When my partner Fredd and I first visited Las Vegas in January 1999, we immediately fell in love with the city and vowed to return as soon as we could. During that trip, we heard that many hotels were asking $2000 a night for a minimum three-night stay over the New Year’s holiday. We agreed that we could not afford that, so we basically wrote off Vegas for the Millennium. That was until early December when, in a mood of nostalgia, I decided to read some of the postings on the Las Vegas board on AOL. I quickly learned that hotel prices were dropping rapidly. I saw an ad for the Luxor that offered a three-night stay for $269 a night. Since that seemed reasonable, I told Fredd we should throw caution to the wind and go to Vegas for the New Year holiday. He agreed and a short time later the trip was booked.
About two weeks later I was reading the Washington Post and learned that Paris-LV was offering a rate better than the Luxor. I called Paris and booked a four-night stay. First night was $128, second (NYE) was $309, third was $109, and fourth was $65. Not bad. When I called Luxor to cancel my reservation, I tried to see if the agent would give me a competing rate. No luck. When I told the agent that we would stay at the Paris instead, she replied, “You get what you pay for.” I thought that was unnecessarily catty.
Day 1: December 30, 1999
We took a 10:00 AM flight from Washington to Vegas via Cleveland on Continental. We used a mileage reward to pay for the trip and since Fredd is a Gold Club member, the gate agent upgraded us to first class. That was a nice way to start the trip.
We arrived in Vegas at 1:45 PM and picked up our luggage without any problems. I looked for the famed Las Vegas Limos, but did not see any, so we took a taxi to Paris and immediately checked in. We had asked for a king-sized bed, but the desk clerk said that none was available. Not wanting to wait for a room, we took two double beds and headed to our room on the eleventh floor. Elevator service was very prompt and it was a reasonable walk from the elevator to any room on the floor.
I had asked for a nice view and the desk agent said that we had “a lovely view of Sunrise Mountain.” What she failed to mention is that we also had a close-up view of the hotel parking garage. Oh well. Since this was our first trip to Paris and it was a busy holiday weekend, I decided not to ask for a new room.
The room was very nice. While the bedroom was what one could expect in any moderately priced hotel, the bathroom was rather lavish. The bathroom featured a separate bath and shower, with the shower enclosed glass walls. There were marble highlights throughout the room. There was also a large hairdryer, full-length mirror, makeup mirror, large cakes of soap, and a several other bath products.
After arriving in our room, we called for the bell captain to bring in our luggage. He arrived in less than ten minutes and was exceptionally friendly. We then decided to explore the hotel.
We really liked the hotel. The casino is bright and features faux trees, fountains, and iron molding reminiscent of Paris’ famed Metro station entrances. The high ceiling of the casino helps to diminish the noise from the slots and best of all, it eliminates most of the smoke in the room. The casino quickly became my favorite gambling spot in Las Vegas. The area surrounding the casino is paved with cobblestones and features a quaint streetscape. The shops along the street look cheerful, but are very expensive. Along the street were performers, including a mime and an accordion player. All of the security guards were smartly dressed in the uniforms of the Paris police. Overall, we were very impressed.
We decided to have an early dinner and headed to Le Village Buffet. The buffet had a forty-five minute wait, so we took a number and then meandered across the street to the bakery for a quick snack. The baked goods at JJ’s Boulangerie were outstanding. I especially liked the apple turnovers that were baked in a buttery flake crust. I have not had such good pastries outside of Europe. After our snack, we went to the buffet and were seated without a further wait. The buffet had a nice selection of food. However, many of the dishes featured spices that seemed strange to our American palates. For example, the shrimp was sautéed in Anise, which gave it a strong licorice flavor. The ham also had an interesting taste to it. I won’t say that the food was bad; it just did not meet our American expectations.
After dinner, we went into the casino for an hour. I played slots and Fredd hit the craps table. Afterward we went to the room for a long nap.
Later that evening we went to the MGM for the 10:30 PM showing of EFX. I had read many negative comments about this show on the lasvegastalk.com bulletin board. But my Frommers ’99 book highly recommended it, so I decided to give it a try. I should have listened to the folks on lasvegastalk.com. The show was awful. Tommy Tune had no stage presence and was never able to form a rapport with the audience. The special effects did not impress me and if you have been to a Disney theme park in the past fifteen years, then you have already seen what EFX has to offer. With each special effect I could see wires, “hidden” platforms, and stagehands in the wings. The transitions between the segments of the show were choppy. In the middle of the performance, the show stopped and Tommy conducted a canned question and answer session with planted members of the audience. This added nothing to the show and was boring. During one segment, the show stopped due to technical difficulties and when it resumed ten minutes later, Tommy and the cast transitioned to the next segment without any explanation. The tepid applause at the end of the show demonstrated that Fredd and I were not alone in our poor impressions of EFX.
After the show, we took the monorail to Bally’s and had a quick snack at the Sidewalk Café. One nice aspect of Paris is that guests can charge purchases made at Bally’s to their room. In a sense, staying at Paris or Bally’s is like staying at both hotels at the same time. After our meal, we went back to the room for the night.
Day 2: December 31, 1999
We woke up around 11:00 AM and went downstairs for brunch. Since we liked the food at Bally’s we decided to try their Big Kitchen Buffet. After a forty-five minute wait, we were seated. The food was very good and was classic American fare. After the meal, Fredd went back to the room to rest and I decided to explore.
My first stop was Bellagio. This is one of my favorite hotels in Las Vegas. The interior is beautiful and the fountains are spectacular. The fountains were in action for more than an hour and I could see Connie Chung’s booth overlooking the lake. Connie was in town to cover the New Year's Eve festivities. They must have wanted her and the cameramen to get a good shot of Bellagio’s best asset. I joined the slot club at Bellagio and played the Monopoly slots for an hour. I began to feel a bit sleepy as well, so I went back to the hotel and joined Fredd for a nap.
When we awoke, we went to the casino for an hour and then went to dinner. Since the New Year’s Eve crowds were forming on the Strip, we decided to stay close to the hotel. We had such a good experience at the Bally’s Buffet that we decided to try it again. The dinner buffet was even better than the lunch buffet. We lingered over a long meal and then decided to join the crowds in front of Paris.
When we went outside, the Strip was a sea of people. The Bellagio fountains were dancing to the music of classic American composers, a fitting tribute to the end of the American century. A New Year’s Eve countdown was in progress on the Bellagio sign. The crowd was in good spirits, but was not too rowdy. For all the talk of high security at New Year’s, I did not see a single Las Vegas police officer. Security officers from Paris, however, were in full force and helped to keep the crowd under control.
At five minutes to midnight, an “aerial ballet” began on Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Performers clad in white flowing garments swung high over the crowd. They moved in rhythm and looked like huge white birds in flight. At ten seconds to Midnight, the crowd began to count down the seconds. Upon the birth of the New Year, millions of pieces of gold and silver Mylar confetti poured from the top of the Eiffel Tower. They caught the breeze and spread out in a brilliant cloud for at least two blocks. Lights scintillated off of the confetti and the sky looked like it was full of gold dust. It was an awesome sight.
After the countdown ended, we headed back to the casino. I played slots for an hour and then went back to the room to watch CNN coverage of the Millennium. Fredd stayed in the casino for six hours playing craps. All in all, a nice holiday.
Day 3: January 1, 2000
I woke up around 9:30 AM. Since Fredd did not go to bed until 6:30 AM, I decided to let him sleep in. After getting dressed, I went to the Flamingo Hilton to join their slot club. Along the way, I passed at least six people passing out smut flyers. Many flyers were on the ground, exposing their lurid contents to all who passed by. I felt sorry for the families with children who were exposed to such trash.
The Flamingo Hilton casino was quiet, so I stayed for an hour and played slots. Not much luck there. Feeling hungry, I searched for a fast food restaurant, but to no avail. Since the pastries at Paris are so good, I decided to go back to the hotel.
The line at the Paris bakery was long, but I thought it was probably worth the wait. As I stood in line, I glanced around and much to my surprise came face to face with my friend Curtis from Chicago. He was standing right behind me. Now what are the odds of that happening? Curtis was in town to see Babs Streisand. He had seen her show the night before and liked it so much that he bought tickets to see it again! He is a big BS fan and even has a small shrine to her in his apartment (no joke!). I couldn't resist telling him some of the BS stories I heard on the AOL board. I thought the story about BS having trouble picking a commode was funny, so I mentioned it. Curtis said that it was probably true since she likes to be able to flush her toilet without seeing the contents of the bowl. That woman needs some professional help.
Since Curtis had reservations to see the Bellagio art gallery, we parted and I went upstairs to tell Fredd about my encounter and to wake him up. Luckily he was already up and dressed. Since we were curious about our comp status, we decided that the casino host station would be our first stop of the day. Thus began a most tedious controversy.
Fredd had played craps for at least ten hours and quite likely twelve hours, but the record of his play showed only six hours. He had specifically spent most of his time playing at Paris so that we could get some good comps, so the discrepancy in his comp record was disturbing. We spoke to the casino host and he suggested that we return that evening to speak to the night crew since Fredd did most of his playing at night. Several hours later we returned and spoke to the night pit boss and host. They were very attentive to our problem, but ultimately refused to give Fredd any extra credit since their employees "don't make those kinds of mistakes." We were disappointed, but the host assuaged our concerns by informing us that we had more than enough points for a room comp. Since that was one of our goals for the trip, we were satisfied (well, Fredd was partially satisfied). For the remainder of his stay, Fredd verified his play time and average bets before leaving any craps table.
That night we went to see Lord of the Dance at NYNY. This was the highlight of the trip for me. I absolutely loved the show. The dancing was excellent and I especially enjoyed the beaming smiles on the dancers' faces. They obviously loved what they were doing. The music was taped, but that did not detract from the performance. One note of warning for those who plan to see the show: make sure you get to your seat on time. Fredd arrived just the show began and the usher would not seat him for the first five minutes due to the fireworks at the beginning of the show.
Day 4: January 2, 2000
Since this report is getting long, I will briefly summarize the events of the day.
Fredd had played craps at Paris the night before and the host gave him two complimentary passes to the Champagne brunch. The brunch was held in the Paris ballroom and was terrific. There was a wide selection of food, wonderful desserts and attentive service. Although the brunch was expensive and rather fancy, several patrons came wearing sweat pants and t-shirts. I was a little surprised, but each to his own.
We went to Luxor for an afternoon showing of Fantasia 2000 in their IMAX theater. The movie was excellent. Since IMAX films tend to impart a sensation of motion to the viewer, I felt like I was moving in tune to the music. Fantasia 2000 will be in IMAX theaters until April, when it will be released to general cinemas.
After Fantasia, we went to see Mandalay Bay. The hotel was under construction when we were last in Vegas and we watched the men working on it from our room at the Luxor. The hotel was eerily quiet. Most of the guests had checked out. I liked Mandalay Bay, but I don't think that it is as nice as the Mirage. The Mirage has a sense of intimacy to it and the wide-open spaces at Mandalay Bay seemed more utilitarian than intimate.
After dinner at Raffles Café, Fredd and I parted ways for the evening. He went to Binion's Horseshoe and Casino Royale to play craps. I rode the rollercoaster at NYNY (wonderful!) and visited the Rio and Stratosphere. I liked the Rio, but thought that the Stratosphere had a poor selection of slot machines. The activities of the past three days must have caught up with me; I was exhausted and went to bed at 10:00 PM.
Day 5: January 3, 2000
Time for checkout and an 11:30 AM flight back to Washington. After packing, Fredd went to speak to a casino host about our comps while I checked out. Good news----our entire stay, including meals and gift shop purchases, was comped. The Paris host also assured Fredd that we would receive a sweet deal on our next stay. Not a bad way to end the trip.
Stayed at Paris December 30, 1999 to January 03, 2000
- Category: 1999
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