NEGRIL, Jamaica — The newest resort here is also the destination's newest hotel brand.
The recent arrival of Azul Sensatori Jamaica on Negril's Seven Mile Beach marked the debut of Azul Hotels & Villas' first property outside of Mexico and its sixth resort overall.
The 136-room resort celebrated its official ribbon-cutting in late April following a soft opening last December.
The property began life as Poinciana Beach Resort, after which Sandals operated the property as Beaches Sandy Bay for 12 years before terminating its lease with the owners in August 2012.
Karisma Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Azul brand, then acquired and assumed management of the resort and reopened it as the all-inclusive Seashore Bay Beach Resort in December 2012, prior to its upgrade and rebranding a year later.
During a seven-month, $16 million renovation that began last May, "the interior was gutted and all guestrooms, public areas, restaurants, pools and lobby were redone, refurbished and/or redesigned," said Andrew Cumming, general manager.
My first impression was that of a clean, contemporary property with a clever layout that belied its compact 4.5-acre size.
There's a lot packed into Azul, which caters to both families and adults, who are accommodated in separate sections in the seven guestroom buildings.
Several swim-up and Jacuzzi suites are set aside for adults, most rooms have an ocean view and all have a balcony or patio, stocked minibar, rainfall showerhead and a safe wide enough to handle a 13-inch laptop.
Those traveling with families or friends have a choice of bedroom layouts. "Some rooms can accommodate up to eight people, which is a boon for those on family reunions," he said.
To date, families account for between 30% and 35% of business, with couples accounting for the rest.
Azul offers a complimentary, all-day supervised kids' club for ages 3 to 12, which features activities at the Azulitos Playhouse and miniature splash park, patois lessons, beach games and mini science experiments.
To sample Azul's list of guest amenities and facilities requires more time than allowed by a weekend visit, but must-see features include big-wheel paddleboats and sunset views from any spot on the beach.
Also unique to the place are the ackee and saltfish on the breakfast menu in the Ackee restaurant (one of four a la carte dining venues), the Bob Marley rum drink at the adults-only Nesta Rasta lounge and the Jamaican meat patties at Oceans Gourmet Corner.
Azul prides itself on being a well-oiled machine, for which Cumming credits its 284-member staff.
Cumming reported advance occupancies of 76% in July, with the bulk of bookings coming from the U.K. More than 35 weddings are booked for 2014, with 50-plus for 2015.
"We're working with major U.S. operators and bringing agents down on fam trips," Cumming said. "They may know us from Mexico, but we're new here and anxious to make a mark."
Nightly rates this summer start at $293 per person, per night, double, including a la carte meals, premium beverages, 24-hour room service and concierge services.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.