My husband participated in the inaugural launch of Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas in November 2010 prior to its first public sailing. Prior to the launch, we spent four days/three nights on Miami Beach.
by Princess00 on January 11, 2011
My husband and I stayed at the Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach ("FB") during the month of November 2010. My husband stayed for 4 nights on business and was joined by myself and our nine-month old for an additional three nights of personal vacation. This was our second visit to the Miami Beach area having stayed at the Hotel Victor farther south on the beach in July 2010. This review consists of overall comments regarding our one bedroom suite. For a review of the hotel property, please refer to my review titled "Pricey, but Gorgeous – Part One."Room: During our stay, we were provided a one bedroom suite located in the main building of the hotel. Upon entering the suite, the master bedroom is on your right. If you turn to your left, a long hallway awaits which takes you to the living room space. In the hallway between the bedroom and the living room was the master bathroom. The layout of the suite was good and felt spacious. Being newly renovated, the suite felt fresh and clean. Our suite was located on a corner of the building which allowed for multiple views of Miami Beach. The living room afforded views of the ocean, pool and bay while our bedroom and bathroom spaces overlooked the bay side. Located on the 12th floor, the views were amazing. Large windows throughout the suite enhanced visibility and drew natural light into the space making it feel bright and cheerful. The décor of the suite had a modern feel with a calming white, blue, grey, and green color scheme that complemented the Miami views. Glass and lacquered wood furniture were situated throughout the suite. Overall, the space was contemporary, yet comfortable. The master bedroom contained two double beds, a dresser, a flat screen television, a large closet, and in-room safe. The bedding was clean and comfortable; however, my husband and I both felt the mattress was too soft for our taste. Overall, though, the size of the room was huge (especially for Miami Beach standards) and we were pleased with the sleeping accommodations.The master bathroom was gorgeous and spacious. Wall to wall marble surrounded the space. Upon entering, the sink area was directly ahead with a soaking tub to your right and an enclosed glass shower and toilet area to your left. The sink area offered plenty of counter space with a large area below for multiple towels and wash rags. The only minor comment regarding the bathroom was the shower head. Given the recent renovation of the property, I was surprised that the hotel had not included a rain-head shower in the bathroom. For the cost of the suite, comparable options would have included this little detail. However, the shower offered plenty of good water pressure and temperature control. The living room area was sizeable and contained an L-shaped sofa, bar area, console, flat screen television, and desk area with computer and internet. Even with multiple ‘functional’ areas, the room did not feel cramped or crowded. Large curtains could be drawn to black-out the light from the large windows which proved helpful during our daughter’s nap time. The living room area was a perfect place for our nine month old which allowed us to seek privacy in the bedroom after she went to sleep for the night. The FB provided a complimentary crib which we placed in the living area of the suite. The crib was stable, clean, and comfy for our daughter. Further, they provided Johnson and Johnson baby toiletries including travel-sized Desitin, wipes, baby powder, shampoo, soap, and lotion. A highlight of our suite was the cleaning attendant. During our stay, we had the same sweet lady who cleaned our room daily. She was always friendly and allowed us to stay in the room while she cleaned. She never commented on taking out the stinky baby diapers and inquired as to our schedule for the weekend. Once she found out the timing of my daughter’s naps and when we would likely be out of our room enjoying the pool, she arranged her schedule so the room was cleaned while we were out to avoid interrupting my daughter’s naptime. The only drawback of the room was the noise in the late evening/early morning hours. For those staying at the FB, be aware that the hotel has a very popular night club and regularly holds high-profile events. Even though we were in the main building all the way up on the 12th floor, we were able to hear the music pumping down below at the lobby level. Further, during our stay, the FB had some sort of parking issue surrounding the lobby entrance of the hotel. Attendants delayed cars trying to enter the portico of the hotel entrance which bogged down traffic on the right lane of Collins Avenue. The longer cars were stuck on Collins Avenue attempting to get around the mess or waiting to get into the hotel, the harder they would blare their horns. Believe me when I tell you that you can hear a car horn blaring 12 floors up from the street level, and you can REALLY hear multiple car horns. Thankfully, our daughter is a sound sleeper, but I am not. Our final night at the FB, I finally put some ear plugs in to drown out the noise. Overall, the suite is beautifully appointed and is perfectly suited for the rest of the hotel décor. It is well laid-out and spacious. However, for light sleepers, it might prove useful to request a room in one of the hotel towers located away from the main building where the club activity is situated.
by Princess00 on January 9, 2011
My husband and I stayed at the Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach ("FB") during the month of November 2010. My husband stayed for 4 nights on business and was joined by myself and our nine-month old for an additional three nights of personal vacation. This was our second visit to the Miami Beach area having stayed at the Hotel Victor farther south on the beach in July 2010. This review consists of overall comments regarding the FB property. For a review of our hotel room, please refer to my review titled "Pricey, but Gorgeous – Part Two."Location: The FB is situated directly on the far north end of Miami Beach (north of 41st street). For those seeking a location ‘in the heart’ of Miami Beach, the FB hotel is a bit ‘off the beaten path.’ Restaurants and shopping within walking distance is limited to a few delis and casual fast food joints. Travelers without a car seeking to dine off-property may find themselves taking a cab north to the 71st street area or south toward Lincoln Road. (For reference, Miami Beach’s popular shopping and dining area, Lincoln Road, is located between 16th and 17th streets and approximately 2.5 miles south of the hotel property.) During our stay, we had a car on-hand and had no issues with the location of the hotel. Driving to certain locations along Miami Beach took approximately 10-15 minutes. Complex: The FB hotel property is absolutely gorgeous. This historic hotel recently completed an extensive renovation that magically restored the property to its original classic splendor, with modern touches. The indoor space of the property is filled with tall glass windows, drawing in tons of natural light and creating bright cheerful spaces. Our first morning, my daughter and I explored the hotel. We started with the lobby and eventually made our way outdoors to the pool area. Everything within the hotel lobby just sparkled. The entry of the hotel opens to an expansive lobby with cool white and black checkered marble floors and the most spectacular crystal chandeliers dripping from the ceiling. At the back of the lobby is the FB’s "Bleu Bar" which consists of a frosted acrylic floor with blue lights that illuminate the glass from below. Gold mosaic columns in the Bleau Bar are balanced in the lobby by a tall wall of similar gold mosaic tile. Comfy, yet trendy lounge chairs are strategically placed throughout the lobby, inviting guests to linger. The entire space sparkles with glitz and glamour. On the way to the outdoor spaces, guests are directed along a glassed corridor at the north end of the hotel where they can take an elevator to the outdoor grounds. On the way to the pool, guests will pass Solo, Vida, the spa and gym, and Fresh. Our first stop after traveling through the lobby was to Solo, the FB’s coffee, dessert, and pastry shop. A small little room with one wall made of glass offers delectable little treats and coffee drinks. Upon check-in, guest services provided us with a coupon book that offered discounts for the property’s amenities. So, I ordered a mocha (approx. $5.00 and a pastry $3.50) from Solo which equated to the cost of Starbuck’s coffee and pastry after using the coupon. Solo’s coffee was hot and deliciously prepared. The mixed berry and cream cheese pastry was delightfully flaky and the berries were fresh and sweet. Although pricy, the drink and treat was worth the splurge, and I found myself returning the next morning of our stay. We next strolled to the pool area to enjoy the treat. Outdoor complex (Pool and Beach): Once outside, guests will immediately pass the towel hut and then the largest pool within the complex. In connection with the FB renovation, the entire pool area has been revamped to a swanky outdoor complex of multiple infinity edge pools and hot tubs. Surrounding the pools are private cabanas and padded lounge beds which can be rented for a fee. Of all the pools, the main pool is the most stunning and the most frequented. During our stay, we spent the majority of our time at the main pool. Even though the pool area evoked a cool Miami vibe, we did not feel uncomfortable with our nine-month old at the pool. In fact, the clientele was a good mixed of young adults and families. Another gorgeous pool is a round pool with private cabanas surrounding it. Because the surrounding lounge area was an additional charge, there were no guests using this pool, making it seem rather forlorn. Just past the round pool is FB’s kids pool which consists of a zero entry wading pool, small water spray, and slide area. Compared to most kids pools, it was rather unexciting, but functional for parents with children seeking a more shallow pool option. During our stay, the FB was replacing the natural turf in the outdoor area with faux grass. As the natural grass was struggling to survive, the faux option actually improved the area. The FB’s property is located directly on the beach, which is rare for most hotels on Miami Beach. Compared to the beach farther south, the FB’s stretch of sand is not as wide; however, there is plenty of space for hotel guests to lounge in the sand or on chairs and wade in the water. IMO, it is an added benefit to have the beach essentially ‘on property’ as we were able to frequently return to the room after short visits to the beach.Dining: For most of our meals on Miami Beach, we elected to dine off-property rather than at FB’s signature dining establishments. However, we did eat at Fresh and La Cote for lunch during our stay. Fresh is described as a casual "take-away" dining option where guests can order light snacks, salads, sandwiches, wraps, pizza and gelato. My first day at the hotel, I ordered their chicken Caesar wrap which cost approximately $15. The wrap was bland and tasteless with rubbery chicken and too much lettuce as filler. It was absolutely NOT worth the cost and was left half eaten. Our next day, my husband and I split the Mahi Mahi sandwich at La Cote. Comparable in price ($18), the sandwich was tasty and flavorful and enormous. It was plenty of food to split between two people and therefore justified the cost. For those dining around the pool area, take note that orders placed with the pool attendants will be at Fresh, not La Cote. However, guests can walk up to La Cote (which is nearby) and order food to "take away". Just be aware that gratuity of 18% will be included on any "take away" orders at La Cote. Although we did not dine at Vida, we passed it frequently on the way to the pool; the breakfast buffet offered each morning looked tasty (although pricy).Service: Service at the FB has recently received some criticism from other travelers reviewing the hotel. We are fairly "laid-back" travelers and don’t really require a high level of service. High points of the FB’s staff were the attendants who cleaned our room. The attendants at the pool were friendly, but not overly attentive. The beach attendants, however, acted rather annoyed if we inquired about setting up some chairs and were reluctant to help us. We did feel that the staff at the hotel almost ‘begged’ for tips to the point where any gratuity offered to staff members felt obligatory rather than voluntary; however, there was no attempt to provide service in a manner that justified any sort of special gratuity.Fees and Charges: The only drawback of the hotel is the added fees. For those looking to book a room, be aware that there are extra charges beyond your room rate. The hotel charges an $18 resort fee plus $30 per day for valet. Regarding the resort fee, I am not sure what this includes as cabanas at the pool and beach were an extra charge, and my husband even had to pay per minute to use the internet computer downstairs to print his travel documents. As frequent travelers, we are aware that items purchased at any hotel are generally marked-up. However, since the FB has limited off-property options nearby, guests will likely utilize the hotel’s amenities rather frequently. Therefore, guests should be prepared for sticker shock, aware that the FB is charging a premium for their services due to the lack of nearby competition, and prepared to spend the money due to limited alternatives.Overall, the FB property is absolutely stunning with clean, bright indoors and outdoor spaces. Even guests who lack ‘Miami cool’ – like myself – will feel trendy and chic in this modern glossy Miami Beach landmark. For travelers seeking a gorgeous pool and on-property access to the beach, the FB is the place to stay. For travelers watching the budget, additional fees and expensive amenities may be a deterrent.
by Princess00 on January 20, 2011
My husband and I visited Miami Beach with our 9 month old daughter during November 2010. The location of our hotel, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (41st street), required that we drive to most dining options. Our first night in Miami Beach, we traveled south to Lincoln Blvd and dined on pizza at Spris.Location: Spris is located on Lincoln Road between Meridian and Euclid Avenues. Right near the restaurant is a public parking garage (on 17th street) which allows travelers easy access to the pedestrian only Lincoln Blvd. Atmosphere: As with most restaurants on Lincoln Blvd, Spris’ primary dining space is located outdoors directly in the center of Lincoln Blvd. Small metal café tables are covered by outdoor umbrellas. Given that it had been raining shortly prior to our arrival, we were pleased to note that the tables were dry and clean. Spris’ atmosphere is solely dependent upon the surrounding activity of Lincoln Blvd. If interesting people are walking along the boulevard, the atmosphere is enjoyable for ‘people watching’. If the restaurant or the boulevard is vacant, the atmosphere may feel lackluster. Menu: Spris is a casual restaurant that serves primarily wood-fired pizzas. The menu offers a variety of classic pizza choices and more specialized options with prices ranging from $10-$15 per entrée. For non-pizza lovers, the menu contains some salad and sandwich options as well; however, the main focus of the menu is centered on pizza. Spris offers an ‘order by the clock’ menu which allows diners to select a pizza and pay the price which coincides with the time it is ordered. Since we were traveling on a budget, we asked to review this menu for consideration. Upon review, however, we found it limited to only three pizza options. For those seeking a deal, it is a nice option, but beware that the choices are fairly basic.Food: My husband and I ordered a Caesar salad and pizza to share. Our pizza contained spicy Italian sausage, pepperoni, and ham. The Caesar salad contained crisp romaine lettuce, croutons, and shaved parmesan. The salad was a light introduction to the meal prior to the arrival of our pizza; however, the flavor of the dressing was fairly ordinary. The pizza arrived shortly thereafter and was tasty and hot. The three meats were strong in flavor and nicely complimented the fresh melted mozzarella cheese and sauce. The crust was perfectly cooked – chewy and flaky with a lovely wood-fired taste. Take note, though, that the spicy Italian sausage is just that – spicy. Those with a timid palette may want to avoid this particular meat. Service: Service at Spris was average. Upon arrival, we were seated quickly (the restaurant was empty as we dined early). As we were traveling with a 9 month old, we requested a high chair seat. Although we were seated at our table, it took a few minutes before the high chair was provided. Then, our server arrived with the menus and took our drink order. We sat at the table for several minutes (longer than necessary) waiting for our server to return and take our order (our menus were closed indicating readiness). When our server finally returned, he still had not delivered our drinks. I was extremely dehydrated at that point, having traveled earlier that day and basically checked into the hotel and headed to the restaurant. When he finally brought the drinks, I sucked down my water and then moved on to the coke I ordered. It was not until our pizza arrived that our server finally refilled our water glasses and asked me if I wanted another coke – which I stated yes. We got the coke once our pizza was finished. The service was slow paced and it felt like we never saw our server during the meal. He rarely checked on us and we continually found ourselves waiting for items – drinks, food, check, etc. I generally enjoy a well-paced meal; however, this restaurant is a casual eating establishment. There is a fine balance between rushing a diner and allowing them to linger too long. Our server never found that pleasant balance. We had intended to walk along Lincoln Blvd after our meal; however, by the time we finished dining, we had little time to stroll around before we had to return to the hotel to put our daughter to bed for the night.Overall, Spris makes a tasty pizza, the outdoor eating area is acceptable, and the prices are reasonable. Due to the many dining options in Miami Beach, we will probably not return again. However, Spris is recommend as a budget-friendly casual dining option on Lincoln Blvd. Just watch out for slow service!
by Princess00 on January 19, 2011
My husband and I visited Miami Beach with our 9 month old daughter during November 2010. The location of our hotel, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (41st street), required that we drive to most dining options. So, one night, we drove farther north up the beach to Café Prima Pasta. It was my birthday, and we were seeking a restaurant with a romantic ambiance that was baby and budget friendly. With half price menu options from 5pm-6pm, Café Prima Pasta satisfied all of these requirements.Location: Café Prima Pasta is located on 71st street, approximately 1 block west of Collins Avenue. Being north of the ‘action’ around Lincoln Blvd, the restaurant feels ‘off the beaten path.’ However, the location offered a plethora of parking options and was very easy to locate. For travelers in the area or those with access to a car, the restaurant is easily accessible.Atmosphere: The atmosphere of the restaurant feels comfortable and clubby. Upon arrival, we were immediately escorted to a table indoors by the hostess. The room is decorated in woods and leather with pictures of celebrities who have dined at the café littering the walls. White clothed tables and cozy booths are properly spaced to allow diners privacy between tables. The interior of the restaurant is small, enhancing the comfortable atmosphere. Café Prima Pasta also has a small patio area which seemed pleasant on a cool Miami evening. The atmosphere was quaint and romantic and evoked the vibe of dining in a classic, local, Italian restaurant. Menu: As noted above, Café Prima Pasta offers a half-price menu daily from 5pm-6pm (even on weekends). As we were traveling with a little one, the early dining hour was favorable to capitalize on the reduced prices. . Certain popular house dishes, like Prima Pasta’s black linguini, are not included on the half-price menu. However, the half-price menu offers a plethora of options and does not feel limited. It is posted on line for travelers to review in advance. Once seated, we informed our server that we would like to participate in the half-price menu. He informed us that we would need to have our entire order placed prior to 6pm and then departed momentarily for us to review the menu.Service: Our server was extremely polite and helpful in guiding us through our meal. Even though we were on a ‘time’ clock with the half price menu, we did not feel rushed to place our order. Alternately, though, we also did not find him delaying our order past 6pm in order to increase the cost. He provided friendly service, kept our drink glasses filled, properly paced our meal, and happily took a photo of the three of us after the meal was completed. We were pleased with the service and never felt like ‘second rate’ diners even though we were dining on their ‘budget friendly’ menu. Food: For an appetizer, we ordered the Calamaretti Fritti. The calamari was nicely cooked and tasted fresh. It was served with little bits of fried zucchini, marinara sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. Next, we ordered the Gnocchi 4 Formaggi and Penne Vodka for our main entrees. Both dishes were well prepared and tasty. The gnocchi was flavorful, rich and creamy. The penne vodka was made with fresh pasta and cooked al dente. The portions were huge and easily could be shared. We were unable to finish our dishes. The meal was also served with warm homemade rolls that could be dipped in garlic infused olive oil. My only comment about the meal related to the amount of garlic and onion used in the dishes. The amount of garlic and onions in the dishes (marinara, oil, and vodka sauce) was almost overpowering. I enjoy the flavor of garlic and onions, but I don’t want to taste it for hours after a meal. Although the dishes were enjoyable, the chef was a little heavy handed on these two ingredients. For dessert, we tried the tiramisu and the tartufo. The tiramisu was house made and fresh. Although tasty, I found myself wishing for a stronger coffee flavor. A tartufo, as explained by our server, was a scoop of ice cream, wrapped in a chocolate coating and covered with melted chocolate. The tartufo was a pleasant surprise. My husband and I both found ourselves favoring this light tasting ice cream dish over the tiramisu. We enjoyed the food at Café Prima Pasta; however, if we had paid full price, we may have been slightly disappointed.Value: Because we dined on Café Prima Pasta’s half price menu, our entire meal totaled less than $40 for an appetizer, two entrees, and two desserts. Particularly on Miami Beach, it was a steal! Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Café Prima Pasta. The atmosphere was pleasant and the food was good. For diners looking for an awesome value on Miami Beach, Café Prima Pasta’s half price menu is a great deal!
by Princess00 on January 25, 2011
My husband and I visited Miami Beach with our 9 month old daughter during November 2010. The location of our hotel, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (41st street), required that we drive to most dining options. Our final night in Miami Beach, we traveled to Big Pink to have dinner with my husband’s work colleagues. On a previous visit, our dining companions had enjoyed the food at Big Pink. Therefore, when we agreed to join them for dinner one night, they suggested a return visit to this restaurant. We were glad that they did! Location: Big Pink is kitschy Miami Beach diner food at its best. The restaurant is located on the southern end of Miami Beach on the corner of Collins and 2nd Avenue. Because we were coming from 41st street, we were required to navigate the heavily trafficked heart of Miami Beach to get to the restaurant. With cranky baby in tow, we made it to the restaurant in approximately 20 minutes. Parking around the restaurant (as far as we could tell) is mainly located on the street. During certain hours, diners will be required to insert coins into the pay meter to park. However, it was not overly difficult to locate a parking spot on the street, and the cost to park totaled approximately $2, which is reasonable for Miami Beach.Atmosphere: Big Pink is a casual diner with outdoor and indoor seating areas. Outdoor tables are located on 2nd Avenue under a large covered canopy. The interior of Big Pink evokes the vibe of a traditional 50s diner with contemporary touches. Along the back wall to the right is a long bar with televisions playing current sporting events. Along the back wall to the left of the diner is the open kitchen. Boards display the specials for the day, including Big Pink’s popular TV Dinner tray. Tables are lined throughout the restaurant are simple, yet clean. The interior space is bustling and noisy, which was great for our fussy baby. Service: Upon arrival, our dining companions initially chose a table outdoors under the canopy. However, it began to rain shortly after we ordered our drinks and our server inquired if we preferred to dine inside. Since our table was on the outskirts of the canopy, we were not fully covered from the rain and quickly took him up on his offer. He then seated us at a table within his assigned station. Service at Big Pink is fun. The staff is eclectic and friendly. During our meal, our server was helpful in navigating the menu, filled our drinks frequently, and regularly checked on us. He also was quite friendly to our baby and did not act annoyed when she knocked over a drink cup during the meal. Further, once our meal arrived, he was helpful to inform me that my dish was quite hot and to keep it away from little roaming hands which might get burned. We were very pleased with our server who provided service that met our expectations for this type of restaurant.Menu: The menu at Big Pink contains a multitude of American-style diner options to suit even the pickiest eater. Burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizza, wraps, and pasta options are plentiful. Breakfast is served all day at Big Pink. As mentioned previously, the TV Dinner is their specialty, which is a signature six compartment stainless steel tray loaded with the daily specials (which are displayed on a chalk board in the restaurant). Prices at Big Pink are reasonable (for Miami Beach) with most options ranging from $10-$15 per entrée. However, after dining at Big Pink, entrees are large enough to share, which can decrease the overall cost of the meal. The menu can be viewed online at Big Pink’s website.Food: We started our meal with an appetizer – the Hot Spinach and Cheese Dip. The dip was described as a creamy mixture of spinach and cheeses in a hollowed out homemade sourdough loaf served with crispy tortilla chips. The dip exceeded its yummy description. The cheese was hot and melted nicely into the spinach. The tortilla chips were a perfectly salty crispness to latch onto the tasty dip. The spinach dip was delicious and tangy and we could have finished the entire bowl, if it were the only item ordered. For entrees, one of our dining companions and I each ordered the bacon and cheddar burger which came with homemade fries. The 10 oz angus beef burger was juicy and delicious. The grill taste on the meat was flavorful and perfectly cooked to our specifications. It was nicely topped with fresh ingredients, including a nice slab of bacon and melted cheddar cheese. The homemade cut fries were delicious – crispy and not oily, thin with skins on, perfectly salted. MMMM … good. We quickly decided that the burgers could easily be shared as we both left half on our plate. My husband ordered the Mashed Potato Omelette – which was described as an oversized 5 egg omelette filled with whipped potatoes, bacon, scallions, sour cream, jack and swiss cheese served with french fries and toast. Although I did not taste his meal, it was enormous. My husband stated it was absolutely delicious, albeit a complete diet buster! And, the reason my dining companions returned to Big Pink – the Maryland Crab Sandwich – a crispy crab cake, shredded lettuce, and mayo on a homemade brioche bun. This delicious sounding entrée was ordered for a second time by one of our dining companions who agreed that it was still as good as she remembered. Finally, we splurged on one of Big Pink’s desserts – the Giant Brownie – which was again, big enough for the four of us to share. Overall: Overall, Big Pink is the only restaurant my husband and I visited on Miami Beach where we wholeheartedly agree that a future return trip is required. The food was plentiful and delicious (no complaints by any of our dining companions), the atmosphere was fun and casual, and the service was pleasing. Big Pink is a great dining option on Miami Beach, and we would highly recommend it to other IGOUGO travelers!
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