The Adventures of Rick and Lucky Lucy Las Vegas, April 2003 We are a retired couple and love to visit Las Vegas. Before retirement we made the trip two or three times a year but now seems like there is not enough time to go that often - you would think it would be the other way around. We also hit the local casinos in the Kansas City area on a regular basis An expiring frequent flyer airline ticket sparked this excursion to Sin City. So we sat down and went over all the offers we had received over the past several weeks to lay out an agenda. We had offers of free rooms from Sam's Town, MGM, Treasure Island, Main Street Station, Fremont, and the Venetian. Treasure Island and MGM's offer also came with $75 and $100 freeplay respectively and a similar offer of $80 freeplay from the Belagio (but no room offer). Must have been a slow time in Las Vegas or they were worried about the Gulf War cutting into business. We purchased one ticket from Southwest and matched the flight with the free ticket, also from Southwest. We selected MGM for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; Treasure Island for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; and the Venetian for the last two days, Monday and Tuesday. The week we selected included Easter weekend (which turned out to be a mistake). Our son and daughter-in-law decided to drive up from Tucson for a visit while we were there so I booked them into Sam's Town for three free nights. Tuesday. Went to airport, parked in long term lot, got on Southwest, direct flight, collected baggage, noticed MGM has an office in the LV airport terminal where customers can check into the hotel. After some arguments, the MGM agent coughed up a Bungalow Suite since our offer was for a suite ("subject to availability"). It was not yet noon so rooms were not available but they gave us keys anyway and a code & telephone number to call in order to get a room assignment and the keys activated. We grabbed a shuttle to the MGM and checked our baggage with the bell captain. The MGM is huge, the largest casino in Las Vegas. We had been there a couple times before but never stayed in the hotel. They must have gotten our name and address from the Mirage database as we have stayed at the Belagio and Treasure Island in the past. We found Wolfgang Puck's coffee shop and stopped for a late lunch. We split a large sandwich which was excellent. Afterwards we hit the machines for a while but with no luck. A house-phone call to the number provided got our room assignment so we made our way though the confusing maze of slot machines and winding paths to the hotel elevators - not an easy find. The room was a most pleasant surprise. I had already made up my mind I wouldn't like MGM but the room soon changed that attitude. It was the nicest room we have ever stayed in, anywhere anytime. The room was divided into a sitting area and bedroom area by a large credenza and each area was larger than a standard hotel room. The credenza had a TV on a swivel base that could be viewed from the sitting area or turned to the bedroom. The bathroom was also huge with a double sink and separate tub and shower. Lots of marble. The dÃ©cor looked like something from a 1930's Hollywood movie set. We had dinner in the Rain Forest CafÃ©, a mostly pleasant experience. The food was good and reasonably priced, however, the cafÃ© was a little loud and full of kids. Sorry, I just don't think Las Vegas is the best choice for a family vacation with kids. After dinner we tried the machines again still with no luck. Collected our $75 freeplay and hit the sack early, still on Kansas time. Wednesday. In past visits to Las Vegas we have relied on the 'tightwad transit' system of shuttle buses, trams, monorail, etc. to get around. We knew the MGM - Bally monorail was down due to new construction so figured we would make our way to the Belagio via the Monte Carlo - Belagio tram. After hoofing it to and through the Monte Carlo, a considerable distance, we came upon a sign that declared their tram was also closed. So trudged all the way back through MC and used the shoe leather express for the trip to Belagio. Checked out the conservatory at the B and it was great as usual. The theme for the month was butterflies. There were large artificial butterflies scattered throughout the casino and shops and a large cage in the conservatory with real butterflies. Just to make things interesting, there were several life sized mechanical butterflies throughout the area that looked real as they sat and fanned their wings. We hit the promotions booth to activate our $80 freeplay and headed to a 25 cent video poker machine to collect. When I inserted the slot card it showed 8000. We didn't know if that was $80.00 without the decimal point or $8000. They made a mistake one other time and gave us too much freeplay. One thing for sure, if it was $8000 I didn't want to have to run it all through a 25 cent machine so we moved to a dollar VP machine. Of course it wasn't $8000 but $80 as we soon found out. The machine wasn't kind and we only collected $20 from the effort. But, hay it was free money. All the MGM Mirage properties have joined together in one slot club so the same card works in any of their casinos and points accumulate into the same account regardless where earned. They have also cut back on comps and comps given are based on the corporate policy and not individual casinos. In our case the corporate comp policy was no food or beverage comps until the comped rooms were paid for. Priced at over a hundred bucks a day, that would be a lot of play for quarter players like us. So after playing for a while, I hit up the Belagio for a comp to their most excellent buffet. No go, even though we had posted enough points to earn a meal. They told me to charge the meals to our room even though we were staying at MGM. They did give me a line pass, though, which was good for the rest of our visit. Guess everything at MGM Mirage casinos are now in one big data base. We did have a late lunch in the buffet but ended up paying for it as MGM wouldn't comp us for anything. From the B we walked up the street to Harrah's to see if we could beat them out of a free meal (Yes, we are cheapskates). The word there was, yes Harrah's points carry over from one casino to another and you have a lot of points but no comps ( we play a lot at Kansas City Harrah's), you gotta earn them locally. Well so much for that scheme. Stopped in the Barbary Coast on the way back and won a quick $100 on a bonus VP machine. By the time we hoofed it back to MGM we were two tired puppies and turned in early. Thursday. We split a breakfast in the Coyote Grill (or something like that) in the MGM Studio Walk area. Very good and plenty for two people. The kids were arriving that afternoon at Sam's Town so we needed to make our way there and register for the room. We crossed the street to the Tropicana then made our way east to San Remo where we would catch a Sam's Town shuttle. The shuttle was over an hour late, the 'tightwad transit' was failing us all over the place. About the time I was ready to give up and catch a city bus, the shuttle showed up. Mechanical problems, had to get another bus. Check-in at Sam's Town was quick and smooth. The room deal also included vouchers for two trips to their buffet for two people each. But there was a catch, they were only good Sun-Thur and it was Thursday already so both had to be used that day. It was already mid-afternoon, thanks to the late bus, and I didn't think we could down two buffets in one day. We scurried off to the lunch buffed to cash in one voucher. While there we 'liberated' some fruit and other snack items for our dinner. When kids showed up, we handed them the keys to the room and the other buffet voucher for their dinner. What a deal - for them. Son and Daughter-In-Law (DIL) decided after the long drive from Tucson, they were too tired to go any place else that day so we hung around ST and visited for a while. Sam's Town had a couple signs around that stated, 'Back by popular demand, 6 x points earned on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.' We got to get in on some of that. We caught the ST shuttle back to San Remo but discovered it also stopped at the Tropicana so we got off there; saved a little shoe leather. Too early to turn in so hit the VP machines in MGM for a while. No luck, they just sucked down money as fast as we could feed them. (At that point we were still harboring the idea they would comp our meals). The tourists were rolling in by the hundreds for the Easter weekend and spring break. Footpaths wind around among all the slot and VP machines in the MGM and were jammed with people. There was no place to get away from the crowd. Drunk teenagers screaming and yelling and sucking on bottles of beer were everywhere. If they had touched a slot machine, security would have been on them like stink on crap but they ignored their open drinking and drunkenness. Finally we gave up and went to the room vowing to never stay at MGM again even for free rooms and free money. Friday. Move day. We packed up our worldly processions and checked out. At that point we found out we got nothing for all our play except a lighter pocket book. I strongly suspected this would be the case when we moved to another MGM Mirage property, the Treasure Island. If so, we would limit our play there and go somewhere where it would count. Besides they only have 4 full pay VP machines at the 25 cent level in the whole casino (none in MGM). The kids picked us up at the hotel entrance of MGM and took us to TI. It was still early but I though I would give it a try to check in. The desk clerk said they had rooms open but then gave me a sly grin and said, "Tell me this is a special occasion." OK, it's a special occasion. "Like an anniversary?" Yeah, sure its our anniversary. "Just a minute." He left and talked to his supervisor then came back and announced he had upgraded us to a Penthouse room on the top floor. Wow. That sounded great. I thanked him profusely and we headed to the 36th floor. But the room was a little bit of a disappointment. Other than high ceilings, it was just a standard TI hotel room. Nothing special about this except it did have a good view - that is unless you are afraid of heights. We had a early lunch in the Grand Lux at the Venetian which was excellent. Again Lucky Lucy and I split a meal and it was plenty for both of us. We spent the rest of the day with Son & DIL doing tourist stuff on the strip. We toured the Venetian including the Canal Shops then headed to the Belagio for our second look at the conservatory and butterfly exhibit. We watched 3 or 4 fountain shows and although we have seen them a dozen times, still greatly enjoy the dancing waters and music. From there we took in the Paris and had dinner in their food court. We got back to the Treasure Island in time to take in a pirate show but was hard to see since there were thousands of other people also trying take it in. (We watched it several more times from our vantage point on the 36th floor but just wasn't the same from that distance.) Kids decided they had enough for one day and headed back to Sam's Town. We sought out the 4 full pay 25 cent VP machines and found them in the Swashbuckler's Bar. After an hour or so the bar was getting crowded and smoke was thick so we cashed out a few bucks ahead and headed to the room. Saturday. Son and DIL did some tourist stuff on their own during the morning hours. LL and I headed for the coffee shop at TI for breakfast and the line was a half mile long. But I whipped out our line pass and we were soon seated. Bet I could have sold that hummer for a big profit that day. Son and I got together late morning and headed for the Imperial Palace car museum while the girls hit the machines. By the time we toured the museum (great, by the way) and got back to the TI, I had about all the walking I wanted for one day. After meeting with up the 'women folk' we all headed back to Sam's Town in their car. It was German night in the buffet and the kids treated us to dinner. After dinner - late afternoon -- we took their shuttle bus to the downtown area. Lucky Lucy and I felt guilty about going downtown and not staying at the Fremont, our home away from home in Las Vegas for the past several years. We showed the 'newbies' around the casinos in the downtown and took in a couple of the Fremont Experience light shows. There were a couple pretty decent bands playing at different locations and several other entertaining diversions going on. The spray-can artist was at work turning out pictures using only cans of spray paint and various pieces of paper for masking. He has been there for the past several years starting with only a few cans of paint and a little ambition. Now he has a little mini-studio with dozens of cans of paint, lights, a breathing mask so he doesn't paint his lungs, and an assistant (girlfriend/wife?). He must be making money. Too soon we had to take the shuttle bus back to Sam's Town in order for us to catch the last one back to the strip. We said goodbye to the kids as they were heading out early the next morning and got on the bus. But it didn't go anywhere, seems the lights were going on and off at random intervals. It took an hour for the replacement bus to show up. I am rapidly loosing faith in the tightwad transit. The driver was very apologetic and since the replacement bus wasn't marked, i.e., Sam's Town logo, he dropped us off at our hotel (not a regular stop for the shuttle). We hit the machines for a while before going to the room. I tried my luck on a penny slot, investing a whole dollar. Twenty minutes later I cashed out 50 bucks, not bad for playing pennies. Sunday. We split another breakfast in the TI coffee shop and headed out for the day's adventure. We headed back to Sam's Town to get in on the last day of the 6 x slot points and some serious VP play. They have a wide variety of full pay video poker machines. The two of us playing on one account racked up 60,000 points which translated into two buffet comps and $55 cash, a nice little profit for the day. When we got back to the room, our son called saying he had left his laptop computer in the room at Sam's Town and he desperately needed it for his job. He had called security at ST and they had the computer, a maid had turned it in. We had to move the next morning so couldn't do anything about his problem until afternoon. Monday. After breakfast we checked out of TI and headed across the street to the Venetian. We just walked and towed our luggage since there is now an overhead walkway over LV Blvd. I knew it was too early to check in but thought I would try it anyway. They had a room ready and let us have it early. What a gorgeous place! We walked down the long hallway from the hotel lobby to the elevators and marveled at the beauty of the place. We opened the door to the room and walked in. WOW! This suite has now replaced the MGM room as the nicest we have ever stayed in - by a wide margin. This is pure class. Now for son's computer problem. I checked the phone book and located a mail-box and packaging place a couple miles down the road from Sam's Town. I called them and found out how soon we had to get there for an overnight express to Tucson. We could make it, so called son back. He said, do it, so we headed down the street to catch the ST shuttle bus. No problem retrieving the computer from security and we grabbed a cab to the mail-box store. I got our son on the phone and he talked to the personnel there about where to ship for the earliest arrival time in Tucson. Turned out his office was the best address. He gave them his credit card number to cover the shipping - over $140. After that, we didn't have the heart to stick him with the taxi bill. We played a little at ST before heading back to the Venetian but no big wins. I cashed out our final few $ cash back and we departed ST for the last time (this trip). We spent the rest of the day and evening in the Venetian and split a large Asian chicken salad for dinner. We split up for a little VP action before heading to the room. I had a good session hitting 4-aces twice on a bonus machine (first time I ever did that) for a couple hundred profit. When Lucky Lucy got back to the room, she came in waving a big handful of cash from a royal flush she hit. Good day! Tuesday. We spent the day on the strip, forgoing our daily shuttle ride to Sam's Town. The crowd had thinned out a little after the Easter holiday was over. The sidewalks were no longer jam-packed with a moving mass of humanity but there were still plenty of folks up and about. We made our way back to the Belagio and did manage to talk them out of a couple breakfast buffets (since we were no longer staying at a Mirage property). We timed it so we would be there into the lunch hour as well. They usually cut off the breakfast at 10:30 and start lunch at 11:00 but that day there was a huge line to get in so they never did close. Fortunately, I still had the line pass so we headed right to the front. Excellent buffet as usual. We waddled out with our stomachs full of food and our pockets full of little jars of jelly -- just the right size for our camper. After breakfast/lunch we collected our $85 cash back (which included all the play from all the MGM Mirage casinos) and made our way back to the V. We mostly just chilled out there spending a lot of time in the beautiful room. Dinner that evening in the Grand Lux. Wednesday. Fun time is over, time to pack up and go home. Our flight wasn't until 4:00 that afternoon so no rush. We headed back to the Grand Lux for breakfast and split a ham and eggs meal - plenty for both of us. We played a little more VP and broke even for the session. I collected about $35 cash back from our play using our slot cards so ended up with a profit for the day. I checked out about 11:00 using the TV check-out feature. But we stayed in the room for another hour, thinking we would head out when the maids came in to clean up. They still had not showed up when we departed a little after noon. Airport check-in went smoothly and we settled in for a couple hour's wait. Lucky Lucy had a couple quarters that were burning holes in her pocket so she dropped them in a slot machine and got 40 back. She took those coins, deposited them in a video poker machine and cashed out $75. Wow, that beat my session on the penny machine. The flight home was uneventful but is was pouring down rain when we arrived We didn't mind as this was the first rain we had seen for several weeks. Good trip, can't wait for the next one. Additional notes: This will probably be the last time we stay on the strip since there are so few full pay video poker machines there. The exception may be an occasional night at the Belagio or Venetian (if they send us free room offers). I was really turned off by all the kids and teen-agers in MGM with little or no parental supervision. MGM Mirage's one-card system and comp policy really sucks! I confirmed their policy at the Treasure Island when we stayed there so we didn't give them much play (probably won't get invited back). Most of the casinos are now going to the coinless ticket system and we think it is great. The Venetian was the only exception and they are getting on board in the next few months. When we stay at the Fremont it is full RFB and we feast like royalty. With little or no food comps this trip we tried to conserve and split a lot of meals. This turned out very well as most places, and especially the Grand Lux, serve way more food than one person needs. Even with Lucky Lucy's royal flush we ended down a couple hundred dollars for the trip. But considering the free rooms, a few comped meals, and all the fun the trip was a definitely winner.