Mandarin Oriental makes a splash in debut

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MIAMI -- The Mandarin Oriental made its debut here with a soft opening, becoming the first operating property out of several luxury hotel chains that are establishing themselves in Greater Miami, with three Ritz-Carltons to open later this year and a Four Seasons to open next year.

Initially, the $100 million Mandarin Oriental had only about 115 of its 329 rooms available for occupancy, but all are expected to be ready this month.

At the moment, the hotel is in a class by itself as the most upscale property in the city, with rack rates for regular rooms ranging from $525 to $740 per night, through March 31.

Spring rack rates range from $475 to $690; summer rates from $395 to $610.

Located on Brickell Key, a 44-acre luxury condominium community on an island in Biscayne Bay, the 20-story, bayfront tower offers spectacular vistas of the water and of the downtown Brickell Avenue financial district, which is located on the other side of a short bridge.

The Mandarin Oriental Miami overlooks Biscayne Bay.Through Feb. 28, the hotel offers introductory rates of $180 per night for a waterview room and $239 for a Miami skyline view, based on availability.

Winter rack rates for the 31 suites range from $1,200 to $3,000 per night, with the exception of the TaiPan Suite (presidential suite) -- which opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti was first to occupy -- priced at $4,000 per night, year-round.

The hotel's formal opening is set for March 31 and will feature a grand gala.

All public facilities are operational, with the exception of a three-story, 15,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, scheduled to open by the end of this month.

The crescent-shaped tower, which does not carry a name on its marquee, is palatial, highlighted by a sweeping, curved lobby called a "podium" for its raised vantage point looking out over the bay.

This space, with overlapping wooden screens and museum-quality artifacts, has an exquisite lobby lounge and a bar specializing in martinis and champagne.

Backdrops for the lounge, with subtle Oriental motifs, include fountains, tropical-flower arrangements and sculptures.

Immediately accessible from the lobby lounge is Azul, an elegant, 120-seat restaurant designed by Tony Chi and Associates of New York.

Azul directly connects below to Cafe Sambal, a less-formal, 160-seat indoor and outdoor restaurant, with a large terrace offering more waterfront views.

Also occupying a major terrace vantage point overlooking the bay is an outdoor swimming pool.

On par with the other amenities, the property's large guest rooms, with 10-foot ceilings, are stunning, featuring bursts of color amid carefully refined furnishings.

Many of the guest units offer balconies or terraces, and all suites have floors of bamboo hardwood.

All units feature bathrooms sheathed in Spanish marble, with a separate tub and shower.

All rooms also offer high-speed Internet access, with fax and data ports unobtrusively located within mahogany desks.

The property's 15,000-square-foot meeting and banquet facilities, accommodating 600 persons, are elegant.

These facilities, located near the lobby, have their own terrace area.

The general manager of the Mandarin Oriental is Jorge Gonzalez, a former Ritz-Carlton executive who also most recently opened the Loews Miami Beach Hotel as managing director.

The resident manager is Albert Mertz, who was previously executive director of food and beverage service for the Loews Miami Beach.

The executive assistant manager, overseeing the rooms division, is Jeannette Schulze, who joined the hotel from the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London.

The Mandarin Oriental is a joint venture between Hong Kong's Swire Properties, which holds a 75% stake, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, at 25%.

For information or reservations, call the property at (305) 913-8288 or (866) 888-6780. The Mandarin Oriental reservations line (USA and Canada) is (800) 526-6566.

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