Trip Reports

Couples February 2002

Written by Lynn Suth

I had won the December photo contest for the Couples Resort. It gave us a free, 3 night stay. Joe and I really needed to get away, so we decided to book a trip for February. We added 4 nights, so we’d have a seven night stay in paradise.

Last year, we had done the Couples Double-Take and visited both Ocho Rios and Negril. Our preference was Ocho Rios, so this year, we went only to that resort and had the time of our lives.

We left Syracuse, NY on Friday, February 8th. Our flight landed, more or less on time, at Montego Bay. After being there last year, during Spring-Break time, we had learned that the line all the way to the far left, at immigration, seems to move fastest. We headed straight there and got through in only about 10 minutes. We then headed downstairs to baggage claim, retrieved our luggage and went through Customs.

Once out of Customs, we headed for the Couples desk. It had moved since last year, and was now located straight ahead, on the right, near the rest rooms. Being returning guests, we were entitled to a free shuttle flight to Ocho Rios. The staff went to get the rep from Burl Air to let them know we had arrived.

The gentleman from Burl Air came over and said it would be an hour wait before the plane returned, to take us to Ocho Rios. It turned out, that another flight had come in late and the charter plane had just left with those passengers. We talked to the people at the Couples desk and decided to take the shuttle bus instead and get our free flight on the way back. So off to the shuttle bus we went.

We were escorted to a large van, where there was already one couple waiting. We were told we had to wait for a short while, as they were expecting other couples soon. The wait was about 15 minutes and then we were on our way. The ride to Ocho Rios takes about 2 hours. You travel along the coast and have some great views of the scenery, passing through several towns along the way. Some of the shuttle drives point out different places of interest. About half way to the resort, they stop at one of the many roadside stands. Here you can grab a drink and use the bathrooms.

I know a lot of people complain about this ride. They say they drive too fast and pass other vehicles at bad points along the road. Besides they drive on the wrong side. Frankly, we didn’t find it that bad. If you have never traveled outside the US or Canada, I suppose it can be a bit scary. The road is narrow and does have a lot of twists and turns. Just remember, these people drive for a living. You are on vacation, so relax and enjoy the scenery that is Jamaica.

We arrived at the resort about 5:30pm and were met with big smiles. They asked our group to go and sit down across from the main desk in the lobby. Once seated, they brought everyone a glass of champagne and a cool, damp towel. If you hadn’t already filled out the forms they gave you back at the Couples desk at the airport, you could complete them now. Once everyone was done with the forms, they collected them, along with your tourist cards. You were then assigned a room and you went up to the desk, so they can get an imprint of your credit card. They gave each couple 2 room keys on elastic wristbands and also, the lock and key for your in-room safe. You then pointed out which bags were yours and the bellman told you how to get to your room. Your bags were brought to the room shortly thereafter. Prior to our trip, I had corresponded with the resort via email. I was asked to wait a moment because my contact would be right down. We had never met each other in person. It was great to finally see Norval and have a face to go with the name. He came over and we chatted briefly, agreeing to catch up with each other later, during our stay. We then headed up to our room.

This year, we stayed in room 356. It was exactly two floors down from the room we had last year. The room is an ocean view, deluxe room. In the room, we had a large closest with sliding doors. In the closet is the safe, an ironing board and iron. We had a 4 poster king size bed, a night stand, a hutch with drawers and a television in it, a love seat, a desk and chair, coffee maker and a CD/tape player/radio. The room also had a balcony with two chairs and a table. There is a towel rack on the balcony as well. The bathroom is reasonably sized. It had a tub/shower, toilet, sink with a long counter, a full wall mirror, a pull-out shaving mirror and a blow dryer.

Our bags arrived at the room a few minutes later. I travel with my digital camera, so I checked the television, to see if I could connect it to view my pictures. This television didn’t have the correct connections so I called downstairs to Norval, who said he would take care of it for me. About 5 minutes later, the phone rang. The person on the other end said the new TV would be delivered in 15 minutes. I told them we were planning to head out of the room, to which they responded, “No Problem, Mon”. So off we went.

Prior to our trip, I had been on the different message boards. I had been in touch with a gentleman from Louisiana and we had arranged to meet at the main bar at 7pm. Shortly after we arrived at the bar, D. and his lovely wife D., showed up. We chatted for awhile and also saw two of the couples we had met on the shuttle ride to the resort. We were discussing the dining options for dinner. To my surprise, the Calabash wasn’t open that night. D. & D. said it was only open for breakfast and dinner since they had been there. I found out later that this was due to low occupancy that particular week. D. & D. left and we continued to chat with B. and P. of Halifax (from the shuttle). We decided to have dinner with them at the Bayside.

The Bayside is my favorite restaurant for dinner. I really love sitting out over the water. That night, we had peppered steak and fettuccini Alfredo. At the Bayside, they have a dessert table where you go up and take whichever desserts you want. They have a very nice selection and everything we tried was very good.

After dinner, the four of us stopped by the Patio to watch the show. The house band, Stars, Inc., was playing when we arrived. It also turned out to be amateur night, where staff and guests get to participate and perform. We were surprised at how well everyone did. The guests that performed were each given a prize.

We then parted ways with P. and B., Joe and I went down to walk on the beach. I just had to take off my shoes and get my feet wet in the ocean. Then we headed back to the room for the night. If you want breakfast in your room the next morning, you fill out the tag that’s hanging on your door with your choices of what you want and the time you want it delivered. You then put it outside your room before 1am. That is what we did.

After waking Saturday morning, we had coffee on the balcony, along with the continental breakfast we had ordered. We moved slowly that day, after the long day of travel. About 11am, we headed down to the beach and picked out two lounges under the trees, where we ran into B. and P. Today was for relaxation.

Joe and I decided to have the buffet lunch at the Patio restaurant. While we were eating, we saw D. & D. and asked them to join us. I really loved the corned beef that was served that day.

Following lunch, we decided to walk around the grounds. We got to watch one of the many weddings that take place at the resort. We then stopped and checked our email back home. Then, a quick stop at guest services to make reservations at Le Gourmet, for the following night. We went over to the duty free shop and looked around. They had some really beautiful rings and I discussed the prices with one of the sales people. I told him I’d have to think about it before buying anything. After all, it was our first full day at the resort and I had plenty of time to decide if I wanted to buy anything. While there, we did sample some of the rum cream, they now have different flavors.

After leaving the store, we headed over to the jungle area. We found one of the 2 person Jacuzzi’s was available, so we decided to take a dip. I will admit, the jets weren’t working too well and just barely moved the water. But the water was warm and it was such a pretty setting we didn’t care. It was peaceful, it was like being in our own little world for two.

We then headed back to our room. When we got there, we found a note under the door and a bag hanging on the outside of the door. The bag contained two returning guests t-shirts and two coupons for a free half-hour massage. The note was confirming our return trip to the airport.

We showered and changed clothes and then went down to the front desk. The confirmation had listed that we were taking the bus back to Montego Bay. I explained to them what had happened on the trip down and they told me to go and see the sales department around the corner. There, we talked with Nadine, who said she would handle it. By the time we got back to our room that night, a new confirmation was there and corrected.

After taking care of business, we headed over to the bar. Being Saturday night, it was almost time for the Grand Pool Buffet. At the bar, we bumped into B & P. We all grabbed a drink and then went to choose a table near one of the Jacuzzi’s. They were still putting the final touches on the buffet. Shortly thereafter, a line started forming, so we went and joined it. Two musicians started playing on the edge of the Patio restaurant.

The food at this buffet seemed to go on forever. We started with the appetizer table, where we found huge shrimp, sushi, salads, cold cuts, fruit and more awaiting us; as well as things that tasted great but we have no idea what they were. I, personally, was full, after just the appetizers. The main dishes were numerous too. There was a fish dish, a lamb dish, a Chinese stir-fry and a whole lot more. Of course, there were side dishes as well. Everyone was so full from dinner, that none of us wanted dessert. They did have a long table with delicious looking choices.

After dinner, the four of us went to watch the band play at the Patio for a while. We decided to make an early evening of it. B.& P. wanted to know where the piano bar was so on our way back to our room we made a quick stop there to show them the place. So you know where it is, it’s tucked in a corner to the right of the entrance to Le Gourmet and the Veranda restaurants.

Back in our room, we watched a little TV. The list of channels they gave us wasn’t up to date. Also, some of the channels did come in quite fuzzy. But who is in Jamaica to watch TV, anyway?

Woke up Sunday morning to an overcast sky. It had rained overnight, so none of the bathing suits we had left on the balcony dried. It was also a bit cool out. Again, we had breakfast on the balcony.

Later, we headed out and went to play some ping-pong. We then stopped at the photographer’s shop and checked out the pictures taken the night before at the pool buffet. We decide to purchase the picture of us. The cost was $8.00 US.

By then, it was warming up, so we decided to get in some more beach and swim time. One of the hammocks on the beach was available so I used that for awhile. We also took a quick dip in one of the big Jacuzzi’s by the pool. We had lunch again at the Patio restaurant. Later, we laid out on the dock, which is where you get the last sun of the day.

We had to dress for dinner that night. We were dining at Le Gourmet. For your information, men must wear long pants (no jeans), collared shirts and closed shoes (no sneakers). Women must dress up also (no shorts or tank tops). Before dinner, we stopped back at the dock to listen to the sax player that is there Sunday evening. Our reservations were for 6:30. Dinner was a wonderful, multi-course meal. Everything was beautifully served and tasted wonderful. They have a gentleman that plays the piano while you dine. The house photographer also came around and took pictures. The piece de resistance to the meal was the flaming coffee with our desserts.

After dinner, we went to listen to the band playing. There, we found B. & P. out on the dance floor. When the band was done and before the DJ started, the four of us went to the piano bar. There, they were doing Karaoke with the piano player. Some of the guests were surprisingly good. We stayed there until 1am before heading back to our room.

Back in our room, Joe decided to surprise me, by giving me my Valentine’s Day present early. It was a lovely sapphire and diamond ring. My Valentine’s Day present to him was the trip itself.

We slept late on Monday morning. Once we were up, we headed for the breakfast buffet. The buffet has tons of choices. They always have breads, pastries, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, etc. They also have some Jamaican specialties and made to order omelets. There are several choices of juices, milk, coffee, tea and if you want a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa, the champagne and vodka are there, as well. It started raining while we ate breakfast, but it didn’t last very long.

We headed over to the game room and played billiards for awhile and also played some darts. We then went and bought our picture from the night before. Then, we headed over to the computer to check our email.

After a quick stop back at the room, we headed downstairs to watch one of the couples from our shuttle bus get married. They had chosen to get married near the ocean. The ceremony lasted about 10-15 minutes.

After that, we started heading over to the snack bar/beach grill to grab a bite. On our way there, we passed three ladies taking photos. I offered to take a picture of the three of them together and they were very happy about this. It turned out two of them were, in part, owners of the resort. We chatted for awhile and I gave them information about my web site. One of them had written a book about her father, Abe Issa, who had started the all-inclusive resort craze in Jamaica. She said she would send a copy of the book to my room.

We then finished making our way to the snack bar. I wasn’t that hungry after breakfast, so I only got an order of fries but Joe wanted jerk chicken. Besides those items, you do have many other choices at the beach grill such as hamburgers, chicken breast sandwiches, Jamaican patties, nachos and cheese, etc. This is also where you will find two soda dispensers. The grill is open from 11am until 5am.

At 2:15pm we were in the lobby, waiting for the shuttle busses to take us shopping. This day, the trip was to the duty-free shopping center in Ocho Rios. The busses drop you off in town and tell you where to meet them to head back to the resort. At one of the stores, I bought a lovely tanzanite and Australian opal ring. Be aware–you should haggle over the price, even in these shops. The prices start considerably higher than what they will except.

Back at the resort at 5pm, we made a brief stop at the “manager’s welcome party”. This is held on the patio just outside the lobby. They set up an appetizer table and also have a small bar set up. A local group of musicians played there as well. Here, you can get to meet a lot of the different staff members that help make your stay at Couples so enjoyable.

That evening, we decided to have dinner at the Veranda. It is slightly less upscale than Le Gourmet is. The food is also served very elegantly. That night, they had a strolling musician who went from table to table and asked for requests. He serenaded each couple. His specialty was country music tunes. We had a lovely time. Our table was next to the window, overlooking the ocean.

After dinner, we headed over to the patio. The house band was playing at that time. It turns out, they had re-opened the Calabash restaurant for dinner that night. The resort had a lot more people staying there now. In talking to others there, we found out that tonight they had a special group coming in to perform–The Hatfield Cultural Group. They did old Jamaican folk songs and were in costume. You got to learn about the true Jamaican culture. We didn’t stay for the entire show but what we saw was great.

Tuesday morning was breakfast on the balcony again. After breakfast, we went and signed up for that afternoon’s catamaran cruise. Joe went to poolside to take his scuba diving class. It starts at 9am and it ended that day about noon. During that time, I relaxed on the beach and socialized with several of the people we had befriended during our stay.

After lunch at the Patio, we went upstairs to get ready for the cruise that is scheduled to leave at 3:30pm. Today, the boat was a bit late. It was called the Cool Jazz. Once the boat arrived and everyone was on board, we headed out. The boat went past the right side of Tower Island and then stopped briefly, so the crew could tell us about the trip.

I understand that there is a tradition on Tower Island, for the days when the Catamaran cruise goes by, and today was no exception. As the boat passes the backside of the island, all the people on the island line up and moon the passengers. It is quite a sight to behold.

Once past the island, they headed out to sea for awhile. Then they headed back to the coastline. On the boat, they served rum punch, regular punch and water. They also had reggae music playing. We then stopped at a beautiful cove where if you wanted, you could dive in and swim for a bit, Joe did. While we were stopped at the cove, a fisherman pulled up along side selling conch shells and sand dollars.

Once everyone was back on the boat, they headed back to the resort. The crew gave everyone reggae dance lessons. As we pulled up at the resort, everyone was dancing and cheering. We had a very nice trip.

As we got off the boat, I spotted two egrets fishing on the shoreline. It was nice to see some of the natural wild life at the resort. Besides, I had never gotten that close to egrets before other than at a zoo.

That evening, we had dinner at the Calabash restaurant (it’s the Patio restaurant during the day). I had the coconut shrimp and Joe had swordfish kabobs. Everything was delicious. We ate dinner with B. & P. that night. We headed back to the room early again. I needed to get the digital camera ready for Joe to take on his scuba dive the next day. When we got to the room, there was an invitation waiting for us for the special returning guests’ dinner the following night.

Prior to our trip, I had bought a waterproof case for my Olympus C-3000 Zoom camera. It allows the camera to be taken underwater, down to about 100 feet. Since this would be its first use, I wanted to be sure everything was properly sealed. I had heard stories about people flooding their cameras.

Wednesday morning, we had coffee on the balcony and then headed down to the breakfast buffet. Joe wanted to fill up on carbohydrates before his dive at noon. Joe enjoyed the dive. He got some nice pictures and even, accidentally, took two QuickTime videos with the camera. While he was off on his dive, I talked with the resort owner for awhile.

After Joe returned, we ate lunch at the beach grill, and then relaxed on the beach the rest of the afternoon. We stopped briefly at the gift shop and bought a few things and then checked email, before heading back to the room to get ready for that evening’s festivities.

Wednesday night, besides the return guest cocktail and dinner party, is also the night they have the beach party. Since we went to the special dinner, we didn’t get to sample all the food I heard was so great at the beach party. However, we did get done with our meal in time to see the beach party entertainment.

They had a steel drum band playing when we first got there. We joined a group of friends at their table, which was directly in front of the stage. They had quite the show that night. There was a man that walked on nails, another man that did things with snakes, a fire-eater and a contortionist. They also did the limbo. Then, they held a couples contest that was, in part, a scavenger hunt. It was a lot of fun. They followed that with a dance lesson and when that ended, they still had a DJ playing at the Patio.

Thursday morning, we had the usual breakfast on the balcony. This was our last full day in Jamaica. It also happened to be Valentine’s Day. After breakfast, we headed down to the water sports shack to sign up for snorkeling. We then hung out on the beach until it was time to get on the boat.

This time, our snorkel trip was to the left side of Tower Island. Last year, both trips had been to the right side of it. It was nice to snorkel in a different spot. We got to see a somewhat different variety of fish. There was also a place where the reef seems to end and there was a major drop off in the ocean floor. The ride to the reef, in either case, takes less than 5 minutes. You get to be in the water for about 45 minutes.

We ate lunch at the Patio and then spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach. Joe, at one point, decided to take out a sea kayak and had a blast. Just so you know, the resort performed 14 marriages that day. It seems lots of people like getting married on Valentine’s Day.

Since most people wanted to eat in the fancier restaurants, we opted instead to eat at the Bayside that night. It was such a beautiful, warm evening and we were lucky enough to get a table right next to the water. The food was great as always. I had steak and Joe had lobster and tonight, we even saved some room for dessert. After all, it was our last night there.

After dinner, we stopped at the bar on our way back to the room. We brought our drinks with us and spent time sitting on the balcony watching the stars and listening to some of the CDs we had brought with us. It was a lovely way to spend our last night at the resort.

Friday morning, (so sad) our day to return home. Breakfast on the balcony, as usual. I was scheduled for my massage at 9:30 and Joe had one at 10. After our massages, we went for one last swim in the beautiful, blue Caribbean–neither one of us wanted it to end.

We headed back to the room to shower and finish packing. We put our bags outside the room at 12:15, and headed down to the beach grill for lunch. We then headed for the front desk to check out and wait for our shuttle to the Ocho Rios airport. We were told our flight to Montego Bay was delayed, so we’d have to wait a bit. We again, ran into the owner who said we have to return in January to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Couples Ocho Rios.

The shuttle finally arrived and took us to the airport. There was one other couple on our flight. They were heading over to Negril and staying at Swept Away for a few days. R. & his wife were from Seattle. We had shared a table with them at the returning guests’ dinner. The plane arrived a few minutes later. Our bags were loaded on and off we went.

The plane was a six-seater prop plane. Yes, it’s quite small. But, you do get some wonderful views from the plane. The flight took less than 30 minutes; much quicker than the 2 hour shuttle bus ride. We got off the plane at Montego Bay. They unloaded our bags and told us to go inside the airport and wait for them to bring the bags. Once the bags arrived, we followed the gentleman to a taxi, for the 2-minute ride to the international terminal.

Once inside, we got in line at US Air. The first line you had to get in was for hand checking all the luggage that was going to be checked onto the plane. Once that was done, you get in the regular line to get your boarding passes. Following that, you head towards the gates and go through regular security. Poor Joe, set off the hand held detector. It turns out, it was set so sensitively, that his package of Rolaids set it off. They also confiscated his cigarette lighter. Since our flight to Montego Bay had been delayed, there was no time to stop and look at the duty free shops at the airport. We headed straight to our gate.

They called our flight a few minutes later. One last security check. Here, they asked if you had any lighters, nail clippers or razors. They took Joe’s disposable Good News razor from his carry-on. Then, onto the plane for the flight home. Good-bye Jamaica, we can’t wait to come back. As they say at Couples, “Once you’ve stayed there, you are part of the Couples family.”

You can ask me questions or view my pictures at www.garion.tzo.com/lynn/couples2.htm

About the author

Lynn Suth