Just got back this afternoon from a three night stay at the Water Club at the Borgata in Atlantic City for 4th of July weekend. It was our first stay there in AC. We usually stay at Caesars, but we decided to try something new for a visit from my in-laws. tl;dr: Beautiful hotel, really nice rooms with gorgeous views, nice restaurants (though some selections rather odd), fun comedy club, awesome spa, really weird layout to the gaming floor, way too smoky. Thursday, July 2nd: I met my wife at a Park and Ride after she got out of work because she was working in South Jersey again, so we dropped off my car and moved the luggage to her car instead and headed to AC. Traffic wasn't too bad considering a three day weekend was about to start. My in-laws faced a lot more traffic driving from the Philadelphia airport. We got there about an hour before my in-laws, so we checked into the Water Club and went up to our room to relax. Wow, what a beautiful view of the Marina and the ocean. We hadn't stayed in the Marina section of town before, so this was new to us. The rooms at the Water Club are very modern with tasteful original artwork. The "king bed" turned out to be only slightly larger than a queen bed, but it was very comfortable. The bathroom had a dual-head shower, but no tub. My in-laws checked in and their room had a view of the wetlands on the other side of the hotel and wind power generating windmills. A lot of jetskiers were out having fun, so it was kind of neat to watch them racing around. We were all starving so we headed downstairs to try the buffet. No dice. The buffet was getting slammed and had a line miles long so we ate at an oyster bar/cafe called The Metropolitan instead. I had the homestyle meatloaf which was pretty good and our server was really friendly and funny. We went for a walk around to check the place out after dinner. The Borgata is very clearly meant to evoke the Bellagio in Las Vegas with lots of marble and columns and modern artwork. We had tried getting my father-in-law upgraded to the My Borgata Black Label players' card since he's platinum level with MGM in Vegas, but they weren't impressed because MGM doesn't have a casino in Atlantic City. Too bad for them. My father-in-law would have given them a lot more play if they had shown a little respect. We noticed pretty quickly that the gaming floor of the Borgata was apparently designed by idiots. Instead of having a particular section for smoking -- with all the slot and VP machines and table games together for smokers -- they decided to spread it out evenly throughout the casino. So, they would have a row of smoking slots, two rows of non-smoking slots, two rows of smoking VP machines, a few non-smoking tables, a few smoking tables, just thrown everywhere with no rhyme or reason to it. The problem with this set-up was that it was impossible to escape from smoke, no matter where you went in the casino. For non-smokers like my in-laws -- and former, recovering smokers like myself -- this was pretty awful, because we couldn't get any gaming done without coughing up big lungfuls of secondhand smoke and having our clothes smell disgusting. I know there is going to be smoking going on at casinos, but usually the casino floor is designed so non-smokers can also have a good time. This was a serious oversight by the Borgata. Typically, I play at Caesars where they have an entire second floor that's non-smoking, so I never usually have to deal with this issue. This was a major downer for this weekend's trip. We abandoned the gaming floor and went to bed around 11 pm. Friday, July 3rd: We got up pretty early to get a jump on the breakfast buffet and we were finally able to get through the line there without any trouble. The breakfast buffet was pretty good with lots of variety. My in-laws appreciated the omelet station. I liked that they had a lot of carbs, because carbs are awesome and calories don't count when you are on vacation. Right? I did my best to really enjoy the buffet without stuffing myself into a coma, because we wanted to get a lot of walking in later that morning. This was my in-laws first extensive trip to AC, so we wanted to show them around town. We caught a cab and took it to the Taj Mahal over on the Boardwalk so we could look around. The Taj Mahal was absolutely dead, even for a holiday weekend. Carl Icahn owns the place and he recently decided to cancel health insurance for the employees there. Customers have responded by boycotting the Taj and Icahn's other casino, the Tropicana. The moral of the story is don't piss off your customers by treating your employees like dirt. Players love the employees at our casinos. I know most of the employees at Caesars by name and if CET cut off their health insurance that would really piss me off too. We decided to work out our breakfast buffets by walking south on the Boardwalk past Resorts and Bally's to go check out what they've down with the Caesars Pier Shops. They've been redeveloped into something called The Playground with a big concert venue replacing the old fountain show and an entire floor of new music clubs. There's a blues club, a 1920s theme club, a rock club, a country club, etc. They have live music there every night now and they've done a great job with the place. The shops that remained from the Pier Shops are still there as always, but they found a good way to use all the empty retail space that was a problem for Caesars over the past few years. We can't wait to visit again and enjoy some music on our next trip. My wife bought some new clothes and gifts in some of the shops and then we decided to head back north on the Boardwalk. We had lunch at the Irish Pub, because you can't go to AC without going there. You just can't. The place has been an institution for decades. It was nice to have a sandwich and a nice cold Guinness after enjoying all that sunshine and sea breezes. We headed back to Borgata after that to have dinner at Fornaletto's. I liked that it was designed to look like an Italian wine cellar, but it did make me wonder why they didn't offer more variety in their wine menu. Oh, well. I had a really tasty seafood spaghettini for dinner with a nice glass of Sicilian chardonnay. Unfortunately, while the plates were being cleared, the bus boy spattered my shirt with sauce. After it was cleaned up with some club soda, the manager gave me a credit for dry cleaning and complimentary dessert to make up for the mistake. I appreciated that they stepped up about that, because I was wearing a brand new Polo Ralph Lauren shirt. After dinner, we had tickets for the Borgata comedy club which is held in the 1000 seat Music Box concert venue. We got there a little early to get good seats and we had a fun time. There were three comedians on the bill and they all had different styles of comedy and really made us laugh. After the show, we had the opportunity to chat with the comedians, which was really nice. Then we went and got some gelato, because why not, before heading to bed. Saturday, July 4th: We had the breakfast buffet for a second time, because it's soooooooo good. Then, afterward, we decided to go check out the rest of the Marina section of town. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to get to the Golden Nugget on foot from the Borgata, even though it's literally right across the road. Instead, we ended up having to pay $2.25 a person for the Jitney to bring us down the road past Harrah's and around the bend to the Golden Nugget. What a waste of money when a footbridge would have been so much simpler. The Golden Nugget has done a nice job of fixing up the marina after Donald Trump let the place go to Hell. The Golden Nugget has really been good for AC in general. We walked all around the marina and admired the boats, then we went into the Golden Nugget for a little while. For such a small casino, it's a really nice place. They've really gone all out to make the place pretty classy. We went back to the Borgata and had a quick lunch at the "Cafeteria", which is their quick-serve area downstairs. They had some junk food places there like Fatburger, but they also had some healthy eating like Lettuce Head. I got a sandwich at Lettuce Head to make myself feel a little better about the massive amounts of unhealthy food I was consuming on the trip. For a casino, the prices weren't unreasonable. After that, my father-in-law and I decided to go play some games, even with the ridiculous smoking areas on the gaming floor. My father-in-law lasted about fifteen minutes playing VP before he couldn't take it anymore and he went back to his room. He was wheezing and coughing from all the smoke. I was determined to get some play in, so I stuck it out for about two hours, but I had a lot of problems. I was having a ton of issues finding non-smoking dollar slot machines and I was circling the gaming floor going through every section of smoking trying to find them to no avail. Eventually, I decided to lower my standards and play some quarter slots, but then it took an hour to get a drink from a cocktail waitress. I know it's a holiday weekend, but c'mon now. It's not like I was playing penny slots. I played for a couple hours and then the smoke was too much for me, so I went back to my hotel room. When I got up there, my wife held her nose because now I reeked of secondhand smoke, so I had to go take a shower and wash my hair to get the stink out. It pretty much sucked. When we headed back downstairs for dinner, my father-in-law said he had tried the outdoor pool at the Water Club, but the place was designed poorly so there was no sun on the patio around the pool in the afternoon on either side of the building. Seriously? This place is supposed to be called the Water Club for a reason, right? Anyway, we went to dinner at Izakaya, which is a Japanese/Asian fusion restaurant. It ended up being kind of an odd restaurant. It was family-style, which was fine, but the menu was really eclectic. We had some sushi and sashimi and then some broiled sea bass, and, believe it or not, honey fried chicken. I didn't really get how all of that went together, but all right, I guess. It was all pretty tasty so I can't complain about that at all. Our server was also really nice, which we appreciated. We watched the Marina area fireworks show outside in the parking lot and it was really awesome. They went all out on it and it was a beautiful way to celebrate Independence Day. Sunday, July 5th: We had the breakfast buffet for a third time (Did I mention it was sooooooooo good?), although this time it was Sunday brunch so there was also stuff like steaks and prime rib along with the breakfast food. My in-laws needed to catch a flight back home, so we said our goodbyes and then the wife and I went to the spa in the Water Club for a couples massage. It was just the thing to relax us and relieve our stress. With our massage we got admittance to the rest of the spa, including their lap pool and jacuzzi with gorgeous views of the ocean. We ended up spending over four hours there just relaxing and enjoying ourselves. It was really peaceful and fun. Final Verdict: The Borgata is a beautiful resort and the Water Club is a top-class hotel. The only real problem the place has is that they really screwed up the design of their gaming floor for non-smokers. I don't begrudge someone a cigarette while they play. People should be free to do as they will. However, I don't feel that I should have to risk becoming a relapsed former smoker just because I want to play some slots. Seriously, it's not hard to create a smoking section and a non-smoking section. Caesars does not have this problem, because they planned it out really well years ago. The Borgata is offering me comp rooms to return, but I don't know if I'll take them up on it, because gaming was such a painful experience because of this issue. I may just stick to Caesars instead.