The Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne, Florida – Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center
Escaping the cold of New Jersey for a quick weekend away to celebrate our 6th anniversary (when we met in Florida), my husband and I chose to stay at one of of our favorite places on the planet.
I first discovered the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, FL by chance when I planned a trip to meet a friend of mine was staying in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I had been widowed for over a year, and decided to step way out of the box and travel alone to a resort with what looked like a great tennis program. I had been married with children for 20 years, and had never taken a vacation on my own.
I flew into Miami airport, rented a car, and then drove the 20 minute drive to Key Biscayne, across the Rickenbacker causeway to the island of Key Biscayne. The drive on the small island was as slow as molasses. I was forced to take in everyone out walking, running and soaking in the sun, with water on both sides of the causeway. I could feel the stress leaving my body as I inched my way toward the end of the island. I drove past beaches and the infamous Crandon Park. I had no idea at the time, that Crandon Park hosts the now Miami Open (tennis tournament) each year. As I drove through town, I made my turn into the Ritz Carlton driveway, where I was greeted by name by the Ritz Carlton staff. Checking into the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Florida was unforgettable.
As I entered the beautiful resort, my eyes were drawn to the beautiful, vast melon colored rose arrangement I immediately relaxed. My anxieties of traveling alone started to dissipate. I wanted this vacation to be special so I checked into the Club level at the resort.
As I stepped off the elevator onto the Club floor. I was immediately greeted by the Club Manager, Mark, with a glass of champagne. The Club level room had an island view, in the distance you could see the Biscayne Bay, downtown Miami and right below you could see the tennis facility. The Club level also had its own long balcony with several small private areas with bistro tables and chairs.
Mark realized I was traveling alone and made me feel very comfortable. He made sure to share with me all the things I should do during my stay. He was an avid tennis player, so he jumped on the fact that I wanted to play tennis, and made sure my private lessons were set up right away. He also shared with me that he often played at Crandon Park tennis center. He said he has played on center court, at Crandon Park, but also home of the Miami Open (back then it was the Sony Erricson Open). Mark provided me with the times of the daily tennis clinics offered by the Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center on the property. I was very excited, and I had not yet seen my room!
My room was absolutely gorgeous. As I stepped into my room, I could see the ocean view through the sliders. The room was average size, with the inviting signature big fluffy white bed with a mountain of big fluffy pillows. The bathroom had a shower and a soaker tub.
That evening, I did not venture off the Club floor. I relaxed in the club room, and out on the balcony. I enjoyed the offerings of the Club and the fantastic service. The club had offerings several times a day, breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and dessert.
The next morning, I dined at Cioppino’s restaurant on the first floor. I enjoyed a made to order omelette, while sitting out on the patio. The restaurant usually had a buffet in the morning. The daily buffet was very impressive. The chef, not only made omlettes; but, would take the time out to show you how to make the perfect omelette. His instructions were to practice flipping dry rice on an omelette pan. Although I opted to eat at the restaurant, the club level offers a wonderful breakfast to the club level guests including smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, and many more offerings. Luckily, there was tennis to work off all the delicious meals!
I was told to arrive early to the tennis courts. The tennis court were run by the Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center, which were, first come first serve. The great thing about the tennis clinics was that the tennis center would never put more than six people on a court.
The tennis clinics started out with everyone out on the court warming up. The Pros were there to feed balls and assess the levels for the first few minutes. After the warm up, everyone was called over to the main court. At that time, the Tennis Director introduced himself, and his team. Then he explained that he was breaking up everyone in groups by level, or if a group wanted to stay together, he would honor that.
Each group spent 15 or so minutes hitting a lot of balls, and doing fun tennis drills. As an USTA ranked 4.0 tennis player, I was impressed. All the Pros were excellent feeders, and were very professional. I felt that the Pros worked us as hard as we could take it. Although the group members didn’t know each other in the beginning of the drill, at the end we were all friends. We left everything on the court. We were wiped out, but fulfilled. The hour and half went by fast. I could not wait for my next clinic.
My stay was strictly to enjoy the resort. My daily agenda was: watch the sunrise, breakfast, go to tennis clinic, shower, go to beach, have lunch, take private tennis, go to spa, dinner, relax with a glass or two of champagne, sleep, and then repeat the next day!
To soak up some sun at the Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne I had choices. There were two pools to choose from: the family pool next to the Cantina Mexican Restaurant (guacamole is paid table side), the adult pool by the Dune restaurant/bar, or the beach (great lounging next to beach). Usually entertainment (singer/guitar player) played and sang light music at The Dune restaurant in the evenings.. The beach was very relaxing with a breeze flowing. The adult pool has a nice lap pool. I spent most of my time on the beach before my spa appointments.
What I loved most about the Spa at the Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne, was the mango candle smell. The burning mango candle scent greeted me when I turned the corner. The spa itself was spacious. I never felt cramped. Once I checked into the Spa, I was escorted to the locker room, where I was provide my locker, flip flops and a comfy robe. The attendant showed me the locker room which included a hot tub, steam room and sauna. When I was ready, the attendant showed me to the lounge. The lounge had spa music playing, along with many places to sit down, relax and wait for your appointment. The fabulous Ritz Carlton Signature Spa exceeded my expectations.
Unexpectedly, I had come across something special. Thursday through Saturday evenings at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, a band called the Nostalgia played music in the main lounge. The band members dressed in white tuxs, and play authentic cuban music. This band inspired me to learn how to dance latin dances, such as the salsa and rumba. The first few times I saw them, I just listened and enjoyed their music. On future visits to Key Biscayne I have danced to their music. Listening to the Nostalgia band was my favorite part of my trips to the Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne.
So, our last trip was a short weekend trip to celebrate our anniversary of when we met. My husband, William and I had met in 2010. I was staying at the Ritz Carlton, so he joined me to listen to the Nostalgia in the main lounge. We talked all night, as the Nostalgia band played in the background. It was an unforgettable evening!
A couple of months ago, we flew into Miami, and Ubered over to the resort in time to make the tennis clinic. When we arrived, there were a lot of guests at the clinic. Most of the courts have a hartru surface (type of clay), with one hard surface court. In New Jersey, we played tennis indoors, so playing outside in the sun, with a breeze was challenging, refreshing, but mostly, fun. We jumped in, and had a great clinic. It was invigorating. The weather in January was warm, as we just left a very cold New Jersey. After our tennis clinic, we checked in to our hotel. Our special resort always exceeded expectations.
Taking the chance to step outside the box to experience life turned out to be the right path. The resort had so much to offer to singles, couples and families. It had excellent services such as: tennis center, spa, pools, restaurants, bars, entertainment, a beautiful beach and only minutes away from bustling South Beach in Miami. I grew from being a widow trying to find herself through the love of tennis to finding true love again; ultimately sharing a very special resort and tennis experience. The Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne, made me stop and smell the roses.
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