07/12/2011

New life for old Grand Bay?

Coconut Grove's dilapidated Grand Bay hotel, which has been closed since 2008, has a new owner.

An affiliate of developer Terra Group bought the property for $24 million. Plans for the site, once home to Miami's only five-star hotel, are still up in the air.

Read more in our story here.

07/11/2011

Spirit Airlines: No frills, no apologies

Spiritphoto 

Just about everyone has an opinion on Spirit Airlines, the Miramar-based "ultra low cost carrier" that advertises rock-bottom fares and adds plenty of fees.

Frequent fliers (and even non-fliers) agree: They're the best deal around. But customers get what pay for, and in Spirit's case that means few of amenities that other airlines provide for free.

Go here to read our story today about Spirit's business model, growth strategy and whether or not you can expect to pay for the privilege of using the bathroom in the air.

06/30/2011

Hotels loading guests up with extras

After a strong winter and spring travel season, South Florida hotels aren't eager to give up the gains they've made in room rates over the last couple of years. Which explains why so many summer specials are highlighting extras such as resort credits, room upgrades and free parking (a legitimate bargain, considering the cost of valet here).

Read today's story for more on the way hotels are trying to draw price-conscious travelers without slashing prices.

 

 

06/28/2011

What's the price for less airport hassle?

Frequent travelers would be willing to pay and submit to a background check for access to a program that gave them an easier time going through security at the airport, according to a new survey.

In the survey, more than 1,000 adults were asked how likely they were to enroll in a program for "trusted travelers" that would grant U.S. citizens expedited security screening if they paid a fee between $100 and $150 and allowed their background to be checked.

While fewer than half of all travelers -- 45 percent -- said they were very or somewhat likely to enroll, 61 percent of frequent leisure travelers and 75 percent of frequent business travelers leaned toward signing up.

The survey was commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, a travel industry trade group that is pushing for such a program.

06/24/2011

New hotel rescues wedding for bride and groom

 
A bride and groom in distress, seeking a place to wed after being scammed out of their money and a venue. A new South Beach hotel revving up for its grand opening.

Sound like a match made in heaven?

For Esti Montañez and Ryan Brooks -- and Hotel Breakwater -- it was.Breakwater

The San Francisco couple found a vacation rental home in Miami Beach online to host their wedding and family members. They sent caterers and friends over to check it out, and the bride even went by on a trip to Miami.

But when they showed up this week, the broker who arranged the rental was gone. And so was their $6,300. The home's owner claimed he didn't know anything about a wedding.

Montañez and Brooks spent the next few days trying to find another site before deciding to accept a family friend's offer to host the event at home.

A TV news station ran a story on their plight Thursday night, which just happened to catch the attention of someone who works at Hotel Breakwater, a hotel at 940 Ocean Dr. that is pitching itself as a prime beachfront wedding option.

When employees at the hotel heard about the story from their co-worker, they decided to make an offer to the bride and groom on Friday.

A spokeswoman tells us the hotel will host the ceremony on a rooftop lounge, offer up the bridal suite for free and give out-of-town guests a special rate. The reception will be held at the nearby Art Deco Welcome Center.

Late Friday afternoon, Montañez said she was still overwhelmed.

"We just planned a whole wedding in half an hour," she said.

06/23/2011

PR shakeup at Carnival

Tim Gallagher, who oversaw the public relations department for the world’s largest cruise ship company, has left Carnival in a "reorganization," the company said.

Wednesday was the last day on the job for Gallagher, who was vice president of public relations. That position has been eliminated.

Jennifer de la Cruz, formerly public relations director, has been promoted to senior director and will head the public relations group.

In a statement, Carnival Cruise Lines chief marketing officer Jim Berra said Gallagher would be pursuing other opportunities. Details were not available Thursday.

"I know I speak for the entire organization in thanking Tim for his leadership and contributions in helping to build the Carnival brand," Berra said.

06/15/2011

Two Art Deco hotels change hands

Two boutique Art Deco hotels, the Winter Haven and the Blue Moon, have been sold to a Maryland-based hotel company for a total of $26.5 million.

The sale of the 71-room Winter Haven Hotel at 1400 Ocean Dr. and the 75-room Blue Moon Hotel at 944 Collins Ave. closed Tuesday, said Express Florida Realty president Pieter Bakker, who brokered the deal.

Paladin Realty Partners, a California real estate investment trust, sold the properties to Urgo Hotels, headquartered in Bethesda, Md. The company has ownership interests in or operate hotels within the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, including several Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn properties.

The South Beach hotels are both historic. The Winter Haven opened in 1939. And the Blue Moon, made up of two buildings that were once known as the Lafayette and Les Suites hotels, was owned at one time by TV talk show host Merv Griffin.

06/13/2011

One flight starts, another one ends

Low-cost airlines operating out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport had news recently which boiled down to this: Savannah's out. San Salvador's in.

Allegiant Air is ending service to Savannah, Ga. due to "lack of market demand." Flights between the two destinations started in November. The last day of service is July 24.

Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines on Monday started service to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. The Central American country is hoping the flights will boost international tourism.

The Miramar-based airline will operate three nonstop flights a week between Fort Lauderdale and San Salvador, though the times are likely to appeal only to night owls. Flights depart Fort Lauderdale at 11:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Departures from San Salvador are at 1:10 a.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Introductory fares of $19 each way on specific dates are being offered; tickets must be booked by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

 

06/10/2011

A380 makes a touchdown

Miami's newest plane, which happens to be the world's largest passenger jet, touched down at MIA at 1:39 pm. The superjumbo jet was extra-punctual, landing a minute early.

Fire trucks, airport workers and curious bystanders on the side of the road lined up to watch as the Airbus A380 landed and rolled up for a traditional water cannon salute.

What warrants a ceremony today will soon become commonplace: the Lufthansa flight between Miami and Frankfurt will take place every day.

Superjumbo jet arrives in Miami today

The world's largest passenger plane is making a new home in Miami -- and it moves in Friday. The Lufthansa Airbus A380, configured for 526 passengers, starts daily service between Frankfurt and Miami. It's scheduled to land at 1:40 p.m.

For information about where to watch the landing (online or in person), check here.