Karisma’s Gourmet Feast

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This past fall, Recommend was invited to the 5th Annual Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultant (GIVC) Awards in the Riviera Maya for a stay at one of the many all-inclusive properties that dot the Riviera Maya shoreline: El Dorado Casitas Royale and its neighbor, El Dorado Royale, a Spa Resort.

In fact, Karisma Hotels & Resorts, the umbrella company to the El Dorado brand, is host to this awards ceremony that recognizes top-selling travel agents and tour operators selling its brand of family-friendly and adults-only resorts.

So what makes Karisma stand out among the other all-inclusive brands that call this part of Mexico home? According to GIVC agent Marilyn Ross with Journeys Unlimited, it’s the customer service and gourmet inclusive programming.

“I have been selling Karisma for over 10 years and I have to say it’s the high quality of customer service and the gourmet inclusive product, both are quite exceptional,” she says. “The rooms are very nice and upscale, but what my clients are always impressed about is the staff and the quality of service they receive during their stay. The people are very attentive and go out of their way to go beyond what’s necessary.”

This statement does ring true. After the GIVC ceremony, I returned to my room (a very comfortable Casita Suite at the El Dorado Casitas Royale…more on that property later) to find bath towels shaped and modeled into a three-tier birthday cake, rose petals on the floor leading to the bubble-filled in-room jacuzzi, a platter of chocolates and bottle of champagne, all in honor of my birthday (I hadn’t told a soul it was my special day). Attentive customer service, indeed.

adults only, please

El Dorado Royale, a Spa Resort is one of Karisma’s adults-only properties, and it’s quite impressive. The resort is settled on 450 acres alongside Punta Brava Beach and adjacent to Karisma’s other adults-only property, El Dorado Casitas Royale.

From El Dorado Royale to El Dorado Casitas the beach stretches for about a mile and is sprinkled with “wedding locations,” or gazebos (a chapel is also on property) and snug lounge beach beds made just for two.

A guest can walk the length of both resorts on pathways that run parallel to the shoreline, which keeps the beach and its turquoise water always in the line of sight. Yes, this property is quite large, but easy to navigate, and staff is always there to help as they are constantly driving golf carts and happy to pick up guests with a cheerful hola. Besides the unlimited drinking and eating, lounging by the pool or basking under the sun, guests can take salsa lessons, kayak, watch live shows, play tennis or racquetball, exercise in the fitness center complete with sauna and steam room; or complement the vacation with a spa treatment at N’AAY Spa.

For such an immense property, Karisma paid close attention to the small details—the foliage is just right with coconut palms scattered throughout providing the perfect amount of shade on the beach and arising a tropical Caribbean vibe snowbirds can easily flock to; hammocks and comfy chairs occupy patches of grass; and swim-up suites lead to lazy rivers winding their way to pools.

However, what separates Karisma from other brands is its Gourmet Inclusive program. There are seven restaurants dispersed across the resort serving foodies everything from Italian to Caribbean, Asian and Mexican cuisine.

Says Mandy Chomat, v.p. of sales & marketing at Premier Worldwide Marketing, exclusive representatives of Karisma Hotels & Resorts, “Gourmet Inclusive vacations at El Dorado Spa Resorts & Hotels and Azul Hotels by Karisma offer guests a personalized and elevated experience, allowing them to savor every detail of their environment and providing the best in food and service.”

El Dorado Royale features 639 suites in categories like the 2-room Presidential Suite able to accommodate up to six guests, and its recently introduced Premium Jacuzzi Swim-Up Suite offering personal concierge and butler service; champagne and fruit platter upon arrival; choice of one king-size bed or two double beds; in-suite jacuzzi for two; a private terrace with hammock and chairs; and personal lazy pool and river just a few steps from the private terrace. Other categories include Luxury Swim-Up Jacuzzi Junior Suites, Royal Suites and Swim-Up Jacuzzi Junior Suites.

The hut-style suite we called home during our stay features a king-size bed, in-room jacuzzi, private terrace with a day bed, a stacked mini-bar, 24-hour room service and concierge service, an outdoor shower and large bathroom. The property houses 169 casitas, from the 1-bedroom Presidential Casita with a private pool to the Infinity Pool Casita Suite and Individual Casita Suite.

“My clients love the El Dorado Royale and especially the casitas. It’s the perfect location for honeymooners, and if they are looking for a smaller property with less action, I book them at El Dorado Maroma, especially if they want the best beach,” says Cookie Carney of Travel Experts, also a GIVC agent.

Rates for El Dorado Royale are $177-$354 pp dbl (excluding the Presidential Suite) and $331-$1,155 pp dbl for El Dorado Casitas Royale.

families welcome

As part of the GIVC event, travel agents were given the chance to tour and experience a few other Karisma properties along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. We toured Azul Sensatori Hotel.

Located only 20 minutes from Cancun International Airport, Azul Sensatori Hotel is made for families; although there is an adults-only section, and an adults-only restaurant, Le Chique, serving a multi-course dinner in a very vintage-meets-voguish atmosphere.

The property offers six Gourmet Inclusive restaurants (Caribbean, Mexican, Italian) and 24-hour room service; eight bars and the Mojito Lounge concocting 31 specialty mojitos (Ginger, Jamaican, and Watermelon, yum); and a Pack & Play program that provides strollers, cribs, baby bottle warmers, baby spa robes (yes, robes for babies) and unlimited Gerber Baby Food—all complimentary.

Azul Sensatori Hotel offers 438 suites to accommodate either two adults, or two adults and two children. Advise your clients to hide the remote control if they book the Honeymoon Suite—the ocean should be the only form of entertainment as they relax on their 600-sq.-ft. balcony—and the Jacuzzi Junior Suites can be booked in the adults-only section of Sensatori.

For large families or groups book the connecting Luxury Jacuzzi Ocean View Suite able to accommodate up to six adults or two adults with four children; or the Fisher-Price Family Suite (two adults, three kids) with a private queen-size bed area, double sofa bed and single sofa bed as well as Fisher-Price toys for the kiddies.

Rates for Azul Sensatori Hotel are $193-$516 pp dbl (children under 3 stay free), and ages 3-12 receive 50 percent discount.

beyond the riviera

With Karisma dominating the all-inclusive product in the Riviera Maya, it was a surprise when the brand decided to expand late last year and introduce its first Gourmet Inclusive property outside of Mexico.

“Karisma Hotels & Resorts is thrilled to expand beyond Riviera Maya into Jamaica with the acquisition of the former Sandy Bay Beach Resort in Negril, which is now operating under its new name, Seashore Bay Beach Resort,” says Chomat. “Investing in Jamaica was an easy decision as it offers a strategic geographical location, exceptional infrastructure, and a talented pool of human resources combined with an instantly recognizable worldwide brand.”

Seashore Bay—which we’ll cover more comprehensively in the March issue—will possess nine categories of rooms and suites with garden and ocean views; two pools; four restaurants; a spa and kids’ club. The property is scheduled to undergo a multi-million dollar facelift before a rebranding as an Azul Hotel, operated by Karisma. Rates start at $181 pp dbl.

Archived related articles (available on recommend.com):
Now Sapphire (April 2012)

contact information
GIVC Program:
Karisma Hotels & Resorts: karismahotels.com