CasaMagna colors kids' world

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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- Talk about playing nice.

The Marriott Kids program joined hands with children's entertainment giants Crayola, Hasbro and Warner Home Video in a program that provides materials and educational toys at Marriott CasaMagna in Puerto Vallarta.

And, according to a staff member who works with the family program at Marriott CasaMagna, it's a great partnership.

"The toys, crayons and playthings add lots of value to the play experience for our kids. The products are such great quality, parents and kids love them," she said.

The resort, which opened in July 1990, is undergoing a $2.4 million renovation to upgrade rooms and enhance the property in an effort to make it even more attractive to families.

But it's pretty attractive as is, according Bill Downes, travel agent at MMS Travel Services in Atlanta.

"The family program at CasaMagna is one of the best I've booked," he said. "The resort offers a high-quality, full-service program that meets the needs of virtually every family of every category, from little kids to teens."

Downes said he has booked at least 50 families at the resort and "at no time has any survey we've taken from any client we've sent there come back negative."

Marriott Kids, for children 5 to 12 years old, operates daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During summers and holidays, it reopens on Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Since most of the families are from the U.S., Europe and Mexico, the heart of the program is its multiculturalism, said Downes.

"We try to create friendships by teaching the basics of the Spanish and English languages," a staffer said. "We do fun handicrafts from Mexico like pinata building and about 40 other kinds of exciting activities, water sports and adventures."

Terry Turner, a travel agent with On the Go Travel in Beechwood, Ohio, said she loves Puerto Vallarta because "it's authentic; it feels like Mexico."

She sends at least a dozen families a year to CasaMagna, all repeat clients, according to Turner.

Those clients praise the pool area and the children's program, she said.

Most of all, what Turner said she hears from her clients is how committed to families the staff is.

"You know what it is to have kids all around?" she asked. "At Marriott CasaMagna, they love it and want you to come back. They treat families beautifully, and there's so much to do with all the water sports and amenities."

Dennis Whitelaw, the resort's general manager, is especially high on CasaMagna's Sea Turtle Preservation program, under which families collect turtle eggs from the beach and return the baby turtles to the ocean after they've hatched.

"It's a marvelous experience for our family clients," Whitelaw said. "Families enjoy knowing they are being good citizens by partnering in this important conservation and community program. These turtles were almost extinct."

The Marriott Kids program costs $12.50 a day per child as part of the Sand Dollar Escapes program and includes lunch, activities and a T-shirt. The program is free as part of the inclusive program.

Located in the Marina Vallarta complex on the Bay of Banderas, the 404-room Casa-Magna is two miles from the Puerto Vallarta Airport and 10 minutes from downtown.

All rooms have private balconies, water-purification systems and minibars as well as amenities like hair dryers; large work desks; dual-line phones with voice mail and data ports; and irons and ironing boards.

The resort features three lighted tennis courts and a full-service spa and fitness center.

Pottery painting, water aerobics and water polo are available poolside; volleyball, kayaks, motorized water sports, waterskiing and snorkeling are offered at the beach.

Golfers can tee off at one of Puerto Vallarta's two 18-hole championship golf courses.

For additional information or reservations, agents can contact the property at (800) 223-6388 or visit the Web at www.marriott.com.

Kaleel Sakakeeny covers the family travel market for Travel Weekly. He can be reached at [email protected].

Property sets family packages

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- The Marriott CasaMagna offers several packages, including an inclusive plan and the Sand Dollar Escapes plan.

Sand Dollar Escapes rates are $221 a night, double, for an oceanview room from Jan. 3 through April.

A deluxe room with a partial view of the ocean costs $191 a night, while a gardenview room costs $161. The package includes a room with either two double beds or one king bed, daily breakfast and the Marriott Kids program. Children age 12 and younger eat free.

The inclusive package costs $349 a night, double, from Jan. 3 through April. It includes a partial oceanview room with either two double beds or a king bed, all meals and beverages, the Marriott Kids program, taxes and gratuities.

For additional information or to make reservations, agents can call (800) 223-6388 or visit the Web at www.marriott.com.

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