One of the newest entries on the Jamaican hotel scene is the Azul Sensatori, the first of Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ brands to debut on the island. Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers visited the resort on Seven Mile Beach in Negril over Memorial Day weekend, taking in sun, sunsets, smoothies and saltfish during her stay. Her first dispatch follows.
The notes played by a lone sax player drifted over the Amber Pool deck and Seven Mile Bar area just after sunset one evening, the downtime period after the last swim of the day and before the first appetizer at dinner.
What struck me as I listened from the balcony of my room was that this 136-room resort had settled in pretty well and pretty quickly, despite being officially open just a month.
Azul had its soft opening in late December, but tweaking, painting and constructing had only recently been completed.
The resort was a conversion of the former Beaches Sandy Bay.
Everyone was still getting their sea legs, but things were humming along. For that I credit — and this is only a partial list of the 284 staff — Keresha, Neville, Martin, Myrtle, Marion, Sherine, Audley, Richard, Shendrique, Glendan, Overian, Shelley, Byron and Robert.
I’ve met a lot of Jamaicans in my travels, but this crew elevated Jamaican charm and spirit to new levels. The Jamaica Tourist Board ought to take this group on the road.
Everyone had come from other resorts on the island, all seemed to live 10 minutes “down the road” and each one had a story to tell or one they wanted to hear.
“You live in Virginia? Is it cold? I’ll come visit,” a housekeeper told me.
“Try the paddle boat. It’s a workout, but we’ll come get you if you get tired,” the watersports guy said.
“This is a nice place. I worked at a big hotel before and I didn’t get to know the guests. I was always walking somewhere,” the beach attendant told me.
“Is this your first visit? You like Jamaica? I love it. We be happy,” said the barista at Beans Gourmet Coffee Shop as she handed me a Jamaican cappuccino with fresh nutmeg on the top.
Just to be sure I hadn’t been talking to ringers who had been cued to be happy, helpful and enthusiastic, I talked to other guests at the restaurants, on the beach, in the water and on the bar stools.
It was unanimous.
“There are nice hotels everywhere. They all have pretty much the same things. Good food, great beach, comfy beds. This staff here is incredible. They make the place. We’ll be back,” a couple from somewhere near London told me.
A retired couple from Wales, she a former schoolteacher and he a construction engineer, bent my ear for 30 minutes at the beach barbecue one evening.
They’d booked their 10-day stay through TUI in England, flew over on a Dreamliner — “flight attendants were very rude” — and now were on day seven of their stay.
They spoke in unison. “We’re coming back with our daughter and son-in-law and three grandkids. We’ve never seen a friendlier group of employees. Nothing is too much for them. They never stop smiling. They know us by name. Should we come in October or February?”
I said that February was ideal, and October could be a bit dicey due to hurricane threats.
Most of the guests were Brits, but Azul is tapping into the U.S. market through packages with U.S. operators and on fam trips with U.S. agents.
It will be a win-win all the way around with happy clients and happy agents.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.