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TR: Aria / Signature (January 23rd to January 30th)

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by Maverick41, Feb 7, 2010.

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  1. Maverick41

    Maverick41 Tourist

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2009
    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    North Bay Area, CA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    15

    My Trip Report

    Can we all just agree that clearly the worst part of a Las Vegas vacation is the moment when you get home and it occurs to you that you're not in Las Vegas anymore?

    Now that that's out of the way..

    For those that didn't read my prior TR in September, I’ll give a quick rundown and recap...I'm a longtime board lurker and occasional poster who lives in the bay area and decided to take his girlfriend to Vegas in January, 2009 to see what the place was about and maybe have a fun couple of days. That was now approximately 12 months and 4 separate week-long vacations ago. So needless to say, me and Vegas kinda agree with each other :)

    Now, I can't offer up an epic BeeJay-esque scroll of debauchery, drugs and loose women...although a few more trips and I might be on my way...but I'm gonna give this a shot, much in the same format I did my previous TR with quick snippets/summaries, along with hotel, show and food breakdowns.

    ---

    Introduction

    I started planning this trip about an hour after getting home from the last one, and spent quite a few nights planning it out. The original vision was to do this one on the cheaper-than-usual and get a regular room at TI with only one or two shows, but that didn't hold up for very long. In my heart of hearts, I dream of one day becoming a mini-gregrio of sorts, and although I’m far from it, I still have high hopes! It's for that reason that entirely too much of my travel budget goes to shows. But in the end, it seems to always be worth it. Shows are indeed good for you!

    The Trip Out

    Originally planned to drive again, but as the trip grew closer, I said the heck with it and went Southwest out of SFO for $44 each way. Both flights were delayed about 30mins, but still quick and easy. For flights out of SFO, I am forever of the opinion that Virgin America simply cannot be beat, but I was still trying to be sorta semi-frugal on this trip and just couldn't justify their increasingly depressing bag fees.

    Aria
    AKA: The worst resort-casino on the strip, a generally horrendous experience, a crime against humanity and a general abomination to all mankind

    [​IMG]

    So...I've been following Aria pretty religiously since the months leading up to it's debut, and I’ve been following the internet feedback on TripAdvisor, Yelp and VMB on a daily basis since the opening. Hence the AKA's.

    After reading all that fantastic feedback, I held my ground and still committed to staying with them. I originally booked the $159/$209 offer with $75 resort credit, but later switched to $109/$159 offer for being a rewards card member, with $50 freeplay as a bonus.

    I'll start by getting the negatory stuff out there in the open first..

    -They apparently have a $130 a night incidental hold policy, per night, for the entire length of your stay. I've previously stayed at Encore & TheHotel, and neither had an incidental hold that steep.

    -My "Mountain View" room, as described by the front desk clerk, was in reality a 23rd floor room with panoramic views of Cosmopolitan construction. (In fairness, the view did kinda grow on me, as you could also see Rio and the mountains off in the distance and Planet Hollywood to the far right)

    -Random employee in a suit walking into the room one afternoon with the privacy light on.

    -Returning late one evening to a toilet with a broken chain, which worked perfectly fine prior to the turndown service. Getting maintenance to the room took approximately 1 hour.

    -Random activation of the room's fire alarm the morning we were leaving, every fifteen minutes or so, starting around 9am.

    So, all those having been rattled off, here's my bottom line...I still liked this hotel, I really enjoyed the whole property, and I'm going to be returning.

    There's a few key reasons for this...first off being, I thought the room was an excellent value for what I paid. The bed was fantastic, the overall room size was respectable, the computer controls worked great, and I got a kick out of the layout of the bathroom/tub (although I can understand why some people wouldn't). The TV was large, high definition with a large amount of channels, and the chairs were comfortable.

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    Every single employee I interacted with on the property was pleasant, courteous and greeted me immediately, which was very Wynn/Encoreish of them. My room key was checked every single time I went to the elevators, and my room key worked on the room door every time without fail.

    With the casino, I can understand the complaints about the darkness...although once again, I think the exaggerations about it being a "dark, scary, dungeon-like pit of low-lightness" is a bit extreme. Yes, the lighting is generally low, and it personally wasn't something that bothered me.

    [​IMG]

    As for the tram...I'm of the following opinion. I used the tram several times a day during the entire trip, even after we moved over to Signature. I've read some feedback recently that a few different people haven't been pleased with the placement of the stations. I feel that with Monte Carlo and Bellagio, it's forgivable due to the fact that the designers had existing structures to work with and did the best they could. Yes, they're both on large outdoor platforms that require long escalator rides to get too, but it was still easy to access and quite convenient. As for the Crystals station, this thing is just stupid. I used this station once, and it's literally basically on the roof of the back of Crystals. They got to build Crystals along with everything else, so I have a little less sympathy for the designers on that one.

    [​IMG]

    So, in conclusion...yes it's new, and yes there were a few issues, but I enjoyed it. It's modern, it has it's own personality (limited and specific as it may be) and I personally really enjoyed it's location on the strip. I'll be returning.

    Signature

    Up until a couple weeks before this trip, I was originally going to spend the final three days in a Petite Suite at TI. However, I wound up finding a discounted rate through Luxury Suites International in Signature for a petite suite (90/night), and the absurdly large amount of positive online feedback swayed me to try it out. I figured that, if Aria wound up being a complete disaster and travesty to the world as it was so often being described, at least I’d be able to head over to the polar opposite of the internet community's majority opinion.

    I booked a discounted rate through Luxury Suites International, and I wound up on the 33rd floor of Tower 2, facing the strip and the side of Tower 3. I didn't get a balcony, which was a bit of a bummer, but the view was nice enough. The rooms were as nice as everyone generally describes, with the great kitchen areas and large bathrooms. The bed was nice, but couldn't compare to the awesomeness of Aria's. The service was outstanding from everyone working in the hotel, easily comparing to or rivaling Wynn/Encore. You do indeed feel like minor royalty when you pull up to the Signature.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Personally, I can completely understand why people seem to love staying here, as it's definitely separated from the strip and has it's very own sense of privacy and calmness as opposed to a casino hotel. I didn't quite enjoy it as much as I thought, I think partly because I almost missed the crazy casino-downstairs element. The walk to the strip is indeed long, but we walk everywhere anyway due to the "all my frickin money goes to shows and a very small amount of slot play, so i'm too cheap for cabs" issue that I have going on.


    The Lion King

    The first night of my very first Vegas trip last year was the final night of Mamma Mia, and I had been watching with interest what was going to end up in that theater. The Lion King was pretty cool to see being thrown in there, since it's one of my GF's favorite movies and she'd never seen the musical, plus we're both closet disney fans. I put off seeing this one during the rest of the trips last year, but finally went for it this time, and got a discounted rate through a link off SmarterVegas.com for $70, Section B, Row R, Seats 12 and 13. Purchased through Ticketmaster.

    Interesting story about this one....we get to the theater, usher at the entryway directs us to Section B and tells us Row R is at the top. We go over to the row and proceed to get through several people that were already seated, only to come to find that after Seat 11, there's a wall for the control booth. Hence, no seats 12 or 13. So, we then crawl back over all the people who were already seated while looking and feeling rather stupid, and return to the usher. "Hi, could you help me out? I can't find my seats..the numbers stopped at 11"

    The guy then looks agitated and says "Yeah, that's cause they don’t exist"
    I say, "Oh..okay then. Thanks for sharing that."

    He then mumbles something for me to hang on, goes and talks to what is apparently a supervisor, and then directs me to two new seats in Row J of Section B, right in the middle. Pretty perfect seats, so I was pretty pleased. But from what I gathered out of the whole experience, Ticketmaster apparently likes to sell Lion King tickets for seats that aren't actually there. They might want to fix that?

    As for the show, it was what I expected. GF loved it, and I got a kick out of the elaborate costumes and a lot of the sets and designs. It was worth the money, and well put together. I'm glad they brought the complete version of the show to Vegas, as opposed to a more limited touring-type version.

    Jersey Boys

    We met up with my grandparents who were also visiting Vegas for a couple of days. I had previously raved about how absolutely, ridiculously, absurdly phenomenal Jersey Boys was, and they definitely wanted to check it out. We were more than happy to see it again, and booked the same bestofvegas.com free orchestra upgrade offer. This time, we didn't get quite as great seats through that deal as we did last time, as we ended up in almost the last possible row of the orchestra section. The show was again fantastic and absolutely worth the money, but this is one of the only shows I think is absolutely worth the extra money to sit a little closer for. The performance of the actors on stage, and the detail of what's taking place sometimes is just too hard to appreciate from further back for me.

    I'm also missing the guy who used to play Bob Gaudio and apparently left the production late last year..the new guy wasn't quite as great, but still good in his own right.

    Viva Elvis!
    AKA: The worst Elvis show on the strip, a generally horrendous experience, a crime against humanity and a general abomination to all mankind

    This was the show that I was most looking forward too from the moment I started planning this trip. I consider Love to be my favorite Vegas show so far, and while I knew this wasn't going to be Love, I was extremely excited about the concept of Cirque taking on the idea of developing a show around Presley. I purchased the preview-priced tickets direct through the box office 800 number, and saw the show on a Tuesday night, sitting in section 202 right on the aisle, closest to the center.

    This was another show I had been constantly checking the reviews on since it first debuted, and as I hinted above, the reviews have mostly been very Aria-esque. Since Aria apparently puts people in a horrendous mood as it is, I can only assume that these people decide to go see Viva Elvis in a horrendous mood, and then proceed to go trash the living crap out of it on the internet.

    That said, I think this show is going to be outstanding. Emphasis on the words "going to". Viva Elvis is far from perfect, and obviously far from being a completed project. However, I went into the show expecting that, and I came out more impressed than I thought I would. Viva has several scenes, dance routines and acrobatic elements that are brilliant. It has several right ideas, but just aren't executed the right way yet. It's current form has some pacing problems to it, with a lot of moments where the crowd didn't seem sure if they should clap or not.

    I agree with Gregrio's take on this show in a lot of ways, especially on the Tom Parker character who is not yet nearly what he has the potential to be for the show.

    I also think that the sound system in the theater is absolutely fantastic. I didn’t think sound could get any better after having experienced Love, but this show might have just proved me wrong. I'm an audiophile and an all-around sound buff, and the way this show sounded is enough reason for me to be back later on.

    The whole thing is a good-enough tribute, it's got a lot of great ideas, some executed well, some not. But the opportunities will be identified and corrected, and this will become a very strong Cirque show over time. Until then, if you plan on seeing it in the immediate future, don't expect perfection.

    Penn & Teller

    Purchased tickets through a discount code off Travelzoo for $40 each and wound up front and center, about four rows back from the stage. We took the free shuttle from Paris to and from, which worked out great and was extremely easy. I'd been a fan of the Showtime show for the last few years, and was meaning to fit this in. It wound up being a nice break from Cirque and Theater type shows...we both really enjoyed the comedy aspect, and the magic was extremely impressive to watch, especially that close up.

    The finale of the "Sawing a woman in half" segment ranks right up there with some of the funniest stuff i've pretty much ever seen. Either it was the finale of that skit itself, or just watching the reactions of various people in the audience...one of the two.

    We had a great time, and you can't beat the ticket price or the free transportation. Although listening to Penn for long periods of time is likely not for everyone, the show itself is highly recommended.

    Ka

    We saw this on the last trip with my parents, and I was absolutely blown away. I used a Travelzoo discount code again and wound up with seats about fifteen rows back from the stage for $60 each, which was considerably closer than the last time we saw it.

    We caught this on our last night in town, and it was just as great as the first time we saw it. Unfortunately, there were apparently some "technical difficulties" midway through the show, at the very beginning of the sequence leading up to the human plinko-battle on the vertical stage. That's my favorite part of the show after the wheel of death sequence, so I was a little disappointed when I realized something was wrong and the actors were improvising for several minutes. They eventually left, and we were left staring at the stage for about five minutes with the music playing before they eventually got the stage going again, and we were skipped right up to the "Snow Villagers" scene. Kind of a bummer..

    Still a fantastic show, and incredibly worth it for the discounted price I grabbed.

    Restaurants / Food

    I'm just going to do some quick notes on this, as we did our normal routine and didn't do anything close to fancy. We're the perennial casual dining couple, and we like it that way.

    Planet Dailies
    We only ate here the first couple days of the trip, once for dinner and again for breakfast. The dinner entrees we both had were okay, and the breakfast was only so-so. Prices were a bit extreme. I will admit, the plethora of video monitors playing never-ending "funniest home videos" type clips was interesting and entertaining to watch for a couple of meals. It's funny looking around and seeing just how many people in this place are actually talking to each other, or are totally engrossed in watching the home videos for their entire dining experience.

    Mon Ami Gabi
    I've been attempting to go to this place for breakfast ever since I found out about it two trips ago, but having previously been staying at Encore, I was never able to get out of bed and get over to Paris anytime prior to 11am. This trip, with my hotel being slightly closer, I finally managed to roll into this place at 1030. We were both struck by some of the feedback i'd heard about the Blueberry french toast, which we both ordered. And yes, it was likely the greatest french toast of all time. Seriously, now after having experienced it, I'll likely wake up even closer to 9amish regardless of where I am on the strip just to experience this expensive, but life-changing french toast. What's that? You didn't think french toast could be life altering? Well, you're correct, that's just excessive...but it's important to convey this was some high-quality french toast. Eating out on the Patio was also awesome, and made me want to come back and check the place out for dinner. It was particularly cold the morning we were there, but they've got awesome patio heaters that worked wonders.

    Monte Carlo Cafe
    On our last couple trips while staying at Encore, we made "The Coffee Shop" at TI our home base for a lot of the meals on our trip. This time around, because of our location on the strip, I figured Planet Dailies was going to be the same thing for us, but we ended up walking past this place a lot and gave it a shot early on. The interior is actually surprisingly newer and nice looking, and actually reminded me a lot of Grand Lux. The prices were reasonable, service was great and the food was consistently better than we expected. We ended up here for breakfast and dinner multiple times during the trip, and i've gotta say it was a surprise. For hotel cafe-fare, if you're in this area, you should definitely be giving Monte Carlo a shot.

    BLT Burger
    This has been a staple of our vacations since the first trip, as i'm in love with these burgers. We both consider them to be among the best we've ever had, and I sometimes have very vivid dreams in between my vacations about their waffle fries. Is that normal? Probably not.

    Grand Lux Cafe
    Our "Fanciest" dinner of the trip, if you want to call it that...I took my grandparents here before Jersey Boys, and we had a great meal. Service was excellent as always, and the portions were massive. Just a great place.

    Serendipity 3
    We ended up walking past at about 9:30, and having heard previously on the board or somewhere else about the Frozen Hot Chocolates, I talked my GF into giving this a shot. When we walked in, I was greeted by a snappy waitress who informed me that they were "only doing dessert" , which I replied was fine. She then proceeded to seat us and walk away without giving us menus. After waiting about five minutes without her coming back or a waiter showing up, I walked back up front and asked if we could possibly grab some menus. She then says "I didn't give you menus?" with a blank stare, and hands me two. I then had to take a moment to compose myself after suddenly being struck by her brilliance and astounding customer service skills. After regaining my composure, I returned to our table, and ordered the Hot Chocolates, which were absolutely fantastic and will now be sharing my dreams along with the BLT waffle fries. They've just gotta lose the snappy/crappy hostesses, apparently.

    Tidbits / Final Thoughts

    -While staying at Signature, there was apparently a major convention taking place at MGM for a vitamin / nutritional supplement company. Now, while i'm sure their attendance absolutely pales in comparison to something like CES, it was my first time being in a vegas hotel with a major convention taking place, and it freaked me the hell out. These people, with their name badges, lanyards and matching handbags, were frickin *everywhere*. We did have breakfast one morning in the Studio Cafe, which ended up sucking, but the experience was made even more awkward by the fact that it was absolutely packed and we were one of *three* total tables I counted that did not belong to this convention. Every other single table in the place was packed with vitamin-loving badge wearers. It was just freaky how many legions of followers this company had.

    -Gambling wise, I went and got my MGM Players card that I had to sign up for and get the Aria deal, and proceeded to rack up a whopping total of 505 points. Can you say high roller??? Alright, perhaps not, but the shows seem to be coming first. I spent most of my time and small amount of money in the Aria casino, where I took up a fondness for a bank of Wheel of Fortune San Francisco themed slot machines that I was determined to dominate. I didn't really succeed, but had fun none the less.

    -When it rains, the Umbrella vendors come out in force! I was impressed how many sprang up on the pedestrian bridges in such a short amount of time.

    -On our last evening in town, we went to check out Mirage and watch the full Volcano show that I hadn't seen since our very first trip last year.

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    We staked out a spot right in front fairly early, and after it ended, we stuck around for a little bit. My GF points out that there's something moving on the ground. I start looking, and sure enough, stuff's moving, but it's under the bushes and too dark to tell what it is. Then, all of a sudden, at least four or five different mice fly out of the bushes and start running around along the fence. Mice which I affectionately went on to name "Volcano Mice"

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    So apparently, next time you're around the Volcano, look out for the Volcano Mice...

    -In conclusion, we had yet another fantastic time, saw a lot of great shows, did a lot of fun people watching, and had an overall successful trip. Next up will be my birthday again, first week of June...

    Thanks to the board as usual, lots of little bits of info I find on here contribute to making our vacations great, and we really appreciate it!
     
  2. keno

    keno obsessed with countdown timers

    Joined:
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    Great TR! Tons of information! Thanks for posting!!
     
  3. Chrisbeans

    Chrisbeans Low-Roller

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    Loved your TR! Thanks for sharing all the fun tidbits, especially of the food! I will definitely need to try the Blueberry French Toast the next time I'm there.
     
  4. sam_marques

    sam_marques High-Roller

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    Really enjoyed reading your TR, thank you.
     
    Mommys Solo Trips
  5. GSS

    GSS Low-Roller

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    nice report!
     
  6. VegasDiva

    VegasDiva VIP Whale

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    Loved your TR , great info and tidbits

    lol @ the Volcano Mice
     
  7. jpw711

    jpw711 VIP Whale

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    enjoyed it, thanks!
     
    Holiday Gift Shoppe
  8. Tonez78

    Tonez78 Low-Roller

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    I enjoyed your TR, thanks!

    Tony
     
  9. zerofan

    zerofan VIP Whale

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    Thank you for sharing and thanks for the beautiful pics!!! :nworthy:
     
  10. soxfan70

    soxfan70 Tourist

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    Staying at Signature next week! Thanks for the info!!

    Maverick - loved the TR, especially since I'm staying at the Signature next week for the first time. My only previous Vegas stay was at the Luxor, so I would think the Sig's beds are better than my experience - even if Aria's were that much better!!
    You also mentioned the Travelzoo discount code to KA, which I plan on seeing as well. If you still have that available, could you share that info? I had two routes that I was undecided with - with the Prima card at MGM you get a one level upgrade on tix, so I was thinking of buying the $69 seats and getting upgraded to the $99 level; I was also thinking about getting the tickets at the Tix4Tonight booth, which seems to always list them as available the day of the show for 40% off. Your travelzoo deal sounds better than both!!
     
  11. Maverick41

    Maverick41 Tourist

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    Hi Soxfan,

    The beds at Signature are by no means bad - If your last stay was Luxor, you're in for quite an upgrade all around! I'm sure you'll love it.

    I booked that KA offer around the first part of December...I usually alternate between the Travelzoo and Smartervegas websites looking for ticket deals, and neither are offering codes for KA at the moment. However, if you go to the MGM Grand's website for KA, you'll see links for a limited time $60 per ticket offer on dates through the end of March.

    Before you buy off that though, I'd call their box office directly and see if they'd honor that same offer for purchases over the phone. You can get a much better choice of seats by speaking with an operator over the phone versus purchasing off the web site. Their box office is 877-412-1212

    As far as seats they might offer you, Ka has a very wide layout for their theater. When I first saw it, I was sitting in the very back of the rear right-hand section, and I wasn't sure i'd be getting a very good experience. It ended up still being great, though...with the way Ka's stage works, I think the visual effect and presentation of the show comes across a little bit better from the rear sections even moreso than other Cirque shows. Either way, you'll have a great time.
     
  12. Mycatspot

    Mycatspot Tourist

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    I've never stayed at either Sig or Aria, so thanks for your input. Enjoyed your trip report! Thank you for sharing!
     
  13. TommyToledo

    TommyToledo Low-Roller

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    Thanks for the TR! Volcano mice? Eek.
     
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