This past February myself and a group of friends flew to Miami to take in some winter sun for a few days, as well as enjoy a 7-night sailing to the Caribbean on board Celebrity Reflection. Whilst it was my second time on Reflection, where I was eager to see how she’d changed since her debut, I was interested to see how the group travelling with me found Celebrity’s Modern Luxury, as well as how they found the Caribbean islands.
Part 1 – Miami
First off, let’s talk about Miami. I love this city, ever since I was a child I’ve had a very fond bond with Miami so I was incredibly excited to spend a few days here once again. After a very comfortable flight from Heathrow on one of British Airway’s new A380s (we were even caught in the act flying over the Southern England by my friend Andrew!). We arrived at Miami Airport to a lovely warm winter’s eve (which compared to the UK is a blessing!), and made our way to South Beach where we had booked the Dream Hotel for a few nights.
Dream Hotel – Combining the old art deco Tudor and Palmer House Hotels, the dream hotel invites you into a chic and contemporary boutique atmosphere. Trip Advisor rates this as one of the top hotels in Miami, so I had high expectations. The rooms themselves are well appointed and themed in a Moroccan style (although I’m not sure how that relates to Miami!). Unlike some hotels in the art deco district, this hotel also benefits from its own pool and lounging area on the roof overlooking the Villa Casa Casuarina (the former Versace Mansion) as well as the beach. Given the opportunity I’d definitely recommend this hotel to anyone wanting to stay in the heart of South Beach and I’d definitely stay here again.
Another highlight of the Dream Hotel is the in-house restaurant at the base of the Tudor Hotel, the Naked Taco. This restaurant, the brainchild of chef Ralph Pagano, as you may have guessed is a spin on Mexican food and everything on the menu is absolutely delicious. I also highly recommend the variety of cocktails and Margaritas they specialise in. It also benefits from an outdoor patio which gives you the opportunity to east al fresco any time of the day. Breakfasts are equally as good!
South Beach may not suit everyone’s tastes and if you aren’t careful you can get caught up in the party scene (for better or worse) but it’s definitely worth experiencing and has a charm about it. During the day I definitely recommend at least experiencing the beach by walking along it, or indeed spending time here taking in the sun, sea and sand – Many of the nearby hotels have agreements with beach vendors so you can utilise beach chairs, etc free of charge. Another must is to take a stroll along the beach to South Point Park where you can sit and watch as whole host of cruise ships parade past into open waters.
Whilst doing this I was lucky enough to bump into Majesty of the Seas, the very first cruise ship I went on over 20 years ago. She is due to shortly go into dry dock where Royal Caribbean will add a number of new amenities and I’d love to sail with her again.
Given our short time in Miami we were collectively keen to see as much as possible. Whilst we could walk from South Beach to other areas such as Miami Beach, Lincoln Road and Espanola Way pretty easily, we decided the most effective way to see a variety of places in one day was to utilise one of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours that take place across the City. These, whilst not the cheapest options, enable you to see a whole wide range of the city effectively including Bayside, Downtown and Coral Cables, as well as other fascinating areas such as Little Havana, all in your own time. Each route of the tour is around an hour and a half.
We experienced some fantastic food and drink whilst in Miami. It is of course a sin not to try a Mojito or two whilst in the city. For the foodies out there Miami is a heaven of temptation, here are some places a thoroughly recommend.
Yuca – Within the Lincoln Road area, Yuca is described as a festive, fashionable eatery offering live Latin music, salsa-dancing classes & people-watching. Specialising in upscale Cuban, Nuevo Latino, cuisine, Yuca is definitely worth looking at if you want to sample Cuban fare.
Hosteria Romana – We stumbled upon this Italian restaurant whilst wandering Espanola Way and is a great little eatery and a great people-watching spot.
Yard Bird – This is a restaurant that is sophisticated twist on farm-to-table Southern comfort food and has been a hit around Miami.
Fat Tuesday’s – A chain of bars which specialise in frozen daiquiri cocktails – what more could you want in life! If you see one in your travels in Miami or elsewhere in America, you have to try it! I recommend the Hurricane, but it is not for the faint of heart.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit a number of other places and outposts I wanted to go to – alas I will have to go back!
After a few days in Miami it was time to join our gorgeous ship, Celebrity Reflection. The fifth and final Solstice class ship, Reflection is the largest and benefits from a number of enhanced amenities compared to its siblings such as an improved Sunset Bar, an enlarged Persian Garden and of course a number of new suites (more of which can be seen in a previous blog).
… Watch this space for post number 2
Photos © Marcus Adams, Dream Hotel, Naked Taco and Trip Advisor