OK, so let me start by saying this was our first trip to a Couples Resort. We have previously been to Sandals Whitehouse and one of the most frustrating things before we booked was trying to find traveler reviews of Couples from travelers who had visited Sandals before. So, not only will I give an in depth review of Couples Swept Away, at the end I will also give you my take on how this resort compares to its competitor. If you find my review helpful, please be sure to click the helpful button at the bottom so more travelers have easy access to it!
We visited Swept Away from July 11-16. I'm no stranger to all inclusive resorts, but this was the first Couples we have visited. Overall it was a good trip and our group had a lot of fun, but with any business, there is plenty of room for improvement at this resort. I truly hope that management reads this review and uses it to improve their resort, because they really are not that far away from being in the top tier of all inclusives in the Caribbean.
So once we got through Customs, we went to the Couples lounge to wait for our bus. The staff there was very friendly and they offered water and beer. We were there for about twenty minutes before we went out to the bus. Remember that the airport workers who take your bags to the bus are NOT with Couples, so it's customary to tip them $1 per bag. Normally they would bring a big bus but because we were the only ones checking in, we got a minivan. The driver was a great driver but he really didn't do anything to help "welcome" or "enhance" the drive (about an hour and a half). On the Sandals bus, they stopped half way for drinks and snacks and the driver was talking to everyone, having a good time, and pointing out things along the trip. No big deal, we just talked amongst ourselves, but it would have been nice to get a little something out of him.
Next we arrived to check in, and this part was pretty poor. The other couple we traveled with had never been out of the country or to an all inclusive, and I feel like with the way check in went, if we were not there to help them, they would have had a really bad experience. After putting our credit card on file, we were handed a map, a few things were pointed out, and we were pretty much left to "figure it out" on our own. With a large all inclusive resort like this, normally someone would come out and give a 5-10 minute talk about how dinner reservations work, talk about water sports, the activities, be welcoming. For us... nothing. Just handed a map and that was that. So we headed to our rooms and went out to explore.
So for dinner, there are pretty much 4 restaurants to choose from, well strike that, it depends on what night of the week you are in. One of the strangest things I've ever seen at a resort like this... the top two restaurants actually close one night a week. The top two restaurants (Feathers and Lemongrass) are among the best food I've had at an all inclusive, yet the sad part is you'll only get to eat in them about 50% of your stay (if you're lucky). They don't let you make reservations for your entire trip at once and each of them close one night a week. So the rest of your stay, you're forced to eat in the lower tier restaurants like The Palms. You'll be able to find food at this resort pretty much every minute you are awake though, as they have a snack counter with burgers, fries, sandwiches open until 5am. Dinner reservations can only be made at the two top restaurants for 6:30pm and 9:00pm, so make sure as soon as you check in that you make a reservation for each of them (the concierge desk closes at 7pm which is where you make the reservations). As I mentioned, the food at Lemongrass and Feathers was great... make sure you ask to try a few different things. The Palms was one of the worst service experiences I've had at an all inclusive. We ate there for breakfast each morning (they have a decent buffet) and for dinner two of the nights. The morning staff was decent, but the night staff was terrible. Not only did they not have the go above and beyond mentality that many on the resort have, most of them were appearing to be downright angry that they were working. They gave us attitude if we asked for something as simple as a drink and just didn't seem to care about making the guests happy. Management really needs to clean house with the staff in the Palms and get a manager in there that can make sure the rest of the Jamaican (and Couples) hospitality is portrayed correctly.
The water sports offered at CSA (Couples Swept Away) are fantastic, one of the best things in the resort. You can use the hobby cats, paddle boards, kayaks, etc pretty much all day. They also have several scuba and snorkel trips throughout the day that are free (unless you don't have a scuba license, then there is a small fee for a quick resort course). The snorkel trip was fantastic, they have several reefs that are only a 4 minute boat ride away, and you get to see tons of stuff. The water is clear and calm. Julian loves his job and does a great job on these trips. We also did the nigh snorkel which was REALLY cool, but they never once mentioned that it was $35 a person until just before we got on the boat - so don't be surprised if you sign up for it. They mentioned there was a fee if we did not show up but never mentioned there would be a charge if we did show. You'll get back from it at about 8:20pm so if you rush you can shower and make a 9pm reservation at one of the top restaurants. The final thing we did is the catamaran cruise. This leaves at about 4pm most days and was a must do for all couples. It's a mix between site seeing, booze cruise, and cave swimming. You go up the coast and get to see a bunch of stuff on the way to these AMAZING caves that you can swim in... one of the coolest experiences ever. Bring a snorkel and mask for sure! On the way back, the boat turns up the music, dancing begins (if you want), and everyone just enjoys themselves. Plenty of room on the boat to just "hang out" if you aren't wanting to party.
---BEACH AND POOLS---
Nice and simple... as every other review mentions, it's one of the nicest beaches you'll ever see. Some guests complain they can't get the local vendors to go away, and in my opinion, that's an exaggeration and their own fault. The beach is very wide and there are 4-5 "levels" of chairs from the ocean to the resort. The beach vendors only ever say anything to the row closest to the water. Also, it's the same 5-10 guys and girls going up and down the beach, so if you tell them no thank you, they remember you and leave you alone. We stayed in chairs near the bar and under some trees and never once had a vendor come bother us... we did get some Pot sellers motioning to us to come to the water to come buy, but as soon as you shake your head they move right along. The pools are nothing special at all at this resort... a rectangle with some water to jump into. Not many people were ever really using them, as everyone was on the beach. It would be nice if they put down some fresh paint and cleaned up the pool area though. We normally are "pool people" but even we were on the beach every day - it's just that nice. They have a huge swimming area and you can see your feet throughout it because it's that clean.
At CSA I felt like 30% were ALL STARS, 40% were doing their job with a smile and were very nice, and 30% were down right terrible and should be only working "behind the scenes". I would say overall, the biggest areas that need improvement staff wise are The Palms and those involved in making the first impression a memorable one. The best overall departments were Entertainment and Water Sports, with the Beach Bars being a close 3rd. The all stars that I would like to name (and I hope CSA rewards them for this) are:
Beach Bar - Garnett , Georgette, Jodi - We loved these three because not only did they make tasty drinks, but they were teaching everyone to dance, remembered our names, and were playing local island music the whole time. They always were loving their job and the guests which made it a lot of fun to be with them all day.
Entertainment - Andre, Rosalyn, & DJ Gemini - Andre is the best dancer I've ever seen at a resort, period. He and Rosalyn make a great team both on the dance floor and around the resort as well. They remember who you are and really bring life to the resort. Rosalyn is a fantastic dancer as well and she really made the catamaran cruise a lot of fun. DJ Gemini did a great job in the club... great mixes!
Club Bar - Shavanna - We only got him one night because he went on vacation but he was the life of the party. GREAT shots and really interacted well with the guests. He's a ball of energy!
Water Sports - Julian - Did a great job on the snorkel and night snorkel trips. Very friendly, very patient, did a good job making sure everyone had a great time.
Lemongrass - Itecia, Tony Ann - These two gave the best service we had in the restaurants. Very nice, gave you what you wanted, and most importantly... they SMILED and enjoyed themselves, which was a rare occurrence from the wait staff on property.
Without these 10 staff members, this visit would have been a bust. There were a lot of bad apples working (many of them in The Palms, but a few scattered all around), but these All Stars allowed us to look past the bad apples, really enjoy our stay, and have us talking about them days after we return. Out of the 10, I'd have to give top top honors to Andre, Rosalyn, and Garnett. All ten were phenomenal and these three really just were having such an amazing time each day, there's no way you couldn't follow suit. Have them train others on the resort, let them lead. It doesn't take a lot of effort to be nice or to go out of your way to help a guest, and this crew really gets it. They are the foundation for this resort and I applaud them! One other recommendation in the entertainment department would be to gut the Casino. Most of the machines don't work and it's a creepy environment. Gut it all, put 2 pool tables, a ping pong table, some dart boards in there and make it into a pub atmosphere. It would be a great compliment to the night club and would vastly improve the biggest eyesore on the resort.
OVERALL... Couples Swept Away is a great resort and is well worth the money we spent. I would give them a 3.8 star rating overall. If they cleaned up four simple things:
- Palm staff overhaul
- All restaurants open every night
- Better night entertainment
- Better first impression greetings
Clean up these 4 things, and I'd easily rate them 4.5-5 stars on a return visit. Was very happy with what we got vs what we paid. One tip, book the Mobay VIP lounge at the airport for your return trip. You can do this at the resort or through your travel agent for $30. It's comfortable, tons of couches, free fast wi fi, unlimited drinks and bar, food, etc. Well well well worth the $30. You can read below to compare my stay at Couples vs my stay at Sandals.
OK, so as I said earlier, before we booked we had a hard time trying to find some reviews on Couples from those who had previously been to a Sandals. When traveling to Sandals, I recommend only going if you can afford a room with a butler or a club level room, because they have the ability to make dinner, water sport, and excursion reservations for you. If you go without a butler or club level, I would not be happy because you can't reserve anything really... you have to wait in line at the restaurants as you would if showing up to a busy restaurant in the main land... and that wait could be an hour or more. Couples does not have a butler service level, all guests are on the same tier. By going to Couples instead of Sandals with club level, we saved about $1500 over the five days, so that should be taken into consideration. The water sports at Couples was way better than Sandals. The quality of food at the top two restaurants of Couples was better than at Sandals, but at Sandals, all restaurants were consistently good. At Sandals, all restaurants were open each night, which was a MAJOR plus. With the club level, we got to eat where we wanted, when we wanted, throughout the entire stay. The first impressions were much better at Sandals, as they had someone give us an overview of the resort and it was nice that the bus from the airport stopped halfway in for drinks and snacks. The room we got in Sandals was newer and cleaner, but none of the rooms you'll find in Jamaica are going to be "5 star" type of Las Vegas or NY rooms. The Sandals rooms had better fit and finish and were close to an American standard 4.5 stars. The Couples rooms were clean and had everything they needed, but the fit and finish needed updating, especially in the bathroom... closer to a 3.0-3.5 star American standard. They are quaint and not made to be stayed in for a long time - get out on the beach mon!
I would say the grounds were pretty comparable in the two, maybe a slight advantage goes to Sandals. The beach is WAY better at CSA but the pools are WAY better at Sandals Whitehouse - so it depends on what you like. When it comes to the staff, it's a tough one to call. At CSA I mentioned that I felt like 30% were ALL STARS, 40% were doing their job with a smile and were very nice, and 30% were downright terrible. At Sandals Whitehouse I felt like 5-10% were ALL STARS, 80% were doing their job with a smile and were very nice, and very very few were downright terrible and should be only working "behind the scenes". At Sandals we never really encountered too many terrible staff, but also didn't have as many all stars as Couples did. So, pick your poison. Sandals wins for consistency and less bad apples, but Couples wins for having the most all stars on their staff, though they had so many bad apples it was tough to over look it. Night entertainment was better at Sandals. When there they had a steel drum band with beach party, a beach dessert night buffet, a comedian, etc. At Couples, they had some cheesy island singers on stage for an hour or two a night and that was about it.
Overall, here's the way I personally would look at it. I would give my Sandals trip 4.8 stars. I would give my Couples trip 3.8 stars... BUT, Couples was $1,500 cheaper over the 5 days, so that's a handicap that has to be weighed in. To me, Sandals just has a little bit of an edge in most categories. Rooms are a little nicer, staff was consistent, grounds were a little nicer, entertainment was better, etc. They just seemed to have their act together a little bit better. IF the extra $1500 doesn't bother you, go Sandals all the way... BUT if you'd rather hold onto that cash, you'll be very very happy at Couples, just prepare yourself with some of the tips and reviews I've mentioned.
I'd like to thank Amy McHugh at Dream Makers Vacation Services 888-449-3563 for helping us with the travel plans... look her up and use her... they really help when booking a resort like this - and her services are FREE. I really hope you found the review informative. I'd love to be contacted by CSA if they want more specifics of how they can improve (Room 3315, checked in 7/11/14).
Please mark this review as helpful if you agree!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Immediately upon entering Couples Swept Away, you realize that you have arrived in paradise. Exotic flowers bloom amidst acres of green—on seven miles of the purest white sand beach in Negril, Jamaica. Dotted among the tropical gardens—open-air cafes, small pool enclaves and fresh fruit oases are yours to discover. Never crowded or hurried, the resort offers an intimate tranquility and when desired, total seclusion. All rooms embrace a quiet elegance with island cedar furnishings and pure white linens. Plantation shutters open onto private verandahs with views of gardens and azure sea. Breezy open-air restaurants engage candle-lit lanterns and billowing white curtains to strike a romantic note. While the pristine 10-acre sports complex encompasses every imaginable activity, the superb spa serves as a haven of relaxation. Couples Swept Away simply captures your heart and soothes your soul. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Couples Swept Away Negril
- Couples Swept Away Hotel Negril
- Jamaica Couples Swept Away
- Swept Away Resort
- Negril Couples Swept Away
- Swept Away Negril
- Couples Swept Away Jamaica
- Couples Negril