Author: Kyle McCarthy
Tags : All-Inclusive Resort, Baby, Beach, Caribbean, Family-Friendly Hotels, Food & Wine, Kids, Kids Club, Luxury Options, Mexico, Multigen, North America, Quintana Roo, Resort, Riviera Maya, Spa & Wellness, Teens, Watersports
Imagine an all-inclusive resort with beautiful rooms, excellent food and well run children’s programs; add in great service and superstar mascots, and you’ll get the Azul by Karisma Hotels & Resorts luxury brand.
Good design, quality amenities and service are critical to the luxury experience, but parents are more likely to pay a premium for ease, safety, room to relax and activities to do together. It’s the winning combination of all of the above that makes Azul Hotels in Mexico and Jamaica stand out from their many competitors.
How Karisma Partnered with Nickelodeon
The Azul brand is “a perfect balance between family and luxury,” claims Rafael Feliz Jr., Senior Corporate Brand Manager of Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Not yet a dad, Mr. Feliz gets his kid smarts from his four siblings ages 7 to 21. It doesn’t hurt that his father, Rafael Feliz, CEO of the hotel empire spreading from Mexico to the Caribbean, South America and Europe, encouraged Rafael to work in the family business from the age of 16.
He’s proud to have been part of bringing the prestigious Nickelodeon partnership to Azul and talked about their next project, the launching of the luxury Nickelodeon Hotels brand in Punta Cana, DR by late 2016.
“That resort will be 100% Nick,” Feliz Jr. added, “for anyone, of any age, who wants to be immersed in Nickelodeon culture.” Preliminary plans for the Nick Resort call for an on-site waterpark or themepark, and themed suites including one for Bob Esponja, as he’s known in Spanish.
Welcomed by SpongeBob at Azul Hotels
On a recent three-night trip to Azul Sensatori Mexico in the Riviera Maya, we celebrated the launch of the “Nickelodeon Experience by Azul.” This program includes a kids’ check-in (an iPad loaded with Nick-themed games to keep kids busy), a Nickelodeon Concierge, a Nick Toy Lending Library, Nick Knack Packs, themed amenities, an enhanced Azulitos Playhouse by Nickelodeon kids program with special staff training, and interactions with Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Kids will love the friendly “sliming” by the waterslides, an Orange Carpet blowout for character autograph-seekers, and other (hush-hush) surprises. Other than the character breakfasts and themed items in the shop, all the Nick Experience activities are part of the resorts’ all-inclusive rates.
Azul for Every Family, Every Style
Azul Resorts already have a state-of-the-art Azulitos Playhouse for ages 4-12 -- a bright cheerful space supervised by highly trained counselors who introduce games, crafts, movies and learning activities.
There are also planned activities for ages 6 months and up, and a My Gym’s Children Fitness Center with a rope course, magic carpet swing, trapeze, trampoline and springboard. Adults can also accompany children under 4 into the clubs or choose private babysitting (available at US$15-$25/HR for up to two children, with a night-time surcharge.)
New moms will enjoy meeting others in the free Mom’s Morning program. Using complimentary jogging strollers, the staff leads a light jogging and yoga session for moms and babies, followed by a healthy breakfast spread.
In addition to guaranteed connecting rooms -– a huge perk – you can pack lightly. On request, have a Pack & Play, baby-sized robes, strollers, cribs, bottle warmers and sterilizers, baby monitors, refrigerators bath toys, and more put in the room. A menu of Gerber baby foods is featured in each of the restaurants, so you never have to worry about bringing your own.
Rates range way up from $194 per night per adult, depending on your room choice and travel dates. At all Azul Hotels, children under 3 stay free and ages 3-12 pay 50% of the rate when sharing rooms with parents, although there are seasonal kids stay free deals. As part of the Nickelodeon Experience launch, we have a discount booking code for 5% off the best rate at all these hotels; use the code: NickExpFTF now for all travel before December 22, 2015.
Take a look at our video to get a sense of the hotels’ facilities, and read on for more of the impressive details.
Azul Sensatori is the Largest Property
The fun Azul Sensatori Mexico, the largest of the Azul hotels in Riviera Maya with 435 rooms, is on Bahia Petempich, about a half hour from Cancun International Airport. It has a separate Family Wing (rooms have pullout sofabeds and a divider from the king bed area) closest to the kids splash park and Azulitos club. This makes it ideal for those with infants and toddlers, who will spend most of their days near the main restaurants and kiddie pools.
In contrast, Azul Sensatori’s Premium Wing is as far away as possible. In addition to having its own VIP pool and larger rooms with Jacuzzi tubs, the Premium wing welcomes adults and families to a more upscale experience with private checkin and a dedicated concierge. Ground floor premium rooms have a pool right outside.
We can verify the food is terrific, having eaten at four of the six restaurants and enjoyed the 24-hour room service. Le Chique is an adults-only restaurant that is open to the public, and charges a premium for its noted molecular cuisine. The cute Mutant Ninja Turtle themed Pizza Dude is good too.
Sensatori has lots of daily programs, activities, yoga on the beach, and even a separate Teens Club with a gaming room, billiards, air hockey, Playstation 3, NEOS, XBOX, Wii, and a non-alcoholic bar and disco.
Azul Beach Hotel Quietly Welcomes Nick
Azul Beach, built on Playa Petempich in 2004, is only a 15-minute drive from the Cancun International Airport, but a world away in feel. In the signature Gourmet Inclusive style, there are four bars and five restaurants –- each one a la carte and serving exceptional regional cuisine – for only 148 suites at this compact, AAA four-diamond all-inclusive.
There’s a lushly landscaped two-story wing of deluxe rooms; the ones with two queens sleep up to four. The eyepopper here are the swim up family suites whose patio opens out onto a heated pool. We heard the suites nearest to the swimup bars are booked first by honeymooners.
The Nick Experience has brought to the pool deck a delightful casual Snack Stand serving crepes, paninis and ice cream with all the toppings its owner, SpongeBob SquarePants himself, would enjoy.
Although there are premium Nick breakfasts on the schedule, Azul Beach guests can visit with their favorite characters during more intimate popup meet and greets around the property. Another low-key treat here is the Vassa Spa, which like the other properties, has a children’s treatment room and special menu for ages 5+.
Crave more exclusivity? Azul Beach’s two six-bedroom Villa Corolla and Villa Esmeralda provide the utmost in luxury and service to multigenerational groups.
Azul Fives Resort is Ready to Party
Feliz Jr. had told me Azul Fives was “lively” in comparison to the pretty boutique style Azul Beach, because its long, richly landscaped layout includes fun at every turn. The 480 accommodations range from swim-up suites with water lapping at the patio to garden view rooms with two doubles and a sofabed. Each wing is oriented to winding, lagoon style pools and walking paths that lead to the beach.
Beachfront socializing occurs at the huge pool, watersports hut, among the beach beds, on the submerged pool chaises, at the swimup bars, or at the indoor and outdoor bars and restaurants. Or, return to the main lobby where the Fives Plaza awaits with its restaurants (including the authentic and charming Mexican cantina), Kafe’ine packed with teens, and large Vassa Spa.
On the way you’ll pass the huge Azulitos kids club (Nickelodeon Experience coming in 2016), not far from a cenote and Mayan mangrove jungle hosting spider monkeys and myriad birds.
The style here is very contemporary, the a la carte gourmet dining rooms are very casual, and the property facilitates kids and teens who want to roam and explore on their own.
Generations is a Timeless, Multigenerational Hideout
Generations by Karisma is a different family resort concept – all family and less kidsplay. Rafael Feliz Jr. had told me, “We don’t believe in cookie-cutter molds for our resorts,” an understatement considering the innovative floor plan and total lack of character theming.
Facilities are designed to accommodate three to four generations in shared experiences, rather than apart. The supervised Eko cooking school and kids club for ages 4-12 has plenty of seating for those who want to watch. The elegant Naay Spa incorporates Mayan traditions, including a tamazcal Indian sweat lodge and special wellness herbs, yet kids spa services for ages 4-12 are also available.
The Generations’ fully accessible architecture and design consider the needs of all ages, too. The 144 spacious suites and restaurants are in two, five-story beachview towers within close proximity, with elevator access so that family members who don’t like to walk far (be they toddlers or grands) don’t have to.
In the Gourmet Tower, there’s a family lounge in case your table is not ready; a choice of sushi bar, tea bar, Chinese lazy susan style or Korean shabu-shabu BBQ tables at the pan-Asian restaurant; and a private dining room for celebrations in the Wine Kitchen.
Adjoining the super luxe, adults-only El Dorado Resort, the Generations suites have deluxe amenities and furnishings, including Jacuzzi tubs and an exterior pool on almost every floor. Especially impressive, each suite has a butler assigned who might make a custom breakfast in your own kitchen and dining room. Or layout your order from the 24/7 room service, clean up the toys, press that shirt for dinner, or help with anything else you might need.
Except a priest. There’s a 100-seat Chapel on the grounds for that… next to the adorable mini-chaise lounges that adorn the kiddie pool.
What Family Means to this Family Business
We couldn’t resist asking Rafael Feliz Jr, one of the 5,500 employees in the family-run Karisma Hotel and Resorts empire, if he had any tips for those working in a family business.
“Be patient, because all parents want to teach you,” he began. “Take criticism positively and be open to suggestions because you can get farther faster than others.”
And lastly, “Working with your father is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
We feel that way about a Karisma Hotels & Resorts family beach vacation, and suggest you add it to your bucket list.