I have already mentioned that the trip from the Mandarin Oriental to South Beach brought us to a different universe. We also entered a different hotel world. It was only to be expected in South Beach. We choose the hotel at the recommendation of Number One Son, who has lived in Miami and been to South Beach many times. Last time here, we stayed at Tides, which was quiet and refined.
This time, we stayed at Z Ocean, which is a “designer” hotel of the Crown Plaza chain (not my favorite). After the elegance of the Mandarin Oriental, arrival at the entrance on Collins Avenue was a bit of a shock (there is another entrance on Ocean Drive for easy access to the beach and chaos of that famous street). The hotel has interesting architecture and design, and the service personnel are friendly and helpful. We booked the most-expensive room—a rooftop penthouse with a partial ocean view (a condominium across Ocean Drive blocks a full view). As hotel rooms go, the room is very good, with huge bathroom, two televisions (one for the bed; one for the sitting area), a bar/refrigerator/microwave, Nespresso machine, a Jacuzzi on the deck with a view of the ocean, and two dining areas. If one could eliminate neighbors’ noise, the room offers a pleasant oasis from the beach and crowded streets of South Beach. The restaurant provides good food (not as good as the Mandarin and more expensive), and service is good.
No hotel can choose its customers, because they need to fill the rooms and want to avoid discriminations suits. We were expecting an eclectic mix, but not a predominance of characters usually found in the lowest class of gangsta-rap video. Nice, quieter customers were hardly noticed…which is how it should be.
We will not return to this hotel, and I cannot recommend it to anyone that wants a vacation without unpleasant neighbors, extreme noise at all times of night and day, and an uncomfortable feeling. Other hotel guests spoiled our time at South Beach. It is unfortunate, because the hotel tries hard and could be better.
The only restaurant worth recommending is Smith and Wollensky, at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. I have eaten at the one in New York City, but found the food at this one better. Most tables also offer great views of the water and the city skyline. It is no more expensive than other South Beach restaurants offering steak, but is superior to any one. We also enjoyed the meal more than similar meals at Morton's or Ruth's Cris, which could be considered as competitors.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.