Category: Miami

Review: Conrad Miami

1 night, points & money rate of $137 + 46,000 Honors points. Peak season pricing. 

The Conrad Miami was an unusual choice for a 1 night stop on a road trip. Typically, I eschew hotels in the urban core in favor of peripheral properties for a variety of reasons, like extortionate downtown parking.  That said, I wanted to compare a Conrad property with the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria in Key West. This seemed like  agreat way to compare Hilton’s luxury brands head-to-head.

 

The process of navigating from I-95 to the Conrad was…surprisingly painless for what I expected for Miami. Perhaps going into downtown at 5 P.M. helped. Eager to get out of my car, I left it with a valet, gave him a couple of bucks (the guys on the check-in shifts can get a bit short-changed).

 

The street level houses the concierge and valet desk.  You go up the elevators to the check-in desk on the 25th floor (also where you’ll find the bar and restaurant).  I was given an upgraded Bay (of Biscayne) view room on the 18th floor.  Down I go in a separate bank of elevators.

 

My room was quite small for a US hotel room.  Size-wise, it’s what you’d find at a 4.5 or 5 star (business) property in Hong Kong. That said, the room’s appointments were of high quality. I loved the espresso machine, Shanghai Tang amenities, and the deep bath tub separate from the rainfall shower.

 

The view can speak for itself. The view from the Conrad Miami hotel over the Bay of Biscayne.

Next errand: go to the pool. This is something of an adventure at the Conrad.  From my room on the 18th floor, I took an elevator to the lobby on the 25th floor, crossed the check-in lobby, went down on a separate elevator to the ground floor, crossed the driveway where cars arrive, and took a third elevator to the top (8th or 9th) floor of an annex building.  After a walk outside and up to the pool deck, my odyssey came to an end. 

 

After lap swimming in the invigoratingly cold pool, I decided to take a stroll around Brickell. The neighborhood is very pleasant, and in an alternate life, I would not object to living there.  After a little repast of sushi at Doraku in the nearby and bustling The Shops at Mary Brickell Village, it was time to unwind and sleep.

 

The bed was excellent, as I seemed to fall asleep immediately and woke up in good form. 

 

The next morning, I decided to see how the breakfast spread was. It pleases me to report that it is quite a cut above the usual Hilton-family fare.  The fruit spread included dragon fruit (OH HELL YES) and kiwi fruit in addition to melon, pinapple, berries, et al. We’re off the a roaring good start, as you might have intuited.  Japanese-style gyoza dumplings (steamed) and American breakfast proteins rounded out my plate.  I might have tried a croissant, which may have been superb. For as often as I eat calorie dense carbs (rarely), I want them to be of the best quality.  Finally, the wait staff deserve praise.  I enjoyed their efficient, friendly service that didn’t fall into the trap of obsequiousness (I find that dynamic of esteemed patron/obsequious server cringeworthy when I encounter it). 

 

Check-out that morning was effortless. I texted the valet to have my car readied, took care of the formalities at the front desk, and arrived downstairs to find my car waiting for me.  

 

Pros:

  • Walking distance to most everything in Brickell downtown including restaurants, banks, and a CVS pharmacy. 
  • Short drive/taxi/uber to South Beach, if you don’t want to stay in South Beach proper. 
  • Easy freeway access for road trippers; straight shot for those flying into/out of MIA
  • Highest quality, albeit not most expansive, hotel spread I have seen in the USA. 
  • The morgue-cold pool incentivizes you to swim laps intensively to fight off hypothermia – yay exercise!
  • Unimpeachable service. 
  • Great standard room reward availability for Honors members. 

 

Cons:

  • Without a B&B rate or Honors status, breakfast will be $40 per person including tip
  • Weird layout would get tiresome for going to the gym/pool. 
  • That pool is *very* cold. 
  • Many will find the room to be small.

 

All in all, this was an excellent stay. If this is a middling Conrad per what I parse on Flyertalk, I can’t wait to try the outstanding ones (helloooooo Asia…). 

 

– James out

 

Miami & Key West – Trip Report – Part I

Behold, my inaugural post!

 

On a sunny March morning, I began my trip to south Florida – I was booked for a long weekend in Miami and Key West.  This particular trip mixed a bit of the old and the new.  I cashed in a stash of Hilton Honors points for a night at the Conrad Miami downtown and the Casa Marina resort in Key West. Further, I looked forward to meeting B – a digital nomad temporarily resident in Key West. How would St Patrick’s in Key West be?

 

My drive down to Miami was quite uneventful. The Florida Turnpike, while visually uninteresting, is never boring. The uninhabited stretch between Kissimmee and Fort Pierce usually sees traffic moving at 80-90 mph, versus the speed limit of 70. Mein Chariot (named Duncan) eagerly obliged.

 

Whenever I pass through Palm Beach County, I make an effort to stop at an Indian restaurant for lunch, Aroma. They specialize in southern Indian cuisine, and their lunch buffet is always excellent.  Chicken 65, baigan bharta, veggie biriyani, and kheer is the lunch of the gods. After 4 hours of driving, the lunch is a great little reminder that the end of the journey is near.  Miami is another 2 hours away.

 

I hop back on the turnpike and then merge into I-95, taking advantage of the express lanes (yay Sunpass!). As always, I had written down the directions on paper. While I can refer to my shorthand-directions, I find that the act of physically writing them commits them to memory.  Why do I bother? I religiously avoid using a mobile phone while driving (seemingly unique, especially in Florida), and I lost the navigation disks for the car. C’est la guerre.

 

I managed to not utterly cock up the process of getting into the Brickell neighborhood. In short order, I had off my car to the valet.  For an extra $9, I’ll let them deal with the parking garage at rush hour (it was now 5:30).

 

The Conrad Miami sports an interesting configuration. The street level houses the concierge and valet desk.  You go up the elevators to the check-in desk on the 25th floor (also where you’ll find the bar and restaurant).  I was given an upgraded Bay (of Biscayne) view room on the 18th floor.  Down I go in a separate bank of elevators.

 

After unwinding in the invigoratingly cold pool, I decided to take a stroll around Brickell. The neighborhood is very pleasant, and in an alternate life, I would not object to living there.  After a little repast of sushi at Doraku in the nearby and bustling The Shops at Mary Brickell village, it was time to unwind and sleep.

 

The next day, I went for a pleasant walk with Andrew, a fellow I met on Grindr.  I grabbed an Earl Grey tea for myself and a coffee for him from the self-serve complimentary coffee bar at the Conrad. We seemed to click. It’s rare I can talk cogently with anyone on about Venezuelan economic-collapse-politics, data analytics/methodologies, and hilarious sights around us.  Such is the joy of meeting other gay internet strangers.  The farewell smooching on US-1 was nice.

 

Thoroughly perked up by such PG-hijinks, I summoned my car, tipped the valet, and was soon off towards Key West.  I took the Turnpike towards Homestead, FL where it connects with US-1.

 

 – James out!

 

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