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Rio Suites Trip Report May 10 - 15 for Animal Care Expo

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by kevthegrad, May 29, 2016.

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  1. kevthegrad

    kevthegrad Tourist

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    14

    My Trip Report

    Trip Report May 10 – 14 – Rio Suites – Animal Care Expo


    Over the last decade I’ve come to appreciate trips to Vegas when they happen. You never know when you’re going to get back and as a result when I *do*know a trip is coming, the build up is insane and I look forward to it normally for months ahead of time – until it all culminates in the insane world of Las Vegas where you can never fit in all the things you want and you start planning “next time” about 3 hours after arriving for the current trip. Well that al hanged for me this year. I found out in mid-April that I was being sent to the Animal Care Expo event happening May 10 – 15. After finding an expedia deal I got booked and sorted. Then booked my girlfriend via airmiles for the same flights....and bam, we were suddenly going to be in Vegas in less than a month. For work no less!

    My last trip report I split up into different categories and it got a good reaction ( http://www.vegasmessageboard.com/forums/index.php?threads/golden-nugget-june-10-15-trip-report-lots-of-info.121833/page-2#post-1157963 ) so I’m going to go with the same again. Here we go....my 15th trip to Vegas (or 14...not sure now) since 1995.

    Our Hotel – The Rio Suites

    May 27 2016 transfer 101.JPG
    This was a weird one for me. I’ve stayed primarily on the Strip over the years – Harrah’s, Flamingo, Ballys, Imperial Palace (RIP), the Aladdin, and even the Stratosphere once. Last summer we tried downtown at The Golden Nugget and you can read that trip report as it’s another story – I fell in love with Fremont Street. Anyway – when I began going to Vegas in the mid-90s the Rio was a big deal. It was just off the strip but so close to the “4 corners” of Caesars, Flamingo, Ballys, and Bellagio that it always seemed like a viable property that would do well.

    It was a fun place back then – the Seafood Buffet was a pretty big deal, as was the normal buffet. The Mardi-Gras in the Sky parade that happened in Masquerade Village was an attraction and something I made a point of taking in. There was once a Mexican restaurant back in Masquerade Village on the 2nd floor that was some of the best Mexican I’d had. The Rio was a fun place to make sure you took in while you were in town....not to mention the Voodoo Lounge way up 51 stories with such a great view.

    Well – I had never stayed at the Rio and looked forward to it. I don’t have a negative report necessarily – there were some ups and downs I’m about to share – but The Rio very much feels to me like a property in flux. A place that’s on cruise-control and just waiting for Caesars Empire to decide on a face-lift or new theme.

    Gone is the fun party atmosphere of Masquerade Village. Gone is the charm that brought you into the Rio. Gone is the emphasis on customer service and gone is the feeling that this place is a fun cool hang-out place.

    My check-in took ages, only 3 people the check in desk on a busy (Tuesday) afternoon around 1pm. Friendly enough once I got checked in but slow and not overly joyous when identifying a first time Rio guest who loves coming to Vegas.

    Our room (1435, main tower) was great. Big, beautiful, great view of the pools and strip. Bed was cummfy, pillows massive, the TV may or may not work as we don’t really do TV when we’re in Vegas. Nice bathroom and a closet with a safe. All good on the room front and no complaints. They also were responsive and brought us extra hangers pretty quickly.

    The staff around the Rio are a mixed bunch when it comes to their customer service. The security guards seemed very good at what they did. But then everybody else seemed to be just a bit less friendly and enthusiastic than you tend to expect in Vegas. The bartenders were not overly responsive and always very quick to point out if we weren’t using the video gaming terminal, we’d have to pay. We knew this – and normally already had money and/or a players card in the machine – but their ‘in your face’ style of pointing it out makes me wonder how many people they have to contend with looking for free drinks while not gaming. Anyway it rubbed us a bit wrong.

    The other staff moments I had were not tremendous – the staff at the salon seemed to dupe my GF into a ‘special’ offer since it was Friday the 13th – sold her on getting something extra done for $13 dollars and somehow the overall bill was about 80 more than expected – but we didn’t make a stink. One bartender near the sportsbook was extremely friendly to my GF and I, and then when I left to go back to conference he was quick to tell my GF “now that’s he’s gone, I have to tell you how beautiful you are”. Don’t get me wrong – guys hitting on my GF is nothing new to me and know he didn’t do anything horrible, but he had been very friendly and buddy buddy with me to my face – and to know I was maybe 40 feet away heading back to conference and he was opening up with “...now that he’s gone...” felt a level of disrespect or fakeness given he’d been so nice to my face. Anyway – not a big deal but got on my nerves a bit.

    The pool area at the Rio is really nice. 3 pools spread out with one being designated more for adults. Music playing that everybody knows – loud enough to be a fun atmosphere but not so loud you can’t relax at poolside.

    I got conned into doing the Zipline at Voodoo Lounge attending one of the conference sponsored events and hanging 51 stories up going 30 miles per hour toward the other tower is pretty wild. If you love thrills you’ll enjoy it. If you hate heights you will not like it. If your girlfriend is downstairs waiting on you and you’re already 45 mins later than you promised to be and your sad but true excuse for being so late is that you got stuck going on the zipline with colleagues – you will not like it. Ha

    The Voodoo Lounge is still incredible – amazing view, great set up – it’s a great place to see the lights on the Strip at night – or the mountains surrounding the city during the day.

    The Strip – Stuff we Saw/Did

    Last summer we stayed downtown for the first time and didn’t have very positive time spent on the Strip, so we were looking forward to spending a little more time on the Strip this time.

    Caesars – We walked over one evening (after the Zipline incident). The Casino has changed and spread out a lot in the last 20 years that’s for sure. The shops in the Forum are nice – I stopped in at the Caesars shop to sadly find out they have discontinued the Caesars for Men Cologne and Aftershave I’ve been wearing for probably 18 years. Heartbreak! We had a really nice meal at Trevi in the Forum Shops. Amazing Italian food and service. Beautiful setting as the sky indoors at the Forum goes from daylight to sundown to evening. Didn’t really gamble at Caesars since as a rule they always take my money.

    Strip Walk – Went for a walk up the Strip starting at Ballys (first place I ever stayed in Vegas) and took in Paris, Planet Hollywood, M & M Shop, and finally NYNY. I always enjoy walking the Strip, especially during the daytime when folks are a little more composed. Gorgeous weather and nice seeing the inside of Paris where I haven’t spent much time. Didn’t really do much gaming other than threw some money away at NYNY. I can never find table games ($5 blackjack) on the strip these days. If you find the $5 table it’s over crowded or has horrible rules. So we kill time with Video Poker or Wheel of Fortune Slots if we can find them.

    Frankly this was the extent of the Strip time we spent this trip.

    May 27 2016 transfer 106.JPG May 27 2016 transfer 108.JPG May 27 2016 transfer 115.JPG

    Downtown – Fremont Street

    So I mentioned I fell in love with Fremont last trip – and staying at the Rio presented some geographical question marks for us about smartest way to get to and from the places we want to hang out – downtown. This message board had helped a lot and I will cover transportation elsewhere.

    I captured a couple mins of action from the middle of Fremont Street Experience and shared the video:


    Spent a little time in the Golden Nugget, we like it there although don’t game much. Found our favourite bartender Robert from last June who sadly didn’t really remember us (at first at least) but was nice to be back at the bar outside the poker room.

    Walked Fremont Street from Golden Nugget all the way down to the El Cortez. The street performers seem to be staying well within the confines of their new painted circles. We only did this walk mid to late afternoon and on the final day there too – didn’t see any mass drunkenness but plenty of activity, fun, live bands playing great Billy Joel songs....I love Fremont Street and what they’ve done with it in the last 20 years to make it relevant in Vegas.
    May 27 2016 transfer 180.JPG

    The El Cortez – Spent time pretty much daily at The El Cortez. I can’t articulate enough how much I love this property. I have never stayed there and frankly am not sure I would like to as we like our sleeping place to feel safe and cummfy, so just not sure how we will find the Cortez for accommodation when we finally stay there one day. This place for me is everything Vegas should be. The best table game rules I can find - $5 blackjack, single deck – blackjack still pays 3/2. The pit bosses are all friendly and seem more genuine than other properties. Real people! The music playing is off some loop that I don’t think they’ve updated in 15 years and it’s fine – because it’s playing popular music from 1950 – 2000 and is enjoyable. Everybody knows the songs. The music sometimes isn’t quite loud enough. The blackjack dealers are just so much fun – special mention to Rayhana, Fred from NY, and crazy Ricky. Having a good blackjack dealer makes the experience fun even if you’re losing. And luckily with the great house rules if you just play basic strategy and know when to walk – I think we’ve only left the El Cortez once with less money than we walked in with, and that’s spread out over a dozen nights spent there. I love this property for gaming and hope they never sell and never change. It feels like old Vegas – and I would be sitting there right now playing blackjack betting on that wacky $1 side bet that my first two cards will be the same suit if I could be. We spent hours playing blackjack here on this trip and continued our new tradition of playing here with our bags checked with the bellhop right up until we had to depart to hit the airport. They make you feel like home and you never want to leave.

    May 27 2016 transfer 088.JPG

    Dining – Here, there, everywhere

    We ate at quite a few different locations this time given I was in a conference up just off the strip but hung out in evenings downtown. Lets dive right in :

    The Rio – Ate at a few places here. The Carnival Buffet is fine, but overpriced. The point of buffets in Vegas used to be to wow guests with an affordable price, wide variety (or specialized menu), and not feel like a buffet back home. Well – this one has plenty of choice and I enjoyed the food. GF did not find it that great and not worth the money.

    We visited the All American Bar & Grill at The Rio when we first arrived as we were starving. It wasn’t great and was not overly cheap. Our spinach dip was horrendous – tasted like raw spinach mixed with a little melted cheese. No other flavours in the dish at all! Got some chiken strips that I thought would be somehow done differently or some Vegas pizzaz added – nope, the same as they look out of the oven and freezer when I make them for my kids. No rush to return here for a meal.

    Hash House a Go Go was another experience. I had been told I had to visit by a trusted friend. I guess I ordered the wrong thing. I got the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict and I can’t even tell you how poorly done it was. The smoked salmon were massive chunks of baked salmon. The eggs were almost raw and white stuff was running everywhere. The Hollondaise Sauce was unlike any I’d ever tasted. My breakfast looked like a truck hit it and after two or three bites I sent it back and didn’t eat anything else. Totally disappointed. GF didn’t love her breakfast there either. Maybe I’ll have to try something else another time. Manager was friendly and didn’t change me for my meal given I sent it back.

    May 27 2016 transfer 153.JPG

    We tried desperately to visit Gui Fieri’s new Mexican place El Burro Borracho but the day we targeted going (Friday) it wasn’t opening until 5pm – after opening at 4 every other day of the week. Why open later on Friday?! Annoying. But their loss as we discovered an incredible Mexican place downtown.

    Trevi @ Caesars Palace – covered this above. Amazing quality food. Great wine. Great setting. Well worth a visit.


    Pizza Rock – Downtown – This place is a real favourite. We got the insanely good Caesar Salad and split a Pepperoni Pizza. I know having a plain pep pizza when you’re in front of a menu with all these gourmet options is kind of a sin but it’s what we felt like and enjoyed it a lot. A must visit when in Vegas.
    May 27 2016 transfer 089.JPG

    Siegel’s 1941 – El Cortez

    I got the $9.99 Prime Rib and was very happy. Huge portions, hot horseradish, tender flavourful meat. I like what they’ve done with Siegel’s and will eat there again no doubt.

    http://elcortezhotelcasino.com/dining/siegels-1941/

    La Comida – Downtown - Mexican

    Every so often I venture off the Strip or off Fremont and find something that I think is the greatest thing on earth because nobody is talking about it and nobody is tripping over it because it’s actually a little removed from the beaten path. Well that’s how to describe La Comida. The night we wanted Mexican and the one at Rio was opening late, we came downtown and googled Mexican places in downtown Las Vegas and bam – up came La Comida. It’s just across the street from the El Cortez (yet somehow I’d never noticed it) and the food, atmosphere, customer service – were all just amazing.

    I asked what the server suggested and he made a couple suggestions to me. I told him I loved Mexican but didn’t want traditional tacos or burritos or my favourite go-to: The Chimichanga! Take a great burrito and make it better by deep frying it! YES! Thank you from my clogged heart.
    May 27 2016 transfer 161.JPG May 27 2016 transfer 166.JPG

    Anyway I got distracted – so our server at La Comida suggests I try the Puerco Ahumado – smoked pork shoulder, adovada sauce and plantain chips. Well – let me tell you, this ranks up there with the greatest tasting meals I’ve ever had. Just awesome. We also shared guacamole appetizer and the salsa and guac are both made in-house by what our waiter called a “height challenged lady”, and this place just made it on my permanent “must go” map of Vegas. If you like Mexican you *must* visit La Comida. Amazing authentic experience.

    http://lacomidalv.com/

    Carnival Buffet World @ The Rio – I liked this place, plenty to choose from and a huge selection that we actually missed half of on the first lunch we had there. Good quality, but I have to say I find it pricier than it should be.

    The Brass Lounge – Fremont Street, towards the east end on the 2nd floor above a fish house. It’s a great little lounge, we visited during Happy Hour and got 3 cheap appetizers which when shared totally filled us up. Good spinach dip, good tacos, and good bacon wrapped jalepenos. Yummy and cheap beer at Happy Hour too. A great final food/drink stop before our final hours at El Cortez and then off to airport in Uber.

    http://www.brassthelounge.com/

    Transportation – So we are from Toronto Canada. We have Uber here but it’s not really as big as it is in the States. Well – we took a cab from the airport to The Rio on the 1st night. Just over 30 dollars. That night we decided to head down to Fremont Street and took a cab. Again – it was 31 dollars.

    We decided to give Uber a try and the rest is history. We are not Uber people. We never had to wait more than 2 or 3 mins for a pick up. The cost from downtown to The Rio (or vice versa) was always in the $12 - $18 range. Big savings and totally convenient. Same getting to the airport. Great savings and totally cool experience. I hope Uber survives the regulation attacks it’s under.

    The Gold Coast – I don’t have a section for this. But I had to mention what a horrid experience we had at The Gold Coast. These places so close to the strip always feel like they have the chance to really be something. The Gold Coast has instead elected to be nothing. Tried a little $5 blackjack. Didn’t pay 3/2, wasn’t single deck, and the staff were all unfriendly. Played some video poker at the bar in the middle of the casino. There you can hear cocktail waitresses being bitchy and complaining about their customers and lives. It’s quite the experience. The place is bright and feels like a bus terminal with a paint job and bunch of video games. Nothing could bring me back to The Gold Coast.

    Airport Gambling – so people always tell us not to gamble at the airport. The slots are tighter. Right. GF was in the washroom and we were waiting to board so I put $20 into a video poker machine. Selected some crazy triple bonus VP game and on my third round of “bet 5 coins” ($1.25) got dealt 4 of a kind with a 3....which led to 2000 coins - $500 win as we are leaving town. Very nice to leave on a high note.
    May 27 2016 transfer 184.JPG


    Miscellaneous

    This was my first time being sent to Vegas for a conference. Being on business is very different and challenging when Vegas is your favourite place on earth. A lot of hours were spent in conference wondering how the pool was (GF was texting from the pool!), how that bar was (GF was playing VP at the sports bar), how the pool was (did I mention the pool?). Anyway we made the most of our evenings but I certainly wished we had had more spare time to enjoy the city and things we enjoy doing.

    Weather

    Gorgeous and hot all week. 100 – 105 most days. It was beautiful Vegas summer weather.
    May 27 2016 transfer 160.JPG

    Airline

    We were on WestJet for the 2nd time. I’m now a fan. Their staff are friendly and even sometimes funny. Their online check in process is quick and easy. Their roadside booth at Vegas airport makes it so easy to get checked in.

    We had some bumps coming into the city and GF is a nervous flyer so that made for a fun landing. Ha. Smooth ride back on the red eye arriving in Toronto at 630 am Sunday morning. Did I mention the snow? Yea. Went from 105 weather to snow. Evil. Viva Las Vegas. Can’t wait to return again. Love it.
     
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  2. Niteshade

    Niteshade Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Great detailed report. Enjoyed all
    the reviews. I had heard of that Mexican food
    restaurant from some friends, but I haven't tried
    it yet. Next time we are Downtown - we will
    make a point of going there. Haven't been to
    El Cortez in years. Might have to give it a go too.
    Thanks for taking the time to share.
     
  3. sybgal

    sybgal VIP Whale

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    Great - informative report! Thanks so much for sharing!!!
     
  4. Sonya

    Sonya Queen of VMB

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    Thanks for sharing and congrats on the VP win. I've got a conference coming up in October at Rio and I have mixed feelings about going. It's hard to conference when all that Vegas is happening outside. :)
     
  5. casinokid68

    casinokid68 Low-Roller

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    Great report and you detail everything so clearly. Just a great report to read. Nice pictures, except for that breakfast at Hash House. You're right. What was up with that dish? How can they possibly serve that to a customer? And a fantastic way to finish off a trip. A $500 win at the airport!! Way to go.
     
  6. breanna61

    breanna61 Super Moderator

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    We left on the 15th on the Westjet flight you came in on; it was snowing at the airport when we arrived in Toronto but summer when we returned on the 20th; crazy damn weather.

    I agree on the Rio's steady decline. It is sad when comared to the Marnell glory years. It was my home Casino back then but ai haven't stayed there in the last decade'ish. The All American used to be very good; haven't been back in pro ably 5 years. Surprised it is still open with so many better choices in Vegas.

    Nice hit at the airport. Way to leave on a winning note.
     
  7. breanna61

    breanna61 Super Moderator

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    Since reading your report originally, I just booked a stay at Rio. A friend has Vacation starting July 9th and we both have comps at Cosmo (3 nights and freeplay) and Palms. Cosmo is sold out and 3 of the 5 nights we need are sold out at Palms. Neither of us care to share a room and the only other properties she gets comped are CET. We decided on Ballys but she needs a smoking room and none are available so we settled on Rio due to proximity to Palms and quick shuttle to strip and proximity from the shuttle area at Ballys to Cosmo. I doubt we'll do much at Rio, most of our play will likely be Palms and Cosmo and dining elsewhere but I do hope the room is decent at Rio; I've been spoiled by Cosmo suites, Wynncore and Palms. Kind of tempted to double book Wynncore but not really handy if my friend is at Rio.
     
  8. TomTWI

    TomTWI High-Roller

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    Thanks for the report. I'm surprised at your negative experience at the Gold Coast. I can always find $5 2 deck 3/2 BJ there and good VP pay tables. Might be the time of day but I've always had good experience with the staff. I'm usually there in the morning and Bunny CW and the Cheese head bartender take good care of me.

    TomTWI
     
  9. Vegas Tim

    Vegas Tim Tourist

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    Great report, liked the pic,s. We have been staying at the Rio the last 10 years and it seems that Ceasars is just ignoring it while they are trying to sell it. To bad as it used to be a great hotel.

    Thanks for posting.

    Tim
     
  10. kevthegrad

    kevthegrad Tourist

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    Another thumbs up for El Cortez. Sent a nice little letter to their owner praising the experience I've had there in the last couple years and got a tremendous reply that felt genuine and not like one of those canned "thanks for writing " replies. The El Cortez continues to exceed my expectations.

    Can't wait to get back there - wish I could Uber there right now. With surge pricing and 3000 miles that could cost a bit though. :p
     
  11. Richard Alpert

    Richard Alpert LOST

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    I appreciate the time you took to write such an informative and detailed report.
    I jotted down some of the dining establishments as things for my bride and I to try on our upcoming trip!
    Thank you!
    RICHARD
     
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