Marseilles HotelSouth Beach, Miami, Florida
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This 110-room Art Deco hotel isn't lively or hip, nor does it try to be. But for what it is -- a beachside hotel with a fine pool -- the price is right.
"You look tired," the porter at the Marseilles Hotel said to me in the elevator as we made our way up to my room on the sixth floor.
"Yeah," I said, "I got a bit too much sun today. You look tired, too."
"Yeah, it's not so much tiredness, it's the boringness," he said.
I understood. The Meh-seilles, I mean the Marseilles, can feel like an energy vacuum. Outside you have bustling Collins Avenue, the hip, ever-happening Delano Hotel, and the party-hardy Catalina across the street. Things are alive. People are having fun. But all that changes once you step inside the Marseilles.
Things move slowly. There's no line at check-in, but the man behind the counter moved with about as much vigor as a DMV attendant. Soft-rock radio always seems to be playing -- Air Supply, Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and Madonna's "Live to Tell." It's a stark contrast to the techno playing at virtually every other hotel in South Beach, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
But for a beachside hotel with a great pool area (renovated in 2007), the price is right. I spoke with a number of guests, like Ina Jannsch from Leipzig, Germany, who feel the hotel is just fine and come back each year. For some, though, the rooms are just too dingy.
Service is often slow. There's someone to help with bags and even a concierge, but don't expect luxury doting. Still, the service is fine for the price.
Guests come for cheap rooms and beachfront location, not the service. The staff is pleasant and kind, but like the place itself, they sometimes lack in energy.
A porter rushed out to greet me as I wheeled my bag to the entrance. Check-in was quick, but no one ever mentioned that I would need a code to enter through the gate and get back into the hotel from the beach. I found that out after being locked out.
Getting extra towels took more than an hour and three phone calls to the front desk. When I did get them, the woman at my door seemed put out by my request.
Service at breakfast at the Sidewalk Cafe was extremely pleasant, in the manner of an old diner. The waitress called me "hon" and never let my coffee cup go empty.
The hotel is on the beach and within quick walking distance of South Beach party central on upper Collins Avenue. It sits alongside a number of other hotels, including the Doubletree (twice as pricey), South Seas (about the same price), and, directly across the street, the much livelier Catalina (about the same price). For a late-night bar scene, the far hipper -- and far more expensive -- Delano is just half a block away, as is the more reasonably priced Raleigh and a number of popular, high-end clubs.
The Lincoln Road outdoor mall, where you can find some of Miami's best dining and shopping, is just two blocks away.
Once on the beach, however, guests are on their own. The Marseilles has no services on the beach, though that's to be expected given the price of the hotel. Guests can purchase chairs and umbrellas from an independent beach services stand called Beach Aqua Circus, a name that seems ever-changing. Chairs run $10 per day, $15 with an umbrella, and can only be paid for in cash. The deal is the same at the Richmond and South Seas hotels, on either side of the Marseilles. However, guests at the similarly priced Catalina hotel across the street get two free chairs with their room, a significant perk.
Great food is available at the nearby Love Food Cafe, a charming yellow shack on the beach that has been there for decades and serves up amazing burgers and salmon ceviche.
Decorated with a nylon bedspread in mustard and black and heavy curtains in the same color scheme, the rooms don't exactly convey a sense of beachy fun. Extremely worn carpeting and bathrooms with heavily stained tiles and tubs don't help either. The walls are thin, there's no Internet access, and the electronics are old -- just an old RCA tube TV and a Timex AM/FM alarm clock. All around, the rooms feel pretty cheap.
Fortunately, my room didn't smell, but multiple TripAdvisor reviewers say otherwise. If you stay here, write us a review and let us know what you find.
I stayed in a standard queen superior room. Though it didn't face the ocean directly, nor was it labeled as such, I could still see a bit of water through windows on two walls. It got quite a bit of natural light -- a good thing since the only light in the room was a single lamp on the bedside table. More expensive ocean front deluxe rooms have true views of the ocean and are slightly larger and (supposedly) fresher. They also cost about twice as much.
The beds are very basic. The sheets are clean but scratchy on a sunburn and thin -- I could clearly see the outline of the mattress pad beneath them. In late April, the bed was made up with only the sheets, some foamy pillows, and a nylon bedspread. Sure, it was warm out, but it would have been nice to at least have a light blanket or quilt to curl up with while the air conditioning blasts. I recommend that you enjoy a few cocktails before trying to sleep.
In the shower, despite my fiddling with the rusty knobs, the mildewy shower head only produced a single temperature: very hot. (Again, this is torture on a sunburn). In my room, the water pressure was very low, almost dribbly. Zephyr brand toiletries are provided; it's a fairly low-cost brand, although they smell fresh. But there's only shampoo, no conditioner.
All rooms have small minibars with a limited selection of midlevel hard alcohol, beer, wine, and snacks. The snack area has a lighted display, lending its Snickers bars a bit of dramatic fluorescent backlighting.
Hotel management says there are plans to refurbish guest rooms starting in October 2009. Renovations were recently completed at the hotel's sister property, the Dorchester.
The hotel's pool area feels fresher than the hotel area itself, having been remodeled in 2007. The rectangle-shaped pool isn't huge, but lounge space is ample enough to accommodate all the guests. The poolside Ocean Grill serves up food and drinks, though guests must go up to the bar themselves, as there's no drinks service. Likewise, clean but well-worn pool towels are provided on a serve-yourself stand. A sandy area with hammocks leads directly out onto the beach. One gripe: The walls surrounding the pool are low and shrubbery is minimal, so there's little separating the Marseille's pool area from those of the surrounding hotels.
Wi-Fi is free in common areas, but it doesn't always work. More annoyingly, there's no Wi-Fi, free or otherwise, in guest rooms.
A beachfront location makes the hotel popular with budget-minded families, but aside from the pool, there's not much for kids.
The hotel's mellow pool scene and beachfront location are certainly family friendly, but the friendliness ends there. There's no kids' menu at the cafe or welcome amenities at check-in, as you'd find at the nearby, and far more expensive, Loews hotel. The Marseilles does have a few adjoining rooms, but their availability can't be guaranteed. There's a limited supply of rollaways ($20 per night) and cribs (no charge). Rollaways can be squeezed into standard rooms.
The Marseilles' cheap rates make sense once you take a look at its shabby condition. In my room, the carpets were badly stained, and the carpets in the elevators were even worse. There was wallpaper peeling in the rooms and in the hallways, and the paint was begining to crack in various places.
In my bathroom, the tub and tiles were also extremely old and stained. My shower head was mildewy. But for the most part, it seemed that someone had made a decent effort to clean the most noticable stains.
The lobby and pool are far cleaner than the guestrooms, but they're not pristine. Lobby carpets are a bit stained and unvacuumed, and there's the odd, not-quite-hidden enough trash and debris zone in the pool area.
Though my room didn't smell, other guests have complained about this in the past.
The hotel's Sidewalk Cafe on the front patio serves a brunch menu daily from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Menu options range from $5 oatmeal to $18 shrimp and lobster benedict. My Monte Cristo sandwich was pretty tasty and even nicely presented, with parsley flakes sprinkled over the plate.
The poolside bar, called the Ocean Grill, serves drinks and lunch ranging from a $5 kosher hot dog to a $15 strip steak.
The hotel also has a sizable indoor lounge called the Metropolis Bar. With nude paintings, a big-screen TV, and stained glass, the look is a bit off-putting, but the kind bartender made a delicious mojito. He claimed the place was once quite popular and stayed open until the wee hours, but it was always empty when I visited. Guests wanting a bar scene in their hotel should try the similarly priced Catalina across the street, which has more of a party scene and a daily free cocktail hour.
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Address1741 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, Florida 33139-2092, United States
- Jacuzzi Suite
- Ocean Front Deluxe Room
- Penthouse Suite
- Studio Suite
- Superior Room