Review of Azul Sensatori

Azul Sensatori at NightWe’re just back from an amazing week at one of our top resorts, the luxurious Azul Sensatori by Karisma in the Riviera Maya. Beautiful property, nice location, gourmet dining, lots of fun for the kids, below-average beach, plenty of pools, and above all some really great people. Ready to wade through the entire review?

Overview:
The landscaping of Azul Sensatori is gorgeous – this resort really has come a long way since it opened in late 2008. Palm trees and hibiscus flowers are everywhere you look, lawns are lush and green, and low lighting provides a beautiful scene each night. Azul Sensatori, although having almost 500 suites, is not so large as to need a golf cart, and guests can walk from one side to the other in five minutes – so getting dressed for dinner and walking to the restaurants doesn’t require another shower after arriving!
Azul Sensatori SuitesSuites:
Azul Sensatori is an all-suite resort, even the least expensive lead-in category, featuring jacuzzi tubs, minibars, 24 hour room service, LCD televisions with DVD players, and in-building concierges. Very modern decor – bright greens and oranges, modern artwork, very squared-off architecture. Oddly enough unlike some luxury competitors, Azul Sensatori doesn’t offer jacuzzi tubs on the balconies/patios, with the lone exception of the Premium Swim Up, which has a jacuzzi tub flush with pool level. Most suites have some type of oceanview, but some being set back or lower floors will be obstructed (if you want oceanview, book an oceanview category which will be closer to the beach and higher floors).
Azul Sensatori PoolsPools:
Three distinct pools run throughout the M-shaped Azul Sensatori – the Family Suites pool, the Premium pool, and the Adults-Only pool, and each have their own swim up bar. Numerous Bali-style pool beds surround each pool (although unfortunately, the beds and chairs in the Family Suites section do tend to ‘fill up’ with guests’ items early in the morning). Waiter service around the pools throughout the day make it unnecessary to leave your chair for anything you’d need. In the Premium section, pool concierges bring around drinks and towels, plus gourmet bites at noon. They also will set up your chair or pool bed with towels upon request – a very nice feature for the upgraded categories.
Beach:
Azul Sensatori BeachWell, the good reviews had to end somewhere, but this isn’t the fault of the resort (unless you can blame them for choosing to put their resort here). Very narrow stretch of beach, small swimmable area, and good amount of seagrass (depending on season as with any resort). Azul Sensatori has done a good job in using what they have – a full-service beach grill with covered seating, many beach beds and chairs, beach waiter service, and beach night shows a few times a week, including an amazing fire and water Caribbean show, but the beach is certainly not why you’d want to come to Azul Sensatori. Some resorts can be termed a beach resort or a pool resort – this is a pool resort by far.

Dining:
Breakfast in Spoon (the main restaurant) gave a choice of ordering from a menu a la carte (with a fairly limited number of choices), or the ‘food display’, as Azul Sensatori terms their buffets. The restaurant was packed on our first trip in, but plenty of waiters to handle it, and our coffee cups and water glasses never quite hit empty. The buffet is on the small side, not a wide selection (and we noticed it didn’t vary much during the week); those hoping for traditional Mexican dishes or sauces may not be 100% satisfied, but the omelets, fresh fruits, and sweet rolls may make up for it. Breakfast was a 7 out of 10. Lunch was basic (they could use more sandwiches), and dinner was above average (a nice basic alternative to the specialty restaurants).

Azul Sensatori Tapaz RestaurantTapaz is a Spanish-style tapas restaurant, serving small unique bites throughout the dinner with no menu. Really unique architecture with the ‘natural’ stone walls and ceiling, family-style round tables with a rotating platform in the middle to pass food items around the table, and the kitchen being in full view to watch the chefs prepare the dinner. We had five courses: three of small appetizer-type foods (crazy-spicy chipotle chicken chips, lamb meatballs, veal turnovers, calamari skewers, among others), then a main course (ours consisted of pork ribs with a tomato sauce, filet with a mustard sauce, sweet and sour pork, and a beef brisket), followed by several dessert selections. Plan ahead – this dinner takes a while, not a short sit-down-and-eat-and-leave meal, and some picky eaters may walk out hungry because of the limited selection. Our waiter (Chris) was excellent and very attentive (he went to another restaurant to retrieve a pinot noir we asked for), and service throughout the restaurant seemed quite good. An 8 out of 10 (some delays and only above-average food bring down the rating a bit, but service bumps it back up).
Zavaz for lunch was perhaps a bit more than we expected – more of a dinner menu than a lunch menu, but our party was more than satisfied with the food quality. Some of the best dining we had was the lunch portions of salmon, grouper, chicken breast, even the scallops and shrimp at the salad bar. Again the Azul Sensatori staff provided excellent service (sensing a theme here?), beautiful location overlooking the pool and ocean. Very limited menu choices (only 6 to choose from), but they do offer that salad bar plus a food display of 3-4 entrees. Nice kids menu – you can tell Azul Sensatori really caters to the family market. Lunch at Zavaz was an 8 out of 10.
Azul Sensatori Le Chique RestaurantLe Chique is an incredible experience that absolutely every guest should take advantage of! Azul Sensatori’s adults-only restaurant is the only one on property that requires reservations, and they will not seat a party more than four to maintain the intimate and relaxed atmosphere. They also won’t seat much later than 8PM, as the best feature of this restaurant is the set menu. The standard dining experience consists of an 8 course gourmet dinner spread out over two hours, with such menu items as gazpacho with chili oil in a seaweed bubble, pate, smoked duck (in a smoky bowl), soups, and more. Incredibly interesting, and a very fun experience, especially with your choice of ten different house wines. For those looking to go all out, Le Chique offers a 14 course wine-pairing dinner ($95pp additional) which is closer to four hours, adds extra course and gourmet bites, and is paired with 5-6 different wines depending on the fare – not to mention several of the dishes are brought to the table by the head chef or sous chef. Easily a 10 out of 10.
Sienna is an authentic-looking Italian cellar, complete with brick walls and a massive candle display, serving excellent regional Italian dishes. We had top notch service and the menu offered many different choices, from chicken to beef to fish to pasta (of course), along with several soups and salads. Again, access to ten different house wines. Great experience, an 8 out of 10.
Zocalo, the Mexican restaurant, may have been our party’s favorite (if it wasn’t for the children in the party, Le Chique would have won hands-down!) as we dined there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Excellent Mexican dishes, a nice food display spread for all three meals, great views over the pool, nice cantina outside for drinks, and a special brick oven pizza kitchen for lunch and dinner. Highly recommended, another 10 out of 10!

For more information, client reviews, current specials, and pricing for Azul Sensatori, click here.

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Client review of El Dorado Casitas Royale

El Dorado Casitas Royale was absolutely amazing. From the moment we stepped into the lobby until the time we left we were constantly saying wow. I’ve never seen a more well maintained property and the best part was they maintained it without the use of tons of power equipment so there was no noise.

The staff were some of the best people I’ve ever come in contact with. Whether it be the gentleman watering the lawn or the bartender, or the waiter, they were all wonderful. You couldn’t walk past them without an “hola” coming from them before you could even form the word. Our favorite staff members were Enrica, our bartender, he was truly awesome and a lot of fun. Our beach butlers, Marecio and Ignunsio, were hilarious and kept us in whatever we needed so we could just lay there on the beach and relax. Our beach waiter, Cindy, worked extremely hard, she was quiet but remembered what drink you enjoyed. Every single waiter and hostess was great but I think my favorite hostess was at La Fondue. She was lively and having fun.

The food was simply amazing. We ate to our hearts content and our bellies were about to explode with joy. My favorite for breakfast was Cocotal. I never knew there could  be so many choices for breakfast! You could truly hurt yourself eating there every morning! The only questionable meal I had involved shrimp and the waiter was more than happy to rectify the situation. All I can here is be ready to try different foods and love them!

Casitas Swim Up PoolThe pool outside our room was great. We did have a little trouble one day when it became overrun with some folks from the Royale but that was taken care of and they didn’t come back. The pool was clean and the water was warm, it was great.

I loved the beach beds! My husband and I are somewhat fair skinned and burn easily but when we were tired of the sun but didn’t want to go in we just hit the beach bed. Next time I go I will take water shoes since it is a bit rocky.

I would most definitely recommend this resort and Berwick Travel to everyone I know. I would rather do El Dorado Casitas Royale than a cruise anytime.

Susan with Berwick Travel was wonderful at explaining everything to me and taking care of everything so that we felt comfortable. Thank you Susan!  This was most definitely a 10 on our vacation scale and we do plan on returning!

Thanks Wendy from NC, we appreciate the great comments!  -Steve

Occidental Royal Hideaway Playacar Review


They call the Occidental Royal Hideaway Playacar “the evolution of the all inclusive resort”, and that’s a fairly good description of one of the finest and well-respected resorts in all of Mexico. Still the only AAA Five Diamond adults-only all-inclusive in Mexico, the Royal Hideaway Playacar features 200 luxurious rooms spread throughout gorgeous foliage and winding fountains and pools.

The hotel’s “all new” beach looks amazing – if you’ve ever seen pictures of the terrible erosion in Playacar over the past few years, it’s like night and day with close to 200 feet of white (albeit a little “shelly”) sand. Two “main” pools plus four smaller and secluded pool/jacuzzi combinations give a very relaxing alternative to the beach.

Royal Hideaway offers six gourmet a la carte restaurants including a sushi bar; the only buffet you’ll find here is an oceanview breakfast option, otherwise guests can order from a menu morning, noon, and night. A beachfront bar for the day and a relaxing evening main bar open until 1AM complete the dining experience.

Royal Hideaway truly shines when dealing with the staff. Top notch service, always there when needed with a smile, from the groundskeepers to the waiters to the head chef visiting the restaurants each night to mingle. The people are easily some of the best we’ve encountered, and make for a memorable stay.

Royal Hideaway is planning a multi-million dollar refurbishment later this year and will be adding flat screen televisions and radios with iPod docking stations, but will still be keeping that relaxed, luxurious Mexican feel they’re known for. Plenty of new Royal Hideaway pictures posted on our site, and they’re running a fantastic 30% off sale through the end of June for travel by December 23rd.

Occidental Allegro Playacar Review

If you’re in the market for a small inexpensive all-inclusive resort with the basic amenities and a location right outside of Playa Del Carmen, the Occidental Allegro Playacar may fit the bill. This was the first hotel built in Playacar (a private hotel and residence community within walking distance of Playa Del Carmen) and has a tremendous repeat guest ratio, so they must be doing something right!

The Allegro Playacar is consistently among the lowest cost all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya, but an important note: if you’re looking for junior suites, chandeliers, and a dozen fine dining restaurants, you may want to explore other alternatives (maybe our popular Grand Riviera Princess or Ocean Coral & Turquesa). The Allegro Playacar has small (quite small actually) rooms with very basic amenities, two pools, and just 3 restaurants. The rooms are arranged in small villas of 8 rooms each, only two stories, and are surrounded by beautiful landscaping – but again, very small and basic rooms.

This resort would be a great choice for a budget-minded traveler who plans to spend time outside the resort (excursions, Playa Del Carmen, golfing, etc.) and the price is nearly impossible to beat. The Allegro Playacar has summer rates using their 58% off sale from $55 per person per night (no airfare). Yes, that’s $385 per person for a week’s stay, all inclusive!

Xplor Excursion Review

It’s not often we’re able to participate in some of the incredible off-site excursions and activities (we do actually work when we visit, the destinations!), but this trip we were fortunate enough to join our great friends at Funjet Vacations as their ground transportation company (Lomas Travel) took us to one of the newest (and most active) options, Xplor.

Xplor, which is owned by the same company that owns Xcaret and Xel-Ha parks, is a high-energy day with four of the most popular activities all included in one entry (not to mention food, drinks, and lockers).

Start your day with one of two zip-line courses running between 60-75 foot tall towers over the park. Xplor has what we called “zip lines for dummies”; a two-wire system with guides on each tower that start and stop the guests, meaning no need to hold the line to slow down. Just sit and enjoy the view! If you chose the Jaguar course (no actual jaguars, we assure you) you’ll ride the high lines (taller towers of the two courses); if you choose the Deer course, you’ll splash down into cool fresh water cenotes on a couple of runs, plus take a waterslide ride.

After de-harnessing, head over to the rafts, where you’ll hand paddle one or two person rafts through an underground river system that weaves its way through stalactites and stalagmites in lit caverns. Since you just sat in a wet raft, might as well make your way to the river swim, where guests don a lifejacket and swim/walk through another underground river, this one with more picturesque scenery (or maybe it just appears to be, since you we so busy trying to paddle your raft accurately, you missed that scenery).

Time to grab lunch – very large buffet with hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta, salads, and more (oddly enough, it wasn’t very Mexican…) where all the food and drink are included. Back to the lockers (no charge) to put on shorts and a t-shirt, and off to the amphibious vehicles, where guests drive a four wheel drive buggy through a winding 4 kilometer course surround by trees, and through underground caves (some with a couple of feet of water – hence the amphibious!)

Finish the day by doing the other zip-line run, and take the air-conditioned Lomas Travel van back to your resort. Very fun day, although Xplor is much less “authentic” than their two sister parks (one of our party remarked the raft ride felt like a log flume at Disney with the loading and unloading area). The park is located just south of Playa Del Carmen, and rates are $129/adult, half price for kids under 12. Contact your Travel Consultant to book ahead of time, Xplor and have fun!

Dreams Riviera Cancun Grand Opening with Pictures

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Those of you who haven’t had a chance to see the pictures, grab a fresh cup of coffee and take a peek. We’re just back from the brand-new, built-from-the-ground-up Dreams Riviera Cancun, and we’ve got over a hundred photos posted online – the ones you won’t see in the airbrushed brochures.

If we can describe Dreams Riviera Cancun in one word, it would be welcoming. From the moment one walks into the spacious lobby, the only thoughts are “I’m home.” Huge open-air lobby area, all themed in an Indonesian style (dark woods, wicker furniture, wide fans across the ceiling) with one of the most open and warm lobby bars we’ve seen, Dreams Riviera Cancun welcomes everyone with a touch of class and friendliness.

Dreams Riviera Cancun opened October 1st, and we’d be hard-pressed to notice that. The resort, the staff, the activities, the rooms, the overall feel are of a resort that’s been operating for years. None of the early learning curve mistakes (pouring wine in the water glass, empty minibars, power outages, etc.) are anywhere to be seen, and maybe most impressive was the foliage – palm trees, flowers, lawn, and more all seem to have been there for far longer than five weeks.

For families with children under 12, Dreams Riviera Cancun may be the perfect resort. It’s small and intimate, with everything almost within shouting distance, and very close to the airport (it’s been a long flight – why extend it with an hour in a bus?) Dreams Riviera Cancun is laid out in two mirror image J-shaped buildings facing the ocean, with the main pools and two restaurants in the middle, and a tree-lined walkway through the center leading to the lobby and four remaining restaurants. No worries about letting the kids run free, as everything is right there.

Dreams Riviera Cancun’s pools are separated into three main sections, yet all still in one place. The main Infinity Pool contains the swim up bar and is geared towards adults, the Theater Pool is where the volleyball and water polo happens (as well as the nightly shows, with stepped seating around the pool and deck where the performances take place – very unique!), and the shallow Kids Pool with in-water ping-pong tables and space for the little ones to play. Tons of pool seating, including over a dozen cushioned and covered pool beds, all served by waiters and waitresses throughout the day.

Dining is a Dreams Riviera Cancun specialty – six restaurants (Mexican, Italian, Oriental with teppanyaki and tatami tables, adults-only French, oceanside Grill and Seafood, and International buffet) never require reservations. Add to this the Barefoot Grill (burgers, hot dogs, chicken) next to the pool, CoCo Kafe coffee bar with lattes and hot chocolate, and 24 hour room service for all guests, and you’ll never want for food. Oh, and by the way – twice a week Dreams Riviera Cancun puts together a tequila tasting poolside to learn about the history of tequila, the best types to sip and mix, and how to not get ripped off when buying!

Rooms at Dreams Riviera Cancun have a very unique layout, almost octagonal. The beds (two double beds or one king bed) are in the very middle of the room, facing the sliding glass door (great oceanviews while laying in bed) with a shuttered wall behind partially separating the bathroom (Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, double sinks). There are not junior suites as many new resorts offer, so fitting a family of four in with older (>12) children may be tough, but again perfect for those with younger children. However, Dreams Riviera Cancun offers many connecting rooms that can be booked ahead of time (not just requested) for larger families. Fully stocked minibar with soda, water, juices and beers; flat screen television with DVD player, plus balcony (Preferred Club has Jacuzzi) complete the rooms.

As always with Dreams Resorts, a very comprehensive Explorers Club for kids from 3-12, with activities throughout the day (9AM to 10PM, fully supervised!) such as rock climbing, beach soccer, ocean trampoline and ‘iceberg’ climbing float, movie night, and of course top of the line XBox 360 video games. Remember that adults-only restaurant? Let the kids enjoy their dinner and movie in the Explorers Club, while mom and dad enjoy the escargot, foie gras, filet mignon, and a French merlot with creme brulee at Bordeaux. No really…those are on the menu, all-inclusive. This is a Dreams resort after all!

Dreams Riviera Cancun is currently running a sale with up to 40% off regular rates plus a $200 Resort Credit. For more information, brand new photos, and a price quote, visit our Dreams Riviera Cancun page.

Paradisus Riviera Cancun Review

An oldie but a goodie – the Paradisus Riviera Cancun has been one of our best upscale family resorts in Mexico for years. A very tropical and secluded, very Mexican style all suites resort, it sits less than 20 minutes from the airport on a long stretch of beach with plenty of activities for families, as well as the Royal Service option for adults.

The suites are scattered throughout the secluded Paradisus Riviera Cancun in 14 Mayan-style bungalows, each with 30-35 suites (no elevators – hey, even the advanced Mayans had to climb steps!) Each suite has a fully stocked minibar, television, and either one king bed or two double beds. Three things we noticed really set the Paradisus Riviera Cancun apart from many other resorts – authentic dining, impressive kids club, and the Royal Service section.

Six a la carte restaurants at Paradisus Riviera Cancun, and they’re working on expanding options as we speak. Reservations are required, but guests can make reservations three days in advance, and the reservations desk is open throughout the day (unlike some other resorts, who only have a small window that reservations can be made). The Oriental restaurant is run by a Japanese manager, the French is headed by a chef right from France whose daily highlight is creating special dishes off the cuff for dinner, and so on. If you can’t find food you like at Paradisus Riviera Cancun, perhaps a vacation wasn’t for you!

When one thinks of Kids Clubs, what usually comes to mind is the age range of 4 to 12 years old. Not so here – ready for this? Paradisus Riviera Cancun has fully supervised programs for infants as young as 45 days. Yes, under seven weeks old! Paradisus Riviera Cancun has trained staff throughout the day, offer walkie talkies for parents, and a nap room with cribs and small beds with video surveillance. Not that most parents would leave a seven week old child there the whole day, but to have the ability to put the child down for a supervised (and included) nap while they partake of a wine tasting is an amazing feature.

And when talking about amazing features, you have to include Paradisus Riviera Cancun’s adults-only Royal Service section. A newly-redone an expanded Royal Service Lounge greets guests for private check in, and offers gourmet bites and top-shelf liquors throughout the day in air-conditioned comfort with concierge service and flat screen television, books, games, and more. From there guests are taken to the Royal Service section, which has its own pool with Bali-style beds and butler service (each day a pool bed can be reserved in the guests’ names for their exclusive use, even with a sign hung on it) and private beach area with additional butler service. Anything a Royal Service client needs during their stay, the RS butlers take care of it.

Paradisus Riviera Cancun is currently running an Early Booking Bonus for 2010, plus Kids Stay Free on selected dates. For more information, brand new photos, and a price quote, visit our Paradisus Riviera Cancun page.