This post was originally published on March 28, 2011 on BuyBuyBabyBlog
My husband and I just got back from our first vacation with baby. We went to the Azul Beach Resort by Karisma. This was our second time going to a Karisma resort, the first being when we got engaged over 2 years ago. Our first visit to the Eldorado Seaside Suites was absolutely amazing! Being spoiled King Westers at the time, we were used to great dining so the Gourmet Inclusive concept really appealed to us. The environment is relaxed yet upscale with impeccable services, from its beach concierge to its beachfront spa.
Our travel agent Long Le at The Flight Centre on the Danforth recommended this resort and it couldn’t have been more perfect for us as new parents. We wanted to stay another week – which never happens with my husband. He’s usually ready to go home by the fourth day.
I think every couple there had at least one child under 5 so they were all very forgiving if our little one starting crying during their 5-course dinner. Our son might have been the youngest baby at the resort but there were several others that were only a few weeks older. This was reassuring. As new parents, we weren’t always sure that taking our baby travelling was the right thing.
We upgraded to a Gold/Silver package with Thomas Cook once we got to the airport which allowed us to bring the extra weight needed when you travel with a baby. (We were bringing pre-mixed baby food in cans to avoid any issues with sterilized water.) This was a great option for us because we could pick our seats in advance and could relax in the lounge before the flight. It included a buffet-style meal, free booze before the flight and six drink tickets for the flight.
This meant we could avoid waiting for greasy, mediocre bar food in a crowded airport restaurant with our newborn during his “witching hour”. Worth the extra cost.
For the grown-ups, the selling feature of this resort is the food and the gourmet services and amenities.
Azul Beach is a small, boutique hotel with just over 100 rooms so there are only 4 restaurants. Don’t get scared off by this. They are all A La Carte with a buffet option for breakfast and occasionally lunch. The main restaurant features five menus every night including the all-lobster menu, South Beach Diet, vegetarian, low carb/low-fat and chef’s choice menus which was usually authentic Mexican. There is also an Asian fusion and beachfront grill restaurant that both have stellar selections.
My husband and I had only been out once to a restaurant since our 5-month-old was born so every night felt like a date. We simply waited ’til our little one was sleeping and pulled the stroller up next to our table. The hotel offers babysitters at an additional cost, if you prefer that option.
For older babies, all the restaurants had toys and high chairs ready to entertain while you eat. The room service was also amazing and is offered 24-hours a day. They even have Gerber baby food at the sandwich bar for babies just starting on solids.
Every night, the chef would come out to our table to see how he could accommodate my food allergies. When there wasn’t anything that I could eat, they would modify the menu in a way that was just as tasty as the original. I’ve always had issues at other non-Karisma resorts because the cooks often can’t speak English well enough to answer if it is safe for me. If you have a child with food allergies, this is the safest resort you can find.
The 2-hour time difference meant we were up at 5 am every day with the baby but the resort was quiet at night to accommodate for our early bedtime. I don’t know if it had much of a nightlife because we were dead asleep in bed by 9pm every night. I imagine it was pretty lame because most people had kids. I also imagine that the entertainment was a lot smaller scale given the size of the resort but again, I can’t say for certain.
The resort features a Fisher Price play room loaded with toys. My son was a bit too young to fully reap the benefits but for anyone with kids 6-months and older, it would be a goldmine. My husband and I took a tour and were slightly disappointed that we were too old to enjoy it ourselves. The resort also has daily activities scheduled for various ages from 6-months to 12-years-old. You could even order a toy via room service.
We were given a deluxe room with two double beds despite our request for an upgrade. We couldn’t get a room with a King Size bed or an upgrade because the hotel was oversold due to the March Break. After the first night, my husband and I admitted it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened as we both woke up refreshed having had a great night sleep in our own beds. Sigh.
Our deluxe room wasn’t perfect but it still had great features. I think all the Deluxe rooms have a beautiful ocean/pool view, which usually comes at an additional cost. The Deluxe rooms only have a shower so if you are looking for a bath for your older kids, book a junior suite, which comes with a two-person jacuzzi. These rooms are newly renovated and feature an oversized terrace, in-suite Jacuzzi for two, rainforest shower, stylish sitting area with sleeper sofa, and a king size canopy bed or two queen beds.
The hotel provided us with a baby bathtub so we didn’t have to pack one. The hotel also provides other baby supplies at no additional cost including cribs, change tables, strollers, monitors, bottle warmers and sterilizers. It made traveling a lot easier.
The last time we were in the Mayan Riviera the ocean and pools were freezing and the beach was very rocky. Azul Beach was shallow so it was safe for young babies and kids but also meant that it was warm. The sand was free of rocks and the resort did a great job of cleaning the seaweed up every day.
The beach beds were a relaxing spot to park for the day while keeping baby in the shade. There were only about 20 of them so you had to line up at 7:30 am to reserve one for the next day. We were up already, so it wasn’t a big deal. I, naturally, sent my husband. 🙂
The pools were cold the first day but after a few hours in the heat, either they warmed up or I did, making them much more refreshing. The kids pool was warmer because it was so shallow but I don’t think I ever saw a grown up at the swim-up pool bar. Only the pre-teens could bare its chilly temperature.
My husband and I hope to return to Azul beach and have agreed to pay the extra cost for a swim up suite. The rooms looked awesome, the pool is right outside your door and it was solar heated.
Overall, this hotel is the perfect place for parents with newborns and young children. We needed a little R&R but weren’t ready for the hassle that comes along with DIY travel adventures. Everything was so easy and accessible for us. We’re hoping to go back again next year with a few friends and their babies. (Hint, hint.)