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Pre Memorial Day trip (May 21-24)

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by matguy, Jun 10, 2008.

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  1. matguy

    matguy High-Roller

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2008
    Messages:
    884
    Location:
    Seattle-ish
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    8

    My Trip Report

    Flight:

    Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Vegas, left at 10:25AM on time. Airfare was $175.80 per person round trip, so with taxes and everything it cost $419 (we found an Alaska Coupon Code for 10% off.) Turbulence was pretty bad, the captain had everyone put away computers and stuff mid flight. A little back story, my wife gets air sick, so a movie can be good to distract her. So, mix added turbulence and taking away the distraction, plus no air sickness bags. As we headed in and started to descend, turbulence got worse. And worse. We came in to land and we were all over the place, as we were hovering over the runway about to touch down we hear the engines thrust again and we take back off. Still very turbulent, then we drop and we hear gasps and screams. We come in a different way and go to land again. We hover for a while and finally set down, everyone cheers, but then come the brakes. We must have landed pretty far down the runway or something, but tires locked up, everyone leaned forward, and a flight attendant comes on the radio and says "Woah Nellie....) Everything was fine, except we needed to get to a bathroom.

    Airport was nothing spectacular, we were here together last year at the same time and I had been a few years prior to that, so we know our way around. This time though we weren't renting a car at McCaren, so we found a shuttle to our hotel for cheap ($6 each to South end of the strip.)

    Hotel:

    We bought in to a mini-vac Timeshare presentation deal last July for the Marriott Grand Chateau. It was $200 for 3 nights and they give us a $75 Visa Gift card after the presentation. We had held on to the package for a long time and they had called probably 20 times to get us booked, but timing was always bad. Around April we decided we finally had our stuff together to finally go and I was about to call them when they called me. They were sounding a bit anxious to get us booked and offered a 1 bedroom suite/villa. Difficult sale that one, I said sure. We had already scoped out dates and it was available, so we booked it. All the booking went well, although it took a while to get final confirmation on dates so we could book our flight and our low fare reservation was about to time out, but it worked out fine. Check in went great, they put us on the strip side on the 7th floor. Short elevator ride, but the view consisted of the Polo Towers and City Center construction; it'll be nice when city center is done. The room itself was great, nice and big, free wireless internet, Showtime/HBO free on 42 inch plasma, decent mini-stereo, great full kitchen with everything you need to cook (other than food,) big soaking tub (not jetted,) big double headed shower. Being just off the strip was no problem, PH mall is just across the street and it's a short block to LV Bvd. No casino, but I really don't gamble much. The pool was odd, pretty small (I kinda took it as it's basically a secondary pool to the main one that hasn't been built yet) but with a bar and a great view from the ledges (which will be even better when City Center is done.)

    Weather:

    I had been checking the weather reports for a couple of weeks before we got there and were seeing temps of 108 2 days before we got there, but scheduled to cool down by Wednesday (our arrival) and turn stormy. My wife doesn't really like heat, so we were hopeful that the forecasts were going to come true. They did, other than we weren't expecting so much wind, hence the hard landing and the Belagio fountain and Sirens of Ti were closed. Otherwise, the temps were mostly in the 60's while we were there, a little rain on Friday and Sat, but we're from Seattle, no biggie other than a bit chilly for the pool.

    Car rental:

    We decided we really didn't need a car the first day, the shuttle was cheap and the McCaren facility fees were expensive, so we scheduled it for Thursday-Sat, got it for $51.97 total for 3 days with a Ford Focus. We picked up from MGM and they gave us a Dodge Caliber instead. The car was fine, although a bit odd with the plastic door panels; I know it's a rental, but it felt like being in a commercial work truck. The other odd thing, it had a continuously variable transmission, very odd to drive, but fine once I figured out what it was doing.

    Timeshare presentations:

    We're no stranger to timeshare presentations, high pressure sales don't bother us, we're good at saying no and looking past the corner painting questions and circular logic. Not that some of them aren't decent deals, we just aren't in a position to take on another monthly bill. We went on one to Tahiti Village right after we got in for $50 Harley Cafe certificates and tickets to V, plus snacks at the presentation, which is what I was looking for at the PH mall anyway. Couple of hours, and it's a nice place, we might stay there some time, take Alan Thicke up on his 2 night deal he's pitching on TV. We also had scheduled the Marriott presentation, being we were staying there and all we kinda had to go. The sales person was better at Marriott (the Tahiti lady was hard to understand) and we got out of both with stuff and no Timeshare. Winner winner chicken dinner! (well, pulled pork at Harley, but close enough.)

    Horseback Ride:

    My wife scheduled a desert horseback ride for Thursday morning (the plan was to have the horse ride people pick us up at our hotel and drop us off at the MGM so we didn't have to walk to get our car, smart huh?) They pick us up at 7:20 or so in a plain white van, a bit dirty, but they they're cowboys, right? So, I'm expecting something like City Slickers, but smaller and no Billy Crystal. Not so much. So, I guess it's your standard ranch and all, but the van just drops us off at a fence for the corral, we stand in the dirt for a while as they figure out what they're doing that day, deciding on breakfast or lunch. We signed up for breakfast and hadn't ate yet, so we put in our vote for breakfast, there was one other couple there and they didn't seem to care. So, they finally get us on horses (no breakfast yet) and we start off. We're out of the valley so (oh yeah, it's about an hour drive) it's warmer, probably high 80's, but a breeze, so it's not bad at all; it even sprinkled a bit. We get a few hundred yards and come to a big tree with picknick tables and a crappy grill (like 5 year old Wal-Mart special that had been outside all 5 years.) We get off our horses and some guys pull up in a Nissan SUV and come out with coolers. They pull out paper plates with tin-foil and pop open a cooler with Orange Juice, soda (generic) and water bottles. In the plates were pancakes and sausages. Add some butter and syrup and that was breakfast. I was hungry, I ate, I guess it hits all the check boxes to be declared breakfast, but I expected better. We get back on horses and ride for about 2 hours, the first hour or so was kinda cool, through little desert hills and such, but then we got out on a plain and were pretty close to the freeway, it got pretty boring. All in all, I don't think it was worth $109 per person.

    Food:

    Harley Davidson Cafe: (with the $50 gift certificate) I had pulled pork, my wife had a salad, we shared Chili Cheese fries. The chili cheese fries were great, large chunks of beef in the chili. The Pulled Pork was great, spicy. We also had drinks, the $11.50 big mixed drinks where you get to keep the glass (glass glass, not plastic thing.) Those were good, I drank mine and half of my wifes so I was happy. Then we went to the gift shop and got a Harley hat for my dad, he's an old bald biker.

    Palace Station Buffet: I had heard decent reviews of this buffet, but it was on a "cheap Vegas" site, so I think they were excited about the variety more than the quality. They had a bunch of stuff, but it all seemed like cafeteria quality. Cheap though, so it wasn't a total loss.

    Sahara Buffet: (Do we sound cheap yet?) We had been to this buffet last year for breakfast since we were staying there then, but this year we just went there for a certain penny slot my wife likes and does well on (they still had it in the same place since last year.) Last year we didn't like the buffet, but we heard there was an ownership change and some other things looked slightly different (games spaced out a little more and less claustrophobic) so we figured we'd check it out. By the time we got up there we were at round 4 of comp-drinks, so we were happy. My wife checked out the buffet and shrugged, then I saw the shrimp and crab legs, sold. The bulk of the buffet wasn't much better than last time, but I went nuts on the shrimp and crab legs, they were great, very fresh.

    Gonzalez at NY NY: Wow, good food. We had just gotten back from Cyote Ugly and needed some decent food before our flight and it needed to be relatively quick. We figure Mexican is usually pretty quick. We went simple and got Chicken Enchiladas, damn they were good. Oh, and the chips and salsa were wonderful too.

    Coyote Ugly: I know it's not food, but whatever. It wasn't nearly what we expected, of course we were there for opening and only for about an hour, but we've heard recently it isn't what you'd expect at any hour. Oh well.

    Exit Strategy:

    We planned on getting to the airport by 9 since we knew our flight left at 10:30. Saturday night on a holiday weekend (Monday Holiday) shouldn't be bad at all. We were parked at Showcase by M&M, traffic on LV Bvd was insane, mostly the foot traffic blocking cars was the issue. We got to Arco to get gas just before 9, the card machines were all having issues and there was a big line inside, and some pumps were roped off. If we knew where another gas station on the way to the rental house was we would have left, but we were pretty committed at this point, we needed to gas and go. After getting our pump paid it would only pump premium, with gas prices, eek. I go to go back in and there's a lady parked behind us saying that she thinks that's her pump she pre-paid on and the guy inside told her to go to. This took literally 20 minutes to sort out, we got out of the gas station at 9:10. Drop off the car at 9:15. Get on a shuttle that's just leaving by 9:20. We still have an hour. I pull out my blackberry to see if the flight is late (hope hope.) I get the info up and it shows a departure of 10:11. HUH! I grab the papers out of the back and crap, I mixed up the times, so now we have 45 minutes. We get to the airport and RUN to the Alaska counter, which, of course is pretty far from where they drop us off, it's 9:30. I get to the kiosk, put in my info, and it says to talk to someone at the counter. This is when I noticed that the counter is empty, there is no Alaska Air people anywhere. We finally get on a courtesy phone and they connect me with Alaska Corporate. No person, phone tree hell. I finally get through to reservations, which seems to be the only real person you can get to. We've come to terms with missing our flight now as it's leaving in 20 minutes and we found out you have to be checked in at least 45 minutes before your flight at McCaren, no exceptions. We talk about getting on the next flight, which is at 7AM, oh, and $75 each to change the ticket and the fare is $180 higher each ticket. I ask about being able to do anything since there was no one at the counter and we were so close to being on time and didn't know about 45 minutes, and in fact, the place actually hasn't even left yet. She says there's nothing she can do from there about it and only a local representative can make any adjustments. I re-explain that there's no one at the counter, she says they probably just went to the gate and I could talk to them there. I explain (which you'd think she'd know) that I can't get to the gate without a boarding pass. She says "oh, yeah." I ask how I can get a hold of someone local, she says she doesn't know the airport or where any offices would be or how to call anyone and that she can't help me at all. So I talk to the operator again and ask for a local Alaska office/desk, she says she can't connect me with anyone local, but the counter people probably left and went to the gate and I should talk to them there. Sounds like an echo, and I remind her of the security procedures, and she says "oh, yeah, but there should be someone in baggage claim..." I thank her and head over to baggage. The lady at baggage seems confused at my story, not so much about what went on but why am I bringing it to her. I explain that the ticket counter is empty, and she said they probably went to the gate and I could talk to them there... wow. So, after I explain security again, she calls the gate and talks to someone and they'll meet me at the gate. I get to the gate and first thing she says is she can get me on the 7Am flight for the change fee and they'll wave the fare difference. Sold.

    Sleeping in the airport:

    Keep in mind, this is Memorial day weekend, Saturday night. Seemingly luckily I had my laptop and McCaren has free WiFi. We called literally 15 places and everything was booked, even crappy places; we even called a friend that used to live in Vegas to see if he had any good ideas, but he said we were screwed. Laptop didn't help too much, but it helped us come to terms with our fate quicker. So we set up camp. I noticed people sleeping around on the floors already, so we're not alone. We notice that just further than the Alaska counter there's a big open area with a baggage door where they could put more counters in, but they just don't need them. There's a regular automatic door on the glass wall, but since there's no counter there no one goes through them. We camp out in a little nook with our bags against the wall, use coats for blankets, and wrap up clothes for pillows. We probably slept 3 hours on and off, woke up around 5:30 getting ready for the counter to open at 6. There was already a line at 5:30, only 5 people or so, but a line none the less. We packed up and got in line, checked in, checked bags, and got through security. Ate a bit of breakfast and got on the plane, luckily they were able to put us together. We taxi to the runway, engines pick up, we start rolling then hit the brakes and turn. Crap, now what? The captain comes on the radio and says the door sensor shows it not closed all the way. We hear a "Door is ajar" joke from a couple of rows back. They check the door, the handle wasn't clicked all the way down, we took off and all was well. The flight wasn't bad, but we forgot to charge the DVD player and the battery was dead, so no movie. We plugged headphones in our phones and listened to music and my wife slept on and off.

    Conclusion:

    As much as the end kinda sucked, the trip was fun and the end was an adventure to tell a story. I'm ready to go back again already (Taste of Tacoma is pretty soon and the Grand Chateau is on the sponsor list!)
     
  2. Blonde_4_ever

    Blonde_4_ever "The Welfare Queen of Windsor"

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    1,806
    Location:
    Ontario
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    35
    Wow! Interesting and eventful!!!!:eek:
    Thanks for the great report!
     
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