Repeaters are catered to while first timers are left to figure it all out.
Oct 21, 2021
I want to begin with the caveat that we travelled with friends who wanted to try a resort in Ocho Rios and they selected the resort, but they did not do much research prior to selection. I likely would not have selected the resort based on the au natural nature of the resort(I am far from a prude, just not interested in it), nor the limited number of restaurants. Our stay was for one week from 10/8/21-10/15/21. We arrived at the resort about 4:00pm. Overall our experience was fair. I am not certain if it is a normal experience or a covid related experience. Based on what we paid and my experience I am not clamoring to go back. It does appear that the resort is filled with regulars who come for the au natural experience and they seem to be catered to more than first time visitors. Here is my comprehensive review:
About a 2 hour ride from the airport to the resort, with a pit stop. Bus ride was fine.
When we arrived, the ladies were directed to go in to start the check in process while we stayed out to verify our bags. Upon entering the lobby we were greeted with a cool towel and glass of sparkling wine. The check-in process was relatively smooth but in hindsight there could have been much more communication. We were given a directory/map of the resort, a paper with the restaurant meal times and dress code for each day and a paper with our covid test date/time. We were driven to our building which was A and the bellhop escorted us to our room. the bellhop was friendly, but I don't recall much discussion about the room or resort from the bellhop. There was no mini-bar card in the room but he just blew it off and said we'll get one.
Where more communication could be helpful. More communication about the restaurants/ bars as to what is closed and hours open. It would have been nice to know that we could get shuttled back to the lobby if needed. A menu for room service would be nice. nice to know the only way to get ice is from room service. A little better explanation of the mini bar. information about what excursions are available.
Our room was A13. The furthest room on the resort from the lobby (with the exception of the one above us) The rooms are very dated. a fresh coat of paint; sealing of cracks in walls and doorways; fix the significant gaps in the entry door and the balcony doors. Light and noise easily travelled in the entry door as we could hear every person that walked by. The balcony doors were the same and friendly lizards decided to visit the room often by making their way under the door.
The AC was set on 16 Celsius when we arrived. Assuming it was a fine temperature since the bellhop said nothing, I didn't bother to convert it to Fahrenheit to know the temperature. In the middle of the night there was a puddle on the floor and the AC was making noise. I decided to do the conversion to determine it was way to cold and likely frozen up. I turned off the AC to let it thaw out; used a bath towel the next day to continue cleaning up the puddles and then set the temperature to more normal condition and then it worked fine for the rest of the stay.
The bed was more than comfortable.
The shower floor is interesting in that the stones used are not flat. some are protruding and can be hurtful if you step on them the wrong way.
If I moved the lever on the left sink from solely hot water to cold water, the water came out brown for a while. while the water in Jamaica is supposed to be safe to consume, I was not comfortable using it for brushing my teeth and used bottled water.
The 2 closets had motion activated lights. The light kept coming on at different times during the night. It was annoying to the point i had to cover the sensors and lights to avoid the lights being triggered. Every now and again they cam on after but it seemed to be triggered by vibrations from the floor above.
The mini-bar - what a fiasco from the very beginning. when we arrived, the mini-bar was stocked with 2 cokes and a ginger-ale. there was a bottle of sparkling wine/fruit tray and a card that was meant for another room. Remember- the bellhop said nothing about it other than we did not have a mini-bar card for restock, but when we do they will come around beginning at 1:00am to collect the cards. I called up to the lobby for a mini-bar card shortly after the bellhop left. we went out for a while but no cards delivered so i walked up to the lobby before dinner to ask for a card. they could not give me one but stated one will be delivered. After dinner and drinks back to the room and still no card. I walked back up to the lobby to inform, still no card could be given to me, but when I returned, cards were now left on the door. I fill out a card to stock the mini-bar. We ordered 4 bottles of liquor (no idea that FULL bottles of liquor would be delivered) 2 beers, 4 waters and a few mixers. Apparently they give you only the mixers they have and not what you ask for, because every time we ordered them they were never what we asked.The card was put out before 1:00am as we were told. Woke up for breakfast, mini-bar card still there while other cards in building A were already picked up. Thus another walk up to the lobby to ask about pickup. Finally we received our mini-bar items. It was interesting that 2 of the 4 bottles were not sealed shut, it is as if the bottles were previously used or refilled. Seems risky to me!
Our maid Sandy was very friendly and attentive. We really like her.
The grounds were pretty but lots of stairs to get to the lobby, balloon bar, martini bar, etc.
Main pool/pool bar:
Main pool was fine. Never crowded. Always had chairs with an umbrella. The bar opens at 10:00am. Not sure why as they rarely had beer or other liquor available. Restocking did not occur until 11:00am. The bar should be fully stocked and ready before opening. People were bringing liquor in water bottles and beer from their room until the bar was stocked. I also got the sense that the repeaters received preferential treatment from the bartenders. Or maybe it was because they were tipping in a no tip resort(can’t confirm the latter). The availability of liquor was inconsistent at the bars. Some days Jack Daniels(by the way this is not Bourbon as you state) was available, other days Jim Beam. It is my suspicion that the liquor bottles are watered down because I am a bourbon drinker, could rarely taste the bourbon in a drink and felt nothing.
One night from the balcony, I observed 6 individuals disrobe and skinny dip in the pool. Then shortly thereafter another couple that was sitting in chairs decided to do the same. I mean really - do they not have their own pool for all of that?
Beach was fine. Beach area is not very deep. The watersports were fun to do as we did standup paddleboards and kayaks.
Similar experience to the pool bar. It was very frustrating that on Jamaican night and the disco party thereafter, the bar ran out of beer about 9:00pm. There was no intent on refilling it so we left at 9:30 back to the room.
Best experience. The martini’s were good.
Name should be changed as there were no balloons in the bar like there apparently used to be. Drinks were fine. Bartender was hustling on pianokaraoke night.
Not open - which by the way the pool by that bar has a great sundeck and view. Too bad the bar was never open and no one used the pool.
Au Naturale Beach/pool/Bar:
We walked over before the au natural time. The beach is very nice and beach area is wide and deep with calm waters. Best beach on the resort. Too bad you have to be naked to use it. We walked over after au natural hourst to catch a sunset. Still naked people over there after hours.
Never used the pool or bar over there.
Breakfast - buffet and made to order food was all good. Carol the cook was the friendliest of all! The servers were hit and miss. They were slow to bring water/coffee and rarely checked back for refills. They seemed more intent on cleaning up and talking to each other than to serve.
Lunch - good choices and salad bar was good. Relatively same experience as breakfast with the exception of the day we sat next to the table where the resort GM was sitting. Service was great that day.
Dinner - good choices - relatively same service.
We had dinner here 2 times. The experiences were quite different. The first we received great service as the server was very friendly and attentive and constantly ensured we had sufficient drinks. The second time was poor and we were surprised because once again we were sitting next to the table where the resort GM was sitting(maybe his large table was getting significant service). The server was not friendly nor attentive. Never came back to ask if we needed drink refills and a number of times had to go downstairs ourselves to get beer.
The food was all good!
Dinner - good food and decent service
Lunch - for some reason we did not there was lunch with burgers/hot dogs/pizza until we asked. I think it was because there was never a lunch menu for here outside of Pallazina at breakfast like there was for lunch and dinners at the restaurants. Lunch was always good with decent service.
Sunset beach grill
Never attended but was frustrated after a few days as they seemed to have the things we wanted for lunch until we learned we could get the items at Bella Vista.
I attempted to go one night after about 11:15pm. There was no one around to even order anything, so I just went back to my room.
Jamaican night dinner
Food was good with a good variety. Once again service was lacking as the server rarely asked if we needed drink refills. Luckily we were the table closest to the bar.
All was enjoyable. One night there was a raffle of some sort. The host asked whoever still had their tickets to turn them in. He never asked who did not receive a ticket. We never received a ticket but had no opportunity to voice that.
The only excursion offered to us was Dunn river falls. We did the excursion and enjoyed it. The only problem was when we arrived, there was an incorrect headcount of participants so we had to wait at least 30 minutes in the blazing sun while the issue was sorted out. Leaving through the market is abominable as you are harassed by vendors as you try to find the way through to the exit.
Excellent stay! Will come back!
Oct 04, 2021
Couples Sans Souci is a bit more quiet and laid back than we anticipated, but we still had an excellent time. Trip was Sept 14-21, and it seemed a bit empty, but that certainly wasn't a bad thing. The food was great around the board. Carol makes a mean omelet, and was always a pleasure (beautiful voice too.) The service for all the meals was great, as was bar service. Alphonso, Andre, and Glendon kept us pretty well tipsy most of the time, and all of them make a good drink. Great conversation too. Really I can't say enough about them. The location is great, pools are very nice, hot tubs are gorgeous, and the beach was kept pristine . Cant wait to come back.
Honeymoon at Couples San Souci
Oct 04, 2021
I spent months planning our honeymoon, I wanted everything to be perfect. I researched different all inclusive resorts and kept coming back to Couples. I finally booked Couples San Souci. When we first arrived we were so disappointed, we wanted to leave. After going to the front desk and getting a bad attitude and an eye roll from the lady working. We were kind of stuck there and just decided to make the best of it. The first few days were fine, but we were ready to leave after that. The property is so beautiful and some of the staff were amazing but that’s all this resort has going for it. It’s extremely outdated. We stayed in the beachfront suites, the most recently updated. They weren’t that nice and not what I was expecting. I don’t really care about the room because we aren’t in it that much during the day, but at night there is nothing going on, so you are stuck in the room. Also there was a cockroach in our room and so many ants on the bathroom counter you couldn’t even set anything on it without ants getting on everything. The mini bar in our room only got restocked once. I went to the front desk about it and they said I need to fill out a card to request drinks. They hadn’t put one on our door for three days. All I wanted was some bottles of water. The lack of variety of food was also disappointing. There’s three restaurants and they all have the same food. My husband and I both got food poisoning while staying here, had the worst stomach pain of my life. My husband had to stay in our room for two days. One night we didn’t realize Bella Vista was closed so we went to Palazzina, even though we didn’t have reservations they still sat us. Some other people did the same thing. I guess we had to wait until everyone with reservations was served. We waited three hours for our food, which is fine we weren’t in a hurry but they still brought me the wrong entree. The breakfast and lunch were the same everyday. All of the bars were pretty nice. We really liked the swim up bar by our room, but they don’t serve premium liquor just bottom shelf. The veggie bar is also closed. I completely understand times are tough right and it’s hard to get supplies and being short staffed, but it seems like everything you pay for at the resort you don’t get. Overall we had a nice honeymoon and enjoyed spending time together, but I wouldn’t return to this resort.
We found service inconsistent and their processes hit and miss.
Oct 03, 2021
Aug 29 – September 5th
Check-in was good
We were the only guests arriving on the shuttle. Check-in was quick. They request a credit card imprint. Near as we can tell the whole resort is cashless. Any purchases made go on the card in US Dollars. If you have a US Dollar card, I, would recommend using it. Something to be aware of when you go to check-out is you will be asked if you will consider making a donation to the ISSA Trust Foundation. Knowing in advance will give you an opportunity to consider whether you want to support this organization and by how much. I did not see any of the ISSA Foundation Swag for sale at the resort, though. Your arrival package will contain a map, list of activities and times. However, one thing missing is mention of what days and times the various restaurants and bars are open. The map reflects a view of the resort from some point over the water in front of the resort. As a result, a significant amount of the Path system is not visible. This is unfortunate given the number of stairs on the property and amount of walking required to get around.
They really need a binder in the room to explain when restaurants are open as various ones are closed on certain days. They should also use it to explain the rules regarding the mini bar bottle system. Include a more detailed map. I would also recommend the installation of “you are here" maps, which detail all paths and stairs from a full overhead point of view. I believe these could be placed in ground exit area of buildings without impacting the visual beauty of the property. Another alternative would be the use of an internal broadcast TV channel that would play an information loop on the TV. I have seen this at resorts where your TV always starts on an internal channel. This could also be available in the Couples App. Note that this resort is built on the side of a cliff. There are a lot of steps to climb to go to or come back from most places. Buildings B and A probably offer the least amount of climbing involved to get to most places in the resort. We heard about a Sunset Catamaran cruise on the Facebook page, however, did not see any information about that in the resort. We did not pursue it either.
In-room mini bar
When we arrived, there were no In-room mini bar order cards in our room. We called front desk to enquire about them and asked for a bottle of wine on Tuesday. We were told someone would be there in about half an hour. We were not sure whether it would be with a card or a bottle. Neither arrived until the next day (Wednesday) when we got a card. Which would get us our request the following day. We requested a bottle of red wine, rum, and orange juice. The next day (Thursday) we got the red wine and orange juice. That day (Thursday) we filled in another card for red wine and the missing bottle of rum. The next day (Friday) we got the rum and another bottle of juice, but no red wine. At that point we just kind of gave up. There is no indication of a limit to ordering on the card, and no one contacted us to explain what if anything the issue was. We were told that Order Card had to be hung on our door by 1 AM. Ours always were hung on the door handle by about 6 PM. Our Thursday card was still on our door when we went for breakfast Friday morning. I don’t know if there is a broken process, no process at all or even what the rules are.
Our room was a decent size. Air conditioning worked well. Water pressure was acceptable; however, water temperature only got a little above warm. It was fine for a week. The shower had dispensers for body wash and shampoo. There was also a dispenser for skin cream. I know that some renovations happened and where planned, however, our room looked a little worn. Some paint was pealing, probably from humidity. There is lots of storage in the room. One of the things that I thought was a good add and have not seen at any other resort was the in-room safe had a light built into the door that illuminated the safe interior for a few seconds when the safe was opened. It was not enough to make us change our recommendation about bringing a flashlight and using that to double check you have everything out of the safe, but it was very helpful if you open the safe to grab an item. The room has a flat screen tv, with Canadian and American news channels. There was a nice sized balcony on our room with some view of the ocean. It was not completely private, however reasonably so. Our shower had a few missing tiles. It was a great sized shower. It had a window in the shower, with a blind. But on the second floor the blind was not necessary. While the housekeeping staff did a great job keeping our room clean, they didn't remove the loose tiles all week.
Washrooms are placed strangely here, in our opinion
On the main beach the washroom is down by the dive shop/water sports. Not at the main beach bar and grill, which is an evening restaurant. Or the main stage. In fairness the distance is not terribly far, however, it is not a straight walk either on the paths. It is a further walk from Palazzina. Up at Casanova and Martini Bar you go to the Games room or the Balloon Bar. No restaurant that we are aware of, has an internal washroom. The only washroom that seems logically placed is the sunset beach one which is near the grill and bar and pool.
There is a speed bump and curb near the entrance to the washrooms near the Dive office. Both cross the walking path to and from the washrooms and would seem to serve no purpose. However, increase the risk of tripping someone in the evening. Particularly if you might be wearing High heels.
If you don't like runny scrambled eggs make sure you go to the omlete station. There is only one station and at sometimes it can get busy. Casanova served 3 out of 4 great dishes. I had BBQed Boubon chicken that was very over cooked. The beef tenderloin there was very good, very tender and cooked to perfection. They did a catch of the day well too.
Palazzina, I had a striploin that probably started out an uneven ¾ inch thick. It was nicely chard, but cooked a couple minutes past well, when the request was medium rare. On our last evening we had the chicken cordon bleu. It was very nicely done, tender and juicy. We had lunch here a couple times and it was ok. Breakfast was a challenge to get coffee. Even with few guests there seemed to be a disconnect with staff. Some were very good, many seemed in slow motion.
Bella Vista Grill, lobster dinner was good, however, there was only one small lobster tail. Grill lunch service was uneven. One day there seemed to be a lot of confusion between the three servers out front and the two-line cooks behind the counter. Many plates would line up for service but not go out as they kept looking back at the order sheet and debate whether things were correct. Even though the bar was right there, often lunch beverages took a while. One evening we sat at this bar and watched the lone bartender spend more time answering texts than serving customers. He saw that we were watching him at one point and said his 13 year son was always texting him.
Ristorante Casanova, we had the Beef Tenderloin here one night and the cook was perfect. Beef was very tender. I think we had the best service overall at Casanova.
They seem to have a lot of In-Room dining. We did not have any meals in our room, so can’t comment on the service. However, it seems that they have no process to reasonably quickly pick up or “hide away" used dishes. Which can sit out in hallways for hours. I don’t know who is tasked with the pick up run for dirty dishes, they would eventually disappear. I know they would sit out while housekeeping was working in the building. Glasses from the bar too. There was a Fruit plate which sat in the same spot in building D from mid-day to sometime around mid-day the next day. I was surprised that critters did not seem to get into it as it was only covered with clear wrap. A simple solution would be to have an enclosure to place dirty dishes and glasses into on the ground floor of each building. Have the housekeeping staff put the dishes in it, out of sight, and do a sweep at 10 AM, 2 PM and maybe 10 PM. The 10 PM sweep would have to be door to door, given that Housekeeping would be done for the day.
On our first evening we enquired about which dishes on the menu would be gluten free. For us, eating a gluten reduced diet is a preference. We were informed by our server that there really were not any gluten free options. Certainly, none were indicated on any of the menus. There are some dishes and options that you could reasonably assume would not have high levels of gluten.
Main Beach is the best for getting in the water. It is not a long beach, you could walk it’s length in 5 minutes. In low season, there are lots of chairs and quite a bit of shade. Chairs were also separated into clusters of two to maintain physical spacing. The Main Beach bar is centrally located. The closest washroom is down near the Dive Office. Inside the marked off area it probably only gets about 3 feet deep.
Sunset Beach water is very rocky. If you prefer swimming in the ocean water shoes are strongly recommended. However, the combination of rocky bottom and shallow depth, really limits this beach. Again, my guess is that it would be no more than 3 feet deep. Many use the float mats provided to float. The beach itself is nice. The Sunset Beach pool is the best place to get wet and has a swim up bar. The lunch at the Sunset Beach snack bar is our preferred lunch. It has generally been better than the Grill.
The boat is a Newton dive boat. Dive boat entry requires some upper body strength at shore. There is a small boarding platform on the right rear. The boat is tied in about 2 feet of water. There is a railing on the right side, however little to grab on to on the left. If you are reasonably fit, it is no problem, and I did see the crew helping some folks get on. The ladder cannot be used in shore due to the water depth. The ladder also only has a grab rail on one side of the boarding ladder at the end of the dive. The captain of the day helps you up by hauling on the tank valve. Dive sites are nice, lots of fish and new growth. Dive team very good. The Dive operation is PADI affiliated, however accept several recognized certifications. They also offer instruction and while I did not take a course, I dove with a couple people who were, and they indicated that they were very happy with the instruction.
The Couples app did not work when we attempted to book dinner reservations. The person we spoke to at the Front Desk seemed to acknowledge there was a problem and while waiting for our PCR test other guests mentioned that they could not get it to work. We loaded it, however found it useless. Full disclosure, on vacation we don't carry our phones around a lot.
We were told that there was 55% occupancy, I believe that it was somewhere between 33% And 50%. The resort has 150 rooms, so my estimate is between 100 and 150 guests, and I am leaning toward the number being closer to 100, based on observations around the beaches, pools, restaurants, and evening entertainment. The consequence of that is they probably have fewer staff in. It seemed to be that the further you got away from the front lobby, the less dedicated staff were about wearing their mask properly, or ensuring guests did. On the plus side, while all restaurants had signage to say masks were mandatory, most were open air. The exception being part of Casanova, part of Palazzina and the Balloon Bar. Management should, in my opinion, re-enforce the importance of making sure the rules are followed so another shut down does not happen. Also, it should be mentioned that there was decent separation between tables and seats in restaurants and bars.
There are lots of stairs and at night the lighting on them seems to be spaced too far apart and dim for safety. Even some reflective tape at the top of the riser would be helpful.
Our Housekeeper requested that the toilet seat be tightened and informed us someone be there that day. It was not fixed 4 days later when we left. However, one day we had an issue with the in-room safe not opening and someone was there in 15 minutes.
The Couples Lounge at Mo Bay Airport only had Beer and Water to offer. The concept is nice, however in my opinion expanding the options to include at least a white and red wine and some basic liquor options should be considered. Particularly when the transfer is at least an hour and a half.
Couples handles the need to be tested for Covid prior to returning to Canada, USA and UK, very well. When you check-in the set up your appointment. We received our results via email within about 30 hours. The test was done on-site and was very organized. A real plus for traveling at this time.
We have decided that we would like to return in a while, after things normalize more after Covid. We were using Sandals and Excellence as our point of comparison and feel that this soon after the industry reopened may be too soon.
Couples San Souci sept/oct trip
(Charlotte, North Carolina)
Oct 02, 2021
My wife and I just spent a week at Couples San Souci.
I’ll break it out into the good and bad.
Room - this was outstanding (Jamaica outstanding they still fail to compare to some of the ones in the Yucatán) . We were in B19 with a very large room and a great view. Initially we wanted to be on the cliffs and expressed that. They allowed us to view both rooms and choose the one we liked more as they were offering us a free upgrade.
Activities - we only partook in scuba diving, shopping excursion, and trading places with tower isle. . Scuba was awesome, and checking out tower isle was nice. I’ll elaborate more on the shopping under the bad. They have enough stuff to do to keep you busy if you’d like. Subs, snorkeling, sailing, etc. All included.
Pools - perfect temperature and all of them were nice.
The beaches were beautiful, but a little rocky.
We checked out SSB and this is the place of you want to dip your toes into natural sunbathing. It’s quiet and calm and if you didn’t want to be bothered you could easily seclude yourself.
Martini bar - best bar experience we had here as the bartender was amazing each night.
The ambiance of the resort is unparalleled to anywhere I’ve ever been. You feel like you’re immersed in nature. Add in feeding crackers, turtles, and the ducks it really sets a mood. There’s views on every turn and really creates an intimate place. This is probably the sole reason we’d return.
Food choices: due to low occupancy there was only one dining option for us each night. We had Casanova 3 times, Palazina 3 times, the beach grill, and the Jamaica night.
While the food was amazing in taste the options we so limited with repeating menus. At lunch there was only one option to eat and you can only handle so much jerk chicken or burgers (I personally don’t like the meat used in the burgers but that’s consistent with all of the Caribbean.). Also every meal at dinner took a min of 1.5 to 2 hours with service being painfully slow. All service seemed to be really slow.
Considering the low occupancy you’d think it would a lot faster, but some nights I’d have to ask 3-4 times to get what I wanted.
It also really sucked you couldn’t just get snacks like chips etc when ever you want. Every all inclusive we’ve been to has offered this.
The minibar in the room was a complete joke. Every day we filled out the minibar request only to have it unfulfilled or not picked up. Only one day did they leave extra Diet Coke like we asked. They never left any liquor we chose. There also were no snacks in the room.
Late night food is non existent. Room service closes at 10 and so did the restaurants. There was not any food at Bella vista after 10 either.
Employees were overly pushy with “selling goods” to the point they claimed they came by our room to see if we wanted to purchase things. This to me creates a security issue and made us feel a little unsafe.
Shopping was horrible. Hire a private driver and go somewhere else. We were stuck 2 hours waiting with less than a few shops.
Not sure if we will return as I feel if you’re going to advertise one way and deliver another you should offer some compensation.
No where near the amount of bars listed (only one on the entire clothed side during the day). When I think they touted six and only one dining option per night vs multiple.
No top shelf at most of the bars, and the mini bar issue.
Meaning if you know occupancy and the pandemic are creating these issues either note that to the travelers or offer some spa credit or something to make up for it.
Overall it’s a truly beautiful place