Couples Negril: A hip retreat

Editorial coordinator Laura Dennis kicked back and relaxed with her husband for a few days at Couples Negril in Jamaica. Her report follows:

It seemed like an endless journey to get to Couples Negril. We traveled by car, plane, puddle-jumper and shuttle bus for the better part of a day, but that became a distant memory upon entering the resort's open-air lobby.

The staff greeted arrivals with champagne and hot towels, and beckoned guests to the comfortable rattan loungers while the check-in process got under way.

The 234-room Couples Negril is the funkiest member of the Issa Resorts family, which also includes Couples Ocho Rios and Swept Away in Negril.

The low-rise resort, often described as Negril chic, presents a nice contrast to the classic, colonial style of Couples Ocho Rios and the tropical ambience of Swept Away.

Crimson and jade hues, local artwork and lush foliage are key elements found throughout Couples Negril.

Rooms showcase the hip style of Negril, with bold colors and eye-catching tapestries.

Also capturing the attention of guests are the inclusive property's many offerings, from its beachfront locale to its activity lineup.

During the day, most couples could be found lounging at the main pool or on the beach.

The pool's swim-up bar is a popular spot that offers cool drinks and a shady respite from the strong sun.

Another hot spot may be the nude beach with its self-service bar. I personally don't know, but I believe the adventurous can attest to it.

Couples also can be found participating in all kinds of water sports, snuggling in the swinging seats in the lobby (which boast great views) and engaging in many public displays of affection, especially the honeymooners.

Some of the other diversions are the air-conditioned game room; a small gym, where classes such as yoga are held; the spa, with a long list of services, and four tennis courts (two are lighted for night play).

One of Couples' strongest selling point is including off-site excursions in its rates.

Guests can sign up for a shopping trip, catamaran sunset cruise, glass-bottom boat ride and an outing to Rick's Cafe, the place to go for sunsets and cliff-jumping.

Playing golf at a local course is another excursion that can be arranged by Couples for no additional fee, according to resort sales manager Caroline Cousins.

She said greens fees and transfers are included in the rates.

Dining is a large part of the Couples experience. Food is plentiful, tasty and available round the clock.

Cassava Terrace is open for breakfast (try the fruit smoothies), lunch and dinner; the Beach Grill serves snacks throughout the day and Mediterranean cuisine in the evening, and room service is available for continental breakfast.

The resort's gourmet restaurant and its top dining venue is Otaheite (pronounced Oh-Tahiti).

The a la carte restaurant is open six nights a week, and reservations are required.

The dress code at Otaheite is casually elegant, which translates into long pants and a button-down shirt for men, and either a dress, skirt and blouse or pants and blouse for women.

There is nightly entertainment, but it is not unusual to see couples walking hand in hand back to their rooms after dinner.

And spending time in the room is not such a bad thing.

All of the rooms have balconies or patios, and nice touches in every unit include coffeemakers with Blue Mountain coffee, CD players, pitchers of water that are replenished daily and umbrellas. However, guests need to bring their own CDs.

The resort has 18 suites, which feature hammocks on the balconies, Jacuzzi tubs and stocked minirefrigerators. Hors d'oeuvres are delivered to guests in suite accommodations, as well.

Irons and ironing boards, which are available in suites, are being added to regular rooms this winter.

The resort has a strict no-tipping policy, but guests should have plenty of singles on hand when transferring to the airport, for shuttle bus drivers and porters.

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