Greetings all! I apologize for not posting a trip report for my second to last visit (for those of you that even remember--a very Thai Thanksgiving). It was a messy trip--my brother-in-law had a heart attack on the trip followed by quadruple bypass surgery. Don't worry, he made it out fine, but it made for a very complicated trip. This trip I planned to celebrate the fourth of July in style at Aria. Aria has become my favorite destination in Vegas. The rooms are phenomenal and I love the casino and dealers. I think the rest of the staff is awful but I'm willing to forgive them. I was traveling with a non-gambling friend, L, who has stayed at just about every casino on the strip other than Aria. She was in for a treat. We flew direct to Las Vegas. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable a direct flight is. The difference between 4 hours and 2 and 1/2 is 1 and 1/2 but to me it seems invaluable. I was in flight the previous day on another flight and unable to check-in at the Southwest 24 hour mark and ended up with a mid B boarding pass but my friend secured a better number. When I boarded my friend moved over from an aisle seat to the middle. The woman sitting in the window seat was incredulous, "Don't let him push you around and take a middle seat." We both laughed and said that we knew each other. At 6'4", I need an aisle seat. My companion was much smaller and was fine with the middle seat. We flew to Las Vegas with no issues other than the fact that my friend kept watching the rom-com on the window seat's laptop. There is no hope for some people. We arrived safely in Las Vegas and found the shortest taxi line that I have ever seen. I'll take it. Before you know it we were off to Aria. We avoided the check-in lines and headed to the invited guest counter and were immediately helped. The front desk clerk was the surliest I have ever encountered. I love the Aria hotel but their front desk leaves a lot to be desired. The agent grumbled and grunted his way to checking me in along with my companion. I asked about my gold (should hit platinum next trip) MLife complimentary upgrade (if available). I wasn't expecting anything other than a strip view upgrade but he grunted and sighed and mumbled his way to giving me my keys. L got hers quickly (she has no status and does not gamble). We went up to our rooms to settle in. My "upgrade" consisted of a fantastic view of an air conditioning unit. My friend had a fantastic view of the strip. This is one of the things that really irks me about MLife. If you don't want to give various benefits, fine, but don't list them. For me to get a view of jack shit and my friend (who has no status) to get a strip view was irritating. We had a late dinner at Cafe Vetro. While I love Aira, I really wish they had more late-night casual dining options. It was 11PM and there was a 20+ line to get in. We were able to bypass the line due to my MLife card but it still took awhile to get seated. The enormous cafe was basically empty with maybe 10 tables in use. Are you serious? You have this gigantic space and only the waitstaff for two sections? The service was beyond horrible (as has been my experience) but we eventually got our food. Later we went down to the casino to shoot a little bit of craps. My friend was immediately carded which I couldn't stop laughing about. I haven't looked under 21 since I was 14 and L is actually older than me. It's a good problem to have though--when they stop carding you, you should worry. My friend had never played before but I tried to explain it to her (the complicated bets are the worst ones--see, it's easy). She has a math background like me and quickly picked up on the odds of the various bets. When the dice got around to us the full table quickly realized she was a virgin shooter and the chips started flying. She made a couple points before 7ing out. We were playing with my money and she remarked that it is much more fun playing with someone else's money. Ain't that the truth. She loved rolling the dice and playing with my chips so I'll take that as a win, though L did remark that I left the table with fewer chips than I started with. Thanks, I noticed too. We had a couple drinks at City Bar after craps. The people watching was excellent and our waitress was fantastic. She was beautiful, friendly, and funny. My friend and I sat around for a couple hours while I sipped martinis and she dipped extra olives in my martinis for "alcoholic olives". I swear she got more gin out of the deal than I did. I escorted L back to her room and then decided that even though it was 6AM my time, I should head back to the tables. I hit the craps table and ended up. I left the table and realized it was almost 8AM and light outside. So much for an early evening. I slept until about 1PM (I love the Aria beds) and ordered "breakfast". My habit is to chill in bed eating breakfast on the first day. I definitely did not deviate from that plan since I didn't get showered and dressed until 6PM and that took serious effort. Those damn beds are too comfortable. I tried to play some craps in the afternoon but the tables were all full. It was bizarre--I've been there on far less busy days and they always have more tables staffed but for some reason they only had 3-4 which were all full or reserved. Fine, I thought, I'll take the tram over to Bellagio. I love the Bellagio but the Asian tourists are insane. I had to fight my way past numerous tour groups to get to the craps tables but was finally able to play in peace for a couple of hours. We went to American Fish for dinner. L ordered oysters and tomato soup with lobster grilled cheese. I had the farmer's market salad and halibut. We also ordered a bottle of sparkling wine. The food was excellent and I really loved the restaurant's decor. Unfortunately the service left something to be desired. They had no problem folding our napkins when either of us went to the restroom but getting our orders right proved to be a great ordeal. I also had a huge problem getting our glasses filled. Yes, when I put both of our wine glasses and water glasses on the edge of the table, it means I want them filled and that you, our waitress, are doing a terrible job. It's not like the restaurant was full. I really hate it when the waitstaff gets the tiny details correct and gets everything else wrong. That said, it was a very enjoyable meal. We took a short break after dinner and then headed down to the casino for some more gambling. L was hungry again (she's like a hummingbird) and went off in search of food while I bought in at the craps table. She came back with Cheerios and the table supervisor (the same from last night) frantically waved her away from the table. The dealers and I were miffed--where on earth did she get Cheerios at this hour? She tried to explain it to us but her directions seemed to fit another universe, let alone casino. Oh, and they didn't have any more milk so she used coffee instead. Sure, whatever works. We played a bit and then headed back to City Bar where our waitress immediately remembered us and got my friend some sickly sweet drink which she enjoyed (I swear it was just kool-aid) and a metric ton of olives for her to dip in my martinis. We then headed to bed. Thursday we got up bright and early (11AM) and eventually headed over to Cosmo for lunch at Milos. If you haven't been there, you should. They have a 3 course $20 lunch special which is pretty damn good. We then headed down to the casino. Cosmo matched my MLife status when they first opened but then immediately cut their various tier benefits. That, plus everything I've read on this forum, keeps me away from seriously gambling there. Oh, and the fact that their website STILL doesn't work. Seriously, wtf?! My friend had promised various people that she would would make bets for them in Vegas so we headed off to the roulette table. I was trying so hard not to laugh as L tried to make a simple bet on red. No, you can't buy in while the wheel is spinning. Set your money down. Tell the dealer what you want. Put the money on your bet. The dealer and I were cracking up by the end of it. Eventually L got her bet made but it lost. We headed over to play a couple hands of blackjack. Both lost. Then a slot machine. Lost again. Bets for friends taken care of we headed out. My ultimate goal was the Flamingo where I had a free-play coupon from the latest Total Rewards magazine. I have started collecting one dollar chips and was missing a bunch from the east side of the strip so we slowly made our way up the strip. Our first stop was Paris. I didn't have any luck with the dice but our dealer was incredibly friendly. He kept making jokes and L was in stitches. Our dealer over payed me once but caught it. I mentioned the old adage that the dealer should "pay them until they smile and then take one back". He was immediately convinced that I had dealt craps before (nothing could be farther from the truth). We eventually made our way up the strip to Ballys, Bills, and the Flamingo. Nothing noteworthy happened other than L couldn't hit a point if her life depended on it. We made our way back and stopped at Paris for crepes. I don't know what it is about women and crepes but they all seem crazy for them. We took a break and then headed to Sirio for dinner. I was told that we couldn't go into the main dinning area because I was wearing shorts (even though I promised that I could wear them really, really low). I know many of you long for the days of a fancier Vegas. That's fine, but when I look at a nearly empty dining room and consider that much fancier restaurants have let me in wearing shorts, I have to wonder what is going on. We were allowed to sit out front with the rest of the shorts wearing folks. L ordered a salad and gnocchi. I had a seafood appetizer and veal ravioli. L's gnocchi wasn't very good and my veal was far too rich to eat it all. Dessert was good, as was the service, and we headed out to a club for a bit. After the club I tried to play some baccarat. I had tried to play numerous times throughout the trip but the tables were packed. Every table was staffed and reserved, had an incredibly high minimum (10,000+) or was full. I talked to a supervisor who remembered me from my last trip but she wouldn't let me play at a lower limit. It was the busiest the baccarat room had been full in a long time. Crazy money all around. I waited 30 minutes for a spot and gave up to have a drink with L. I headed back to baccarat and waited another 30 minutes but was finally able to secure a seat. The first shoe was fantastic but incredibly slow. I was at a table full of Mexican players who took their sweet time. The supervisor kept trying to channel his Speedy Gonzales Spanish which sounded ridiculous and probably didn't help much. The next shoe, unfortunately, was disaster to me. I left down my initial buy in after about 3 hours. I was woken up just after 11AM by a knock on my door (my alarm was about to go off). A housekeeping supervisor was asking me if I was staying an additional day or checking out. This really pissed me off since I had requested a late check-out (I got 12PM, whoopty-do--once again, MLife benefits useless). Note to Aria: don't wake me up before my check-out time to ask me if I'm checking out. Really pissed me off. I checked out and was told that they could apply my express comps but that I had no primary comps. That surprised me since the offer I was on had a $75 credit and a casino rate. I earned more than that in express comps. I'm guessing that the primary comps shortage is due to my last trip where they seriously over comped me (3 nights room + about $300 in charges). I had a late flight so I checked my bags and went exploring. First off was some uneventful craps at Caesar's Palace. I then made my way to Harrah's, Casino Royale, and Wynn/Encore. The Harrah's and Casino Royale dealers looked like they were about to keel over and die at any moment but I had a good time at Wynn. I was playing next to a beautiful young girl and her mother who had never played craps before. They kept asking me questions and I kept helping. You should have seen the smiles from the dealers when I taught the two women how to tip properly. I had a lot of fun but then had to catch a cab to pick up my bags and head to the airport. I mentioned before that I was flying Southwest. I only fly them because they have a direct flight from Austin. My return flight was at 8:30 pacific. The flight attendants knew that everyone wanted to sleep (and mentioned it numerous times) but just would not shut up. It was awful. I'm all for making the safety instructions interesting but as someone who has flown hundreds of flights, I couldn't understand what they were trying to say. I got an aisle and the middle was empty. The window seat passenger was...weird...to say the least. Every time a flight attendant would make some corny joke (often) she would clap, and not a normal length clap. A two minute clap. I just sort of stared at her like she was crazy most of the time. Shortly after take-off (like 30s shortly), I was awakened by my window seat "friend" trying to climb over my to go to the bathroom. She kept saying "don't move" while I was dumbstruck. The flight attendants yelled at her but she didn't care. Two other times during the flight she went to the bathroom but refused to let me get up--she insisted on climbing over me. That was...interesting. All in all a good trip. My gambling wasn't very good but it happens.