Old Reviews – Azul Beach Hotel & Spa by Karisma

February 2007

Transfer/Pick Up: A+ Originally I had scheduled Lomas Travel to transfer us to AZUL in a Lincoln Navigator Limo at a cost of $295. Once I found out they don’t guarantee the limo if your flight is more than 1 hour late I cancelled. Why pay $295 when I may end up with just a car or worse with others in a van sharing a ride and still be paying for a limo? Being as this was February and I live in the northern parts of the US with unpredictable weather I contacted the hotel and Sonia arranged for the hotels’ service to pick me up in a comfortable new suburban at a cost of $208 US and they even waited while my husband had a brief meeting at the airport. The driver, and his companion who kept me company while we waited on my husband, were quite kind and very patient as my husband’s 30 minute meeting with Cancun Airport Commandante lasted nearly 2 hours. The driver kept circling the airport and his assistant kept me company outside and inside while we patiently waited in the airport terminal for my husband. I rate the service an A+, the only thing missing was the champagne, but I figured they were so great about hanging around, why complain? The ride to the hotel IS long, between 1.5 and 2 hours and on certain days and times could be even longer, so be prepared for that part of the trip.

Grounds: A+ While the entrance to the resort is unimpressive, once you pass through the gates and into the hotel entrance it is enchanting. The hotel has managed to maintain the integrity of the surrounding environment. The pathways all run from a central open lobby with a small brook that encircles it, and there are small open cenotes and mini waterfalls that flow through the complex. It truly is relaxing. Arrival: C- There was no butler to greet us or anyone else for that matter with or without champagne. Nor was there anyone to care for our bags, which we hauled ourselves to the offices, passing unconcerned staff members on the way, who didn’t offer to assist. As it turned out our butler was occupied with another client. And in her behalf our arrival was 2 hours late, so that had messed up the schedule. Little snags that normally I would overlook, however I was tired and it had been a long flight, long drive and long day, so I just wanted to go to the room and get room service and turn in by this time. I had requested the luggage be unpacked on arrival, and Gwen immediately offered to unpack while we went to eat dinner at YUZU, one of the restaurants. This is a great service.

Staff: A+ for the majority of the staff here. They were always eager to try to accommodate all our wishes. From Gwen our main butler in Unit 6, to Daniel the young man who provided our coffee in the mornings at The Globe, to Caesar in the activity center. The staff definitely has a desire to please the guests. A few things about your “butler service” though. Karisma Hotels would have you believe you have your own butler, as in some other TOP end resorts. This is NOT really the case. You “share” your butler with 15 other rooms (8 on each of 2 floors). They are extraordinarily helpful when they can be and willing to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. The butlers do a great job at trying to keep everyone happy and should be commended for their efforts. They will even draw your bath. The staff in the restaurants was exceptional as well, especially in Yuzu, prompt and sometimes they even brought you a little unexpected treat for your palate. The hotel was pristine. You never saw trash or anything unsightly around the complex. Although on 2 days the staff for the outdoors was lagging in preparing the chaise lounge chairs around the sandbox, we waited 30 minutes for pads and towels one morning, still, they were always pleasant.

Room: B- We were in Room #6207, an ocean view room with a jacuzzi on our balcony. According to our butler this is one of only 3 or 4 rooms that truly have the ocean view, other than this building the only other room that truly appears to have any privacy on the balcony and the view of the ocean is in Building 1 facing the empty lots next to the hotel. The room itself is lovely, clean and delightful I give it an A. The bed was extremely comfortable. I had pre-selected a pillows and soaps from the menus sent me ahead of time and we had exactly what we requested on arrival. The bathroom was very large with double sinks and the shower is huge with a rainfall shower head suspended from a log beam in the ceiling. No problems with water pressure or temperature as is common in the Mayan Riviera. However, internet access was problematic in our room. It seems you can connect while sitting in the hallway at our door (which my husband had done until the butler told him to use her computer downstairs), but in the room, the connection was sporadic and unreliable. However, most people are not coming to Azul Blue to work, so it is a minor thing that they will correct as they work out the glitches in this new resort. The mini refrigerator was not re-stocked everyday, and frequently we had to ask for more water. Once again you don’t have to go far to ask for something, just pop your head out your door and your butler sits at the desk below in the corridor, ask and you shall receive. We had a balcony with a jacuzzi on it. Forget being romantic on the balcony, the sides are glass and I don’t see how anyone can take a bubble bath or one of the romantic baths they offer without people in the next building viewing them. This is our biggest complaint on the room especially as it was made clear to the booking company (Exotic Travel/Karisma) we wanted a PRIVATE balcony with a spa on it. While it is nice to sit in the tub under the stars, you must do so wearing a swim suit. This is no “place” for romance under the stars. We did request 2 lounge chairs be brought up from the beach to lie out on our patio (by the way the patio is also covered for the most part so it is not easy to sunbathe either). They gladly accommodated us, in fact one night we slept out on the balcony, it was wonderful listening to the waves crash on the rocks around the resort.

BEACH: F- (is that possible?) 4 words: THERE IS NO BEACH. In fact one reviewer calls it a sandbox, that is exactly what it is. There is a dock (slippery) between the rocks you can stand on and get splashed but you cannot enter the ocean here and there is a red flag all the time. While this might not bother some, the beach was for me the focus of this trip, so this was a HUGE disappointment and has actually angered both my husband and I as the resort was completely misrepresented to us. I come from the cold north and I want a beach to run on and sun when I visit the Mayan Riviera. This is the 2nd time in 8 weeks a Karisma Resort has misrepresented its beaches to me. Exotic sales reps in a sister resort told us how the beach here was the most beautiful they had seen, what they neglect to tell us is it is 1 mile down the road! Here at Blue they have volcanic rocks, and lots of iguanas (which my husband loved to chase to take photos of). While lovely, I like to swim in the ocean, not possible here. There are beach butlers to bring you drinks and other goodies throughout the day and for the most part they did a great job. However, we were there while 26 “reviewers” were also at the resort, one of whom I actually recognized from TV, and that group was doted on big time while the rest of us were almost virtually ignored for 2 days. They would run to get them food and drink throughout the day from the beach, practically ignoring the paying guests, however, once they left, they did a great job of taking care of us when lying in the “sandbox”.

OTHER BEACH (OPTIONAL): C. If you are like me and just cannot come to Mexico and not have a beach, just a few minutes down the road is a “public beach”. The sand is soft and white and the beaches are “for the most part” clean. The hotel supposedly has an arrangement with Bela Vista, they drop you off with your towel and pick you up at a scheduled time. Or you can take bicycles like we did and ride 5-10 minutes down the road and lock your bike up while you walk the beach down to the base of the ruins of Tulum. (Maybe 1.5 miles each way, if that). The car was there at the times we had pre-arranged and there were no problems in that regard. HOWEVER, you are told the hotel has an arrangement with Bela Vista, all you need is a room key and ID and you can charge food and drink back to your room, and you have use of the lounge chairs on the beach…. But this is how it went for some, they arrived and put towels on the beach chairs BUT were charged for the palapa and chairs $10 for it’s use (the hotel made no mention of this to it’s guests) and they were not permitted to charge food or drink to the room but had to pay cash for it. This couple was in our building and had been told it was because the hotel was not paying it’s bills. While my husband and I never stayed long enough at the chairs for anyone to request $ for use of the chairs on our last day they did remove the chair cushions while we were walking on the beach, leaving us a hard wooden surface to sit on when we returned an hour later. There is obviously a problem with the current system they have, so if you go take a few dollars and be prepared to encounter problems, they need to work things out with Bela Vista.

POOL: C. There is only one pool an infinity pool. Maximum depth 3 feet 3 inches…. It’s nice but small, and there are a grand total of 24 chaises or so around said pool, not enough to accommodate its guests. There are also 4 hot tubs under and awning to the side of the pool overlooking the ocean. They needed a larger pool with no beach and additional lounge chairs.

ACTIVITIES: D. As there is no beach, there are no beach activities, no volleyball or anything else sports related. For that matter there really are no activities at the resort, except for stretching, yoga, and water aerobics. On Wednesday they offered a bicycle tour to Tulum, that is nice. They have 6 or 8 bikes, so reserve early. It takes place in the afternoons and Caesar gives you a private tour of the ruins, other than this there really are no activities for children, unless they want to make a necklace. I was tired of hearing the children there say “there’s nothing to do” “I’m bored” I can’t imagine that was relaxing for the parents! The resort needs some kind of activities, a billiard and arcade room something… anything would be better!

RESTAURANTS: Food A. Diversity C. This is what Azul exists for, it’s cuisine. There are only 3 choices here. YUZU, GLOBE and THE VIEW. For breakfast you have the Globe, if you don’t find what you like on the menu they will attempt to make it, they get an A for effort in that regard, they try to please! The View is a MUST for lunch, in fact everyday I had ceviche for lunch (my mouth is watering now just thinking about it), definitely try the Panamanian Mahi Mahi Ceviche and Mazatalan Ceviche, they are to die for!! For dinners we ate at Globe and Yuzu. The presentations at both are exquisite, the food is a mixture of fusion, asian and nouveau cuisine. While I admit, portions are small, you can always ask for more here. YUZU, was my favorite. The atmosphere in YUZU is truly asian, with futons in the lounge area to sit on while they bring you their signature sake of the day. HOWEVER, as much as I enjoyed the food, after a week the menu choices are TOO limited, (and the Pad Thai at Yuzu was not good, extremely bland). In fact we went down the street to Mezzanine for dinner one night with friends and had Pad Thai there, it was excellent. We also went into Tulum for a night to watch the SuperBowl with our friends and went to a pizzeria owned by a real Italian, and they serve REAL Italian pizza, not like American pizza, the cracker crust style you get when in Rome. (I highly recommend it).

OVERALL RATING: B- While the hotel is lovely in it’s own way. The category room we had runs nearly $1000/night on Orbitz. 7 nights are $6800+ and for that one expects exceptional service with lots of extras to boot. The price for this room is comparable to what we paid for a honeymoon suite at Secrets Excellence in the Excellence Club level. Yet, Secrets goes far beyond Azul Blue in the little things that make it a superior resort. For example mini premiums liquors in the rooms, chocolates and other goodies in the mini fridge, twice cleaning daily room service, a truly private HUGE balcony with a hot tub that can fit 6-8 people and a real ocean view, and they still draw you a rose petal bubble bath inside and you get champagne flowing constantly in the club and your room, as well as lobster daily if you like…. that was what I had expected at Azul Blue, but sadly that is not what one gets. For the price Karisma is getting for this resort they need to offer a lot more, as there are a number of FAR better places for people to go for the same price, or less. The best part of the resort was the staff and food, but other than that the resort does not impress me. Would I return? Perhaps for the right price, with my mother or a friend (as I am a club member, sadly), but never would I blow the money here for a romantic trip again, or bring kids here. The place is nice, but there are so many better choices. This resort was NOT well thought out considering it’s targeted clientele base. There are things they can do to make it a truly top notch place worthy of the price, but I truly doubt they will do them. If you want a trip to lie around a shallow pool and view a beautiful ocean and want to eat nothing but nouveau cuisine for that trip and don’t mind not having a beach…etc… then maybe this is the place for you. Many will consider this review to be rather harsh, but I have traveled to many Carribean Beach AI resorts along the Maya Riviera and Punta Cana, and for the price most will pay here I would not recommend this place.
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