Well, this wasn’t my trip. My mom was coming to Vegas to meet up with a friend celebrating a birthday. She asked me if I wanted to tag along. I said sure. After everything was booked, I got an offer for two free nights at Bally’s with $50 in slot play. Since I didn’t really know the birthday celebrants, I figured I would switch there for a couple nights so my mom could be with her friends. It was a family trip and a solo trip all at once. I had planned to be off all over the place and seek out a ton of offstrip casinos I hadn’t seen before. But that never happened. Sunday evening I was exhausted. I thought it was too much champagne from brunch but Monday morning I couldn’t get going and was in bed early again that. I kept thinking I should be relaxing at the pool or in a spa but I was too tired to even do that. A hectic week at work combined with last minute packing caught up with me. I ended up sleeping away a lot of vacay time. But it made me realize that this was what vacations are for and grateful I had an opportunity to rest. I thought my mom was doing well on her own so I was surprised when I got back to CP on the last night. I’ll get into that later. Since I spent so much time sleeping and watching TV (Storage Wars marathon!), it will probably be easier to break things down in sections. Car Rental: Rented a midsize from Alamo. After checking in via the kiosk in under five minutes (I pity the fools at the counter!), I headed up to pick a car. I was told to see a guy near the Alamo cars. He told me to take a full size. I didn’t see a single compact or economy on the lot so those people were taking the midsize or standard cars. If I had known, I would have saved a few bucks and rented a compact or paid a few bucks more of the full size because those folks were probably getting premiums. At any rate, the options were a Hyundai Sonata and a Mazda 6 that were already snapped up, some Impalas and some Nissan Altimas. I’ve rented an Impala before so I got an Altima. It was roomy and a decent ride. I am glad that we are seeing some great rates on rentals again. Restaurants Payard’s Bisto: Mom thought this looked most interesting out of the restaurant lineup so we headed there Saturday night. They had a $25 steak frites special that appealed to me and Mom the Fish of the Day, salmon. We skipped appetizers because none really stood out but we did get the vegetable of the day –carrots and green beans – and also the nutella crepe for desert. Mom had a glass of wine. The total was just shy of $100. The food is great there, the portions are sensible but I didn’t feel like the place is great from a bang for the buck perspective. The steak was barely 6 ounces and the salmon looked smaller than that. They were pushing wine and wine cocktails and they were all pretty much $15+. I know about strip and high end hotel price inflation but this trip I had a hard time adjusting to it. What did make up for the inflation was inside the show outside of the window. We were having dinner around the time the pool closed. There were at least four bridal parties coming through and then you had the kids stumbling out of the pool along with the club kids coming from the Palace Tower in their uniforms – guys in DB chic and the girls in their short black dresses. I was stunned at how tacky the kids coming from the pool looked. Too many young girls were wrapped in pool towels and walking barefoot through the hotel. My mom would have shot me if I had run around like at any age and she agreed there was a lack of home training. I don’t know how many more meals I will take at the bistro, but now that I know that intersection in the hotel is so entertaining, I may stop for a sweet now and again to watch the parade. Payard Express: Since the meal at the bistro wasn’t all that filling, I stopped here for a small bite. I settled on vanilla custard in a chocolate dipped waffle cone. It was expensive but this time I’m not complaining. It was soo good. It was hard to decide on menu choices because they have a LCD screen scrolling through there menu and it was hard to take it in easily. A lot of their things looked good but it was frustrating trying to figure out what was what. The Sterling Brunch: This was a Vegas bucket list thing for me and I knew my mom would be game. We had a bit of a wait for the table but after that we were waited on hand and foot. I simply loved it. I tried as much as I could but there is only so much you can stuff in. If I get to go back, I think I will just eat plates and plates of crab claws. They were so fantastic! And I figure we each drank the equivalent of a bottle of champagne each. I can’t tell because they never let you drain your glass. We managed to walk out without assistance and really appreciating the whole experience. Nosh: Hit here for a light bite to take back to the room. I had a cup of chicken noodle soup and the small salad. I was pretty impressed to get a salad with a nice variety of mixed greens for under $2. SEA: I went here for lunch. They unfortunately don’t have a lunch menu or specials. I ended up with the dumplings from the specials menu, pad thai (boring but that’s what I had a craving for) and a pot of tea. Came out to $30 on the button before tax but that’s strip inflation again for you. Everything was delicious and service was great. The room is beautiful and I would come here again and try something more ambitious. Victorian Room: I was hungry late and decided steak and eggs was the only way to go. Got a reminder on why they say nothing good ever happens after midnight. I really wasn’t comfortable with the folks congregating on the walkway between Bally’s. There were too many drunken kids and still too many people hustling for money even at that time. I did learn that 2am seems to be the time when the slappers call it a night, if anyone was curious. The guys walking around with the lighted billboards were all meeting up at Bally’s to call it a night. But I did make it to Bill’s in one piece, and after a visit to the ladies room where I heard someone puking up her guts while having to listen to a friend blather on incessantly about nonsense. To me, if you can’t hold my hair and help me through it, what good are you? But as to the actual meal, the steak was medium as I requested and everything was good but a little tepid. Late night specials like that are fun but having to be on the street to get to another hotel to experience them is a deterrent and it sucks that the open options at hotels like Caesars and Paris are Central and the Sugar Factory. Milos: Yes, it really is as wonderful as everyone else has said. We came for lunch and enjoyed every bit. Service could be a bit smoother and speedier and I just hope the portions aren’t as delicate for dinner. Cortez Room: I wasn’t going to join the birthday celebration as I really don’t know my mom’s friend all that well but they said come on so I did. A yummy ribeye more than twice the size of my New York strip at Payard’s with soup, mashed sweet potatoes and a split of spumante was $28. Can you understand why I get a little frustrated on the strip? Central: This was the most convenient place to hit before our flight. We each had omelets and when they delivered our meals, I had a Denny’s flashback. I realize that we didn’t have anything that they could show off on but it was pretty ordinary and served lukewarm to boot, especially considering the cost. I didn’t really feel like it was an upgrade over Augustus Café. Casinos Pretty much nothing special to report. I lost almost everywhere; it was just a question of how quickly. At Caesars, I would lose and then win some back most sessions. Bally’s was a vacuum most of the time and surprisingly so was M Resort. I got so frustrated that I just got in my car and set the GPS to the most interesting POI that popped up first. That happened to be Hoover Dam and I took a couple hours driving there, taking some pix and coming back. It helped me reset. Eastside Cannery was where I started to turn the tide. It was so nice to insert money and not see it disappear. Plus I got enough points for a free gift and used the few comp points I earned towards a sandwich in the deli. I never do long sessions at Paris so I guess that has something to do why I usually come out positive there. We also played a bit at Cosmo to get our free spins and won something of the free play. The only bright spot was the Gold Coast. I kept hitting like crazy on those weird Asian slots with all the bright lights but you can only play them so much without getting a headache. I won enough there to reverse a couple days loses. Finally, Hotels Bally’s: I got a North Tower room as I reserved. I was trying to check in at 11AM Sunday morning when half the hotel was checking out. The clerk was having a hard time finding a non-smoking King for me and I told her not to worry as we were heading off to brunch soon anyway. She ended up upgrading me to the Diamond floor to room with a coffee maker and a view of the pool. It was my mom’s first time seeing a room at Bally’s and she thought it was nice but I could tell it wasn’t her speed. The room is well maintained but the furnishings are dated. The basics are right but it needs TLC. I was pretty comfortable here. There is that obnoxious safe fee but when I got to the Platinum checkout line, the clerk said I can see you didn’t use the safe and the charges all disappeared. Even though I did have a car, I was pissed that the few times I left the hotel on foot and had to deal with the stupid walkway. The walkways, escalators and elevator were all down. It’s ridiculous and the act is getting old. Caesars: The room was booked for Palace Tower but was upgraded to the Augustus Tower. It took awhile to get the room because it seems the clerk took my mother’s preferences for a room near the elevator a little too literally. It was on a lower floor but there was a view of the fountains over the Bellagio porte cochere. My mom acts like she’s never stayed in Palace Tower even though we’ve stayed there three times. She kept insisting that this room was so much different and better. But outside of it being newer, it’s just not. I think there is a little more living space in the Augustus Tower and there is a tv in the bathroom. But the Palace Tower has a bigger bath and tub. They aren’t all that different. And now there is so much more bustle in Augustus Tower because of Octavius and the Starbucks so the quieter thing is gone now too. Well, things started well. Bell service was fast and the guy got us ice and arranged for slippers and tons of towel. The first problem was minor. We were having trouble getting the remote to work. Maintenance called for details and got it fixed over the phone. Next day, we had an issue with the remote in the bathroom. We called for service on that before we left for brunch and I switched to Bally’s. I assumed it was taken care of quickly. When I came back on Tuesday, I found out it took a day to get a new remote. Then on Monday, when my mom came in for the night, the TV in the bedroom didn’t work. She called but they didn’t fix it right away. At least she had a book to read but she was getting annoyed. The TV wasn’t fixed until I was come back Tuesday morning. We went out to lunch at Milos, played at the Cosmo for a while, I made my mom finally walk through Bellagio went to the Forum Shops to get a gift and so on. Around 3PM, mom heads back to the room to relax and prep for the evening. I went to the Apple store to check my email on my iPod. On my way back to the room I stopped at Starbucks to see if they had free wifi too (they do!) and my mother comes up to me from the direction of the casino. She’s not my regular mom, she the person who got the most front end at the grocery store turned over for crappy service. Apparently, they hadn’t serviced the room the whole time we were gone. To add insult to injury, the maids were in the hall talking and not doing anything. My mother went to the front desk to complain. The clerk said she should speak to a supervisor. She wasn’t going to but they insisted. (makes you say hmm) My mother told the woman that she was sick of calling for service on issues every day and was so pissed off that she wasn’t spending another cent in the casino. That triggered the room being cleaned in 15 minutes, and offers of free spa services, limos, etc, etc. The rooms were comped, we already had all the room charges comped and we had the rental so my mom turned them down and promised never to stay at CP again. (Don’t worry - This should only last for a couple trips.) There was a local executive host that helped book her trip and she made him aware of the situation and I am sure he will take care of her service recovery. But I now know the key to make them crap their pants. Tell them you won’t spend another cent! Other thoughts and notes For the Pandora fans: Sure, there are Pandora stores all over. There’s even one at Terminal D at the airport. But the jewelry store at Bally’s not only sells Pandora, they take Total Rewards. You can use your points to pay or you can get points for cash purchases. We had fun draining the TR points in there. Unfortunately there is no real Vegas charm. They will offer you dice, which we already had from a casino promo at home, a lucky clover and a suitcase that says Paris on one side. At the Pandora store in the Forum Shops, they were bundling charms together to make statements like Lucky in Love or Love to Gamble but no real Vegas charm. Which is silly. We not only have Chicago charms, they have them for all the sports teams. Pandora needs to get on that. Linq: The front of IP is just gone. The entrance in is where it was before the Rockhouse took over the spot. I didn’t go in because it was weird. It was also fascinating to see O’Shea’s taken apart to its guts. I can see the space that will become the Linq but I still can’t visualize it. The Kids: No not the little ones. They were all doing as well as they could even when their parents were being boneheads (No, it’s not okay to gamble with your 7 yo. The trip to the M&M store didn’t make it acceptable!). No, I mean the big dumb ones. We knew we would encounter them over the weekend but we figured come Monday, they would go home. THEY DIDN’T GO HOME! Since I don’t adjust to Vegas time, it's normal for me to wake up as early as 2AM and hit the casino. It’s usually people coming back to the hotel tired and worn out at that time of the night but this trip there were a lot of dumb and drunk kids trying to gamble and just hanging out. For some reason, they seem to think that being drunk makes their behavior acceptable and don’t get that it makes it even more unforgivable. There was a lot of screaming and acting out. One of the servers referred to them as animals. She corrected herself and said party animals. It made me glad I made a point to take Mom to M Resort. If she remains a Vegas customer, it will because something like it clicks with her. The strip won’t work for her if it continues to be partyboy central and she’s the type to check into a hotel and spend 90% of her time there. It’s a shame that Boyd doesn’t have something like that in Vegas. We have a good relationship with them locally but what they have in Vegas wouldn’t appeal to her. Strip *********: I didn’t actually spend a lot of time walking on the strip but I was annoyed by the congestion caused by the street performers, panhandlers, timeshare hawkers and the costume freaks. So I didn’t buy water from the water guy even though I thought he was funny and I didn’t give money to the people singing even though they were talented. It’s time to stop the madness! If there is no endgame, maybe it will slack off. I do wish I had kicked the guys wearing the Elmo and the Winnie the Pooh costumes in the nuts for having a sign that said “Let’s be honest, Elmo needs a beer”. You can debate what kids should or shouldn’t see in Vegas but I think we can all agree that a toddler shouldn’t have to see the image of their favorite characters used like that. Overall, it was a restful trip for me. I wish my mom had a better experience and it’s sad that her favorite hotel let her down. But we both had some good new experiences and there is a chance we will be back this year.