Jamaican joy at Azul Beach Resort Sensatori
that included saltfish ackee and jerk chicken, Croatian mussels and tender lamb ribs.
Seated beside one of the prime minister’s
bodyguards and former Miss Jamaica Sara
Lawrence, I pieced together a brief history
of the region. After centuries of harvesting
sugarcane and decades of exporting aluminum ore, Jamaica separated from England
in 1962. Around the same time, Negril was
founded; it is thought to be named “little
black ones” by the Spanish after its black
sea cliffs. Negril’s splendor attracted visitors
and soon afterwards resorts, until it became
the Negril of today, which Bartlett referred
to as the capital of leisure and the heartbeat
of the Jamaican tourism industry.
I reflected on these insights that afternoon as I climbed into the pool from my
suite’s private swim-up terrace, swam under
the walkway bridge and stepped out onto
Seven Mile Beach.
I considered enjoying butler service from
one of the wicker-style seafront cabanas.
After all, the sea’s gradation from teal to
aquamarine was mesmerizing. But I wanted
to discover what thrived beneath its surface.
I took my mask and snorkel out into the
clear waters, where I saw lionfish, pita-size
sand dollars, pufferfish and a starfish large
enough to spread across my shoulders. I
wouldn’t have minded seeing schools of
tropical fish, but in the end I felt satisfied.
During brunch, I had noticed an island
through the floor-to-ceiling windows of
the Palms World Cuisine. When I had the
chance, I visited Azul’s beachfront recre-
By Dan Peel
The yacht that had carried me to the Negril Cliffs rocked away from the cove, captain at the helm. A life- guard and I stood on the
40-foot ledge at Rick’s Cafe and
watched it go. Wind and rain had
driven the other visitors and staff
“The cliff’s closed for jumping,” the life-
guard repeated for the seventh time, and
then looked aside. “But your swim to the
boat is getting longer, so go before anyone
I thanked her. Then I leapt through the
open air and down into the white-capped
Caribbean Sea alongside the rain.
I had traveled to Negril, Jamaica, in June
for the grand opening of Karisma’s Azul
Beach Resort Sensatori. An hour drive from
Montego Bay afforded me views of a green
landscape rich with guava, breadfruit, tamarind and star-apple trees amid the occasional family of goats.
After entering the Karisma’s gate, I was
greeted with live reggae melodies and refreshments in the Champagne lounge lobby.
The bright music, gold-leafed ceiling and
ation center, which rented out catamarans
and kayaks and chartered PADI-certified
scuba trips to the nearby coral reef.
I hired a guide to ferry me across the
channel to Booby Key Island, named after
the birds that once inhabited it. While it
didn’t have the shoreline tai chi, top-shelf
rum tastings or luxury decor of Azul, it
contained treasures of its own such as coral
beaches, butterflies and energetic hermit
crabs. Walking on a dirt path under a canopy of seagrape trees and the thick vines that
twisted down to their roots, I came across a
pair of locals who had built a fire with twigs
and were boiling lobster from the traps,
complete with garlic and butter.
These men told me Jamaicans are happier than any other people on Earth. Their
happiness, they said, required nothing but
the elements of their flag: yellow for the
sunshine, green for the plants and black for
Similar to holding a piece of sea glass
or listening to the whispers within a shell,
Negril impressed me with its intrinsic joy. I
came to hold its thriving landscapes, expansive views and charismatic people in high
regard. And in the wake of those thoughts, I
found that Karisma’s gourmet dishes, open-aired atmosphere and exotic swimming
pools complemented the influential value
that is the Jamaican west coast.
Rates at the Azul Beach Resort Sensatori Jamaica by Karisma start at $198 per
person, per night.
the view that extended past the swim-up
suites and out to sea set my mind at ease.
Azul, a 149-room expansion of Karisma
Sensatori, provided me and other Ameri-
can and Canadian guests with all-inclusive,
five-star amenities, services and views. I was
invited to dine and drink at Karisma’s nine
world cuisine restaurants and nine bars, in-
cluding four swim-up bars; relax with steam
rooms and a massage at the 9,400-square-
foot Vassa Spa; and select designer pillows
from the 24-hour room service menu.
During the opening ceremony, prime
minister Andrew Holness, tourism minister Edmund Bartlett and other dignitaries
arrived to give their blessings. From Azul’s
sky wedding patio, the prime minister announced that the growing tourism market
from the U.S., Canada and Europe will create jobs for 5,000 Jamaicans by 2021.
He then praised Karisma CEO Rafael Feliz for his company’s $70 million investment
into the now 285-room resort. He added
that he would ensure Negril had the resources and infrastructure required to support the growing industry, including hospitality training. Feliz responded by revealing
plans for a $1 billion Sugarcane Jamaica resort project, which would add 5,000 rooms
to the island by 2027.
After hearing the speeches and witnessing a ribbon-cutting ceremony, I joined the
other guests downstairs for a global cuisine
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The Azul Beach Resort Sensatori in Negril, Jamaica: above, a
deluxe oceanview room; right, swim-up suites.
A ferry at Booby Key Island, named
after the birds that once inhabited it.