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Phew, it sure was an exciting year to be blogging with Fisher-Price!

Aside from the amazing cruise and the equally amazing trip to Mexico, we got to play with some truly terrific new toys this year! There’s no doubt that our absolute favourite toy of the year was the Imaginext Eagle Talon Castle. It wins for sheer play value, for engaging all three boys, and for our new family inside joke – nobody hears a knock on a door anymore without calling out “Who eees it?” in the same sing-song voice that the toy bleats out when you open the drawbridge. Shhhhh, don’t tell, but we actually went out and BOUGHT the Imaginext Ogre and Dragon for Lucas this Christmas because it was the only thing he asked Santa for other than a Furby (and, well, he’s absolutely not getting a Furby. *shudder*)

We were also charmed by the Wheelies Loops and Swoops Amusement Park. At almost five years old, Lucas is on the upper edge of the age range for this one, but he still loves to shoot cars down the ramps and it delights him every single time the cars successfully navigate the loop-the-loop. I’d put this high on the Christmas gift giving list of anyone with a little boy to buy for!

Beloved’s favourite Fisher-Price surprise of the year was definitely the DC Superfriends Little People line. The intersection of superheros and Fisher-Price just about perfectly evokes his (not-so) inner child.

Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet

When I say the whole family plays with the Imaginext Batmobile, Bat Cave and Joker’s Lair, I’m not exaggerating! 😉

Na na na na na na - bat cat!

(Beloved called me from the toy store earlier this week as he was doing a little shopping for the boys. “Did you know they have a full line of Toy Story Little People now?” he asked. And he was so excited about the new Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Little People line that Santa may have to stick a set under the tree for him. ;))

Fisher-Price came out with some pretty amazing products for moms this year, too. Did you know, for example, that Fisher-Price makes diapers? They make adorable onesies called Stretch ‘Ems, too, which I am told are in fact awesomely stretchy. (I gave mine to a friend – she said they were her favourite onesies!) And they’ve even designed a series of new “Fast-Finder” diaper bags in a range of styles to suit every family.

All in all, it was another amazing year with Fisher-Price. Although Tristan made this card specifically to say thanks for the cruise, I think it does a good job of expressing our gratitude for an entire year of fun surprises.

Untitled

But wait! There’s more! I have one last Fisher-Price post to share with you this year (and another one to post over on the Fisher-Price site.) I’ll be back with the details in just a few days!

Disclosure: I am a Fisher-Price Play Ambassador and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


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As I mentioned, Karisma Hotels operates a chain of hotels on the Mayan Riviera, including the three Azul hotels we toured. It was interesting to me how each of the three Azul hotels had completely different energy levels and vibes, right from the moment you walk into the lobby.

Azul Beach Hotel is the smallest of the three, offering a quieter and more mellow environment. I think this would be the best choice for families with wee children (say, ages five and under) and families without children. There were quite a few families with small children when we were there, and it was clear that there was plenty of kid-speed activities just for them. There’s a kids’ club with daily programming at the Azulitos play house:

The Azulitos Play House has equipment and special programs created for children from four to 12 years old. There is a play space designed by Fisher-Price® with all the latest educational toys to enhance early childhood development. Kids sing, listen to stories, and work on talking and sharing skills in playgroups.

Highlights for older children include video games and a full schedule of challenge games and activities. There is mini-yoga, handcrafts, face painting and movie time. Kids love all the beach activities, which include a treasure hunt, sandcastle building and balloon wars.

There’s a small playground on the beach, and three swimming pools, in addition to the suites with swim-up pools. Every day as we hustled from one activity to the next, I looked longingly at the craft station set up on the beach (they were painting ceramic figures) and I thought about how much my boys would have loved that particular activity. I’m pretty sure their heads may have exploded when they saw the dedicated Lego room, and the mini-trampoline, and the swing chairs, and the video game stations. And then, of course, white sand beach with rolling waves.

Azul Beach Hotel-3

And everywhere, there is evidence of Karisma’s partnership with Fisher-Price, from a toy-lending library to Fisher-Price booster seats scattered throughout the restaurant. Each of the restaurants has a kids’ menu, but of course kids are welcome to choose from the regular menu, too.It truly seems that children are welcome here, and just an inconvenience or afterthought.

Here’s the the #FisherPriceMoms Canadian team (well, the half of us that could make the trip) together with Eddie and Sonya Lee. (I must admit, these overly-life-sized Little (not so much) People may have freaked Lucas right out, but many of the kids at the resort seemed fine with them.)

Fisher-Price Canada team in Mexico

Azul Sensatori, the much larger hotel just down the road, has a totally different energy.

Azul Sensatori Hotel features never-before-seen suites that have a heated Jacuzzi for two in the lazy river off the terrace. There are also guaranteed family connecting suites, adults-only and premium sections, and honeymoon suites with wrap-around balconies.

This Gourmet Inclusive®, 438-suite hotel is just 20 minutes from the airport in Cancun. Special experiences foster togetherness for families, couples and groups of friends.

Available baby amenities include strollers, baby bath tubs, changing tables, baby monitors, cribs, play pens or pack n’plays, baby step stool, baby bath robes, bottle warmers & sterilizers. Azul Sensatori caters to kids and teenagers, with the Azulitos Playhouse and Extreme Breeze Teens Club. The exclusive Family & Friends Vacation Planner coordinates family reunions.

And the baby bath robes? Are adorable! Azul Sensatori has plenty of amenities for the littlest travelers, but also features a teen club with activities like DJ mixing lessons (this has Simon written all over it!) and a rock-climbing wall that Tristan would love. Here’s the play area at one of the pools:

Azul Sensatori kids play area

I don’t think I told you about my (ahem) suite at Azul Beach House yet. Third after chasing the sunrise on the beach every morning and the food, my favourite thing about Azul Beach House was the bathroom in my suite. It was easily the size of my kitchen at home (which, I admit, doesn’t say much about the size of my kitchen!) It had a stand-alone jacuzzi tub and a separate shower enclosure with both a shower wand and one of those rainfall shower heads in the ceiling. (And it only took me getting zapped in the ear once by cold water from the shower wand to learn to make sure it’s aimed down before turning on the water!) It was simply too large to capture decently in a single photo, so here’s a panorama of the bathroom:

Bathroom pano - Azul Beach Hotel

You know what I really loved, though? There was one of those iPhone charger clock radios in the bedroom, and it was attached to speakers in the bathroom. I plugged in my iPhone one day to charge it and was playing some music to cover up the sound of the silence (I’m really not used to silence anymore!) and was delighted to hear the music being piped into the bathroom speakers. Again, little touches like that really impressed me.

And speaking of water, my fears about water quality in Mexico were unfounded. My vow to use no ice cubes melted (ahem) in the first day of 45C humidity, and with all the food I ate there was no way I could avoid the fresh fruits and vegetables they tell you to avoid when traveling in Mexico. And I had no problems whatsoever.

This post has been all over the place, hasn’t it? I have at least one, maybe two more posts left in this series, but I want to make sure I can cram in as much of the awesome as possible!


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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.

Bloggers in paradise

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:

Azul Beach Hotel reception

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’.)

Watching the sun rise

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.

Azul Beach House welcome

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!)

Azul Beach Hotes swim-up rooms

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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It was an ordinary Friday, the last day before my summer holidays began, and I was just on my way back from lunch and getting ready to sail through my last few hours before three glorious weeks of holiday time when I checked my e-mail. And my jaw dropped open. I may have stopped breathing for as long as a minute as I re-read the e-mail again, and again. And one more time for good measure. And then I blinked a few times. I might have squeaked a bit.

After I shook my head a few times, the words started to sink in. My incredible friends at Fisher-Price and Mom Central Canada have arranged for the #FisherPriceMoms team to go to (are you ready for this?) the Mayan Riviera for four days next week! We’ll be staying at the spectacular (and I do mean SPECTACULAR) Azul Beach House, a gourmet-inclusive resort just a little south of Cancun. (You know, where the HURRICANE passed. YESTERDAY. I feel a little like Garp when he bought the house after the plane hit it. I was worried about hurricane season last week, but not so much now.)

Anyway, I am digressing all over the place and barfing capitals because I am SO! EXCITED! Here’s what’s on the agenda for us next week:

Ambassadors will:
• Meet the Riviera Maya’s preeminent authority on the Mayan culture to learn about family life in Mexico and how meaningful exposure to other world cultures can be for a young child’s social and cognitive development.
• Gain cultural knowledge about how children play the world over.
• Experience the wonderful amenities at this gorgeous hotel property.
• You will also receive a deep dive into the “Joy of Learning” and it’s evolution within Fisher-Price.

How cool is that? The trip is in FOUR DAYS!!! Wait, let me show you the link again so you can gaze admiringly at the sand, the sea and the un-farking-believable beauty of the place: Azul Beach Hotel.

So, clever bloggy peeps, now that I can tell you about this (and oh how I’ve been dying to do so!) I have a bunch of questions for those more experienced in international travel than me. (Oh, the scramble to apply for a passport that expired in 2000 after our honeymoon in Paris! A blog post for another day, indeed.) I’m especially curious about currency. Last time I travelled internationally, we used travellers’ cheques. How quaint is that? Should I bring a wad of Mexican pesoes with me? Or just use my ATM card when I’m there?

Also, tipping – how much and to whom? Since it’s all-inclusive (yet another new experience to me – never been to a resort either!) I assume I have to tip generously and to just about everyone? Is there much point in bringing $US?

Also, international roaming data plans – yes or no? Holy guacamole, I cannot believe how much you pay for so little! I seem to use about 75 to 100 MB of data a month. The best roaming plan for my iPhone is $50 for a month, but that’s only for 10MB. Eep, I can blow that with five photos! I’m thinking a combination of buying wifi at the resort and using the roaming plan for airports, etc but yikes. Any insight there?

Okay, I have dozens of other questions, but I will save them for now. I can’t wait to share more with you soon. Very soon – in FOUR DAYS!!!


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