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March 5-8 trip

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by milehiman, Mar 17, 2004.

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  1. milehiman

    milehiman VIP Whale

    Sep 21, 2002
    Scottsdale, AZ

    My Trip Report

    This is my and my best friend's annual trip to Vegas for the NASCAR race. We've been going since 2000 and generally goes by very fast.

    Sorry, no tales of fortune and glory. You'll have to wait for the T2V crew to get from their current trip.

    Since this is a busy time (NASCAR weekend) flying to Vegas I’ve been watching rates for a long time. For the longest time RT flights were around $350 from Denver, and at Thanksgiving the rates went down to $260 so I jumped on it. I was actually hoping that since TED (United’s new low cost shuttle) started that I could find a cheaper fare. But United had a LV shuttle running anyway so most of those bookings were just transferred over to TED when it started operating.

    United at DIA started a new self-help check-in which was really quick. I just inserted my driver’s license and it pulled up my flight info. I confirmed my itinerary, seat assignment and number of bags I was checking in and was good to go. There was a United rep there and she made sure that there wasn’t any problems.

    TED doesn’t have any first class seats, but does have the economy plus seating (more leg room). There wasn’t any seat roulette this time (where you pitch in a $1 along with your boarding stub – winner take all). They showed TV shows for entertainment and for some reason didn’t stock enough beer – what was the thought process in that?

    There really wasn’t much of a difference between the new TED service and the old United shuttle. It was a little more laid back, but that was about it. It’s a short flight anyway – 1 hour 45 minutes, so it’s not that big of deal.

    It was nice talking to people that were going to the race. The guy sitting next to me was asking if I knew anything about Vegas since it was his first trip there. They were staying at The STRAT and wondered if it was safe to walk from there to downtown. Which I thought was a strange question since he had just told me that he had rented a van.

    Car Rental
    Rented a car from Budget for the weekend. It was great rate - $120 for Friday to Monday afternoon. Most of the other agencies were practically twice as much. Got on the shuttle for the quick trip to the lot, got a Hyundi Sonata which was OK. I thought we were going to get a Dodge Stratus, which at least looks sporty. Although we take the bus to the race on Sunday, we usually drive on Saturday. That and we needed a car to get to In and Out for our burger fix. Gas was crazy expensive in Las Vegas. The cheapest I could find was $2.06 a gallon which killed me since I had filled up my car in Denver for $1.39 the day before. Renting a car meant that I had to watch my drinking as I was the designated driver. Since it was a busy weekend, we didn’t have to wait in long lines for cabs either.

    Stayed at the Luxor – 12th floor in the Pyramid. I checked in around 2:45PM and only had one person in line in front of me. Needless to say check-in was quick and easy. I did ask for something higher in the Pyramid, but unless I took smoking I was stuck with what I had. View of the Excaliber and tops of NYNY, with the Orleans off in the distance. I liked the room because it was next to the emergency exit so we didn’t have anybody next to us on one side. If anybody stayed on the other side, we didn’t hear them at all. Even though this was relatively close to the arcade level (usually we’re on something higher than the 25th floor) it was pretty quiet. Inclinator 4 made it quick and easy to get to the walkway to the Excaliber and front desk.

    While staying at the Luxor I also took time to check out the new walkway shops between MB and the Luxor. They are really nice. I saw the shaving shop that was mentioned on the board a while back ago. There was also a wine shop that looked interesting, but would save for another time.

    Not much gambling this trip. Lots of nickel slots – favorite was the Monopoly Free Parking game. Hit the bonus round several times. The machine at the end consistently left me with a more money than I started with. Also played the Billionaires and Texas Tee.

    Played only one round of craps this time – a new record low for me. It was at NYNY right before I headed out to the airport. It was a $5 table that looked promising, but like the rest of my table gaming only ended up taking my money. Generally I bounce around from Casino to Casino playing craps. This time I just didn’t get into it. I did pick up a new chip for my collection though.

    It was also kind of cool watching a high roller play at the Bellagio - $500 minimum Craps table. While I was there, the shooter established three points – 6, 9, 8 and hit them before sevening out. He had a pretty good “stack†of $500 chips when I left, so I guess he was playing pretty well. I have to say, that I don’t think I would put that much money on the line even if I had won Powerball.

    Blackjack – got hammered at the Barbary Coast and the Luxor. It didn’t matter what I drew, the dealer consistently beat me or it was a push. I did win some hands, but had seven pushes in a row at Luxor. Had OK dealers at both places, but have to tell a couple of stories.

    Playing with what must have been a new dealer at the Luxor. She took over for the dealer that was there when we sat down. She kept dropping cards – not on the floor or anything, but when she was dealing. Sort of lost her grip or something because she would pull it out of the shoe and then drop it between there and the player. She also miscounted. I was dealt a 10 and a 6. Dealer was showing 8 so I hit. She gives me another 6 for 22 – bust. She doesn’t pick up the cards or my bet, instead she goes to my friend at third base. He has a 10 and 7 and stays. She turns over her bottom card – 10 for 18. So she takes my friend’s bet and gives it to me. I stop her and tell her that there’s a mistake – she looks at my bet and says, “No, I gave you what you wonâ€. I tell her that I’ve busted – I had a 10, 6 and 6 for 22. She turns over the cards and sorts them out and apologizes for her mistake and thanks me for my honesty. I look down the table and half of them are looking at me like I’m an idiot for correcting her mistake. I tell them that I didn’t want any bad karma and didn’t want to win money that way – besides that it was only a $5 bet. Needless to say trying to get good karma on my side didn’t help, as I was soon left with no chips.

    I can also say that I’ve seen a dealer call out “Cheques Play†– which I’ve only heard about. We’re still at the Luxor and playing at the $5 table. At first base is an old man who is normally playing $25 a hand. Every so often he’d play either $125 to $150. Which would trigger the alert from the dealer to the pit critter. One time the dealer didn’t deal until the pit critter came over and took a position by the table. All the times I saw him do it he only lost once. He even drew a 7 & 4, doubled and drew a face card a couple times. Other times he drew a 19 or 20 and once drew a blackjack. Then he would go back to his usual $25 bets. If he was counting I have to say I was impressed, as it was a 6-deck continuous shuffle table. He certainly knew when to increase his bets.

    Normally blackjack isn’t my game of choice, but it’s the only game my friend will play. He has his strategy card and therefore plays solid basic strategy. I think this came up in an earlier post in the Casino Gaming section so I’ll relate this story - when we were at the Barbary Coast playing, my friend had his strategy card in his lap. This is where the Luxor tells you to put it. The BC pit critter comes over and asks if he has a strategy card in his lap since my friend keeps glancing down to see what to do on “tricky†hands. (Since it was just us playing at the table, he actually makes an off color joke that was pretty funny, but I’ll let your imagination fill you in since this is a family board). My friend pulls it out and shows it to him and asks if it’s OK to use it there – to which the pit critter says “Of course, we sell them in the gift shop. I have to ask why you have it in your lap and not on the table?†I tell him that at the Luxor requires that it not be on the table. He looks genuinely surprised and asks the dealer if he’s heard of that? He also said that if the table were busier he would ask my friend to put it on the table since it would slow down the game. I guess different casinos obviously have different rules about the cards.

    Brew Pub at Monte Carlo – for some reason this has become a must do for me while I’m in Vegas. Not that it’s a bad thing mind you. I had a big glass of the Jackpot ale and their fish and chips. I was starving since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast in Denver and it was after 3PM in Vegas. Generally I have a couple of the big glasses. Since I was driving and the first beer hit my stomach before any food did, I decided that only one would do. Even though the fish looked burnt it was actually pretty good. My meal with tip came to $15.

    Mon Ami Gabi – my friend came in late (9PM) Friday night and we were playing dinner by ear. We went straight from the airport to Paris and asked for seating on the Patio. We were seated immediately. We sat right by the rail with an unobstructed view of the fountains. The wind picked up and it was a little chilly, but they had the space heaters out in full force and we were fine. Dinner consisted of Steak Classique for me, trout for my friend; a glass of wine, and bottled water. It ran $58 with tip. The waitress was great, helping me pick out a great glass of red wine when I told her that I wasn’t familiar with French wines. Mon Ami Gabi is one of our favorite places to grab lunch or a quick meal. The patio seating is casual so we can drop in anytime and don’t have to worry about dressing up. It’s also a great place to catch the fountain shows and we saw several while we were there. This is also where we saw a huge panel truck with pictures of two women promoting a local escort service – who knew that the escort services had become this competitive.

    Delmonicos – This is a mandatory meal for whenever we are in Las Vegas. My friend and I are big steak eaters and used to go to Morton’s every time we came into town until we discovered Delmonicos. I had made reservations several months in advance and were slight annoyed when we had to wait for a table to open up. The meal consisted of a non-alcoholic drink for my friend and a Martini for me (Kettle One, very dry, up with a twist); Lobster Bisque for my friend and barbequed shrimp for me; two spinach salads which came with small triangles of fried mozzarella cheese; and two bone in rib steaks and the truffle potato chips. Bottled water, no dessert and I had two glasses of wine a chardonnay with the appetizer/salad and a Cabernet with the steak. Dinner came out to be $232 for the both of us including tip. I have to say that I was a little disappointed this time with the service. Usually it’s outstanding but this time it was just good, yes I know how that sounds. We didn’t get our welcome back treat – if you’ve been a previous dinner they usually bring you out a small appetizer as their way of thanking you for dinning with them again. I did notice that they have changed the way they ask about the type of water you want. Before it was what type of water you wanted – sparkling or bottled, now they tell you they are bringing you Las Vegas’ finest or would you prefer bottled water. Since we can’t stand the taste of Las Vegas water – too metallic, we usually ask for bottled water. Regardless of the service that night, we will continue to come to Delmonicos for our Saturday night meal.

    NOBU – This was our dinner on Sunday night. We’ve eaten here before and it’s an experience. They bill it as a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cooking styles. We had the tasting menu – I had the $80 version and my friend had the $100. It’s eight courses of incredible food served over 2 hours. They ask if you have any food allergies or dislikes before they start serving. This is some of the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted – truly melt in your mouth servings. There are lots of exotic foods in the meal – baby octopus, Japanese mountain berries, steamed baby crab (edible decoration), golden caviar and of course lots of fresh fish. The difference in the two price levels is the ingredients used in the servings. For instance my friend had slightly better tuna or types of caviar. I had Kobe beef for the first time in my life. Kobe beef is really good and it was a nice change from the courses of fresh fish – Emeril’s and Nob Hill do the same thing. We also had an appetizer of Edamame, a glass of wine (Caymus Conundrum) and two bottles of water – total bill including tip was $250. If you ever want to try an incredible dining experience you have to try Nobu. We did notice that the dress code had relaxed as several people came in wearing jeans or wind pants and T-shirt (although my friend did say he looked like Randall McDaniel from the Tampa Bay Bucs) and baseball hats. It was definitely an eclectic mix.

    Paris Breakfast Buffet – my friend convinced me to try a buffet. The last breakfast buffet I had was at Excaliber and I vowed never to do that again. We got there early and had a slight wait. I have to admit that it was a great meal. I didn’t get to try all the serving stations, but will definitely go back. I had the hand made blueberry crepes with raspberry topping and fresh whipped cream; two Belgium waffles topped with apples and mixed fruit respectively; country ham, fresh fruit and some sort of mushroom chicken pie; coffee and orange juice. It was really good. As I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of buffets, but will definitely come back here.

    America (24 hour café in NYNY) – our favorite place to grab breakfast. We’re generally up early to avoid any food lines and this was the case again. Favorite are the Iowa – two eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and pancakes; Southern – biscuits and gravy, two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast; or the steak and eggs. The service is hit or miss, but the food is always very good. This has become a tradition of ours (just like Delmonicos) and it’s our way of starting the day out right.

    In and Out Burger – stopped here on the way to the race on Saturday. Just like others on this board we make a point to stop here for a burger. As usual the line was backed up, but they had somebody going from car to car taking orders. The best part about this place is that they are so inexpensive. I just wish they would open an In and Out in Denver.

    Postrio – had lunch here the last day. Great location and food. I showed up after the lunch rush was over (2PM) and had “patio†seating (in St. Mark’s Square at the Venetian). Had arugula salad, grilled salmon in a tomato bell pepper sauce, glass of chardonnay ($12) and bottled water – bill was around $50. The service was really good and the food was amazing. After my luck at the table games I decided I would rather pay for good food than see it go in a few hands of blackjack.

    Shows & Exhibits
    Big Elvis at the Barbary Coast – We’ve seen him before but were on our way out of the casino and didn’t stop. This time I made stopping a must on my to do list. For those of you that haven’t seen him, the name Big Elvis only slightly describes this guy. Don’t get me wrong he’s great! I’m glad I stopped, although it was only for a portion of his set. The bar at BC is too small unless you get there early and grab a table. I had to stand off to the side with people stopping to catch a song or too. I noticed the TV monitors behind him were running a tape of his appearance on what I believe to be CNN or Larry King Tonight. Great crowd participation, but a bigger venue would be better.

    The Monet Exhibit at the Bellagio. I’m a big fan of the Impressionist painters and dropped by to the see the exhibit. I generally run by the Bellagio’s art gallery when there is a new exhibit. If you’re an art lover, it’s well worth the $15 admission fee. The Bellagio had a small exhibit of slightly more than 20 Monet paintings. My favorite paintings were the Haystack at Sunset, the Cathedral series and the portrait of his family.

    The Conservatory was set up in a butterfly theme. It was actually really nice. I like going to the conservatory because it’s a nice break from the glitz and glamour of the casinos. That and it’s really nice to not smell the cigarette smoke that permeates all the casinos. They actually had several live butterflies, which most of the time just hung on to the netting. When one did decided to fly around it was definitely an event – as most people thought that they were fake. I also liked the water arches that were not there the last time I was there.

    Random Thoughts

    Luxor is still one of my favorite places to stay in Las Vegas. The service was great (I forgot my hard cover book in the room. I called back, they had found it and when I identified it they shipped it to me via UPS without charge.) and the room was too. I’ve yet to have a bad experience at the Luxor. If only they would install in-room safes.

    Driving in Vegas is a pain in the neck. For some reason the traffic got worse on Monday than it was all weekend. I’m glad I know the back streets because it really helped us get around quickly.

    Always bring comfortable shoes – for some stupid reason I brought a pair of work out shoes that I thought would be better than my normal tennis shoes. I had blisters by the second day and walking around in them was incredibly painful. I’ll never make that mistake again.

    Know when to say when – although I didn’t gamble much, I broke my own rules about leaving a table. I kept thinking that it had to get better and it didn’t.

    Nice weather makes a huge difference – usually when we go during the NASCAR weekend it’s windy or rainy or both. This time three days of amazing weather. Even came back with a tan!

    Service can make or break a meal – the consistently good service at Delmonicos has spoiled me, they’ve set their own bar from previous visits. When they don’t reach it every time, you’re a little disappointed or at least I ws. The meal at Mon Ami Gabi was made even better because our waitress went out of her way to make sure we were taken care of. She joked with us when we didn’t want dessert and even answered our stupid questions – “Question – How much do the like the fountain show since you see it every night? - Answer – If I didn’t actively ignore it, I would be going out of my mind. How many times can you hear Luck Be A Lady Tonight?â€

    Waking up in the morning not hung over is great – I’ve been to Vegas and tried to drink the town dry. Waking up early, ready to go and with an appetite was really nice.
  2. bigdogmom

    bigdogmom VIP Whale

    Mar 9, 2002
    Aurora, CO
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Nice report! :cool:
  3. btodd

    btodd High-Roller

    Nov 11, 2003
    Winnipeg, Canada
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    I enjoyed your report, you are right, if you can somehow manage to wake up early, feeling great, Vegas is an even better experience!!
  4. Kelly33

    Kelly33 Tourist

    Mar 17, 2002
    New Jersey
    Thank you for the report. Great Job !

    I could go for a Double Double right now! :rolleyes:
  5. Falcon_Rob

    Falcon_Rob Flying Winnebago

    Jun 29, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Nice report milehi. I was mistakenly paid once during my last trip, at the Boardwalk. It was even on a double-down! The first time I pointed out a dealer's mistake in my favor (a couple of years ago), I don't recall anyone looking at me funny. However, whenever it happens now, I just keep my mouth shut. Lowers the house edge is how I look at it.

    I noticed you didn't really go into very much detail about the race itself. How was the track? Good seats? Any stories? Too bad Kenseth pulled it out.....I was hoping Kasey (in his Dodge) would be able to get his first win!

    Thanks for the report!
  6. milehiman

    milehiman VIP Whale

    Sep 21, 2002
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Well since you asked...

    Both races were actually a little on the boring side. We're season ticket holders who are slowly working our way to start finish line. Right now we're in section 4 (middle of turn 4)four rows from the top. The track is similar in layout to Charlotte, Kansas and Chicago. We couldn't see pit row, but everything else was in plain site.

    Parking on Saturday was great since we stopped at In and Out - We were too late for the regular parking and had to park in overflow (near the bullring), which had it's own private exit. We parked near the exit and had a long hike in, but easy out. We were out of the parking lot in less than 20 minutes which beats the usual 2 hour wait we've had before.

    Sunday we took the CAT bus - $5 each way with pickup at the Tropicana. They have private access through Nellis AFB, so it's easy in and out. Since they take a roundabout way to get there it's at least an hour each way. Had a seat there, but had to stand coming back - they pack you in like sardines. They also drop off at the back of the track which made it easy to get to our seats. CAT is definitely the way to get to the track on Sunday - we were back in the rooom watching TV and they still had a line of cars trying to get out of the parking lot.

    The AF Thunderbirds had a flyover on Sunday which was extremely cool. As mentioned before Nellis is close by so you could actually see them land when they were done.

    The 17 car was just amazing. He passed the other cars like they were standing still. Most of the times he was near the front after a caution, but even when he started further back, he still caught up and passed with ease. I was thinking of putting a bet on him since he won the race last year, but didn't think he would go back to back - my mistake he was paying 8-1. I think the best part was watching the 8 car fall back lap after lap and have to go into the garage. One of the guys near us had a scanner and let us listen into the 48 car which was kind of cool.

    The casinos really didn't get into it this year. In years past we've seen show cars parked in the casinos, but this year nothing. I think we only saw a Welcome Race Fans banner at the Excaliber. I was a little surprised that the Luxor didn't do anything since Jayski had an event there.

    The LV race is the one race that we will always go to. The racing and the weather isn't always the best, but the combination of the NASCAR and LV just can't be beat.
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