JR Swift’s Blog

What I’m Thinking About Today

Vegas thoughts…not a trip report

Posted by jrswift on February 26, 2010

OK,  just a quick summation and a number of fairly random thought on my trip and Vegas in general.  Spent four nights (Saturday through Tuesday) in town, 2 at the Palms and 2 at the Gold Coast.  Flight was on SW.  Gambled quite a bit for me and probably played more slots on this trip than any other.  Probably ended up down $100-150 so not bad.  Weather was borderline cold and it rained on Sunday night.  Generally a light jacket was perfect most anytime so that was fine.  Just from my personal experience, I would say that it was pretty quiet.  Walking traffic most places seemed down about 20-25%.  Saturday night was busy but the rest of the time was not.  Obviously, the economy is really hurting Las Vegas.  So let’s start the random thoughts.

Several nice “scores” on this trip:

Definitely recommend the SW Early Bird checkin:  best $10 you’ll ever spend.  Was A-16 and A-32 and had a nice window seat near the front both ways.  I’ll do it again.

Had always wanted to stay at the Palms and found a great deal on Orbitz well below what they were asking on the Palms website.  Ended up using a promo code I found (Google is your friend) and got it knocked down another 10%.  With all taxes and fees, ended up paying less than $200 with one of those being a Saturday night.

Second score at the Palms was a complimentary upgrade to a Junior Suite.  Was trying to do the $20 trick though I was bumbling it badly when she told me there were no upgrades.  I put away my $20 and she then decided she could put me in the Jr. Suite with a great view of the Strip.  Room a bit dated but big and comfortable.  Was on the SE corner so had two windows.  Between them, you could see  the entire Strip.

Also did well at the Gold Coast as my room was comped.  They put me up high on one of their remodeled floors.  Room still a bit small but the decor was very modern.  On checkout, it turns out they waive the resort fee when you’re comped so my total cost was zero.  HDTV actually had some HD channels and had a pretty good view of the north end of the Strip and downtown.

I’m pretty sure I hit a jackpot of sorts on a penny machine.  I wasn’t playing max coin or I think it would have been like $1000.  As it was I won like 5600 pennies on one spin which is definitely the largest number of any sort of coin I’ve ever had.  Walked away up $60 which is awfully hard to do on one of those machines.

The Good:

Gold Coast buffet for breakfast is always a winner in my book and still no exception.

Palms on a Saturday night is simply off-the-hook.  People everywhere and some of the best looking women you will ever see.

Ghostbar was pretty cool.  Would have been cooler if it wasn’t so damned cold outside but an unbelievable view and the people there were very nice, even though I was no VIP, by any means.

Casino coffee:  Ordered a coffee each morning while playing the machines.  Both the Palms and GC make a darn good cup of coffee.  For a $1 tip, it beats the heck of paying the price at the foo-foo coffee bars.

City Center is visually stunning.  I’m not an architect but the design is extremely creative.

Wynn/Wynn Encore.  Very classy place in the good sort of way.  Everyone perfectly attired and professional.  I accidentally walked away from a machine without cashing out, remembered a couple minutes later and a security guard was standing there watching and waiting.  He didn’t say a word but I knew he had seen what happened and was protecting my measly $11.  Two thumbs up.  Oh, and the Wynn has simply the most stunning Cocktail Waitresses anywhere in the city.

Palazzo  is also stunning.   It is what the Venetian was 10 years ago.   I have never walked into a casino before and felt relaxed but something about the design of this place just works without being over the top.  Most every other casino in the city seems to be trying to overstimulate but this place seems to want to make you comfortable.

Tickets and ticket-redemption machines:  how did we ever play the old way?

24/7 Cafe at the Palms:  Not a big fan of the hotel coffee shops at full price but it was late and I was hungry.  Good service and a huge plate of good food I could barely finish.  Was worth it.

Two cocktail waitresses, one at the Palms and one at the Gold Coast:  After breakfast the first day at GC, I played one of my favorite slots and ordered a coffee with cream and no sugar.  I went back the next morning and one other day and, when the waitress walked by, she just said “coffee with cream?”  Color me impressed.  Still Crysta or maybe Crystal at the Palms is the winner for the week.   Saturday night at the Palms was packed with people partying and playing.  I was perched at a nickel video poker machine for several hours, mostly just grinding away, hardly the profile to get great service.  Lovely blonde waitress walks by fairly soon after I arrived and I ordered my standard Budweiser.  Came by fairly quickly the second time.  After I ordered a third time, she seemed to disappear and I was getting a bit annoyed.  When she finally made it back, she apologized but said the bar had run out of Budweiser and she had a hard time fighting through the crowds.  Was a Bud Light OK?  I said sure.  She came back with a Bud Light and a Budweiser and wouldn’t take more than a $1 as tip.  Then she came back with two more Budweisers and refused any tip at all.  Very nice.   Did I mention she was awfully pretty too?

And, of course the Fountains at the Bellagio.  Always.  3 PM show.  Bocelli and Brightman and always a few tears in my eyes when it ends.

The Bad:

What did I ever do to you Dean Martin?  Except love and respect you and your music!  Well, you and your damned Dean Martin’s Wild Party slot machine must have stolen over $100 from me with one measly bonus round!  I honestly think I might have come out ahead for the trip if I had been able to avoid this machine but it kept sucking me in.

Le Village Buffet @ Paris Las Vegas.  I’m sorry, not a win.  It was the one big superbuffet on the Strip I had never eaten and so I tried it out.   OK, the decor is pretty cool.  They either seat you “outside” or in these little rooms that are like a couple of tables in a house.  Well, executed.  Food not so much.  Maybe I just wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to try some of the peculiar items available but the things I did try just weren’t very good.  I kept thinking I could have eaten better food for half the price.

Casinos.  OK, not all of them but most of them.  They are looking so tired and uninteresting, even the ones I used to like.  Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Monte Carlo,  MGM Grand, Excalibur and I go could go on and on.  I guess I’m jaded but they are just so tired and worn down.  I’ve never particularly liked NY NY or Paris but at least they are still trying to execute a theme and do it reasonably well.  Planet Hollywood and Luxor seem to at least be trying to look somewhat modern and aren’t terrible.  And not just older casinos.  Aria is just as awful on the inside as it is stunning on the outside.  Why so freaking dark?

The Cab Driver who “tunneled” me from the airport to my hotel.  I’m sure he figured me for some midwestern rube who didn’t know what he was doing but I did.   Did I complain?  No, I probably should have but I really hate starting my vacation by arguing with people.  I have found being agreeable with people in the service industry makes my life (and theirs) much easier so the arguing would have spoiled my mood.  OK, the tunnel probably was slightly quicker and, on a Saturday, the surface traffic might have slowed us down enough to bump up the fare but he still basically ripped me off for $5.  Yes, I even tipped the bastard but not much.  Gee, I’m such a sucker sometimes.  (OTOH, all the rest of my cab drivers were very cool.)

Traffic.  I took the bus from the Palms a couple of times out to the Strip and even beyond.  I honestly think I could have walked to the Strip faster than this bus could drive it.  The Rio shuttle drivers took the most ridiculous roundabout trips just to avoid Flamingo and they had to.

Drink service.  Other than a couple of shining exceptions mentioned above, drink service was pretty bad.  I would see cocktail waitresses but they appeared not to see me.   I know you are busy but when you walk by two or three times and don’t even try, I find it annoying.  Your loss.  I always tip you, even if you aren’t pretty or particularly fast.

This one is on me because I am lazy but I didn’t make it to downtown, the Hard Rock, Caesars, the Orleans or any number of other interesting places and I just barely touched some of the Strip casinos.  I was just too comfortable in my own little corner of Vegas to venture out much but I should have forced myself to do so.  Oh well, that’s why I have to go back again this summer.   🙂

The Ugly:

The Luxor.  No, it isn’t ugly.  The Pyramid is visually stunning and I actually like what they’ve done in remodeling but give it up with all the one word names for everything.   The buffet is More, the steakhouse is Tender, the bar is Liquidity.  And on and on.   Fantasy, LAX, Noir, Flight, Aurora.   OK, we get it.  You’re so cool.  No truth to the rumor that the Criss Angel show will now be referred to as just Lame but maybe there should be.

Sad to say but Las Vegas is looking pretty rough around the edges.  Oh, it is still shiny and pretty most everywhere you look but, if you look just off the beaten track, things are not good.  The streets, the buildings and the people are looking pretty tired and you can tell that things are not going well.  The economy is really hurting a lot of people out there.   Some of them did it to themselves but a lot of them are (more or less) innocent bystanders who got hit hard.  Everyone you see who is working looks nervous and I can understand why.  I’m sure that things will bounce back at some point but what will have been lost in the interim?  Once a person or a business or a dream is gone, it isn’t going to be back.   The reality is that one day Vegas will just be another strange, abandoned place that future generations will look back on and try to understand.  I honestly hope that I don’t live to see that day.

Well, that is enough thoughts for now.  Maybe more later.

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