Year and year again we return to sunny Miami and always stay at the Grove Isle. Away from the madness, yet close enough when we do feel 'wild', it is the perfect hideaway for young (and old) lovers. This year luck seemed on holiday, as we found no room availability when we called, yet Expedia saved us last minute and excited as ever we arrived around 7pm. Even though 3 porters where standing next to the entrance -busily chatting - not one opened our car doors or came to help to unload the trunk. Well, maybe they had an important matter to discuss.
After struggling to lift our luggage out of the car I then tried to push my 2 suitcases up the ramp (it did not work well) when finally one of the porters spotted me and offered help. Ah, but the soothing singsong of tropical birds, the swaying palms, the gentle sea breeze playing with my hair, who cares about inattentive porters. The receptionist checked us in smoothly and swiftly while I leaned on a way too sticky counter-top. Oddly enough we got the same room as every year. Overlooking the bay and the fire pitch, I could take joy from my balcony view for ever. The room is just as I remembered it, only the mini bar seems to be missing.
While I jump into the shower hubby sets up his work station, laptop, i-pad and all those other technical gadgets he cannot live without. But next hiccup is already waiting - no internet for my busy businessman. Oh no, that will be a fight! After 3 visits from the specialists and lots of excited phone calls we finally make our way to dinner, too hungry and too sleepy to argue (no internet though). We take a table outside, fresh but summery, dimly lit and very romantic. The place is almost empty, but of course it is a Monday night. After 12h of flying we opt for some light starters and simple pasta. Not on the menu, yet the kitchen agrees to make it specially for us. Our waiter (funny and good spirited) however seems to be clueless and when we asked for some Parmesan he brought us a whole piece and left it on the table! (without a grater, knife or shaving devise)
Back in our room, I am happy that even my husband gets tired, so no more internet battle for tonight. But sharply at 6, before sun and birds get moving he is back on his machines and again, no connection. This time he decides to march down to reception , to look into the matter himself and surely enough an hour later we are online. No idea what happened, as long I have his smile back.
Time for a morning swim we decide and pay a visit to the pool. Looking for some towels we find nothing and nobody. There surely used to be towels all the years before, always ready for early water-babies. It takes us about 20mintues before we finally get them, but by now our mood has already dropped, as the area looks rather rundown and dirty. There are used towels and broken toys, reminders of the previous day, but still not cleaned by next morning? The pool does not seem to circulate and the heat exchange has been turned off, so the water is freezing. (We take a naughty dip in the neighbor's pool, clean and warm, just as we remember it from the Grove Isle) Ok, swimming this trip around will be a no-no and already I am upset for not having opted for The Ritz.
Breakfast instead! The hostess, dressed totally out of place for morning hour (what happened to elegant uniforms that fit the style of the hotel?) takes us to a lovely table outside, fresh fruit and yogurt, but no freshly squeezed juices to be found. 'Policy of the hotel.' I decide to fill up at Whole foods and take home-made breakfast on our balcony for the rest of the stay.(there is no option for organic milk or additive free yogurt at the hotel) My charming husband even manages to get a fridge back into the room. Luxury at last. (I believe a minibar is standard at a 5* resort)
My Jetlag haze has faded now and I start observing the crumbling signs of neglect. Our bathroom cupboard does not close and there is some sort of black yuck growing inside. The balcony doors are rotting and in need of a serious clean up and paint job. The moody elevator (sometimes the doors don't want to close) looks very worn, screws are missing, a sign is ready to fall and the windows are beyond filthy. The furniture cushions are stained and have burn holes, the lounge chairs at the balcony are in a terrible state (one does not sit on them without a protective layer) and not all lights work. The overall feeling of the hotel could be called: sticky, tired, unclean and sad. Yet, the land around the property is pristinely manicured and as beautiful as ever. I spot our waiter from last night mopping the floor, no wonder he didn't know about Parmesan...Maybe they really had to cut back on staff? But at a 5 star cutbacks can be an issue. Later that day my husband needs his suit pressed so I try sending it right away. But to my surprise there is no in-house pressing, so I am advised that it would take 24h. 24h? Shocked I end up ironing his suit myself. This much for service culture. Another night we watch an enraged guest jumping from the dinner table, screaming for everyone to be fired. He later apologizes to us and explains that he has come here for 15years and has never seen this place in such a mess. We of course agreed. Internet kept being an issue throughout our stay to the point that the receptionist would hide when my husband entered. One of my husband's business conferences (skype) had to be canceled and was done over the hotel's land-line, of course for a fee. Another time when we could not connect he needed a paper printed and asked the receptionist for help, since the hotel staff did have connectivity. The girl advised us rather snobbishly that she is doing us a favor!!!
Friday we went out for a lovely dinner and decided to head straight back to the hotel to enjoy a nightcap by the fire. But when we returned by 11.30, the restaurant and bar where already shut and of course no more room service available and since mini bars had been removed, no drinks to be found anywhere. That's something I have never experienced, not even at Ramadan in the Arab world. So we joined an already thirsty(and hungry) crowd by the fire, who just had ordered cheap pizza and beers from outside and we spend some romantic moments dreaming of porto and complaining about the Grove Isle. (It baffles me not to offer drinks or room service, after all that's where the money is made) Our stay otherwise was pleasant enough. I 'befriended' the German Chef and my dinners became simple and delightful.
But would we come back next year? Honestly, most likely not. No pool, no internet, no ironing service, no drinks after 11pm... it is not the usual 5-star standard anymore. Unless of course, the management will be changed and some serious amount of TLC invested into a place I once called Paradise. It would be a big mistake and shame to let such beauty go to waste.
PS: I contacted the manager Mister Levin to meet in person and to point out some rather concerning problems. He kindly replied to my email that he will be at my disposal the next day, but he then disappeared from sight. Shame. But I guess this kind of 'caring attitude' got the poor hotel where it is today. Very very sad Mr. Levin. Try treating your job and 'your' hotel with a little TLC. You might be astonished by the rewards you can feel.
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