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Bellagio/MandarinO/CityCenter 11/3-7, 2010

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by Say No To 6-5, Nov 8, 2010.

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  1. Say No To 6-5

    Say No To 6-5 Newbie

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    My Trip Report

    Longtime lurker, new poster. Been to Vegas many, many times, but has been around 2.5 years since our last visit. Will share some overall impressions as well as specifics.

    Overall: no question the economy is hitting Vegas hard. This past weekend, saw a fair number of unnocupied/shut down tables on the casino floors at Bellagio, Caesars, Aria, Mirage and TI. Many green- and black-chip tables were empty for long stretches, more than I can remember on my numerous past visits to the Strip. Only appreciable action was at the $10 tables.

    Part of me hopes this is people rejecting the proliferation of 6-5 Blackjack, which now seems to be everywhere except the most exclusive HL tables. I hate 6-5 BH and refuse to play it, ever, and I sure wish the people I saw at the $10 tables would stop playing.

    Bellagio: as usual, a very nice stay. Room prices have really come down at Bellagio. I think we got round trip air tickets and a basic weekend stay for $1k, which was unheard of here a few years ago. Even after (1) full-on dinner at Mina’s restaurant, (2) clothes shopping, and (3) a three-hour Bellagio spa appointment for the lady, our entire Bellagio hotel bill was under $1100 upon checkout, which amazed me. I wonder if they left something off, but I don’t think so.

    Hi-limit slot advisory: we were in the Hi-Limit Bellagio slot area (the one near the guest room elevators). Someone hit the progressive for the bank of machines against the wall. I think it was a $465,000 jackpot. It’s now been reset to $10k. Don’t play those machines for a while. Also, all the $500 slots were reserved. PS I hate the slots, but the chick loves them, she’s addicted to that damn wheel of fortune. We occasionally hit the $25 slots, and rarely the $100 slots.

    Mina’s restaurant was very good. The staff is on top of everything, the kitchen is very efficient, and the food is top-notch, even if a little pricey. We will be back.

    If you want something cheaper and faster, Café Bellagio good as usual. I have a new favorite drink at the hotel: the Pina Colada at the circular piano bar near the hotel lobby. The friendly waitress explained the hotel does its own Colada mixes with fresh ingredients, I had a bunch of them they were so good - definitely worth the money.

    Not wanting to get dressed up the next night, we ate at Bellagio's "prime" buffet Saturday evening, which costs around $40 a person. I thought it was worth it: the carving selection was good, including rack of lamb, prime rib, and "kobe" beef, as well as the alaskan crab legs. Bellagio buffet slices the crab legs in half, which makes them very easy to eat. Sushi was good for a buffet. We will return.

    Make sure you have a lot of time if eating at Bellagio buffet on Friday or Saturday evening when they have the higher-level buffet. The line can be as long as 45 minutes to get in. We didn’t wait that long, but on Saturday the couple in front of us had a 9:30 p.m. show and got in line at around 7:45 p.m. No way they were going to make it – we saw a number of folks bail after waiting 15 minutes, realizing they were going to miss show times because the line was jammed.

    Saw O Friday night, we had prime seats. I thought the show was good, but some of the opening performers missed their tricks. In my opinion, audiences are getting harder to please: at many points applause were tepid at best, and the end-of-show standing ovation seemed forced. And this from a 10:00 p.m. crowd that should have some alcohol in them. Perhaps, with so many Cirque de Soleil shows in operation on the strip (Elvis revival, Zumanity, O, Mystere, and who knows what else), the entire brand is worn and overplayed. It certainly felt that way during and after the O performance. Would be curious to hear if other people also are underwhelmed by Cirque.

    Mandarin Oriental:

    This was our first trip to City Center, since it opened (I think) last December. We did an extended tour of the entire Center, including a visit to the Mandarin Oriental. Overall impression: disaster.

    I have a lot of experience with stays at Mandarin Oriental. I once stayed at the MO in Miami for six weeks straight (it was business-related and the company picked up the tab, we had 15 rooms and an enormous bill!), so I know the MO intimately.

    This is my first visit to the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Overall impression: I fear for the future of this property.

    The MO Las Vegas may be a nice hotel – if you can find it. The Sky Lobby has great views, staff is friendly. Even the bathrooms are top-notch Mandarin Oriential quality – the rolled hand toweles, the futuristic sinks, the candles. I love the serene, peaceful feeling you get at every MO property.

    But the City Center location for the Mandarin Oriental is stunningly, shockingly wrong. All wrong.

    First, the entrance is impossible to find. The entrance appears as though its recessed below street level -- unquestionably the entrance is hidden behind a City Center pedestrian walkway and elevated foot bridge. If you don’t know the Mandarin Oriential logo, when you look at the hotel’s sleek, black building, you have no idea what it is – because the bottom half of the hotel is hidden from view.

    We had to ask someone how to get to the entrance – not good.

    This has to be why the MO Las Vegas lobby is a "sky" lobby. You ride an elevator to one of the top floors, the 23rd as I recall, to check in. Having visited, I now understand why the MO created the sky lobby: it would have been a disaster with a traditional ground-floor lobby, since the lobby view would have been concrete and car traffic.

    But even with the sky lobby, something just feels "off" about the MO Las Vegas. You walk in, and to do anything at all, you need to take an elevator. No lounging around on the ground floor. No meeting guests or hanging out with friends or family – unless you ride an elevator. Bottom line: there is a serious lack of inviting open space, which is so unlike many other MO hotels. PS if there is space on the ground floor, we couldn't find it based on the entrace we took. Nor were their any signs or anything else pointing to a pool, restaurant access, a bar, nothing. Just a dark space and a bank of elevators. Bad floorplan. Bad design. Just plain bad.

    Most concerning: the Mandarin Oriential was dead for a Friday and Saturday. I mean seriously dead. No cars or taxis were pulling up – at all. Lobby beyond quiet, we didn’t see a single person check in. Just a couple people at the small bar. Sky Floor restaurant was empty. This was a real shock and a major departure from the other Mandarin Oriental properties. For example, the Miami MO is always hopping – tons of foot traffic, packed bars and restaurants, people partying on the beach and hitting the pool. No such thing at MO Las Vegas.

    How can a Vegas hotel do well without inviting access and foot traffic? Yeah, I don’t know either. I do not see how this hotel will do well, ever, especially at MO premium prices. MO Las Vegas has the high costs but without any of the inviting flair of other Mandarin Oriental locations. This, in our view, was a stunning design failure. How could the architects and the people investing in the bonds for this hotel not see this?


    City Center:

    Hated it. Who designed this? To get from property to property, you have to zigzag around, go outside, and ask a lot of questions where things are. It's an annoying maze. No wonder traffic at Cesars shops, Bellagio, and other strip properties were easily quadruple what we saw at City Center – because CC is a pain in the arse to navigate and there are no inviting places to sit down or relax, no benches, etc. Thursday traffic at City Center was really bad -- how this huge space makes money during the week, I don't know. Weekend traffic was barely adequate on our trip to support this huge maze.

    No one – and I mean no one – was inquiring about the homes/condos for sale. We went to the retail desk to get some information, it was unnoccupied (on a weekend mind you). No brochures. Instead there’s a display with some info. Current prices were $350K for a basic home/condo, and the suites started at $1 million. My guess is those advertised rates are way off the mark, because it looked to us like a huge number of units are unsold and unrented. You can see it even from the monorail – no one is in these units, period.

    Bondholders better get ready to renegotiate City Center terms. The recent Wall Street Journal article is spot on. You don’t need to be a real estate mogul or tour operator expert to see City Center is going to lose billions of dollars – the writedown on this property is going to dropkick investors in the face. I take no glee in writing this. I think it's sad -- the money they threw away on City Center, they could have used to re-up the rooms at Bellagio, which need a makeover, improve the table games, perhaps even spend $500 million developing a brand new show for MGM to generate interest for many years to come.
     
  2. drgar

    drgar Tourist

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    Nice report. Thanks. Was left wondering why you pay for rooms at Bellagio if your playing $10/$25 slots?? Thanks again.
     
  3. bighead1970

    bighead1970 High-Roller

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    I was going to write the same thing about paying for rooms after playing on $25 slots. Nice report though.
     
  4. BackInVegas

    BackInVegas VIP Whale

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    seems to be the general feeling about City Center

    Beeejay stayed there opening weekend and could not say anything nice, especially the part about his plumbing not being hooked up on the sink and he washed his feet. He was in a penthouse BTW.

    Since then, he likes the City Center. Look up his trip reports.

    Their Pool has the 15 minutes of Death Ray spot. Brilliant.
     
  5. Say No To 6-5

    Say No To 6-5 Newbie

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    Fair question. As I may have mentioned, it's been over two years, probably closer to three, since we've been to Vegas (it's a short one hour flight from home).

    We did bring our Bellagio slot cards that we have from six years ago - the significant other has a lot more playtime on her card. When we booked, however, we simply paid for everything up front, including getting a regular room, prime show seats, restaurant reservations and spa appointment time that the lady wanted.

    We started playing a few slots and forgot our Bellagio slot cards. Then as I walked a number of casino floors (Mirage, Caesars, TI, Bellagio), and saw how 6-5 blackjack tables have sprouted like weeds (even at high minimum tables), I got discouraged. I basically didn't want to do the comp dance on this particular trip, esp. since I wasn't going to hit the bj tables because I was annoyed at the table rules/returns.

    After that we dropped a little over $1k into the high limit slots -- it did last a little while, the $25 slot was returning a bit for us and we pumped it back into the machine. Slot attendant did ask if we were members and we said yes.

    We also played the $5 diamond 2-coin slot on the Bellagio floor, didn't win a single reel, that machine just ate Benjamins. It's why I dislike slots.

    So thinking back maybe we should have been a bit more aggressive about the comps and ensured we had at least one slot card with us, but my lack of enthusiasm for the table games plus wanting a low-key trip, we didn't care all that much.
     
  6. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

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    Nice comparison angle to other MO properties. Well done.
     
  7. mctrees02

    mctrees02 High-Roller

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    About the MO, unless something has changed, they are only operating about 75-100 of the rooms right now because of the economy. Also, why does the MO need a lot of foot traffic like other Vegas properties? It doesn't have a casino nor a lot of restaurants that need to be full all the time. They built MOzen to serve as their daily American restaurant and then somehow talked Gagnaire into finally opening a place in the US to serve as their luxury restaurant.

    If they were operating 2000ish rooms then they would need multiple bars, restaurants, etc and a way to drive traffic to them. However, they are looking to serve a few hundred people as well as those who care to venture from other properties to eat at Twist.

    Finally, they built was is arguably the best kept secret in Vegas in the Mandarin Bar. The drink prices are steep but the views are spectacular and the atmosphere is very Anti-Vegas, which IMO is the atmosphere that the MO wants. From the moment I step into the MO it feels like a sanctuary from the glitz, glammer, and busyness of the rest of the strip. I think MO did a great job executing their plan with the Vegas property.
     
  8. egelston2

    egelston2 Low-Roller

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    I agree with the previous poster. I like the MO in Vegas. I have been to the MO numerous times in Miami and believe it is a second rate hotel. My favorite MO is in DC. Of course, this is all subjective as we all have different likes and dislikes.
     
  9. vegas_runner

    vegas_runner Low-Roller

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    I really enjoyed the trip report, specifically from the business perspective. I stayed at Aria in May and hated the experience. The service was good mind you but the room design was a mess. I'm married and the bathroom setup with the bath and shower in the same space was awful. Furthermore, the tub was too small.

    The casino is large but uninviting. They got our money for 3 days but never again. This place is doomed. It is almost like some guy went- "Screw it. The suckers will buy whatever we build- it's Vegas Baby!" Wrong, suckers like me only get taken once.
     
  10. WrongWayWade

    WrongWayWade VIP Whale

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    6:5 at MGM

    Just a note: There is no 6:5 blackjack in Aria, Bellagio or Monte Carlo, (unless I missed seeing it). Now, go across the street to any Harrah's property and not only do they deal 6:5 Single-Deck, they'll give you 6:5 on an 8-DECK SHOE and even a CSM! They have no shame...

    MGM/Mirage is doing a reasonable job holding the line against 6:5 BJ (i.e. Beau Rivage in Biloxi only had 2 6:5 tables against 40 3:2). Harrah's is a whore :Þ

    Aria has 18 tables for 2-deck and 6-deck, all with S17, DOA, DAS, and the shoes have LSR and RSA. The 2-deck is dealt to 67% and the 6-deck to 77%. The limits on these start at $25 and at night are mostly $50 and up, (but I found if they have an idle dealer at a $50 table they'll almost always let you get the table started for $25 if you ask the supervisor.) One oddity but you get used to it quickly is that they deal the 2-deck face-up. I guess they save on changing the cards less often that way. I also like that when the relief dealer shows up they just hand them the cards instead of insisting on a new shuffle for the new dealer. The 6-deck is hand-shuffled as well.

    Aria has 26 CSM BJ tables with limits always available at $10 or $15, with just a few going to $25 at night.

    We had a great (and profitable) trip to Aria from Nov. 10-15 and enjoyed it very much. Sorry, but I LIKE the casino and property! (I realize it's become cool to hate City Center). Hope to put together a trip report soon.
     
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