Hotel Review: Royal Palm South Beach Miami
For far too long, Starwood properties in Miami have been a study in extremes — the St. Regis Bal Harbour sits at the high end, while the Four Points by Sheraton (up by 43rd Street) is pretty ... basic. Starwood's newest offering, the Royal Palm South Beach Miami, sits somewhere in the middle. Set right in the heart of South Beach, the property is under the new Tribute Portfolio brand, and it provides a party vibe both inside and out.
In fact, there were lots of weddings and bachelorette parties during my stay, which didn't surprise me — I can see the attraction of this place for group celebrations. Being located within walking distance of everything you'd want to see and do in South Beach — from beaches to shopping to dining — makes it easy to have the quintessential Miami experience while you're staying here. It may not be the most relaxing (the St. Regis Bal Harbour or even the W South Beach might be better for that), but then again, you probably shouldn't stay in the heart of South Beach if you're looking for a Zen-like experience.
At this SPG Category 6 hotel, I paid $204 plus tax for one night in a Lanai Room with a King bed rather than redeeming 20,000 SPG points, because I would have gotten only a bit more than one cent of value per point. Thanks to my SPG Ambassador, upon check-in I was upgraded to an Oceanfront Suite, and there was Champagne waiting for me in my room.
My biggest gripe about the hotel is that it charges a whopping $30-per-night resort fee for pool, beach and fitness center access, beach loungers and towels and Internet. The W South Beach, St. Regis Bal Harbour and Loews Miami Beach Hotel don't charge any resort fees, and while The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach does, it’s a slightly less-aggravating $25-per-day that includes Internet for five devices, water in your room, beach chairs and umbrellas and bike rentals from the concierge.
Design-wise, this is not your run-of-the-mill place, like a Westin or Sheraton would be. I believe that Starwood knows that design is where it needs to up its game and become more unique, and Tribute is poised to be a unique brand. That said, while the recently redone lobby of the Royal Palm is certainly interesting, I also feel it's a bit disjointed, with a small check-in desk and lots of random seating areas.
To give you an idea of the layout and spaces of my upgraded Oceanfront Suite, I shot this video:
It felt more like a Junior Suite, with a small sitting area, but it did have unbeatable views of the ocean.
The room itself was comfortable, although the bed was a little flimsy. In general, though, it was perfectly nice.
The ceilings were very low in the shower and the bathroom, which gives the hotel a more boutique feel.
Note for families when booking certain rooms, per the hotel's website: Due to the historic nature of our building and fire code restrictions, we are unable to provide rollaway beds for the room type booked.
The pool area is gorgeous, with lots of seats and a nice green barrier between it and the beach. Aside from the two separate pools and a plunge pool there are also private cabanas and beach services, and free fresh fruit is available to guests all day.
The pool area also has casual outdoor seating for Florida Cookery, the Royal Palm’s restaurant that features locally sourced ingredients.
As an SPG Platinum, I was given the option of two continental breakfast vouchers daily, but I didn't take advantage of this because I'd had a breakfast scheduled for the wedding I was in, but they gave me coupons for two free drinks per night and a free breakfast. The continental breakfast buffet costs $22.
Overall I enjoyed my stay, and I think the Royal Palm South Beach is a decent option for a weekend trip to Miami when you want to be in the middle of it all. Until July 15, 2015, you can get an extra 2,000 points per stay, which is worth about $40 — pretty darn good for a $200 stay.
That being said, I spoke to someone who was staying there as a Starwood Gold member and he wasn't impressed. I also talked to friends who had stayed there a couple of weeks ago, and they said there were some issues. I personally didn't have any problems, but then again, I have an Ambassador who always makes sure I'm taken care of, so that may be coloring my own experience.
I'm not going to judge the Tribute brand until I stay at a few more properties; the next ones will open in Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina. For now I'll just say that this isn't my favorite hotel in the world — but then, not every hotel can be.