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.
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