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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 Valley, St. Regis New York, St. Regis Bal Harbour, St. Regis Monarch Beach, St. 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.
I especially loved the garden along the hotel’s entrance, which was well maintained.
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).
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.
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
She pointed me towards the elevators, which were at the far end of the hallway and to the left.
On the sides of the hallway were quite a bit of lobby seating, with some cool circular windows.
The seating types were varied, from couches to high-top seating. Given that the hotel has 393 rooms, that seems reasonable.
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.
I took the elevator up to the sixth floor, where my room was located.
Upon exiting the elevator I turned left and walked to the end of the hallway. The hallway felt modern yet beachy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The room featured a king size bed with two night stands, which faced a flat screen TV.
Under the TV was a hybrid between a luggage rack and a mini-dresser.
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.
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.
There were also packs of instant coffee and teabags.
The bathroom was modern and functional, though not huge. It featured a sink, toilet, and a walk-in shower.
The water pressure and temperature control in the shower were excellent.
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.
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).
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.
There was comfy seating along the hallway.
There was also quite a bit of seating outside before the 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).
I had lunch there one day. The menu read as follows:
The fish tacos were incredible, and the service was great. I found the service throughout the property to be extremely genuine, for that matter.
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.
Past that was a walkway along the beach, which let out onto the 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.
Along the pool the hotel also has a game room, along with a ping pong table.
The functional gym is also nearby.
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?