Now that I've caught up on my sleep (mostly), time to post a report from my recent trip. I went with my husband, M, for a week. I'm not going to do a play-by-play report since we are fairly boring people. The biggest part of our vacation budget is for dining and shows, since dinner-and-a-show is our favorite thing to do. Flights - Southwest: We got the early bird for each segment both ways (no direct flights from Manchester, NH) and opted for a slightly worse schedule so that the connections were Denver rather than Midway or IAW. We booked the flights soon after the schedule opened for our dates, back in February, and no changes were made. Our boarding positions were B21&22 and A45&46 going out and B4&5 coming back (no plane change, just stopped in Denver). Great experience as always with SW. The flight DEN-LAS took a bit longer than normal due to high winds, but we were still pretty much on time. We flew over a thunderstorm on the way back, which freaked me out a little. Didn't seem like we were high enough over the storm to be safe, but M assures me planes don't have to avoid storms these days. ("Not since the Wright brothers", he actually said. Smartass.) Car rental - Hertz: We love having a car in Vegas, even if we don't use it every day. If you have to drive on vacation, you may as well drive something fun, so we usually go with something from the "adrenaline" collection. Past couple of trips we've had a Camaro and a Mustang. I had a Corvette convertible booked, but M decided he didn't want to try to struggle fitting in the luggage, so we went with a Mercedes E350 from the "prestige" collection. I am a gold member, so we got to skip a very long line at the regular counter and were soon on our way. There was a bit of curb rash on the back tires, but overall the car was in great shape, low miles and very comfortable. M says my 2005 4Runner has better acceleration, but that's a V8, and the Merc was in econo-mode the whole time, not in sport mode. So YMMV. I just liked the dual zone climate control. Usually either I freeze or M broils, so it was nice to be comfortable at the same time. Vdara Hotel & Spa: We had an executive corner suite booked. Checked in about 4pm. Didn't even bother to ask if an upgrade was available, but did let the rep know we wanted to be on the "non-Cosmo" side for a quiet room. Kyle came through with room 45.047. I tipped him $20 for being nice. A few minutes after we got to the room, he called to make sure the room was ok. I don't know if that is standard practice, but I haven't ever gotten a call like that before. We had a great view of the Luxor and Mandalay Bay to the south and the mountains to the west. There was a Keurig in the room. I never called to housekeeping for anything, but I did leave a note a couple mornings asking for extra non-decaf k-cups, and that was taken care of. Also, I left a $20 as a tip one morning (normally we leave $5) since I had gotten chocolate on the rug, with a note apologizing. The stain was gone when we got back to the room that afternoon. I felt bad for spilling, but M figures they've probably had to clean up a lot worse for people who didn't bother to leave a tip at all. It was a nice, quiet room. No club/pool noise at all. The room was clean and well cared-for. It took a couple days to even notice small wear-and-tear type dings on closet doors and cabinets. Loved having the fridge (kept liquor and mixers as well as leftovers) and the filtered water dispenser in the fridge was very handy. I had a facial in the spa and a blowout and makeup application in the salon. The spa was small, but very nice (not quite as nice as the Encore spa, but fairly close). There was no one else there Tuesday morning, so I didn't mind the size at all. The treatment was great and really well-priced. It runs about the same at the spa I go to here in NH, and you get to hang out as long as you want and use the sauna/steam room/etc, which my local spa doesn't have. Gambling: I stuck mostly to the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship 3-reel penny slots. I did play a bit of VP - nickel 50 play bonus poker at Mandalay Bay and penny 25-play bonus poker at the Strat. I hit my first royal on the latter, but it was only a $40 win. I had hoped to hit my first hand pay, but not even close. Best win was a $702 bonus round on LotR. Just have to whine about the Aragorn bonus for a bit - I hit Aragorn at least 13 times. It's a multiple of next spin bonus, from 10x -30x. Only TWICE did it actually win me anything, since anything times zero is still zero. Aragorn is my favorite character in the books/movies, but not so much in the slots. Overall it was not a winning trip, but I didn't lose my entire bankroll. That's because I didn't play as much as I thought I would, not because I was actually winning much. Roos N More Zoo (www.roosnmorezoo.org): This was the highlight of our trip. For $250, you can book a private tour of this adorable zoo in Moapa, NV for up to 10 people (additional people $10 each). It's about an hour from the Strip, exit 90 on I-15. The tour is two hours. It was just M and I, and worth twice as much as we paid. We got to interact with a caracal, fennec fox, baby roos and wallabies, a sloth (who thought I looked like breakfast), a boa constrictor (who was very happy at how warm M was), armadillo, camels, goats, mini horses, zedonk (cross between a zebra and donkey), red ruffled lemur, and asian small clawed river otters, and more. Seriously great experience, and well worth the time. Super kid-friendly as well, if that's a consideration. Would work well if you're planning to check out the Valley of Fire, too. If you at all like animals, you must do this! Shows: We saw Zarkana, Pin Up, and a show in the Cabaret Jazz room at the Smith Center. I wouldn't go back to Pin Up. It was well done, with a rockin' band, really great dancers and a singer with a really great voice. I like the idea of the retro look and (mostly) retro music, but Claire Sinclair doesn't really do anything other than prance across the stage a few times. If it had been billed without her as the headliner, I wouldn't have expected as much and probably wouldn't have been disappointed. About halfway through, the fire alarm went off. It was one of those "the alarm you are hearing has been taking care of, don't worry about it" alarms, but of course the house lights come up when the alarm goes off, and stays on till it clears, which was a good 8 acts later. The performers didn't miss a beat. It was fun, and not too expensive, but overall not a great use of my vacation time. For comparison, I enjoyed Jubilee and X-Burlesque much more. I did like Zarkana. We were in the front row, so nice comfy couch seats. I know lots of people don't like front row seating for Cirque, and I think it's valid for most people to avoid the front row. Theater was one of my majors in college, and I personally like to "see the wires" so to speak. I like the behind-the-scenes, technical aspects of the shows and even in a CdS production, you can see details on the makeup, costumes, set and tech elements that I find fascinating. M likes being able to see the performers up close, so he was happy with our seats. We've also seen Mystere and O in Vegas, and Alegria and Dralion of the traveling shows. I would see Zarkana again, but only after seeing Ka and maybe O again. I think it would be a decent option for a first timer to Cirque shows, unless they are a huge MJ or Beatles fan. At Cabaret Jazz, we saw Steve March-Torme. Yes, Mel Torme's son. It was a good show. He's got an amazing voice, and did some great standards and some original music as well. I can't recommend the venue enough. It's small and intimate, with drinks and small plates (we had a cheese and fruit plate which was a great nibble). Tickets were $44 each including fees and taxes. The Smith Center as a whole is stunning, and so worth a trip. Definitely check out what's going to be playing when you are in town. We got stuck in construction traffic on the freeway and arrived just as the show was supposed to start, but they were running a bit late, so we didn't miss anything. Allow plenty of travel time from the strip, but from downtown it's very easy. Still to come: food reviews.