Cruise editor-turned-weekend-landlubber Rebecca Tobin checked
out a few Miami Beach hotels. Her report follows:
here's one problem greater than
not having enough choices: Having too many choices.
This is too true in Miami Beach, where art deco hotels seem to
have multiplied faster than college kids in town on spring break.
Pastel-colored properties line the main drag of Collins Avenue,
each one as cute as the next, with names like the Surfcomber, the
Pelican and the Shore Club.
But sometimes it's tough to tell if the hotel in question is an
all-night party spot or if an inexpensive rate means you've got a
deal or a dog on your hands.
After staying in one hotel whose lobby smelled strongly of
disinfectant and whose bellhop watched from the doorway as I hefted
my own suitcase out of the taxi, I decided an education was in
Through my contacts at the Miami Beach Convention and Visitors
Bureau, I was able to test-run three different types of
accommodations in three nights: a venerable Miami Beach institution
(the Fontainebleau), a midprice hotel chain (Crowne Plaza's Royal
Palm) and a boutique property (the Park Central).
All feature beach access for the sun-worshippers and access to
the Miami Beach Convention Center for conferencegoers. And each has
its own individual charms.
Many older denizens of the Miami Beach scene have traveled in
style to the famous Fontainebleau Resort, whose giant, boxy,
crystal chandeliers and a staircase to nowhere evoke its 1950s
heyday, and whose curved exterior makes it a landmark.
But the Fontainebleau is getting a face-lift. The hotel just
finished a $65 million renovation that meshes the grande dame's
midcentury style with contemporary touches.
So far, 440 of the hotel's rooms have been renovated,
restaurants have been added, and the lobby has been spruced up with
a large bar and lounge that's perfect for people-watching.
Because the Fontainebleau is about 25 blocks removed from the
frenetic South Beach scene, the crowd is a little more relaxed and
less image-conscious. People-watching revealed the Fontainebleau's
clientele to be a mix of conventioneers, older couples and
Families, in particular, are well-represented. The
Fontaine-bleau offers kids Cookie's World, a 7,000-square-foot,
Octopus-themed water park. For the rest of us, there's a pool with
a grotto and waterfall, a lawn with hammocks, and access to the
beach and boardwalk.
Renovations here will barely be complete, however, when the
resort's lobby will undergo another change. When the luxury
condo/hotel Fontainebleau II next door is completed in 2004, a
glass walkway will link the two lobbies.
For more information, call (800) 548-8886 or visit www.fontainebleau.hilton.com.
Royal Palm Crowne Plaza
About 23 blocks away is the Royal Palm, which looks like a
classic art deco jewel box.
But, in fact, the Royal Palm's art deco building is new. It was
reconstructed to the specifications of the original hotel, which
was condemned and demolished in 1998.
In addition to the "original" building, there are 11 suites in
the Royal Palm Tower, 104 suites in the 16-story Shore-crest Tower
next door and a long, low building next to that that houses 35
I had the classic "room with a view" on the 14th floor of the
Shorecrest Tower, plus a tiny balcony that looks out over the
twinkling lights of South Beach and Ocean Drive. Street noise was
muffled, and once the sliding door was shuttered, the room was
silent. Other Royal Palm suites have direct ocean views.
Decorations were comfortably minimal and uniform, with blond
wood and light tones. The suite consisted of a small living room
with a couch, desk and TV, and a bedroom with a bed that directly
faced the balcony doors. I left the curtains open, and when I woke
up I could see a Royal Caribbean International ship sailing into
In the rest of the hotel, angular staircases and ramps connect
the pool, the lanai suites, the Sunrise Poolside Bar and the
Unfortunately, the Sunrise Poolside Bar was closing up early, so
there was no place to sit, nurse a drink and watch the sunset.
Meanwhile, the Deco Lounge in the lobby is a 1940s throwback,
and no wonder: Like the hotel itself, this, too, was reconstructed
to look identical to the original lobby.
Whereas the Fontainebleau bustled with energy, the Royal Palm
was coolly elegant.
For more information, call (800) 2CROWNE or visit www.royalpalmcp.crowneplaza.com.
The Park Central
From my perch high above South Beach, I descended right into the
heart of the action.
The Park Central is in the center of the 24-hour South Beach
party, making it perfect for guests who want to stroll across the
street to the beach, eat a late dinner and hang out in a Washington
Hotel rooms are decorated in earthy white-and-green hues.
The 12 suites in the hotel's adjacent building are the right
size for an extended stay, and there is lots of room to spread out.
In addition to a large living room with a couch and two wing
chairs, the suites also have a wood-floored foyer with a table for
small feasts, plus a decent-size kitchen.
On the inside, the Park Central might seem more like a quaint
Floridian hideaway than a hip hotel.
But a second-story Ocean Drive hotel room is never a hideaway.
From the music at the nearby hotel pool to a live Latin band in the
popular downstairs restaurant and hip-hop beats from the car of
whichever reveler was cruising down Ocean Drive at the moment,
South Beach is always right outside the window.
Rooms at the rear of the property, and those on a higher floor,
would be less likely to have the same noise levels.
A small, rectangular pool and a garden connect the main building
to the suites building, and a fence and a few well-placed shrubs
help keep the rest of Miami Beach at bay.
Unlike many South Beach properties, which dress up their lobbies
in white and neutral shades, the Park Central has some dark wood,
brass touches and indoor greenery.
And, of course, people-watching from the Park Central's
streetside restaurant is an entertaining way to spend the day.
For more information, call (800) 727-5236 or visit www.theparkcentral.com.