Vikki's 11/2/09 Couples Sans Souci, Ocho Rios Jamaica Review
Posted 14 December 2009 - 06:58 PM
This is a link to a slideshow with pictures from our trip. I include it because there are many photos around the resort and it should give you a feel for the layout and atmosphere.
Zenfolio | Slideshow | ParkersPoses
Overall we both felt Couples Sans Souci was the perfect choice for us and would highly recommend it as a weddingmoon destination!
Travel Agent: 4
We used Global Travel for our travel arrangements. Our agent was very nice but a little disorganized. There were several times I had to communicate something several times before it was changed. There were some flight cancellations a couple weeks before we left and she did a good job of helping us rearrange our schedule. We had a small group ( so it wasn’t too difficult but with a larger group the disorganization could have been a problem. If I had joined the Best Destination Forums prior to booking I would have used one of the resident TA’s with more destination wedding experience.
Considering everything (including horrible snow storms in Denver where my sister flew out) our flights were great. There were no delays and on all but one connection I was able to put my dress in the first class closet.
Couples Lounge/Transfer (Montego Bay Airport): 3
The lounge at the airport was easy to find and very crowded with other vacationers. We got through customs easily enough and checked in at the desk. We were immediately greeted and told to wait and grab a drink but before we could even sit down they called for passengers going to Couples Sans Souci (CSS) and Tower Isle. We gave the porter our bags and told them which resort we were going to. There were people trying to carry bags for tips and it was made very clear that we were required to tip for having our bags loaded. This was expected so no problems there. The driver stopped at Ricks Caf© and gave us information about the island on our drive. The roads were great and the van was air conditioned. The issue came when we got off at CSS. We were directed to go inside to check in and our bags would be taken to our room. But our bags didn’t get off the bus. Fortunately the driver recognized that the wedding dress was still there and the wedding party had left so he came in to tell us we were at the wrong resort……apparently our bags had been tagged incorrectly when we were at the lounge.
Check in: 4
I was pretty stressed at check in because of the bag situation so I really don’t remember much. The staff was nice enough and if the bags hadn’t thrown me off it would have been pleasant. When we first made our reservations in April I requested rooms on the ground floor in the same block. I figured with 6 months in advance it would be no problem to get 4 rooms next to each other….wrong. Our rooms were in the same block but not next to each other. I know this is a minor detail and I didn’t get too hung up over it but it was something I had stressed to our travel agent and also to the wedding coordinator. They both told me it would be taken care of.
The Property: 5
The Couples Sans Souci property is absolutely amazing. When I researched the different Couples properties I was attracted to the privacy CSS offered. I didn’t want a resort that was too flashy or commercial. CSS is an older property but instead of appearing worn or out dated it was charming and intimate. I have never been anywhere that felt so familiar and comfortable the instant I arrived. I wanted a property with a balance between activities and privacy and CSS was the perfect solution.
One of my favorite things about the property was all the stairs. The resort is built in part on some cliffs so the resort isn’t just one big beach. Because the resort is so old the vegetation is very mature, creating a surreal, jungle-like effect in some areas of the resort. There are lots of different levels and beautiful rock stairways connecting everything. I’m not much of a beach person so having the ability to listen to the waves crashing into the side of the rock face was magical for me. There are two beaches on the resort. One is a regular beach and the other is an au natural beach until 5:00pm. Both beaches were beautiful and we enjoyed watching the sunsets from the au natural beach. The grounds were very well cared for and the general appearance of the resort was outstanding.
One Bedroom Beachfront Jacuzzi Suite: 4
We spent the first 4 nights of our trip in a ground floor room that was very close to the main beach. Our room was A03. The room was clean and comfortable. The air conditioner worked really well (too well….our camera lens fogged up a couple times!) We didn’t use the Jacuzzi once but it looked nice enough. We loved being able to walk out onto our patio and directly onto the main grounds by the beach. It was nice for meeting up with the rest of our group for meals or activities.
We did have a noise issue – I think there is a nightclub or something near the resort and on Friday night there was loud-and I mean LOUD music that lasted all night. We tossed and turned until about 6:30 am when we finally just got up. The rest of our group had the same experience. I don’t know if that is a regular occurrence or just a one time thing. We didn’t notice it the other nights we were in that room.
One Bedroom Ocean Suite: 5
The day of the wedding we had arranged to move to a room away from the rest of our group with a nice balcony overlooking the ocean. I stressed that I wanted a room without foliage blocking the view of the ocean and I wasn’t disappointed. While the other room was nice this room was stunning. When we walked in the sun shining through the glass patio doors made the whole room glow. The room theme was Mediterranean and our room was decorated with fresh flowers in the bathroom and on the bed. We loved sitting on the balcony in the evenings with our tea lights on the railing. It was perfect for the honeymoon portion of our trip.
The Beach: 3
Sans Souci's beaches are not the white sand beaches you'll see at other resorts. There are two, one is an au natural the other is on the main part of the property. Both are lovely but fairly small. One big benefit is that are both private to the resort only. No random people wandering through.... We liked the au natural beach best for sand quality and water clarity.
The Food-overall: 5
CSS has several restaurant choices.
Breakfast and Lunch are a buffet then dinner is by reservation and more formal. We enjoyed eating at the Palazzina for breakfast and lunch. The buffet had a variety of choices and the staff was always wonderful. The outdoor seating at the Palazina was a great way to enjoy the resort, there is a nice view of the grounds and main beach. We only had dinner there twice but the food was fantastic each time.
Bella Vista: N/A
We never actually ate dinner at the Bella Vista. We didn’t realize the dinner menu was different then the daytime beach grill until the day before we left.
Dinner only. The food was fabulous! This restaurant requires reservations but it is well worth it. The menu choices were creative and appropriate to the formal environment. I wasn’t really impressed with our servers on two of our visits, they seemed like they were just waiting for us to leave and when we had dinner with some friends we had met at the resort the waiter actually interrupted our conversation to ask us what we were ordering and then again when he was getting drinks. Not all of our experiences with the wait staff were bad though. The restaurant Casanova was where we had our reception and everything was perfect for that!
Beach Grill: 5
This was open when the other restaurants were closed or just during the day. The food was a nice mix of what you would expect from a casual beach grill. It was always well prepared and served.
Room Service: 5
I loved the fact that there was room service! This was a huge asset for us. We found that especially the day after the wedding we were so tired that going down to the restaurant just felt like too much work and we wanted to do nothing more than hang out on our balcony relaxing. The food was great and with one exception arrived very quickly. We did order once and it never actually arrived-but otherwise we were pleasantly surprised.
Beach Party and Starlight Gala: 5
The entertainment staff at Couples does an outstanding job at putting together these two events. Every Friday night the main lawn is transformed into a brilliant display of fabulous food, ice sculptures and entertainment. On Tuesday’s there is a beach party with another wonderful display of food, mostly with a Caribbean theme. Our wedding consultant reserved a special table for our group the Friday night before the wedding and had our table decorated with some little items with a wedding theme.
Bars: overall 5
We loved the Balloon Bar and swim up bar. We got several drinks from the beach bar and sunset bar but didn’t spend a lot of time there. There was always a special drink of the day that was good or the bartenders were happy to make what you wanted.
Charlie’s Spa Bar: 2
I loved the menu at the smoothie bar but the attendants were really rude. On one occasion my mom, FMIL and I went to get a smoothie and there were two people working. Well, they were laughing and joking around with each other playing with a cell phone or handheld game. We said hello then stood there for almost a minute before either of them even looked over at us. Then it was like we were the biggest inconvenience they had ever encountered. They kept looking at us then looking at each other and laughing. I have never felt so awkward or ridiculed in my entire life. Each time I went there I felt uncomfortable which was frustrating because the smoothies were really good. I’m happy to say this was not our experience with the rest of the staff.
I listed below a couple of the included activities. Our party enjoyed almost all of these and having the option available at no additional charge was perfect.
WiFi-excellent from both of our rooms.
Dunn’s River Falls Tour, shopping shuttle, golf fees/transfers, Margaritaville trip, glass bottom boat ride, windsurfing, hobie cat, water skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboats, tennis and volleyball.
The Main Event:
Couples Wedding Coordinator:
Stateside Coordinator Debbie Hall: 4
Debbie was very prompt responding to my sometimes excessive questions. I would have given Debbie a 5 except she gave me incorrect information regarding pricing and options for the ceremony set up. Because I was misinformed I created and transported my own decorations. This was A LOT of work, took up a lot of space and was very inconvenient. When I arrived at the resort and met with the on-site coordinator and found out I could have avoided all of it I was really frustrated.
On-site Coordinator Antoinette: 5
Antoinette was very friendly, easy to work with. We checked in on Thursday and my appointment with her was scheduled for Saturday morning. She assured me over and over again that she would take care of everything and that I was not to worry at all. When we explained that we had brought our own decorations and would plan to set them up ourselves she just laughed and said not to worry about it, she would take care of all of it. My mom was thrilled! So we brought all our decorations up to her office, explained what we had in mind and left it. She helped me schedule an appointment to have my hair and nails done and also for our complimentary couples massage. There were a few details that weren’t the way I had envisioned but the overall result was excellent.
I was pleased with my hair and nails. The only thing was I didn’t want flowers in my hair I had my own hair pins and in all the last minute hustle I ended up with both my own pins and flowers….it was a bit much. Otherwise my hair held up well and my nails lasted through the day of the wedding (which is pretty good for me!) I did have an additional spa treatment while we were there that was a relaxing 2 hours spent in one of the huts overlooking the ocean. I highly recommend taking advantage of the spa services.
Wedding Location(s): 5
Our wedding was on the beach and I also attended a wedding earlier in the day as a witness for another bride I met earlier in the year on the Couples message board. She was also married on the beach. It didn’t bother her but there were people directly next to the isle leading up to where she and her husband were to stand for the vows. They were just lounging and gawking in their bathing suits. I was appalled at the lack of courtesy these bathing suit clad individuals had! I mean come on…really? Couldn’t move back for 20 minutes I’m glad I saw this at the earlier wedding because I made a really big fuss to about making sure those people were cleared out by the time of my wedding. That was probably my one potential bridezilla moment. I’m not sure if it was the people setting up for the ceremony or my sister (who promised to haul them off the chairs if necessary) but there was a much larger gap between my wedding and the people on the beach. Even though the beach location is not private it is located on the corner of the main beach and to the one side is the foliage so only one side is against the main beach. I knew the other side of the ceremony location had the backdrop of the beach and I was prepared to have onlookers-I just didn’t want them right in my wedding. I haven’t seen all of my photos yet but the ones I have seen don’t have onlookers in the background.
Other resort locations:
We did look at other locations while we were there. If you don’t mind losing the sand in your toes the gazebo overlooking the ocean is the most beautiful location we found. It is very private, the staff blocks off both entrances and you won’t have any uninvited guests or onlookers. Other more private locations included the gardens (we didn’t see anyone over there the whole time so it would be private) and an area above the mineral pool with a life size chess board built into the tile. This might sound strange but it was a magical location with the ocean in the background and the landscaping around the little nook. If it hadn’t been in direct sun I would have had my reception here. In addition to these locations the WC said there were lots of other places they could set up.
We chose the “off season” for our wedding so with the exception of our friends that were married that morning we were the only wedding during the 9 days we stayed there. I didn’t feel rushed or like I was being shuttled around. The staff went out of their way to help me feel as though I was the only wedding they were having that day. During peak seasons there are up to 7 weddings a day so keep this in mind when choosing this resort. Couples has a calendar online that shows weddings booked for each of the resorts so you can see if the day you want to book is already filling up.
The Ceremony: 5
We chose the 4:00 time slot. I’m really glad we did because it starts getting really humid in the morning. By afternoon it’s not as bad. The water was still beautiful and the resort was a little quieter since most of the people that had been out all day were back in their rooms getting ready for dinner. I don’t remember much. The minister was great, he had a sense of humor which we appreciated. I had lost my vows somewhere in the room while we were getting ready so we skipped that part. I honestly don’t remember much more about the ceremony .
The Post – Wedding Reception: 5
Antoinette did a fabulous job of decorating our reception area with the materials we had brought. I hope our photographer got some great pictures because I don’t remember much about it. We requested to have it near the mineral grotto. I was uncomfortably hot by that point and just wanted it to be over so I don’t remember enjoying the reception much. We were given plenty of time, the cake was great. Our wedding music was playing a little far away so it was hard to hear-it was on a small hand held CD player-but I didn’t notice. There wasn’t much structure to the reception, I think in part because I hadn’t really planned much.
Our Formal Reception Dinner: 5
We had a formal reception dinner a couple hours after the wedding. The idea was to give us plenty of time to take pictures around the resort. I however was DONE after the wedding and didn’t want to run around and take pictures. I wish now that I did but it’s probably better in the long run, I wouldn’t have been in a good mood and it would have come through in the pictures.
Our dinner was at the Casanova restaurant on the outdoor patio. Once again Antoinette did a fabulous job of using our decorations to place special touches around the table. It took a long time for our group to be served but I don’t know if that was just to prolong the reception time for us or because the kitchen was slow. It didn’t matter much, the food was great and we all had a wonderful time visiting. We were not in a private area but considering the resort didn’t charge us anything extra for the special reservations and set up I had no complaint.
We chose to bring our own photographer in. The resort charges a $500 fee to do this but we felt it was worth it to know what we were getting. The resort photographer photos were good-but not spectacular-and we had no way seeing a portfolio for the photographer we would end up with. The resort allowed us to bring our photographer back the next morning for no additional fee which we greatly appreciated. I am reviewing my photographer separate from this post.
Posted 14 December 2009 - 07:35 PM
Congrats. and you looked stunning!!
Posted 14 December 2009 - 10:35 PM
Posted 15 December 2009 - 01:51 AM
Posted 15 December 2009 - 10:05 AM
35 fabulous people booked! 31 at The Moon Palace, 4 offsite! YAY!
My planning thread! http://bestdestinati....k-bride-61178/
Posted 15 December 2009 - 11:21 AM
Posted 15 December 2009 - 12:28 PM
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