In April 2005, I made a first attempt at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. I chose Sans Souci. While the food was good and I really enjoyed not having to pull out my wallet for everything, I vowed to never return to Jamaica because it rained for my entire trip. Only on the very last day did the sun peak through- as I was heading to the airport. Now, flash forward to May 2011. I somehow had it stuck in my head that I needed to give it one more try. DEJA VU! Though the resort was different (only a mere 5 minutes down the road), I sat and enjoyed 6 days worth of clouds and rain, only to see the sun shining on my drive back to the airport. For the amount of money it costs to fly to Jamaica these days, especially from my current hometown of Phoenix, I want to see sun. Heck, I see sun almost everyday in Arizona, so I would surely enjoy it if it was sunny for most of my trip. I can accept a little bit of rain, but 6 days worth?? If it weren’t for the awesome staff at Couples Tower Isle (also known as CTI), I’d be crying over the bill, which mostly consisted of over $900 worth of airfare and even more complaints about USAirways.
CTI lies just beyond Ocho Rios and is an adults-only, mostly couples-only all-inclusive. It is part of a chain of 3 other resorts within Jamaica. Since I had been to Ocho Rios previously, I really wanted to check out Couples Swept Away or Couples Negril, both located in Negril. Travel agents tend to get special deals to visit properties and then take their new-found knowledge to better market the properties. Sometimes you don’t get handed the exact property you want. Such as the case with me, so I wound up at CTI instead of Negril. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose!
The trip actually started off quite well. The hour and a half van ride was more tolerable than I remembered, I think mostly due to better road conditions and better air conditioning. When we got in the van, we quickly realized that we were the only couple heading to CTI, as the other couples were being dropped off at Sans Souci. This made us think that CTI wouldn’t be that crowded.
Once we made it to CTI, we were quickly greeted with music and chilled towels. We were checked in very quickly and escorted to our room- 4102. The rooms are fairly basic, though kept very clean. For once, the photos shown on the website will give you an accurate picture of what to expect. This is rare and a bit sad, so I commend Couples on being upfront. Room 4102 is located in Bldg 4, first floor and has a very nice view of the Caribbean, Tower Isle, and the swim up bar area just below. Due to its location just above the swim up bar, and also very close to the Bldg 3 connector hallway, the room can be noisy. If you like to go to bed early or sleep in, I would recommend a room on the top floor of either Bldg 3 or Bldg 4. We moved after a few hours to room 4503. Even then, the rooms can be noisy due to the doors opening into a closed hallway. There is a major echo effect and you can hear housekeeping rolling their carts, people entering or leaving their rooms, and in our case, we heard some construction. I assume their renovations are not yet complete, but most of the property has been updated.
The best part of CTI is the food and the service you receive when enjoying your meals or drinks. We found the quality of the food and beverage to be above average, and in the case of Eight Rivers, to be exceptional, at least for our tastes! Verandah restaurant is also quite good and is a very lovely, vibrant atmosphere. Patio, the buffet restaurant, always had excellent service, but the food was hit or miss. I think a lot of that was my own perception since I am a very picky eater. I enjoyed breakfast and the pizza, while my fiance enjoyed some of the more Jamaican dishes, such as Ox Tail. We dined at Bayside, an Asian restaurant, our last night on the property. The setting is perfect- very romantic, with amazing views. However, we were not that impressed with the food. It was good, but not as good as Eight Rivers or Verandah. Maybe it was what we ordered (beef stir fry and Pad Thai), but we have had much better Pad Thai from Pei Wei. The service was surely excellent, though. The resort also offers a pool grill, which mainly serves Jamaican grill items and finger foods. You can just walk in there and serve yourself with soda, nachos, or ice cream, or you can sit down and order entrees. The grill is open all of the time, except during breakfast and dinner hours. It’s even open at 1am for those late night cravings.
Navigating the restaurant schedule can be a little challenging since there are a few options and certain evenings when things are closed. Be advised that on Saturdays, at least as of right now, Eight Rivers is the only restaurant open in addition to a theme buffet and on Monday, Bayside is the only restaurant open in addition to a beach party. In our case, the beach party had to be moved into Patio due to the rain. The Jamaican Jerk pork was my favorite entree. The beach party also features a dance show, which was interactive and entertaining. Also, both Eight Rivers and Bayside require reservations, so be sure to book them immediately after you check in!
As for drinks, they do offer some top shelf choices, though not as top shelf as the Zoetry brand of resorts. For example, the top vodkas were Absolut and Skyy. The main patio bar is almost always open and they have a very extensive drink menu. Also, in the eveings, the piano bar is open for martinis and other drinks. The Piano Bar is located inside of the lobby area, just next to Eight Rivers.
CTI also many opportunities for complementary excursions. These include a trip to Dunn’s River Falls, a glass bottom boat ride, nature walks, late night trips to Margaritaville, and a catamaran cruise. Due to the inclement weather, the catamaran cruise never ran during our stay. All of the activities book up quite early, so I highly recommend getting your schedule together when you check in and getting booked on your activity of choice as soon as possible. The hotel also has another activities desk for those excursions that are an extra cost. Some excursions they offer are trips to Bob Marley’s house or swimming with the dolphins. Sadly, we did not end up doing anything, other than sitting by the pool or on the beach, mostly because the weather was unpredictable. CTI also has a spa, which is small, but the therapists are excellent. We had Marie and Genevieve for our couples massage and wanted to drift off into a peaceful slumber during the treatment. Remember to bring cash for gratuity- you can charge the treatments to the room, but you cannot include a tip in that charge. The couples massage was very reasonable- $210USD for 50 minutes and a 10% tip is discretionary, but welcomed. It may be the only tip you shell out on the resort property.
I guess I should also mention the resort’s name sake, Tower Isle! It’s a small island right off the coastline of the resort. It is clothing optional and in the evenings, weather permitting, you can hold your wedding there. A shuttle boat takes you back and forth to the island and it is on demand. You just go to the water sports shack and request the transfer. I will mention, that at least during our stay, the island was rarely crowded. However, with the unpredictable rain, I imagine that most people who wanted to lay on the beach felt safer on the main resort beach to be closer to shelter.
So, without many complaints, other than the horrid weather, I returned from Jamaica hoping that one day I can visit Negril and experience a different side of Couples and the island. I will certainly NOT be going during the spring months, though. Having said that, I have many other resorts I would like to explore first, but CTI definitely left more of a positive impression than I had expected. I was a little concerned about the number of groups, mainly there for destination weddings, but it could just be that we hit a few bad, rowdy seeds and that is not the norm. CTI is perfect for those couples who want a mix of romance, fun, and a great value package combining food and activities. You really can’t go wrong with the inclusions. Thanks to the CTI staff for a relaxing, stress free stay!
Pictures will be added later- I did some additional traveling post-Jamaica!