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Last-Minute Art Basel Miami: Drama on Our Final Night

December 11, 2012 at 7:47 PM | by | ()

Our room at The Betsy

If you want to talk about high hotel rates, let's talk Art Basel Miami Beach. The annual contemporary art event—which encompasses several art fairs, art installations around the city, and a gajillion parties—brings in the big spenders and the struggling creatives alike for four days of fun in the sun.

The official days are Thursday-Sunday, December 6-9, but we've been in Miami all week hotel hopping, so we decided to throw caution to the wind for a little experiment: last-minute, day-of hotel reservations for what are the highest peak days in Miami's calendar. We're calling it "Operation Last Resort."

This is our final night of Operation Last Resort, after last-minute stays of the good (at The Dream) and the bad (at The Shelborne). The roller coaster only intensifies with some serious drama that all started with our decision to try another last-minute booking app: Jetsetter Now.

We initially embraced the introduction of Jetsetter Now, which was added in October as a new feature of the Jetsetter app. It essentially did what HotelTonight does—offer that-night rooms from an approved pool of properties, at discount rates—but Jetsetter Now would do it BLIND. Guests wouldn't see the name of the property they'd booked until after the non-refundable, non-cancellable sale was made. Yikes. Still, we threw caution to the wind in the name of Operation Last Resort.

Around 1pm Saturday, we checked the apps. Jetsetter Now was offering a "South Beach Classic" hotel for $263/night and a "South Beach Hip" for the same price. Meanwhile, HotelTonight had The Dream on sale for $259 that night. Wanting to try a new property, we double-checked we wouldn't end up at The Dream by scrolling through Jetsetter's regular hotels available that night. It showed The Dream was unavailable, but properties like the Ritz-Carlton, King & Grove The Tides, The Perry, Shore Club and the Mandarin Oriental were. All of those sounded good.

Alas, we booked that blind rate and our email confirmation not a minute later showed The Dream. WTF?! We called Jetsetter's help line, only to be told very nicely in many ways that there was nothing they could do. We called The Dream, who said they didn't even have the booking yet and could do nothing. Look, there's nothing wrong with The Dream other than their WiFI didn't function well enough to allow us to do the work we needed to do and we didn't want to spend another day hunting power outlets and sitting in a busy Starbucks on Lincoln Road. But we had places to go and people to see, so we let the issue be.

Returning to South Beach after an evening at the various Art Basel fairs, we headed down to The Dream. Walking in, the receptionist knew who we were right away (because we were the last guest to check in to a full hotel that night) and immediately apologized. She explained that something had happened with the rooftop, causing water to leak into some guestrooms and, since they were full-up, she'd have to move me to another nearby hotel "in the same category." She called a couple hotels, all of which were full as well, before securing a room a few blocks up at The Betsy.

A porter at The Dream walked us up to The Betsy, took care of that room (their going rate that night was $309 at The Betsy) and we were finally in a room by 11pm. There ends the drama.

At left: JetSetter Now. We booked the "South Beach Hip" choice for $263/night, and it ended up being The Dream. At right: the HotelTonight offers for the same night, which shows The Dream for $259

Having searched current Jetsetter.com sales for that night, we were comforted by seeing The Dream listed as unavailable. Guess it was a lie

What we liked (about The Betsy):
· The room was so comfortable, clean and well laid-out. Outlets were bedside and easily accessible, and overall it felt like staying in the guestroom of a well-to-do friend with good taste.
· The lobby was noisy with its BLT Steak restaurant and bar, but none of that drifted up to our 3rd floor room.
· Despite the cacophony, the lobby seemed a chill scene. Couples dressed to go out were seated with cocktails and actually playing board games. Obviously several straight days of Art Basel parties was catching up.
· The toiletries are Malin + Goetz. Love them!
· The TV cabinet included a variety of books to borrow while staying. Poolside reads!
· Speaking of poolside, though the hotel has a courtyard pool, their location at the top of Ocean Drive right on Miami Beach means it's a super-short walk to the sand.
· A rooftop space has an outdoor living room look, with chaise lounges facing the sun and the beach.
· The WiFI was fast and included with the $15 resort fee.
· Thoughtful bathroom design. The dials were located on the wall away from the showerhead, meaning you could turn on the shower without stepping in and getting soaked by cold water.

What wasn't so great (about The Betsy):
· That aforementioned courtyard pool is tiny and gets almost no sun, but they plush it up with very nice deck chairs and service.
· The bathroom is very small, with no tub.
· No breakfast included in the resort fee.

If you're in Miami as well (or any of the other multitude of international cities HotelTonight serves), download their free app, register here, and get to booking, as we'd no longer recommend Jetsetter Now.

[Photos: HotelChatter]

Archived Comments:

Hotel tonight saved us

We booked a total nightmare called Beach Paradise Hotel from Craigslist for $297 for two nights. We checked in and 10 minutes later we checked out, it was horrific. Yes Orbitz said they will charge us for one night, fine. We didn't even feel safe there.

So last minute at 4pm we are stranded on the sidewalk on Ocean Drive on beautifuo Miami Beach with our luggage and Hoteltonight comes to mind. Lucky enough we get AA $25 credit and pay total of $227 for two nights at The Richmond. I can't believe this is only $20 more.

Thank you Hoteltonght you saved our tiny two day vacation.

PS. If you like a $25 free credit please use my code AZOLGHADR it gives you instant $25 credit to use towards your next hotel stay and I think it gives me something as well.