Gary & Georgette - WWW2003 July (including Couples Negril)

2003 Summer Hedo II/Couples Negril July 24-Aug 3
All right, we've figured out why we procrastinate on the trip report so long.  It brings closure to a trip that you never want to end.  Plus, that trip report from Dan is going to be tough to beat!
In a nutshell, we've always wanted to go to Hedo II with the WWW group, but the dates never seemed to work out with our schedule.  This year everything worked out great and we jumped at the chance.  This was our 3rd trip to II (the last trip was Aug 2001), we've also been to III once (our first trip to Jamaica) and to FDR Pebbles on a family vacation.  We had a great time, loved the changes that have been made to the resort, wonderful people to hang out with and only a couple of minor gripes.  As the title implies, we spent our last two nights at Couples Negril due to Hedo being overbooked.  We had such a good time that we have every intention of heading back down with the Winter group in December.
I'm not sure how long this is going to be, but will try to break it up to make it easier to avoid areas you may not be interested in reading.
This was the first (and probably last) time we travel with USAir.  Due to Georgette and I starting out at different airports, this was the best option if we wanted to arrive in Mobay at the same time.  The trip down was fairly uneventful except each step of the way we had to renegotiate our seating assignments so we could sit together on the final leg.  Of course no food service or audio entertainment on the flight.
The trip back was a nightmare (not all of it USAir's fault).  A storm the night before departure left most of Mobay airport without electricity.  Hand searching all bags and using the wand on people.  Very long lines, grouchy USAir reps and screwing up our seating once again.  We were 20 some rows apart and nothing could be done because the flight was full and the system was 'down'.  Then, just prior to boarding the plane there was one more search of carry-on's.  This is when all matches and lighters were confiscated!  We were told this was being done because it's required.  To make a long travel story short, we missed all our scheduled connections, got rerouted on Delta and finally made it to our final destination shortly after midnight.  Unless USAir has some GREAT sale, guarantee it will be Air Jamaica from now on.
Bus Ride
This was the first time we've taken the bus to II.  We heard the road had been improved and the travel time was 1 to 1.5 hours.  I honestly don't remember how long the trip took but it was too long!  I know it took at least 45 minutes to get out of the city due to some construction at a bridge near the edge of the city.  We did not stop on the way (fine with us) and had some good company on the bus which helped make the ride bearable.  The driver also told us that Friday and Saturday are bad days due to the market in Lucea.
Check In
Check in was uneventful and quick.  We booked ROH and fully expected to get a prude side room.  We were very happy to get a garden view nude near the old basketball courts.
The Room
The rooms haven't changed much since our last trip.  Only minor problems were the coffee maker didn't work and a pretty significant leak through the window when it rained.  Never did get around to getting a new coffee maker (I'm sure it would not have been a problem).  We did not mention the leak until we checked out because the resort was quickly filling and did not want to end up on the prude side.  Also, with just a couple of exceptions (toga night for one), beach towels were left in the room each day, very nice change from last trip.  Not sure how we are going to like the new bathroom layout.  Sounds pretty dangerous with no where to hide when the water temp makes a radical change.  The room we had was already wired for the inevitable television.
The Food
No complaints about the food.  Breakfast is my favorite meal and it was always good.  I think we only ate lunch at the buffet once, during the Wet T-shirt contest.  The lunch seemed about the same as last trip, no real complaints.  Ate the rest of our lunches at the nude grill.  Always good, consistent food.  The buffet at night was just fine.  We ate at Munahana's and Pastafari's several nights and we were very happy with the food there.  Missed out on the Scotch Bonnet this trip but enjoyed it on our last trip.  As has been discussed on the board, the jerk chicken is being served earlier than past trips, usually around 4:30 (Jamaican time) or when the daily rain stopped.
Overall the service was adequate.  Pastafari's was great.  Some thought it took too long but we were in no hurry and thought it was fine.  We also went there a couple of nights after 11:00 just for desert and had a great time.  The main dining room was spotty at times.  If you don't mind getting your own water/juice occasionally then no problems.  We even needed to get two large tables set up on Toga night that were not set up for dinner.  Initially there was a lot of resistance to set them up but it did not take long to convince them to set them up for us.  The grill was always a pleasant experience.  Munahana's was our only complaint.  There was absolutely no way they were going to keep your water glass full without asking several times.  Wine or drinks from the bar were never offered.  All the bars were outstanding.  Our first two trips we seem to recall that the disco bar was a bit slow but not this time.
The waterslide is great.  It seems to be faster than the one at III and doesn't have those seams that tend to hurt after a few trips.  Didn't do the rock climbing, ice skating or mini golf.  My biggest disappointment was not diving at all this trip.  I got a head cold within the first few days there and never cleared up enough to go.  The catamaran trips were fantastic!  I even jumped off the cliff at The Pickled Parrots this trip.  I enjoyed the night trip also, but Georgette does not handle being cold very well and I guess the mid to upper 70's at night was just too much for her!!  The view of the Milky Way and Mars was incredible.  The new sail boats were very nice and easy to sail.  Only played a few games of volleyball, but there was always a big crowd at 4pm for the game.  One change we noticed at the dining room was leg extensions have been added to all the chairs.  What a difference a couple of inches makes!
The People
I know, it's starting to sound like the standard clich, 'It's not the resort, it's the people'.  Well, that is probably true.  Especially after spending two nights at Couples (see below) it's obvious there are nicer places physically to spend our vacation.  The great people we met and spent time with this year is what made the trip.  It's hard to believe that each trip can get better, but it does.  We had so much fun with so many different people, the experience can not be beaten.  From quietly floating in the ocean, pool and hot tub antics, the water slide, the piano bar, just chilling or anything else you want to do, it was all great.  Just too many things to put in writing, plus the need to protect the innocent and not so innocent.  We hope to keep in touch with many of our new found friends and see them again on a future trip.
Couples Negril
Two days before our departure the message light on the telephone was blinking when we came back to the room to get ready for dinner.  We called the front desk to see what was up.  Of course, all the worst possible scenarios go through your head.  This was the first message we've ever gotten at Hedo and assumed the light was broken.  We were informed that due to the Jamaican Holiday (Emancipation and Independence Day) the resort was overbooked and wanted to know if we were interested in moving to the Grand Lido Negril, Couples Negril or Grand Lido Braco for two nights.  We would have use of both facilities (I know, kind of tough if we selected Braco) plus compensation.  We jumped at the chance and told them we'd take GLN.  We packed up, had our stuff outside our room at 9am as instructed and went to the front desk to check out.  We were then informed that GLN was also full and we could choose Couples or Braco.  Well, after a few more miscommunications we did end up taking Couples Negril.
Check in at Couples was not very quick.  They did not seem to know that we were coming and seemed to be scrambling a bit to get a room for us.  We were told to go eat something, have a drink and check back in about an hour.  Our room was ready shortly after checking back with them after we ate.
The rooms are very nice.  We had a second floor room on the corner.  The corner rooms have an extra window.  True, the window faced the tennis courts and road, but it was nice.  Each room also has a balcony (patio for first floor rooms), a coffee pot, huge bath tub and a TV.  I was surprised that there wasn't a mini bar in the room.  There seemed to be quite a bit less storage area than at Hedo, but this wasn't a problem since we just lived out of our suitcases for the two days.
I know food quality is a very subjective thing, but we'd say the food at Couples was better than Hedo.  This is based mainly on more choices and the level of service.  There is a main dining area and two restaurants.  The one restaurant is the beach (or pool) grill by day and an ala carte restaurant at night.  No reservations needed, casual dress.  Friday night was steak and lobster night.  The main dining room is also ala carte on Friday nights.  The other restaurant requires reservations, usually 3 days in advance.  There is also a dress code for this place.  Men have to wear closed shoes and long pants.  Obviously we didn't get a chance to eat here because a) could not get reservations b) I had no long pants c) I had no closed shoes and d) the resort did not sell shoes, only pants.<g>  We are going to add long pants and shoes to our packing list just in case this happens again, then we will be prepared.  The main dining was set up in two different areas, the seating area and the buffet.  You would go to the seating area and a host would seat you and get your drink order.  Then you'd go to the buffet area and get your food.  There was also room service available for breakfast.  It was a continental type breakfast and was ordered with a card that you placed on your door knob prior to 1AM.  You could then eat breakfast on the balcony or in bed.  We did this each morning and it was very good.
The service was very good.  Water, wine, bar drink or whatever was always kept full while eating.  There was a waiter on the beach taking orders.  Everyone we encountered was very friendly and helpful.
The beach has got to be the best part of this resort.  Everyone is always saying how nice the beach at Hedo II is when compared with Hedo III.  While it's true the beach at II is nicer than III, the beach at Couples is an order of magnitude again nicer than Hedo II.  White soft sand, no rocks as far as you can walk out and very little sea grass.  The nude beach is quite small, maybe 75 yards wide, bordering on GLN.  There are hedges on three sides for an attempt at privacy, but really ineffective.  Guests staying at the far end of the resort will walk through to get to the beach and there are always people strolling by from other resorts.  The guard shack is also right there.  If clothed people on a nude beach bothers you, you will not enjoy the setup.  For us and the other 10 or so people there it was not a problem.  There is also a self serve bar with beer, soda, mixers and some booze.  We were talking with another couple that got bumped with us and we all agreed that we could have a grand time here with a few dozen of our best friends!!
There are two pools connected by a water fall of sorts and two hot tubs.  Bathing suits required.  There is a swim up bar at one of the pools.  Nice touch here is a huge awning to get out of the sun and the rain.  Very good service at the swim up bar.  In fact, I had a bit too much service on Saturday during an extra extended rainfall and lost track of a few hours that day.  Georgette says I didn't make too much of a fool of myself.<g>
Overall we were quite happy with our bump to Couples and could see how it would be a nice way to wind down after a week at Hedo.  I believe it's quite a bit less expensive than GLN as well.
I've gone on long enough here.  I guess I could write a small book just on this trip, but Chris S has already beaten me to it!<g>  Can't wait to get back and see everyone again!  Any questions, feel free to ask on the board or email.  Of course, no trip report would be complete without thanking Denny for all he does maintaining such a great web site and all he does putting together these trips for us.
Gary and Georgette