(St. Augustine, Florida)
Oct 19, 2021
The Azul Beach Resort Negril (a Karisma property) looks great online - nice beach, good food, great sunsets and activities. The reality, however, is a little different. Everyone’s experience will be different, but here are our impressions from our trip in mid-October 2021. We used our Interval International points to book the property, and were subject to the all-inclusive fee for our time of the year, which worked out to roughly $2200 out of pocket. For reference, we arrived on a Saturday.
Check-in kind of set the tone for what we should expect for the rest of the trip. Actually, before check-in, the tone was set. The property was always quite slow to respond when I emailed them in the weeks leading up to the trip, and they could not guarantee an upgrade to a unit in the adult section until check-in. That seemed odd to me, since I was willing to pay for it.
At check-in, we were told that they would check on our upgrade, but also that we were considered “Prestige” guests, meaning we get a VIP check-in experience and some other things. That VIP experience was simply walking to another building, picking out a pillow type and a scented soap for our room, then going back tot he main building to be told our room change to the adult section could be accommodated the next day. Unfortunately there were not any swim-up rooms available, but that was OK and we didn’t really expect to get one.
Our concierge, Waylon, accompanied us to our room, and then let us know that if we agreed to attend an hour long breakfast with him, he would secure us a better room and a resort credit so we could do an excursion or something. We know the game, and were ok with this. He did make good on that, getting us a room at the end of the building, closest to the ocean, on the top floor. The sink in the room drained super slowly, but wasn’t a big enough issue to complain about. We really just sleep there, so it served that purpose. It should be noted, however, that the “VIP” pillows and soaps didn’t make their way to our upgraded room. Just one in a long list of the small things that eroded from the quality of this experience.
There wasn’t really an intro to the property, or a basic explanation of where things were. Everyone just said to use the resort app. This went wrong immediately, when we were trying to figure out where to get dinner. The “virtual map” is a joke - it’s just a list of things that are in the direction the phone is facing. Turn the phone, other building names come up. Nothing is clickable, and it doesn’t tell you what each name is for (front desk, restaurant, etc would have been helpful to know). We eventually found our way to dinner.
I won’t go into too much detail about the food. While I think global supply chain issues were impacting their menu, the principle behind a lot of the food was different. Each restaurant had a theme, and on any given night, only 1 restaurant was open. Some nights the buffet was, which turned out to be a good thing when we tried the Asian restaurant. The food was terrible, and we walked out, trying to salvage the evening at the buffet. That turned out OK. The best restaurant ended up being the Italian place, where we didn’t actually have Italian. But they had a filet that was reasonable in terms of quality and flavor, so we had that 3 or 4 times. Best food we had was actually off property at Rick’s Cafe, reinforcing in my mind that the menus at the resort were just odd. Breakfast was unremarkable, and lunch at the West End Grille was the best bet for mid-day. We tried room service once, but you can’t see a menu (physical or in the app) and it took quite some time for food to arrive. Didn’t bother trying it again for a meal. Some friends we made while there gave us stories of how the food they ordered did not match what arrived on multiple occasions. It was “room service roulette.” For what we paid in terms of the all-inclusive fee, we definitely did not get our money’s worth. We did pay extra for a sunset beach dinner for my birthday, but that was just the same food we had in the Italian place, and coordinating it took forever because the staff communicates so poorly (I think that is the apps fault).
The pools on the property are tiny. 2 of the 3 have swim up bars. It is definitely not like Mexico, where the pools are huge. The bar/ pool in the adult section was annoying to be around, as they had music being played way too loudly, and most of the guests hanging out there were quite drunk, entitled and rude. Not our kind of people at all. The other bar was much quieter, and close to our spot on the beach. The bartender, Damian, has been working there 6 years and was quite engaging. Great guy, they are lucky to have him on staff. We didn’t spend much time in the pool because of the centerpiece of the property - the ocean.
The ocean swim area at this property was remarkable. We think that between the ocean and the amazing sunsets, the management of the property just coasts on everything else and don’t have to try too hard. The water temp was perfect, and the sea life was pretty neat to see. Even the Spotted Eagle Ray that glided through one morning added to the experience (though they can be dangerous). The beach experience was the best part of the property, though it doesn’t make up for the other shortcomings.
We left the property once for the day trip to Rick’s, which was amazing and outstanding. The shopping in the area (souvenirs, etc) is not good. Certainly not on par with a Mexico experience. The other on-property highlight is the sea sports company. We went snorkeling with them twice, and cannot recommend them enough. Infinitely cheaper than anything we saw on Viator, and the guides were very relaxed, good people. Felt super safe, and free to explore the reef. Fantastic crew there, and highly recommended.
We also did one lunch at Firemans Grill on the north end of the property. Bring cash if you eat there, but the seafood is fresh and the experience is worth it ($30pp for lobster or snapper, $40 for crab).
All in all, Jamaica is a beautiful country. The experience at another property may have been better, I don’t know. Several people indicated they liked the food, so it could have been us. But I don’t think so. It just didn’t fit our palate. It was also disappointing that the management was all foreign nationals, didn’t see any Jamaicans in a position of authority. Needless to say, we won’t be back. We saw some amazing sunsets and sea life, but it’s not enough given what we paid for this trip. All-inclusive should mean something, but since there was no real tipping, and they got your all-inclusive fee upfront, there is no incentive for good service or quality food.
Pros: Amazing ocean view, stunning sunsets, great water sports crew, great pool bartender at Family pool.
Cons: Poor food quality, over-priced all inclusive experience, slow staff.
Verdict: We would not pay to stay here again. We did not get $150/ day worth of food or alcohol. The food quality was sub-standard, even accounting for COVID supply chain issues. It just isn’t up to par with what we have experienced elsewhere. I don’t know if it is a Karisma issue or Jamaica issue, but we will not be back.
Word to ownership: Find some better managers, and get a new executive chef. Worst resort food I have experienced ever. ESPECIALLY at that price point. Learn how to motivate people so the service improves. Give Damian a big raise, he is single-handedly keeping people happy there.
Energizing trip with friends
Oct 18, 2021
Our group is an active one, & we especially loved the fitness program at Azul - where classes were challenging but we could still turn up after a rum punch or two. Our routine often included the early AM yoga class & mid-afternoon water classes. Rajay was excellent - he catered his instruction to different levels and motivated everyone with his positive energy & amazing playlist. A couple of us went to the gym and he provided great training tips that we are still using back home. Our group also really loved the stellar breakfast & lunch bistros on the beach, where we often ran into Kaydean, who remembered each of our names and greeted us with a smile! Overall we felt welcomed and taken care by the entire staff, and very safe from a covid perspective given the testing and masking policies.
First Trip since Covid
Oct 16, 2021
Sorry this is lengthy… We just returned from our week at the Azul. This was our honeymoon/1 year anniversary trip after having a COVID Elopement instead of our planned wedding we really needed a vacation after the lockdowns in Ontario and I really needed something to go as planned. I tried to get in contact with the manager through IG first, then was told to WhatsApp a number, which then gave me an email to send our requests to. Justyn emailed me back asking what time we were arriving and some of the activities we planned on doing. I was hopeful that this would be our dream honeymoon.
When we arrived at the resort at 3pm our room still wasn’t ready so we were taken to lunch at the West End cafe and told to grab a drink, the only bars open were swim up bars. We went back to the lobby after eating to get our room keys but it still wasn’t ready. Eventually they took us to our room 11001, we thought the room was gorgeous but the fridge wasn’t the best to chill the champagne we brought and the sliding doors to the bathroom didn’t really shut completely. We unpacked our suitcases and went to look at our swim-up pool to maybe enjoy that for a bit but there were like 5 people hanging outside our room and kids… we like kids but we booked adults as it was our honeymoon. We realized our room was right beside the swim-up bar we were just visiting, we laid on the bed to relax and then the microphone came on and all we could hear in our room was the vibrations from the speaker and bingo happening right outside our room.
We went back to the front lobby to talk to them about switching rooms. I was in tears thinking our vacation was ruined and ready to call our travel company to switch us to the Sandals as that was the resort we originally wanted to book. We just wanted to at least be moved to the adults section. They said they could move us to building 9 in the morning. We were content with that at least it was in the adults section. We went for a walk along the beach and didn’t realize that over half the resort wasn’t in use, we thought it was a whole other resort on that side.
We tried to go for dinner at the buffet (Mahogany) but it was closed and we just arrived so we didn’t have any a la cartes booked. We were able to walk into the italian a la carte and have a meal but the food was not impressive. My medium rare steak was way overdone and the salmon was over cooked and rubbery. We were continuously not impressed. We also realized the section of beach we thought was a different resort was the Azul. We sat for the entertainment show and enjoyed the fire show but that was the only time we enjoyed it as they had the same show on 3 times in our weeks stay but on different parts of the beach. I sent a frustrated email that night to Justyn and hoped that something would change.
The next morning I got a reply and he was willing to make it right. They showed us 2 rooms in building 4 & 8 and we picked the beachfront honeymoon swim up in building 4 that they were using as a storage room. I was confused why they wouldn’t have more of the resort open since it seemed that was the nicer side. It took them a while to clear everything out and we enjoyed our day on the beach as it truly was a gorgeous beach. Our butlers Roxanne and Tamara were amazing, they made sure we had everything we needed and wouldn’t leave the room until the maintenance guy came to fix the AC in our new room.
While our new room was gorgeous and better then the last, it still had its flaws. One of the bathroom sliding doors didn’t move and the doors to the bedroom as well as the drawers didn’t close properly. The rooms were obviously showing some age and hadn’t been maintained. We were happy with our location however so we didn’t want to change rooms again. We were the only couple with a room on this side of the hotel. We enjoyed the peace and quiet and we’re able to go to the busier bars when we wanted to. I do wish the main buildings and pool were open or we were warned that they wouldn’t be because it’s nice to have a coffee at night time and hang out in the main lobby etc. It will be nice once everything is open it just felt like we paid for half a resort.
Our actual anniversary was a dream day. Our butlers worked all day to make sure it was an amazing day for us, they set up a cabana and our rooms with flowers and decorations and honestly they were the nicest girls ever! We had the sunset dinner on the beach and the food was delicious and the resort cats become your best friend. That was the best meal we had at the resort and highly recommend it to everyone.
We went back to our room and later on ordered room service. My husband said the pizza was amazing, it was however the only time it was amazing. We found the food to be variable. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was blah, we could order the same thing and it would taste completely different depending on the day. I’m not sure what the issue is but we actually visited the Asian a la carte twice because we loved it the first time and the second time it was disappointing. We tried all week to get a beef pattie and no bar/restaurant had one. I couldn’t find mangos either, my husband joked that he thought mangos and beef patties were the things to try in Jamaica and they were like fairies, talked about but never seen. We did visit the fireman’s lobster pit and the lobster was amazing, the lobster at the resort was not the same quality as the one you get off resort.
The beach was the best thing about our vacation. Our room was right in front of the sky massage hut and the beach there is pristine, we tried one morning to go to the main beach but it just didn’t compare to the quieter side. We walked over to the sandals and I will say the Azul has the better beach. The only thing that was disappointing was having to pay for anything, snorkel gear was $10/person/day. We’ve been to resorts where it’s all included, kayaking, paddle boards, but especially snorkel gear. I thought that was weird, I ended up just buying a set from the gift shop for $40 as that was better then spending $10/day.
Overall, it was our first time to Jamaica and at the beginning of the vacation probably wouldn’t have wanted to return but the beaches definitely made it worthwhile and the staff did a great job of trying to make everything amazing for us.
Started off less than desired, finished strong
Oct 14, 2021
Special shot out to Carlos and Kay, generally pleasant staff and excellent service.
Check in process left much to be desired, other than that we enjoyed our stay. Great place for people who want a more exclusive stay on the island.
50th Bday Celebration
Oct 13, 2021
The property was beautiful and well landscape. The sunsets are breath taking. The beaches on Seven Mile are the best by far, the bluest blue, calm, peaceful .
The rooms are nice but room service is kinda slow, however we went during the slow season and covid.
The staff is top notch and took every precaution to keep guest safe.
The staff went up and beyond to make us feel welcome and my big 5-0 birthday memorable.
A special shout out to the security Alfonso and Mike. They are the best and so helpful.
Shout out to Carlos for arranging my excursions. I jumped into the Blue Hole and cliff jumped at Rick's.
Another shout out to the Mahogony staff- top notch crew and the food was so delicious especially the Mexican theme night and the Lobster and shrimp night. Our favorite waitress, Kerri Anne would greet us my name and knew our drinks after the 1st night. She made us a dessert plate on the last night, she is simply awesome!!
The massages are a must, we had two.
Plenty of fun activities and shows.
Azul did not disappoint, and turning 50 wasn't that bad.
I will definitely be back.