For those of us residing in the northern reaches of the U.S., an escape to the southern climes is always on our collective minds. There are of course many options, South Padre Island, the beaches of Southern California, but for a southern escape with a diverse blend of cultural flavor, one can not go wrong with Miami.
On a recent trip in February, the writer and his wife were fortunate enough to enjoy a four day, four night stay at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Key Biscayne is an island off the mainland from the city of Miami, connected by a causeway. Driving from the mainland over the causeway, brings back memories of “Miami Vice”, as the blue-green waters of Biscayne Bay glisten in the sun. Boats of every description bob in the various marinas along the shore.
Arriving at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne we were lovingly “assaulted” by a platoon of valets and doormen opening our car doors and whisking our luggage away to be deposited in the Main Lobby. As we looked in awe at the grandiose marbled lobby, we were approached by one of the doormen, Mario, we later learned, and asked if we would like some champagne while we checked in. We sipped champagne while the staff checked us in without any glitches or problems.
Our view from the 12th floor was breathtaking. Ocean-going freighters on the horizon barely moved as we soaked up the luxury of our accomodations. From the balcony, one could see the entire estate of the Ritz, including two of the outside dining venues. Of course, the beach looked inviting, despite the rather low temperatures for February.
The Beach Cantina was our choice that night for dinner. The bar seemed to stretch for a city block and the atmosphere was lively. Fresh guacamole served in a huge lava bowl was our choice, with plenty of “Presidente”, a light, crisp lager beer imported from the Dominican Republic. Also onsite at the Ritz was an Italian restaurant, Cioppino’s, as well as the Dune Ocean Front Burger Lounge which served diners both under the umbrellas on the beach, and swimmers at the huge in-ground pool.
For beach-goers, there were several full-time beach attendants who would set-up beach chairs, umbrellas, and anything else that a sun worshipper would require. There were even little flags attached to the beach chairs that could be raised to indicate a beverage would be required.
If, for example, a guest did not feel like travelling to Miami for some nightlife, live music was on tap every night in the Main Lobby Ballroom. Adjacent to the Ballroom, was the Rum Bar, which in addition to serving rums from all over the world, featured an extensive selection of high-end cigars for guests’ enjoyment.
Service at this particular Ritz-Carlton was unsurpassed. Staff would literally dash off to locate and print out directions, points of interest, dining etc., on nearby computers. Guests should be advised that most services provided by Ritz staff, valet parking, room service, etc. should be rewarded with a small gratuity ($2-$3 in most cases).
Of course, the cost factor of staying at a Ritz is substantial. However, if one can manage, a stay at a Ritz, particularly the Key Biscayne location, only would enhance a visit to the Miami area.