This guest trip report was written by Gunes, who sailed the Disney Magic December 24, 2017, through December 29, 2017. You can see photos from her Very Merrytime cruise on Instagram by following @fotogenicrichmond. You can also read her stateroom review here (a concierge 1 bedroom suite!), her excursion review of the Cozumel Dolphin discovery here, and her review of cabana #20 on Castaway Cay here.
To say that I was ecstatic with joy to board our JetBlue flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on December 22, 2017, is an understatement. In two days, we would be back on a Disney cruise ship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since we knew what it was like to cruise with Disney, the anticipation of our trip was HUGE!
But, let me back up a little bit…we first cruised with Disney on the Dream on December 26, 2016. Within a week of our return, I had booked our next cruise because we had such a fantastic time. To have to wait almost a full year was excruciating (so, we decided to travel to Orlando for a week at Walt Disney World in March 2017 – Disney withdrawal: it’s a thing, and the only remedy is to see Mickey!).
Fast forward to December 22, 2017: our day of travel had finally arrived. We live in Richmond, Virginia, so I had booked a direct flight via JetBlue to Ft. Lauderdale for our cruise out of Miami. We were booked to stay two nights at the Four Seasons Miami Hotel. Then, we would board the ship on Christmas Eve.
Our flight was around 10:00 in the morning and about two hours and 15 minutes long. JetBlue makes traveling with kids easy – live satellite TV at every seat! I watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation during the flight, so JetBlue’s in-flight entertainment is great for adults as well!
Upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, we ate lunch at the airport, as it was around 12:30pm. We then took the rental car shuttle bus (there is one bus for all the major rental car companies) to the rental car center. The rental car center is located in a parking deck within the airport facility. I am a member of the Emerald Club through National Rental Car, so we did not have to wait in line to get our car. We just walked right over to the Emerald Aisle and picked out our car, a Chevy Malibu. I was surprised to see how fully equipped the vehicle was: it had a touchscreen tablet and a large, stunning sunroof.
We always travel with a high-back booster seat for my son, so once we installed it into the car and got our luggage situated, we left the rental facility. It’s a 45-minute drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami on I-95 South. There was (and apparently usually is) a TON of traffic on I-95 (otherwise the trip only would take 25 minutes).
The Four Seasons Miami was very easy to find. It is located in downtown Miami on Brickell Avenue in an area that is filled with high-rise buildings. There are a lot of hotels, businesses, embassies, restaurants, and residential condos in the area. I always do a lot of research regarding hotels, and the Four Seasons was very highly rated on Tripadvisor. In addition to the high rating, I picked the hotel based on its prime location (only a 10-minute drive to the cruise terminal) and the fantastic experiences we have had with Four Seasons hotels in others locations (i.e., Baltimore and Orlando). The Four Seasons Miami did not disappoint! I wrote a detailed Tripadvisor review, but I will provide a high-level overview here as well.
When we pulled into the hotel entrance, the valet and bellman immediately opened our car doors and helped us out. The bellman put all our luggage on a cart (I love this kind of service!) and said that the luggage would be brought up directly to our room. I’m not sure whether the hotel has a self-park option, but I didn’t care – using the valet rocks when I’m on vacation!
The lobby of the hotel is located on the seventh floor of a mixed-use office and residential building. We took the elevator to the seventh floor and were warmly welcomed at the front desk. My favorite thing about the Four Seasons brand is how much they cater to families and the superior level of service. Both of those things were highly evident at check-in: the man at the front desk immediately offered us bottled waters and, after checking us in, hauled out a wagon full of toys for my son to pick out a free gift!
I booked the hotel through my amazing travel agent, Beryl DeCarion with Connoisseur Travel. Connoisseur Travel has developed fantastic partnerships with all the major luxury hotel brands of the world, including the Four Seasons and its “Preferred Partner” program. When I book a hotel through Beryl, I get special perks, like free breakfast, food or spa credits, and complimentary room upgrades. I absolutely love working with Beryl to plan my trips!
We scored a room upgrade with the Four Seasons Miami (thanks, Beryl!). Our spacious suite was located on the 27th floor, and it had a gorgeous view of Biscayne Bay. Here is a photo, showing our view, which includes an amazing pool area on the seventh-floor terrace:
Our luggage arrived within minutes, and housekeeping set up the sleep sofa for my son (and even had bed rails for him). After relaxing in the room a little bit, we decided to head out and eat an early dinner. A friend had recommended Perricone’s, which turned out to be a fantastic Italian restaurant. We had to walk five blocks or so to get there (it actually was half a mile – city blocks in Miami are big!).
The food was absolutely delicious! They brought out some bread and what I call “Italian salsa” (chopped tomatoes in olive oil, topped with basil). We gobbled that right up! I had a very good Caesar salad. The waiter was great about accommodating our son and bringing out some plain penne pasta with tomato sauce on the side. We requested that it be brought out quickly (my boy was hungry!), and the food indeed came out fast. For entrees, my husband got the penne pomodoro, while I got the best gnocchi I’ve tasted! It was served with “coral pink” sauce, which appeared to be a rich, creamy tomato sauce.
After our scrumptious dinner, we decided to stop by a CVS that we saw on the way back to our hotel. We picked up a few snacks for the next day and to bring on the cruise ship. Once back in our hotel room, we called it a night and started getting ready for bed, as we were exhausted.
For the next day, our plan was to relax at the hotel. We started out with room service breakfast. My son and I shared some delicious buttermilk pancakes, fruit, and toast, while my husband had a yummy egg white frittata. After breakfast, my husband went to the gym, while my son and I hung out in the room.
The whopping 50,000 square foot Equinox gym at the Four Seasons Miami is located on the fourth floor and is actually independently owned and operated (but Four Seasons guests have free access). After my husband returned from his work-out, I took my turn at this amazing gym. For better or worse, this appeared to be a place where all the “beautiful” people of Miami exercised and got more beautiful. So, if you’re not a regular gym person, then you might be intimidated by all these incredibly fit people around you. I didn’t really care, as I was trying my best to counter all the calories that I soon would be consuming on our cruise!
Once my husband and I were showered after our respective work-out sessions, we decided to order room service lunch. Once again, the Four Seasons did not disappoint with their cuisine: (1) my husband got a very fresh and amazing salad with chicken, (2) my son got chicken tenders, French fries, AND a margherita pizza, and (3) I just ate whatever my son didn’t eat.
After lunch, we changed into our swim wear and headed down to the pool area. We were greeted by a pool attendant, who asked if we wanted a cabana. I asked if there was a charge, and she said no. Well, yes, OF COURSE, we want a cabana!!!!
And, so, this was my view for the afternoon from inside of the cabana:
There are three pools for guests to use: the main pool (which has a lot of pool toys for the kids), the palm grove pool (with knee-high deep water and hammocks hanging between palm trees!), and a kiddie pool. The main pool was heated, but the palm grove pool was not. When my son and I tried to get in a hammock together, I realized just how cold the water was as our hammock sank into the water! It was about 75 degrees that day, but if it were the middle of summer, that water would have felt awesome, and I would have been lounging around like this:
As I mentioned before, the Four Seasons always has an amazing level of service. Pool attendants would regularly come by to see if we needed food or drinks. For food, they even can make you fresh guacamole while you watch:
I need a sombrero like that!
I absolutely loved the Four Seasons’ pool scene in Miami, which is actually pretty consistent with what I’ve seen at their Orlando resort: the atmosphere was very family friendly (not typical, crazytown Miami with risqué bathing apparel), the staff was super (genuinely) nice, and there was a surprising lack of snobbiness/stuffiness. I could have hung out in my peaceful cabana for a whole week!
But, we were going on a Disney cruise the next day! So, after a few hours at the pool, we decided to go back to the room and then order some more room service (yay!) for dinner. (Can you tell that we love room service??? Admittedly, it is highly convenient when you have a young child.) If you order before 6:00pm, you can get food from Bahia, one of the hotel’s restaurants, which is in the pool area and only serves lunch for the day. Bahia offers Latin cuisine, which we love. My son got a quesadilla, I got mojo roasted chicken chilaquiles, and my husband got the Bahia burrito bowl with mojo chicken. We also got chips and salsa, but the salsas were quite fancy: “Juan’s salsa verde,” roasted morita chile pipián, and guacamole. Everything was DELICIOUS!
We were very happy with our relaxing day at the Four Seasons Miami and were super-excited about the next day: cruise embarkation day!