I've been lurking on the board for quite a while, so I decided to come out of the closet this week and do some actual posting, although I have written a few trip reports in the past.

Here goes with the most recent report. I WOULD have to follow Laura's tongue-in-cheek side-splitting report, so I hope I won't bore anyone to death.

I'm not much of a gambler, nor is hubby. We saw quite a few shows, ate well and did win a few bucks. This was a pretty impromptu trip, scheduled when we found out that Jimmy Buffett would be doing a concert on 1/22. We're big fans and see him every chance we get.

We flew out of Minneapolis on January 20; it was 7 degrees when we left, so 50's in Vegas felt pretty darn good. We'd hoped to have Dear Cabbie pick us up at the airport, but he's off on Tuesday and Wednesday, so our meeting would have to wait 'til the end of the trip. He did us a huge favor by waiting in line for a long time to get us tickets to Buffett's concert for the grand opening of the new Margaritaville at the Flamingo, and we wanted to thank him personally. Our first two nights were comped at the Excalibur (received an offer we couldn't refuse in the mail) and we were told to use VIP check-in--nothing special, just a separate glassed-in area beyond the usual reservations area. There were no "cocktails or chocolate covered strawberries" offered to us at check-in. We had a deluxe room which was pretty spacious; two queen beds and a sitting area with loveseat and coffee table and another table and two chairs. We also received two free tickets to the "Tournament of Kings" so made reservations for that very night. Now, I don't know if it's a show I would have paid for, but for free it was pretty entertaining. And, despite mixed reviews, the food was pretty decent, too. We had tomato soup, kinda spicy for me, a cornish hen, potato wedges, broccoli, a roll and an apple pastry for dessert, along with beverages of choice. Cocktail service was also available. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and our section "Huzzahed" for the Dragon. Played a few slots after the show but had no luck at all. This would be the theme for most of the week. While south on the strip, we also spent some time at Mandalay Bay, which was pretty empty, NYNY and the Tropicana (didn't win the car with the free spin in front of the casino!)

On Wednesday night we used the 2 x 1 coupon out of one of the Vegas mags and got tickets for the Comedy Stop at the Tropicana. Three guys each did their set and were pretty good. We had a lot of laughs for the $20 we spent, and we each got one drink with the ticket, with bar service available throughout the show. Premium liquor cost an additional $5. Also caught several of the "Air Play" shows over the Tropicana's casino floor--not bad for free entertainment--adagio dancers, acrobats, singers, dancers, etc.

Thursday was moving day. We had three nights left at the Polo Towers from last year so stayed there until Sunday. Really missed spending time around the pool, but the weather didn't cooperate--after all, it's January. Around 1 p.m. we hoofed it up to the Flamingo to join 4,998 other Parrot Heads lining up for Jimmy Buffett's concert. The security guard told us that, after spending $90,000 to reline the swimming pool, it was filled with sand--indeed it was--to create a staging area for the concert. We waited in line and made new friends 'til the doors opened at 2 p.m. Then, we ran as fast as our late 50's legs could carry us to the back of the resort where the stage was set up. We managed to get about 25' from the stage, which is probably the closest we'll ever be. Let's just say it was a loooong wait 'til 5 p.m. when Jimmy and the Coral Reefers took the stage. They played a great concert 'til 6:15 p.m., when they went inside Margaritaville for a VIP party. We weren't invited:-( Prior to and during the concert, food and drink was available at $5 a pop--cheeseburgers, of course, and chicken sandwiches, Corona, tequila and margaritas. After the concert, we limped our way back to Polo, stopping off at the Aladdin to try the Spice Market buffet, having heard so much about it. Amazingly, there were only two people ahead of us in line. I thought it was good, and I had the opportunity to try some different things, i.e., Mediterranean cuisine, which I discovered I didn't like. My favorites were the king crab legs and desserts. They really had to hustle to keep up with the crab legs. Some people had plates heaped with them. Overall, I prefer the Bellagio if I'm going to do a buffet for dinner. Finally made it back to Polo, where a good soak in the whirlpool soothed my weary bones.

Friday morning was Paris breakfast buffet day--my favorite for that meal. Again, it didn't disappoint. That evening we saw the "Folies Bergere" at the Tropicana. It was a much better show than the version we saw 5 or so years ago. There is only an 8:30 p.m. show on Fridays, and it was uncovered. Oddly enough, the part my hubby liked the best was the comedian--go figure! He WAS pretty funny, though. The production numbers and costuming were outstanding. The tickets were free to us for attending an owners' update at Polo, along with buffet tickets for the Tropicana.

Saturday we just bummed around, went to Margaritaville, the Bellagio and other mid-strip casinos. The Bellagio Conservatory was decorated for the Chinese New Year--year of the golden monkey. It was pretty neat, but I was disappointed that I'd miss the Monet garden theme that would soon be set up, along with the Monet art exhibit due to start on 1/30. The slots still were not paying much anywhere, although the hubby was winning anywhere from $30 to $60 pots here and there. I guess we were spoiled by his $3,000 win last year on a "Hot Dawg" nickel machine at the Rio (we're paying Uncle Sam for that one this year)! You can't win 'em all. We used the Tropicana buffet tickets for dinner--not much to write home about--wouldn't pay for it.

On Sunday we moved to Caesar's Palace, another good mail offer--$59 a night for two nights and $25 dining credit. Our room was nice, with two queen beds, in the Roman Tower, but don't drink the bottled water at $4 a pop. We used our dining credit in the Cypress Street Marketplace, kind of an upscale food court where you're given a debit card to record your purchases. I had a yummy lobster roll with fries and a soft drink, and Bill had a turkey club with fries and a soft drink; our tab was $30 and change. While Bill gambled, I walked through the Forum Shops and did a little credit card damage. A jewelry store was having a sample sale, and I got some really good buys for myself and as gifts for friends and family. It was the last day of business at FAO Schwarz, which really surprised me, and they had everthing 80% off, but they were pretty picked over except for bigger stuff that I knew I couldn't fit into my carry-on. We travel light! They are setting up an Elton John gift shop, in anticipation of his February opening in the Colosseum.

We spent the afternoon and evening at the Rio and took in Ronn Lucas' comedy show--which was really funny and a great value with the free tickets from Harrah's. Total cost for both uf us, including one drink was $15. We had dinner in the Rio's cafe and caught a parade in the sky before the evening show. I had entered an online contest (link from this board--thanks) for free tickets to the Scintas and was floored to receive a call telling me that I won, so off we went to that show Sunday evening. It was another good show, with music, comedy and impressions. I would have paid full price for that one!!

Monday was our last full day, as we had the red-eye home at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday. Spent most of the day at Caesar's but did take a jaunt downtown for a while--again, no wins. We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, one of our favorites which I heard about on this board, and then spent the evening gambling. I managed to win $100 on a nickel video poker machine at the Barbary Coast.-got three Aces with a 3 kicker. (By the way, in response to a thread on the board recently, two video poker machines next to the one I was playing had "out of service" signs on them. Eventually, a couple came over with a slot attendant and had the signs removed and "their" machines put back into play.) We went over, hoping to catch Big Elvis, only to learn that he's off on Monday, as is Mac King at Harrah's. So, we missed them both. I called Dear Cabbie for a ride back to the airport, and we met up with him at 11 p.m.--very nice guy, and we had a good conversation on our way to the airport. We'll definitely look him up on future trips. At the airport Bill had a $20 bill burning a hole in his pocket so sat down at a video poker machine. He was sure that he saw a guy hit a royal flush on that very machine the last time we were out there, and he managed to pull $200 out of it, which was a nice way to end the trip. Next time, he said he's camping out at the airport and I can head to the strip! That was his biggest win all week.

We lifted off early and landed back in Minneapolis about 6 a.m. the flight was pretty light, so we had plenty of room and took advantage of that to sleep most of the way back. When we exited the terminal, we discovered that MN had gotten 9" of snow the last few days, so we had that to deal with when we got back to our car. A two-hour drive back home, and then a 4-hour nap, and I'm ready to do it all over again. Unfortunately, it will have to wait 'til next year due to other trips planned for the rest of 2004.

Thanks to everyone for all the tips and links. Keep those reports coming. MN Pat