First, let me start by saying that personally, I had a really great time on this trip. Yes, there were some mishaps and missteps along the way, but I'll get to that shortly.
As with most Vegas trips, it was hard to sleep the night before, so we were up plenty early to have breakfast at home and finish our packing. With little traffic at 7AM, we were at the offsite airport parking lot in just over 30 minutes, and were soon at the Jet Blue terminal. There was hardly any line for the luggage check-in , so that went smooth enough, but then it hit us. We were faced with the absolute longest line I have ever seen for the airport security check. All of a sudden I was reminded why I never, EVER wanted to travel on a Sunday. Don't these thousands of people ahead of me know I have a Vegas flight to catch and I can't be delayed one bit? Who knew Jet Blue was doing so well these days. Alas, there was nothing Ada and I could do but to take our place in the never ending line and wait. It easily took almost 90 minutes to finally get through there, leaving just enough time to pick up some water at the gift shop and get to our gate, as they were already about half-way through the boarding process.
Finding our seats in the 19th row, we settled in for the 5 hour or so flight. There's no shortage of snacks and soft drinks with Jet Blue, so with the sandwiches Ada had in our carry-on, we were set food wise. I managed to find Law & Order marathons on two different channels on the satellite TV, so I was content for the entire flight. Ada is kind of a news junkie, so she kept occupied with CNN and Fox News, besides occasionally chatting with the fellow in the window seat. After a smooth, on-time flight, we hit Vegas about half past noon local time at the newer Terminal 3. I liked this terminal because it seemed the luggage area was centrally located, with a relatively short walk from the gates, plus our wait for our bags was less than 10 minutes. There was a line at the taxi area, but it moved quickly and we were in our cab with a friendly driver. We chatted about all things Vegas, and he gave some recocmendations for the Ellis Island restaurants that we would refer to later in the week.
We were going to Bally's, entering from the Flamingo Road entrance. Our driver missed his turn, probably because we were all chatting so much, so he had to go out to the Strip and circle around through the Paris driveway. To his credit, he did turn off the meter when he realized he missed the turn, which I did appreciate and showed in his tip. Finally, we entered Bally's for our first stay at this hotel. It was not even 1PM, and I fully expected to be hit with an early check-in fee, but the clerk never mentioned it. She did say the highest floor available would only be the 10th floor, but we went ahead and took it instead of waiting. We were in the Indigo Tower, which I understand is the original tower. I don't know if our room had been renovated or not, but it was just fine and in great shape. Plenty of room, and even a roomy bathroom area.
We took our time unpacking and showering, then finally went out to check out the place. I think this casino is laid out pretty well; easy to find whatever you may be looking for. It was getting near dinner time for us, so we checked around Bally's and the connecting Paris, but didn't really see anything that struck us, so we decided to go down the block to PF Changs at Planet Hollywood. We had been there on two previous trips and always had a good meal, so that was the plan. As always, everything was fine, and I got to try a new-to-me beer, Sierra Nevada, which was also pretty good. After dinner, we played a bit at Planet Hollywood, as I wanted to hit a Pharaoh's Fortune machine that I had done well on last year. This year it was not as kind, so after a short while, we returned. to Bally's.
It was early enough that I was able to play in the 7PM poker tournament. Normally this Sunday night tourney has only a $10 entry fee, but because the World's Series of Poker was in town, all the Bally's tournaments for the week were $65, which was still fine to me. This was one of those games where not much was happening, and I was basically just holding my own with little action. Out of 40 entrants, I did make it to about 15th place, but was finally eliminated quietly. Still, it was a fun 3 hours. I spent the rest of the evening checking out some assorted penny slots until Ada decided to go up stairs a little after midnight. Being a bit more adventurous than her, I took a walk down the street to the Stage Door casino for some late night video poker and the $2.50 hot dog & beer special. Normally I don't eat like that so late, but what the heck; it's my vacation. I did manage to get to bed at the somewhat reasonable time of 3AM. I have done a lot worst on past trips, believe me.
We wanted a light breakfast on Monday, so we hit the Nosh fast-food restaurant for egg and bagel sandwiches, which weren't all that bad. After that we made our way to the pool area. The Bally's pool is not as fancy as other hotels, but we thought it was very nice. We had no trouble getting a couple of chairs and even managed to find a shady spot under some trees. Not that we needed anything, but the waitresses were around often and were very friendly. I reall liked the pool, especially the 12 foot deep end that you won't see at any newer hotels. They outlawed such deep pools, but Bally's was grand-fathered in and exempted. We must have spent at least 2 hours there, and I even took a short nap as Ada chatted with some other guests, before we finally returned to our room.
Our plan for this day was to visit Bellagio across the street. We love that hotel, and about 5 years ago, they started sending us room comp offers which we were more than happy to use. However, I guess they realized over time that we were not going to be the big gamblers they had hoped for, and our room comps dried up. As a matter of fact, we could not get comped rooms at any MGM hotels, so that's what prompted me to look elsewhere. I was somewhat surprised when I checked on-line and found that for the little play I had given the Ceasars company over the years, they offered us comped rooms at a few of their hotels, and that's how we ended up at Bally's this trip. Still, we did want to spend some time at Bellagio as it was a favorite. I like to play video poker there because they have very cold Heineken on tap, but I had little luck with the game. I bounced around after that, and I did pick up about $60 thanks to a long bonus round on Family Guy. I also played for the first time Buffalo Stamped, the new version of the Buffalo game with random extra spots on the reels. It was fun, but I didn't do much with it. Eventually we made our way to the Cafe Bellagio for an early dinner. I had discovered their fettucini alfredo some time ago and always make it a point to have it when I visit, along with another local brewed beer.
When we returned to Bally's, we played a bit before going to the LA Comedy Club in the Jubilee tower. For playing in the poker tournament Sunday, we were eligible for 2-4-1 tickets to this show, so we gave it a shot. Now, I'm pretty easy going about shows, but to be honest, these three comedians were struggling. I will say each tried hard, but they just didn't cut it. If I had paid fully price, I might not have been so easy about it all, but it was an OK distraction for about 90 minutes. We returned to the casino and I found the 3 Card Poker games had only a $5 minimum bet, so I tried that. This game had the optional 6 card extra bet for $5, which in the end made me a winner at the table for about $150. Following some more penny games, it was time to hit the hay for the night.
On Tuesday, we gave the breakfast buffet at the Sidewalk Cafe a try. The restaurant was nice enough, with plenty of photos of the Rat Pack and such, but the food was just OK. It was a small buffet, and some of the food suffered from being under the heat lamps too long. It was not the worst, but we would not be in a hurry to do it again. Maybe the menu service food would be better. Another pool session, and then it was our day to explore.
After cleaning up, we walked across Flamingo Rd. to visit the new Cromwell. When it was Bill's or Barbary, the place seemed a bit cramped, but now they've expanded things and it seems quite roomy. As I like to say, it still has that new casino smell to it, and everything is very classy. I heard the rooms rates are really up there, which would probably keep us from staying there, but the casino does look sharp. We spent a little time at the Flamingo, long enough for me to hit a Sun & Moon machine for about $70, but Ada was not having a good time at the tables, so we left. We wandered out to the Linq area, and checked out the new O'Sheas and the Quad, since they were both connected. I had not been in the Imperial Palace for a number of years, and while the Quad is very nice, it just didn't do too much for me. Maybe I need to give it more time, but neither of us had much of a desire to stay and play, so we checked our the rest of the Linq area. The various bars and restaurants all seemed nice enough, but it was not too busy that day, so we didn't really linger too much. Maybe with a crowd we would have been more interested, but we did see enough.
We were now on the back street and in the distance I could see Ellis Island. Remembering all the good things the taxi driver had to say about the place, I convinced Ada that we should walk over there for dinner. We found that by appling for their players card and playing $5 in a machine, we could print discount coupons at the kiosk for the bar be cue restaurant, which is exactly what we did. With the coupon, a full rack of rib dinner was about $13, and Ada's half-rack dinner was $10, with each including beans, corn-on-the-cob and garlic bread, and it was all excellent. Add to it another local brewed beer, and it was a great meal. The walk back to Bally's was good for our stomachs after all those ribs. We made it back in time for another poker tournament, but again there was not much luck. I think I played well, and finished around 12th place out of 35, but still out of the money. I later tried the Twilight Zone 3 D game that I had seen last year, but I'm still not a fan. I much prefer the old original edition, so I abandoned that and just finished the evening bouncing around assorted machines. I did try to break the Outback Jack jackpots a few times at Bally's,but I hardly ever saw any bonus rounds this trip.
When Ada got up on Wednesday, she noticed what looked like a small skin rash on her arm. It didn't look too serious, so she put some skin medicine I have on it and carried on. After the less than favorable breakfast buffet, we returned to Nosh for some plain old buttered bagels before our pool session. In the afternoon, our plan was to visit Ceasars for a while, but first we wanted to get tickets to the Sin City comedy club show at Planet Hollywood from the Tix 4 Tonight stand at Bally's. While in line there, I wanted to check something on my cell phone, and that's when I discovered the phone was gone. It was in a brand new belt case, and the case had broken off from the belt clip, leaving only the clip. I gave Ada some cash for the tickets, and then retraced my path hoping to find my phone somewhere on the ground. I got all the way back into our room and of course no phone to be seen. However, the message light on my room phone was flashing. There was a message from the Bally's lost and found office saying some one had turned in my phone, and since my name is on the display screen, they found that I was a guest and left the message. I was relieved, not that it was an expensive phone, but that I didn't have to go throught the hassle of cancelling the service and replacing it.
After retrieving the phone, I rejoined Ada at the Ticket stand and we moved on to Ceasars. Once again I played the same Riches of the Amazon/Jackpot Party game at Ceasars that I had played last year. I still had no winnings, but it did let me play quite a while. I had thought about playing some poker, but found the poker room was closed for renovations. Ada was having a good time at some low limit blackjack game, so I just wandered a bit and played some video poker to kill time. We met up a short time later, both ready to move on. Thanks to my credit card company, I had a 2-4-1 coupon for Blondie's Sports Bar in the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood. We had been there last year and liked it a lot, so we went again. We had a good time snacking and having some burgers while watching the hockey play-offs and some baseball.
After dinner, we had just enough time to find our way to the theater in Planet Hollywood for the Sin City Comedy Club. Again this was a show with 3 comedians, plus a couple of attractive daners performing between the comic's sets. Compared to the show earlier in the trip, this one was just great. Sad to say I'm bad with names and don't recall any of them, but it was a very good show. Upon returning to Bally's, Ada decided to go upstairs, so I just messed around the casino. I did score an $80 win at 3 Card Poker, and even decided to visit Ellis Island one more time for some cheap blackjack (with the fulll 3:2 pay-out)., winning about $60 there.
Thursday morning was our moving day, and Ada noticed the rash was worse and spreding. It wasn't painful, but she was concerned. We had a quick breakfast at the Nathan's in the food court, and to tell the truth, they do a pretty good job on omlettes and pancakes. When we were checking out at Bally's, they said we had only gotten about $20 in comps on our accounts, which was not a big surprise for the relatively small amount we played. I spent a lot of time on poker tournaments, and you don't really get any comp points for that, but all was still OK. We did have the $20 resort fee plus tax for each night and put the points against that. We really enjoyed our stay at Bally's and would return if we can.
Our next "home" would be our old favorite, the Stratosphere for two night. We were using 2 nights of a 3 night offer; we could have had up to 5 night total between the two of us, but we wanted to spend the time we spent in the Bally's area. After checking in and unpacking, Ada was getting concerned about that rash. We asked at the bell desk if the White Cross drug store was still opend a couple of blocks away, and were told it was. Unfortunately, it was now only a market and liquor store, with no pharmacy, and Ada really wanted to talk to a pharmicist. I knew there was a Walgreens down the street on Las Vegas Blvd., but I just didn't recall how far. Still, we took off walking, all the way to Charleston Ave., which had to be well over a mile walk. I was OK, but Ada was not having much fun in the sun with it all. Anyway, we saw the pharmicist and she felt it was some kind of a sun rash; nothing that serious, but it would take several days to go away. She suggested some cortizone skin cream, and Ada felt much better with her consultation.
We wanted to take a cab back to the Strat, and I even had the taxi company phone number in my cell phone "just in case", so we called and were told it would be maybe 10 minutes for a pick-up. Well, 10 became 20, and then 30, so I called again and was told they were having problems getting a driver. I believe the problem was since this would be such a short trip, none of the drivers were interested, which is too bad because I'm a notoriously good tipper. We then thought about taking the bus, but watched as it was just leaving the bus stop, so we bit the bullet and took another long walk down LV Blvd. Getting back to our room, Ada used her cream and was feeling better about the whole deal. It had been a memorable afternoon, although not the way we had hoped for. BTW; about 2 hours later, I got a call from the taxi company, asking if I still needed a ride. Unbelievable.
After resting a bit, we hit the casino and played some assorted machines with little luck again. I did get to say hello to some waitresses I've known at the Strat for years, in particular Melissa and Kris. We had an early dinner at Felini's Italian restaurant, where we had not been for a couple of years. As luck would have it, our waiter was one who had waited on us several times over the years, and it was nice to see him again too.
It was early enough for me to join the 7PM poker tournament at the Strat, and this time I thing I played really well. When we got down to the last 2 tables, I had more than doubled my original stack and thought I was doing well. I think I was the second highest chip stack at my table, when unfortunately I got involved in a hand with the table's chip leader. I had a K-10 in my hand and when the flop came out with another King, I raised. Everyone folded except the chip leader, who re-reaised, and I called. The next card was a nothing card, but I put in a small raise, which he called. The last card was also no help, but I bet again, and this time he raised me all in. I really should have known better, but I had already commited over half of my stack in that hand and I was going for broke, which was a dumb move. I was destroyed by the pocket Aces he was holding the entire time, making me finish in 13th place and out of the money again. I did get a small amount of redemption later playing 3 Card Poker, with a $100 win there.
Friday was our last full day, and we had some plans. First was a quickie breakfast at the McDonalds upstairs, then on to the pool. Ada's rash was a bit better, but she didn't want any part of the sun, so we got a table with an umbrella for her. After about a half hour or so, the poolside blackjack pit opened, and since it was covered from the sun, that's where Ada made camp. I did manage some time in the pool myself before joining her at the blackjack. I've said before that I don't like the 6:5 blackjack games, but Ada doesn't concern herself with those details and we were there just to have a good time. The poolside game is a lot of fun, and all the dealers and pit bosses are just great. It's all very laid back and not too serious.
After a couple of hours, it was back to the room to clean up, and then to the bus to downtown. We arrived at one of our old favorites, the Four Queens about 4PM. I made a bee-line to the area where they have some original Twilight Zone games, only to be disappointed to find they had been replaced by the newer dreaded Twilight Zone 3 D games. I still played them, but with no better luck than earlier in the week. I hit a couple of video poker bars, in part to play and drink, and in part to watch some baseball. I tried the penny Deal or No Deal's, again with no real luck, but did get some playing time. When I met up with Ada, we were both ready for dinner at Magnolia's. We both went for the prime rib dinners, and both were just perfect. At about $9 with a players card, it really is a great deal.
We had planned to spend some time on Fremont Street checking out the various shops, but they had all the entrances closed as they were getting ready for some concert. We were told it would be over 45 minutes before we would have access to Frememont Street, so we just returned to the Strat instead. Because of our early return, I was able to play another poker tournament, but again it was a losing effort. I did last over 3 hours before I had to go all in holding pocket Jacks. I was called by a guy with a flush draw. His flush never came, but he did pull two pairs to eliminate me. Again, the rest of the night was assorted penny games and video poker, with no real winnings to speak of. I spent a little time listening to the group in the lounge area, 3 girls and a couple of guys, and they really were quite good with the current hits.
The only realy excitement of the night was when the fire alarm went off. Of course everyone in the casino ignored it, but it wouldn't stop and they were saying not to use the elevators. Ada had gone upstairs earlier, and I was worried that she would be getting nervous with all the alarms, so even though they had closed the doors to the elevator hallway, I went in and went up to our room. There were no alarms to be heard on the guest room floors, and when I got to our room, Ada was sound asleep without a care to the world, so all was well.
Our flight home on Saturday was mid-afternoon, so we got up fairly early to check out and have breakfast. Upon checking out at the host office, I was reminded of something nice; the Strat does not charge the resort fees on comped rooms, so we had a zero bill. We took whatever points we had earned to Roxy's restaurant for a nice breakfast before going to the airport.
After the debacle in New York, we didn't want to take any chances and ariived at McCarran with plenty of time to spare. In fact, for some reason we were put into the VIP security line and breezed right through. This gave us well over 90 minutes to kill before we would board our flight. For me that's not a problem because I can always kill time with a nice beer or two at the airport bar, which I did and discovered Alaskan brew which was pretty good. Meanwhile, Ada never has a problem striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. She met a very nice lady who was a former teacher, and was now a rep for....................... get ready....................... a skin care product company. This was perfect; Ada had someone to discuss her skin rash with, who would actually be interested. All kidding aside, the problem did clear up at home within a week with the skin cream the Vegas pharmacist has suggested.
The flight home was pretty good. They had some problems early on with the satellite TV, so they offered the pay-movies for free. I watched Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which was kind of fun since I was a fan of the old 1960's cartoons. We had more turbulence this flight, but all went well and we were back home a little past midnight New York time.
I said at the beginning of this report that I had a really great time, and ignoring the mishaps here and there, I did. Even Ada had a good time, not counting the rash of course. I stopped worrying about comps a long time ago; if they come,good; if they don't, oh well. We take a much more relaxed approach about the entire trip. We still do plenty, but we don't rush to do anything in Vegas. We still gamble, but not as much as in past years, and we still had a blast. I still say that Vegas is the perfect vacation spot, to do anything and everything you would like to do. Thanks for reading, and good luck to everyone on your next trips.