As a matter of course, villas and suites at luxury resorts catering to families provide numerous amenities, babysitting services, age-appropriate activities and full-family excursion options. Many of these, however, will often get a big assist from Hollywood or the corporate world in the forms of popular cartoon characters or kid-friendly movie franchises.
Some parents will find there is nothing wrong with kids having face time, creative classes, games and outdoor adventures with reassuringly familiar faces while they can enjoy the luxury of not having to plan every aspect of the journey prior to departure. However, Roman and Chitra Stern, who originally built successful careers in finance and the corporate world, had their own vision of what an all-inclusive luxury family getaway should be: thoughtful and distraction-free, with all members coming away with memories of the place and its people rather than marketing strategies and gimmicks.
In 2010, the couple’s vision came to life as Martinhal with the opening of the first property in Sagres, Portugal. The newest Martinhal properties in Cascais and Lisbon, though different in their décor and personality, carry the Sterns’ mission forward. Both provide sophisticated (decidedly non-themed) surroundings and custom-curated amenities appealing to adults artfully blended with hands-on surroundings serving a more worldly generation of children.
“Martinhal offers a kind of 5-star luxury where children can play and run around without fear, and parents can leave children with a fully trained staff with peace of mind when they want personal time,” said Chitra Stern. “Children are allowed to be children, and parents can be adults in these settings. But everybody can have quality time together without giving anything second thought.”
Stern added Martinhal sets itself apart by meeting the needs of different families (from a couple with one child to a small extended family group including grandparents to LGBTQ families) before and during the visit, freeing the adults from worrying about what to pack. From dazzlingly chic apartments in Chiado (Lisbon) to soothingly decorated beachy suites and villas at Cascais, the most striking aspects of the dwellings are individualized touches, such as booster steps for the sink, individually devised amenities packages, built-in safety features and special flip flops, robes and table settings for kids.
Restaurants at both resorts, meanwhile, go beyond presenting their breakfast buffets and made-to-order items in ways one would expect from a 5-star resort. There are dedicated menus for babies showcasing kitchen-made baby food as well as a kids’ menu offering a mix of kid-friendly staples with items appealing to more adventurous young eaters. Playrooms are set up within the dining rooms, so when kids finish their meals before the parents, they can enjoy a variety of toys and games under staff supervision, or run around outside.
There are also dedicated programs and play areas devised for infants, toddlers and older children that are invitingly vibrant but not “branded” (with the exception of Martinhal’s fox mascots), so kids of different ages can enjoy the resort and Portugal on their own terms. Stern also points out parents are welcome and encouraged to spend time in the baby area of the Kids Club so they can witness their youngest children enjoying the experience. Furthermore, Stern expresses hope families will return on a regular basis so those memories of Portugal, curiosity and travel skills will grow along with the kids.
The Lisbon/Chiado property is located in one of the city’s main tourist quarters, with walking-distance access to major museums, the waterfront and public transportation. It also offers a “Pajama Club” program until 10 p.m., allowing parents to enjoy date nights exploring the city’s superb restaurants and nightlife. Cascais offers “picnic breakfast” options as part of the hotel’s half- and full-board meal plans for days when parents want a quieter one-on-one start to the day with their kids. That resort also encompasses the Finisterra Spa offering services for adults, teens and children.
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