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MARCH 2014 Las Vegas Trip Report - Creating Our Own Spring

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by zignerlv, Apr 8, 2014.

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  1. zignerlv

    zignerlv Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    My Trip Report

    MARCH 2014 Las Vegas Trip Report - Creating Our Own Spring- LV, Sidetrips DV/Laughlin

    I have admiration for those that take the time to put together a full trip report with pictures. It is a lot of effort. I found that the google blog was the easiest place for me to compose it. It was a lot less work (but still hours) than doing here, since pictures are uploaded directly to the blog instead of having to upload elsewhere and supply links, as needs to be done on this site.

    What I will do, to abide by the rules, is post the text here, and post the link with the full report, with pictures, of the blog.

    Trip Report with Pictures Blog Link


    MARCH 2014 Las Vegas Trip Report - Creating Our Own Spring

    WITH SIDE TRIPS TO LAUGHLIN, DEATH VALLEY, GRAPEVINE CANYON



    The theme of this trip is "Create your own Spring". This winter has been tough here, and the near freezing highs of the days continued into March, it was time to take matters into our own hands and create our own Spring by heading to where it actually existed! Leading into our trip, there was some question as to whether a snow storm was going to hit on the day we were heading out. Luck started early as the storm did not develop as forecast.

    I have a Platinum Delta Airlines Amex card ($125/yr) which allows one free bag per person for each flight, as well as one yearly free companion ticket, which more than pays for the $125 fee. For the almost two week car rental, I lucked out on a $200 prepaid rate for Dollar rent-a-car (including all fees) by using the Caesars Total Rewards partner, "Lifestyle Collection", which initially had some ridiculously low rates (they no longer do). I saw rates averaging close to $600 if I did not get this deal.

    The downside to this deal was since it was technically booked via a third party, I could not use my Dollar Express membership to bypass the line. Well the line at the car rental desk was LONG. There was not a single person waiting on the lines at Budget, Enterprise, or Alamo! It was evening and there were only three agents checking people in. Well there were three until we were halfway through the line and one left on her hour plus long break. As we approached the front of the line we noticed a couple of foreign families and correctly predicted that they were going to take very long to be processed. We timed it, and each of them took between 10-12 minutes to process their rental. With two people in front of us, another agent took a break, leaving ONE AGENT with a line of 50 people waiting. Two returned from their breaks, and finally, after waiting 1:05, it was my turn. I tempered my frustration in the great savings on the rental as well as how one hour would not make much of a dent in a nearly two week trip. I was fortunate in that they did not have any compact cars available and we received a Malibu with leather seats, sunroof, and working satellite radio (great for a drive to Death Valley). Had I reserved this particular car for two weeks it would have cost over $600 with taxes.

    So, we evaded the snow, got a 2 for 1 airfare, and a stellar almost two week car rental rate. Let's start the trip!

    I personally get bored reading trip reports loaded with routine daily detailed stories of wins and losses, so I won't do that here, except for noteworthy cases.


    GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE AT THE M

    Here is a an example of really good service. We started our trip at the M Resort. On our first morning, we each ordered a coffee and a bottle of water at the video poker slot machines. When the coffee arrived we saw the server had drawn a smiley face on the insulating band that surrounded the cup. We had a short thank you conversation with her. That was the only drink we ordered from her. The next morning, I played early, alone, and ordered one coffee for myself from the same server. When she came back she had two coffees (with the smileys again) and waters, and said the other was for my companion! (Technically you are only allowed to order a drink if you are playing at the machine, which means I couldn't order two). She actually remembered us from the prior morning! I gave her a nice tip for such great service.

    At the M I was disappointed to see a sign informing everyone that the breakfast buffet was be closed for good from March 17. Keep in mind the Hash House restaurant had also recently closed there. The M breakfast buffet was just about my favorite, with unique items like strawberry banana smoothies and a very nice quality selection of fruit.

    On Thursdays there is a free slot tournament at the M. You gain additional entries with play, up to 5. I managed to hit the top payout on one pull, in one of my sessions, but typically in a slot tournament, you need to do that 2-3 times before having a chance to place in the money. To my surprise the attendant said my total score was higher that the usual minimum to make the money. This was hard to believe because even in my session, there were about 5 scores higher than mine, and the tournament was running for another 5 hours! My score would have to hold up all that time and be in the top 30 to finish in the money. At 10 pm they posted the results, and I finished in the top 20, winning $100 in free play!

    I will have to list my pet peeve at the M, which is their very short narrow playlist on their casino audio system. Several times, we heard the same 1980's song twice in under two hours! I defy anyone to play 75 minutes there without hearing a song by Doobie Brothers.


    BELLAGIO LATE LUNCH BUFFET VIA MYVEGAS

    We had free Bellagio lunch buffet passes from playing myVegas and noticed that after we got in at about 3:20pm, they stopped taking customers for about 10 minutes until 3:30 when dinner begins. I am wondering if this was a purposeful attempt to discourage those who come just before the changeover to beat the dinner price increase. My advice is to plan to be early enough to get to the cashier by 3:15. The buffet was excellent, as usual, and in particular we loved the Sea Bass.


    ZARKANA VIA MYVEGAS

    We had free Zarkana tickets from myVegas. If you are redeeming the lower priced award, I would recommend our seats. Section 201 row U seats 13 and 14. These are better seats than many of the premium award seats which are closer to the stage but much further to the side. As far as a review, I was a bit disappointed, as it was if Cirque has run out of ideas. If you have seen Mystere where the two men in white and their incredible floor strength gymnastics act, imagine that with just one of men alone instead of two. That was one of the acts in this show. Obviously a lot let impressive. The show opened with a female juggler act. Sure she was very good for a juggler, but this, in a Cirque show? Then there were the two men on the double rotating wheel contraption act, which is the same as the contraption in Ka. Except here the acrobatics is not as advanced as the Ka show, and only one of the two men stood outside on the wheel during the climatic end. Now if you hadn't seen Mystere or Ka, you might not be as disappointed as I was. I felt the highlight was the music from this show.


    DOUBLE BONUS VP SESSION

    I've had some pretty good sessions playing double bonus over the years, but this one might have set the bar even higher. I take pics of my special 4 of a kinds and above (400 coin wins and up) and so I have the exact time of each hand, which allowed me to document this day of Video Poker.

    I started playing at 9:00, and at 9:08, I had a straight flush after holding only 2 cards, for a 250 coin win. Then at 9:28 I hit the big hand of 4 Aces for 800 coins! This was already a decent session! It continued, as at 10:25 I had 4 -3's for 400 coins, followed by 4 3's again at 11:50. Somewhere in there, I took about an hour for a late breakfast and a break. I continued on the same machine, and at 12:24 I had 4 2's for 400 more. Before the thrill of that wore off, just 9 minutes later I followed it up with by 4 3's! I had over 2700 credits on the machine now! Wow!

    But I wasn't finished! 21 minutes later, I hit 4 3's and yes, received another win of 400. The machine then surprised me as it ejected a 400 coin voucher, instead of accumulating the credits on the machine. Apparently the machine is set up to allow a maximum of 3000 or so credits to be held on the machine. I tucked away the voucher and continued. In between all these bonus 4 of a kinds, I was getting other good hands, like many flushes and full houses and non bonus four of a kinds to keep me from falling back too far between bonus quads. Would my streak run dry now? Well 14 minutes later I hit 4 2's again and another 400 coin voucher was printed and spit of of the machine. Okay, I put that one away too. Then, 25 minutes after that one, I followed up with 4 3's again, for my third 400 coin voucher. I didn't mind the vouchers as it kept the credit total on the machine lower so that curious eyes wouldn't know exactly how good this session was going. I kept playing, and just 3 minutes later, this was followed up by a regular four of a kind in Jacks for a 250 coin voucher. 20 minutes later I was getting a bit tired from all the play, and the session started to lose its magical feel. I cashed out for 2400 coins, for a grand total of exactly 4000 coins in vouchers, a net win of 3700 coins.

    Typically when you hit a royal flush for 4000 coins, and if you play for a couple of hours, many times you will net out 3,500 coins or so due to losses on non royal hands. So, being up in this day 3700 was even better than many typical royal flush sessions. Having this session early in the long trip was great, as I now had a nice bankroll to for the rest of the trip.


    DOWNTOWN AT THE GOLDEN NUGGET - CAR DRAWING AND CON JOB

    I was up early in the morning and headed through the Golden Nugget to see an odd sight. They were driving a car into and through the casino, which was going to be given away later that day. I took some video as they got the car down the steps into the casino and drove it through the narrow corridor between rows of machines.

    The drawing for the car was even more interesting. There looked to be 3,000 or so paper entries in the drawing bin. They called the first name of the 4 finalists for the car and the woman jumped up to the stage. They then called the second name, and it was the same woman. She then revealed that she only had 2 entries in the drawing (most people had about 2 to 10 entries). The look of disbelief and the sound of whispers filled the room. They drew again called another name as the second finalist instead since you could only have one finalist per person. They then each chose one of the four of keys, in order of their names being drawn. They would try to start the car in order of their selection. The woman went first and turned the key. It was a bit noisy in the room and so you couldn't really hear anything, even 20 feet away. The organizers should have considered putting a mic in the engine compartment for a more obvious sign that someone won, and for the dramatic effect of the rumbling engine. Anyway, her husband leaned down near the front of the car and raised his thumb up. The engine had started and she had won the car!

    Now, let all the conspiracy theorists step up, because this gets better. If I were running this contest, I would have still had the other 3 get in and try turning their key to show their key didn't start the car as well. In fact, if I were the other finalist, I would have insisted on this. But no, the contest ended there. So to summarize, a woman with only two entries got picked twice as the first two pulls out of a barrel of about 3000 entries, got to pick out her key first, then was the first to try starting the car, and her key started the car before anyone else got a chance to try to see if their key worked!

    The next day I heard someone call out to the bartender to call security that a woman had been scammed for $400. The scam took advantage of an odd way slot machines handle different denominations. If you cash out on a quarter slot machine for a non whole dollar amount, say $400.50 and use that voucher to then play a $1 machine, the machine will immediately create a 50 cent voucher since you can only bet whole dollar amounts on it. Well the crook watches this happen and then goes over to "help" the person. The victim will assume (and reasonably so) that somehow the machine has refunded their entire amount, and not just the 50 cents. The "helpful" crook will tell the victim that he will show them the other machines that will accept this type of voucher. He leads the victim to a other machine, a few rows away, and when the person feeds the voucher into the machine, he disappears quickly to the initial machine which still holds the $400 credit, cashes it out, and steals the money.


    ELVIS "KING'S RANSOM" EXHIBIT AT BINIONS

    We had walked by this exhibit in October and thought that given the look of the exhibit from the outside, that it probably wouldn't be worth the $20 a person entrance fee. Well apparently a lot of people agreed since the admission is now free, until they remove the exhibit at the end of March. Once inside, it was not that impressive. I enjoyed most seeing Elvis's Mylanta and Chapstick.


    DEATH VALLEY SIDE-TRIP

    Over a decade ago, after reading online about Death Valley, I wanted to take a side trip there from Las Vegas. Unfortunately, our Las Vegas trips are at times where it is either far too hot or too cold and windy to visit. Years ago I purchased a tour guide written by a local man and read it cover to cover. When this trip came up to be planned in March, one of the first ideas that came to mind is that is was a perfect time of year to finally take this side trip. I was able to find my old tour guide book and bring it along. It gives much more detail to the history of the area, with information such as where the roads followed the original western explorers routes, and the history of the mining boom there, etc.

    Our path into the park was not one that is typically used, but one recommended by my guide that travels along the historic explorer routes and is much more scenic. It is called the Old Spanish Trail. So scenic that it takes 3.5 hours vs 2.25 via the more direct route (via Death Valley Junction). For miles and miles we were the only car that we saw on the roads which was a bit unsettling at times (what if the car broke down?) but the views kept us from thinking about that too much.

    We made a short stop in Shoshone NV on the way to the park. There is a very small museum there. The air was fresh, quite cool, and very breezy. So cool that I wanted to get my jacket. Just 90 minutes later, it would be 90 degrees when we got to Badwater.

    One of the unexpected highlights that was not mentioned in my tour book was literally running into a spring area where coyotes seem to gather and rule. Although we saw lots of plant-life and birds, we did not see many animals until we headed around one curve coming into Badwater. Something was on the road ahead. I slowed down to see what was there and it appeared to be a coyote. What was odd is that instead of the coyote running away in fear of the car or the fact that humans were around, the coyote looked up and kept walking down the middle of the road, right towards us, looking right at us. It was as if it were saying "this is my territory, get out of here!" It sauntered around, looking us right in the eyes as it approached the car, as if it was the tourist and we were the animals to be observed. After coming right up to the stopped car, it finally hopped up on the side of the road where I got a few good quality pictures. As we continued, a few of the coyote's friends were seen also by the road. After the trip I read that their behavior was likely not due to them being fearless predators, as it seemed, but instead due to them being used to being fed from humans in cars.

    and finally back to Las Vegas. The guidebook we had had all sorts of subtle historic points pointed out that we could see along the drive. Most of these are not mentioned in any DV travel website that I have come across. We left around 7:30am and returned at 5:30pm, driving about 350 miles in the day. I actually drove for about 8 hours that day, but it didn't feel like it at all. I will say there is more plant life in Death Valley than in many parts of Las Vegas. The temperature in Badwater hit 90 that day, a far cry from the near freezing temps that we left from! It was entertaining watching the temperatures rise and fall with the elevation changes. On the way back, as we dropped about 3000 feet in a mile or two, the temperature rose 12 degrees.

    We purposely didn't make it up to Scotty's Castle, as that is the northern end of the park (keep in mind the the park is the size of Connecticut) and its really too much to cover in one day.


    NOTABLE VP SESSION #2

    I had just sat down in the early afternoon one day, after a long break, and just as I was still getting comfortable, held a King and Queen of hearts, hoping for a high pair. I hit deal in filled in a Royal Flush for 4000 coins. It took me by surprise enough to cause me yell out "oh baby", although the people within hearing distance didn't even flinch to see the reason for my thrilled expression, which was fine with me.

    Aside from my big double bonus day and my royal, most of the other days were slight to significant losers, but still leaving me with a profit for the trip. Considering the length of this trip, I was quite pleased with the end result, in the black!


    LAUNDRY? ON VACATION?

    This was our first "marathon" trip, nearly 2 weeks. It seemed silly (and expensive to check another bag) to take that many days clothes on the trip, so we looked for a way to get laundry done. In looking at my trip plan it just so happened that the midpoint of our trip was at Sam's Town, and I know that their RV park has a laundry room. My plan was to ask the front desk upon check in if we could get access to the room. If that failed (maybe it was strictly for RV users), likely a host might be able to help get us in. Surprisingly at check in, the agent was more than willing to give us the code to use the facilities there, so maybe it's not an unusual request. The machines were actually quite small compared to commercial machines at a laundromat, and it was $1.50 for the wash and $1.25 for the dryer. We headed back to the casino rather than waiting for the wash and dryers to finish.


    LVH "SUITE"

    In October, I won a 2 night stay in a suite in the LVH hotel, via their free swipe, where you earned swipes through play. My rooms there are always comped, but I have never stayed in a suite there before, and so was looking forward to it. Well when we checked in, we were given keys to two rooms, which immediately sounded a bit fishy. I have stayed in many suites in other hotels, and they all had only one door. When we got to the room we found the "suite" was nothing more than two adjoining rooms. You had to open the adjoining doors inside in order to get to the second room from the first without going into the hallway. The second room had nothing in it different than the first room except for the bed being a fold up "Murphy" bed. There was no couch, no larger TV, nothing that would make it a suite. We then found the AC wasn't really working properly, and it was very hot in the room. Clearly, our regular room that we typically stayed in was better than this "free suite". I called downstairs and asked if this room was a suite, and was told, yes it was. I then asked what I was supposed to be able to do in this second adjoining room that I could not do in first room, and for them to explain the value of having this "suite" to me. They really couldn't. After some time, and speaking to a person in the marketing area, we were moved a real mini suite.

    At LVH they were running a daily drawing to win and spin a wheel for prizes. With this long trip there were so many things to remember, I almost forgot about it. Five minutes before the drawing, I happened to be at the slot club desk and saw the sign about the drawing. I asked if I could still enter. The agent pointed to a man behind her and said "He is running the drawing. If you get to the kiosk before he gets there, you will be entered into the drawing". I headed right over and swiped to enter my entries. Two minutes later he drew the winners, electronically, and my name appeared on the screen as one of the 5 winners! I thought that the prize was $100 in free play, but learned you had to spin the wheel to determine your prize. The first two women each won a bottle of wine, which was disappointing. My "strategy" was not to even bother looking at the prizes on the wheel, but just to spin it. As the wheel was coming to a stop the two spots with "logo wear" were coming closer and closer. Oh great, I was about to win a t-shirt, I said to myself. Well the arrow tried to get to the logo wear slot, but bounced back to the prior slot, for $250 in free play! This was the third best prize on the wheel! Hard to believe I cashed at a free slot tournament and at a drawing in the same week!


    LAUGHLIN AND GRAPEVINE CANYON

    We've gone to Laughlin about ten or so times and we hadn't really done any side trips there. We had been reading about Grapevine Canyon and how it was only a few miles away so it seemed like a good choice. The turn off to the area is a dirt road about 6 miles up route 163 from Laughlin. You "only" had to travel about 2 miles on the dirt road, and it was said to be pretty smooth for a dirt road (no 4 wheel or high clearance required). Well driving about 15 miles an hour was bumpy in some areas and not too bad in others. The road was of course very dusty and sandy, but after 2 miles there was a another short road to the parking area. If you just want to hike down a 1/4 mile to the edge of the canyon, you can see the Indian petroglyphs on the rocks. If that is all you wanted to see you could be back in your car in about 20 minutes. However, you can explore the canyon a bit and we did, for a couple of hours, hiking to the top to the rocks on the right side of the canyon. The pictures do not do it justice since my new camera broke and I had to resort to taking pictures with my phone. The highlights were seeing the numerous flowering beaver tail cactus that were in the canyon. You wouldn't see any of these if you just walked the to the petroglyphs.

    A unique sensation while at this area is the total silence. If you travel to a typical wooded peaceful deserted area in this country, you typically hear the sound of wind in the trees, birds, crickets etc. Well this is the desert, and there were none of those (rarely even a bird), just a few lizards. As a result, the pure calming quietness of this place was something we never experienced before. Total silence!

    They had some pamphlets at the parking area that explained the meaning of some of the petroglyphs. One in particular caught my eye as it was a complaint by one of the ancient Indians that his casino host would not comp his meals, even though he had lost a lot at the tables there.

    At Harrahs Laughlin they were running a slot tournament for invited guests, and instead of using dedicated machines in the old tournament room near the sports book, they temporarily converted some regular slot machines in the non smoking casino. (Yes, Harrahs actually has a dedicated non smoking casino) What made this interesting was the new high tech slot machines they were using. They were able to change the software on the fly so these machines were switched to a different game and put in slot tournament mode (no cash). But, the real novel part was the two large screens above the players. On the left screen was a real-time listing of each player and their current total (no need for the typical wandering eye checking out their neighbors score during the tournament). On the right screen, they had the faces of the top 4 players, as the machines had a camera in them focused on the players face!!! One last thing, the game they were playing was unique in that instead of just mindlessly pushing the spin button, you had to touch the screen as soon as a bonus icon appeared to accumulate the bonus. So each player had one hand pushing the spin button, and the other hand tapping at the screen quickly when the bonus came up.


    Odd sighting. Man breaking up a biscuit on top of his Cheerios and then pouring milk over it all, at breakfast.

    Observation: Laughlin has the highest percentage of middle to senior aged men with ponytails. We lost count of how many we saw there in Laughlin.


    FREE PLAY SCOREBOARD

    Most of my hotel complimentary room offers came with free money (free play) that must be played through slot/video poker machines. The total free play from the hotels on this trip totaled, $1,150!


    HOTEL SCOREBOARD

    We haven't paid for a single Las Vegas hotel room in over 10 years, and that streak continued here. Six of the nights we stayed in suites. In addition, no resort fees were paid on this trip (it is against my religion).


    MEAL SCOREBOARD

    We haven't paid for a single meal in many years, and once again, here, all meals were comped. Our only food costs were the tips, and buying a quart of milk for the 2 days we had breakfast in the room. Among the dinners were king crab (twice), rack of lamb, tuna steak, filet mignon, osso buco, Bellagio buffet, Caesars Bacchanal buffet, and the M Studio Buffet. In addition, we were given this nice fruit basket from one of our hosts on the trip.


    CAR RENTAL RETURN TIP

    If you have at least 2 normal sized suitcases you might want to consider doing what we do with returning the rental car. We first drive to the airport departures area (the airport is on the way to the car rental return area) and drop off one person with the bags. The other person then drives to the car rental return with just a light carry-on or two, returns the car, and then takes the shuttle back to the airport departures to meet up again and check the bags in. What this does is eliminates the need to drag the bags from the car return area, then through the rental terminal, then onto the crowded shuttle bus, then off the bus at the terminal.


    GENERAL NOTES AND SUMMARY

    This was our first trip in March, and we were surprised at how much more busy things were everywhere compared to our normal visits in early May, when the weather is reasonably warm and ideal. This was partly due to several college conferences having their tournaments in town during this period, as well as people coming in for March madness.

    In all this was a cash positive trip, with local weather being above average temperature and only having a couple of windy days. Our rooms were comped, our meals were comped, the free play was far greater than our transportation costs, and we have memorable side trips. In addition, we were cash positive on our play. The weather was better than we could have hoped for. What an amazing trip!
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
  2. bobbyh

    bobbyh Tourist

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    Nice trip report!

    What denomination VP were you playing? I only see coins mentioned.
     
  3. sporty8705

    sporty8705 VIP Whale

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    How did you manage no resort fees? I stayed at the LVH in march had had to pay them..
     
  4. Blonde_4_ever

    Blonde_4_ever "The Welfare Queen of Windsor"

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    Now THIS is a trip report!!!!
    Well done!
     
  5. guapoxxx

    guapoxxx High-Roller

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    Excellent report! :peace:

    I do the same exact thing when dropping off my rental car too :thumbsup:
     
    Annual Golf Trip
  6. zignerlv

    zignerlv Low-Roller

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    In several places where there are resort fees, they are not charged for complimentary rooms.


    To those who posted the kind compliments, thanks!
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
  7. higgiel

    higgiel Low-Roller

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    Congrats on the royal, a slot tournament win and a winning drawing. You were on fire! Thanks for sharing all of the details with us. :wave:
     
  8. sporty8705

    sporty8705 VIP Whale

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    I stayed at LVH those days too, comp, still paid resort fees there and MGM
     
  9. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    I'd assume the 50c level if he had issues keeping a balance above around 2400 credits.

    Nice hits!
     
  10. breanna61

    breanna61 Super Moderator

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    Excellent trip report, well organized; loved the detail and photos!! Great tip to write in a blog to which photos can be directly uploaded; I haven't been writing TRs that past couple of years because the photo portion is a PITA. I'll give this method a try. Thank you for posting!
     
  11. zignerlv

    zignerlv Low-Roller

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    I've stayed at LVH several times on a comped marketing offer and never paid a resort fee.
     
  12. Red&BlackSmoke

    Red&BlackSmoke Low-Roller

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    We stayed at LVH last October and they let us opt out of the Resort Fee but could not use the amenities. aka internet, gym, the safe (thought that was odd)
     
  13. bighouse304

    bighouse304 Tourist

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    Well done TR! Thank you!!

    :nworthy:
     
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