Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Disney Cruise – Part 2

In Family, Kids, Travel on June 9, 2012 at 3:27 PM



Wow!  We’ve gotten quite a response from our blog regarding the Disney cruise.  Seriously, several people have taken us up on the offer of cruising with us next year.  That’s even more exciting!  We thought the cruise was awesome with just our family but it will be even better with some of our friends and extended family joining in!  We can’t wait.

Over the course of talking with those friends and family, it came to mind that many of the questions and answers discussed weren’t included in the last post.  So, we wanted to share some of that information.

A very unique bonus to cruising with Disney is that you can bring your own alcohol.  Yes.  You read that right.  We know this may not be the deciding factor for some but for others who like to sip on their favorite wine at dinner, this could be a valuable feature.  And, this is definitely unique to the Disney cruise.  There are no limits.  Basically, as much as you can carry, you can bring.  There were plenty of people carrying cases of beer, wine, and yes, water.  (By the way, cases of bottled water – highly recommended!)  There is a refrigerator in the staterooms so keeping beverages cold is not a problem.  And, if you forget that favorite bottle of scotch, there is a very reasonable duty-free store on board so that you can purchase alcohol or even perfume and cosmetics.

We also recommend packing a small cooler tote bag to take waters (or other cold beverages) to the beach.  They offer water and a cooler for sale on board but that could run you $35. 

Another question that came up regarding kids was whether there was a time limit to how long the kids could stay in the playroom.  That would be up to you and your child.  The playroom was open from 9a-1a so if your child is content staying there the entire time, then, I guess, there you go.  We don’t recommend it considering you’re on vacation together as a family and, so, we’d think that you would see your child at least a few times during the day.  Well, that is if they want to see you! 😛  The children are given “Mickey Bands” that are placed on their arms.  It provides GPS to determine where your child is within the playroom. (Yes, the playroom is large enough that when you go to pick them up, it’s nice to not have to walk around and around looking for them).  If your child is 8 and older, you can grant them privileges to check themselves in and out of the playroom by themselves.  If you have multiple children and one child is 13 and older, they can check the younger kids out of the playroom if you grant them such permission.

Two cell phones are provided on the ship that work both on the ship and on Castaway Cay so that you can keep up with family while on board or on the beach.  This also gives you peace of mind while your younger children (who can’t check themselves in and out) are in the playroom.  If they are ready to leave or need to just be with you for any reason, the staff can give you a call to come to the playroom to check on them or to let you know your free time is over.

The ship is pretty cool (during the summer travels, at least).  So it is recommended that a light jacket and a pair of jeans are brought for walking around the ship.  And, speaking of clothing, unlike many cruise lines, there is no captain’s dinner.  So, ball gowns and tuxedos are not required at anytime on the cruise.  There are two upscale, adult only restaurants, Remy (French cuisine) and Palo (Italian cuisine) that are on board (additional fees will be charged for dining).  Although it is recommended that you are dressed well for dining, full formal is not required.  For main dining, Kenya and the girls wore cute summer dresses and “prettied up” for the evening.  Dennis wore Polos and nice jeans, khakis or shorts.  That was just our style.  Dining dress for others varied from shorts and t-shirts to suits.  Of course, many princesses were on board so you could find sparkle and tutus all around.  You’re pretty much in swimwear during the day so as far as packing goes, you really only need clothes to dine and/or walk around the ship at night.  After dinner, the girls would go play and we would go into the 687 lounge to enjoy the NBA playoffs on the 150+ inch screen while sitting in recliners.  Again, however you want to dress is fine.  Some days, we would go straight from dinner.  Other days we would go change and would be in jeans or sweats and a t-shirt.  Just come as you are.

If your kids (or you) are into pin trading, there is a pin trading night where the captains bring their lanyards full of swanky pins to trade with you.  This is a great way to get some unique pins for your collection!

We also had a pirate theme night while on board. Our theme was a pirate party.  When you book your cruise, ask about the theme night.  I have a feeling that the theme is always a pirate party mainly because the graphics and scenery are equipped and designed for it.  (But, then again, this is Disney so scenery can change in an instant if they wanted it to).  For the most part, this was basically a costume party night on the ship.  Most people brought their pirate “gear” and wore it for the party night.  The party night also included a display of fireworks directly from the ship.  This is also a unique feature to the Disney cruise.  Because, after all, what’s Disney without fireworks! 🙂

There were 3 main dining restaurants on board and each night we rotated through the restaurants.  The menus also changed each night but I believe every night the menu was generally the same for each restaurant, it was just a matter of where you ate that night.  The Royal Palace was enchanting as the name suggests.  It was like being in, well…a royal palace.  The Enchanted Garden was like being in Tinker Bell’s garden.  And, Animator’s Palate was very cool as you get to see various sketches of your favorite Disney characters.  It also offers interactive animation where the characters that surround you throughout the screens of the restaurant actually start talking to the dinner guests.  The turtle on the screen called out our oldest daughter and she was able to share her name with him and what she liked most about being on the ship.  They had about a 5-minute conversation that brought nothing but big smiles.  The girls really got a kick out of that.  That was pretty cool.  That Disney.  I tell ya!

Besides all of the tangible aspects of the cruise, what was best about our trip were all of the intangibles and the memories that will last a lifetime.  This is a VACATION!  Many times when we go on “vacation” these days, we don’t get the opportunity to really vacate and leave everything behind.  We still have our laptops, cell phones, iPads, and the like.  We’re still connected to people outside of the family whom we’re on vacation to connect to.  On a cruise, you have to disconnect from the “wide world” and connect only to the people who are there with you.  Hey, you may even meet real people by having face to face conversations like back in the day before Facebook!  You have no cellular or internet data so all of those electronic media devices become obsolete.  It is the ultimate “No Tech Thursday”!!!  It’s the greatest way to reconnect with your family and make memorable moments that you may not always get to do when you’re at home.  You all get to sit together at the dinner table without someone running around to make plates or making sure the table is cleared and the dishes are cleaned afterward.  EVERYONE gets served and can relax and just enjoy.  You and your children (if you brought them) are treated like royalty.  There is an endless supply of food, drinks and….did we mention ICE-CREAM!!! 🙂  In this day and age, we can all use a few days to pull the plug and just play! (Of course, this makes coming back to work the next week a 200 e-mail dig but, it is well worth it!)

Hopefully this follow up blog answered many of your questions.  We’re glad we got such a great response from the blog.  Hey, Disney!  Did you hear that?!?  We’re bringing you business!  Can the Pierre’s get a park pass or a room credit? 😛

Regardless, we will be so happy you joined us and you will too.

Disney Cruise. See Ya Real Soon! That’s What’s Up!



Why We Didn’t Like Our Disney Cruise……

In Family, Kids, Travel on June 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM

………..We LOVED it!  Isn’t that such like a kid?  Maybe, we caught a little of that from our week on a ship with Mickey and 4,000 of his friends.  But, we really enjoyed ourselves so much that we booked our cruise for next year before we even got off the ship.

As I’m just beginning to feel the subtle rocking of our ship cease, I am still elated from our 5 day cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Cruise ship: Dream.  What an amazing trip!

We first cruised with Royal Caribbean on our honeymoon almost 13 years ago on Majesty of the Seas.  We thought that was pretty fun although we also agreed that 7 days of cruising in the Caribbean was a bit long.  Our next cruise was about 5 years ago.  Again, it was a 7-day cruise but it was perfect to sail through the Mediterranean seas and visit the beautiful lands of Italy, Croatia, and Malta.  We sailed on Holland, which is known for their luxury, style and accommodations.  And, we absolutely recommend that trip and cruise line, as that was an amazing trip.

Well, again, while those are both highly recommended cruise lines, we both agree that Disney reached a new level and outdid both of them.  From the staterooms to the service to just the energy that everyone on board brings, this was by far the best cruise, vacation and family time that we’ve spent so far.

For some of you, I know what you’re thinking.  I don’t have kids so why would this interest me?  EVEN WITHOUT KIDS, this is a GREAT cruise.  Do you know how many people we met on that cruise without kids?  OMG!  You’d be so surprised!  In fact, we met a couple that said they were on their 8th Disney cruise; the 7th Disney cruise WITHOUT their kids.  Classic.  😛  We often heard that this was the case but now that we’ve been on it, we completely understand.  There’s an entire 18+, adult only section of the boat that makes you forget that you’re even on a Disney cruise.  From the adult pool including a bar, lounges, sections of the beach, etc…, you can really be on the cruise without interacting with kids.  But, the energy from the other side is so amazing that catching it is actually welcoming and joyous.  This is definitely not the 4-hour plane ride with the crying baby all the way.  And, did I mention the spa with the breathtaking view?  Spa-aah-mazing! 🙂

Now, for those of you, who, like us, look to the Disney cruise for a family vacation, we absolutely say it’s a must.  We understand that it may amount to a couple of mortgage payments for some but it is absolutely possible to save up for the year and do this.  Really.  And, there are plenty of options to make this trip affordable for every income level.

We have a family of 5 and we stayed in an oceanview stateroom with verandah.  It was very spacious, particularly compared to our other cruises with a similar room.  There were 2 bathrooms.  One with sink and toilet and another with sink and shower.  This made it very easy to get ready.  And, the showers are the most spacious we’ve seen for this style of room including a rain shower.  Considering you’re not really in the room much, this style would work just fine for a family our size.  And the beds are super comfy.  Again, above average and even more comfortable than some nice hotels.  Each of the girls had their own beds and their beds were pretty cozy too.  Now, if you’re more of a royal suite upgrade type, these rooms are available, of course, full of luxury and also recommended.  Again, considering you’re not in your room much, we’d only recommend splurging on such a room if you just have to because you have it like that or if you really plan to be in it and so you’d like extra space and glitz.  Otherwise, again, the oceanview staterooms are good.

If you’re looking to cut costs a little, try for an inside stateroom or just a stateroom with a porthole window (no balcony).  These rooms, are slightly lower in costs.  These rooms, however, only sleep 3-4 comfortably.  So for a family size like ours, the inside rooms weren’t an option.  What we’re saying overall though is that you can save up and pay for the cruise if you start saving now and sail with us next year! J  Of course, you’ll have to actually book the cruise and place a deposit down but you don’t have to pay the whole thing right now.  Again, you can save up so that next year, you can sail into some fun, some sun and a little Mickey too.  Also, compare the dates and destinations.  Some dates and locations are more expensive than others.  Although our kids were out of school, many kids are still in.  So, our rate was a little less than had we waited until the next trip 2 weeks later because at that point most schools will be out for the summer.  That increases the rate.

From the great tasting food to the all you can eat ice-cream to the cleanliness and service, this cruise doesn’t miss a thing.  And, to top it off, you can ride the Aqua Duck, the water roller coaster that circles most of the ship for added adventure.  If you just want to sun bathe on deck while the kids jump in the pool, you can do that too and catch up on a Disney classic movie while you’re at it.  There is a nursery that I would absolutely entrust my baby to that is open from 9a to 1a.  And, if your child is old enough to go to the Oceaneer room to run, jump, play and create, we absolutely say to drop your kid off here and let the adults go to their “play area”.  The Oceaneer room made you want to be a kid again.  What an incredible place.  Our 10 year old gained a little independence as she ventured out to “The Edge”, a club designed just for tweens.  One night, we beat her home as she met her 2 am curfew after hanging with her new found friends.  Yes, she was loving that.  And, it helped all of us to learn about responsibilities and that our baby is really growing up.

Our trip left from Port Canaveral, FL and cruised to their private island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, then to Nassau, Bahamas where we beached at the famous Atlantis hotel, we then sailed for a day at sea, then back to Castaway Cay and then home.  Next year we take the same trip on the same ship except it will be 4 days as we will not visit Castaway Cay twice.  We didn’t even get off the boat at Castaway Cay the second time.  I think many stayed on the ship.  Maybe this is why they decided that one stop there was plenty and just cut it out for the future.  Everyone saves money and time that way.  And, now it encourages us to use that extra day to just go to the park when we get back.  Okay, so maybe only Disney saves money and THAT’S the plan. LOL!  Because, going to the park for that extra day definitely doesn’t save us anything.  But, considering that they cut the price, maybe it balances out.

So, next year, take advantage of the 4-day deal and sail the seas with us.   You will NOT be disappointed! Do it for your family.  Heck, do it for yourself!

Family Fun.  Family Memories for life.  That’s What’s Up!

Planes, Trains, Faith……and Skype

In Family, Kids, Relationships, Travel on October 21, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Well, we’ve had a bit of some down time over the past month.  Actually, we wish “down time” was the theme.  In fact, it was quite the opposite as both of us embarked on coast-to-coast travels.  Some business, some pleasure, but most of all, just gone!

So, we often get the question, what happens when our agenda calls for one, and in the rare instance, both of us to be away and still manage the house with three children?  “But for the grace of God, go I”.  We have to first give credit where credit is always due and this is simply just how we live our lives.  We are blessed and filled with a loving family and a plethora of friends who help to keep the “village” of our world in tact.  There are no “superhuman” powers we possess or “craziness” that we engage in; we simply have great faith and blessings.  So, over the course of our travels and the past month, we have had our home filled with family and friends to help out in the many ways we have needed and allow for seamless transitions as we packed, unpacked and re-packed our bags.  And, I think because we share our home with the grace and love that God has so blessed us with, I don’t think it comes as a surprise that the energy that we give is brought back to us twice more.  For if you’ve ever visited “Chateau Pierre” or even just joined us for a drink and/or a game of pool at “The Spot” at Chateau Pierre, then you know, our home is your home.  (Just be sure to book early because rooms are usually occupied on the weekends).  Seriously.

In addition to the love that we so humbly embrace each day from within and without, we are also thankful for the modern day technology that allows us to connect and ease any worries of our children.  Some of you may already do this when you travel, but surprisingly, there are many (like ourselves before 2 years ago), that just didn’t even think of it.  So, we offer you another tip/reminder, that when you travel, take full advantage of Skype.

With modern computers coming standard with cameras, phones with camera and internet capabilities, iPad2 and other tablets that integrate a camera, there is no better way to say “hello” than through today’s technology that brings The Jetsons to life.  Sometimes, we check in and just say hi, other times we’ll read a book together, we’ve laid down together or sometimes the girls just want to tell us all about their day face to face.  They get a kick out of it and honestly, we do too because it definitely helps to break up the trip that we’re on and eases the “business” of being on the road.

Most of the time, our personal computers are left at home and therefore, we access Skype through our mobile devices.  Considering your kids may or may not know how to access Skype or they are left with, let’s just say “not so computer savvy” sitters, be sure to set the Skype up before you leave.  We have also set up two accounts so that we know all IDs and passwords to access and give directions.  For the most part, it’s just a matter of pushing the icon and you’re there.  Make a video call and you’re on your way.  Pretty cool.  Costs you nothing.  And, can make all the difference in the world to you and your loved ones.

While we don’t really travel much, when we do, this is one of the ways we cope.  Of course, nothing takes the place of holding your child/ren and/or spouse in your arms but this sure beats having to wonder “just how messed up is her hair after daddy did it”?  Now, you’ll know! 😉

The Jetsons have come alive!  Skype!  That’s What’s Up!

Lake Oconee

In Family, Restaurants, Travel on September 3, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Ahhh! The final days of summer are upon us.  Recently, as a tribute to Kenya’s birthday, the T&S duo discovered the wonderful beauty of Lake Oconee.   Located just 75 miles/about 90 minutes East of Atlanta, the splendor of nature is not too far away.  What a beautiful destination we have to add to our list of great places to go.

Whether you’re looking for a quick get away, a nice retreat or even a family vacation, we offer Lake Oconee as a top spot for any, all or more of these purposes.  “How did we not know about this”, was all we could say.  “How did we miss this in the past four years”, was all that we felt.  We had an amazing time and promised to be back with the girls very soon.

Without missing a beat, the Ritz Carlton, Reynolds Plantation offers nothing but the best in class service.  Although the décor will probably remind you a little of your grandmother’s “front room” or maybe even “Little House on the Prairie” meets granite and tile, this hotel presents an ambience that brings luxury and comfort to the forefront.  The staff is friendly and pleasant from the time you stop your car at the valet to the time you leave to go home.  And, the grounds of the hotel invite you to do nothing but relax and enjoy.

We first hit Gaby’s by the Lake for lunch indulging in the sinfully delicious roasted garlic parmesan and truffle oil fries.  O! M! G!  After a game of pool, we then challenged ourselves to the bike trail.  (Although we brought our own bikes, there are bikes available at the hotel).  The trail was almost like riding a mountain trail.  It is full of dips and hills that keeps your gears in constant shift and makes you thankful that you are wearing a helmet.  Although the trail is only about 8 miles (4 miles up and back), we recommend that you not follow our order of events.  Such a bike trail AFTER roasted garlic parmesan and truffle oil fries is NOT recommended.  AT ALL!

With a dip into the infinity pool accompanied by a full catering bartender to the pool, we welcomed the beginning of a wonderful evening.  We even got to witness a wedding that was taking place in the nearby yard, which was adorned by a beautiful backdrop of the sunset on the lake.  They could not have asked for better weather or a better scene.

From 8p-10p daily, the hotel hosts a campfire for s’mores.  Although we didn’t make it down in time to enjoy before dinner, we thought it was a nice touch to wind down the day.

A golf cart scooted us down the road to the Linger Longer Steakhouse for a delectable evening.  While there are a variety of places to dine, we recommend this nearby restaurant for their ambience, menu selection and classic Ritz Carlton service.  Most of all, when they bring you the bill, they sweeten it up, literally, with a stick of fresh cotton candy.  What’s not to love about that?

As if the evening wasn’t already wonderful, we found ourselves swinging beneath the stars in a hammock between two of the trees on the hotel grounds.  As the stars shined in a clear black sky and water flowed in the nearby stream, we couldn’t help but to fall asleep without a care in the world.  If only we had a blanket, we would have indeed been found the next morning hanging in the net.

Brunch on the patio of  Georgia’s Bistro was, of course, worthy of a wake-up call.  It’s always nice when there are advanced meat options such as turkey bacon and chicken sausage.  When you leave, be sure to walk out into the yard and go for one of the best swings in your life.  When have you last been on a swing?  Talk about therapeutic.  And, these weren’t your normal playground swings.  They swung high, deep and were big enough for any adult who doesn’t mind letting out their inner child.  You definitely can’t help but smile.  So, don’t miss this youthful enjoyment.

We brought our golf clubs but never made it to the beautiful links that surround this destination.  We are certain to make time for a few holes next visit in addition to the relaxing spa.  Both looked enticing and we look forward to adding them to our future agenda.

Before we end our review/recommendation of Lake Oconee, we mentioned that this was a place for a family vacation.  It’s hard to imagine a romantic get away also being a place for kids but we really think it’s grand enough for whatever you desire.  Particularly with the water activities by the lake, we think this is a place kids would love.  If you don’t have your own boat, there are boats available for renting so that the family can take in the scene of this beautiful 19,000-acre area lake.  The hotel also has plenty of activities for the kids to do on shore including Ritz Kids Camp and Kids Night Out.

For whatever reason, you seek this gorgeous destination, we recommend you just go and see for yourself.  This is truly a beauty of God’s wonder.

Lake Oconee.  That’s What’s Up!

Happy “Breath”day!

In For the Stilletos, For the Ties, Spas, Travel on August 31, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Yesterday, in the customary tradition of her birthday or what she likes to call her “breath”day, Kenya took the day off for herself and went to her favorite Spa.  Located at one of our favorite Atlanta boutique hotels), Mansion on Peachtree (because you know we like to boutique), the 29 Spa offers just what your mind, body and soul needs on that special day or even the days “just because”.  Just like the exquisite simplicity that is offered by the hotel itself, 29 Spa adds a sense of tranquility with a touch of “ahhhh”.

Highly recommended and often favored as the usual treatment is the spa package, “Finest Blend”.  With 29’s “Secret of the Vine Facial” and 29’s “Right off the Vine Massage”, this package allows you to reset and glow from head to toe.  We also recommend “Sommelier’s Selection” which is more like a traditional massage and “Stomping Grapes” which, is similar to a sports massage.  “A Touch of Mineral” is another favorite for those of you who love a good stone massage.  If, however, you’re looking for a nice combination of two services, again, the “Finest Blend” is a great choice.  The massage begins with a nice exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and reveal smooth radiant skin.  This is followed by a classic massage that relieves the stress and tension we all carry within our lives.

What separates this spa from many are the little things that make a big difference.  The table is heated which, is an oversight by many spas, both in day spas and in drop in spas.  Why all spas don’t make this a staple (other than those that are outdoors in Arizona in July) is beyond comprehension.  Additionally, the robes are properly weighted and made of comfortable, plush fabric.  There is nothing like a cheap and/or itchy waffled robe to begin your moment of relaxing.  Yes, there are a couple of nice waffle robes but, they are rare and honestly, they just aren’t as comfortable as soft, plush.  More importantly, 29 Spa puts them in the warmer for you while you are being serviced so that they are nice and warm for you to walk out of the room.  Ahhhh!  Any-who, another nice thing are the linens.  Soft, comfortable and velvety linens adorn the massage tables and comfort you while you lay in a state of vulnerability.  There is nothing worse than bad sheets when you’re trying to relax.  And, with the inner “Martha Stewart” that constantly yearns to escape from Kenya, linens are at the top of the grading curve in spa critiques.  Additionally, the head cradles are comfortable and stable.  As head cradles have become more popular for positioning the body into a more neutral and relaxing position while lying on your stomach, their ability to be a fantastic amenity has not necessarily caught on within the industry.  Sometimes they slide, can be loose or quite frankly never get you quite right into position.  And, the price of the massage does not seem to dictate whether or not the head cradle is good.  It is simply determined by the type of table the spa tends to invest.  Sometimes the cradles can be so annoying, it gets to a point where they just have to be removed in order to continue and enjoy the service.  29 Spa must have picked the right one.  Thank you!  Lastly, and right up there with the linens are the products used.  While a pleasant aromatherapy scent fills the room, the products used for both the massage and facial are top notch.  The massage oil glides smoothly but doesn’t leave you feeling greasy and unclean afterwards.  Additionally, they smell great but not overwhelming with any particular minty, floral or butter scent.  You are simply left feeling pleasant.  The products used for the facial were equally impressive.  The best way to test whether products used in a facial are really good is whether or not the extraction on the nose is painful.  Most people need the pores on their nose extracted.  Sometimes, the process can be quite painful as estheticians dig and dig the dirt from the tip of your nose.  If the process leaves you looking like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and your therapist digging like they’re a 49er Miner, it’s probably time to find a better place with better products for a facial.  It may not be just because you have been doing too much “brown-nosing”.

With a dip into the hot tub and a light lunch on the terrace, the day served its purpose to rejuvenate and relax the mind, body and spirit.  As stress builds up in all of our lives and finds its way as a leading cause for high blood pressure and heart disease, we highly recommend taking a time out for YOU.  If you can’t seem to find any other date on the calendar for yourself, make it a new tradition to mark your birthday for your body’s maintenance.  Just like you take your car in for an oil change; take your body in for a life change.  Each year for your birthday, schedule a physical check up (including breast and pap for our “Stilletos” and prostate for our “Ties”), then schedule a massage.  If you have only have time to do it in one day, see your doctor in the morning and follow it up with the spa in the afternoon.

We have talked to many people who have never taken the time out for themselves.  And, 9.5 times out of 10, it’s not because they can’t, they just simply haven’t.  Life is short.  If you take at least a moment to recharge you, you will have that much more energy and then some for those that you take care of.  It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa, it can simply be a day sitting in a quiet house by yourself, sleeping in, enjoying a good book or just simply doing nothing and going nowhere.  Whatever you like to do, just take a moment and breathe.

Your Birthday! Your “Breath”day! That’s What’s Up!

Bienvenido a Miami/South Beach

In Restaurants, Travel on July 20, 2011 at 12:01 AM

That’s right!  We’ve taken our talents to South Beach!

Now that we’ve both taken the time to get to know Miami/South Beach together and apart, we thought we’d give you a little review of a great weekend get-away spot that offers a little bit of this and a whole lot of that.

*What We Love About South Beach

Due to our close proximity to Florida, we like that Miami is only a 1.5-hour plane ride away.  For those that don’t live as close, we still put this as one of our favorite places because you can pretty much get to it non-stop from just about everywhere.  We love that Miami has great beaches, great shopping and great food.  If you like to go out at night, of course, Miami also has the nightlife.  And, for those times that you just want to stay in and take in the nice breeze, well, it has that too.  It’s just a great city to hang out and rejuvenate.

*Where We Like To Stay in South Beach

Our preferred way to stay in South Beach is at the SAPPHIRE SUITE PENTHOUSE 09.  For those who like a little pampering while vacationing in Miami, want to be in the heart of South Beach but, are a little too grown and sexy to be submerged by all the techno music that will usually surround you when you’re too deep in the strip, we recommend staying in this personal penthouse suite.  Concierge at your service and a view that takes your breath away!  It’s intimate, chic and within walking distance to just about anything South Beach.  The nice thing about this private room is its location.  Located in the heart of the Art Deco District, it’s close to just about everything and far enough from just about anything, particularly the Miami hoopla that can begin to take its toll on the “grown and sexy”.  Let Christian Francis take care of you and please let him know we sent you as he may just throw a few extra rose petals on the floor. 😉  http://www.southbeachluxuryhotelpenthouse.com/index.html

For a cute, chic boutique style hotel with a nice location, we recommend Z Ocean Hotel.   http://www.zoceanhotelsouthbeach.com/  In addition to relaxing rooms, Z Ocean now houses the famous Front Porch Café, which we recommend for brunch or breakfast.  http://www.frontporchoceandrive.com/

We like Hotel Victor although we must say that the inside of the rooms are pretty masculine in decor.  (Maybe that’s why it’s called “Victor”?)  The rooms are also a bit small.  So, we recommend this as a good place for a guys weekend where you just need a grown man’s place to crash and shower.  If you’re not looking to spend too much time in the room, this may be great for the guys to block off some rooms and hit the streets in Miami.

The Essex House is for those that are looking to stay RIGHT DEAD SMACK in the middle of the action. The rooms are rather small, probably typical for a “boutique” hotel, however, there wasn’t much to the room beyond the bed. However, at this location, you shouldn’t plan to get much sleep anyway.  This is a very good place to stay if you’re here to party. The price is also fitting for what they have to offer. We recommend a suite at the Essex as they’re about 3 times the size of the standard room and won’t cost you much more.  The major downfall of this hotel is the fact that they don’t allow you to bring in outside food or drinks.  Because they have 5 bars and 3 restaurants on site, they have determined that your taste buds should accommodate their selection.  A good place for the price but maybe not a good place for the “grown and sexy”.

Another “happening” place may be The Shore Club.  (And, we don’t recall a ban on outside vending)  The rooms are nice and bright and very “Miami” while the pool area and outdoor patio is always the scene to be seen, day or night.  The DJ is always spinning the latest beats and the beach is just a few steps away.  If you’re looking for constant energy and a splash of celebs every now and then, we say this is the place to check in and hang out.

A few steps away and maybe a splash bit of more quiet and luxury is the Delano hotel.  This hotel gives about the same “happening” scene as Shore Club but it will give you a slight upgrade towards a more “grown and sexy” vibe.  It may just be our “Z Ocean” meets “Shore Club” kind of feel.

*Where We Like To Dine in South Beach

Now, this is the most important part of any of our tidbits – FOOD!!!  We love to eat good food!

BREAKFAST:  Eleventh Street Diner – we already mentioned Front Porch Café as a great place but if you want to take a little walk off the beach, we recommend strolling over to 11th Street and into this art deco diner.  Great menu selection and great service.  Our only criticism is letting you know you’d like a little omelet with your cheese.  We actually had to send the omelet back because it had so much cheese in it.  However, they do have turkey meat products and that always makes for a good, inclusive  breakfast menu.

STEAKHOUSE:  Prime 112 – a staple of fine dining and probably one of the most popular upscale restaurants on South Beach.  EVERYTHING is good here and it’s a great menu that can cater to anyone from the vegetarian to the meat lovers.  The truffled lobster mac n cheese is worth the price tag. Really!  And, while they were not our favorite, the fried Oreos is the dessert they are most famously known for.

SEAFOOD:  The Crab House – with a plethora of seafood selections, you can’t go wrong at The Crab House for a nice atmosphere and wonderfully prepared seafood.  Get a little aphrodisiac and a tasty starter with the Bahamian Conch chowder.  And, enjoy a variety of crab selections prepared to your liking.

CASUAL:  Puerto Sagua, 700 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 – You can’t be in Miami Beach without a little taste of Cuba. Don’t be fooled by the hole in the wall atmosphere, this restaurant offers the best Cuban cuisine and at an affordable price.  Plan to have a little wait as the place is always packed.  But, the service is pretty quick so don’t worry about having to wait too long.  Besides, it is definitely worth the wait.

*What We Like To Do in South Beach

We love the beach!  It’s free and free-ing.  Take in the sun and have some fun.  The ocean often feels like a nice salt bath and can give you hours of simple relaxation as you float on the waves.  And, if you dare, take a trip to Haulover Beach!  At the advice of our “naturalist” friend, we have both ventured over for a “freeing” experience at this unique and let’s say, “interesting” beach.  After a little initial discomfort, you get used to what the Euros have been doing for years.  It actually is nice to feel the ocean on only your skin.  Free your mind (and your swimwear!)

Shopping is always a great way to really make your vacation “count”.  Enjoy a short walk to the famous Lincoln Rd. where you’ll have 10 blocks of non-stop shopping and casual dining, including 7 blocks of traffic free stores.

If you’re looking for some great bargains, you may want to hop in a car and go the distance about 30 minutes North to Sawgrass Mills.  As the largest mall in the state of Florida, you’ll need the whole day and a cart to rack up on all the bargains this mall has to offer.  Noted for its factory outlet stores, we suggest taking the time out to check out this shopper’s paradise!

And, if you absolutely must hit a club up in Miami, honestly, we think Mango’s offers the best variety, and personally the best hip-hop to dance to in town.  The key thing about Mango’s is not having to do the “I need to act like I’m so important” list that you often have to “be on” in order to pay your money to get into the clubs in Miami.  Those are a hassle and honestly, just dumb and dramatic.  There’s no “perp” line, you know, the line that goes for miles outside the club when there are only 2 people in the club but we have to look like we’re the happening spot that everyone’s waiting to get into.  Yeah, we’re not really on that and neither is Mango’s.  If you like to salsa, this is a great place to watch dancers and try a little dancing yourself.  Again, there is also, we think, the best hip hop nestled upstairs and is one of the best kept secrets that you would not expect when you walk up.  Grab a bite (the food is pretty good) and then go into the club for FREE!  Even better!

We also think Nikki Beach is a little more grown and sexy.  With a variety of clubs, it provides more lounge clubs that we enjoy.  This is located near Prime 112, which may give you a clue to the type of crowd it attracts.  We say go there if you really want a place to kick it and have a little smoother ambience.  There are places to get your groove on too but, again, it definitely has a more mature vibe.

Whatever you choose to do or wherever you choose to stay, we think you will love this popular destination to run off to for a short or a long weekend.  Miami has enough to do (or not do) for everyone, so, enjoy!!!

Bienvenido a Miami! That’s What’s Up!