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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

South Beach Miami, Florida / Z Ocean Hotel--Crowne Plaza

Thanksgiving weekend 2012, 3-nights, King handicap suite #207

Sunrise @ beach club
Status perks
As a Platinum guest, I received free Internet service. I found this out when I called the front desk to ask about the $14 charge, since the agent had not said anything at check-in. I did not receive the monogramed pillowcases shown on Facebook for Platinum guests, and I did not receive a guestroom upgrade.

I inquired about a spa or rooftop suite upgrade at check-in, and I was told that there was not anything available. The agent said I could check the next day, so I did. I spoke with the manager the next morning, and was again told that there was nothing available. I did not call again the morning of our last night, even though the website showed that rooftop rooms were available. The manager had not told me to check again, and I figured if the hotel was going to give me an upgraded room, this would have already been taken care of. I dislike having to ask for a perk that is supposed to be automatically given when available.
floor two diagram

I had booked a South Beach king suite with points for this stay. I did not book a handicap room, and we did not need one. I assume that we ended up with the handicap suite because it had not been reserved, and our room was not ready. When we arrived before check-in time around 2 PM, the suite originally set aside for us, #305, was not ready yet. We returned to the front desk about 1/2 hour after check-in time and our room was still not available. The agent checked some things, and then assigned us suite 207 instead. I asked if this was the same room type, and she said yes. We did not know that it was a handicap or poolside guestroom until we arrived at the suite.

This suite is spacious and very soundproof. It is slightly different than the photos shown online. I don't know if that is because it is a handicap room, or if it is because of the room location on an inside corner, or a combination of both. The differences from the other suites were: the glassed patio windows are a smaller area, the outside patio area is smaller, and there were no chairs inside the suite except the bar chairs. 

The bar/kitchen area was fabulous. It contained the following: nice dishes/plates, unique glassware--including champagne and martini glasses, coffee and tea cups, silverware, wine and bottle opener, nespresso machine with coffee supplies, microwave, fridge, sink, cold and dry minibar, bar stools, and a large safe.

The bathroom was two large rooms. The outer area contained the toilet and a vanity with sink and mirror. There was a second vanity and sink in the next area with a large tiled shower. A makeup mirror and high quality hair dryer were provided. I was surprised that cotton swabs and tips were not provided with the standard shower and lotion amenities. The shower had three sets of jets, and a fold down handicap seat. The shower was fabulous, although I felt like I needed an engineering degree to figure out how to operate the water flow!

One thing I missed in this suite, was a full length mirror. There were wall mirrors in the bathroom and living area; however, all of the mirrors were only half length vanity or decorative mirrors.

The bed, pillows, and bed sheets were all high quality and very comfortable. We could not hear any noise from the pool area when the patio door was shut. The closet contained two hanging rods, one below the other, so there was not a place to hang dresses without them hitting the lower rod or floor. A folding luggage rack was provided in the closet and there was a suitcase bench at the foot of the bed against the wall.

We did not receive consistent turndown service. The first evening, housekeeping knocked on the guestroom door around 5 PM. When I answered, I was handed a welcome letter with two small pieces of candy that reminded me of leftover Halloween candy--an M & M's and an Almond Joy. The second evening we were not present. When we returned to our suite, we found a robe placed on the bed and a pair of slippers on the floor next to the bed. We did not receive a turndown amenity. We did not receive turrndown service at all the last night. It would have been nice if we had received the super turndown delicacies bragged about on the Z Ocean Facebook page at least one of the nights.
Suite 207 in corner

The patio area contained a lounge chair and a glass topped table with four chairs. Since there were only two of us, and the area was small without much room to walk through, we set one of the table chairs aside, and it had been moved out to the pool area the next day.

Fresh plants were tastefully placed between each suite for privacy. A nice feature around all of the patio suites is the privacy curtain. Each suite patio had curtains that could be closed all the way around, if guests desired.
Typical poolside patio.
Suite 305 (original suite) on floor above right

Pool & beach
The pool area was not very busy during our stay and it was peaceful. The water spouts into the pool provided a soothing waterfall type sound. If we had been staying in one of the balcony rooms a floor above the pool, we probably would have slept with our patio door partially open. We observed only adults at the pool until the day we departed. There were two children in the pool that day.

The pool chairs were comfortable, and staff members provided excellent pool service. Lounge chairs were covered with towel covers, rolled towels were set out, and towels were immediately replaced when guests departed. A pool attendant served frozen grapes one day, and bar staff were attentive. The only thing I thought needed more attention in the pool area was the floor. I observed staff members sweeping up debris; however, the floor needed to be washed with soap. The grime was not visible; however, the bottoms of our feet and shoes turned black from the floor. And, I only walked a few steps with bare feet--from a chair to the whirlpool tub.
Pool view from below

My husband said that the pool temperature was slightly cool, although it was not so cool that he did not swim in it. The glass windows in the bottom of the pool are not over the restaurant, as I had read. The view into the pool is overhead when walking from the front desk toward the bar and restaurant. The whirlpool tub temperature was warm, although we would have liked it a little hotter since it was quite cool in the evenings.
Guestroom directory
Beach Club

This hotel is not located on the beach, and no one told us about the Beach Club across the street. Fortunately, I had read about it in a guest review before our visit, and information is listed in the guestroom directory. Guests can have two chairs with pads, towels, and an umbrella for no cost. A bed is available as an upgrade; I did not inquire about the cost for a bed. A few items were available for purchase at the hut on the beach--soda, water, sunscreen, and vending machine type snacks.

Food & Beverage
shrimp taco
We visited the hotel restaurant--The Front Porch Cafe--during Happy Hour two days. We thought Happy Hour was an excellent value. The beverage and food prices and quality were excellent. For $5 each, we had: calamari, Mahi-Mahi tacos, shrimp tacos, and crispy jerk pork belly tacos. The calamari was a good portion size and flash fried, although not very flavorful. Each taco portion was two tacos; however, I did not take the pictures posted here until after we had started eating. All of the tacos were good, and the shrimp tacos were amazing! We had the shrimp tacos both days because we liked them so well.

pork taco
A 17% tip was automatically added to the check, which is typical for the Miami Beach area. After we said we wanted to charge the bill to our room, this tip was changed to 20%.

I ordered the California Omelette from room service for breakfast one morning. The room service cost was a couple dollars more than the restaurant menu cost--before the tip was added. We knew this, but thought it would be enjoyable to dine poolside on our patio. The order taker did not provide a delivery time. The food was delivered in a reasonable about of time--within 20 to 25 minutes.

I was disappointed with the omelette. The eggs were brown and overcooked. The menu description listed avocado as one of the ingredients, which I had expected to be fresh slices on the side. I should have asked because the avocado was inside the omelette, so it was mushy from being cooked. The omelette came with toast, and a side choice--fresh fruit, tomatoes, or potatoes. I chose tomatoes, which were three good-sized and flavorful slices. The side of sourdough toast was thin, cold, and rubbery. It seemed like the bread had been toasted several minutes before the food was delivered.

Misc. and overall
Fresh ice cold citrus water was available by the front desk every time we walked through the lobby. Valet, bell, and concierge staff members were attentive and smiling every time we walked by. We liked the location of this resort at the start of Ocean Drive.

This is a nice facility with many good points. I am sure I would have been impressed if I had received a Platinum upgrade, or if we had received the amenities posted on the hotel Facebook page. I also read reviews by Platinum guests who received an upgrade to a rooftop suite. I had high expectations, and because we did not receive any of the perks I had read about, this stay was disappointing. I posted two comments on the hotel Facebook page about my disappointment not receiving the turndown amenities or the VIP pillowcases. No one from the hotel replied to those posts, although someone seems to actively reply to guests before a stay (they replied to all my posts before our stay). I felt like they got me in the door, and then ignored me.

I did stay on points; however, when I stay at a competitor hotel brand on points--Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt--I still receive the same perks as when I am a paying guest. When I stayed at the Crowne Plaza at the Ft. Lauderdale airport (FLL) with points in March of this year, we were upgraded to the presidential suite! I am still bragging about that hotel, and I will choose it again for my next stay in that area. When the Z Ocean Hotel stay posted to my PCR account ($745.80 under hotel rate with 0 points earned since I redeemed points), it looked like this hotel received over $200 a night for my points stay. If I had paid over $200 a night for my room, I would have been seriously disappointed rather than just mildly disappointed.

When booking a poolside room at this resort, I would suggest staying away from this handicap room unless it is needed. The other poolside suites have a much larger patio area, and I could see chairs inside the guestroom when the curtains were open.

UPDATE: After I posted on TripAdvisor about my disappointment with this stay, Director of Sales & Marketing, Frank Fuentes expressed empathy and invited me to contact him, so I did. I received a prompt and professional reply to an email I sent, which has altered my opinion of this hotel. The communication I had with Mr. Fuentes “wowed” me the way I had expected before our stay. We intend to stay at this hotel again the next time we visit SoBe!