Less impressive restaurants than other Miami hotels
Service is at times aloof, worse than many Ritz-Carltons
Limited activities within walking distance of the resort
A tranquil 450-room island resort off the Miami mainland on Key Biscayne, the Ritz provides some of the traditional "Ritzy" benchmarks -- impeccably kept grounds, huge pools, a brilliant spa, a world-class tennis center, a kids' club, and elegant (if generic) interiors. Too bad service is uneven and the sliver of beach is covered in seaweed.
The only major hotel on the island of Key Biscayne, the Ritz is lovely and secluded. But with its focus on businessmen and golfers, it can also feel stuffy by Miami standards.
Located on a lush, seven-mile-long island, the 450-room Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne is just a 25 minute cab ride (for about $35) from Downtown Miami -- but it feels worlds away. Once inside the grounds of the resort, shared with the Grand Bay Club, a pricey condo community, guests are far from the party-hearty throngs of South Beach.
Much of the client base comes from on-site conferences. When I visited in late April, the place was filled with some 200 investors there for a conference. Day and night, dark suits milled about the lobby, mixing oddly with the beachfront location and two pools. Sure, many Miami Beach hotels also host large conferences, namely the Fontainebleau in Mid-Beach or the Loews in South Beach, but at the Ritz, the formal vibe is strong. Business suits outnumber bathing suits and cover-ups by far.
But it's not all business. With an on-site Family Pool, there are a few young families at the resort, along with older, longer-stay guests from the residential units relaxing in the Jacuzzi. The grounds are large, and the hotel is extremely quiet -- and not just at the adults-only Tranquility Pool. For some, it may be perfectly peaceful; for others, it may feel a bit too much like a library on the beach. For a similarly quiet sensibility and a little more fun nearby, check out the Ritz-Carlton South Beach or head further north and try the massive Fontainebleau resort (famed for its recent $1 billion renovation).
Located on the lush island of Key Biscayne, the resort is away from it all. Even to explore the island, guests need a bike or car.
The seven-mile-long island of Key Biscayne is easily accessible by car or taxi across a scenic causeway. It's a 15- to 20-minute drive from Downtown Miami or 20 to 25 minutes from South Beach. Once you're on the resort grounds, it's difficult to explore the island without a vehicle of some sort. The concierge can arrange bike or golf cart rentals through nearby outside companies. The resort used to rent out its own bikes, but it no longer does. Exploring the island, including its landmark lighthouse, by bicycle is lovely.
The hotel's Web site talks of basking on the sands of a Key Biscayne beach, named once of "America's Best." The beach in question isn't the one the hotel sits on but rather the one in Cape Florida State Park, a five-minute drive away.
The hotel's beach is far less fabulous. It's easily accessed just past the pool area on a nice wooden pathway. But, the beach itself is narrow and covered with seaweed. When I visited, waters were more brown than blue, and this is the case throughout the year. Oyster first sent a reporter down to investigate the Ritz in August 2008. She came back and explained that the beach was filthy and smelled like a raw fish bar. My editor was skeptical, so he sent me back -- and sure enough, the beach was just as unattractive, though not so smelly.
Fortunately, unlike at most Miami resorts, full service is available on the beach, inlcuding cabanas and chaises with little flags that guests can raise for service. However, it was empty when I was there. Most guests opt for the pools.
Renovated in early 2009, rooms are clean and new, but their generically elegant interiors are nothing special -- they're like at any other Ritz.
With Bulgari toiletries, feather beds, high-thread-count sheets, and Boca Terry robes, rooms have the luxuries you'd expect at the Ritz. But the décor, while tasteful, is also pretty bland for Miami. But, it's still a Ritz, and there are some nice suprises:
Standard Rooms average 420 square feet -- twice as large as at most Art Deco hotels in South Beach
Four different view options (at four different prices): hotel entrance and tennis courts, Resort View Rooms offer views of the pools and the rear hotel grounds, Bay View Rooms offer views of the bay on the other side of the key, or Oceanfront Rooms
Most but not all rooms have balconies -- and there's no extra cost
Club Level rooms on the ninth, 10th, and 11th floors that have their own business center, food presentations throughout the day, and a private snack gazebo called the Club on the Beach. It all sounds nice, but with Standard rooms costing around $400, all hotel guests really do deserved some of those amenities.
Crandon Golf Course was designed by veteran golfers Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, the 18-hole, par-72 course is just 5 to 10 minutes by car from the hotel
With its secluded, beachfront location, the resort is ideal for weddings. Ceremonies can take place on the beach, in one of the hotel's large ballrooms, or on the lush lawns. A wedding concierge is on staff to meet even the most demanding bride's special requests.
All guest rooms have recycling bins. Every month hotel staff and guests can go on a "Giveback Getaway" to do restoration work at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Eco-friendly paints, lights, and cleaning products are used on the facility. Uniforms for the front-of-house staff are even made from recycled plastic bottles.
Adjoining rooms, a huge family pool, and a kids' program make the Ritz a good choice for families wanting Miami sun without the scene.
The hotel has adjoining rooms, and king rooms can accomodate rollaways, which cost a daily fee. Cribs are free. Families might also want to consider staying in one of the residences, some of which feature kitchens.
Ritz Kids, the resort's children's program for ages 5 to 12, gives moms and dads full- and half-day breaks. It's pricey, but kids are entertained with everything from tennis tournaments to island treasure hunts.
Four restaurants and an elegant bar offer moderate as well as expensive fare, but the quality of both food and service varies.
Both the on-site restaurants Cantina and Cioppino have scenic outdoor bars. The lobby features a lovely indoor bar called Rum Bar with a colonial theme and tropical fans. It's a bar by night and a coffee bar with pastries and light breakfast items by day. There's also a lounge area in the lobby that has small bites and sushi on some nights.
Cantina is a Mexican restaurant that serves lunch and dinner daily
Cioppino serves Italian for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
One of the most elegant (and costly) venues in Miami
The Ritz is one of Miami's most luxurious hotels, and it's weddings uphold the brands' standards of service and all-around opulence. Of course, it's also one of Miami's most expensive venues -- dinners are costly per head, about on par with the most historic, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
Wedding Size: Up to 450 people; two weddings may occur at once
Extra Fees: First, there's a standard ceremony fee. On top of that, there's an additional labor charge. In addition, there are extra fees for restroom attendants, as well as security.
Wedding Packages: Along with the food (described in more detail below), the basic dinner packages also include a bouquet and a boutonniere, decorations (such as rose petals, tiki torches, and candles), a guitar player for up to two hours (for the ceremony), and a five-hour open bar.
Ceremony and Reception Locations: The Grand Lawn (up to 500 people), the Oceanfront Lawn and Gazebo (100 guests), the beach (250 guests), the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom (500 guests), the Plaza Ballroom (100 guests), the more unique Ponce de Leon Ballroom with french doors (135 guests), the small Davis Room (just 50 guests, with no space for a dance floor), or the Ocean View Room or the Wine Room at the Cioppino restaurant; also, note that any outdoor events must end by 10 p.m. (local law), and they require unbreakable serviceware (no glass).
Photographers and Videographers: There are no required, in-house photographers or videographers provided; outside vendors are welcome at no extra charge.
Music: There are no in-house musicians required, though outside vendors are welcome at no extra charge.
Food: The most basic plated dinner (chicken) starts at a high price, and includes hors d'oeuvres, an appetizer, a salad, an entree, and a dessert. Prices can go even higher per person, once you add in some special hors d'oeuvres, displays, or a sushi station (not to mention the additional uniformed chef fee). If it's a bit too steep, note that just the brunch starts at a lower price per person. (Kids', kosher, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus are also available upon request.)
Drinks: All dinner options include a five-hour open bar, which includes Skyy vodka, Tanqueray gin, Johnny Walker Red, scotch, and Jim Beam bourbon, among other brands. You can also upgrade to a better bar selection for an additional cost per person, and also add in a special martini bar for an cost per person. Also note that there's an additional bartender fee per 75 guests.
Cakes: Cost per guest; if you bring your own cake there's an additional cutting fee. Flavors include butter, carrot, lemon, chocolate, coconut, red velvet.
Spa Treatments: The Spa has a full service salon with hair, nail, and makeup services.
Honeymoon Suite: Since you're already spent a fortune, why not go for broke and upgrade to the Presidential Suite, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean and two large terraces. At the very least, it offers lots of space to get ready on the day of the wedding.
Airport Transportation: The Ritz does not provide an airport shuttle, though it can book a limo service for a cost. Otherwise, a taxi out to the island will cost less.
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