Friday, December 21, 2007

Las Vegas Hotel Review: The Rio

The Rio has a Carnivale fun theme that really
rocks. Its almost like a city unto itself. You might want
to leave, but why? You've got great food, entertainment,
a casino, a spa, a wedding chapel, shopping, hot lounges,
nightlife and even the Lucky Strike lanes!

The Rio used to bill itself as the only all suite
hotel in Las Vegas. To be fair, they weren't
really suites. They were just huge living room
bedroom combinations with a bath. But in 1990,
this place was revolutionary.

The Rio was a big, friendly, rocking, fun place with some
of the best video poker around. It basically was a locals
casino since there wasn't easy access to the strip at the time.
The same employees were there from the beginning and
remembered your name. It had great food at low prices
and the buffet was legendary. Rio Rita was running
around the casino with a fruit basket on her head
conducting impromptu casino contests and giving
out prizes.

Harrah's took over and messed with something good.
They Harrahized the place. Gone is the good video
poker. Gone are the employees who remembered
your name. The food prices skyrocketed. The buffet
declined and is slowly regaining some of its former
glory. Its just not the same. Sadly. Its Harrah's.

The rooms in the Masquerade Tower are easy to
access and the hallways are wider and brighter.
If you self park, you can walk into the casino, take an
escalator and be at your hotel elevator in a minute.

The rooms, er, suites, are a huge room with a sofa,
chair, cocktail table, eating table with two chairs and
your bed or beds. The bathrooms have a shower tub combo
a little bit of marble. The sink and vanity are outside in a dressing
area so someone can shower while others have access to the
mirror area and sink. Regardless of what tower you are in,
the rooms have awesome floor to ceiling windows.

They used to have coffee pots and refrigerators in this dressing
area, the last time we stayed the coffee pots were history.
When we asked about it, they mumbled some lame answer
about 9/11 and against code. I think they just wanted me to
head down to Starbucks and get some high priced high
octane caffeine.

The rooms are comfortable, clean and the toiletries are
basic. The towels are average. Its not high end here, but
its really spacious and comfy. Its a great room to relax
from the casino and the nightlife.

The pool here is an experience. There is not one but
four pools and one has a sand bottom. How fun!

The Rio has so many dining choices from the cafe, buffet to
Indian, Italian, seafood and Mexican restaurants, its hard
to decide where you want to eat. If you want to club and
party, hit the Voo Doo Lounge. Its 51 stories above the strip
and the view is freaking amazing!

Don't miss the free Masquerade Parade in the Sky show
in the Masquerade village. Its a song, dance review with
a twist: the floats are on the ceiling. If you are lucky,
you can catch some mardi gras beads they throw from
the floats. Or you can pay and be on the float in costume.

Harrah's may have changed the place, but its still a fun
place to stay AND play.

Las Vegas Hotel Review: New York New York

New York New York Hotel & Casino has the huge
statue of the Statue of Liberty marking its front,
along with a tug boat spewing water, a bridge and
the famous NYNY roller coaster speeding around
the property. There's a lot going on here!

I remember watching them assemble the
Statue of Liberty. I watched as they put the arm and torch
on the statue. I've seen Miss Liberty dressed in a huge
tee shirt. And who could ever forget the 9/11 tribute
that was on the grounds?

I had heard a lot of negatives about NYNY, but since
they invited me to stay, and it was comped, oh, hell yes.
I heard the rooms were small. Yes, they are. But they
are comfortable and well appointed. They have sort of
a cool cosmopolitan vibe. They remind me of a
midtown NY hotel. As my husband said, DUH...that's what
its supposed to look like! Nice sized bathroom with the
usual toiletries, the requisite marble and shower.
The room has a safe, tv, desk, everything you need, AND
its really clean. Oh, nice thick towels, too.

I heard that the noise from the roller coaster can blast
you awake and keep you from sleeping. So I requested
a room away from the roller coaster and they obliged.
I asked people whose rooms were near the coaster about
the noise. One said it was horrible,
the others said it wasn't that much of a problem since it stops
running at 11pm during the week and midnight on weekends.
I'm not in bed that early in Vegas, so I wouldn't notice it. ;)

The hotel rooms are in the towers and you have to zigzag
down the halls from building to building to get to your room.
The buildings are connected by corridors. It wouldn't have
been that difficult if I wasn't dragging my suitcase and running
my mouth and not paying attention to the hall. I ran smack
into one of the walls. I just pretended
to be tipsy instead of a total ditzy blonde.

The hotel has a food court area that looks like a
New York city street. Their cafe is called America
and has the coolest 3 D map on the wall.
Decent food, large sized portions, good service.

Husband loves the ESPN Zone. Its a huge sports bar
with tv's everywhere blasting out sports. It used to be
the Motown Cafe. It has the usual man bar food, sliders,
subs, cheese fries and stuff that you eat when watching
sports. All you need is a sofa and a remote. Its a good place
to park the men while the women go shopping.

One of my favorite restaurants is here. Il Fornaio has great
Italian food. Problem is the service sucked all five times I was
there. Last time the waiter said they were out of
bolognese sauce. Come on, no Italian restaurant is EVER
out of bolognese sauce. Couple came in after us, had a
different waiter, got bolognese sauce.
Damn! Their home made bread is to die for, and its
baked there. You can dine inside or outside which is
actually a faux garden area in the casino. My hope is to
sometime get a good waiter. I know they
have them, I've seen them. I just always get the guy
on his first day.

The casino is a bit difficult to maneuver. The casino looks like
its set in central park. It really has the feel of being in a city.
They have some faux rock boulders near the bridge and
I always manage to trip because I don't always watch
where I'm going. They annoy me!

The machines are tight here. I did see a big jackpot the last
time we were there. We got up from a machine, a woman
sat down, put in a $20 bill and hit for 8 grand on the first pull.
It was oh, so painful. The video poker is just so so. Not great
pay tables. Lots and lots of penny games, including those
annoying 20 line million reel spinners that make
way too much noise.

If you like nightlife and bars, this place has Coyote Ugly and
9 Fine Irishmen as well as the Times Square bar. Lots of
partying goes on here!

Interesting hotel, fun casino and it can get really loud.
If you like loud and boisterous, this is your happy place.

Las Vegas Hotel Review: The Luxor

Pyramid power, baby. The the MGM group took
over Luxor Las Vegas, they want to change its theme,
but when its already shaped like a pyramid,
what changes can you do? I personally love
the Egyptian theme, the Obelisk, the Sphinx and
the giant light. Don't change it! It stand out.
What I hate is the huge liquor bottle
advertisement plastered on the side of
the pyramid.

They are revamping the inside to take out a
lot of Egyptian decor. They've jumped onto
the hot night club bandwagon by introducing
LAX nightclub. They are adding a lot of new
bars and clubs. What they need to do is
improve the food at the buffet.

Rooms in the pyramid are Egyptian inspired,
sort of basic. Beds are not comfy like the new
ones they are introducing at the other MGM
properties. The rooms DON'T have safes which is
a pain when you want to leave stuff in your room.
You have to rent a safe deposit box downstairs
for your valuables.The windows in the pyramid
slant inward so when you go to look out you'll
smack your forehead on the glass.
Why don't the maids see the
spots on the windows and clean them?

Bathrooms are basic, they have Bath and Body
works products which ups them in my estimation.
The towels are thin. Thin and hard. They
need new towels, those fluffy ones that
they have at the other MGM properties.

The tower rooms are nicer, brighter and larger
but a pain to get to because they are off
the main area and you have to go down a maze
(supposed to be like a Pyrmaid maze) to get
to the elevators. If you are in the tower,
check in at the East valet and desk, it will
be so much easier to maneuver. Its still a bit
of a walk to the casino.

The suites in the towers are nice. They are
two rooms, a living room with a wet bar, TV,
sofa, refrigerator and small eating table and foyer.
You have your bedroom with another TV.
You'll have a large marble bathroom with a big vanity,
robes, slippers, double sinks and another room
with a shower and a jacuzzi tub.

Bedroom of tower suite

Living room of tower suite.

The plus of the Luxor is the staff. They
are awesome, friendly and helpful. They
do their best to help you figure out the
Luxor. Lets face it, this place is confusing.
There is construction going on in the casino
and it should be nice when its done.

The Pyramid Cafe serves decent food in huge
portions. I've seen celebs eating in there.
Its your basic hotel coffee shop fronting
the casino. If you want to get away from
the noise of the casino, ask to be seated
in the back.

There is a free tram that will connect
you to Mandalay Bay or the Excalibur. From
the Excalibur, its a short walk to NY NY
and the MGM. There are also walkways
if you feel like walking and they have
shops and restaurants.

The Luxor is the home of Criss Angel, the
Mindfreak illusionist, who will be opening next
year in their Cirque production. You might
cross paths with him in the hotel as he lives
in the penthouse of the pyramid. You
can check his shooting schedule at his
production office located at the end of
the Giza shops on the main floor. His fans
will love his cars sprinkled around the property
at the main valet and the east valet. His
bikes are inside near his production office
and his retail shop.

The Luxor is a decent place to stay in
an easy to navigate location. I stay here
when I get a great slot club offer and I
can't say I'm disappointed. If they would
just get better towels!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Las Vegas Hotel Review: MGM Grand

The MGM Grand has 5,034 rooms and bills itself as the"City Of Entertainment." I can always count on having
the farthest room in the entire gi-normous complex.
If you book here, plan to walk...a lot.

You'll see a lot of marble and brass lions. In fact, the
lion in the front of the hotel is the largest bronze statue
in the USA. Its the mascot of the MGM studios.

The MGM is supposed to show the glory of old Hollywood
and the MGM studio. I find it to be way too big to
easily navigate and too freaking loud at night when the
nightclubs are pulsating.

The rooms are OK. Nothing special. The bathrooms have
a lot of marble, a tub, shower, marble vanity and the
usual assortment of toiletries. in fact the bathrooms
are a bit Hollywood glam. One room even had a vanity.
The rooms sport a desk, tv, phone, and
are very comfortable and clean.

The standard rooms are nicer than the Hollywood
suites. I didn't like the Hollywood suites,
they seemed dingy and dated and a tad dirty.
I got a free suite upgrade twice and would rather
have been in a standard room. Both times they had
the "ick" factor. It looked like there were icky
stains on the velvet sofa and
I refused to sit on it.

I also found the ventilation systems in the hotel
to cause a lot of sinus problems in the room.
I had a constant headache and sinus problems in
a non smoking room, husband had sinus and sneezing
that stopped once we left the room.

There is a difference between the standard rooms in
the main hotel and the west wing. The west wing used
to be the old Marina hotel and they built the MGM
around the property. The rooms are ultra small but
have just been redone to have an upscale and funky
feel to them and a small window. Some like them,
some hate them. I need a room with a big window
and space to spread out my stuff.

All the rooms have photos of old movie stars staring
down at you. You'll even see the pics in the public
restroom stalls, which can be startling to see an old
Hollywood leading man locking eyes with you when
you enter the bathroom stall.

There is a row of high end restaurants and shops on the
way to the monorail station. Very chichi. The coffee shop
is expensive and the food is just so so. The buffet here
is pretty good with a lot of offerings. Its tucked away in
a corner across from the lion habitat.

If you park your car, use the valet. The parking garage is
totally confusing and a long long walk to your hotel room.
I always say we've parked in Arizona and walked. If they
have the valet is full sign out, tell them you are a hotel
guest and tip them and they'll take your car.

The casino is large, really large and confusing. I found that
if you pick markers in the casino, like restrooms, Starbucks
and hotel elevators, it makes it a lot easier to navigate.
You can't leave a trail of breadcrumbs to mark your path,
they clean the place constantly. And don't forget about
ATM's, they are everywhere. You'll need it in this casino.
The slots are tight!

Didn't see many jackpots or good video poker anyplace.
We did see a whale in the high roller area that was
surrounded with a possee of black suits from the hotel.
In the few minutes we watched this guy play we know
he lost a half a million smackers. Later on, he was
winning. He was an older man with some young "nieces".
Wink, wink.

The pool complex is huge. There are 5 pools and a lot
of lounging areas. It is always crowded, so arrive early.

Not my favorite place to stay, but definitely not the
worst place to stay on the strip. If you love night
life and clubbing, you'll love the MGM. If you
want a quieter place to hang out, you'll do better
to book elsewhere.

Station Casinos, Good Gamble, Good Food!

Green Valley Ranch

The locals play at the Station Casinos and for
good reason. You get a good gamble and a lot of
perks and freebies. The food is really good and
reasonable. The casinos are clean, well attended
and the locals are just so much fun. Some have
movie theaters and Kids Quest, a place for kids
to play while the parents hit the casino. Most also
have food courts with a lot of different choices.

The casinos are spread around the Las Vegas
area. Boulder Station is on Boulder Highway.
Palace Station is near the strip. Ask for a tour
of the OJ room.;) Texas Station is in north
Las Vegas, Santa Fe Station is out to the west,
Sunset Station and Green Valley Ranch are in Henderson.
Red Rock is in Summerlin near Red Rock Canyon.

Green Valley (known as GVR or just the Ranch to locals )
and Red Rock are their upscale properties. The hotel rooms
rival those of the poshest rooms on the strip.

The Station group have a slot club called the
Boarding Pass. Use your boarding pass in the
machine like you would any other slot card.
This month they are offering random bonuses on
any machine INCLUDING pennies. You hear a tone
on your machine, play is suspended and you get
a mystery bonus of $ 5 to $20.00. Press a button
and the money is deposited into your machine.
It happened to me a lot at Green Valley Ranch,
in a day span I got over a hundred dollars in bonus
cash, much to the chagrin of the players around
me. Maybe its was because I parked myself and
didn't move, maybe it was just my lucky day.
But the tones keep whistling and everyone wins.

In addition, there is the Jumbo Jackpot bonus that
randomly hits by $150.000 to one lucky player.
It resets at $100,000. Everyone with their boarding
pass in the machine when it hits gets $50. My local
friends will keep their card in the machine even if they
leave to go to the restroom. You never know, baby!

I discovered the most fun new Mr. Cashman game
at GVR. Its called Tequila Sunrise. In addition to the
Cashman bonus, if you hit two cacti on the first
two reels, you get three free games. Since the cacti
are the scatter pay, the first two reels don't spin and
you are guaranteed the scatter pay on the next three
spins. If you are lucky, you'll hit more cacti on the
other reels.

Station Casinos have more new penny games than
any other casinos in LV. They also have less of the
multi reel spinning penny slots that seem to have
taken over the strip casinos. They don't get played
at the Station Casinos as much. I take my lead
from the locals. They'll tell you NOT to play a certain
type of machine or to play a certain type of machine
because of the bonus. I listen because I see them

If you love video poker, this place is nirvana.
Some of the game makers have double triple poker.
I saw a lot of quad aces with kickers and who doesn't
love THAT payout? They have every denomination
starting with nickels and a lot of progressives.

And lets talk food: Every Station Casino has a buffet
with good reasonable food and a coffee shop that serves
different fare, including ham and cabbage, a local favorite.
Add a few upscale restaurants and a food court, and you
can eat and gamble on the cheap and have a blast
doing it!

Las Vegas Hotel review: Treasure Island

TI as it is now known, has the location going
for it. Its connected to the Mirage by a tram,
across the street from the Venetian and a short
walk to Harrah's and Wynn's. Its in the center
of all things and the prices for the rooms
are affordable

If you are a shopper, Treasure Island is located
next to the Fashion Show Mall. You don' t even
need to go outside, you can cross the street
to the mall via the sky walk from the casino.

Treasure Island has upscaled its image from
a family friendly pirate theme to an adult playground.
Gone is the pirate skull sign, in its place is a new
electronic TI sign. TI is the way the hip refer to
this hotel, it will always be Treasure Island to me.
TI has hot pulsating ultra lounges like Tangerine and
the Social House an upscale restaurant/night spot
frequented by celebrities.

While it hasn't instituted a no children rule,
the changes to adult hotel are evident.
The child friendly pirate show out front has changed
to The Sirens of TI, a more adult pirate show. it features
the sexy Sirens of TI. The ship still sinks and the
cannons still fire and the kids still get a kick out of it.

Treasure Island remains a friendly, intimate
hotel and casino. Its easy to navigate and easy
to reach your room from the casino floor.

The rooms have all have new comfy beds. They
are as comfortable as those at the Bellagio.
The pillows are both feather and poly.
The rooms are fairly identical, all done in shades
of gold, the latest addition besides the
new beds are flat screen televisions.
The new TV's have a sleep timer which sends
my husband into pure happiness.

The bathroom has a large marble vanity, a hair dryer,
tub and shower combination. Not luxe, but very
usable. Toiletries are from their spa Wet and
include two different kinds of soap, body lotion
shampoo and conditioner. The rooms are comfortable
and clean. I personally think its time for a total redo
of the decorating scheme, but it works.

The rooms have a safe in the closet as well as
extra pillows. We've also found the hair dryer
there on the top shelf instead of in the baskets
they used to have on the bathroom counter.

TI's greatest asset is their friendly staff. They
go above and beyond to make your stay pleasant
and fun.

TI is building a new high rollers area that should
be open in late December. Its going to feature
a buffet for the players. How cool is that?

TI has some great restaurants. Francesco's is one
of my favorite Italian restaurants in the city. Service
is sometimes a pain in the rear, either they are fawning
over you or you are waving your hand for service.
The food is excellent.

TI has a great Mexican restaurant called Isla Mexican
Kitchen with a tequila goddess that will mix your
drink at your table.

Kahunaville is the most fun restaurant/bar. The restaurant
is separate from the party bar and features polynesian
inspired food. Its EXCELLENT and very well priced!
The restaurant also has a really cheesy and fun fountain show.
The real fun is in the bar area where they have
world famous flairtenders, bartenders that put on
shows flipping bottles and pouring drinks into pyramids
of glasses.

TI also has the Steak House and the Social House
for sushi and saki. You'll find a Starbucks, a Coffee
Shop and a Ben and Jerry's.

TI just redid their suites in an ultra modern almost
Jetson like manner. Done in shades of red, black,
earth tones and chrome, they are modern in a retro
sort of way. You have a desk, sofa and two bathrooms.
Yes, a his and her bathroom with a jacuzzi tub in one, a large shower
in the other, large marble vanities, robes, slippers, luxe toiletries,
a refrigerator, a safe, and damn, a scale.

The pool area has a lot of palm trees and loungers Its not
as sophisticated as a lot of the other MGM properties,
but its a decent pool area in the summer.

Las Vegas Hotel Review: The Bellagio

The Bellagio sits on the hallowed grounds that
one was home to the Dunes Hotel Casino Country club
and golf course. I remember flying in
at night and the first thing I saw was from the airplane window
was the neon Dunes sign. Even though the Dunes was on its last
breath, we were sad to see it go and wondered if Steve Wynn
would be able pull off this huge undertaking. I remember
watching the hotel going up and seeing the huge hole that
would become its lake and fountain show. Could he do it?
Yup! He did it with his usual flair and style.
The hotel is now under the MGM group, and they've
managed to keep it upscale and unique.

The hotel rooms are done in shades of
and earth tones. The bed is probably the most
comfortable bed you've ever slept in. If it weren't
in Las Vegas, you couldn't get me out of it.
The pillows are both feather and poly, the linens have to
have a huge thread count, they are like buttah.

The bathrooms have a large garden tub, a separate
shower and a large vanity full of upscale toiletries.
You'll find body lotion, shampoo, conditioner,
mouthwash, a small vanity pack full of q-tips,
cotton balls and a nail file,
a shower cap and depending on the mood of your maid,
other stuff like a lint brush, a shoe buffer and
other fun surprises.Oh, the towels are think and
fluffy and have big B's on them. And besides having a
hair dryer,you'll find a scale.
After chowing down and going one buffet over the line,
you don't want to face THE SCALE. Just kick it under the
vanity and pretend it doesn't exist.

Expect turn down service and chocolate on your bed stand.
You have your high priced mini bar that operates on a sensor.
you don't want it, don't pick it up because it will show up on
your bill. By the way, the chocolates in it are to die for,
but they'll cost you.

The unique feature of their rooms are the automatic drapes.
They operate by touch buttons on the foyer wall and by the
bed. Fun to play with, very useful to wake up your sleepy
partner. Your room has a safe and a TV. If you are lucky
enough to score an free upgrade to a view room or pay extra
for the fountain view, you can watch the fountains from
your window and tune your TV to the Bellagio fountain
music station and hear the music in your room.
Very cool!

The pool complex is like walking into a Tuscan garden.
There are individual pools, way out of everyone's price
cabanas, fountains, topiaries, flowers and cedar trees.
There's a pool side restaurant and drink service so
you can lounge all day long either in the sun or the shade.
The landscaping has nooks and crannies where you can lounge
without being bothered.

The Bellagio Pool Complex

The hotel is spotless. Spotless. The rooms in the original
tower of the hotel have all been updated to match the
rooms in the new tower. This hotel is amazing, if you get
the chance to stay here,don't hesitate!

The staff is helpful and accommodating.There is nothing
snooty about this place despite what you may have heard.
Everyone is all about you having a great time.

The Bellagio has an under 18
child policy. Some people are ticked off by it. Others
like me applaud the idea of no strollers except for hotel
guests. I've been rammed by so many strollers in Las Vegas
that I just want to tell the parent...go to Disney for
gawd's sake. Or what are you doing with that kid at
2am walking around? Get a brain. I'm in favor of keeping
the Bellagio an adult oasis. Directly from the web site,
here's their policy:

Under 18 Policy - Bellagio

You must be 18 years of age or a registered hotel guest to
enter Bellagio Casino.

The following exceptions apply to
minors who are at least 5 years of age and accompanied
by an adult at least 18 years of age:

  • Restaurant reservations for Michael Mina, FIX, Sensi, Circo,
  • Jasmine,
  • Le Cirque, Picasso, Shintaro or Prime
  • Attending a wedding in our Wedding Chapels
  • Attending a convention function
  • Attending a performance of "O"
  • Gallery of Fine Art
  • Children of hotel guests and non-hotel guests are allowed
  • if accompanied
  • by an adult. Non-hotel guests with children must have
  • their tickets in hand prior to arriving to Bellagio.
  • Visiting a Via Bellagio shop by appointment only

Strollers are allowed for hotel guests only.