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Beginnings and Endings -- 12/19-12/23: GN, Palazzo, Encore

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by sageblue, Jan 5, 2009.

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  1. sageblue

    sageblue High-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    My Trip Report

    In brief:
    • Hotels: Golden Nugget (quite good), Palazzo (very good), Encore (near perfect)
    • Dining: Andre's (very good), Paris buffet (dead to me), Grand Lux (dependable), Mon Ami Gabi (quite good)
    • Drinking: Downtown Cocktail Room (quite good), Ellis Island (quantity and decent quality), Parasol Up (very good)
    • Gambling: Wins at Four Queens Double Bonus and Encore Wheel of Fortune; Losses at basically everything else.

    In detail:

    This trip was scheduled to celebrate mom's sixtieth birthday, but it also conveniently fell into our every-nine-months schedule of going to Vegas. After some fits and starts, we had six of us going: me and Rick from Philly, mom and Aunt Sandra from Seattle, and twins Uncle Jack and Aunt Judy from Phoenix.

    Rick and I arrived first and got the rental car. I had reserved a full size with Dollar and had a coupon for an upgrade. I went down to the garage and saw that a full size was not going to fit all six of us, so I asked the attendant if the next size up would fit six; he replied that it wouldn't – that I'd need a minivan. I asked him if my upgrade counted toward a minivan, and he said it didn't. Then, I just sort of stood there in silence. For a while. He finally relented and asked, "do you want a minivan?" I said that would be great, and we were soon driving away in a slightly dinged but roomy Grand Caravan. I tipped him $5 to assuage my guilt.

    After getting our picture for the first time in front of the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign, we quickly drove over the Hard Rock to get their free football parlay and lose at blackjack using a matchplay coupon. We were starving at this point and still had time before mom and Sandra arrived, so we hit In N Out, and then we were on our way. They finally arrived late, but we were soon on our way to Paris to check them in. They had a decent standard room and seemed pleased with it. Our original plan was to pick up and deliver Jack and Judy to Paris as well, but their flight was very late, so we said good night to mom and Sandra and headed downtown for our plans.

    We checked in to Golden Nugget and went to our room to iron and change. It was a very respectable room in the South Tower that might rival Paris were it not for the small bathroom. Still nice though.
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    (More pics can be found on my website)
    Once we were ready to go, we left the Nug behind and went to the Fitz to play some free cash I had there on some slots (including a stupid Happy Days slot) and video poker. We then headed to the Downtown Cocktail Room at the corner of LV Blvd. and Fremont St. I had a little trouble finding the door since it's dark as hell both inside and out, but once inside we found a table and ordered the usual for Rick (Beefeater martini, up, with olives) and I had the "Sandstorm": tequila, pistachio liqueur, pineapple juice, lime, and agave. It was interesting – I don't know if I'd have another one, but I appreciated the barkeep's efforts. If we're downtown for an extended time again, we'll definitely go again, especially since they have a daily happy hour from five to seven.

    After finishing our drinks, we headed to Andre's, the famed Vegas institution that closed its doors on December 31. There wasn't a drop-off in service at all, however, and the meal overall was wonderful. We shared the bison carpaccio, which was shielded by a web-like dome of baked parmesan (hard to describe, but boy was it yummy). Rick had the field greens salad followed by tuna with lobster sausage atop black truffle risotto. Yeah, he chose well. I had the phyllo-wrapped baked anjou pear and roquefort cheese salad with pumpkin seed vinaigrette and a special macadamia-crusted salmon with sauteed fingerling potatoes and haricots verts: my salad obviously kicked ass, and the fish was good.
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    After a Restaurant.com certificate, the meal was $175 with no dessert but cocktails and wine. It was a great meal in a great setting; I hope that Andre's at Monte Carlo can continue the good food if not the setting.

    We sauntered back to Fremont Street, eschewing El Cortez and other hotspots for which I had coupons. Instead, we headed to Four Queens, at which I've enjoyed gambling before. We headed first to the good video poker after getting our free play money from the slot club booth for joining. I promptly hit four aces then four deuces on Double Bonus Poker, putting me up about $300.
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    I lost a little at craps, and then I rebounded with a marathon session at blackjack at which I netted over $100, and put a serious dent in their gin and tonic supplies. I hope Four Queens sends me some offers because I very much enjoyed myself.

    The next morning we checked out of GN and headed to Paris to meet the family for breakfast. We decided on the Paris breakfast buffet by default, essentially: since Judy and I both had "Diamond" status, we could cut in line. In years past, I have greatly enjoyed this buffet, as it had some special items and the service was good; now, I'm done with it. The food isn't that good and is often lukewarm, and the service was pretty bad. It's sad, because I hate it when dependable places go downhill. Indeed, this was the case almost everywhere at Harrah's properties: poor service, be it slow, snotty, or non-existent. We had slow service at almost every restaurant (save Mon Ami Gabi), had attitude at the Total Rewards desk, and had no drinks in my hand while gambling. Up with this I shall not put, and resolve to use and abuse Harrah's, but not give them any of my money.

    After our disappointing brunch, we all headed over to Bellagio to see the Christmas display in the Conservatory (pretty) and then back across the street for some very disappointing gambling at PHo (which was accompanied by screaming girls who were apparently in town for a cheerleading competition: *shudder*). That afternoon, we headed over to Palazzo to check in. The line was long, but relatively speedy; I managed to finagle an upgrade to a strip view after some persistence and awkward silences (which is apparently my new negotiation strategy). The room was beautiful
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    with a beautiful view.
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    I liked the styling of the room, which, from what I remember, is simpler and more modern than Venetian. That was, however, on the surface as there were flaws galore: the desk drawer cover basically came apart in my hand; the TV in the bathroom didn't work (the horror!) and there was an uncovered fixture in the bathroom; and, when I went to print some stuff, there was no magenta ink in the printer, so it didn't work. Nothing to derail my stay, but also not flawless, which is what Palazzo purports to provide. Speaking of not flawless: the lines at their Club Grazie slot club were ridiculous. After standing in one for a while, I got up to the person to learn that I wasted my time: I was still "Gold" from March when I flashed my Harrah's Diamond card and they upgraded me. Cool...I guess. We went to their special lounge for such "VIPs" and were sorely disappointed: Fox News, some newspapers, some pretzels, some water, and no booze. We're outta here.

    After showing the family the suite, we hit the always dependable Grand Lux. They have a great lunch combo deal that lasts until 5, so my tasty pasta carbonara with a side salad that was a nice early dinner was only $11.95. It was a good choice for all of us who wanted something simply and affordable. Thanks Grand Lux!

    The family left to get ready for the evening's activities, and we gambled a bit at Palazzo (which sucked). We then picked up the fam, dropped off Sandra, Jack, and Judy at IP for Legends (thanks for the free tickets, Diamond status), and Rick, mom, and I headed to Mirage for LOVE. Before hitting our seats (which were GREAT, in the back row of 209: thanks GREGRIO!), we decided to get some drinks – rum and diets, to be specific. I of course got the large – but I didn't know it would be Big Gulp level large. So, we took our 32-ounce rum and diets to our seats – and had a great time, and not just thanks to the drinks. The show was wonderful, though I'm not sure I liked it as much as the others: there is A LOT going on in the show, and I think I might prefer less going on so I can concentrate on the feats of human flexibility, agility, etc. It was very cool though, and I'm glad I already owned the soundtrack.

    Day 3 was Sunday, which meant football. So, I had to get in my sports bets. I managed to navigate the stupid directions of Palazzo and found their sportsbook. I placed my bets just fine, and I snagged some convenient tiny pencils to record my gambling transactions and food comments in my PocketMods (NERDS!). We actually watched some football in the Sportsbook stadium area, which is a tiered room of comfy couches and lounges.
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    There was a $50 minimum during the games that the server waived for us after we told her we'd be gone in a second. Very cool, but relatively sparsely populated. This was to be the case most places we went: smaller crowds than normal. Downtown the first night was deader than I had ever seen it. And, while the Strip had a fair amount of crowds (we were there during a bowl game), it will wasn't as crowded as it has been. Damn economy.

    Eventually, we walked down to Paris and stopped off in the little Venetian food court off the casino floor for a quick, cheap, and good breakfast sandwich. We met the family to say howdy and then decided to meet again later for the afternoon's fun. So, Rick and I did the traditional walk along the Strip, which this time included buying a new Swatch and visiting our favorite "bar" on the Strip: the one outside of Caesars that features lemonades with lots of alcohol. Only, since it was winter, they had been replaced by coffee drinks with lots of Baileys. After being initially disappointed, we gave ourselves over and ultimately were won over by the warm goodness.

    After our walk, we grabbed the van and picked up the fam for a trip to Red Rock Canyon. The trip always takes longer than I expect, but once we got there and did the driving loop, it was well worth it: we stopped a few times for pictures and the sights, and the snow with the desert scenery was unique and beautiful. After getting our fill of natural goodness, we stopped at Red Rock casino, which I love, though the video poker wasn't kind this time. I hope we gave them enough play to force them to give us some more free rooms.

    We made it back to Paris for our dinner at Mon Ami Gabi (thanks Uncle Jack!). We have had lunch here before and enjoyed it. Dinner here did not disappoint. I had the bacon and frisee salad with a soft poached egg serving as dressing (healthy!) and then the steak roquefort (duh), both of which were very nice. It was a great time overall though and everyone loved their meals, so I was two for two with the group meal suggestions.

    We left the family to enjoy their last night at Paris to head to Ellis Island to enjoy the free drinks for an hour on our LVA coupon (mmm, egg nog) and break even on blackjack and video poker. We probably had our best experience with a dealer in a long while, so that was nice. And, did you know there is now a hot dog cart in the middle of the casino?
    [​IMG]
    So convenient!
    We somehow made it back to Palazzo (that's a little fuzzy actually) and enjoyed our last night there.

    The next day we checked out of Palazzo and picked up the family to take them to the airport: Jack and Judy to leave for Phoenix, and mom and Sandra to try and get a flight back to Seattle since their flight was canceled. After much drama at the airport, we headed over the Encore, where we were staying for our last night and their first night. After getting past security at the front gates by telling them we were guests and what our name was, we pulled up to millions of people trying to help us. That was nice. What was also nice was the champagne at reception. Yes, I will have another glass, thanks. After we were checked into Encore, I asked if there was room at Wynn and what the rates were (I dropped that I had seen it as low as $149 before coming): they said there were rooms at that rate. So, I motioned for mom and Sandra to stop pestering the waiter for more champagne and get over to the desk so I could tell them they'd be staying at Wynn for the next two nights on me – Merry Christmas!

    (Now, I will not go into what happened with their room: perhaps I will post the letter I'll be writing after I finish this report to complain about our service. Let is suffice to say that there was much running around and me being miffed, but ultimately, mom and Sandra were comfortably ensconced in a strip view room.)

    Our Encore room was as beautiful as the public areas of the resort: great details, great décor, beautiful touches everywhere. Very easy to get used to. And, I love a chaise longue.
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    After the aforementioned but lightly discussed Wynn room drama, we did a little gambling at Wynn before meeting mom and Sandra for dinner at Terrace Point. In theory, this is a great restaurant for a simple meal at decent prices, and mom and Sandra experienced just such a meal the following night. However, this night the service was just horrible: everything took forever, despite the restaurant being half empty. Very disappointing.

    After dinner, we headed back to Encore and past the throngs of people to be there for the official opening (I had considered making the RateVegas meet-up but I got a bit shy for some reason -- +, I don't think I have the Vegas knowledge cred to hang with those guys!). It was very exciting when Wynn opened everything and the music started blaring. We played VP to start (of course) and the guy across got a RF seconds after gambling began. It's fixed I tell ya! After we lost our fill, we headed down to Mirage to see the new volcano; I think Rick was more impressed than I was: it's no fountains, but it's pretty good. We returned to Wynn to have a drink at Parasol Up; Rick had the usual and I had a blood orange highball. VERY good. I love that lounge and could easily spend an entire night there. However, we were tired, so we walked back through the throngs to Encore, soaked up the excitement once more, and then retired to the room.

    Rick left early in the morning for his 9am flight; I lazed a bit longer as my flight didn't leave until after noon. I decided that I'd go down and experience Encore's casino at a more leisurely pace and tolerable decibel level. I haven't gushed about the interior of Encore overall, but the red that pervades the place is the most luxurious, wonderful red you have ever seen, and I love it. I don't know if my camera can do it justice, but here's the elevator lobby (and another of the floor, which is like Wynn, but butterflied)
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    I hadn't played roulette all trip, so I started with that at a table by myself and managed to break even after a half-hour despite the fast pace. I turned to VP again and lost a quick hundred; screw that. I went to Star Trek which I'd played at Red Rock and Bally's earlier; at RR and Encore I won, so I sort of love the game, I guess. I need to get more bonuses though because they're fun. After climbing back a little bit and emboldened by a series of screwdrivers, I went to the old slots favorite of Wheel of Fortune quarter reels. I was breaking about even before hitting Red 7 – Red 7 – 5x for a cool $300. So, the beginning and ending of this trip was very good for the wallet. I cashed out, got my stuff, and went to the valet (where I waited 15 minutes despite there being no one else waiting; see the future letter). I departed just fine with the car and Southwest, and mom and Sandra did their best to enjoy an extra two days in Vegas.

    Overall, the trip was great: we had a good time with the family and hit some of our favorite spots and new ones. It was a lot of fun to be there for Encore's opening, and I have begun to warm to the idea of doing more than a night downtown. I have also concluded a couple things.
    • I really can never do three hotels in four nights again. We have done it twice now, and weren't going to do it this time, were it not for the historical opportunity to stay at the opening night of Encore. Never again though.
    • I'm sort of done with the Strip – at least in terms of gambling. I didn't win anywhere but Wynn, and it wasn't even close. I like staying on the Strip for the excitement and glitz of it, but I'm definitely going to curtail feeding their machines with my money.
    • I am also sort of done with Harrah's. As I noted, every Harrah's property (OK, mainly Paris) had crap service, and I'm just tired of it. Plus, since I can get comparable rates from MGM/Mirage, Wynn, LV Sands, et al. and I don't have thousands of tier credits with them, then why bother?
    We'll be back in two months for Cher, staying at Summer Bay, a condo resort behind Harrah's, which should be interesting experiences. After that, we may take a little break…but I don't know if I can hold myself to that!
     
  2. blackjacknut

    blackjacknut VIP Whale

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    Very nice TR...thanks for the pics.

    :beer:
     
  3. Coaster Kikky

    Coaster Kikky Tourist

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    Taking a break from Vegas? Where have I heard that before? :evillaugh

    All the food pictures are making my tummy rumble. Somehow my breakfast toast isn't interesting enough!

    Thanks for the middle of the night text from Four Queens. Wish I could have been there too.

    I could have told you about the VIP lounge at Palazzo. :snore: Supposedly the Gold card with Club Grazie will get you past the line at Grand Lux. Just flash it to the person at the desk. If you can get near to them... I do know the Gold card gets superior service at Valet at Palazzo & Venetian.
     
  4. mikenhe

    mikenhe VIP Whale

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    a break from vegas - yet a countdown timer at less than 60 days... good job you aren't addicted... :thumbsup:


    nice tr.. I may try that cocktail bar downtown when I'm there next - sounds interesting..
     
  5. LVLady

    LVLady Tourist

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    Nice trip report and fantastic pics. Did you play the bartops at Encore? Are the rumors of no free drinks true?
     
  6. angel81chick

    angel81chick Abuelita

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    Nice TR and great pics, especially those of Encore.

    But now you have me intrigued as to what happened with the room at the Wynn :poke:
     
  7. Dean Martin

    Dean Martin VIP Whale

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    Excellent TR...thanks so much for the Palazzo & Encore photos...gorgeous places but then I guess you'd expect that from the Steve Wynn hotel.
     
  8. gotavegasjones

    gotavegasjones VIP Whale

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    Enjoyed your TR. Thanks for the pics of the rooms.

    later, GVJ
     
  9. milkshake

    milkshake Low-Roller

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    TR was nicely done. Very nice pics can't wait to go see Encore in FEB. after seeing those pics.
     
  10. lvchic80

    lvchic80 Low-Roller

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    Nice.... I love a TR w/pics!
     
  11. sageblue

    sageblue High-Roller

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    OK, a break after the trip in March. And, yes, I am addicted. Admitting it is the first step...

    LVLady, I didn't do the bartops, but I'd assume they're following the policy of no free drinks that I think Wynn has. Slightly evil.

    angel81chick, I will post the story with the Wynn room when I write them my letter: basically a ton of miscommunication between Encore, Wynn, and Wynn Tower Suites resulted in us waiting for over two hours for a room that they promised us was ready right away -- and then the keys didn't work. We got them to give us a $75 food comp for the rigamarole, but it was still unacceptable.
     
  12. HurricaneMikey

    HurricaneMikey A-List Buffoon

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    Up with this I shall not put...

    I love that line. I'm totally gonna steal it! :nworthy:

    Sounds like a great trip. If you're done with the Strip, done with Harrah's, does that mean more time at the Nugget?

    Also, I had no idea that the downtown Andre's was closing. I've been to the one at Monte Carlo, had a fantastic meal, and the atmosphere wasn't bad at all. Give it a shot.

    Mikey
     
  13. sageblue

    sageblue High-Roller

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  14. MikeE

    MikeE The Shah's Slightly Hairy Cousin

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    Excellent report!

    Nonsense! We would have loved to meet you. See you at Fontainebleau's opening?
     
  15. gmoney590

    gmoney590 VIP Whale

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    Great pictures and report. Sorry to hear about the room debacle at Encore/Wynn; at least they gave you a $75 food credit. They could have stiffed you completely.

    When we stayed at Bally's in December we found the cocktail waitresses to be intially slow but once we started tipping we had no problem keeping a drink in our hands.
     
    Back where we belong
  16. Jinx

    Jinx VIP Whale

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    Nice report and have to agree on Harrahs with the downturn in the economy and Wynn, Sands, and MGM all heavily discounting rates and offering freebies to more tiers of gamblers, in my opinion HET is in the worst position for this, as their model was free rooms for customers, gamblers or not and then they tightened up even more on their offers to gamblers and their gambling conditions have pretty much sucked.

    Getting rid of host power, also didn't do them any favors as the experience for a knowledgeable guest at Harrahs property is to maximize what they give me from Total rewards, play to that level and leave. I have no interaction with staff if I don't need to and in the end it doesn't help them protect their base.
     
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