Workation With Dad Part 1: Exploring Miami – Pre Cruise

This post is the first of a three-part series about a workation I had with my father around April of 2019. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know I like to vacation with my dad a few times a year.

I invite him, or sometimes he invites me, but mostly I treat him to a little vacation, each time at a new destination. In the past, we’ve been to Dubai, The French Riviera (Côte-d’Azur), the Channel Islands, and the Atlantic coast of France last year.

This time, I pressed for him to come to the United States. You see, my father is not a really big fan of America. He actually once said he would never venture there as long as Trump was president. Yet, I still managed to convince him to come with me this time. 😎

I regularly have vacations with my dad. I go back to my hometown around 4x a year, and 4x a year, I take him somewhere abroad. Many people think you have to give up on family if you are perpetually traveling. That’s completely wrong – you probably have much more time and means to enjoy the planet together ✈ 🌏😃

Why The States?

My father had visited the states many years ago – before I was born. I think around 1983-84 or something like that. Anyways, back then, he visited Miami and Key West and every-so-often he likes to talk about the wonderful time he had there.

So, I decided to make time before and after a cruise I had planned in the Caribbean (to cross off some more territories) to invite my father on a little Florida workation with a cruise to the Caribbean in between.

I designed this cruise to cross off some new countries in the Caribbean, which are a pain to get to. They are not necessarily hard to reach destinations, but you should definitely get to them with a cruise.

Flying around the Caribbean can be a bit annoying sometimes since there are not many possibilities to hop from one country to the next. Most of the time, you’ll have to go back to a main airport (in the U.S. or Central America, for example) and then fly to your next destination in the Caribbean – a complete waste of time if you ask me.

So, this 5-day cruise from Miami to Miami was the perfect way to get both The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos in one go.

The boat for this cruise was massive, the Carnival Sensation from Carnival Cruise Lines. It wasn’t a super-luxury boat, like when I cruised the Caribbean with my brother, but pleasant enough to enjoy five days with my father. The ship was filled with the typical American party tourists, but dad and I still manage to have quite a bit of fun. You can read more about that in my next post.

For part one, I just want to talk about the time I had with my dad in Florida before the cruise.

My journey to Miami started with a flight from Panama and arrived in the city before my father.

Welcome to Miami, Bienvenido a Miami

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Miami is a major city in the south-eastern United States and part of the largest metropolitan area in Florida. It’s about 20 miles from Fort Lauderdale, 68 miles from West Palm Beach, 106 miles from Naples (Florida), and 156 miles from Key West.

Although Miami is the second most populous city in Florida, the Miami metropolitan area is the largest in the state. Fun fact, because the area is sandwiched in by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Everglades wetland area to the west, the Miami metropolitan area is a long 110 miles (180km) north to south, but no more than 20 miles (32km) east to west.

For our time in the city, I booked a really pleasant stay in South Beach, at the W Hotel – right on the beach. This hotel is super exclusive and quite expensive. I think it was around 1k a night. Thankfully, I was able to pay for these nights with Marriott points – it was quite a good use of these points considering the price of this stay.

The W Hotel on South Beach – Working hard & working smart 😉

Auszuhalten South Beach #views

We ended up getting a really great suite with beautiful views of South Beach. The W has a fantastic pool with a pool-side bar that my father really enjoyed. On his first day, he spent some time by the pool bar enjoying his cigar; and in the evening, we ventured out a bit, walking around Miami Beach.

Pool time at the W Hotel South Beach

I should note that before my father arrived, I went shopping around South Beach. Did you know Miami has some of the best shopping in the United States? Well, I don’t often shop, maybe every six months or so, but this time I actually took advantage of being in Miami and bought several t-shirts and a few pairs of trousers – that’s how good the shopping in Miami is.

So, on my father’s first evening in Miami, I wore my fancy, new clothes, and we walked along Ocean Drive taking in the sights and vibes of Miami Beach. Eventually, we landed at our dinner spot and had a really nice dinner on the patio of a delightful Italian restaurant.

Donald Trump made America great again. Even those Moscow Mules 🙂

That was quite a walk for my dad, but he still really enjoyed it. You should probably know that my dad has had a pretty hard time in the last few years with the health of his feet.

It all started on a vacation he went on a couple of years back. One of his biggest dreams was to visit Cuba. So a few years ago, he went on holiday with a friend to realize this dream. Unfortunately, during his time in Cuba, he got a terrible infection on his feet and has been dealing with the aftermath of the infection ever since.

It was pretty severe; he’s actually pretty lucky his legs didn’t get amputated. Thankfully, he continues to recover and is much better now than when it first happened. But he still has pain, especially when walking for long periods of time; that day, we walked for about a kilometer around South Beach, so he was definitely feeling it.

So, after dinner, we just went back to our hotel to go to bed early. We had a full day in Miami before the day of embarkation, so I planned a full day of activities for my dad and me to explore Miami.

For starters, I would take him cigar shopping, and then we would go on a pleasant little Airbnb Experience. If you don’t already know about these, they are cool tours and different offerings from the city you’re in – you can book them right on Airbnb. I have booked a few before, and this time I opted for a boat tour of Miami.

The next morning we had a lazy start to the day. Dad and I went to the beach for some light swimming. After, we walked a little bit more around Miami Beach, and eventually, we ventured to Little Havana.

About Little Havana…

As its name would imply, Little Havana is a Cuban neighborhood in Downtown Miami. Also known as the Latin Quarter. It got this name by being a predominantly Cuban inhabited neighborhood from the 1970s until the 1990s. Today, it is a hub of many Central and South American influences. Its main drag is along 8th St or the famous Calle Ocho, where you can find some of the best authentic Latin shops and restaurants, oh, and the majority of the population there speak only in Spanish.

Pro tip: Although the area is far less dangerous today than in its past, don’t wander into the neighborhoods late at night, particularly East Little Havana (east of 17th Ave), where high crime rates and gang activity is still a concern.

The most comfortable and convenient way to get to Little Havana is by car, so we took a taxi over. The reason I wanted to bring my dad to this Latin hood is that my father is a cigar aficionado. On his birthday, I always send him some of his favorite cigars. I think he actually smokes one cigar every day.

So we just took the taxi to Little Havana and had a delightful lunch in the area. After we visited a few cigar shops and I got my credit card out to buy some really lovely cigars for my father. I think Romeo & Juliette is the brand he loves the most; it’s actually one of the most distinctive brands, along with Cohiba Cigars, of course. As you can tell, I really enjoy being able to treat and spoil my father during these trips.

Cigar shopping in Little Havana. Since my dad traveled to Varadero 2 years ago, he is a heavy cigar only smoker. Next year I’ll probably show him the real Cuba 🙂

A different side of Miami…

So after we got our cigars, we explored a bit more around Little Havana and headed to a nearby port for our AirBNB experience. We boarded the boat in a small canal, and it was the captain (owner of the ship), my father and I. Actually, two other young women also joined us for the experience, I think they were friends with the captain.

We proceeded to have a grand sightseeing tour of Miami by boat – which I found quite interesting. I mean, I like boat rides and seeing new places, so when I saw the experience on Airbnb, it called to me, and I booked. I am actually delighted I did because it ended up being much more fun than I initially thought it would be!

We took the boat on a system of canals that flow through a lot of Miami. The system connects to the ocean as well, and you can actually see quite a bit of the city from the canals. At one point, we ventured to the sea and went all around the coast, taking beautiful pictures of downtown, Brickell, and the Miami skyline.

Chilled boat ride over the Miami rivers this afternoon. Airbnb experiences are very cool.

We went from one end to the other, cruising by the huge harbor between Miami Beach and Downtown. It was cool to see the boat we would embark on the next day from the ship we were on that day.

So we went all along the shore of this canal system, checking out most of Miami, including the area near Coral Gables with all the large villas and all the famous spots in our surroundings. It was pretty cool to see all of that, going full speed over the bay as we made our way north to “the sandbank.”

A new fun thing to do in Miami/Fort Lauderdale. Partying on a sand bar with music, beer and what man else needs 🙂

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Miami and its surroundings at all, I am, and I didn’t even know that Miami has a terrific hangout spot in the middle of the ocean a bit further north, closer to Fort Lauderdale.

So this sandbank I had never heard of before is located in the middle of the bay, and it is quite the party place. At this spot, the water is not very deep, probably about 20 inches in the deepest parts, and it has a stunning backdrop of the Fort Lauderdale skyline. Think of the sandbank in Los Roques, Venezuela, but with the vibes that come from being right off the coast of a major U.S. city.

Copious amounts of people congregate there with their boats, mostly on the weekends, and basically have a pool party in the middle of the bay. There are lots of people, lots of booze, and actually, you can even get weed cookies, which are sold on some boats that cruise around selling alcohol and party favors.

Didn’t know they are Seasteading here 😉

Many young, rich kids come to this spot with their daddy’s yachts and play loud music and have a party in the water drinking beer and having fun. I had never heard of the place, but it was awesome! I would definitely go back there again.

We hung out at the spot for a bit, went in the water, swam around, had a drink as well, and just really enjoyed the scenery. There were quite a lot of boats, yet it didn’t feel very crowded.

Imagine about 20 boats filled with young people dancing to music and having a blast in the middle of the ocean. It was a great afternoon to be in cool, refreshing water with really delightful surroundings. I can’t believe I had no idea something like this existed in Miami.

After the sandbank, we went back south to a small island that is pretty close to downtown. The beautiful thing about the layout in Miami is that you have downtown Miami which is connected to Miami beach through a pretty big bridge. In the water between the two landmasses, there are lots of little islands. We stopped at one of them; it was a fascinating island full of mangroves with an enjoyable sandy beach where you can get some more dazzling views of the skyline from a different perspective.

Didn’t know about this “downtown” beach 🏖 🙂

This island was not even far from shore, probably less than half a mile. People can access it by canoe, jet skis, or by boat like we did that afternoon. We had a short stay in this spot, yet I still managed to walk around, taking some more photos and enjoying the gorgeous beach and the refreshing water.

Next time you’re in Miami, keep in mind that it’s not only Miami beach, there are also these little islands really close by, right off the Miami bay area.

On the way back, we took a little more time venturing along the big bridge, towards the cruise harbor and got to see our cruise ship again, waiting for us to board the next day.

We got one last look at the downtown and Brickell area with all the huge and luxury hotels, just experiencing it all from the water, it was pretty darn neat.

This skyline could be Panama City for all you know 😉

The captain of the boat deserves mention, he was really superb and very hospitable, always making jokes. We actually got along with him great and also the two women that joined the tour. I had a great time, but the best part is that it was also an excellent experience for my dad.

Treating my father to the Brickell experience…

That evening, we went to a really spectacular steakhouse in Brickell. I wanted to show my dad different parts of Miami during our stay, and we had already seen Miami Beach, Little Havana, and we had also gotten a glimpse of downtown and Brickell from the water.

So this evening I wanted to show him Brickell from the land. In my opinion, Brickel is probably the coolest part of Miami, with all of its skyscrapers and massive hotels.

If you don’t already know, Brickell, which includes the Financial District, is home to most of the major corporations and large businesses in Miami. In contrast to South Beach, Brickell tends to be more “buttoned-up” during the day.

Along Brickell Avenue, you will find headquarters for major banks, real estate companies, and law firms. It is also a great spot for shopping, with all the top brands having storefronts in the area.

I actually stayed at an apartment in the area when I was in Miami with a few friends a couple of years back. So I already sort of knew my way around the city and was able to show my father around and dazzle him with its vibes.

There are plenty of places to eat and relax by the beautiful Biscayne Bay, and I chose Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel for our last dinner before the cruise. I found out about this restaurant on a gourmet-food site, which had ranked it as one of the best, so naturally, we had to experience it for ourselves.

It ended up being an excellent restaurant and living up to expectations. However, it was quite expensive even for Miami standards, but yeah luxury in the U.S. is costly; either way, it was well worth it – we really enjoyed our food.

16 oz finest 100 days dry-aged beef

After dinner, we went for a nightcap at a cool cocktail bar in Brickell before heading back to our hotel. Before going to bed, we decided to hit up the pool bar for a quick chess match – my dad and I are both chess players, so we brought our board to the bar and played.

People were looking at us funny, which we’re used to, it also happened on the cruise whenever we brought out the board. That late-night match was the perfect way to end a beautiful day in Miami. I particularly enjoyed the end of the night, playing chess with my father, sipping on some delectable cocktails by the pool, taking in the splendor of Miami Beach.

The difference between a good and a great bar is the availability of a chessboard 🙂

There was no partying for us that night; after the match, we went to bed – not too late since we had an early rise the next day to board the cruise ship. The cruise was actually pretty fun, and as I mentioned before, my dad and I really enjoyed ourselves… but you can read all about that here.