I love to read the long detailed reports that people post here so mine will be a long one too!
This was my 4th trip to Sin City, they always go by in a blur but this time I knew I would be posting a trip report here so I made sure to write a few things down as I went.
I tagged along with 2 friends (Vu and Ken) who were going to Vegas for the weekend mainly to see the Pet Shop Boys concert on Halloween at the Hard Rock. I was not too into the Pet Shop Boys but decided to go along because any excuse to come to Vegas is good enough for me.
I have come by car on previous trips but the 8 hour drive was much too long for just a 3 day weekend trip so reluctantly I flew. I am a fearful flyer but the trip on United Shuttle was smooth. We had purchased our package through United getaways, air, 2 nights in Treasure Island and an intermediate car for $350 pp. including cancellation insurance. There were better deals but they really wanted to stay at the TI. I myself for the same money would have preferred the Monte Carlo or Luxor.
We arrived in Vegas at 9am Saturday morning and took a shuttle to Alamo to pick up our intermediate rental car. We did not ask for an upgrade at check in and were charged the intermediate rate but found a chevy blazer in the carport. It was fully loaded and had a cd player so that was our first stroke of good luck.
We drove down the strip and to the TI to try for an early check in. Were told to come back at 11am. We asked to leave our bags while we waited and the bellman was very friendly and gave us a ticket to call when we checked in our bags would be sent up. So, I was anxious to go play with the shiny machines in the casino! My friends were not too into gambling and we were all hungry so we took the tram over to the Mirage for the Lunch Buffet. We got in for $7.50 each just before they raised to the lunch rate. 1/2 the buffet was still breakfast and the other half lunch. There was a variety of the usual buffet fare. It was good quality and fresh. The breakfast foods were better than the lunch choices. Sufficiently stuffed we rolled out into the Mirage casino where I decided I had to play a slot. Vu offered to join in and he immediately hit a pinball slot machine for $120. He cashed out and I put a $20 in the same machine and hit $100. So I cashed out too. The pinball slot machine has now become our instant favorite! Well I am happy as a clam, things have been going so well. So back to the TI. We check in and Ken tries to schmooze for a suite. He claims last time it worked. They tell him they would be happy to Upgrade us for $300 extra per night. No thanks! So we get a room on the 30th floor facing the pirate battle and up we go. The room is very nice with a large marble bath and 2 queen size beds. Comfortable and quiet. My only complaint is the one mirrored wall that is kind of sleazy but maybe they just wanted to make the room seem bigger. From our room we could see 1/2 of the pirate battle area. The window was in some need of washing from the outside though.
Vu and Ken decided to rest and I want to hit the casino! So I take the blazer and head up the strip aiming for the Monte Carlo which out of the upscale hotels is my favorite to gamble in. I overshot and ended up parking at the NY,NY. Well that's cool. I self park in the garage which leads into the arcade?? Maybe so you can ditch the kids before you gamble I dunno. Anyway the NY casino sucks the $ out faster than a toll collector on the George Washington bridge and I vow never to go back! I am still up $50 so far though.
I decide to save the Monte Carlo for later as I head back to the TI to see if the guys got their energy back yet. Vu was sleeping and Ken was down in the TI casino playing video blackjack, He lost but said his friends had checked in and wanted to meet us at the Bellagio at 7pm for the buffet. Ugh! more food... His friends were 8 guys who also came to see the pet shop boys. Well they were also staying at the TI but all in 1 room. I have no idea how they did it but they did. So the 3 of us were still stuffed but we all had wanted to do the Bellagio buffet this trip so we headed there determined to walk around the place and work off the mirage buffet so we could do it again at Bellagio. The conservatory was decked out in fall flowers. It smelled nice but no where near as pretty as it was last March. The gallery off the conservatory has been replaced by the restaurant Aqua. We headed through the casino to the shops at bellagio and then out across the walkway to Caesar's. It's nice that they put the moving walkway to get there from Bellagio but it's really cheesy to do that and then make you hoof it back.
But as we found out, all of Caesar's is pretty much one way! Including your money into the tight slot machines. I let the guys do the forum shops and I stayed and fed money to little Caesar's. I kept thinking of the little Caesar's pizza guy only evil and money hungry "Money Money!!"
We hiked back to Bellagio and met up with Ken's friends who were 1/2 way up the huge line at the Buffet. They were saving us a place and we took it, much to the dismay of the crowd behind us, their anger evident by their icy stares. I did feel kind of guilty but justified it with the fact that from Disneyland to Dollywood people have done the same thing to me in line. They'll get over it just like I had to.
In 15 minutes were shelling out our $22.95 for the Mecca of all Vegas buffets.
We waited another 10 minutes for them to find a table for 10. They pointed out our table and we went up to hit that much talked about buffet. Well the first thing you hit are the king crab legs. I was about 4 people back and saw a picked over tray of legs! I was not amused. But in seconds there was a guy there replacing it with a fresh tray of really good legs. Cool! Now I know why it goes so fast. People just load up on shrimp and crab. Just piles and piles. I actually felt embarrassed for a few people that just had a heaping mound of shrimp on their plate. That was easily 3 pounds of shrimp. That is just gluttony... But this is the buffet for gluttons and I start off with about 15 shrimp and 6 crab legs, The legs are cold but I know having worked hotel banquets it's really hard to do hot shellfish. It just dries out so fast. But they do compromise at bellagio they put out hot drawn butter. So when you dip your cold crab in the hot butter you get lukewarm but yummy king crab. The variety was excellent. Ken swore the prime rib was the best he ever had and he was talking from experience. The lamb and Venison was a little gamey. The deserts were excellent. I had the creme brulee' and a little slice of lemon pie. Very good. The little chunks of chocolate with bellagio microprinted on them intrigued me (guess it doesn't take much). But by far the best was our server Eric. He was super fast. I don't know how he was not out of breath. He obviously had too many tables but he never once was anything but super friendly. He got our drinks immediately and refills just appeared. I asked for coffee and it was there in a minute and was piping hot with an ice cold pitcher of cream. These may seem like little things but it does make the difference of a classy place and a so-so place. So this guy got a large tip from me, he was an outstanding server (Thanks Eric!!). So in my opinion this buffet gets an A. If they had a few more attendants at the food stations and kept some of the slower moving items covered so they did not dry out, they would get an A+.
After the Bellagio we were all super overstuffed. We walked out for a bit of fresh air to the pool area. It was beautiful, Very elegant.
Some of the other guys wanted a ride back to the TI with us since they walked over. So now I was glad we got the blazer we piled 8 in and took off. Once back there I was itching to play blackjack. I have been practicing on the computer but have never played at a table so I go with the group as we try to hunt down a $5 table at the TI at 10pm on a Saturday night. No luck. The 1 table they had was full so it was $10 and up only. I watched a couple of the guys play for a while then put out $40 to try a few hands. After a few hands I was up to $50 and Ken came in for $100. It was very fun even though I made more than a few dumb moves, the dealers were nice and helpful and I learned alot. After over an hour of fun I was up to $75 and Ken had lost his $100. So we quit, I reveled in my beginners luck and vowed to play more blackjack soon. Soon was 10 minutes later. Ken went back to the room and I found another $10 table and got $100 worth of chips. An hour later I had $140. Yay I won again. Well I put about $30 of my winnings back in the slots in a few minutes and went back up to the room ready to crash.
On the way up to the room Ken and Vu were coming down. They had decided to walk across the street to the Venetian so I went too hoping I would get my second wind. It was all lit up and very nice. We walked up and over the archway. It had a moving walkway (that went both ways!). Outside the canal was very authentic looking, Including the smell and dirty water of Venice! Inside the fresco ceiling was very ornate but at that hour the canal shops were closed and the area roped off. The casino was pretty standard, that night there was some kind of party going on. Everyone was dressed like hookers and pimps, Apparently they sold too many tickets and alot of the crowd got rowdy. There was shouting and security was arguing with a crowd of angry pimps. We sensed trouble so we decided to cut the trip short and left the venetian in a hurry without even a spin on the slots! We headed back to the TI and called it a day!
Day 2 Sunday Halloween!
We rose at 10am and opened the curtains in the room to blinding Vegas sunshine! There is no better feeling than being here with a full day of fun ahead of you. After getting ready we headed out. I wanted to try my hand at some more blackjack after having fun and winning last night I wanted more! I read on the boards that the place to play is downtown. So we headed to Fremont street. We self parked at Binion's and went into their casino. This is the place for serious gamblers. No pirate battles here. It was not too busy that early on a Sunday so we had our pick of $5 single deck tables. I sat down all confident that I at least knew the basics. Then I learned that things downtown are a bit different. They deal the cards down and you scratch your cards on the table if you want a hit. I kept thinking they dealt the cards down so you could not let anyone see which is not the case. It is no secret I guess it just helps stop card counting. Anyway I got a little flustered by this new style and the seasoned regulars at the table looked intimidating. But the lady next to me turned out to be quite nice and helpful. The games here went faster and I had to concentrate harder to keep up. I made a few dumb moves but again learned alot. Stayed through 3 dealer changes. All of them were very nice and friendly especially Fred, an older guy who was making some pretty racy remarks to the ladies that only a sly older guy can get away with without being slapped. He was funny. After about 1-1/2 hours of play I was up by $60 so I went to cash out and play a few slots while Ken kept going, he was up about $100 at that point winning back last night's losses. I played some slots at Binion's and came out up $50 on the slots. Ken was done up $110 and I got the same amount out of Binion's and I am loving this place!
We decided to go out and check out more of Fremont street. Wander into the nugget and take some pictures. We are getting hungry now and have heard good things about the Main Street Station Buffet so we head down there. They have a $7.99 champagne brunch. We don't want the champagne and that's good since no one offered us any! Overall I was not impressed. They did have a large variety but most of the selections were dried out and not very good. The eggs benedict were ok. They ran out of roast beef and took 10 minutes to get another one on the carving board. No problem. Ok but then the carver seemed to go on break so I asked the guy. He seemed very irritated that I would ask and told me in broken english "no, no" Then it looked like he was telling another guy to do the carving and that guy told him No it was not his job. At this point I was fed up and gave up and went to look at deserts. Nothing of interest here. The bread pudding was a mess. Ken and Vu liked the Fried wontons and they said overall they liked it but I gave it a solid thumbs down.
We decided to head back to the TI and once we found our car in the Binion's parking labyrinth we got on the Freeway and zoomed up to walgreens on Las Vegas blvd. for some essentials then back to the TI so they can rest up for the concert tonight. I was not in the mood for rest so I went down to the TI casino to see what kind of trouble I could get into. It turned out to be $5 blackjack. Seems on Sundays they have quite a few $5 tables. Well after about 45 minutes I was down $40. My first time down in blackjack wahh! The dealer was not very personable and neither was the drunk guy who was spilling his drink or the nervous tight lipped woman on the other side. So I quit and went to throw another $40 into the hungry slots. Treasure island slots stink.
Down but not defeated I play chauffeur and take the guys to the Hard Rock for the concert. We get there about 7pm and the place is not crowded except for the long line for the concert. It is a weird place a round casino built in rings. center ring is the bar, then the casino then the isle with registration, the concert hall and some restaurants. They get in line, again their friends saved a spot for them and with this crowd I am glad I am not going to be the one cutting the line! I go to check out the casino, Every table was full. Considering that only about 10 tables out of 50 were open! So I checked out the slots. Nothing special. I decide to try 5 cent triple poker. Fun game but it just eats nickels, I play $20 worth in about 1/2 hour and decide to bolt from this dark dank place.
I get in the blazer and head up to the Monte Carlo. This time I don't miss the entrance! I self park and enter the hotel. The familiar smell the monte has hits me, slightly antiseptic but distinct and comforting. This was the first hotel I ever stayed and played in Vegas right when it opened and it remains my favorite. True to form I walk out $100 up on Blackjack after 2 hours of the most fun play I have had so far. I met the nicest people. A lady from NY, A guy from Tennessee and a Taiwanese couple. We all had fun and we all won. The dealer was a young girl. Polite and nice but not overly chatty which was ok we were all keeping the conversation going. I cashed in and played the dollar coins into a "Monte Carlo" slot and hit for $20 on my first coin. Cash out and back to the hard rock to pick up the guys.
In 2 hours the place is now packed. I assume the concert let out but it is still going on. They had the doors open so I watch the pet shop boys sing for a bit then decide to wade through the crowd to a table. Squeeze in and then promptly lose $50 in $5 blackjack. The frat boys at the table are drunk and the dealer is a goofball. In fact everyone here is a drunken fratboy or sorority girl. This is gen-x heaven and I suddenly have the feeling of being very old even though I am 30 because I can't stand this place and long to go back to the quiet elegance of the Monte!! The concert lets out and another stampede of twenty something's, some dressed up in costumes, most drunk or getting there pour out. My friends are no where to be found so I have to do about 10 laps around the circular casino before I finally find them and scream "Get me out of here!!!"
Needless to say I won't be going back to the Hard Rock!
So again we pile 8 into the blazer and head back to the TI. This time I am really tired. I insist on sleep. They want to go to the Paris. So we go to the Paris. I am bleary eyed but hungry. The Paris is nice but we get to see the ass end first as that is where the parking garage is. So you drive down around the big tan colored non-descript building to the back where we park and as we step in there is a large woman cleaning the rug with a big machine but she is doing it with her eyes closed. I am sympathizing with her! The Paris is nice and very French. We eat at Mon Ami Gabi, which is a little bistro outdoors, well under the painted blue sky and puffy white paint clouds anyway so it feels like a bright sunny outdoor bistro even at midnight! We get a waitress named Fifi! She is and older woman from Paris and she is a hoot and full of energy. Bonjour! I have the Crab Bisque and Prime Rib with Champagne Bernaise. It was very good and it was not until I was done eating I realized I did not get any champagne bernaise sauce! It was pricey but at midnight it was a much nicer atmosphere than some cheesy coffee shop so it was worth it. Just to hear Fifi prattle on to us in French of which I did not understand a word and she did not seem to mind that I had no idea what she was saying. What a sweetie!
After we ate Ken and Vu went off to explore the sights and I went to check out the slots and blackjack. The cheapest tables they had were $10 so I played about $40 in slots with no winning and then decided to put $60 into blackjack which lasted all of about 5 minutes. The Paris is new, the Paris is tight! That was it for the night. Back to the TI and sleep!
Monday Nov 1st
Our last day in Vegas and I want to make it a full one but because we were up so late the night before we did not rise until 10am. So we all made a mad dash to get ready and check out by 11am. Turned out checkout at the TI was not until noon. We managed to get out by 11:20 and used video checkout. We were hungry so we decided to hit the Bellagio buffet for lunch since it was so good last time. It did not disappoint. It was excellent although the service this time was not quite as good.
From there we took off for the Las Vegas Hilton so they could see the Star Trek experience. I hit the casino and won $50 at $5 blackjack. Then put a few bucks back into the high tech slots where you break the light beam. There was no one playing at them and I can see why they were stingy. After about 2 hours Ken and Vu came out. Seems the ride had broken down and they had to wait all that time before they got on it. They liked it alot. I had been on it before and it was fun but not worth a second showing for me.
So we headed off now to check out the Mandalay Bay. This is a nice hotel. Not alot of attractions but there are alot of nice restaurants and bars. Some nice sculptures and interesting decor. I hit the slots just to get rid of the bucket of quarters I had leftover from the TI while the guys went off and explored. I found a great machine that kept hitting every 10 or so pulls. I was up about $50 when I had to tear myself away and cash in so we could go to the airport. How sad!!
We dropped the car at Alamo and headed back to McCarren. I had not realized how big that airport is when we got there. Guess I was too excited then. We took a tram to our gate and the flight back to SFO was smooth even though I was all paranoid since the Egypt air flight had gone down the day before.
All in all it was a great trip and I can't wait to go back. I had alot of fun at blackjack maybe next time I will try my hand at craps!