Another trip to Vegas on the books! My last 3 trips were solo, but this trip was with my wife, her sister and…. her husband. I love going to Vegas with my wife. We make great travel partners and enjoy each other’s company through- out the trip. Wish I could say the same about her sister and husband. They are the opposite, constantly arguing and bickering. I almost bowed out on this trip because of this but my wife convinced me to go. We’ve traveled to Vegas with this couple before on several occasions and I vowed no more. But my wife really enjoys going with her sister and my wife and I haven’t traveled together for a while. So I promised myself to just grin and bear it for the sake of my wife. I tried. And it was very hard. All I can say is that there were better trips than this, all without the company of my wife’s sister and husband. My sister-in-law is a sweetheart but that husband of hers, well, let’s leave it at that. My wife and I had offers from the Orleans for 2 nights each. So we booked the 4 nights consecutively plus paid for the 5th night. They rolled the nights all together and we didn’t have to checkout and check in after my wife’s offers expired and mine kicked in. That was great. We were on the 5th floor with a view of the pool below. The room was big: king size bed with sitting area, flat screen T.V., safe, big bathroom; with everything being clean and functional. I love the Orleans. This is the 2nd time my wife and I stayed here and we’ve visited this property many times in the past. There are so many things to do here. Lots of dining options. Tons of slot machines, Video poker machines and table games. The paytables on the VP is more favorable than on the Strip and the table games start at 5 dollar minimums. Drink service is spotty at times when playing machines but very frequent if you are playing at the tables. Don’t know why this is, maybe because the property is huge? The employees are friendly and the dealers are fun. This is a great property to visit or stay at. By the way, there is a shuttle that runs every 30 minutes or so between the Orleans, Gold Coast, and Ballys. So even though the Orleans is out there by itself you can catch this shuttle to visit the Strip. The latter part of our trip was spent Downtown. I had 4 nights comped at the California Hotel and we got put in a room in the West Tower. The room wasn’t as big as the Orleans but it was clean and functional. The West Tower rooms are better than the East Tower, as they have been recently renovated. My wife and I stayed at the East Tower in 2012 and the rooms were tired looking and needed to be renovated. I’ve always opted to stay at the Cal when using my comp room and food rewards and have been fairly pleased with the property. However, this past trip was somewhat of a disappointment. I’ve always enjoyed playing at the Cal but on this trip it seems that something was missing. Couldn’t quite make it out. It seemed that the employees, dealers, and pit personnel were indifferent for some reason. Many were not smiling, hardly being social to the players, and just seemed to go through the motions. I’ve noticed this especially at the craps tables, which is where I do most of my gambling. I remarked to my wife that I wasn’t having fun at the Cal and would find the “fun” tables at Main Street and Fremont. I’ve also noticed that there were many unfamiliar dealers at the Cal and that the dealers I remember as fun were not there. Maybe they all were on vacation? Hope that nothing serious happened there because I really felt like that property lost it’s vibe. My wife and I had nothing really concrete as far as dining in Vegas. We prefer to eat at casual fine dining places, buffets, and the 24 hr. cafes for breakfast or late night specials. The only thing we planned was having the 2 for 1 dinner buffet at Mandalay Bay from my wife’s My Vegas Rewards. We were going to see Michael Jackson 1 after dinner. We also loosely planned on eating at 2nd St. Grill at the Fremont, Redwood Grill at the Cal, and Claim Jumper at Golden Nugget. You know how that goes, ended up we didn’t get to do none of the above, lol! Oh well, there’s always another time and another trip. On my wife’s sisters birthday we treated her (and her husband…sigh) to the Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmo. I really enjoyed this buffet and raved about it for the rest of the trip. I think it’s neat how they offer some dishes in individual portioned bowls or plates. It looks nicer and avoids waste. The crablegs were small but split for easier eating and they were sweet and juicy. They had whole spicy prawns with chile sauce that was awesome. It was fried crispy so you could eat it head, shells, and all. The prime rib was cooked perfect at medium rare. They had roasted turkey, hams and sausages, beef ribs, and their Asian dishes were superb. Salads, soups, desserts, all were very good. I left happy and full. We also ate at the Mandalay Bay Buffet for dinner. We used my wife’s My Vegas Rewards to get the 2 for 1 deal. This buffet is pretty good and solid. The dining area is nice, clean, and tables were spaced for comfort instead of the “cattle herd” mentality where you are just crammed in with the masses. The ambiance was pretty nice, actually. The buffet offerings were on the small side as far as variety but what they offered was very good. Their prime rib was stellar and generous portions were dished out. I actually had to ask for a smaller portion because I didn’t want to waste and also wanted to try other things. The way they planned out the buffet traffic was terrible, though. After you get your prime rib they had the horseradish sauce in another area where you had to cut through the line of people waiting to get their food. Why they didn’t put it right where the carver is located remains a mystery. They offered ciopino (sp?), that seafood stew with mussels, scallops, crab, shrimp, etc. It was wonderful. Very tasty and fresh. They also had osso bucco but it was undercooked and didn’t fall off the bone. Their oxtails were delicious, though, with fall off the bone tender meat and great broth. The 2 for 1 offer is a tremendous value, but I’m not sure paying around 35 dollars per person is worth it. It’s still a very nice and good buffet. Other places we ate at: Big Al’s Oyster Bar.(Orleans) I ordered the Ciopino Seafood stew (big portions and great!) and a half dozen oysters. The oysters were fresh but tasteless. Must be the season? Tasted better last time. Oh, and the waiter sucked. He must’ve been having a bad day. My wife was pissed but forgiving. I remember another board member having a bad waiter experience here on their trip report. Wonder if this guy waited on them, lol! Koji Sushi and China Bistro.(Orleans) My wife and I had sushi. Very fresh, delicious, and affordable. Prices not even near what you would experience at the Strip places. I had the sushi platter that had various nigiri sushi on it and my wife ordered two sushi rolls. I forgot what one was but it was good and the other was called the Vegas Roll. It had a crusty tempura outside texture and the inside had tuna, salmon, avocado and some other stuff. This roll is memorable. Going to have it again next time out! Orleans buffet: It’s nothing fancy or anything to rave about. Just a good value play for breakfast and lunch. I enjoyed their shrimp cocktail. The shrimp was sweet and the sauce a killer. Went back for this 3 times. Oink. Orleans 24 hr. café: Another non-fancy value play for breakfast. And dinner for that matter. The breakfast portions are ridiculously huge. One night my wife and I didn’t eat dinner till 1 a.m. They had oxtail soup as a graveyard special. Awesome. It was great! Never had it here before and never knew it was offered. I must say it was better than the oxtail soup they offer at the Market St. Café at the Cal Downtown. Good stuff!. MSS Buffet: I dunno. I love the dining area, all bright, airy, beautiful place. Went to breakfast only this time. Can’t screw up breakfast, right? Well, I guess you can. Limited fruit section ( no oranges?) and they ran out of BACON!! How do you run out of Bacon? By the time it became available I’ve already gave up on eating. Just drank my coffee. My last three trips it seems this place is slipping slowly…. Market St. Café (California Hotel). Another value play here. Food is good but service is pretty mediocre. One of the downers of this trip is that we ate here too much. My in-laws ( my wife’s sister and her…sigh…husband) insisted we eat here because of their food coupon book offers for discounted food. Not trying to make waves, I reluctantly went along (I love my wife). This is one of the reasons my wife and I didn’t get around to eating at places like 2nd St. Grill and Redwood, among others. There are times when you say “f#%k it to the discount books and food vouchers. There are times you want to eat places of interest and you don’t care if you have discounts or coupons. That’s o.k. Next time. When my wife and I are not with her sister and her…sigh…husband. Like I said, didn’t want to make waves. Because when I make waves, I make BIG waves…. tsunamis; to be exact. Triple 7 Brewpub (Main Street). As much as I’ve visited and stayed Downtown, I have yet to have eaten here. Well, finally did it. I’m pretty sure it’s a not bad establishment. My wife enjoyed their prime rib and her sister liked her BBQ ribs. I had their T-Bone steak special. Nothing special. Actually, It was the worst steak I have ever tried to eat. I say tried because the gristle, tendons,( or whatever those gross white stringy things are) made it impossible to eat. My wife’s sister’s husband ( you notice I can’t even say brother-in-law) ordered sushi. It looked really amateurish and dry. I’ll be fair and try Triple 7 again sometime. Aloha Specialties (On the mezzanine between the Cal and MSS.) We ate here once this trip. I had my favorite tripe stew and my wife ordered one also (she knew I would eat hers too). The portions are huge. My wife’s sister had a beef and chicken teriyaki bowl and her husband had saimin noodles. If you’re ever Downtown and want a change of pace, try this eatery, specializing in foods popular to the 50th state. It can get crowded at times and getting a table is a crapshoot but there’s always take-out. How’s my trip report so far? Boring? Sorry, lol! Next I’d like to share with you what we did for entertainment and finish off with some gambling stories.