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Trip Report 31 Aug - 6 Sep

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by techie223, Sep 12, 2014.

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  1. techie223

    techie223 High-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Ottawa Canada
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    17

    My Trip Report

    This will just be a [STRIKE]brief[/STRIKE] not-so-brief [modified once I finished the report; looks like I can’t do “brief”] overview of the trip. I admire the people who submit full reports or report live, but I don’t have the aptitude and I just don’t think my trips are that interesting. But as many have said, I enjoy reading other’s reports so much I feel like I should contribute. The “excuse” for the trip was to celebrate my birthday.

    Flights

    Flew United this time around. What are other people’s experiences with them? I usually book my flights several months in advance, and every time I fly United the flights change a minimum of 5 times between the date the flights were made and the date of departure. This time, when I tried to check in 24 hours prior to departure I received an error message indicating I needed to call. The automated system gave me the same itinerary info I already had, but when I spoke to a live agent he told me the flight was now a 3pm departure instead of Noon.
    Combined with bad weather in Newark for our connection, instead of the arrival time of 7pm that was originally booked, we arrived in Vegas at 11:30pm. Felt like we’d lost a day. To be fair, however, our return flights through Newark were fine.

    I’m almost to the point of ponying up the extra bucks to fly Air Canada because of the constant scheduling changes (and the lack of service on the planes) but I’ll give them one more try. I wonder if my bookings are more subject to change because of using Expedia? I’ll try booking direct next time. The main draw with United is the Star Alliance affiliation for air mile points, and the fact that if we fly an American airline we can clear customs at the Ottawa airport. So much better than trying to clear through the large airports in Toronto or Montreal.

    Accommodations

    Bellagio (4 nights) – Stayed here my first trip to Las Vegas (for a conference) and it is still my favourite. There’s something about the smell of the place that just makes me happy. Since it was my birthday, we splurged on a Bellagio Suite, and at check-in I requested and received a Spa Tower location. Love the decor in that tower, and that the elevators go directly to pool level. The suite was great; loved the steam shower. The only annoyance for us was that on the 32md floor there is a decorative railing that runs the length of the building, including across the windows. For us short-asses, this was exactly at eye-level.

    We rented a cabana for one day, as we have our last couple of stays. It’s a little pricy at $300 for the day, with no food or beverage credit, but we like to be able to get out of the sun at any time and order food to be delivered, and the service is always very good. They do serve a complementary fruit plate, and there is a fridge that is stocked with water and soda.

    Delano (3 nights) – We had originally received and booked an offer for 3 comp nights and $300 resort credit at Mandalay Bay, but a few weeks later we received an offer for the Delano, so changed our booking. This would be our first stay at Mandalay because we’re not fans of the South end of the Strip (too much walking) so I can’t compare Delano with The Hotel. But I do have a few negative comments.

    The lobby is very “organic”, lots of dark wood and rocks. I liked it, and would have liked to enjoy the space while sitting at the lobby bar, but the music was so loud we tended to get through the area as quickly as possible. Full disclosure: we are in our mid-50s, so maybe younger folks won’t have a problem with the loudness, but we could barely hear each other speak at 11AM. By early evening, I think the volume increases to almost nightclub levels.

    There are 5 elevators that service floors 25ish to 64 (Mix). Note that this is fewer than 40 floors, as there are no numbers in the 40s, and there are seemingly random other numbers skipped. At least one of the elevators was out of service during our stay so there were constant line-ups for the elevators at all times of the day.

    As mentioned by several other people, 1 of the 2 pillows provided per person was so hard as to be unusable, and the other was marginal. Other than that, the bed was comfortable. In contrast to the lobby, our suite was very white, in keeping with their “South Beach” theme. Not to my taste, but very clean looking and I can see the appeal for some people. There is a Keurig in the room, along with sealed disposable “cup packages” for $4 that included sugar and creamer. The K-cups may also have been in there (I didn’t see them anywhere else) but I wasn’t going to pay the $4 to find out. We just bought K-cups from Starbucks and used the bar glasses. Note: there is a sensor in the Keurig that doesn’t “see” glass, so we had to use a dark coloured piece of paper under the glass.

    My last comment is reference the concierge. I called at 11AM on Friday morning to make a dinner reservation and had to wait on hold for at least 5 minutes before speaking with someone. This seems excessive for a high-end hotel, and something I haven’t experienced before.

    I don’t want to make it seem like we didn’t enjoy the stay. The things that annoyed us would likely not matter to many people. We probably wouldn’t stay there again, but that is mainly because of how far from the pool area of Mandalay Bay it is located.

    We rented a Private Garden Bungalow at the pool. This was a big splurge for us, but I wanted to have a quiet day and figured that would be the best guarantee. I would say that you’re really paying for the “private” aspect, as the “bungalow” itself is not as nice as the Bellagio cabana. The service was excellent though, and it was very relaxing with each unit having its own hot tub, as well as the separate pool for the area. There were also floaties that could be used on the last river if you wished.

    I would definitely consider staying at Mandalay Bay itself because of the pool and dining options.

    Transportation

    We usually use Presidential for our airport transport, but opted to use Las Vegas limos for a one-way trip from the airport, combined with a 2 tour with champagne (additional cost). Due to our flight delays, we didn’t get the full 2 hours. I sorta felt that if they were monitoring our flights, there should have been no loss in time, but by now we just wanted to get to the hotel so I didn’t argue about it. As it was, we had a nice drive out to M Resorts, as I requested, while enjoying our champagne.

    We used taxis several times this trip, and all drivers took the quickest, direct routes and were well tipped for doing so.

    Besides the SDX bus to Fremont, we also used the BHX to get from Fremont to Sam’s Town, and the 202 to go from Sam’s Town to Ellis Island. I find the transport system in Vegas to be quite good, and the $8 for a day pass makes it a great deal. It was interesting to take a local bus for a change and experience the “colourful” locals. Now that we’ve ventured off the tourist buses, we’ll definitely do so again.

    We also used the free trams quite a bit, since the friend we were traveling with was staying at Luxor. One thing I learned is that the “express” tram from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur only starts running at 11AM. Makes a big difference in walking time when you have to take the MB – Luxor – Excalibur tram.

    Food

    We really enjoy the different dining options in Las Vegas and usually try to have at least one fine dining experience during our trips. Since we were traveling with someone else this time around, we didn’t have an opportunity to do this. However, we did eat at a few new-to-us places that we enjoyed enough to plan to return.

    Fleur (Mandalay Bay) – We ate here for lunch. It was quite busy so rather than wait for a table in the dining room we opted to sit in the lounge. This worked out quite well as the seating was very comfortable, and the service was great. We spit a Cuban sandwich and fish (ahi tuna) tacos. Both were delicious, with the pork in the Cuban being very tender and more like pulled pork (without the BBQ sauce) than just slices of a roast. The tuna was very lightly battered.

    Rx Boiler Room (MB) – We ate dinner at Rx. Very interesting decor, with live entertainers in the bar area, playing at a low enough level that it was just nice background music in the dining area. The menu is fairly limited, which isn’t a problem for us as we don’t have many food aversions (so far just raw oysters and sea urchin). We opted to split a few “small plates”: the Meze platter of 3 Mediterranean dips was good, but not something I’d return for; the Tater Tots and Chicken Pot Pie bites, however were amazing and I would definitely order again.

    Ellis Island BBQ – We’ve eaten here several times and the ribs continue to be delicious. For $9 for a half-rack, with corn, garlic bread, and baked beans as sides, it’s a great deal.

    Nacho Daddy (Downtown) – The nachos here are amazing. This time we split the Buffalo Chicken nachos. Just the right amount of heat. The only thing we didn’t like is that they brought the nachos when we were only half done with our appetizer of Queso dip, after they specifically asked if we wanted they together or with the Queso as an appy. [I’ve noticed a trend with this over the past year or so with a lot of diner/pub-style restaurants. I’ve even had wait staff tell me that they are unable to place the orders as appy/main course, that it’s just luck of the draw how it comes out of the kitchen. Can anyone in the food industry tell me if there has been some change in practises? Didn’t used to be an issue.]

    Sterling Brunch (Bally’s) – This is our 3rd time at the brunch, 1st since the conversion of the space from Bally’s Steakhouse to BLT Steak. For those that are unaware of this brunch, it’s possibly the most expensive brunch in Vegas at $85 for Total Rewards members, although if you include the champagne option at the Bellagio Jasmine Brunch, I think they’re almost the same price. The cost of the Sterling Brunch includes unlimited Perrier Jouet champagne.

    The space is obviously quite different after the changeover, since Bally’s Steakhouse was old-school Vegas, whereas BLT Steak is your typical modern wood and steel construction. If you were familiar with the old layout, there is now one long buffet line in the area where the booths used to be, and the remainder of the space is seating. Many of the items that used to be in the side room (breakfast items, caviar, salads) now have to be ordered from the kitchen. Included in these items are caviar, Caesar salad, eggs Benedict (3 kinds), lobster bisque and tuna tartare. The food I can remember that were on the buffet line are jumbo shrimp, lobster tails, crab claws, filet mignon, lamb, prime rib, omelets, bacon, creamed spinach and truffled mashed potatoes. There were other items, I just can’t remember.

    I expected to be disappointed, but found all the food to be at the same high calibre as previous visits, and the service was great. We never came close to emptying our champagne glasses. And of course there are the renowned BLT Steak popovers, which are worth a visit on their own.

    Gambling

    I love gambling in Vegas, but have never had a winning trip. It doesn’t bother me though, because I still look at it as part of my entertainment budget. I’m a BlackJack, Video Poker and slots player, and my partner plays the same, but also throws poker into the mix. We tried out craps at The D this trip, but other than the very basics (Pass and Odds), I feel we don’t know enough to be making effective bets.

    We’re starting to get half decent (for low-rollers) offers from MLife, so tend to concentrate our play at NYNY, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay while on the Strip. When downtown we play at Main Street Station, Golden Gate and The D since we also get offers from those properties. Somehow we managed to make MLife Platinum this trip.

    We have side-by-side DiVinci Diamonds and Rembrandt’s Riches machines at The D that have become ATMs for us, and we played the ‘60s version of the Batman slots at Sam’s Town for over an hour before I cashed out after doubling my money. Those were the only wins of note, other than hitting 2s with kicker on a .25 cent DDB machine at MB and a couple of non-premium quads at Sully’s Bar at Bally’s.

    Besides Sam’s Town, we also stopped into SLS to check it out. AT 9:30AM it was dead. There may have been 10 other people in there besides us. It did start to get busier as the morning went on, so it may just have been that everyone was sleeping in after partying the night before. The casino itself is nice, but I just feel like it could have been anywhere. I missed the Sahara, even though SLS is much cleaner. At least the Sahara grime was Vegas-y grime. I did think the staff were quite friendly, but expected the machines to be looser at a new casino. Lost $200 there.

    VMBer Meet-Up

    A couple of days prior to our departure, Alexanbo tweeted that he was headed to Vegas. I ran into him and Macker a few years back at a Vegas Uncorked event, so PM’d him to see if he’d be interested in a meet-up. After one failed attempt, we were finally able to set up a get-together at the Mandarin Oriental Bar. I’m a big fan of that place, and since MO is Alexanbo’s home in Vegas, it was convenient. We enjoyed a very nice chat and a bottle of bubbly, and he was kind enough to show us his suite and the MO pool area. What a great place to stay!

    We had terrific weather, 102 degrees every day. Turned out we were quite lucky, since there was hail the Sunday after we left, followed by rain storms on Monday. Managed to retain over 60% of our bankroll, which means that since I also have my first ever offer of comped rooms at Bellagio, I’ve managed to convince my partner that we can fit in another trip before May, when we’re going for a friend’s birthday.

    Just booked 28 Jan - 4 Feb. since we’d like to take in the UFC return of Anderson Silva. :woohoo:

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. PayTriple

    PayTriple The Cucumber King

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    Nice TR, thanks!
    Your next trip sounds like it will be over Superbowl weekend, you will have a lot of fun!
     
  3. Elf70

    Elf70 Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Enjoyed your trip report, especially the Delano review. I'll be there in a few weeks. I hope the elevators are in better working order! Congrats on bringing home a good portion of your bankroll.
     
  4. RockyBalboa

    RockyBalboa VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Nice report!

    In regards to United - I fly them a lot because I live in Houston. Since the merger they have become wholly unreliable when it comes to delays and cancellations. However even before the merger Newark was a black hole in regards to connecting and flying in/out of. Constant problems at EWR from even the Continental days.
     
  5. techie223

    techie223 High-Roller

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    Ottawa Canada
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    PayTriple, thanks for the heads up on the Super Bowl. I forgot all about that. Better get moving on hotel reservations!

    RockyBalboa, you're right. I didn't have as many issues with United before the merger. Maybe I'll try avoiding Newark and fly thru ORD or Dulles in the future.
     
  6. RockyBalboa

    RockyBalboa VIP Whale

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    Agreed...both would be better options compared to EWR. I have known people who live in North Jersey and will drive to PHL or fight the NYC traffic or pay for a car service just to avoid EWR.

    Super Bowl weekend...such a great time out there. We go every year!
     
  7. BellaBlvd

    BellaBlvd Low-Roller

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    I'm a Continental/United hater thanks to far too many botched flights. (Stranded in SLC, cancelled flights without any sort of notification, stranded with a completely deleted itinerary in IAH)

    IMO if you have the option to do Dulles instead of ORD do it!! YYZ-IAD-CUN was one of the rare times United didn't screw up any of my flights. But every. single. time. I connect in ORD there has been problems. (2 for 2, learned my lesson and stopped flying them!).

    Great report! You'll have a ball Super Bowl weekend!
     
  8. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Good report!
     
  9. alexanbo

    alexanbo High-Roller

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    It was fun meeting up with you again.

    We did get out of town just in time to miss the crappy weather.

    For my Christmas trip I ended up booking Air Canada/Rouge instead of Westjet, hopefully they're better then United at least.
     
  10. breanna61

    breanna61 Super Moderator

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    We use Westjet direct from Toronto or Southwest direct out of Buffalo. On occasion we fly out of Detroit. Would Syracuse be an option for you for a direct flight?

    Lots of good info in your report and great you have another trip booked.
     
  11. techie223

    techie223 High-Roller

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    I've heard good things about Westjet, but never flown with them. I'm an Aeroplan whore, so always booking on Star Alliance to get points :rolleyes2:

    We are taking Westjet on one leg of our flights to Miami in November (just because of the "free" flights the cruise line offers), so we'll see how that goes.

    It may be because I like to book well in advance, but the price difference I've seen flying out of Syracuse doesn't make up for the 3 hour drive from Ottawa. Friends have done it, though.
     
  12. Joe

    Joe VIP Whale

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    Nice report! Thanks for posting.
    Yes Super Bowl is Feb 1st, book now and be prepared for sticker shock!
     
    Christmas
  13. macwjp

    macwjp Low-Roller

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    Nice tr, thanks! I have to agree with you about customs in Ottawa as compared to Toronto or Montreal, Ottawa is so much more hassle free. On Air Canada I find the flight attendants are hit and miss, either they are super friendly and very service oriented or they are just cranky and would rather be anywhere but on the plane with you. West Jet, completely different story....I have never run into a flight attendant that was even just having a bad day...they must be putting something in the workers coffee as they all seem genuinely happy all of the time. West Jet has limited service in my area so most of my flights are on Air Canada.
     
  14. RedRiverRose

    RedRiverRose Low-Roller

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    Great report. Enjoyed.
     
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