Ritz-Carlton a Miami vice that's really nice

Published12/15/2007 11:00 PM

The bad news is when you arrive at your hotel after a long flight, only to be told your room isn't ready.

The good news is when this happens at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach.


To be sure, this stunning, streamlined Florida property doesn't let you flounder until the accommodations are tidied. Instead, a member of the front desk staff ushers you to the rear of the lobby for complimentary popcorn and champagne while you wait. Seating on lush sofas and cushy chairs makes that downtime even more inviting.

So does the surroundings.

Done up in mid-century-modern decor, the 1953 building was designed by uber architect Morris Lapidus and once housed the venerable DiLido Hotel. Reborn in 2003 as The Ritz Carlton, today this showplace sports the original black terrazzo floors, bold gold Venetian plaster accents, stainless steel elevator doors and a curved cherrywood wall lit by dozens of domed sconces.

It wasn't long before I was sent to my room, a snazzy place with adjustable lighting and perhaps the cushiest bed I've ever slept in.

My suite also included its own outdoor terrace, a perfect place from which to spy on the action at the hotel pool, a uniquely designed watering hole raised from the ground instead of lowered into it to offer totally unobstructed views of the Atlantic.

It was at the latter that I discovered another benefit to those staying at this particular property: the tanning butler. I spotted this special hotel employee standing at the edge of the pool, wearing a skimpy swimsuit and what looked like a holster of some sort.

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Upon further research, I found out that the buff, almost-naked guy works during peak tanning hours, from noon to 4. He trolls the pool scene to offer sun-protective products that he carries in his handy holster that he is more than happy to apply when requested.

Although fascinated by what The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach literature says is "the only tanning butler in the world," I was more impressed by its in-house technology butler who is on call around the clock. I beckoned him my first evening there because I couldn't figure out how to change the settings on my laptop to take advantage of the hotel's wireless Internet service. No problem for this techno-wiz, who had me up and surfing the Net in less than a minute.

Also on hand and handy at this pretty property is The Ritz-Carlton Club offering continental breakfast, mid-day snacks, afternoon tea, late afternoon hors d'oeuvres and evening petit fours. A team of on-duty concierges not only feeds you but lets you in on South Beach secrets should you care to venture out and explore during your stay.

I took advantage of the helpful staff by asking if there was a low-key place for pasta and pizza in the vicinity. They came back with a brilliant suggestion, Presto Pizza, about a five-minute walk away where I ate a delicious plate of linguini with clam sauce while enjoying the company of eight colleagues and friends. They all enthusiastically joined me there for the chance to sample some supper grub on the down-low in this showy section of Miami.


Back at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, I realized how convenient a place this is to stay for many Miami-bound business travelers. The Miami Convention Center is within walking distance, the Port of Miami is a scant 10 minutes away by car and Miami International Airport is only a 20-minute drive from the property's front entrance.

Still, convenient or not, this awesome hotel is worth a visit if only to soak in the splendor of one of Miami's most impeccable art deco landmark buildings.

For further information on The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach (One Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139), call (786) 276-4000 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/SouthBeach/Default.htm.

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