Lovelette Brooks, Lifestyle Editor
It is not often when reflections of the past, appreciation of the present and anticipation of the future come together in a harmonious blend. Well, the Couples Group made it happen on the weekend of January 18-19.
It was a double treat for family, friends, and guests who celebrated with the Issas two anniversaries - Couples Sans Souci's seventh year under the Couples brand, and Couples Tower Isle's 35th year as an all-inclusive, couples-only resort in Jamaica.
Originally built in the 1950s, Couples Sans Souci is an understated, beautiful property with 148 suites facing the ocean. Its architecture is colonial and although extensive renovation has been done, the hotel retains designing elements from that era - elegant lattice work, Venetian-style windows and white, woven furniture.
General manager of Couples Sans Souci, Pierre Battaglia, resplendent in old-world couture, spoke eloquently of the history of the hotel and its pride of place in the group at Friday night's shindig.
"We are proud of our seventh milestone as a Couples resort. Our property is a beautiful blend. We have retained a lot from the original owners, much of the Gothic architecture is still in place and we have even have a Venetian Restaurant," he told guests inviting them to have a party.
And party night, Sans-Souci style, was in a single word - superb! From early afternoon, the happy buzz of activities carried over into an elegant reception followed by dinner and entertainment.
Masks and unmasked guests gathered on the glittering deck for the cocktail hour while being entertained by the Jamaican Synchronised Swimmers in a star-lit pool below. Guest spilled over on the balcony on to the steps around the pool, enjoying routine after routine. The show was entertaining.
The champagne buffet dinner on the lawns was a spectacular affair. Under shimmering lights and music from the Serenity Band, guests indulged from 11 food stations set up around the perimeter of the lawn.
A.J. Brown entertained in cabaret and his vintage vibes blended well with the setting and tone of the party. Tami Chynn followed with a few sets and her commanding performance rocked the normally tranquil ambience of the hotel built on the cliffs of Ocho Rios. Guests closed the night dancing while looking forward to Saturday night's party at Sans Souci's older sister's property.
Alluring Couples Tower Isle
Back in the day, Hollywood fans, the likes of Joan Crawford and Errol Flynn, would sit in the Piano Bar at the old Couples Ocho Rios founded by Abe Issa in 1949, singing or simply enjoying cocktails.
Today, the bar is adorned with photos of celebrities who stayed at the resort decades ago and the ambience is still '50s Hollywood hang-out style.
Couples Tower Isle is the oldest all-inclusive couples-only resort in Jamaica and the first to open all season long. Built in 1948, the hotel is a blend of old and new, combining luxury and romance. On Saturday, January 19, the hotel celebrated all this while saying thanks to the hosts of guests who faithfully return to the property year after year.
And so the 226-room property, boasting full occupancy, went into party mode. Cocktails on the upper terrace was a perfect meet-and-greet setting as guests joined the Issa family and friends in celebration.
Glen Lawrence, CEO of Couples Group, led the formalities combining the old and the new in a superb slide presentation.
"On June 1, Couples Barbados will be opened. For a number of years, we have been looking regionally for the ideal property to put into the Couples brand. We finally found the 280-room Casuarina Beach. We will be doing light renovation at a cost of US$3m, and then we are ready.
"Casuarina is a beachfront property sitting at the end of one of the most vibrant areas in the island in terms of entertainment," Lawrence noted.
The future, he said, is solid for the Couples Group, with the start-up of this four-star all-inclusive hotel in the Eastern Caribbean.
Following this presentation, the party shifted to buffet dinner downstairs with Garth Street in cabaret.
Still very much a family business, Couples Resorts is led by Abe's son, Lee, and other members of the Issa family, many of whom participated in the weekend celebrations.