Review: Royal Palm South Beach Miami, Tribute Portfolio Resort

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Full disclosure: This experience was in conjunction with the SPG Amex Stars program I’m participating in, courtesy of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. They covered the cost of my two stay at the Royal Palm South Beach Miami, which is a Tribute Portfolio Resort.

The Amex Stars Holiday Challenge

For the past several years I’ve been participating in the SPG Amex Stars program, which has taken me to some pretty awesome places. I love the SPG Amex, and it’s one of the cards I’ve had in my wallet for the longest amounts of time. It was one of the very first cards I applied for when I was 18, and I’ve had it ever since.

For the SPG Amex Holiday Challenge I was given 70,000 Starpoints to redeem for a two night hotel stay at a US SPG property of my choice during peak season.

I’ve stayed at many of the top SPG properties in the US, like the St. Regis Deer ValleySt. Regis New YorkSt. Regis Bal HarbourSt. Regis Monarch BeachSt. Regis San Francisco, etc. I wanted to mix things up, rather than staying at a hotel I’ve reviewed before.

I knew I’d be in Florida for the holidays, so I had an idea.

Starwood Tribute Portfolio

As many of you are probably aware, Tribute Portfolio was introduced in April 2015, and is Starwood’s newest fully integrated hotel brand (more recently they’ve added Design Hotels, though that’s just a marketing partnership as of now). The brand has the slogan “stay independent,” which is fitting since it’s essentially a collection of independent hotels which still belong to the Starwood portfolio. I love the concept of that, given that I love hotel loyalty programs but also love staying at unique properties.

The concept of an independent hotel belonging to a major hotel loyalty program really gives you the best of both worlds — you can earn points and get elite benefits without having to sacrifice a “local” experience. I think it’s worth noting that Tribute Portfolio is intended to be a bit more mid-range than Luxury Collection, which largely also consists of independent hotels under the Starwood umbrella.

Starwood’s first Tribute Portfolio property was the Royal Palm South Beach, which is a Category 5 Starwood property (making a free night redemption 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night).

I booked two nights there over Christmas, at the rate of 16,000 Starpoints per night. The paid rate was ~$350 per night plus tax, which is higher than usual (the hotel is generally in the $200s on weekends and high-$100s on weekdays). So given the nights it actually ended up being a good use of Starpoints, given that I value them at ~2.2 cents each.

So rather than booking the most expensive hotel possible, I figured I’d book one which makes a more interesting review. Since I “only” redeemed 32,000 Starpoints, I’ll have 38,000 Starpoints I can redeem towards other hotels or even airline mileage transfers, given how versatile Starpoints are.

Royal Palm South Beach Review

The Royal Palm is located on the southern part of Collins Avenue, which is a pretty unbeatable location, as it’s near great beaches, restaurants, shopping, etc.

The Royal Palm’s exterior stays true to Miami’s art deco style, especially the building the lobby is in, which is about five floors. The hotel has a few towers, though.

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami exterior

I especially loved the garden along the hotel’s entrance, which was well maintained.

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami driveway

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami entrance

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami exterior

Near the entrance was some outdoor seating on one side, and then bikes on the other (which are available first come first serve, and are included in the resort fee).

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami exterior seating

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami bikes

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Royal Palm South Beach Miami bikes

The hotel’s lobby is on the small side for a hotel of this size, though is charming. Again, I love how it’s unique and doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter hotel. There was lobby seating and the concierge on the left side, while the reception desk was located on the right side.

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

At check-in I was immediately helped by a friendly associate. While I arrived before standard check-in time, she managed to find me an available ocean view room. She also explained everything that was included with the $30 per night resort fee:

  • Complimentary bottle of water in your guest room
  • Beach Welcome basket to include bottled water and fresh fruit
  • Access to two beach chairs and towel service on the beach
  • Access to the 24-hour Fitness Center
  • Complimentary local and domestic long distance telephone calls
  • Spa discount of 15% (not valid with other offers)
  • Complimentary morning newspapers Monday – Friday

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Royal Palm South Beach reception desk

She pointed me towards the elevators, which were at the far end of the hallway and to the left.

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

On the sides of the hallway were quite a bit of lobby seating, with some cool circular windows.

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

The seating types were varied, from couches to high-top seating. Given that the hotel has 393 rooms, that seems reasonable.

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

The elevators were along the left wall, and I thought it was smart that they had some Tribute Portfolio branding, with the “Stay Independent” slogan written on the wall.

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Royal Palm South Beach elevators

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Royal Palm South Beach Tribute Portfolio branding

I took the elevator up to the sixth floor, where my room was located.

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Royal Palm South Beach elevators

Upon exiting the elevator I turned left and walked to the end of the hallway. The hallway felt modern yet beachy.

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Royal Palm South Beach hallway

The hotel really does have a quirky and eclectic design. You saw the picture of the hallway above, but then some walls have faux-wood, while others are painted with bright colors. I also loved the variably sized tiles on which the room numbers were written.

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Royal Palm South Beach room entrance

Because the hotel’s towers are basically perpendicular to the beach (which makes sense since they want to maximize beach real estate), there are only four ocean view rooms per floor.

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Royal Palm South Beach floorplan

The room was a decent size, and I quite liked the design. I do think it’s worth pointing out in no uncertain terms that Tribute Portfolio properties aren’t intended to be five stars. So the room decor isn’t like what you’d find in a St. Regis. Instead it’s more mid-range, so keep that in mind.

There was an entryway with a cool piece of art on the left wall, and then to the right was the bathroom with a sliding door.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room foyer

The room featured tiled floors. On one hand I don’t love hotel rooms with tiled floors, on the other hand that sort of makes sense for a beach hotel, given how dirty the carpet can otherwise get. As a germaphobe I even sort of appreciated it.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room

The room featured a king size bed with two night stands, which faced a flat screen TV.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room king bed

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room king bed

Under the TV was a hybrid between a luggage rack and a mini-dresser.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room TV

In the corner there was a couch along the wall and then a chair, along with a table. While in general the trend of not having desks in hotel rooms drives me bonkers, I thought this was a good use of space, because between the chair and table it was about as good as a desk. Besides, for a beach hotel it’s not quite as important as in a city hotel.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room sitting area

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room decorative pillows

On the right was a quirky unit which housed the fridge. There were no drinks in there, so you could use it for anything you brought along.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room mini-fridge

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room mini-fridge

There were also packs of instant coffee and teabags.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room coffee cups

The bathroom was modern and functional, though not huge. It featured a sink, toilet, and a walk-in shower.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room bathroom

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room shower

The water pressure and temperature control in the shower were excellent.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room shower

Interestingly the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash were mounted against the wall, which I’m not usually a fan of. At least the toiletries were a good brand — Gilchrist & Soames.

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room toiletries

The room also had a balcony with a nice view of the pool and beach. It was too small to have any real furniture, though it was nice to wake up in the morning and have such a cool ocean view (especially as the room faces east, meaning the sunrise views were incredible).

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room balcony

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room view from balcony

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room view from balcony

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Royal Palm South Beach oceanview room view from balcony

In terms of the hotel’s other facilities, the pool and beach were located on the ground level, to the left upon exiting the elevator.

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

There was comfy seating along the hallway.

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Royal Palm South Beach lobby

There was also quite a bit of seating outside before the pool.

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Royal Palm South Beach walkway to pool

The hotel’s restaurant, Florida Cookery, has a patio section outside, with seating both totally in the open and in a covered area (which makes sense, given the tendency for rain in the afternoons).

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Royal Palm South Beach Florida Cookery patio

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Royal Palm South Beach Florida Cookery Restaurant

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Royal Palm South Beach Florida Cookery patio

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Royal Palm South Beach Florida Cookery Restaurant

I had lunch there one day. The menu read as follows:

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The fish tacos were incredible, and the service was great. I found the service throughout the property to be extremely genuine, for that matter.

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Royal Palm South Beach Florida Cookery lunch — baja fish tacos

Past that was the pool, which was quite small given how many rooms the hotel has. It seemed to consistently be full, but then again the hotel was also at 100% occupancy over the holidays.

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Royal Palm South Beach pool

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Royal Palm South Beach pool

Past that was a walkway along the beach, which let out onto the beach.

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Royal Palm South Beach walkway to beach

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Royal Palm South Beach walkway to beach

If you’re a beach person you really can’t beat South Beach, so what can really be said? The Royal Palm is on a gorgeous strip of beach.

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Royal Palm beach access

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Royal Palm beach access

Along the pool the hotel also has a game room, along with a ping pong table.

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Royal Palm South Beach game room

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Royal Palm South Beach ping pong table

The functional gym is also nearby.

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Royal Palm South Beach gym

Bottom line

To be honest I had heard not-so-great things about the Royal Palm South Beach, though I was pleasantly surprised. I think the issue might partly be in people not having proper expectations coming into a stay here. Tribute Collection isn’t intended to be Luxury Collection or St. Regis. But it’s also generally not priced that high either.

This hotel is often less than half the cost of the W South Beach, and often a quarter the cost of the St. Regis Bal Harbour. So I do think the hotel represents an excellent value. The location is unbeatable.

This is a huge hotel and it’s probably not as hip as the W or as chic as the St. Regis. But it has a fantastic location, nice and clean rooms, and genuine and friendly service. I’m excited to see the Tribute Portfolio grow, because I love the ability to earn Starpoints and get elite benefits at hotels which are otherwise really unique.

Have you stayed at a Starwood Tribute Portfolio property yet? If so, how was your experience?

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Comments

  1. So you were “paid” to do this review? Maybe I am reading it wrong but I think I would trust the people on Tripadvisor/Yelp who are paying guests over someone being paid to review this product.

  2. $30/night “resort fee”? For $3 worth of water and fruit? Who uses in-room phones anymore? And the fitness center requires an additional charge?

    I find this egregious. At chain hotels where I have top tier and nearly everything would be free anyway, I always ask for such fees to be removed, and am nearly always accommodated. I have no problem paying for value. I do have a problem with being charged for something I either don’t need, don’t want, or otherwise would get for free.

  3. Wow!!! Very Ikea style. Nothing appealing other than the location. Charge a $30 resort fee is just plain ridiculous. It is like extortion.

  4. “Resort Fee” = No reservation.

    If they are willing to lie to me about their rates, or are trying to avoid taxes by “unbundling,” I will not stay at their property.

    (It almost seems like a required review for taking the points: almost like you went looking for the cheapest option you could find, to justify using the payment for something else. Not to your usual standard.)

  5. Wonder what is going to happen with the SPG Amex Stars program when Marriott takes over?

    And will Tribute Portfolio survive?

  6. @patrick, are you reading a different blog entry? Lucky sayz: “I booked two nights there over Christmas, at the rate of 16,000 Starpoints per night.” Last time I estimated that is valued at $400 per night.

    So, where did you come up with this assumption: “I would trust the people on Tripadvisor/Yelp who are paying guests over someone being paid to review this product.”

    You either reading it wrong or partially!

  7. When do we start gossiping about all the Starwood and Marriott brands, and which survive the merger?

    Plus Tribute, Design, Luxury Collection, and the Caesar’s partnership.

    So many brands to manage.

  8. @ Kalboz – at the very top, this what I see.

    Full disclosure: This experience was in conjunction with the SPG Amex Stars program I’m participating in, courtesy of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. They covered the cost of my two stay at the Royal Palm South Beach Miami, which is a Tribute Portfolio Resort.

  9. I had a decidedly different impression while staying here. Coincidentally, I think I stayed in the same room as you. While the room view was pretty unbeatable, the rest of the room, including the tile floors, lack of desk, and no individual bathroom amenities left a lot to be desired. Plus, I didn’t think service here was particularly that good, either. A link to my TripAdvisor review is included as a link with my username.

  10. Wow. The tan lady in the pink shorts in the picture of the hallway leading to the elevator looks beautiful, at least judging by her tan and, umm, butt. I hope her face is just as pretty as her rear end.

  11. While I get you’re trying to downplay expectations here this is a very, very weak hotel that is way, way overpriced. Maybe $150 but certainly nothing more than that. It doesn’t even look like an in-room coffeemaker is provided. What about breakfast? Or slippers? Or a robe?

    And what about the beach? You didn’t post any pictures of the towels or chairs that you are guaranteed with the resort fee.

    By the way, Gilchrist & Soames is a faux British brand that’s actually made in Indiana.

    One more thing. Do you get any SPG platinum benefits at a Tribute property?

  12. Good review. I stayed here for one night in June on a BRG. I had a room basically like yours (with no view).

    My biggest beef was that the beach service/basket started at noon, conveniently when check-out was, so there was no time to enjoy it. That was really disappointing. However, I did get two drinks with my resort fee as well.

  13. I stayed here the week after it converted over to Starwood, even before it was a “Tribute” property. The location was perfect, I enjoyed our suite (it included a separate small living room and dining table), and the service provided by the beach attendants was great. Otherwise, I was underwhelmed by the service and lack of status recognition, although some of that was likely due to the very recent switch to Starwood. I also thought the resort fee on top of extremely high parking rates was pretty crazy.

    I would probably return, but only after checking rates at the W and Aloft.

  14. I stayed here for one night in early December. There was a connecting room where at least 3 guys were staying and they were chatting and playing loud music until 1am, so it was impossible to sleep before then. The noise started again at 5am when they returned from partying. I liked the quirkiness and the location of the hotel, but you run the risk of having your sleep ruined! I couldn’t be bothered to complain about the noise since it was just one night, but certainly won’t stay there again.

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