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Our Aria Anniversary August 25-27

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by M_ILIS, Sep 4, 2013.

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  1. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS High-Roller

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    My Trip Report

    My wife and I went on our "Celebrate Our 18th Anniversary A Few Weeks Early Because Our Daughter Is Starting Kindergarten on the Real Day and Hey, Any Excuse to Go to Vegas Sooner Rather Than Later" trip at the end of August. We stayed at Aria and had a great time. Here's how it went:

    We left home in Southern California around 10:00 am Sunday and didn't slow down until we exited at Flamingo. I wasn't quite sure where to park, so I turned right on Harmon and found the Aria North Valet. Made the whole trip in about 3:40, so that was a big success. Parking at the North Valet was not, however. The South Valet is the one right outside the lobby, so we had to lug our suitcases through the casino, arriving to find about a 10-minute line for check-in. We made it up to the desk, and then the day's smooth pace took a turn for the worse. We were staying two nights, one on a MyVegas comp and we paid for the other one. Something about this threw our check-in desk attendant for a loop. She typed and typed, clicked her mouse about a million times, called a few people for advice, apologized a couple times, and 25 or 30 minutes later, we were finally on our way to our room. I tend to think she wasn't very well trained, because a MyVegas comp can't possibly complicate things that badly. But who knows.

    Anyway, down at the desk I had asked for a high floor, preferably facing the Strip, but she flatly replied that Strip-facing rooms were an additional $30 a night. I wasn't interested in that, and she assured us that even our mountain-facing, 37th-floor view would be nice.

    The good part of all of this is that despite the tedious check-in procedure, we were still in our room 30 minutes before the official check-in time of 3:00. And Helen at the desk was sort of correct, in that the view wasn't all that bad. If you're a Vdara fan, it was a great view!

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    As we reached our room, my phone got an alert saying there was a flash flood warning in effect, and indeed, it looked really stormy out over the mountains. For a minute I thought our view was going to give us a great vantage point for a spectacular lightning show, but that didn't pan out. Oh well. We relaxed in the room for a bit and checked out the in-room technology – curtains open and shut by a touch of a button, the TV menu can control everything throughout the room, etc.

    Then we decided we were hungry and it was time to eat.

    Our plan was to eat a late lunch at Monte Carlo using a $50 Monte Carlo food credit from MyVegas. For (at least) the last few months, Dragon Noodle Co. has offered 50% off sushi on most Sundays on their Twitter page. So I checked my phone and sure enough, they'd tweeted out that offer once again, so suddenly our $50 voucher was even more valuable.

    By the time we made it over there and redeemed our MyVegas reward at the M life desk, there weren't many people in Dragon Noodle at all. We virtually had the sushi bar to ourselves. Everything we tried was great. I started with a roll off the "specialty rolls" menu called a California Volcano, which was probably my favorite. Also had a Dragon Roll, Salmon Avocado roll and some nigiri tuna. My wife had a Rainbow Roll, the Emperor's Negi Hamachi roll and a vodka cranberry.

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    In a crazy twist of fate, the bill came to exactly $50.00. The waiter tried to tell us that the M life desk should have given us a voucher of some sort to present, but he eventually got the $50 food credit figured out without us having to do anything else. We paid our tip and headed back to the room, our stomachs full of delicious sushi.

    The main event tonight was a 9:00 reservation at The Laundry Room, to be accompanied by some sightseeing and low-limit gambling Downtown. We relaxed some more in the room and arrived at Fremont East just in time for our 9:00 entry. During the reservation process, I was instructed to text when I got there, so I did that, informing them we were outside Commonwealth on Fremont. They replied, telling me to come inside and meet a hostess at the end of the bar within Commonwealth. Within a minute or two, we were greeted and whisked inside the secret door, joining only a handful of others inside The Laundry Room. We were given our choice of seats at the bar or any table, and we selected a great high-top tucked in the back corner.

    Daniel was the mixologist and presented us with menus. The design of the menu mirrors the interior decor, immersing you in a glamorous Roaring ’20s vibe. Neither my wife or I are the most educated drinkers when it comes to spirits and mixed drinks, so I wanted to use this whole experience as sort of an education. My wife decided on a Lady Vesper, but for my choice, instead of ordering off the menu, I described to Daniel what I wanted – a gin drink that has complex flavors but is not overpowering or harsh in its "bite," if you will. He asked a few follow-up questions and retreated to prepare our drinks.

    Within a few minutes, he returned with two gorgeous drinks. I asked what he did for mine and he described the whole list of ingredients, which included gin cut with some sort of infused spirit, muddled cucumber and mint, lime, sugar and a sprinkling of fresh cracked black pepper on top. He said it was a variation on a cocktail called an Eastside. I took the first sip and immediately declared Daniel a genius. It was bursting with freshness of the mint and cucumber, a bit sweet, and definitely multi-layered in flavor. My wife really enjoyed her Lady Vesper, but we both loved mine more than any drink we'd ever tasted before.

    It was around this point that a few other parties came into the room as well as a piano player. This livened things up a bit and we had a great time talking to a group of guys from Ohio who sat next to us and listening to the piano player translate modern songs into a classical piano style. Although we originally planned to have just one drink each and leave, we ended up at The Laundry Room for almost two hours and really enjoyed every second of it.

    Next we headed over to the D, looking around and doing our first gambling of the trip. We lost $20 on an original-style, 25-cent Wheel of Fortune machine upstairs and then my wife tried a few slots downstairs while I went and checked out American Coney Island. Cocktail service was good and quick, and the red wine they served my wife was gigantic – must have been a 12 oz. pour. Seeing all we'd eaten all day was the sushi at Dragon Noodle, I was hungry and ordered an order of chili cheese fries for $4.00. My wife didn't feel like gambling more tonight, so we both sat in the bright environs of American Coney Island and devoured the chili cheese fries. They were great.

    We headed back to the car and made our way back to the plush Aria bedding via Las Vegas Blvd, bringing to a close a fun Day One of our three-day getaway.
     
  2. Crazycrue

    Crazycrue Low-Roller

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    Fabulous report. Can't wait to read more. Those drinks sound wonderful.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your adventure in sin city.
     
  3. Topanga

    Topanga Tourist

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    Great report so far. Thanks for the pictures!
     
  4. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS High-Roller

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    Day Two

    I awoke Monday to the same weird drizzly and humid conditions from the previous day. We had planned to spend a good amount of time at the pool on this trip, but so far the weather wasn't cooperating. My wife was content sleeping in, but I headed down to the pool anyway and swam around for a while just to say I used the pool while we were there. We had checked out the pool scene Sunday and liked how the Aria pools are split into three or four smaller pools, which facilitates lots of seating. But on this day, there were only a handful of people there. It was still a fun way to start my day.

    I grabbed my wife a Starbucks coffee on the Promenade level and headed back to the room. Our "paid" Aria night was on a deal that included two buffets, so we decided to hit up the buffet for lunch. When we arrived around 1:00, the line was really long and we considered forgetting it. Eventually we opted to hang in there, and about an hour later we were being seated.

    I enjoyed the buffet for the most part, but my wife got a questionable mussel at the seafood station, which sort of turned her off of the whole experience. Standouts for me were the BBQ pork shoulder at the carving station, the corned beef hash and the crab legs. There was also a salad with fresh mozzarella served in a little glass cup that was quite good. Overall, I was satisfied but I'm glad we didn't actually pay $46 or whatever it was for two people for lunch for this quality of food.

    Next it was time to head over to Tropicana, where I had $160 in slot credits on my Players Club card from our trip at the end of June. I had done the "First $200 on Us" promotion and lost $160, so I had loaded the first $80 on the card at that time and then got another $80 when we arrived today.

    The plan was to play through the promotional credits and use whatever we win to bolster our bankroll for the rest of the trip. We both liked the Trop casino quite a bit and talked about possibly staying there sometime in the future. It's tranquil in there.

    It took me a little while to realize the correct strategy for "playing through" this type of promotional credits. You insert your card and "download" a dollar amount onto a machine. We started with my wife's favorite game, Coyote Moon, and quickly hit something that took our initial $15 credit up to over $50. (I generally hate these penny machines because I find it very difficult to tell what constitutes a win.) Stupidly, we played that down to zero before I realized that what we need to be doing is keeping track of how much we play, and once we have played whatever amount we had credited to the machine, to cash out and load up new promo credits. That mistake cost us about $35 or so, but we got the hang of it from then on and did pretty well.

    We played some reel slots (I'm always partial to the Red, White & Blue machines), the Family Guy slot, a little VP and a few other games. However, the real revelation for us was finding the Cheers slots. We did pretty well on it, and better yet, it's a hell of a lot of fun to play. Winning spins lead to funny clips from the show, and the free spins bonus results in a leisurely loop of the iconic Cheers theme song while you happily witness your credits build up.

    We probably spent an hour and a half or so at the Trop and turned the $160 in promo credits into nearly $110 in cash. Had we cashed out properly on the Coyote Moon, we would have almost broken even.

    One thing my wife wanted to do on this trip was to play roulette. After we turned in all our tickets and had our cash tucked away, we spotted one of those electronic roulette machines with the actual wheel in the center. My wife proposed we play it, and it was only a $3 minimum, so we gave it a go. Beginner's luck smiled on us and we turned $12 from four spins into more than $50. It was great fun!

    We then headed over to MGM to buy some DJ-related merchandise for our teenage son who is a big fan of Tiesto. We got him two shirts and I was pleasantly surprised that they were only $24 each.

    By now it was getting into early evening, so we headed back to Aria to prepare for our night out. We had dinner reservations at Luxor's Tender Steakhouse at 9:00, but I had told my wife there was somewhere I was taking her beforehand. We got ready and exited through the front of Aria. It was an amazing time of night, leading to beautiful pictures of the entrance and towers.

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    We proceeded around the walkway and my wife spotted Mandarin Oriental and remarked at how beautiful it was. We continued walking for a minute until I steered her toward the MO and she said, "We're going here?" and I said yes. She smiled while the valet out front steered us toward the elevator and advised us how to find Mandarin Bar.

    We arrived at the 23rd-floor perch, and at first the hostess acted as if we needed a reservation, but then sat us immediately anyway. We were seated on a big sofa on the window looking north up the Strip. This was our view:

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    We soaked in the sights and perused the menu. I decided on The Golden Leaf, a gin-based martini "created specifically for the Mandarin Oriental." My wife ordered an Elderflower Smash. Each drink was $18. The drinks took a while to arrive, but with that view, we certainly didn't mind the wait. Unfortunately, though, I didn't think they were very good once they did arrive. Mine tasted more like gin mixed with Kool-Aid than a specialty cocktail worthy of an $18 price tag. My wife enjoyed hers alright, but undoubtedly the view is the main draw here. After we finished our drinks and paid the bill, we circled around the bar's perimeter. It's really impressive how Mandarin Bar is positioned to have both North and South facing views up and down the Strip.

    It's not just the Strip view that's nice, however. The decor of Mandarin Oriental is breathtakingly beautiful everywhere you look.

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    My wife enjoyed the luxurious red bench in the elevator on the way back down:

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    Next I had a moment of Vegas Ignorance come back to bite me. For some reason I thought there was a tram that connected all of the MGM-owned properties between Bellagio and Mandalay Bay along the West Strip. I was informed by the helpful valet attendant that in actuality, there are two trams, one that runs from Aria/Monte Carlo to Bellagio and the other that connects Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Rather than returning to the Aria North Valet to retrieve our car, we hopped in a cab and arrived at Luxor in no time.

    We had a $75 MyVegas voucher toward $150 at Tender, so first we hit up the M life desk to redeem that and then made our way across the casino floor to the restaurant. We got a nice leather-bound, semi-circle booth and started making choices to fulfill our $150 obligation. We decided on a half-dozen oysters and a bleu cheese salad for starters. I added a gin and tonic while I think my wife had some sort of martini, although I can't really recall right now.

    I chose the dry-aged Kansas City Strip for my main while my wife got a Black Angus Omaha Beef 8 oz. filet. She ordered grilled asparagus while I opted for the sauteed mushrooms to accompany my steak. This next statement could be taken the wrong way, but it's not really meant to be – the best thing we had all night might have been the bread basket served with olive oil and pesto. It was scrumptious.

    The oysters were another highlight. They served us three different varieties, each of which was great. The iced platter included ramekins of mignonette, cocktail sauce, lemon juice, horseradish and Tabasco (iirc) as accoutrements for the oysters. My Baby Iceberg Lettuce salad was good, but the sun-dried tomatoes, bacon and bleu cheese crumbles made several bites way too salty.

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    My wife's filet was extremely tender and her asparagus had a perfect hint of lemon in every bite. My Kansas City Strip was good, but the consistency of the steak itself was not what I expected for this caliber of steakhouse (I know Tender is far from the cream of the crop, but still). My steak was very tasty and cooked perfectly, but the piece of meat itself seemed more like something I might buy in a supermarket instead of dry-aged beef it was purported to be. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, because we both really enjoyed our meals. I guess I was just hoping for even more.

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    We were too full for dessert and our bill had already exceeded that magical $150 threshold anyway, so we settled up and moved on. We hit up a gift shop inside Luxor to get some souvenir earrings for my wife and a gift for our daughter, and then cabbed it back to Aria. This time we seemed to sit at every light for an eternity and the cab ride was several dollars more than the Southbound trip.

    We retreated to our room, relaxed for a bit and then returned to the casino floor for some more gambling. We found another electronic roulette wheel and again it was very good to us. We slipped in a $20 and were up to $71 in credits within just a few minutes. We cashed out up $40 after several fruitless spins. We bounced around for a bit, trying different slots and playing some DDB VP. Around 2:00 am my wife hit a wall and said she was ready to call it a night. I took her up to the room, tucked her in and headed right back downstairs.

    I started playing 25¢ DDB and hit quad 4s on my first $20 for a $100 win!

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    I ended up cashing out of that machine for $100 and proceeded to give about $60 of it back over the course of the next hour and a half or so. I played a bunch of different slots and then played for probably half an hour on a three-play VP machine, but had nothing to show for it. When a hotel employee walked by me and greeted me with a "Good morning, sir" I realized it was 3:45 and probably time to turn in for the night.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  5. worldtraveler661

    worldtraveler661 VIP Whale

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    Great TR. :)

    Aria is my second home lol. I prefer the North valet actually since its near the Elevators. What I do is have my wife wait at the elevator area on those benches while I check in.
    While the South Valet is closer to the check in, its much farther when you have to pick your car up coming from the Elevators. And its much more busier. Its so much easier dropping and picking up the car on the North Valet. Thats my preference. :)

    BTW that sushi looks good. haha
     
  6. weluvvegas

    weluvvegas Vegas Slot Junkie

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    Love your pictures! Can't wait to read more...
     
    40th Birthday Bash!
  7. smartone

    smartone VIP Whale

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    Great job! Love the sushi pic... respectfully, the wife's a hottie too!
     
  8. dbueler

    dbueler High-Roller

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    My experience at Tender was the same as yours... It was good but I wouldn't go back. The breadbasket was truely exceptional, the parmesian bread was the best I've ever eaten (except perhaps the bread in Germany). Nothing we ordered wasn't good, just nothing was great. We vastly preferred the steakhouse at Excalibur, we've redeemed that reward twice and will gladly redeem the $50 credit when spending $100 in December.

    Great TR, thanks for sharing with us!
    diane
     
  9. Dean Martin

    Dean Martin VIP Whale

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    Nice photos...thanks! I'm looking forward to doing some Aria and Mandarin Oriental exploring on our upcoming trip to Bellagio. That bar at MO looks very cool...:beer:

    Re;having to lug your suitcases thru the casino, my motto is you're on vacation and that's what bell service is for....coming and going. You'll pay more for a drink than you would to have your luggage brought right to your room. Try it....it's the little luxuries sometimes that top off a trip.:peace:
     
  10. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS High-Roller

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    Day 3

    Wanting to make the most of our last day, I set my alarm for 8:30, dragged myself out of bed after just four and a half hours sleep and put on my board shorts. I headed down to the pool only to find a line of people maybe 10 deep waiting to be let in. I joined the line but quickly noticed a sign that said the pool didn't open until 9:00 am! This seems extremely late to me. The Aria spa opens at 5:30 am, but you can't swim until 9:00, especially in August when it's typically 90 degrees by 9:00 am? How is that logical?

    Anyway, I wasn't about to stand there for more than 15 minutes, so I returned to the room, took a shower and headed downstairs to do some gambling. I lost about $20 over the span of 30 minutes (oh great, now Aria will never open the pool if they read this) and then went back upstairs to wake up my wife and start our day. This time I got her a coffee from Jean Phillippe Patisserie adjacent to the casino, which had a much shorter line than Starbucks a day earlier. We requested and were granted a late checkout, which meant we could stay in the room until noon instead of 11:00.

    Overall, we enjoyed Aria but really it didn't wow me much. The technology in the room is sort of cool, but also sort of a nuisance. For instance, sometimes the light switch buttons next to the bed wouldn't cooperate, which meant we had to resort to using the remote in order to turn a light on or off. Also some of the pre-programmed lighting settings also dictate the curtains, so all of a sudden the drapes would close when all I wanted to do was dim the lights. Architecturally, I felt a bit like Aria is lacking any real identity. (For the record, I don't consider these complaints, just observations. I'd stay at Aria again in a heartbeat.)

    One thing they deserve a lot of credit for is the friendliness of the employees. Every single time we passed an employee in the hotel hallways we were greeted with a "Good morning" or "Good afternoon." Also, check-out went smoothly and the two buffets had already been removed from my bill, so that was nice.

    The only thing we knew we wanted to do on this day was to go over to Palms to use SlotPlayCoupons.com vouchers I had bought a couple days before our trip. We retrieved our car from the North Valet for the last time (as someone else mentioned, the North Valet is actually great – except for when you are checking in) and said goodbye to Aria.

    I had heard quite a few good things about Tacos El Gordo, a Tijuana-based taco shop on the Strip just past Encore. We found it quickly enough and it didn't seem too busy, so I proposed that we go try a taco or two and my wife agreed. Honestly, being from Southern California where we're surrounded by great tacos all the time, I was a little skeptical that this would be anything special. But I was wrong. Everyone is right. They were delicious.

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    We started with one carne asada taco each. While we were waiting, I noticed a big, bubbling vat of meat being cooked and asked the guy what it was. It looked like carnitas, but carnitas wasn't on the menu anywhere. He explained that it was beef shoulder, prepared just like carnitas. He gave me a little sample and I knew I'd have to have one of those tacos then, too. Both tacos we tried were great. I think the tacos were $2.00 each.

    We then headed over to the Palms, where we each had a $25 voucher from SlotPlayCoupons.com worth $50 in slot play promo credits. This turned out to be a lot of fun. We had to stand in line for probably 20 minutes to enroll in Club Palms and get the credits applied to our cards, but it was well worth the effort. I played through my credits fairly quickly on 25¢ DDB VP. My $50 in freeplay resulted in about $60 of TITOs. My wife did even better, thanks to our newfound friend the Cheers slot machine. (And my expert selection process when we hit some sort of double bonus and I selected the 100X pay option). All told, our $50 initial investment led to around $140 in cash, which was awesome.

    Up until recently, blackjack was always my game of choice and at this point in our trip, I still held that to be true, even though I hadn't played any blackjack the whole trip. I decided to go find a $5 table and get in a session before we headed for home, but as soon as I started playing, I noticed something weird. I wasn't having any fun. All I was doing was thinking negative thoughts about how the dealer would likely pull out winners. It probably didn't help that I'd lost my first three hands. I decided to stick it out a little more and then return to video poker, my new favorite game. Luckily I won a few hands in a row, got back to even and took my chips to the cashier window. Sorry blackjack, you just don't do it for me anymore.

    I then played for quite a while on a three-play VP machine, but again I never got up or down very much at all. It was almost 4:00 and we hoped to be home by around 8:00, so we decided it was time to wrap things up and head for home.

    Overall we had a great time and definitely came out a little bit ahead in gambling. Typically a trip of this length has me ready to head home anyway, but we were having so much fun, it was really difficult to leave. Thanks for reading and hopefully I'll be back to write another of these soon!
     
  11. sybgal

    sybgal VIP Whale

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    Enjoyed your report....thanks for posting. Loved the great pics! Sounds like you both had a good trip.....congrats on the anniversary!!
     
  12. Liondownnow

    Liondownnow Tourist

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    Thanks for sharing. Excellent writing and a lot of interesting stuff.
     
  13. BeeeJay

    BeeeJay President of The Red Lobster Hostess Satisfaction

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    solid report. excellent photography. really enjoyed it!!!:beer:
     
  14. Film-Noir

    Film-Noir High-Roller

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    The Sushi looked yummy!


    Thank you for a great TR. :thumbsup:
     
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