Honeymoon Bash: Couples Tower Isle, Jamaica

All-Inclusive Honeymoon Ideas

When it comes to choosing a honeymoon location, narrowing down the plethora of options isn’t easy – especially when you’re anticipating the trip for a full year after your wedding day.

My husband and I weren’t able to take a true honeymoon after our 2011 wedding near Scottsdale, Arizona. The cost of planning an out-of-state wedding, along with limited time off, meant we had to hightail back to Maryland just days after we said “I do.”

So, when it came time to plan a one-year anniversary trip that would double as a late honeymoon, we knew we wanted everything to be just right (while keeping our limited budget in mind, too). We were typical honeymooners – we wanted sun and sand, good service and an all-inclusive option. After shelling out so much money for the wedding, we didn’t want to pull out our wallets every time one of us ordered a drink at the resort bar.

After exploring a variety of options, we picked Couples Tower Isle (CTI) in Ochos Rio, Jamaica. Selling points included an in-room minibar (that stocked beer, wine — sparkling, too! — gin, vodka, rum and whisky), ocean views, included excursions, five on-site restaurants and a piano bar (more on that in a bit). Tipping was not allowed, further adding to the “no wallets needed” atmosphere.

Bonus: CTI is an adults-only resort AND a couples-only resort — a perk we didn’t even realize we wanted for this particular vacation.

Tower Isle at CTI in Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

Tower Isle at CTI in Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Pssst…you can visit the island, but only if you’re willing to shed your clothes — it’s au natural only. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

Couples Resorts really pride themselves on service, which was evident from the moment our (complimentary) shuttle bus rolled up to the resort. We were riding with a duo from Tennessee who had gotten married at the resort five years prior. We watched as a staff member greeted the husband by name the instant he saw him.

Just think how many guests this staff member had seen in the past five years, and yet he still knew this man by name.

We checked into an oceanview premiere room, which meant we weren’t guaranteed a view of the ocean. Instead, our room (5102) had a stunning view of a bay that, truthfully, I’m not sure I would have traded for an ocean view. Our room was quiet (in comparison to the rooms that overlooked the pools, particularly the one that housed the swim-up bar), and suited our budget just fine.

The view of the bay and a glass of sparkling wine. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

The view of the bay and a glass of sparkling wine. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

One reason we booked CTI was because it included two excursions, as well as unlimited water sports, including scuba diving, although, we didn’t take advantage of the latter. We did, however, climb Dunns River Falls and had a blast on a catamaran “booze cruise.”

Climbing Dunns River Falls is an included excursion at CTI. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

Climbing Dunns River Falls is an included excursion at CTI. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

CTI is home to two reservation-only restaurants, Eight Rivers, a fine-dining establishment, and Bayside, an open-air Asian restaurant perched over the ocean. The property also has a buffet, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (we enjoyed the food, but got a little tired of the breakfast buffet), a beach grill and a pool grill, plus another full-service, non-reservation restaurant, Verandah.

Tip: If you don’t like a dish you’ve ordered, just order a different one. If you want to try two entrees, the answer is always “yes, mon!”

One of our favorite spots at the resort was the piano bar, which opened around 6 p.m. nightly. It was there that I discovered an affinity for Grey Goose cherry martinis, while my husband sipped on his favorite, White Russians.

CTI was Jamaica’s first year-round resort (it opened in 1949 and was renovated in 2009) and has a long history of entertaining celebrities — the evidence is in the photographs lining the walls of the piano bar.

Bayside Restaurant at CTI. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

Bayside Restaurant at CTI. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Cassel.

Of course, there are always a few instances in which a resort can improve, though, at CTI, they were few and far between. Many of them fall into a “this can’t be helped” category. The resort is approximately an hour and 45 minutes from the Montego Bay airport, requiring a lengthy shuttle ride in both directions. Fortunately, though, Couples serves up Red Stripe at its airport lounge.

Additionally, the whole resort — well, the whole country, from what I hear — runs on “Island Time.” You have to be patient, especially at dinner in Verandah, the only full-service restaurant that doesn’t require a reservation. Dinner lasted a couple of hours in this restaurant. But when we dined with two other couples that we met on the trip, it didn’t seem to matter so much.

Other minor bugaboos: The shower soaked the bathroom floor, so we used up a lot of towels. And no matter what we did, we just couldn’t get the room service staff to bring us a wine cork for our minibar.

Despite these minor issues, my husband and I don’t hesitate to recommend CTI. We recently recommended it to another couple for their September honeymoon. When telling the soon-to-be newlyweds about the resort, I asked my husbands to share his pros and cons. His response? “There were cons?”

We plan to go back to CTI for our fifth wedding anniversary.

Have you been to CTI? What did you think?

Check back in September for Kelsey’s review of the Sun Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico.

 

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