Where does a high-end New York wedding planner go for his own destination wedding?
Good question. With many of his guests also in the wedding business, and his parents in the travel business, our son, along with his fiancée had to find something unique to “wow” guests who thought they had seen it all.
They wanted the wedding to be somewhere tropical, yet accessible to guests from all over the country. After looking at all the possible locations, they settled on Jamaica – in particular, Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Reasons included accessibility, friendly people, common language, lots of venue choices, excellent weather, beautiful beaches and Caribbean ocean, wonderful food with naturally healthy drinking water and plenty of varied activities and excursions for guests.
We went to Jamaica in March of 2015 and after visiting a handful of resorts including two Sandals resorts, Jamaica Inn, and two Couples resorts, we all decided on Couples for the November wedding. Any one of the other resorts would have provided an excellent wedding experience and we have stayed at each of them as a couple and have nothing but raves for them, their management, and staff (See our reviews on TripAdvisor and in more detail right her on our Blog). But our couple wanted something absolutely unique, with a cliff-like ceremony and a sandy beach reception. Turns out using Couples Tower Isle for the ceremony and Couples Sans Souci Sunset Beach for the reception fit the bill perfectly – and was less expensive than the other resorts.
Couples Tower Isle has a private island a short four minute boat trip from the resort itself, which provided the unique cliff-like, castle setting for the ceremony.
Couples Sans Souci had the amazing Sunset Beach, famous for its incredible . . . you guessed it . . . sunsets. Perfect for our sandy beach reception.
So if you plan a 3:00 ceremony on Couples Tower Isle’s private island and a reception on Couples Sans Souci Sunset Beach about a half hour before sunset (exact time depending upon the time of year), you get the best of both worlds.
Now, this happened to fit our couples’ vision of their wedding, but you don’t have to do it this way. You can easily use one resort or the other for both the ceremony and the reception. For a larger group, you may want to go with Couples Sans Souci, because it is a larger resort with a more expansive beach. They have also recently completely refurbished the rooms facing the beach as well as one of their main restaurants, "The Palazzino," which overlooks the beach and Caribbean Sea. But I would do what we did which was to visit both resorts ahead of time and then make your decision.
Although unique and considered by everyone (including our wedding pros) to be the best wedding they had ever attended, using two resorts presents logistical complexities you can’t imagine and must be handled by a travel agency like ours with personal experience in doing this. We know every “nook and cranny” of this plan and how to anticipate and facilitate its smooth outcome because we planned our son’s wedding and we have just been through it, personally and on premises. We also know and have worked with the people on the inside who will assure you a fabulous experience. Whatever you choose for your venue, we would urge you to contact us on our dedicated phone line 516-300-9924 and let us guide you with your particular needs. If you get a recorded message on this number, try 516-338-4420.
The GMs of both Couples’ resorts are fantastic – Mr. Leonard Henry of Couples Tower Isle and Mr. Pierre Battaglia of Couples Sans Souci. GM, of course is the abbreviation for General Manager, but I referred to them as Great Magicians, as they can make the seemingly “impossible” happen. We have experienced the work of both these gentlemen and they are truly amazing.
Accommodations at both resorts are outstanding as is the food and the staff. Our wedding guests stayed at Sans Souci, since this is where our reception was held. Special mention of the Sans Souci staff goes to:
Creshena House, wedding coordinator and Georgette Hyde, the new wedding coordinator who both stayed on top of all our wedding details from beginning to end.
Guest Services Manager, Nicola Barker along with Tasha-Gaye Braham and Tanesia Thomas were outstanding in coordinating golf reservations, excursions and transportation.
Deluise Fung– who prepared the gift baskets, was professional, accommodating, even with the last minute changes to the gift basket quantity.
Milton Lewinson, entertainment coordinator – provided talented entertainment nightly and at special events.
Roadian Slue – with an unforgettable smile and laugh, he was fun, outgoing, and seemed to always be there whenever you needed him. He was very helpful at our reception getting our lanterns to fly and even gracing our guests with a quick break-dance performance
Oshane Wright – super attentive, friendly, and polite.
Here we are with our pals, Roadian and Oshane:
Because guest were staying a Couples Sans Sousi, Couples Tower Isle, and Riu (those with children), transportation to and from the airport as well as to and from the two Couple's resorts for the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and reception, was a complexity in and of itself. All transportation was flawless carried out by Karandas Tours. The buses were immaculate, the drivers professional and courteous, particularly Warren, and the prices were competitive.
The owners, Dwight and Maureen Soares are serious about maintaining an excellent reputation. You can check out their TripAvisor reviews here. They are responsive, responsible and are personally delightful. Karandas Tours can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 876-974-2063.
Their website is www.karandastours.com/.
THE DRESS REVEAL AT COUPLES TOWER ISLE
THE CEREMONY AT COUPLES TOWER ISLE ISLAND
THE RECEPTION AT COUPLES SANS SOUCI SUNSET BEACH
A magical moment captured on video:
Please feel free to call us at 516-300-9924 to book your dream destination wedding.
We look forward to speaking with you!
On our recent expedition to help our son and his fiancée find the perfect destination site for their wedding (see our separate article on this process), we decided to use Couples Tower Isle as our “base of operations,” not only because it was, itself, a contender, but because it was a property we had not reviewed previously, although we did review the sister resort, just minutes away, Couples, Sans Souci. (See our review here.)
Travel to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Travel from New York’s JFK to Montego Bay was a breeze on JetBlue.
Travel Tip: We always recommend taking the earliest flight out. It’s less crowded and there are fewer delays, since the plane is already at the airport and you are not waiting for it to come from another location. You’ll get through immigration quickly in Jamaica, but most importantly, you will have more time to spend at your resort! For the same reason, you will want to take the latest flight out.
Travel Tip: Inform your resort ahead of time that you will be arriving early, to see if you can get an early check-in time. Just in case, pack some beach clothes on the outside flap of your carry on, so that you can start enjoying the resort as soon as you arrive, whether your room is ready or not.
Travel Tip: Though there are porters available to help you with your luggage, free portable wheeled luggage carriers are plentiful. These same carriers cost six bucks a piece at JFK! Seems like they were just twenty-five cents, fifty cents and a dollar not too long ago!
Some have complained about the long immigration process in Montego Bay’s Sangster airport. We sailed through with “no problem, mahn!” Out of immigration, you proceed directly to the Couples Lounge, where you can check in and enjoy a cool drink while your luggage is carefully watched over, then transferred to your bus.
Travel Tip: Couples has a no tipping policy, but be aware that the porter that takes your luggage to the bus is not a Couple’s employee, so you many want to tip his service.
Unless you are traveling by private jet, traveling to Ocho Rios will require an extra one hour and forty-five minute drive from Montego Bay’s Sangster airport.
If you don’t want the extra journey, you can always stay at a resort in Montego Bay, but we have always found it worth the trip to stay in Ocho Rios. You can use the travel time as “unravel time,” to “decompress” or take a snooze, if you couldn’t or didn’t sleep on the plane, or just enjoy the roadside vistas of the multi-colored Caribbean Sea as well as the land “attractions” of hotel resorts, golf courses and farm animals, including horses, cattle and goats. A friendly bus driver is always willing to answer questions and/or discuss points of interest.
Unfortunately, you will also see plenty of poverty along the way, but never depravity. No matter the humble state of their dwellings, we have always found that Jamaicans dress appropriately and carry themselves with dignity. As you reflect on those less fortunate, please consider getting involved with and/or donating to the Issa Trust Foundation, named after the Issa family who owns Couples Resorts.
Travel Tip: If you are fortunate enough to have access to a private jet, you can land at Ian Flemming International airport, right in Boscobel, St. Mary’s Parish, just minutes from your Ocho Rios resort!
Our Arrival at Tower Isle
At the main entrance of Tower Isle we were treated with a live three-piece Jamaican band, refreshing towels and the familiar “welcome home” greeting, accompanied by smiles as warm as the sun. We have been to Jamaica enough times over the years and have developed personal friendships to vouch for the authenticity of Jamaican friendliness. They are appreciative and will go out of their way to make your stay outstanding. Scattered comments to the contrary are as fallacious as they are suspicious.
Since we arrived early, our room was not quite ready, so we took the opportunity to confirm our dinner reservations.
Travel Tip: Doing your due diligence ahead of time by reviewing the restaurants and menus available below, and already have in mind, where you want to dine and when.
While our room was being readied, we had a delightful lunch at the Italian-Mediterranean style Patio Restaurant buffet. The general manager, Leonard Henry came over to our table and introduced himself. Our immediate impression was that he reflected the healthy energy of the resort, itself. He was upbeat, yet dignified and made us feel so personally welcomed, letting us know that he was available to us should we require his assistance.
The Patio Restaurant is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we enjoyed all our breakfasts here.
A stop at the pancake, waffle and omelet bar is definitely worthwhile. Karon and Shauna-Kay were the dynamic-duo at their respective stations.
Travel Tip: If you like coconut like we do, ask the pancake chef to put a bunch of shredded coconut into the batter. It was our favorite breakfast indulgence.
See a sample Patio Restaurant menu
Eight Rivers is one of the two reservations-required restaurants and features gourmet continental cuisine with a Caribbean twist in a stylish ambiance.
Its unbeatable location over the water often overshadows its culinary prowess in some Trip Advisor reviews. But those who know and understand authentic Thai and Asian cuisine can appreciate its gourmet quality. We were not surprised to find out that the chef Mayuree Saipetch is a resident of Thailand. Opt for the "Bayside Tasting Platter for Two" appetizer and the Tom Kla soup. When selecting your entrée, ask for several of the "Finishing Sauces" on the side so that you can taste several of them to see which best accommodates the entree you selected. Of the "specials" on our menu, the "Pork Spare Ribs" were absolutely outstanding. All the dessert offerings were amazing.
Equally outstanding was the service. Garfield attended to us with a delicacy which matched the cuisine and he was under the watchful eye of the manager, Mr. Barrett.
If you have a sophisticated Asian palate, don't miss the Bayside! See a sample Bayside menu
The Verandah, which like the Eight Rivers, features continental cuisine in a fashionable space overlooking the Caribbean Sea and Tower Isle.
You don’t need reservations, but the cuisine is, nevertheless, excellent. We would suggest the “Curry Coconut Shrimp & Local Seafood” appetizer and the “Grilled Catch of the Day.” We had the snapper, which was wonderful. Have the “Blue Mountain Coffee Layered Cake” for dessert along with, of course, a cup of Blue Mountain Coffee, one of the best coffees in the world. We received the most professional service from Joseph and Odane. See a sample Verandah Menu.
Day or night, the Pool Grill offers classic hamburgers, a variety of sandwiches, including snapper, salads, jerk chicken, and Jamaican patties. Get a side of fries or fried calamari with it. We had the hamburger and the snapper sandwich, both of which just hit the spot. Don’t forget to visit the popcorn machine and the soft frozen vanilla and chocolate machine, where you can make your own ice cream cone.
Feeling guilty about yesterday’s noshing at the Pool Grill? Make up for it at the Veggie Bar for lunch, with fresh juice of the day, fruit smoothies and healthy salads, sandwiches and panini. See a sample Veggie Bar menu.
Room service is always available from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm. See a sample Room Service menu.
Following our lunch at the Patio restaurant buffet, and a pleasurable and productive meeting with Latoya, the wedding manager, we stopped back at the front desk. Check-in was seamless, our room was ready, we were handed an informative pamphlet which included our room key cards and were escorted by the bellman to our room. We had made several requests regarding the room location, all of which were met in our room 3216. We never tire of the exhilarating feeling of opening our room door for the first time, seeing that our room is beautiful and orderly, walking onto the balcony and receiving a big "hello," from our unobscured view of the ocean, beach and palm trees. You exhale from your held breath, and think, "This is going to be great!"
Every room had a generous view of the ocean, including the bathroom, which was modern with a large shower. We loved our jacuzzi with a view!
The small fridge was stocked with juices and soft drinks. You can ask for full size bottles of liquor delivered to your room by filling out a request card.
It should be noted that our room was meticulously maintained and well-supplied by the housekeeping staff throughout our stay, particularly Sheree.
The king size bed was incredibly comfortable as were the pillows.
Travel Tip: If you like the sound of the surf while you slumber, as we do, open the windows by your bed and let the sea sing you its lullaby. Worried about insects? Don't be. We didn't see a one, anywhere. Not in the room, not in the restaurants, not on the beach. Sweet dreams!
Our particular room view was unique, as we were directly facing Tower Isle for which this resort is named.
Check out a video view from our balcony
Our personable bellman gave us a tour of the room, pointing out all the various amenities and how they operated. As he closed the door behind him on the way out, our only thought was, "How quickly can we get onto that beach and into the ocean!
The beach is what you would expect from a luxury Caribbean resort -- smooth, powdery and clean. However, do not expect a sprawling beach for very long walks. It has a more Mediterranean feel, size wise, minus the rough rocks under foot on land and in the sea. As mentioned by some reviewers, there are no umbrellas, implying that there was no protection. But what was not mentioned is that shade is provided by overhanging canopies and trees, thus eliminating problems that occur when umbrellas encounter wind.
Tower Isle is a balanced marriage between the modern and the yesteryear. We believe some comments regarding the "age" of some of the furnishings miss this nuance. A day did not go by that we did not see some painting or other upkeep going on. This is a nineteen acre property which is maintained immaculately.
Our impression of the resort entrance, pool and beach reminded us of some of the upscale, sophisticated Mediterranean seaside resorts we have visited and it requires a different sense of appreciation than some of the more glitzy luxury resorts. Tower Isle is, in fact, self-described as a "boutique" resort.
On the other side of the ocean front are beautifully maintained lush gardens with meandering walkways.
Night walks are accompanied by serenading coqui
There are four pools on the property -- all beautiful and well-maintained.
The Main Patio Pool overlooking the ocean is equally impressive in the daytime . . .
as it is at night.
As with the beach, there are no umbrellas or cabanas, but one side is shaded by trees, the other side provides full exposure, so make sure you use sun protection.
Speaking of full exposure, the Tower Isle Pool Bar, as well as the entire island, is "au naturel" only.
Weather permitting, a pontoon boat shuttles guests back and forth throughout the day up until 5:00 pm.
The Pool Bar on the mainland provides plenty of space for sipping and swimming.
While the Buddha Pool is a perfect place for tranquility - day or night.
After the spa officially closes at 7:00 pm, the Buddha Pool and Jacuzzis remain open. Though separated by gender during the day, they are co-ed at night. Our first night, at about 9:00 pm, we entered the quiet spa area, to be greeted by Joe Wayne Grey, a young man who was working so diligently cleaning the empty spa. No one was there to witness his thoroughness. To see that kind of trustworthiness put into a job was reassuring, to say the least. It set the bar for us regarding the staff at Tower Isle. Joe Wayne was accommodating, polite and knowledgeable, all the while never missing a beat in his responsibilities.
Included Activities and Amenities
Couples takes "all inclusive" seriously. In fact in 1978, owner Abe Issa, known as "The Father of Jamaican Tourism," pioneered the all-inclusive concept for couples to the island. With a list of activities and amenities too numerous to mention individually, we provide for your convenience and viewing pleasure, a complete Activities and Amenities List.
Although we didn't personally participate in the scuba diving/snorkeling excursion, we did notice how newlyweds and fully-outfitted senior citizens were well-taken care of. A lot of happy faces came off those boats.
Travel Tip: Make the climb in the pure water of Dunn's River Falls -- a natural wonder not to be missed.
So how would we rate Couples Tower Isle overall? We mentioned at the beginning of our review that we traveled to Jamaica to help our son and his fiancée find the perfect destination for their wedding. Our son and many of his guests are in the wedding business. He has a clear idea of what to look for, and together with his bride-to-be, chose Couples Tower Isle for their wedding ceremony. Enough said. Plenty happy!
Please feel free to call us at 516-300-9924 to book your next dream vacation.
We look forward to speaking with you!
Gary de Sesa & Kita de Sesa are travel agents and owners of Gary D Travel. Contact us at 516-300-9924 or
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