Jamie’s Jamaican SCUBA Adventure Part 3

The last half of our week at Couples Negril was just as good as the first half.  I am typically more of a pool person than a beach person, but I could not tear myself away from the beach – any time we weren’t busy with something else, you could find us perched under a tree, half in, half out of the shade, watching the gorgeous blue ocean.  There were also entertaining beach vendors, who would come by and sing songs for a tip.  Some of the people complained about them and the security guards would eventually shuffle them along, but I thought they were awesome and certainly added to the ambiance.  Well worth a dollar here and there.  Otherwise, the vendors on the beach never bothered us, unless we walked past the Couples beach and on to other parts of the beach – even then, they were few and far between.

One of our favorite things about Couples Negril is that we never had to wait for a chair at the beach or at the pool – there was always an excess of chairs.  The hotel has been full all week and in addition to not waiting for chairs, we never once had to wait to get into our choice of restaurant.   We ate at the main dining room three times, Lychee twice, Heliconia once and tonight, our last night, was their “Jamaica” night, with a Jamaican Buffet (awesome), a typical Jamaican Quartet (very awesome) and the Silverbirds Steel Drum Band (unbelievably awesome!).  The energy of those kids is amazing!  Afterwards, there was also a bonfire on the beach and some more entertainment.  Definitely our favorite  night of the whole trip.

After my initial SCUBA training and dives, I have done two more dives.  Both were good, but the last one was the best.   It was a deeper dive to 60 feet.  There were lots of us, so they split us into two groups.  My group saw turtles, rays and tons of fish – huge schools of fish, including Lionfish.  The other group saw a huge ray and three sharks – eeek, I think I’m ok with being in my group.  A shark would be cool, but there is no guarantee I wouldn’t panic just a little bit!

We also wandered over on our one rainy morning to do an inspection of Breezes Grand Negril and Hedonism II.   I had toured both of these resorts about 10 years ago.  I was pleasantly surprised with Breezes Grand Negril.  It was a Grand Lido when I last saw it and not a lot had changed. The rooms were nice – nicer than the ones at Couples Negril with whirlpool tubs and a nice sunken sitting area.  The grounds were also nice and well kept and the restaurants looked nice, although we didn’t eat here.  The only downsides – it’s big, lots of walking and the pool area is very small.  They now only offer room service to their suites – they used to offer it to all rooms and they have done away with the free manicure and pedicure.  Otherwise, I think staying in one of their beachfront luxury suites would be quite heavenly – they have a private courtyard that opens to the beach and has a private hot tub on it.  Nice!

Hedonism was…well, Hedonism.  They are busier now that Hedo III closed.  The grounds were nice, the rooms were barely just ok – very basic and dark with pleather couches.  It wouldn’t be my choice to stay at, but for those who want more of a “naughty” vacation and want the option to be nude 24 hours a day, then this is the place for you.  We did have a lunch buffet here while we waited for the sales manager and the pasta lunch station was quite good.  The other guests seemed quite happy there.  A tip for those who have never been – it is definitely not all gorgeous 20 something’s at this hotel – all ages, shapes and sizes!

All in all, my final thoughts on Couples – not a 5 star luxury resort, but a comfy, relaxing 4 star resort with 5 star service, great food and a great beach.  There are many, many, many repeat guests here – many of whom met friends here and they all make plans to come back at the same time every year.  It is definitely the sort of resort that gives you a feeling of “family” and “welcoming”.  Would I return?  Definitely.  Jamaica and Negril definitely lived up to my memories of them and I can’t wait to return again!

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Jamie’s Jamaican SCUBA Adventure part 2

Well, by this time tomororow, I will have a PADI Scuba Card in my hand (my temporary one, anyway!).  The dive instructor that I had, Sugar, was awesome.  Conscience and very patient.  Despite the fact that I had done my pool and classroom work at home and that I had a refresher the week before we came, he made me get in the pool and demonstrate every skill before he would take me in the ocean.  He needed to be sure that I knew what I was doing – and it also got me more comfortable before doing my first ocean dive.

After that, we (me and a nice Swiss couple), headed out for our open water dives.  We did three dives and tested all our skills (and passed, thankfully!).  I saw lots of little Rays, Lionfish, lobsters, crabs, coral, conch shells and a multitude of brightly colored fish.  My favorites had bright yellow tails, with bright blue bodies and had lots of silver spots that seemed to glow from within.  I have no idea what they were, but they were gorgeous.

Now, I have one more dive to do tomorrow afternoon and that will be it.  A success!

After the diving, I had another great lunch at the beach grill of fried Calamari and caesar salad, then spent a couple of hours on the beach before going for a deep tissue couples massage.  The Spa was excellent and at one time was voted the best in the Caribbean.  Definitely worthwhile visiting while you are here.  THANK YOU again to all the people at work for the spa credit.  We loved it!!!

We checked out the menus at all three restaurants that we can go to (unfortunately, Mark forgot his fancy pants, so we can’t go to Otahaite, which is their formal a la carte).  The menu at the casual restaurant looked great tonight and it’s A La Carte again, so think we’ll just head over there.

Jamie’s Jamaica and SCUBA Adventure

I started planning this trip to Jamaica almost a  year ago, with the hope of getting SCUBA certified.  I took all the pool and class room lessons at The Dive Center in Saskatoon before I left and the instructors there were all awesome and as I head down to Jamaica, I am feeling quite confident that by the end of the week, I will be PADI certified…..plus I get to enjoy another week in Jamaica.  It’s been 8 years since I was last here, so I am long overdue.  It is my favorite island.  You can’t beat the warm hospitality of Jamaican people or the exceptional food, plus gorgeous beaches and clear Caribbean waters.  I’m looking forward to going “home”.

Welcome to Jamaica and Negril!  We arrived on Friday, December 9th with Sunwing Airlines, direct from Saskatoon.  We had paid extra to have the exit row seats and were very glad we had done so.  For $80, we received the exit row seat, priority check in, an extra $10 kg of luggage allowance and first choice for meals.  The regular seats looked mighty squishy and a lot of men were standing in the aisles for a lot of the flight, so they were able to stretch their legs a bit.

Our flight arrived on time and we were through customs and sitting in the Couples Resorts arrivals lounge shortly after.  We had about 20 minutes to wait for our shuttle to the resort – just long enough to enjoy most of a Red Stripe Light!  Boo to Mark for wanting a Corona!  When in Jamaica, it must be Red Stripe!

Our transfer ended up being a private one as we were the only two that were going to Couples Resorts in Negril on our flight.  By the time we left the airport at 6:30pm, there were no more people trying to help with your luggage or sell you anything and it was very quiet  – I think we may have been the last flight in that night.

Our transfer took just over an hour and a half.  It was quite a crazy ride – lots of traffic and quick turns, but our driver, Omar from Juta tours was great and informative and we made it safely.

Our check in was awesome.  We were greeted with cold towels and a cold glass of champagne.  A quick form was filled out and we were on our way to our room in block 4.  There are several – 8 or 9 room blocks – separate 3 story buildings.  We were on the right side, if you were facing the ocean, right near the tennis courts and about 100 yards from the beach and the watersports center.  We are on the second floor, which is perfect.  I like to be off the ground floor, but the third would have been a lot of stairs (it’s holidays, I’m lazy!)

The rooms, as I had read before coming, need some updating.  They are clean and cozy and comfortable, but there is a bit of rust in the bathrooms and the grout could be redone.  Really, if they updated the bathrooms and the furnishings, it would be a great room.  However, it’s still fine, just nothing to write home about.  The air conditioning works great and we have a nice view of the gardens and just beyond to a bit of beach and water.  It is very quiet in the rooms – I don’t hear anything at night.

The staff of the resort are fantastic.  Everyone greets us with a smile and is very helpful.  In particular, the young man who brought us to our room, although I can’t remember his name.  He stopped along the way and pointed out where everything was and how late each restaurant was open, etc.  There is a no tipping policy at this resort and it feels a bit weird at times as normally he would have definitely earned himself a tip!

We arrived at the hotel after 8pm and we were hungry!  We went to the main casual restaurant, which is a buffet 3 nights a week and a la carte 4 nights a week.  It was A La Carte as Friday night is Lobster night at Couples Negril.  The food was awesome – from the Chicken and Pineapple skewers we had for appetizers to the Caribbean Rock lobster and Caesar Salad.  That is why I love Jamaica – the FOOD!

The following morning, I did site inspections of both Couples Negril and Couples Swept Away.  They have a similar feel to them – their design and buildings, main restaurants, etc.  The main differences are that Swept Away is quite a bit bigger – lots of walking.  More restaurant choices, but also more you need to make reservations at and that have a dress code.  At Couples Negril it is very small – you can get anywhere in 5 minutes and only one restaurant requires a reservation and dress code.  The other a la carte’s, you just walk in anytime.   Both Couples offer a variety of watersports like Scuba, snorkeling, Catamaran, etc.  They also have land sports like tennis, golfing and volleyball.  Couples Swept Away caters to the health nut and sports enthusiast.  They have flood lit basketball and tennis courts, so you can play in the dark.  They have racquetball and squash courts.  They have a healthy snack bar in the sports section (across the street) that serves all kinds of smoothies and fruit juice and healthy snacks.  They also have a vegetarian lunch restaurant with sushi and other vegetarian items.  They have an Olympic sized lap pool and a jogging track.  SO, if you want a large resort with tons of fitness options and a gorgeous, drop dead beach, then I think Swept Away is for you.  (Note two room categories, the beachfront suites and the atrium suites do NOT have television sets).  If you want a small, intimate resort with tons of personal touches (the staff quickly remember you and you get to know the other guests), then Couples Negril is for you.  I am happy with our choice of Couples Negril.  I really enjoy smaller resorts.

After touring the two hotels, we had lunch at the beach grill of Jerk Chicken – delicious, then settled ourselves on the beach for the afternoon.  The beach chairs come covered with a floatie that you can take in the pool or ocean.   They also have red flag service on the beach where they will bring you drinks when you need one.

We tried Lychee, their Asian restaurant for dinner.  It was quite good.  The appetizer platter for two was excellent –  fried shrimp, cold rolls and a spring roll, some kind of tofu wonton and chicken skewers, etc.  Yum!  The grilled chicken with green curry was also good.  I think next time I would try the Pad Thai as it is also supposed to be good.  What I enjoyed the most – the LYCHEE Martini (I just had to have one!) and the deep fried ice cream!

After dinner, we listed to their entertainment – a local singer who was excellent, then an early night as I hope to start SCUBA bright and early in the morning.  We have requested a continental room service breakfast to save time in the morning.  That is the only meal that you can get through room service, unless you are in a suite.