Author Topic: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!  (Read 6320 times)

Online @Yehuda

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Oct 2013
  • Posts: 8988
  • Total likes: 62
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« on: July 08, 2016, 10:32:08 AM »
Introduction/Trip Planning

At the end of May, I realized that my wife's schedule gave her a free weekend at the beginning of June, and I quickly seized the opportunity to plan a trip. We'd be taking our first trip to Miami! For a short Friday-Sunday trip with a pool/beach destination in mind, I would have preferred going to the Caribbean for the first time, but Zika held us back, and so we opted for Miami. While it may not be an exciting destination for many NYers, for 2 people who have never been before, the warm weather and ocean sounded great.

Flights
Based on availability, and having experienced the ease of flying Southwest out of Islip Airport to Orlando before, we once again chose ISP, but this time to FLL. With the SW Companion Pass, the roundtrip came out to about 13,500 miles + $11.20 per person, even cheaper than it would have cost if Avios had availability.

Hotel
Part of the excitement behind the trip was also the fact that Hyatt had recently taken over it's first beachfront property in Miami as part of the new Hyatt Unbound collection, The Confidante (previously known as Thompson Miami Beach). I booked it for 2 nights at 25,000 Hyatt points per night. The hotel is located on Collins Avenue between 41st and 40th Streets, which as I quickly learned, was the heart of everything we'd need. I reached out to a manager there who offered to order us Kosher food daily as part of the complimentary Diamond breakfast, giving us choices from 2 restaurants (even providing their Hechsherim and Cholov Yisrael/Pas Yisrael status) with a $25 allowance per person. She even agreed to swap out breakfast on Shabbos morning for a brunch that would be waiting for us when we checked in on Friday. Additionally, on her own, she asked if we needed a low floor and let us know that the staff would be more than willing to press elevator buttons for us or change the lights in the room, as well as include an extra refrigerator in the room. We found out that the lobby doors and door to the pool/beach were manual, so that would be great for Shabbos. The room doors, however, were electronic, so we would just have to do the little tape-your-keycard-over-the-door-jamb trick (thanks Dan!). It turns out she herself is Jewish, which helps explain her knowledge of all the Jewish matters. Upon checkin, we were upgraded to a Partial Ocean View room (which really has no view at all). The manager wasn't in, and I couldn't get the agent to upgrade us to anything better. I found out afterwards that the manager specifically told them to keep us on the 2nd floor (which didn't have any suites available), and the front desk agent didn't want to put us on a higher floor (even in a better room). I didn't make my preferences clear enough, but the manager promised to give us a better room on our next trip. All in all, she provided incredible service, as did the rest of the staff, to make our stay as comfortable as possible.

Transportation
As we didn't plan on doing any activities or travelling to distant restaurants, we didn't rent a car and instead just ate at places that were within walking distance. Ubers to/from the airport would be our only transportation expenses.

Shabbos Meals
I hope I'm not forgetting anyone here, but major thanks to yakrot, JJ and jaywhy for their Miami advice in general, but specifically to yakrot for suggesting I look into Chabad for meals. It turns out they only have lunch (served in a Kiddush style), so we brought food from home for Friday night dinner.

Off We Go!

At pre-6AM, there really isn't any traffic on the roads, so we made it to the Clarion next to ISP for parking in less than an hour. Amazingly better than our last experience driving to ISP, for those that recall. We prepaid online for 3 days of parking for $27.46, including a few dollar discount that I found via Google. 10 minutes later, we were at the gate - ISP rocks. Davening Shacharis in an airport is never comfortable, but it is what it is. The flight left on time, and before we knew it, we were touching down. We got our bags and called an Uber. However, the driver did not speak English well and finding each other was very difficult. We told him where we were, the app showed where we were, and of course, we saw him fly right past us. He ended up pulling over at the end of the terminal and told us to walk to him. With that small hassle out of the way, we were on the road for the 45 minute trip to Miami Beach, which came out to $15.33 after a referral discount. I know that people prefer to fly to MIA, but from my understanding, it's only 15 minutes closer than FLL, so I would go with whichever airport has the cheaper flight/points availability.

Settling into the Hotel

OH, THE HUMIDITY!



We pulled up to The Confidante and were greeted by friendly doormen who opened the doors for us and said hello/welcome back/see ya later literally every time we entered or left the hotel. The hotel has a very art-deco style that gives off the impression of old fashioned and yet sleek at the same time. It was definitely unique compared to other hotels we've been to and especially did not fit with Hyatt's normal branding - but that's the point of the Unbound Collection.



After checkin, we went up to our room, and a few minutes later our brunch from Tasty Beach Cafe arrived. The buttermilk pancakes were HUGE and the egg harvest wrap (thanks CS91) had an interesting, but good taste.







Pools and Beach

After eating, it was time to head down to the pool! The grounds were very nice, but not too large, which I assume is the case for most Miami hotels.





The pool area has two, almost identical pools - one for adults only, and the other for families. The staff outside were also incredibly nice, not just giving us lounge chairs, but even laying towels down/tucking them in and preparing the area for us. There was ice water by the pools as well as magazines to read.


Family pool


Adult pool

I figured I'd compare the pools/beach to other ones I've been to, so I'll compare them to NJ beaches, Eilat and Hawaii. Quite the contrast indeed, although you'll be in for a bit of a surprise. For most of our stay, the pool area was kinda crowded. The pools themselves only had a few people in them, but there were lots of people hanging around. I'd compare it to the busyness of the pool in the Hyatt Regency Maui and contrast it with the nearly-empty (aside from a few families) pools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Many of the people were there for bachelor/bachelorette parties, as opposed to Hawaii where we mostly saw families and kids. The pools were somewhat heated which made entering them not terribly difficult. I don't really understand it, but the water was a good 20 degrees warmer than the freezing cold pool in Maui.

After a while, we headed out past the pools across the boardwalk to the beach. For those, like myself, who have never been to Miami Beach before, it's basically a strip of hotel after hotel all up against the beach with a boardwalk running seemingly the entire way. Every hotel has their own section of the beach where they've set up chairs, yet the beach also has plenty of public entrances where I imagine you can enter for free and set up your own towels or perhaps rent from one of the hotels out there.


Crossing over from the boardwalk to the beach



The beach area was also crowded, although having all the beach chairs and umbrellas pre-set up definitely adds to the feel of it being full. Here again, the Hyatt reps set up chairs with towels for us. I can confidently say the sand and ocean is a 100% cleaner, warmer and nicer than the Jersey shore. :D Additionally, there were also planes constantly flying overhead with ads hanging off the back, which was VERY reminiscent of Jersey.



Of course, the beach was way better than Eilat's "beach", which is mostly just pebbles. However, the heat and humidity here made it feel like the 100+ degree weather we experienced in Eilat. :)

Compared to Hawaii, the sand was surprisingly similar in color and the ocean was incredibly clear, just like in Hawaii. However, the bottom of the ocean floor was SO sandy that it blew any of the beaches we went to in Hawaii out of the water in that regard. It was so nice not having to watch out for our feet hitting rocks or getting cut up. Interestingly, the ocean is also very shallow. We must have gone 100 feet out into the ocean, and it was still barely 4 feet deep. I don't know if that was just this area of Miami or the whole strip. The water also had a sand bar (if that's the right word) about 20 feet out that was really cool because it broke the waves coming in and also allowed for relaxing on sand with only a light amount of water splashing on you. (You can see people sitting on it on the left side of the above picture.) Regarding the waves, Miami really loses to Hawaii. On the calmer beaches in Hawaii, you could swim and snorkel with the water barely moving, but here, there were waves every 10 seconds that knocked you over and made swimming difficult. Of course, the number one difference is that Miami had no coral and almost no fish (we saw just a few), while snorkeling in Hawaii was a most incredible experience. Of course, you'd say you can't compare Miami to Hawaii (and I agree), but I did it here to discuss specific differences.

I'll also say that the hotels were all kinda similar on the outside - tall, plain, white buildings with not much personality - which was very reminiscent of many Eilat hotels.


The back of the Confidante, on the right

Pre-Shabbos

As the long summer afternoon moved along slowly (thankfully!), we left the beach, went for another quick swim in the pool (much better swimming than the ocean) and ran across the street to a market to pick up some snacks for Shabbos. We then went for a run on the boardwalk, but it started raining, so we headed back pretty quickly. On the run, we saw the backs of many of the hotels/pools and thought that the grounds/pools by our hotel were definitely among the tops in our area. All along the boardwalk, we noticed poles with a string atop them and, upon further inspection of the signs hanging on each pole, realized it was the Eruv! Pretty cool.



We got ready for Shabbos - including preparing the door lock (see above) and setting the lights and timers for the things we wanted on/off. We couldn't figure out how how to turn off the light in the fridge, but we only needed it for our drinks for dinner since we were eating lunch at Chabad, so we filled up a bag inside the garbage can with ice to act as a fridge for the night. We then headed back down to the beach to get some pre-Shabbos pictures. Boy, the water and sky was beautiful.





Shabbos

Once I found out Chabad was 10 minutes away on 41st Street, we decided to just Daven all Tefillos there. It turns out that the Minyan was originally established to be a sort of "Children's Minyan", so there is lots of singing for the kids, and the Rabbi gives out raffle tickets to the kids the whole time. Davening was therefore a bit slow at times and a bit quick at times when they were saying things the kids wouldn't be saying. There was a women's section for my wife, someone asked if we had somewhere to eat dinner, and after Davening, we headed back to the hotel for our little, quiet, super-relaxing meal. Like our hotel Shabbos meals in London, this one will stick in the memory for a long time.



In the morning, we went back to Chabad for 10AM Shacharis (WOW!) followed by the Kiddush/lunch. It was very communal style, so we found seats at a table and met a nice Chassidish couple from Monsey who just finished a trip to Key West, another couple visiting Miami and a local guy. Food was served to the group (i.e. not individual plates) except for very good cholent which was handed out in individual bowls. The rest of the food included salad, egg salad, gefilte fish and chicken. Everything we had tasted good, and I think this is a doable option for someone visiting Miami for Shabbos. After the trip, I sent them a donation online, including something for the Aliyah I was given. I would have liked if there was something more formal to the meal other than Kiddush made after Shacharis - perhaps a Rabbi going around introducing himself, but maybe that isn't so doable with such a large meal likely every week. The truth is that we only met the Chabad Rabbi in Venice because we went over to him, so maybe formalities/introductions don't usually happen at these meals. The Chassidish couple we ate with told us they ate in a restaurant in the Days Inn (I think...?) Friday night and loved it, so perhaps we'd look into that for another trip.

In the afternoon, we went for a long walk along the boardwalk, but couldn't last for too long as the heat was really strong in our Shabbos clothes. Mincha and Maariv back at Chabad and Havdala in the hotel room, and that was it for Shabbos!

Motzai Shabbos and Sunday

For dinner Motzai Shabbos, we were happy to hear that many options were open that late at night. We chose Beyond by Shemtov's, a well-decorated dairy place, and were thrilled with our decision. Their penne ala vodka, baked potato pizza, french onion soup and milkshake were all amazing! The fries were only decent, though. Prices were a bit on the expensive side, but it's clear that this place is not "just" a pizza store. Feeling stuffed, we walked back to the hotel and took a look out back - the pools were empty! The water was still impressively warm enough to quickly acclimate to, and we enjoyed a midnight swim. There was a security guard/staff of sorts that was hanging out by the pool area, and eventually another 2-3 people showed up but stayed in the other pool, but overall it was great and especially nice to finally swim without a lot of people around.

In the morning, I went to Chabad for Shacharis and then came back just as our breakfast from Tasty arrived. The chocolate chip pancakes were even better than the buttermilk ones (just as large), and the egg white omelet was pretty good. Truly a real treat for Kosher Diamond breakfast. After securing a late checkout of 5PM, we spent the day at the pools and beach again. That was our goal for the trip, and we really enjoyed it. We decided that lunch had to be at Shemtov's again, and this time we ordered a small pizza to split. It was plenty (no need for a full pie), but we had chosen the cheddar broccoli pizza thinking there would be some cheddar sprinkled on top, while in reality, the cheddar was the main cheese of the pizza (no mozzarella), so it was an interesting taste. We also got mozzarella sticks which were out of this world as well as a great strawberry mango smoothie. Would definitely go here again. After lunch, we stopped by Carlos & Gabby's to pick up 2 helpings of buffalo tenders to go for the plane (which we weren't even hungry for and didn't eat till we were home). We then packed up our things and went down to the pools for one last swim. As we finished putting our things together, we saw our flight get delayed, but decided not to chance it and rather checkout and grab an Uber to FLL for $18.49 after a referral discount. Good thing, because the flight got pushed forward again and was only delayed a short while. The evening flight got us back to ISP around 10PM, and we got our car and made it home at a relatively normal hour. What a great short getaway to Miami!

Online David Smith

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Jun 2015
  • Posts: 8289
  • Total likes: 193
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 13
    • View Profile
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2016, 11:54:58 AM »

OH, THE HUMIDITY!
Pretty much sums up MIA in the summer. LAX FTW.
Who do you think you are fooling? You think you are going to pull a quick one on your Creator? Good luck with that.
JTZ

Offline chinagel

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Mar 2014
  • Posts: 2291
  • Total likes: 43
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
  • Location: brooklyn
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2016, 12:12:18 PM »
wwhered you get 25k+ hyatt points?!

Online @Yehuda

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Oct 2013
  • Posts: 8988
  • Total likes: 62
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2016, 12:14:20 PM »
Pretty much sums up MIA in the summer. LAX FTW.
I've heard mixed reviews of the winter being much better.

wwhered you get 25k+ hyatt points?!
Come again?

Offline chinagel

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Mar 2014
  • Posts: 2291
  • Total likes: 43
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
  • Location: brooklyn
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2016, 12:15:39 PM »
u transferred ur to hyatt? or you did spend on hyatt cc? both are interesting choices imo

Online @Yehuda

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Oct 2013
  • Posts: 8988
  • Total likes: 62
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2016, 12:16:30 PM »
u transferred ur to hyatt? or you did spend on hyatt cc? both are interesting choices imo
I have transferred UR to Hyatt in the past. What's a good value for some is not always a good value for others. But, in this case, these were points earned from stays.

Offline chinagel

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Mar 2014
  • Posts: 2291
  • Total likes: 43
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
  • Location: brooklyn
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2016, 12:17:50 PM »
gotcha. didnt realize ppl here actually paid for hyatt stays ;)

Online @Yehuda

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Oct 2013
  • Posts: 8988
  • Total likes: 62
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2016, 12:18:34 PM »
gotcha. didnt realize ppl here actually paid for hyatt stays ;)
B"H I'm glad they do or else I wouldn't have had those points.

Offline yakrot

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2013
  • Posts: 1609
  • Total likes: 4
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2016, 12:30:43 PM »
Great tr! Thanks for the shout out

Offline ushdadude

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 3414
  • Total likes: 26
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
    • View Profile
  • Location: Long Island
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2016, 12:36:12 PM »
nice tr. i never heard anyone review miami before. it's just....miami ;D
If you see something that is 50% off but don't need it, walk away and save yourself 100%

Online @Yehuda

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Oct 2013
  • Posts: 8988
  • Total likes: 62
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2016, 12:39:31 PM »
nice tr. i never heard anyone review miami before. it's just....miami ;D
#5Towner :P

Great tr! Thanks for the shout out
Thanks for your help!

Offline ushdadude

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 3414
  • Total likes: 26
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
    • View Profile
  • Location: Long Island
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2016, 12:55:49 PM »
#5Towner :P
Thanks for your help!

Lol
If you see something that is 50% off but don't need it, walk away and save yourself 100%

Online Dawie

  • Dansdeals Platinum Elite + Lifetime Silver Elite
  • *****
  • Join Date: Jan 2015
  • Posts: 733
  • Total likes: 28
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: BLM
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2016, 12:58:48 PM »
very sweet

Offline grodnoking

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Nov 2014
  • Posts: 3270
  • Total likes: 45
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
    • View Profile
  • Location: TriState
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2016, 01:38:35 PM »
nice tr. i never heard anyone review miami before. it's just....miami ;D
Dan reviewed it 7 times.
(Maybe only six, I dont remember)
I'm not who you think I am.

Offline ushdadude

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 3414
  • Total likes: 26
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
    • View Profile
  • Location: Long Island
Re: The @Yehuda's First Trip to Miami!
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2016, 01:43:07 PM »
Dan reviewed it 7 times.
(Maybe only six, I dont remember)

Dan's reviews are very food based (which is great) This was a review of the city itself as if it's a random destination.
If you see something that is 50% off but don't need it, walk away and save yourself 100%