The Ritz Hotel in Miami Florida indoor pool

The front deskRemember the hotel manager in how he was extraordinary gracious towards Julia Roberts, even though she was clearly a prostitute? I rolled up to the Ritz-Carlton in dirty jeans and a rumpled shirt expecting to feel out of place, but everyone from the doorman to the manager made me feel like I belonged. My bags were whisked out of my cab and I was upgraded to a room with a balcony overlooking the pool at no extra cost.

At lunch, I asked the waiter clearing the brunch buffet if I could have a couple of the pastries he was putting away. He gave me a whole plate for free!

Luxurious, dimly lit rooms with vintage-style furniture and a flat-screen TV. Non-working phone made reporting a leak difficult.

The Ritz is two buildings in one. The original floors in the main building are a series of long corridors, dead ends, empty meeting rooms, and storage closets. With dark 1970s-style carpets and dim lighting, they feel a little Scooby Doo. But above the third floor, everything changes. The hallways are bright, modern, and far less confusing. It's a complete time warp.

The room where I stayed is in the older part of the hotel. A cavernous 1, 139 square feet, it is dimly lit and luxuriously appointed - like something out of Real or imitation, the vintage furniture is in mint condition. The room is also thoroughly up-to-date with an iPod dock and flat-screen TV. No Wi-Fi, though, only an Ethernet cable.

When I returned in the evening, the bed had been turned down, a couple of chocolates were on the pillow, and the TV was turned on. The bed is very comfortable, but I had to leave a light on in the far corner of the room. Hey, there was lightning outside!

Map of The Ritz-Carlton South BeachSpeaking of which, during my stay a spot in the ceiling started leaking during a brief but heavy storm. Worst of all, it was right above the desk where my laptop was plugged in. It stopped 10 minutes later, but I expect better from the Ritz. The phone in my room didn't work either, so I couldn't call housekeeping to report the leak.

My last complaint is that my bathroom had so many glass doors swinging into one another that it seemed primed for disaster. Otherwise, the marble tiles are beautiful and the Bulgari bath products are excellent!

The second floor is where all the action is. There's Lapidus Lounge, a small sports bar with more TVs than you could shake a fist at, and Bistro One LR, the hotel's main restaurant with both indoor seating and tables out by the pool. Bistro One LR is pricey, but the sprawling weekend brunch - I spied a whole leg of lamb! - is legendary.

The pool is cross-shaped, large enough to swim laps in, and has an excellent view of the ocean. Down the steps, on the ground floor, is the Dilido Beach Club, a great place to grab a drink before heading out to the beach.

Although the pool is popular with families, I still had plenty space to myself. There's a huge deck around the pool where Europeans tan in their Speedos. Refreshingly, there's absolutely no attitude here, meaning guests can feel free to wear socks with sandals without the pool attendants grimacing. Many South Beach hotel pools can feel like a meat-market, but there are no judgments here. Everyone just wants to relax and have a good time.

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