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Last-Minute Art Basel Miami: Two Nights of Regret at The Shelborne

December 10, 2012 at 6:51 PM | by | ()

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."

Day two of Operation Last Resort, or really it's days two and three since we booked two nights at this next property. Sadly, all last-minute stories can't be as great as Day One, and ours is a cautionary tale.

Again using the HotelTonight app, we went for two nights at Miami Beach's The Shelborne for $428, plus tax totaling $484. Now add two days of $25 resort fees and the real total is actually $534. Believe it or not, this was actually the cheapest option for these dates. ACK-Art Basel!

Checking in at night, we learned the hotel was full-up and thus they'd stuck us in a suite. Now let us add quotation marks around "suite" because, um, we would rather go back to the bunk-bed hostel where we'd spent our first few nights in Miami Beach. The Shelborne's suite had last been furnished in the early 1990s, the dining chairs were broken, the mattress was so old you could feel the springs, the tables were scratched and water-damaged, the art was like that of a greasy strip mall generic Asian restaurant, the floors felt so dusty we were relieved to have brought slippers from our last hotel, and the power outlet actually shocked us as we tried to plug in our phone charger. Firetrap much?

This was decidedly not the room pictured on all The Shelborne's materials. We headed down to reception to politely explore our options. Oh, guess what? We had no options! It was explained to us that only about 50 of the hotel's 200 rooms are renovated and they were given to guests booking through the hotel itself. In other words, booking The Shelborne with a third-party site like HotelTonight or Expedia or Hotels.com or anything like that would nearly guarantee getting stuck in "the hotel room time forgot." Hmm. Interesting. No wonder our friend, who had stayed here for one desperate pre-flight night in the past, warned us that The Shelborne was a bit "bare bones." Needless to say, we'll explore all this further later this week.

How it looks

How it's supposed to look

What we liked:
· Location location location! Next to The Raleigh, SLS and The Delano we couldn't have asked for better to get to late-night parties.
· Continental breakfast is part of the resort fee, which isn't offered at even pricier SoBe hotels.
· The pool area gets lots of sun and the on-beach location is a bonus
· The WiFI was included with the resort fee and it actually worked.

What wasn't so great:
· False advertising. The fresh, modern room pictured on The Shelborne's website and in the HotelTonight listing wasn't the one we got (nor is it available to guests booking via third party sites, apparently).
· The room decor and maintenance. Lord jesus this place needs help.
· $25 per day resort fee adds up too quickly and is pricier than other SoBe hotel resort fees. Makes the cheap room rate not worth it.
· Mixed signals. We tried both days to be moved to another room and one receptionist told us to try back the next morning, at which time another receptionist told us it would be $100 extra (to move from our "suite" to an updated basic room?) but they couldn't do it anyway.
· It took us 20 minutes to get a towel on the beach as they had just run out. Then, back at the pool, we couldn't get a towel at all because the machine had just broke (they only have one towel washer & dryer?).
· The elevators broke on our final day.
· Sister property The Gale just opened and its guests have access to The Shelborne's beach chairs. It's no wonder we had to walk around their patch of sand a couple times before finding a free chair.

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 (just not this property).

We bought two nights in between these times, with an average $199/night price

[Photos: HotelChatter]

Archived Comments:

$25 resort fee?

I didn't think that was common for Sobe. I mean, the Fontainebleau has a resort fee but I wasn't aware the Shelbourne did. Oh well, maybe when it turns into a Wyndham they will get rid of it. Hah, probably not!

Also, it's clear now

that third-party booking sites DO get the undesirable rooms at the hotel.

Did not look like above

Just finished staying here and booked through hotel tonight, our room was great for basel, must have got one of the new rooms. My rooms definitely didn't look like above. I heard they are going to be renovating all and bring in some new cool stuff, excited to see what is going to happen. lets see...

From the Parent Menin Hotels Website