Last year we stayed at Couples Negril and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I wrote this rather long Trip Advisor review:
This year (April 3-10, 2011) we went to Couples San Souci. In terms of quality and level of enjoyment, the comments made in last year's review are equally valid to both resorts.
So instead of re-writing the same thing, I thought I would focus this time on some comparisons between CN & CSS. (probably many others have already done this, but here's my version.)
Activities and Amenities
The price of staying at Couples resort this year seemed to be lower than what we paid last year. This may have been due to the recent 'Fall in Love Canada' promotion, or simply because we booked much earlier this year than last. The best prices for an April 2011 trip to CSS seemed to be available sometime in the middle of October 2010 - about 6 months in advance.
In terms of value for money, our opinion is that the Couples chain is quite good. San Souci maintains a similar high standard as Negril. We feel that it is well worth paying a little extra money to have a first-rate holiday. We also like the fact that whatever you pay to stay at Couples, all guests are treated equally well by the resort. There is no extra-charge class system, upgrade option, or privileged package to have to contemplate purchasing. Nothing annoys me more than having to pay extra to have full access to a resort that I have already paid to stay at.
The cuisine is actually the reason why we started coming to Jamaica in the first place. After tourism and bauxite mining, agriculture is apparently one of Jamaica's primary industries. So the produce is abundant, fresh, and of high quality. Jamaica also has a national cuisine that is inherently appealing to us as a couple.
The CSS kitchen staff do a fine job. All meals were very enjoyable without the blandness that is often endemic to all-inclusive meal plans.
In comparison to CN, I would have to say that the CSS kitchen is just a tiny bit inferior. I have some really good memories of some truly excellent meals at the Cassava Terrace at CN. The difference might simply boil down to personal style of the chefs. It may also be that the restaurants at CSS lack thematic focus to some degree. Slightly reduced variety may also be a factor. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure where the difference is; it's just a vague over-all impression. The CSS / CN kitchen staff may want to compare notes. Other guests may also have some suggestions as to where the difference (if any) lies.
As I mentioned in my review of CN, I would encourage Couples to continue to focus on maintaining a high level of food quality. Guests are very influenced by cuisine, and a large part of their opinion of any resort will be based on the food experience. CSS may want to review some of their menu choices to enhance the flair and vitality a little. But overall, we enjoyed the food immensely. Certainly better than any of our other holidays in Mexico over the years.
CSS is definitely more interesting in layout and in architecture than CN. The resort is truly built 'into' its 35 acre environment. The buildings incorporate ocean, cliff side, beachfront, park-like, and jungle settings. It is not surprising that this location was the site of a couple of James Bond films. There are many pathways and passages throughout the grounds leading to various surprising destinations. Many photo-ops and little places for an adventurous couple to sneak off to. This resort would also be a good starting location for Monty Python's famed Hide-and-Seek Olympics. The layout and distance might not be a good choice for guests with an aversion to climbing stairs or walking.
I tend to be critical of some newer resorts that have a strong element of contrived ostentation to them. CSS, on the other hand, seems to have a certain legitimate opulence bequeathed by the passage of time. Despite its age, the facility is clean and well maintained. The room we had on the second floor of D-Block was adequate and comfortable. There was a private balcony with chairs. I loved the tiled shower with bench and multi-paned windows overlooking the ocean.
The environmental and grounds maintenance staff have a monumental task at this resort. They do an excellent job. We took some beautiful pictures. There seemed to be lots of interesting little creatures about - a family of chickens lived at one of the beaches, a mongoose lived nearby (for obvious reasons), there were a couple of cats that visited the breakfast villa occasionally, and lots of fish, turtles and ducks lived at/in a large pond near the front of the property. One day on the beach, a lizard fell out of a tree and landed on my head. On another day, a rather large bird pooped on me as I left the spa (that's good luck according to the Jamaicans - lucky me!).
The room numbers vs. resort layout is probably such that CSS never appears to be crowded or over capacity. Peace and tranquility would reign supreme even if the place was at maximum guest population.
I mentioned in my previous review of CN that people generally have the freedom to walk across the beachfront of their own and neighboring resorts. Beaches are a feature by which we are able to directly and visually compare different resorts. This is not the case at CSS. The beach is entirely private at CSS. There is no public access to the main beach. (There is minimal public access to the au natural beach, but not very much.) It's a personal preference - some people may like the privacy, others may like the increased life of a well-traveled beachfront. CSS beach is not well-traveled.
The beach size may be another issue for some. The beach at CN is about a 1000ft long. The main beach at CSS is about half that. The beach sand at CN is bright and very fine, and extends unbroken out into the water. The sand at CSS is a little darker and more coarse. There are also some rocky areas in the water. Both beaches are beautiful, just different.
The au natural section is a short walk away from the main resort. Because of this, it is equipped with a dedicated pool, hot tub, bar, lunch grill, washroom, and beach front.
Activities and Amenities
Like CN, there are several water activities available at CSS. We did some snorkeling. The reefs at CSS are quite a bit better than those at CN. There is even a wreck on the seabed to look at. The resort is equipped for the usual beachfront games and activities. The gift shop and jewelry store seemed to be a big hit with the gals in our crowd. The tour desk seemed to have a number of well-planned off-site excursions available for various prices.
I wouldn't say that the atmosphere of CSS is energetic & hyperactive. If you're looking to get really crazy or keep very active, this probably isn't the place for you. The style at CSS seems to be relaxed and laid back. I would say that it is even more laid back than CN.
The physical layout of CSS produces a somewhat different nightlife dynamic as compared to the more compact layout of CN. The guest activity at CSS is somewhat decentralized into little pockets throughout the facility. Whereas at CN, almost everything rotates around the central building & pool. I'm not saying this is better or worse - it's just different. The guest demographic at CSS seemed to be equally well represented by older folks who liked the sit down performances on the terraces, and the younger crowd who liked to dance crazy at the au natural pool. So as a suggestion - if I were planning evening entertainment at CSS, I would look into having two or three different things going on simultaneously at various locations throughout the resort. I would also post notices of these events more prominently so that everyone is more aware of the choices. (I guess the success of this idea would depend on the guest population & age on a given week. Not too hard to find out a week or two in advance and plan accordingly. Might be an interesting side project for an enterprising member of the entertainment staff, if they are not already doing that.)
I have to mention that the live entertainment was a bit better at CN. The band there was more energetic, louder, and had a better dynamic range. The band at CSS are talented, but they are quieter, were restricted to blander song selections, and often seemed to be fronted by guest singers who didn't bring energy to the show. The major exception would be the short older guy in the brown suit who did the Tom Jones impression in the first act on Saturday night (April 9th on main terrace). That guy's dialogue, singing, and interaction with the band & audience were brilliant. He is a true entertainer and should be the primary house singer in my opinion. I regret that I did not get a chance to meet and compliment him.
We enjoyed the two dance nights at the au natural pool. The DJ occasionally had the common DJ affliction of trying to be too unique and musically erudite. If you want the crowd to dance, you can't be obscure. Just play fun music that historically works. But in all, we did have a great time. The dancing helped with our acquired calorie surplus syndrome.
There was a beach party one night with a buffet meal and live entertainment. Great fun! We met with two lovely couples from Germany & the UK. After the meal, the crazies among us met at the au natural pool for much dancing and frivolity.
We had a fantastic time at the repeat guest diner. Khadian (sp?) from the entertainment staff was sporting enough to spend the evening with our rowdy bunch. The evening was great fun, but portions of the dinner itself were examples of what I mentioned above regarding the need for increased menu pizzazz. The room used for the repeat dinner also needs to be a touch brighter IMO.
The gala diner on Friday was a brilliant showcase of the talents of the entire staff. Beautiful presentation of the buffet meal, replete with ice sculptures, flowers & lights. The staff effort that evidently went into preparing this evening was enormous. We felt grateful & privileged to be there that night.
I believe CN only had one or two gala-type events. The folks at CSS had at least three events. There seemed to be a very hospitable tenor to the evenings at CSS. Every night it was a pleasure to be a guest.
I commented in last year's review about the mix of a) staff who are truly hospitable and have a genuine fondness for guests, and b) staff who carry out their duties with a cool efficiency but display little overt friendliness.
I have to say that CSS has a very high percentage of very hospitable and happy staff. There are some truly beautiful people working at this resort.
I had the pleasure of talking with Dwight who is on the 'Green Team'. He's a decent guy who kindly assisted us with a small matter. He thereafter sought us out and greeted us with a warm smile whenever he could.
Earlier, I mentioned Khadian (sp?) from the entertainment staff. We had a good time whenever we were with her. She seems to take an active role in getting 'out there' with the guests. We enjoyed John's company also.
Our housekeeping staff in D block were excellent. The room was always beautifully prepared for us.
This has probably been said many times by others, but Jheanel at the pool bar is the sweetheart of CSS. She has such a pleasant demeanor and a warm smile. More than once, she brought us our favorite drinks without even being asked to do so. We cannot thank her enough.
The gals in the message department have hands of angels. Try a full massage with hot stones - it's worth the money. Just be careful that you don't form an addiction to this department!
I mentioned last year that it is in Couple's best interests to continue to focus on providing genuine incentives for staff to be genuinely happy. Visitors can almost instinctively sense staff morale and it will influence their over-all opinion. CSS has obviously had good success in this area. But this is not an area where management can rest on its laurels. Good staff morale has only limited inertia and it should be actively cultivated for longest term results.
My wife is a fan of moving on and trying new things. I am a creature of habit who will undoubtedly want to go back to CSS next year. We'll see who wins. Whatever the outcome, our best vacations so far have been Couples vacations!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled on the cliffs of Jamaica’s emerald coast above a dazzling stretch of Caribbean, Couples Sans Souci beckons you to surrender mind, body and soul. The resort's 'no worries' mantra comes to life as every day unfolds. Lose yourself exploring secluded stone pathways. Melt away stress in the healing natural mineral springs. Feel a rush of exhilaration scaling Dunn's River waterfalls. Or simply drift asleep in a hammock by the sea. Located in vibrant Ocho Rios, the resort's design pays tribute to an understated colonial elegance—intricate latticework, white woven furnishings and feathered palms set a refined stage for your island escape. Dining options abound—from authentic Jamaican fare to five-star international cuisine. Private cabanas at cliff's edge provide the ideal setting for our signature spa treatments, while the choice of resort activities knows no limits. Learn the art of living well while living in the moment at Couples Sans Souci. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Couples Sans Souci Hotel Ocho Rios
- Couples San Souci
- Couples Sans Souci Ocho Rios
- Couples Sans Souci Jamaica/Ocho Rios