Le Meridien – Sunny Isles Beach, Florida
January 6, 2007
We are very mixed on this property. The location at the beach is great, the rooms are fine and many have great views, although the 1br studios are quite small. The restaurant – Bice, does a great job of feeding and hydrating the well-heeled clientele. The desk staff and the concierge are very courteous and helpful. Yet, there was one area of the hotel that has nearly completely ruined our perception of the hotel – the service at the beach and pool area – the worst beach and pool service we have ever experienced, perhaps anywhere. The hotel charges guests a daily “resort fee” – a practice that may be difficult to justify given the high room rates, but one that has become routine in many Miami properties. It is a simple task – tracking the hotel occupancy and making sure that you have enough lounges, chairs, tables, pads and towels and also making sure that there is sufficient and well-trained, courteous staff. Being under new ownership – Starwood, seems to have made the service worse. The beach and pool area management which is run by a thuggish young crew that ignores process and has little desire to deliver customer service. We waited for 45 minutes amongst a crowd of many to get 4 beach chairs and cushions only to get 2 chairs and one cushion and no towels. Another 45 minutes later and after much arguing with the beach staff we wrangled away 3 precious towels but only after being told that those were given to us because we were “so impatient”. Finally my kids could go to the pool, but by then our whole mood was ruined. About an hour later, our neighbors at the beach were leaving and graciously offered to give us their loungers. We thankfully accepted, but about 5 minutes later I was accosted by three members of Le Meridien beach staff who claimed that I took the chairs “illegaly” and I should vacate them “right away!”. At that point, our patience ruptured and the staffers learned some choice NYC vocabulary. A young manager showed up and finally after nearly four hours since we have first arrived at the beach, we had some peace and quiet. Not bad for a hotel that charges guests about 700-900 per room in high season. Seems the beach staff has gotten so addicted to fat tips (or call them mini–bribes) from wealthy Eastern European tourists that the minute their clientele shows up at the beach, all chairs and towels simply dissappear. It is infuriating to watch, but it is hard to blame these young enterprising hustlers for what is a total lack of competent hotel management in this area. There are a couple of staffers at the beach and bar area who happen to be over 18 and do have a hang for service, but their efforts just drown in this sea of “who will give me a bigger tip”.
We did not go to the hotel management to complain, because we did not want to listen to their textbook hotel management explanations, but someone did and things did improve at the beach in the next couple of days. For one thing, a few more “men in suits with walkie-talkies” showed up – which looked somewhat comical for 80F degree weather and the staff began to ask us “if the service is better?”. We tactfully avoided getting into a discussion with them, until finally one morning I did share a conversation with one of the young beach staffers and told him that the service has gotten better but was generally sub-par for a place of this caliber. In response, I got “Well maybe some caviar will do you justice!”. Well, – perhaps a towel would do.