10 BEST Fitness & Spas Food & Wine Lifestyle Luxury Hotels Travel

The ideal family resort, and so near to downtown Miami

Welcome to Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, with a glass of Chardonnay, a copy of the Ritz-Carlton Magazine and room 1445’s stunning ocean view

The gal felt like relaxing at a luxury family resort, and the 490-room Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne fitted the bill. Something really odd has happened to rental cars in the US. This one, a golden affair, suddenly switched without her knowing from automatic to stick shift and she lolloped along at ten miles an hour, finally reaching the seemingly new-world of Key Biscayne, with its greenery and beaches.

She was greeted with a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer 2010 (we know you like Chardonnay), and from top-floor room 1445 she could look down, over the gorgeous gardens and beach, to the highrises of Miami far to the left.  She noticed that the copy of the Ritz-Carlton magazine highlights Tokyo, the last Ritz-Carlton she was in.  Welcome home.

Get away from the world - the beach, right outside the luxury resort

Get away from the world – the beach, right outside the luxury resort

For many here the beach becomes home.  Make a day camp, looking seawards rather than backwards, up to the 14-floor building that does, admittedly, have just a hint of Disney to it from outside. Above the sand-line is educational information on protection of seagrass and seaweed.

But the inside, and its people, are so warm it makes up for that appearance, and anyway there is lots to do.  There are electric bikes to rent, and shopping, both here in Souvenirs which seems to have lots of really good things, and in nearby malls (well, nearby if you can drive at more than ten miles/hour).

As well as the big main pools, there are secluded pools

A family resort has pools.  Here, the 352-room complex has two major ones, one adults only, and lots of secluded ones.  You need things for small kids – there is a sandcastle concierge – and table tennis and real tennis and golf and computers for older ones. And for those who want to read, well, there are copies of that Ritz-Carlton magazine, and really intelligent daily newspapers, like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

For those who cleverly opt to buy a Club-access room, the ninth floor lounge, which seems to serve food all day long from seven a.m, has, bliss oh bliss, copies of the Financial Times and cups for coffee-to-go.

Healthy snacks in the spa waiting room

This is not only a great luxury family resort but a popular meetings, incentives and wedding spot. Whatever the reason for being here, all adults need a spa – and this is like one big sugar-plantation manor house. I was met at spa reception, taken through to one holding room to another.  It was nice to have a tray of snacks, and lots of decent reading material.

A charming lady from down south, that is to say Latin America – of which Miami is increasingly becoming the capital – showed me through to the locker room.  A guy from the south-east, a Cuban called Abel, asked me to lie on the table, face down, and did I want lavender (no) or unscented (yes)?  His soothing 30-minute back massage got rid of all the knots.

Burrata at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Florida

Proscuitto-wrapped burrata, right, with pesto and a balanced crouton

But more than snacks are essential.  This hotel is not only for families but groups, like 45 percent of all room nights, and various dinners were being set up in interesting places, inside and out.  We dined in Cioppino, an Italian trattoria that had offered Catalan when I was last here, ten years ago tonight.

Happy anniversary – we celebrated with a rather nice Barola, Paolo Scavino Carobric 2000, suggested and decanted by sommelier Jorge who, like everyone else wearing a big, easy-read name-tag here, called me by name, correctly spelled..

The GM, Derek Flint, had been running Ritz-Carlton Beijing Financial Street and the owner of this luxury resort, here, stayed there, during the 2008 Olympics.  He was so impressed he said to Derek, I want you to come and run MY hotel.

So here he is – and his Hawaiian wife speaks Mandarin so she was able to go over to talk to a table of Chinese in the busy restaurant.   Derek found Cioppino’s chef, the divine Ezio Gamba, back in his hometown of Bergamo and boy can he cook – like a dream.  He sent out single ‘tempura’, zucchini flowers filled with a light cheese and battered.  Oh boy. The same eulogy went for his burrata, and, always a test of real Italian home cooking, pasta with fresh tomatoes, and herbs from the resort’s garden.

Marvellous marble, fabulous flowers (thanks to photographer Stefan)

A resort needs beauty, which for many requires acres of polished marble and lots of fresh flowers. It needs lovely people.  Here there are 600, who all call the GM by his first name, in the nicest way possible.  And he, in turns, seems to know all their names, and things about them, in the nicest way. Most of them live on the mainland, and the hotel pays the toll fee across the causeway.  Look after them, he says, and praise them when they go the extra mile.

A faux Winterhalter likeness of Empress Sissi

A good resort needs furniture that is comfortable (Hirsch Bedner did the interiors here), and things to look at. Here the art does turn Disney rather than Steve Wynn.  Unlike its sibling Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore, which has 4,200 pieces of art that include such names as Chagall and Stella and glass master Dale Chihuly, all real, and worth over eight million US.

Here the collection is faux, but nonetheless fascinating.  I pass a copy of Winterhalter’s portrait of Sissy, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, assassinated by an anarchist in 1898.  There is a card room-cum-library, and the gym is 24 hours.

As the Cinderella hour approaches, the main lobby rocks with a Cuban quartet

A resort also needs things for adults.  Were I with my man I might be tempted by a romantic dinner on the beach, or just to stay home, up in 1445 with its balconies, and views…  Many enjoy the Cuban quartet in Rhumbar, which has black and blue mojitos and Cuban cigars.  As it happens tonight there is the monthly jazz evening in the lobby.

The four-piece Groupo Nostalgia jive around, in white dinner jackets and bowties. Some of the audience have dressed for the part, with big red bows in their hair.  The main thing about a luxury resort is probably it has something for everyone, all the time.

And although here you seem miles away from the concrete that is much of downtown Miami, you are only 25 minutes from Miami International Airport and its splendid new Rental Car Center, easy to find, easy to use, great for everyone, all the time.