Miami Birthday Suprise – Z Ocean Hotel & 36 Hours In Miami

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Z Ocean Hotel - Lunch in Miami

Lunch in Miami

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.

Z Ocean Hotel -Trip-Report-Cost-of-Miami-Trip-1

Now That’s BIg Travel with Small Money!

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 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.

Z Ocean - Champagne in room

Birthday wishes compliments of the Z Ocean Hotel

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.

Z Ocean - Barstool

Mini kitchen with microwave, fridge, and Nesspresso coffee maker

We also had a living area with a sofa and coffee table.

Z Ocean - Living Area

Living area with books and magazines

The bed was nice and comfortable, and the shower in the bathroom was one of the highlights of the room.

Z Ocean - Bed

Arm chair and king size bed

Z Ocean Hotel

Complimentary Aqua Panna water and Belgian truffles

Z Ocean - Closet

Wardrobe with 2 flat screen TVs

The bathroom was very large, with 2 “rooms” for his and hers. It was nice to have our own space!

Z Ocean Hotel

“His” vanity

Z Ocean Hotel - Her Vanity

“Her” vanity with stool

The bath amenities, in case you were wondering,  were Aveda.

Z Ocean Hotel

Aveda amenities

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!

Z Ocean Hotel - Shower

Rain bath shower

Z Ocean - Shower Area

Shower Area

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).

Z Ocean Hotel - Private Balcony

Table and chairs on private balcony

Stairs leading to the rooftop terrace.

Z Ocean Hotel - Stairs to rooftop

Stairs to rooftop terrace

On the deck were two lounge chairs and a jacuzzi. I could not wait to try it out!

Z Ocean Hotel - Deck Chairs

Deck chairs

Z Ocean Hotel - View from terrace

View from Z Ocean Hotel terrace

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.

Z Ocean Hotel - Jaccuzi

Rooftop Jacuzzi with electric blue lights

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

Z Ocean Hotel

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.

Z Ocean Hotel - Art Deco

“Breakwater” Art Deco hotel

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.

Z Ocean Hotel - At the beach

Emily and Daraius at the beach

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.

Hotel Victor

Hotel Victor

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.

Z Ocean Hotel -

Emily in the hotel lobby

We walked through the breezeway to get to the street.

Z Ocean Hotel - Lounge Space

Lounge space in hotel

Z Ocean Hotel - Breezeway

Breezeway to Ocean Blvd.

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!

Z Ocean Hotel - Dinner

Daraius enjoying dinner

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!

Z Ocean Hotel

Dancing by the band

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.

Z Ocean Hotel

T-bone steak with mashed potatoes

Z Ocean Hotel

Mussels and fish

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.

Z Ocean Hotel

Emily and her Bel Air

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!

Z Ocean Hotel

Emily in the Z Ocean hotel pool

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.

Bottom Line:

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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30 responses to “Miami Birthday Suprise – Z Ocean Hotel & 36 Hours In Miami

  1. Looks like a great trip guys! Darius, you’re sure doing a good job of keeping your beautiful lady happy. Nice work sir!
    I laugh a little at choosing Hotel Victor for dinner so that you could use a Hyatt gift card. Now that’s a thoughtful fiancee!
    And although I’m really late, Happy Birthday Emily!

  2. I second Steve.
    Great trip review from two viewpoints! You two sure make a great blogging team.

  3. Awesome! super helpful

    loved the format of the post – great job!

    • @Steve – I’m very lucky indeed! You’re not as late as I am with the trip report. 🙂

      @alohastephen – Thanks! I like not having to write the entire report myself.

      @jay – Hope this helps in choosing a Miami hotel!

  4. It’s funny how people are. I know I hate paying $4 to cut my food in half, even though I might have thrown away a few $100 for nothing leading right up to that moment.
    Restauranteurs beware-don’t piss off you customers with ridiculous fees! After all, who do you think you are -the airlines?

  5. Not to be a stickler, but that
    “T-bone steak with mashed potatoes”
    sure looks like a ribeye steak. 🙂

    Good report!

  6. Great review! The Penthouse Suite looks very nice especially having your own terrace with a jacuzzi! Definitely want to stay at this property when I ever go to Miami along with the W.

  7. Now don’t mistake me for a buzzkill but shouldn’t the opportunity cost of the points be evaluated in your total cost?

    through you site, i was able to understand to use my chase points for a trip to the Maldives but i don’t consider it to be free as it costs me 145,000 points (equal to $1,450) but the value of my trip is close to $6,000 so i’m saving a boat load of money through points but there is still a cost for those points.

    Just my $0.02

    PS Awesome pics. I’m hoping to make my way down there once the point bank fills back up 😛

  8. Hehe, Nitin. With Daraius’ and Emily’s talent in sniffing out miles and points, I don’t think they’ll have a problem accumulating even more miles and points for future trips to wherever they choose.

    Besides, the value of surprising and pampering one’s future spouse is PRICELESS! 😉 A happy wife makes a happy family!

    Great job, Dariaus and Emily! =)

    • @ace– As I was writing the post, I was wondering if I threw too much of a fuss over $4. It wasn’t so much the money, as it was the principle. It also was a bit silly, since I could sit and eat nothing, but if I wanted to split a full meal with Emily, I’d have to pay $4. I sure hope the restaurants don’t go the way of the airlines!

      @Steve – I’ll differ to Emily on what type of steak it was. All I know is that she enjoyed it!

      @Jimgotkp– The terrace was a great place to chill out and watch the sun set!

      @Nitin – Sure, we could have used the points in Bora Bora where the rooms cost $700+, but we wouldn’t have been able to go there over a weekend. And if you always use the maximum realized value from the points, you’ll end up never visiting a lot of places! In our case, the points were free, and we had very limited time, so this was the best use of the points. But, yes, the 50K points do have an opportunity cost.

      You can get 80K points from the targeted Priority Club Visa card which comes with a free annual night certificate which can be put to good use at the Z Ocean Hotel!

      @Denise-“A happy wife makes a happy family! ” Very true! I need to get into Emily’s good books, because there are lots of time when I do stupid stuff (like not splitting a meal for $4 and walking out!)

      @IPBrian– I didn’t think I’d like Miami this much, but it is now on my list of places to visit again…and again!

  9. You both have made me add another destination to my already crowded itinerary. Not sure when I will have time to get to south beach, but now I wanna go. 🙂

  10. hi daraius,

    i noticed that you guys rented a car, did the Z take care of the parking charges? if so, how. thanks again for the post

  11. lol @ the “Daraius enjoying dinner” picture. It looks like she ate food and he worked on a giant mojito instead.

    • @chuckles– Very funny! I was hungry – I get that look when they don’t give me my food!

      @Emily – I had a great time with you, babes!

      @Ilovetocount – It depends on the occupancy level of the hotel. If the hotel is sold out or close to being sold out, the reimbursement rate to the hotel (remember that most hotels are franchises) is high and comparable to what a walk-in client would pay. In general, award nights fill up rooms which would have gone unused, so the hotel should welcome award nights (especially since guests on award stays will charge food, drinks, etc during their stay). I’ve never had a bad experience while staying on points, but I have a few experiences using Priceline where the room wasn’t the best!

      The Z Ocean Hotel found the blog after my stay, and since the Z Ocean Hotel is usually pretty full, I’m sure the reimbursement rate from Priority Club matches the regular rate. So it is a win-win situation for both!

  12. Hi everyone, Glad you enjoyed our trip report! It was such a fun weekend! 🙂

  13. Hey Daraius,

    I’m loving this site – awesome review and I loved the split perspective.

    On a related topic, I’ve always wondered how each hotel is compensated when a guest uses points or a free stay. Or is it just the cost of being under that chain’s banner?

    I guess how the money works isn’t the question as much as – do you think hotels are happy to see someone come in and stay for a weekend on points/vouchers, or is the Manager secretly sighing in the background and wishing you had chosen a different hotel?

    The thought crossed my mind when you mentioned the Manager found your blog and I was a little surprised he responded positively to a guest who generally only uses free stays and is also steering other like-minded people to his hotel.

  14. Daraius, what was your experience finding availability at the Z Ocean Hotel with points? I’ve looked at many dates in the future and avail. is spotty at best. Did you find more dates open up closer to your reservation date? I’m looking to book ~4 mos. away.

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  17. Oh man, I love this post. Miami’s on my bucket list, and the hotel is to die for. I just found out I’ll get to got to Miami later this year myself later for a conference. So work will pay for the airfare (!) and the conference conveniently ends on a Friday. Z Ocean Hotel has room availability for my dates. Two questions:
    1) When I go to book, two room choice pop up: KING SOUTH BEACH SUITE NONSMOKING and 1 KING SUITE. Is there a significant difference between the two? I can’t tell from the room descriptions. Looks like one of the rooms has a pull out couch, and the other does not.
    2) I also have platinum status (thanks to my lovely Priority Club credit card), and I’m hoping for a room upgrade. What did you write in the reservation? Simply, hi, I have plat status and would appreciate an upgrade?
    Thanks for all your help. This booking is literally my first foray into luxury hotels, and I’m super excited. I’ll try the Willard the next time in DC once I get my voucher. Love your hotel recommendations.

  18. Hi Daraius,

    I’m leaning heavily on booking this hotel for 3 nights in early January. 2 questions for you. First, with your Plat status, were you offered complimentary breakfast on your stay? Second, do you remember if there was a pullout queen sofa bed in the suite?

    thks for the help again

  19. Hi! I really loved your review, and it made up my mind for me about staying here. However, I was also wondering about the difference in the two suites (King and King South Beach), that Kay mentioned above. We would need two beds, for 4 people, so a pull-out sofa would be fine.

  20. Hi Darius. I’m a newbie, but did earn platinum status with IHG through the Priority Club Select Visa (which I found out about through your site, thanks). The IHG property I want is in Gwangju, South Korea. However, with points, I can only book a superior room, and in order to get an upgrade to the junior suite, which I really want, I’d need to book the deluxe room (or so the staff told me over the phone). So, I’m okay paying for the deluxe room, considering all the points bonuses and rebates right now, but the only deluxe room I see online is for two single beds. So, do I book the single bed deluxe room, and hope my request for the junior suite upgrade goes through after I book? Or do I have to take the gamble at check-in? I really don’t want two single beds, and would be booking the non-refundable rate. Thanks a million;)

    • @Jenni – Hard to say. You could email the hotel’s general manager and ask for a double bed in advance or an upgrade, but it doesn’t have to be granted. And if the hotel assigns you a single bed room, they’ve completed their part of the agreement. So it is a bit “iffy.” I’d book the superior room and hope for the upgrade, but wouldn’t count on one.

  21. Darius,

    Great trip report. I was planning on a trip to the Z hotel. Were you offered free breakfast for your reward stays?

    Thank you,


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