South Florida’s warm climate is especially enticing during the winter months, so I was greatly appreciative of the opportunity to participate in a press trip to three of the area’s top resorts during December 2016. While all three are part of Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network and place a strong emphasis on meetings and events, each had its own distinctive character and design.
A Tranquil Oasis
Our first destination was the Turnberry Isle Miami. This 300-acre resort offers a tranquil oasis right in the center of a bustling city and is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a group of unique boutique hotels around the world, each chosen for its founder’s passion, the thoughtfulness of its design, its inherent craft, and its connection with the locale.
Shortly after arriving, I visited the recently-renovated Am’e Spa and fitness center. A beautiful facility, the spa has three floors connected by a grand spiral staircase, which is full of natural light from the 40-foot curved glass floor-to-ceiling windows. Prior to my treatment, I was given a tour by one of the Spa Experience Coordinators. In addition to a wide range of spa treatments, the center has a 3,650-square-foot fitness studio with Life Fitness strength, conditioning and cardio equipment. Additionally, an indoor cycling studio utilizes top-of-the-line Schwinn bikes, plus two Tour de France bikes.
Having traveled a good part of the day, I was most interested in the cleansing and relaxation provided by the steam room and the Himalayan Salt and Infrared Therapy Suite, which helps treat respiratory and skin conditions. In addition, I enjoyed a wonderful facial and learned about products suitable to my skin type.
I later joined my group for a fun evening that started with drinks and hors d’oeuvres at Bourbon Steak, managed by James Beard award-winning chef Michael Mina and specializing in all-natural, organic and hormone-free cuts of beef. We then moved to CORSAIR kitchen & bar, which offers contemporary fresh cuisine. A warm night allowed us to dine on the outdoor patio overlooking scenic tropical gardens and the resort’s championship golf courses. We enjoyed a delicious – “Pair Your Fare” dinner. Gordon Maybury, the resort’s culinary director, and Elise Cordell, brand account manager with Champagne for Pernod Ricard USA, led the group through a six-course meal, each course paired with a special variety of Perrier Jouet Champagne. To make the event even more special, we were treated to a “Moon Over Miami,” when the full moon made an appearance over the coastal city.
Gathering in the Turnberry Presidential Suite, an elegant space for a small reception or meeting, with sweeping views of the property, we enjoyed a brunch-type breakfast, giving us a sampling of the types of dishes a group might choose from to start the day. A tour of the property started with a walk through the extensive Chef’s Garden, which winds through a large lawn area and includes fruit trees, vegetables and herbs that are used by the resort’s restaurants.
On this spacious property, the resort’s guest rooms are divided into four sections, which allows families to be located in an area near the large lagoon pool, tennis center and Turnberry Kids Club, while meeting groups can be situated nearer to the 40,000-square-foot Conference Center, which has 20 meeting rooms, many offering natural lighting, and a private terrace. It also features a separate entrance and a fully automated registration area for private conference check-in. Additionally, the quieter Cascata Pool and Onyx Bar are near the meeting space.
At mid-morning, we said goodbye to our on-site hosts. Many thanks to Jeff Klein, vice president and managing director, Michelle Shulman, director of marketing & public relations, Luis Echezabal, director of international & leisure sales and the rest of the wonderful staff at the Turnberry Isle Miami!
A Refreshing Oceanfront Meeting Site
Heading a short distance north, we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, where we were greeted by Sandy, the resort’s Doggie Ambassador, who was very cooperative about having pictures taken.
Stepping into the spacious lobby, which has cozy seating areas and work stations as well as large windows overlooking the beach, we had our first grand view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Our lunch at Sea Level, one of five on-site restaurants, offered views of the pool area, the beach and ocean beyond, as well as a great sampling of seafood specialties. (I loved the salmon burgers). The 16-acre property, which has a quarter mile of oceanfront, offering one of the largest private beaches in south Florida, places an emphasis on protecting the sea turtles that nest there from March through October.
During a property tour, we checked out the 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, which can be accessed via a separate convention entrance. Many of these spaces offer beautiful beach views, including the Oceanfront Ballroom with its floor-to-ceiling windows. There are 650 guest rooms at the resort, including 31 suites. I was fortunate to have a room with an ocean view; the resort includes both ocean-view and pool-view rooms.
As might be expected, recreation is an important aspect of this property. In addition to the large lagoon pool area, the resort offers facilities for beach volleyball, sail boat and jet ski rentals, cabana rentals and a beach bar. There are also tennis courts, a basketball court and lots of options for kids, including the Surf Club, an activity center for kids from five to 12.
A favorite activity of mine was the 22,000-square-foot Spa, where I received one of their signature treatments and enjoyed the chance to relax and unwind during the afternoon. We also had a chance to make our own individualized sea scrub, choosing one element in four categories (mine started with a base of Himalayan Salt, an add-in of Wild Yam Root Powder, some coconut oil and green tea. It felt – and smelled – great!)
Our evening started with a Mixology Course at the bar in 3030 Ocean. We learned how to make two special cocktails before heading into the upscale restaurant to enjoy dinner overlooking the beach, which ended with a Bourbon tasting and dessert. For after-dinner gatherings, the restaurant opens onto a large terrace, filled with comfy seating areas and fire pits, allowing guest to enjoy the ocean breezes in the evening.
Many thanks to our great property hosts, Christopher Bielski, director of sales & marketing,
Karen Chastain, general manager, JC Robert, resident manager, Frank Garcia, spa director,
Andreia Amyradakis, destination sales executive, Pam Cook, director of membership (and Sandy’s handler) and, of course, Sandy, doggie ambassador!
An Island Get-Away
After traveling across Alligator Alley, we arrived at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort (formerly the Marco Island Marriott). Our first order of business was a catered lunch in the Presidential Suite, where we had amazing views of the beach from the 11th floor and could also see the new conference space that is being created in a separate wing of the resort.
This 726-room resort, just 20 miles south of Naples, is the first beachfront resort to become a JW Marriott luxury property. An extensive $320 million renovation, which started in 2015, expanded the pool decks, refurbished the lobby and created a grand new front entrance. The second phase, completed in December 2016, transformed the guest rooms and added two signature restaurants; Ario and Maia, as well as Kane, a beachfront Tiki bar and restaurant. In the fall of 2017, a new 94-room, adults-only tower, with a rooftop pool, restaurant and 12,000-square-foot entertainment center, will open. This will bring the total meeting and event space on the property to 100,000 square feet and total number of guest rooms to 810.
Lunch was followed by a Wave Runner Tour, an excursion that took us into the heart of the area’s ecosystem and gave us an opportunity to see wildlife up close as well as enjoy the thrill of speeding across the gulf and into isolated back bays. For other forms of recreation, the resort has four pools and two championship golf courses.
Upon returning to the resort, we toured the Spa by JW, where we visited the scrub bar and had a special body scrub made according to our preferences. Also, there were chair massages and mini-treatments, which are sometimes offered to small groups.
Later, as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico, we gathered at Kane, where we tasted some of the rums made in the area and enjoyed a fire dance performance. Dinner took place in Ario, where we used one of the private dining spaces and were served special chef selections with wine pairings. Gerald Sombright, Chef de Cuisine for the restaurant, guided us through the meal with details about both food and drink. Fish-grilling classes, rum tastings and private dinners along the shoreline are all options for groups, according to Sombright.
It was hard to think about heading home on the final morning, as I looked out over the beach and enjoyed the brunch at Maia, which featured locally-crafted dishes. There were winter storms disrupting many parts of the country, but on this gorgeous island it was sunny and nearly 80 degrees. Not bad for mid-December – or any time of the year!
#Paradise #MarcoMarriott #MarcoIsland
Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network
Throughout our journey, we were in the good hands of Todd Sherstad, director of Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network (CRN), and Amy Oakley, CRN senior marketing manager. The CRN is a special collection of 62 of the largest convention hotels across the Americas. Florida has the most properties in this designation (10).
#MarriottCRN #MeetingsImagined #Eventprofs
By Marcia Bradford, Senior Editor, ConventionSouth Magazine