It’s really funny when you tell people that you’re going on an all-expenses trip to the Riviera Maya because of your blog. They give you the same look people used to give back in 2006 and nobody had ever heard of blogs, but with more incredulity. “They’re giving you the free trip why now?”
I’ve been back for two days, and I’m still suffering from sensory overload. The trip was so incredible, I don’t even know where to start telling you about it. I can’t do it justice in a series of chronological “and then we did this, and then we saw that” set of posts, so please allow me to riff on a couple of themes over the next few days to give you a bit of an idea how amazing it was, and the things I learned, and to try my best to tempt you into rushing to grab your credit card and book yourself on the next flight to Cancun. Because really? You totally should.
So why exactly was I in Mexico in the first place? Karisma manages a series of hotels and resorts including the Azul Beach Hotel, the Azul Sensatori and the Azul Fives, all on the Mayan Riviera, which is on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The Azul resorts have a partnership with Fisher-Price, which means that not only does Fisher-Price provide a huge assortment of toys and activities for the extensive kid programs at the Azul hotels, but provides things like baby gear as well. No need to wrangle your stroller and pack-n-play on this trip – bring the baby and some diapers and you’re good to go! The “gourmet inclusive” plan even includes all-you-can drool baby food, and each restaurant has a selection of Fisher-Price booster seats perfect for little travelers. All that to say, it was through Fisher-Price that this trip happened for me and three other Canadian bloggers from the #FisherPriceMoms team, and a handful of new American Fisher Price Ambassador bloggers too.
Okay, in the name of disclosure, I should also tell you that I’ve never been on a resort vacation, nor have I ever been on an all-inclusive vacation. Beloved and I are explorers at heart, and the idea of a beach resort vacation never really crossed our radar. After the last four days, I will sing to you with the zeal of the newly converted. If you, like me, have never been on this sort of vacation, you really ought to try it at least once. The whole experience was so much more amazing than I could ever have hoped, and the cost is probably less than what it would cost you for a week in a Florida theme park — and it will be so! much! better! It’s far more accessible than I would have imagined.
The Azul hotels have gone way above and beyond traditional all-inclusive model by introducing the concept of gourmet inclusive. Here’s what that means in Karisma’s words:
[Gourmet Inclusive] is designed to elevate all inclusive vacations to quality levels comparable to traditional luxury hotels. Your Gourmet vacation starts the moment you enter one of our Mexico all inclusive honeymoon or vacation resorts in Cancun. You are greeted with a smile, a refreshing towel and a welcome cocktail. The décor and overall atmosphere of the resorts provide for a relaxed yet upscale environment with lush landscaping, beaches lined with beach beds and multiple pools with swim-up bars. You will be pampered with Gourmet services and amenities such as beach butlers, concierge, turn-down, 24-hour room service, premium beverages and Gourmet cuisine. The latter, which is the foundation for Gourmet Inclusive, has been lauded “Superb,” “Best in class,” “Decadent” and “Outstanding.” To us it simply means creating delicious meals in pleasant environments by our star chefs. Here, you will be indulged with Gourmet hospitality every moment of your stay.
What this means in practice, at least if you are me, is that you will be dazzled at every turn by the attention to detail, the attentiveness of the staff, and the sheer splendor of the surroundings. I have stayed at a few luxury hotels in my time, and this is by far superior to them. It also means that you pay for nothing but tips and excursions and a few extras – but your meals (amazing, gourmet meals!), drinks and entertainment are all included in the price. No extra fees for shows, for the kids programs or for alcoholic beverages, which I understand is the norm in many “inclusive” resorts.
We stayed at the boutique-size Azul Beach Hotel. It’s the smaller of the hotels in the Azul chain, and the one I liked the best of the ones we visited. The 147 rooms are freshly renovated and offer a selection of amenities – swim-up suites, family-size suites, beach front suites, all spread out in a series of villas joined by pleasant pathways that wind around the pools, bars and restaurants as well. This is your view as you enter the reception area and look straight ahead toward the sea:
See those green cushions on either side? Those are king-sized mattresses on suspended platforms – swing beds! OMG how much do I need one of those for the porch?! This isn’t a swing bed, but one of the beach huts – you can sit in one when the tide is high and dangle your feet in the surf or rest while you drink your morning coffee and watch the sun rise out of the Caribbean Sea. (Which you really ought to do at least once in your life, I’m just sayin’.)
So anyway, the reception. You come into the hotel for the first time and you are greeted warmly with a glass of champagne, which is nice, but then the kids are welcomed as well, with a smoothie or a chocolate shake. While you choose a scent for your room (I was a little unsure of that, but it was really quite subtle) and a soft or firm pillow, the kids are shown a selection of toys and are given a little book to record their memories of the trip.
I mentioned the swim-up suites before. How cool is this for an idea? I would have loved that when Lucas was still wee enough to be napping – you can sit on your room’s private balcony and dangle your feet in the pool while the big kids splash and play, and use the (included, of course) baby monitor to keep an ear on the baby inside while he sleeps. Also great if your bigger kids have later bedtimes or want to jump in the pool before you’ve had your first coffee. (sorry this is a little dark, I took it at sunset as I was making my way back to my room. I didn’t have one of these suites but would definitely book one for next time!)
Okay, so this is getting long, and I haven’t even told you about the food. I’m thinking that’s going to have to be another post because ZOMG! the food!!!! Stay tuned! 😉
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