TR 7/27-8/2/2014 I apologize for the extended length of this report. I tried to make it short and to the point, but I just can’t. The complete report is in excess of 5500 words plus pictures. I won’t subject this audience to all that in one dose, so I plan to post in sections or topics with some editing. First … we have no gambling events to report .Just the usual slot contribution throughout the week at five or six different locations with the expected ups and downs finishing a $100+ or so down, this is routine and expected. Gambling is not the lure of Vegas for us, it’s the experience of new things and old favorites, and the chance to play in the glitz and glamour “sandbox” for a couple of weeks each year. Non-stop Philadelphia to Las Vegas via Southwest no problem, except for the long ride, each trip we seem to get less tolerant of the continuous 5 hours of sitting. Don’t know if it that each year we’re older or if the level of trip expectation is less but there seems to be a lot of uncontrollable squirming between us, like kids at church, that reading, music or even a DVD player cannot relive. The “red-eye” back home at the end of the week proved to be even worse. We have another non-stop trip planned in December but after that we’ll have to discuss the one stop version of the trip. Non-stops are getting harder to find anyway. The Stays The summer trip is always split into two locations three nights apiece. This time we chose Flamingo and Aria. Yes, two strip hotels, one each from the big players, walking distance apart, but oh how different, here’s how it went… Flamingo, Sunday thru Wednesday The check-in using the private room for Platinum and above at Flamingo is a plus. Upgraded to a Mini- GO suite for $14 a night over the booked room rate as part of the eUpgrade offer. The offer also included other available discount and offers TBD at check-in. Sometimes the norm at CET locations, the agent knew nothing about this “plus” part of the offer, so I produced the e-mail and let her read it. Still clueless, said she never saw that before. It must be a cost saving tactic at CET to let the customers train the employee. All she could offer, with a smile, was a list of BOGO options on property as part of the “Platinum Perk”. Ok…good enough. The room was not ready as it was early in Vegas, not yet 11 a.m. After breakfast and a walk along the strip for some room supplies the GF’s phone rang with the news that the room was ready, it’s now around 2 p.m., not bad, returned to Flamingo and picked up keys for the mini-suite. The room on the floor 22, overlooking Ballys with an angle view of the strip was larger than a standard room and I suppose, exactly as describe, a mini-suite. Most of the extra space was found in the center of the room which also included a sofa and table and still ample area for walking around without bumping into each other. The bed was situated in its own alcove with a ceiling fan and a TV mounted on a swing arm, much like a hospital room set-up. Another TV on the wall in the main section of the room which was viewable from the sofa as well as the bed, plus the bathroom TV in the mirror. As part of the fun, the TV remotes had the same frequency, so when you operated one TV, the other one had to get in the act too. Took some skill each night to turn off the bed TV without turning on the room TV, turn one off, the other would pop on…just what you need after running hard all day in Vegas. Other note on the room was the storage situation. Desk top counter ran almost the entire length of the long wall with a single drawer of 4” depth in each, obliviously these were four desk units mounted side by side. Ever try to store clothes in a 4” drawer, not much fits above a single level. Very annoying, the only other options were to pile clothes on the desk top or to live out of the suitcase. Bath with tub and separate shower was adequate. Last room note, had two lamps out, one of the side bed lamps (that would blink on if you smacked it) and one of the pink accent bulbs in the bath ceiling that bugged me the entire stay. Generally, the stay at the Flamingo was what was expected. I know that the property is no “spring chicken”, (ah..I mean flamingo) and just moving around in the building can be a chore with super crowded first floor and painfully slow elevators. We had stayed here before during a short winter trip so nothing was new to us except the mini-suite and the pool area (more on that later). We had eaten at most of the casual restaurants on the property including Margaretville spot during previous visits, so that was a pass this trip, although, the pizza joint near the café and buffet was a good find late one evening. A big slice, the perfect midnight snack. We’ll move on from the Flamingo with good thoughts and regards, except for the mini-suite and its clothes storage, which made absolutely no-sense. Time to go Aria for a first time stay, let see what we find there… Aria Wednesday thru Saturday. Stepping on the property from the cab ride from Flamingo we first met Dean, really nice young man who took our bags, showed us the way to the registration desk and made us laugh. Then a reasonable wait to a smooth check-in. It was just noon and there was no wait for the room. Because we had scheduled the “red-eye” home for Saturday, I asked about late-check-out. The well spoken woman explained in a friendly but “matter of fact” tone that hotel policy was that late check-out was only available at the time of booking (advance notice) but she would make a note for us to have a “courtesy hour”, check-out would now be 12 noon. Another stop at the Concierge to pick up our room package “Welcome Letter”, up to the 22 floor into one of the most attractive and stylish room that we have ever been in, although the Première room at Palms with the “eyes” on the wall will always be one of my favorites. A call for the bags not only brought us the luggage in less than ten minutes, but with them came another equally polished employee who greeted us and assumed the role of “room tour guide”. He showed us the use of the high tech room controls and warned us about messing with the mini-bar and refrigerator, unless we were willing to pay dearly for our actions. The tour was necessary because, for those who have never been, the room can be completed managed electronically from a control pad. Just the sort of frills that no one needs but must have and are willing to pay to get it, us humans! I am sure folks back at the Flamingo are still turning on the lights with manual switches and actually walking over to the thermostat to adjust room temperature, unbelievable. The “goodnight” button by the bed was my favorite. Oh, those poor creatures back at the Flamingo without one… After the tour and being able to see the pool at Vdara through our window, I asked the bellmen about Aria guest using the pool there. He said he was not sure of the policy but he would find out. He stepped over to the phone and one touched someone and began a conversation as if he were a hotel guest, asking about using the pool at Vdara. He went on with whom he was speaking about meeting old friends at the Aria pool and it being crowded and noisy and he thought it would be better for their reunion to go to the quitter Vdara pool if that would be possible. I could hear a woman voice on the other end of the phone. I had no real reason to want to use the pool at Vdara, just curious if we had that option being the two hotels are so closely linked. After our question about late check out and now this, I started to notice how an underlining message was being sent in just the short time that we have been on the property. First, the response from the voice on the phone was “no”. Ok, that is probably always the policy and he must know it. He could have said “no, that’s not allowed”, right when I asked him… but he didn’t… He made it look like he had a personal interest in what we wanted to do, he made the show on the phone, told me that he was sorry but they said “no” and then left me with the suggestion that I should go over to Vrdra anyway and tell them that the “kids at the Aria pool are driving me nuts” and maybe they would let you in to the pool. Do you see what happened here, even though the answer was” no”, the negativity was removed by the positive effort and hope that it could happen, without any guar tees. And the check-in host, who stated the policy which didn’t work for us, the “no”, quickly threw in the hour. Nothing huge, but it took away the negativity. The message was that all your request at Aria will be considered, not answered, just considered. But when you’re being dazzled, who can tell the different between yes, no, considered or answered. Think back to the Flamingo check-in agent who when asked a question about hotel offer, replied with, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, is it training or the 5-star rating? most likely both. I do enjoy the “theater” and how a customer facing job at Aria is a “craft”…and heck, just being dazzled. The entire stay at Aria was at this level and a wonderful experience. The two hotels are not only separated by a few blocks and six lanes of traffic, but also decades of time. Am sure that the Flamingo has bed sheets older than City Center complex. Spending time at the strip “matriarch” and then at the “sassy upstart” was the point of the choice. The Aria was the classer place, with top level service and good planning throughout, especially the elevator design where one car only serves a limited number of floors, not the entire building. But then again it should be… it’s newer and the cost of staying, eating and drinking there reflect the “polish”. The Aria may have the edge on creature comforts, but the Flamingo is, and always will be “Vegas”. Staying at the Aria you could be in any major city, but at the Flamingo… this must be Vegas. Where else could that wonderful tacky “pink” be accepted and displayed so proudly. There is a place for them both. The Flamingo, forever fabulous, has my respect because it’s not perfect and has survived in a neighborhood that eats its old. But it sure was “dazzling” on the other side of the street. A shot of each was the perfect Vegas concoction. Nowhere else was the contrast more evident that at the pools…more to come.