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Trip Report Index:
Emily Jablon: Hi everyone! Here’s the trip report (my second!) on the Z Ocean Hotel and our weekend in Miami.
Daraius took me to Miami for my birthday where we had lots of Big Travel with Small Money and spent only $201 for a $2,128 weekend that included free dinner and massages.
Daraius: I chose the Z Ocean Hotel because it was very well located in South beach – on Ocean Drive – and right in the middle of all the things to do in South Beach. We could walk everywhere! Since we were there for only 36 hours, it was important to not waste time driving.
Since this was Emily’s birthday surprise, I wanted an upgraded room at the Z Ocean Hotel for the celebration. I called the Z Ocean Hotel, and learned that they had upgraded us to a Spa Suite. I’m not sure if this was because I was a Priority Club Platinum member or because of the request for an upgrade which I’d put in the reservation.
The entry-level room are the King South Beach suites, and the Spa Suite was a 2 category upgrade.
Since I used Priority Club points for the reservation, the Z Ocean Hotel did not have to provide any elite benefits (including upgrades) since Priority Club is unique among hotels in not honoring elite benefits on award stays.
But I found the Z Ocean Hotel’s General Manager’s name on TripAdvisor (he replied to the reviews), and sent him an email from my personal email account (not my millionmilesecrets.com email address). I didn’t want him to provide me with special treatment just because I was a blogger. He replied within 30 minutes upgrading us to a Penthouse Rooftop Suite with a city view, the second best room in the hotel.
He also asked for Emily’s name, and I suspected that he was going to leave a birthday card in the room. I was very happy (and grateful) with the upgraded room which regularly sells for $450 + taxes a night!
I’m not sure if he googled me and found my blog and then upgraded my room. But after reading the positive reports on Trip Advisor, it looks like quite a few folks get upgrades by asking, so perhaps it was par for the course for the Z Ocean Hotel.
Emily Jablon: We arrived in Miami very late – at around midnight – and were pleasantly surprised by the hotel room at the Z Ocean Hotel. We had received a free upgrade to the Penthouse Suite, and a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket and a box of chocolates were waiting for me with a “Happy Birthday” card from the hotel.
Daraius: We parked in a garage 2 blocks from the Z Ocean Hotel which was much cheaper than the $32 a night which the Z Ocean Hotel charged.
Emily Jablon: The hotel room itself was very nice. We had a small kitchen with a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. There were also two barstools.
We also had a living area with a sofa and coffee table.
The bed was nice and comfortable, and the shower in the bathroom was one of the highlights of the room.
The bathroom was very large, with 2 “rooms” for his and hers. It was nice to have our own space!
The bath amenities, in case you were wondering, were Aveda.
The shower was amazing—it was a rainbath shower with a regular shower head, and there were also powerful jets along the wall. Water coming from 5 different spouts made for a very refreshing shower!
We also had our own private balcony with a table and chairs, and a spiral staircase that led up to an upper deck that looked out to the stars (and a bit of the city).
Stairs leading to the rooftop terrace.
On the deck were two lounge chairs and a jacuzzi. I could not wait to try it out!
After seeing our room, we decided to go out for a bite to eat and to explore our neighborhood. But before we went out, we asked the front desk if they could prepare our jacuzzi. They said they would and that it would take around 20 minutes for the jets to heat up, which would be perfect timing by the time we got back.
Outside the Z Ocean Hotel, we saw some Art Deco buildings and then went to a pizza restaurant and ordered an extra large slice of spicy chicken pizza. Daraius and I were pleasantly surprised—it was much better than we were expecting! There were lots of people out and about (it was after all, a Friday night), but because it had been such a long day for us, we decided to go back to our room and go for a dip in the jacuzzi.
We changed into our swimsuits, and went upstairs in the jacuzzi. It was perfect, and just the thing after such a long day of working and traveling! I almost fell asleep in the jacuzzi and slept very well all night.
Daraius: I loved seeing Emily’s expression when she realized that the French windows opened into a balcony. And she was even more surprised when she walked up the spiral staircase to the Jacuzzi. Seeing her so happy and surprised is one of the main reasons why I chase miles and points!
She was also excited seeing the Nespresso coffee machine, but I usually don’t get too excited by kitchen appliances.
Saturday, August 6:
Front of the Z Ocean Hotel
Emily Jablon: Daraius and I ate breakfast a The Front Porch which is the restaurant at the Z Ocean Hotel. I had yogurt with granola and fruit while Daraius had his favorite, eggs and bacon.
We then walked 5 minutes to the Art Deco Welcome center and went on an Art Deco architecture tour around South Beach. It was really neat to learn about how Art Deco mimicked cruise ships in their designs, with their round windows, racing stripes, and even smokestacks.
I’d definitely recommend taking this tour if you’re in the area, because not only do you learn more about the architecture, but you also learn more about Miami’s history.
After the Art Deco tour, we went for lunch at A la Folie, a French cafe. I ordered au gratin potatoes with bacon and scallions, and Daraius had foie gras. Our food was okay—but it ended up taking 1 hour to get to us and we were a bit frustrated with the slow service.
Daraius: We wouldn’t have minded the 1 hour wait for the food if it tasted like real French cafe food. It didn’t. And we lost a precious hour of our time in Miami.
Emily Jablon: After lunch, we went to the beach where our hotel had lounge chairs and towels for us. It was very relaxing to lay in the sun and splash in the cool, blue waters.
After the beach, Daraius had yet another surprise for me. We went into the Victor Hotel, one of the Art Deco hotels on the Miami Beach strip.
The theme of the hotel was jellyfish, and they had tasteful jellyfish style lamps and chairs. They even had a fishtank with real jellyfish. The way they use deep velvet colors and see through curtains made the hotel look very magical, almost like being in an underwater paradise.
Daraius took me through a door and all of a sudden I could smell the strong, delicate scent of lavender. We were headed to the spa!
Daraius had an 80 minute massage waiting for us. The massage was very relaxing. Best of all, Daraius paid for it with a Hyatt gift card he had received through his miles and points hobby. It saved us a lot of money! After the massage, we went back to the hotel to take a short nap.
Daraius: I had stocked up on Hyatt gift cards and certificates from the Capital One 100,000 mile promotion earlier this year. While researching spa options close to our hotel, I discovered that not only were there spa specials because of Miami Spa week, but that one location was in the Hotel Victor (which at that time was part of the Hyatt chain of hotels).
And since the hotel Victor was affiliated with Hyatt at the time, I may have been able to use my Hyatt gift card. You technically can use the gift certificates only for restaurant charges if you are not staying in the hotel. But I had a hunch that they just might accept the gift card for spa treatments.
So I booked spa appointments for us.
The spa receptionist sent me to front desk to use the gift card. Initially, the front desk staff didn’t know how to use the Hyatt gift card for spa treatments so they called a manager. The manager set me up in a “dummy room” and then charged the spa treatment to the “dummy room” and then closed out the bill.
The end result was that I paid for the spa treatments with the Hyatt gift card, and I also earned Hyatt points on the amount charged to the room!
Emily Jablon: After our nap, we started getting ready for dinner. First, we went for a stroll through our hotel.
We walked through the breezeway to get to the street.
Daraius provided me a list of places to choose from, and I chose the Hotel Victor because we could use our Hyatt gift card. We sat outside on the main strip, and had avocado and brie bruschetta and carpaccio for appetizers. I also ordered a mojito which turned out to be one of the best (and biggest) I have ever had. I couldn’t finish it, and I love mojitoes!
Daraius: I had selected 3 to 4 restaurants where to have dinner, but Emily checked out the menu at the Hotel Victor and suggested we eat there since we had the Hyatt gift card (isn’t she great?!). As we left the hotel we walked through their breezeway which was decorated really well. Too bad it was empty, because it would have been a great place to just chill out!
Emily Jablon: The hotel had live music, and several times I got up to dance with others on the street. The band was very good—it was Latin music but with a Middle Eastern flavor. I had a lot of fun dancing!
I even danced with some children sitting next to us. The young boy was a little too shy, but the little girl let me twirl her around.
For our main courses, I had a t-bone steak with mashed potatoes, and Daraius had mussels and fish fillet. My steak was very good—very juicy and flavorful.
For dessert, we had panna cotta with a candle on top. 3 staff members came out to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. It was a night I will never forget! What a great hobby he has!
After our 3 hour dinner, we went home to relax in the jacuzzi and then went to bed.
Sunday, August 7:
Emily Jablon: I opened up my birthday gifts from Daraius. He very sweetly wrapped the package in beautiful French wrapping paper. Underneath, there was a big box. Inside the box were licorice, chocolate biscuits, bath salts, hand and body lotion, and the book Battle Hymn for a Chinese Mother, which I had been wanting to read.
We then went out for breakfast and then walked along Ocean Drive. It was fun to see the classic cars and Ferraris.
After strolling around, we went to go lie out on the beach and later on we swam in the hotel’s pool. The hotel pool was very nice because the water wasn’t too cold and because they had inflatable pool beds. As an added bonus, we were the only ones in the pool area!
After swimming, we went back to our room to shower and change, and then we picked up lunch from Jerry’s Famous Deli, which is in a beautiful Art Deco building and is right across the street from our hotel. Inside, you felt like you had gone back in time all of the original seating and light fixtures. Our corned beef sandwich with potato salad and coleslaw was very good!
Daraius: I didn’t quite care for Jerry’s so-called Famous Deli because we would have to pay a $4 “split order fee” even though we ordered a full sandwich (instead of 2 half sandwiches). Sure the interior was nice, but there were lots of other restaurants nearby which did not charge “split order” fees. So we took the sandwich to go and ate it in the car en route to the airport so that we wouldn’t pay the “split order” fee.
Emily Jablon: It was sad to have to leave Miami, but I was very thankful for such a wonderful surprise birthday, all thanks to Daraius’ quest for miles and points!
Daraius: After the trip, the Z Ocean hotel found my post where I asked blog readers to guess where we were and graciously offered to send readers a water bottle and Z Ocean Hotel memorabilia.
The Z Ocean Hotel was a great use of 25,000 Priority Club points. It was a 2 minutes walk to the beach, but not right on it, so it wasn’t as crazy and loud as the hotels directly on the beach.
The staff were friendly and you just can’t beat having a rooftop terrace with Jacuzzi. I would definitely redeem points again to stay at the Z Ocean Hotel.
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