, AI seems to be the better deal when you take activities and off site tours into account. Thanks again for all the information. It has been very helpful!
dtsusan is offline  
Feb 6th, 2003, 09:18 AM
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Glad to help!

We paid about $2,000 for 6 nights (for both of us). It was something like $335 a night. I'm actually still not sure if we would have spent that much at a comparable resort for drinks, meals, watersports, etc. We very well may have, but definitely would have come closer if we'd had a few more drinks every day. No early booking bonus for us as we only booked about 3 weeks before the trip.

For watersports, we only used the Hobie Cats, which were in great shape. The kayaks, etc. seemed to be too. Surprisingly, we never went on the snorkeling trips, even though we really like to snorkle. They offered lessons for sailing, windsurfing, and skiing every day, and once you had the lessons you could just check the equiptment out (except for the ski boat I assume). Once when we wanted to sail, all the boats were out (they don't limit your time), but we just came back in about an hour. Catamaran trips were scheduled for 4 or 5 days out of the week.

I believe you could make reservations for the restaurant up to three days in advance. While we were there, you could never get reservations for the same night, or the following day, but had to reserve 2 days ahead. I would just make reservations for a couple of nights as soon as you get there -- you can always cancel. It wasn't really THAT much better than the meals served in the main restaurant when you ordered off a menu, but I think it was better than the dinner buffets. I'd try to time your reservations for buffet nights unless you're really intersted in a specific buffet. The "nice" restaurant was also the only place I say lobster served (one of the 2 nights we ate there, although neither of us had it).

Even though I'm not sure how the finances worked out, I really enjoyed never having to worry about how much things cost. I remember sitting on a beautiful beach in Bermuda and having lovely tropical drinks and gasping when the bill for 2 drinks was $25. It was still worth it, but it was great on this vacation never to have to worry about it. I'd say try the AI thing once to see if it's for you.
K_in_DC is offline  
Feb 7th, 2003, 05:21 AM
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Thanks K! You have been so helpful! I am looking forward to a super trip.
dtsusan is offline  
May 18th, 2003, 06:33 PM
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Thanks for the report, K in DC. You & I are quite different in some respects and the same in others.....i.e. worrying about getting our money's worth.

How time consuming was the Hobie Cat instruction...any particular places to go with it?

You mention timing your fine dining reservations to coincide with the buffet at the main dining room. Do they post these "menus" or how dinner will be served somewhere? Thanks.
atticus is offline  
May 19th, 2003, 09:45 AM
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The hobie cat instruction was minimal -- the actualy length will depend on how many people are in your group. Basically, one of the water sports people talks to you for about 10 or 15 minutes, then he makes each couple sail out for about 2 minutes, turn the boat around, and sail back. Then they give your the boat!

In your room, there will be a wooden binder with information about the resort. If you read it closely, it will tell you what the buffet nigths are. Otherwise, just ask the staff. I found the buffets not particularly good -- althoug they are scenic out by the pool -- but others may disagree.

Have a great time!
K_in_DC is offline  
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