OK Brides - here's my review of our Brides Dress Rehearsal (BDR). I have posted pics in my photo gallery.
My fiance and I attended the BDR last November 7 - 10, 2013. Since our wedding is 11/28/14 we felt like we'd get an accurate depcition of resort activity, attendance and weather if we visited during our wedding month. Let me say that we actually stayed at Azul Beach (AB) bc we were told that Azul Sensatori (AS) was sold out. It actually gave us the opportunity to confirm that AS was the better of the hotels for our wedding party in terms of size, activties and night life.
Nov 7th - Arrival day
This was pretty much a free day for us. We were greeted by Lomas reps for our group shuttle from the airport to the Resort. Prepare yourself - it's HUMID and they have beer stands to help you cool off, you will be waiting for your van to fill up if you have not chosen a private transfer. We arrived to the resort around 1pm. If you have not visited before you may want to note that AS is located in the marshy, jungle area of Riviera Maya - it's not a manufactured beach with imported sand (many Cancun beaches have imported sand, similar to south beach, Miami) - it's authentic beach terrain in Riviera Maya so the beach requires water shoes to protect your feet from rocks. This "natural terrain" applies to the ride in once you turn off the main highway - Apparently they had just had a big storm so the natural gravel road into the resort was flooded - you will be amazed at how skilled your cab driver/charter bus driver is at navigating the marsh lands and unpaved roadways - just be patient you are on your way to paradise!
When we arrived we were greeted with cocktails and cool towels. We were upgraded to the honeymoon suite, given our choice of aromatherapy and pillow types for turn down service. I also was asked about my food allergies and throughout the wknd in every restaurant of the Karisma properties that we ate in, I was warned about what dishes to stay away from. We were escorted to our rooms and given a quick tour to orient ourselves from the room to certain restaurants and ammenities like the spa. (as I said we checked into AB but I'm sure the process is the same at AS)
Our room has a cute welcome fruit basket and chilled champagne bottle. Since this was our free day we chose to explore the grounds and get massages. On propery there are concierge booths where you can make spa appointments - no need to go all the way back from the beach up to the spa to get info about services. That Vassa spa was heavenly! We each got one hour massages but arrived at the spa early to steam and try out the cold and hot pools.
Friday, November 8th - Tour of Azul Sensatori and Excursion Day
We were picked up by Lomas Travel in a van and escorted to AS. If anyone has any worries about Security on the resorts, I can assure you that they go through a thorough process to make sure you're authorized to enter the resort. We were greeted by Denise our tour guide - she gave us a great presentation and showed us everything. We are getting married at the Roof Garden Lounge. We chose this location because it has the perfect combo of indoor/outdoor exposure. We have 80+ guests RSVP'ed and we wanted a covered space that would protect us from the hot sun and any dreaded rain showers. Yet give us a beautiful view of the ocean and also separate us completely from resort guests - no unwanted, beach stragglers will be in the background of our photos! Denise explained how the staff would seat our guests according to our timeline, close the doors and escort me through the lobby and keep me hidden until I walk down the aisle. They seem to have the process down pat. She also talked me through how they would escort my guests to cocktail hour and to the reception space so that we could take family pictures, etc before our grand entrance. We've booked a mariachi band so they showed us different set up possibilities for their performance according to which space we finally decide on for our cocktail hour. We were shown, famiy suites, swimup suites and the honeymoon suites. The grounds and hotel common areas are very well taken care of. We never saw trash, an idle glass or cup left astray - after all (it's all you can drink - who isn't wandering around with their cocktail and just setting it down when they're done?) The resort must have some formula for calculating it's employee to guests ratio because we felt taken care of througout our entire stay. Honestly everyone was pleasant, always greeting us with an "Hola" or "Buenas!" The Sky Lounge was under renovation at the time so I was unable to see that - but we weren't interested in having our ceremony there. We did see the sky lounge at AB so I assumed it was basically the same set up but larger. I did not see the Ocean Ballroom because again I was not interested in that location either. We toured all of the restaurants and at each were greeted with a different signature cocktail. We also viewed the spa and gym areas. All look to be well appointed and cleanly. Denise showed us a private room that could be booked for a bride and her wedding party to be made up and to lounge in (for an additional fee) I have five bridesmaids and we would not fit in their comfortably but I imagine it would be great for a bride and up to three others. They had a massage table and tub in the room as well as hair and makeup station. After our tour we returned to AB and hung out in the tequila bar until we were picked up for our excursion to ride horses and swim in a cenote. (Also arranged through Lomas Travel but not part of the BDR) Try all of the Tequilas! After all, they keep the best stuff in Mexico. We got quite a lesson from our bartender about the aging process, qualities of and regions that produce Tequilas. Our excursion was great - I highly recommend getting off the property to explore the surrounding areas. When else could I have swam in a natural cave pool? That night we took a taxi to Playa Del Carmen to hang out - We had a great time. Our taxi driver drove us the 30 minutes - waited for three hours and drove us back to the resort. We were only charged for the time he spent driving on the road. It's approx. $35 to get down there and $35 back.
Saturday November 9th - Dress Reheasal Day
This is the official day where Karisma hotels "show their stuff" They gather all of the brides and grooms together at El Dorao Royale (EDR) for a presentation. For some reason our driver was late and when we got to the session it had already started but I had done enough internet research prior to know that we hadn't missed much. Karisma resorts have rolled out the memorable moments packages and they were explaining those ammenities when we arrived. They explained about outside vendor fees and a few differentiations among their family of properties. After the initial video and presentation we were lead outside of the ballroom salon to a mock reception set up. We were presented with tray passed hors d'oeuvres. There were standing cocktail tables decorated from the memorable moments packages and a grand bar presentation. We were encouraged to eat and drink as much as we wanted - after all this is the big sell! We were welcomed back into a larger ballroom at which time we could see memorable moments reception set ups, sample chair and table covers, linenes and sheers, taste cakes, learn about wine pairing options for private dinners and talk directly with chefs. There were a few photographers and videographers on hand displaying their services. Brides could even get a make up trial if curious. Then we piled into golf carts which took us around EDR to show us the expansive property and ceremony/reception locations. During the tour we saw what I believe is a Generations property that will neighbor EDR and include families. I think EDR is adult only. Last but certainly not least we returned to the ballroom area but were seated with Karisma Wedding coordinators for lunch. Lunch was tasty - again they were aware of my allergies and I had one or two substitutions but the meal was very good. Nothing too mind blowing but good, solid, plated lunch. What I liked most about that lunch was we had the opportunity to ask personal questions of the coordinators about rain contigencies, which options plated, buffet or BBQ style would be good for groups, just anything that came to mind. We left feeling very informed. Saturday night we had dinner with a couple that we met on the tour in the Tapaz restaurant of AS. Then we partied at Mojito Lounge, they had a great live salsa band for entertainment.
Sunday, November 10th - return home.
We lounged around the beach and cabanas on Sunday morning after breakfast. We had a late afternoon flight so we really took our time. The great thing is that we were able to experience all of this for $399 plus flights. If you can, I recommend attending. It really will help calm most of your fears and you will have some reference for what you'll be getting for your wedding. Also you get perks toward your wedding - like discounts on cocktail hours and private receptions. That can't hurt, can it?
Well that's the review - hope it was helpful. Again - I posted pics in my gallery.