If you're not familiar with this new long-delayed development (signage out front still says "opening 2008"), the short story is this: two Deco buildings, The Tudor and Palmer House, are being transformed into a SoBe version of the Dream Hotels already in New York, Bangkok and Cochin, India. Since the Palmer House side was finished first, it opened 'early'--and the latest word is that the Dream will open in its entirety in late 2010 or early 2011.
We encountered some strong support for Dream South Beach last time we cluck-clucked about the lack of progress at the site but we can now say that construction is very much in full swing on the Tudor buildings. We know because the noise woke us up around 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
But how does Palmer House rate in its current state? Let's take a look …
Check-In: We arrived around 1:30 p.m. but our rate had included an early check-in and a room was ready. We immediately recognized the Dream design aesthetic in the black and silver ottomans in the lobby. Check-in was quick and friendly--our agent told us that the rate also included Free WiFi and a late check-out. We could ask for beach towels and chairs at the front desk, and staff would be happy to suggest local restaurants for dinner since the hotel doesn't have one until the full Dream is realized.
All signage down to the room keys says Palmer House, by the way. We saw nor heard not one mention of 'Dream' during our stay.
Room Reaction: We were in Room 104, so no stairs or elevator necessary--we were a short walk up the black-carpeted hallway behind the lobby. Our first reaction when we opened the guest-room door was: "Can't see, where is the light switch?"
But pressing those blue-lit buttons we complained about the other day only made the spaces on each side of the entryway--the toilet and sink on one side, shower and closet on the other--light up one after the other. Pressing the "WC" button again turned on the fan, and there were separate buttons to light up the mirror or to make the small toilet area a place where you could actually see what you were doing.
We thought this entryway/bathroom configuration was a good use of small space--they are tucked away behind dark glass--but it's really only built for one.
These doors were closed when we first arrived, and were a little heavy to open. But look what they revealed! A room that looks exactly like the rendering from the hotel website! That almost never happens.
We had similar issues with the lighting controls in the bedroom--but by the following morning had studied the icons on each button enough to know which light each one was in charge of. Maybe words would be simpler?
The room is small and darkish, which may not be everyone's idea of a beach hotel. There is no natural light (at least in room 104) and a peek through the blind behind the behead and window bars displayed a view of a construction workshop and slice of the terrace between the Palmer and Tudor buildings.
The bed was low but comfortable, and the seat with sliding side table at the end of it was a nice, functional piece of design.
At first we felt like were in an Arabian lair as imagined by Disney but the decor grew on us overnight.
Amenity Madness: A standard small mini-bar, large flat-screen TV, and iHome dock in the bedroom. Occean by Science et Mer bath amenities on the sink. As Palmer House, the hotel has no restaurant or room service but when it transforms into Dream, it will be home to a Geoffrey Zakarian restaurant, Chopra Spa and a rooftop lounge with a pool.
Internet Connect: We booked a Summer Sale rate, which included Free WiFi. When we logged on in our room, we got--and ignored--the screen telling us that 24-hour access was $9.95. Upon check-out, this charge did show up on our bill, but we reminded the agent that it should have been in the rate, she verified that it was and removed the charge. The WiFi signal was strong and speedy.
What We Liked: The friendly staff and cool but minimalist design of the lobby and hallways. The smart use of space in the room design, the location right in the heart of South Beach--11th Street and Collins Ave--and the price.
What We Didn't Like: Working too hard to do something as simple as turn on a light. We're all for new technology but it has to be user-friendly. The noise from construction on the second building across the way. Oh, and peekaboo bathroom alert!
The fact that the toilet is behind dark-but-sheer glass. If you want privacy, however, you could close the fancy double white doors that separate the bedroom and everything located in the entryway.
Bottom Line: We paid $109.16 (including tax) for one night in a King Room with early check-in, late check-out and free WiFi. This was a paid-in-advance/nonrefundable rate.