Ritz-Carlton Hotel Offers Peaceful Luxury in Hip South Beach

by Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin

South Beach in Miami, Florida, has a reputation to be a party town for 20- and 30-somethings, where bass beat of music rising from the bars reverberates off hotel room walls throughout the night. We read review upon review of hotels that reflected this image of South Beach. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, South Beach, on the other hand, was a quiet, upscale oasis from the South Beach bustle of people and sounds.

Enjoy a relaxing oceanfront meal at the DiLido Beach Club, Ritz-Carlton South Beach's distinctive dining option (photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton, South Beach).

The Ritz-Carlton is a fully renovated, Morris Lapidus-designed, oceanfront hotel from the 1950s. The hotel is within walking distance of the South Beach shops, museums, and nightlife venues. The lobby features the original black terrazzo floors, wooden columns, and a winding staircase that leads to the mezzanine level. A $2 million, eclectic art and sculpture collection is scattered throughout the hotel.

Our large, modern guest room on one of the Ritz-Carlton’s Club Level floors had a beautiful marble bathroom, Italian linens, down and foam pillows, and a “to-die-for” balcony view of the sprawling pool, the clean white beach, the beach-side promenade, and the turquoise-colored water of the southern Atlantic Ocean. The Club Level is a “hotel within a hotel,” providing additional amenities and expedited check-in/check-out services to its guests. The key-accessed Club Lounge is an upscale, yet casual, ocean-view environment. Complimentary food and hot and cold beverages (including wine and champagne) are served buffet-style five times a day in the Club Lounge, including: continental breakfast, lunch and mid-afternoon lite fare, and evening chocolate cordials and petit fours. The Club Lounge also contains a computer station and a Concierge desk available only to Club Level guests.

Generally, the Ritz service was excellent, and the staff was enthusiastic, friendly, and courteous. We were quite impressed by the Club Lounge Concierges, especially when they remembered our names and our interests throughout our stay. A couple we met from Long Island, NY, informed us that they return quarterly to South Beach on business. After staying at a number of different hotels, they decided to return only to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level, due to the exceptional quality and level of service they found at this hotel. In fact, when this couple arrived at the hotel when we first met them, a Club Level Concierge greeted them with tickets that were purchased prior to their arrival.

The DiLido Beach Club is the Ritz’s distinctive dining option on the South Beach Promenade. The DiLido chef, Jeff McInnis, and his staff prepare fresh Mediterranean- and North African-inspired tapas, salads, seafood platters, and even kebabs. Guests have the option to dine indoors or relax alfresco to enjoy the ocean view from a patio table or under a beach cabana. We enjoyed a seafood lunch that was complimented by the DiLido’s signature Watermelon and Peach Sangria. The Restaurant is open daily for lunch, dinner, and cocktails from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday. It stays open until 9 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday. Complimentary flavored hookahs are provided on Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

For one night each month, when the moon is a “full moon,” the DiLido sponsors a no cover-charge “Full Moon Party” from 7 pm to 11 pm. The restaurant stages exotic entertainment and a DJ, offers specialty cocktails, beers, and complimentary hookahs, and provides high tech telescopes to look closer at the full moon.

Overlooking the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean, the hotel’s elevated outdoor pool terrace is upscale and serene. Throughout the afternoon on any given day, the in-house DJ is out on the terrace spinning restful lounge music. Poolside beds may be reserved for $250 per day, which includes four bottles of Fiji water and two bottles of Champagne. Or, for $300 per day, guests may reserve one of the two elevated California King Canopy dens, and receive four bottles of Fiji water and two bottles of Champagne.

Pampering guests is notable with the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels. This is certainly evident in the 16,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa with its elite menu of La Maison de Beaut&eacupe; Carita treatments and European wellness and beauty therapies, such as Prada Beauty skin care. The Ritz-Carlton Spa offers a long list of massage therapies for an individual or a couple’s joint session. The therapies are also enhanced by incorporating specially scented lotions for a seasonal or special occasion promotion. For the winter holiday season, the sweet and spicy scent of peppermint is used, reminiscent of candy canes. The “Chocolate Lovers Swedish Massage” applies chocolate to this traditional modality for hydrating and improving circulation.

Laurie chose one of the hotel’s signature massages — the 80-minute “Astro Balance Massage.” This unique therapy was specially created for the Spa by Jeff Erik Wallace, a massage therapist who is also an astrological counselor. The therapist uses the client’s birth date, astrological sign, and one of the four elements (water, earth, fire, or air) to determine the type of massage to apply, and which body areas will benefit the greatest from that massage. Essential oils, mood music, and an astrological reading enhance this experience.

The Spa maintains a full-service salon that Laurie jumped at, since she did not have a chance to get her hair cut before traveling to Miami for the wedding. Not only was Laurie pleased with the cut, but really appreciated the expert stylist employed by the Spa after she was informed by more than one person at the wedding that the haircut made her look younger.

State-of-the-art weight training and cardiovascular equipment with cardio-theatre personal flat screen televisions are found in the recently renovated 24×7 Fitness Center. The Center is fully staffed from 6 am to 9 pm. The staff is also available, by appointment, for private training, fitness boot camps, and yoga sessions on the beach.

For guests who travel with their barking companions weighing less than 35 lbs, the Hotel has a “Pampered Pooch Pet” package. These “VIP” (Very Important Pooch) guests receive their own plush beds, toys, home-made treats, and designer water. A $250 one-time, non-refundable pet fee is required.

Out of the many “stay with us” packages that the Ritz offers throughout the year, as a couple with busy, independent lives, we liked the sound of the package, “Resort.” Starting at $649 per night, it includes accommodations in a standard guest room, daily breakfast for two at the Hotel’s Bistro One, and a daily $100 resort credit for dining, spa, or other hotel activities.

The Ritz-Carlton offers many seasonal and spa/accommodation packages, babysitting service for guests, cooking classes, wine tasting events, holiday dinners, and even children’s events. To make reservations, or to check on seasonal packages and events, spa treatment specials, rates and availability, visit the Ritz-Carlton South Beach web site, ritzcarlton.com/southbeach, or call 786-276-4000.

Thuersday, 18 December, 2009

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Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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