This is a long trip report.
This was my 8th annual trip to Las Vegas for the NAB. Last year, I found that I won most times that I sat down to play Mini-Baccarat. This year, the plan was to stay away from slots and concentrate on M-B.
I flew out on America West from DFW, leaving and arriving on time. Made my way to the Bally's airport check-in and asked (kindly---no money exchanged hands) for a south tower strip view high. The clerk assigned me a room and I was on my way. I rode a shuttle to Bally's and found I had to wait several hours for the room to be ready. When it finally was, I wasn't at all disappointed: beautiful view of Paris, their tower and pool area along with the south strip all the way to Mandalay Bay. Room was about the size of the Orleans room I had last year and furniture, bathroom, bed---all in good shape.
I walked down to Paris and sat down to play Mini-Baccarat. I immediately lost $100 on $10 bets. Not a good start.
I made my way down the strip stopping at Monte Carlo, NYNY, and Luxor. All attempts at M-B were losers. I had dinner at the Sacred Sea Room at Luxor. Food and service were both excellent. Moved on to Mandalay Bay to watch Mama Mia. Very entertaining. I had a $75 seat and it was close enough for me.
After the show, I moved back to NYNY and won about $200 on M-B. Finally!
I walked back up the strip and stopped in at the Commander's Palace in Aladdin for a Bananas Foster. The bartender was very accommodating to serving a single guy at the bar.
I headed back north and passed through Paris. Passed by Napoleon's Bar and saw what was pretty obviously a 'transaction' between a middle-aged man and a hot twenty-something woman.
I hit the room at Bally's and surveyed the damage: $400 lost, $200 gained. And I 'd been so hopeful that the Mini-Baccarat was going to work out.
I sat by the window and watched the strip and its neon for half an hour and then went to bed.
Friday morning I woke up and headed down to the Dollar Rent-a-Car in Bally's. I had rented a compact over the internet for one day. No airport fee had been added and the hotel pick-up and drop-off was very convenient.
I drove to the Convention Center for sessions, then to Boulder Station for late lunch. I ate at Guadalajara's and had the beef nachos. I don't recommend it. Too much piled on into one big mess. I liked the salsa bar though.
I lost another load at Mini-Baccarat(M-B) and some more at slots, then left and headed for Fiesta on Lake Mead Blvd. Since I am not a video poker kind of guy, there wasn't much for me there. Nothing going on the slots either.
I then left for Green Valley Ranch. Hit some ungodly construction and traffic back-up on Lake Mead Blvd., but made it through before the rush hour. There's a lot of construction going on at GVR, and it's really got to be inconvenient for the guests! M-B still was not working for me so I played some slots for a while. Have the off-strip casinos tightened up, too? I was not hitting a thing!
Left GVR and headed back to Bally's. I dropped the car off and trudged south again to NYNY. I had my annual prime rib at Gallagher's before hitting the tables again. NYNY and Luxor just took my money again. When I walked into Monte Carlo, though, I had a nice feeling. I sat down to play M-B, lay down $100 and an hour later left with $400. Finally! I celebrated with a moment of weakness....I went towards reception and stopped at the wall before the elevators where the Monte Carlo Riches slots are. I put in $20 and on the third pull I hit for a $200 winner! So I quit.
I celebrated that with another Bananas Foster at Alladin. Unfortunately, I stopped at the Bally's Megabucks on the way to my room and lost $100. It's my weakness.
I then headed up to the room, sat by the window watching the strip until 1 am when I went to bed.
Thank God...I needed that.
I attended a couple of sessions, then headed for the Bally's pool. It's a very, very l-o-o-o-n-g way from the south tower to the pool; through casino, food court, past sports book and spa. The pool temperature was warm, which was fortunate as it was very windy and that makes for a frigid exit from the pool. The bad thing was that the large jacuzzi was lukewarm...only about 88 degrees....hardly a "hot tub". Not many kids by the pool, though.
I was there for an hour and a half(pina colada was only so-so) before heading back to the room and an afternoon nap.
When I got up, I took a taxi for Palace Station. I've never been there and I wasn't that impressed. I lost another $100 at Mini-Baccarat and some more in the slots(yes, I was reverting to my old ways with the downfall of THE PLAN).
I took the Palace Station shuttle to the Tropicana and crossed over to Luxor where I had dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse. This is a very good steakhouse and it's got excellent service. I had the Chilean Sea Bass with pesto sauce. Pretty good, but a little heavy on the butter.
There was a wedding party there and everyone except the bride and her mother were having a good time. Neither smiled during the whole dinner. I suspect some mother-daughter issues were in play (or maybe their Baccarat strategy wasn't working either) but it sure didn't look like a happy wedding day for either.
After dinner, I headed for the MGM Grand. I was improvising here. Mama Mia was the only show I had planned ahead of time to see (see Trip Report-Arrival), but since my daily gambling budget was dwindling faster than I had anticipated, I sought other forms of entertainment. I found one available seat for La Femme. I took it and experienced my first Vegas girlie show.
Besides the fact that they were almost totally naked, I was amazed at some of the moves those women can make in high heels. High kicks, fast spins, contortionism. Talented dancers, indeed.
It was EXCITING! INSPIRING! NAUGHTY!
I was bored after 15 minutes.
Listen, I like naked women as much as any guy, but after awhile it's just naked women. Anyway, I'm glad I did it for the Vegas experience, but I sure coulda used that $60 elsewhere.
MGM's slots were cold (what else is new?), so I went back over to NYNY and tried Mini-Baccarat again. I won(!)$200. Moved on to Monte Carlo....lost. Skipped the Bananas Foster at Alladin and I tried M-B at Paris once more....broke even.
I watched the Bellagio fountains for two shows, then headed for bed and pondered....why my baccarat game worked so well last year, but was non-existent this year, working out how much money I had lost, how much I had left over, and how I was really not looking forward to seeing my Visa bill at the end of the month.
Most of all, one question lingered.....
How did those women do those things in stilletto heels?
I was awakened at 7:15 a.m. by sirens out on the strip. I don't know what was going on, but there were several of them and they lingered for awhile....then back to sleep.
Slept late again.
I didn't lose any money gambling today! That's because I don't gamble on Sundays. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned....but I don't want to learn it just yet.
I chose between more pool time or the Paris Sunday Brunch. The Brunch is excellent, but I chose the pool because I figured that I'd eaten enough. The hot tub was still lukewarm, hardly even comfortable...so I just sunned for awhile then went back to the room.
I walked to the Venetian for lunch at Tsunami, which is a mid-priced Asian Grill at the head of the inside canal. Had some sushi and cashew chicken, both very good. Afterward I got a Bailey's Irish Cream Ice Cream shake at the Haagen-Danz and sit out in front of the Venetian watching people pass by and enjoying the sunshine. It was pretty close to Heaven.
At that point, I moved onto one of my really favorite things to do in Vegas(strong sarcasm alert)....shopping. It's unwritten law in my house that when daddy takes a trip, he brings back goodies. I shopped at the Venetian and Forum Shops for gifts for a) my daughter; b) my wife; c) my boss (she approved my trip here after all); and d) my co-worker(technically my employee, but we're basically a team so why complicate things with visions of grandeur).
Shopping finished, I returned the Bally's and dropped things off and turned north again. I stopped in the Carnaval Court at Harrah's and listened to their band for awhile. They played 70's music and were very good. It was getting dark so I headed to TI to see the infamous Sirens show.
I should say at this point that I know the reviews have been mostly vicious, so I decided to see for myself. I stood out front of TI for almost an hour, watching timeshare people hawking their wares to unsuspecting victims. There is really one great advantage about coming to Vegas alone....timeshare people don't bother you.
The show began. TI originally started with a 24-minute show, but last month cut it down to 18 minutes---so I was seeing a condensed version of the Sirens.
Here's my review:
It was bad. It was more than bad. It stunk. It really stunk. It sucked big time.
And I'm being kind. No, really.
The best thing I can say about this show is that it's employing actors and dancers...because the performing arts really need our support.
But viewers shouldn't have to suffer. God, it was bad.
I walked the strip down to Bellagio and watched another fountain show. This time it was 'time to Say Goodbye'( 'Con Te Partiro' )---my favorite. That was all I needed.
I crossed the street to Paris and ate at the Café de St. Louis. Had the French Dip. It was OK. Nothing special.
I stopped at the Megabucks carousel in Bally's and hit....nothing. Time to head upstairs. Before hitting bed, I again sat up and for 30 minutes, looked out the 22nd floor window at the strip below. What a wonderful way to end the day!
The fifth day of my annual visit to Vegas is always the same---it is the official opening day of the National Association of Broadcasters(NAB).
The seminars which I attend the days before are a part of a smaller specialized portion of the NAB. Monday, however, the crowds come out of the woodwork. Crowded charter buses pick us up at our hotels and take us over to the Las Vegas Convention Center next to the Las Vegas Hilton and drop us off. We're not a small group...we regularly bring over 100,000 to Vegas each year...so you can imagine the crowded halls and traffic jams.
I do not attend the weekday sessions as my sessions were held over the weekend. This opening day is always spent in the exhibit hall where hundreds of exhibitors sell anything from new tv cameras to HD screens to editing and graphic software to news helicopters and broadcast antennas.
On one hand, it's a video person's wonderland. If you're there to actually research a purchase however, it can be a real pain. While you're walking around feasting your eyes on new technologies, you also have to serve as an efficient purchasing agent for your employer and filter out the hype to make a good buy.
Some of the vendors---and I emphasize SOME---have all the hard-core qualities of the timeshare salesman on the strip. To get some of the information I need for purchases, I have to give my name and address, which automatically puts me on 20 mailing lists. I can also expect several phone calls from the same vendor.
The aisles are crowded and the senses are sometimes overloaded. Companies which sell audio systems tend to play music too loud. Animation and graphic demonstrations, all displayed on large projection screens are actually pretty amazing and creative. One TV monitor manufacturer, several years ago, got a little too creative. Whereas most vendors display scenic nature scenes or DVD released movies to attract attendees to their booth, this group ran a tape of a wet t-shirt competition on large screen, high-definition monitors at their site. I don't know if they sold any monitors that day, but their booth was packed full.
I do a few things on NAB opening day to avoid the crowds:
* Eat dinner at 5 p.m. The buffets already have lines, but the restaurant waiting lines have not started yet.
* Shuttle or walk to wherever I'm going. The taxi line wait at some hotels can be over half an hour.
* Stay away from the business centers at the hotels if you don't have your own laptop. They are being used until all hours.
* Stay away from hookers---their rates triple during this week (Just kidding...I wouldn't know).
If you're visiting Vegas for a few days and have nothing to do with the NAB, then try to pick another week. Hotel rates are higher, taxi lines are longer, and restaurants are more crowded.
We also spend alot of money. Hotels and casinos love NAB.
If you want to see how I spent Monday morning, read part 5. It's not terribly inspirational, but it gives you an idea of what Broadcasters do at their convention.
I returned from the convention center just after noon and walked to P.F. Chang's in Alladin. I was seated on the patio, which doesn't give much of a view, but the weather outside was pleasant enough and I could see construction on the Bellagio suite tower progressing. I had a quick plate of cashew chicken before moving onto the Desert Passage shops to complete my shopping for those who stayed home.
Got back to the hotel and packed for tomorrow's departure. My last day in Vegas is always sad...it makes me want to savor every moment there.
I took a short nap, then hopped on the Barbary Coast shuttle that picks up across the street from Bally's to the Orleans. I stayed at the Orleans last year and loved the hotel and casino. I think it rates as one of the best values in Vegas. I lost $100 quickly at Mini-Baccarat(M-B), then played some slots and ping!....won $100 at quarter Wheel of Fortune. Ping!....won $200 on a dollar Red, White, and Blue. Ping!...won $100 on a dollar 5XPay. So this is where all the loose slots are! I made a feeble attempt to play a couple of $5 slots and won nothing, so I quit for dinner.
I ate at Canal Street. I had the 10 oz. prime rib, which looked a helluva lot bigger than 10 oz.! It was tender, thick and juicy and one of the better prime ribs that I've had....glad I didn't get the 14 oz. rib.
Slots finished (and profitable), I hopped a cab to Excalibur and tried M-B again with no success. Tried Luxor..nothing. Over to NYNY...zilch. Walked over to Monte Carlo where my $10 bets at Mini-Baccarat slowly....slowly...fell into the bank's coffers.
Not a grand way to spend one's last evening in Vegas.
Determined to leave on a happy note, I slipped into the Alladin bar and drowned my sorrows with a Bananas Foster at the bar. Great. Now I'm poor, ugly, AND fat!
I waddled back to Bally's and spent one more hundred dollar bill on a Megabucks dream--which never materialized---and went upstairs to my room.
It was midnight, and I sat up at my window until one watching the strip below me, loving it for all its beauty and excitement, but cursing it like the girl who dumped me in high school (well, actually there were several, but we won't go there).
I generally don't gamble on the day I leave Las Vegas, so I can happily report that I didn't lose any money at Baccarat on Tuesday.
Still...I hate leaving Las Vegas because sooner or later my pragmatism sets in again. I'm a very responsible person by nature, but once a year I step away from it and throw caution to the wind(within reason). It's very hard to return to that sort of mindset.
Tuesday morning I got up, finished packing and did a quick check-out. I fell victim to a slot machine's beckoning and lost $20, but at this point the main damage was already done...this was cheap change.
The taxi driver who took me to the airport was a cheerful guy who obviously liked his work, but was happy to send a broadcaster out of town. He'd spent all of Saturday and Sunday ferrying conventioneers from the airport to their hotels that he was probably sick of us(I hope that Broadcasters in general tip okay, because the Comdex folks have a reputation for poor tipping from many of the cabbies and dealers I've spoken to).
The airport was uncrowded--- always is on Tuesday morning---so getting through security was no problem. I wasn't even stopped or frisked. The America West flight was on time and not even full, so I had some elbow room on the flight back to Dallas.
No matter how badly I do in Vegas, it never ceases to amaze me how I've got my face stuck to the window on takeoff...always trying to get one last glimpse of the strip until the airliner turns west and Vegas fades out of site. Am I truly watching my happy place disappear on the horizon, or is it my one week each year that I can shuck the adult responsibilities I have and act like a kid let loose in the toy store? My employer has cut travel budgets for many, and it's likely this will be my last NAB for awhile. What will happen to my sanity if I don't have this annual release of adulthood?
The flight was uneventful except for some heavy winds as we landed.
I picked up the bags, grabbed the shuttle at DFW and got home in about an hour.
Kissed the dog, pet the wife, and settled back into my role as the 24-hour on-call Prince Charming for my 4 year-old daughter.
A good Daddy should always be available for that.
Just random thoughts from the trip:
* Baccarat is evil.
* With all the walking up and down the strip I did, I wore the most comfortable shoes I had---and I still got blisters.
* Construction continues on the strip. Caesars is a mess to navigate outside, Wynn Las Vegas seems to be coming along, and the Coast Casinos just broke ground on a new resort just south of Mandalay Bay. Major Hotels-Bellagio/Venetian/Mandalay Bay/Caesars-are all building these new expensive all-suite towers with fancy names. They need to call them "Whale Towers", because that's all who's going to be able to afford to stay in them.
* Bally's is overall a very good value and a nice place to stay. The Orleans is still the best deal around, though.
* I must be missing something with the Fashion Mall cloud. It seems totally useless and without decorative value.
* I really, really hope that the Alladin/Planet Hollywood renovation has no effect whatsoever on the Bananas Foster there.
* Eat dinner at 5 p.m. You miss the restaurant crowds.
* The women's restroom in the Mandalay Bay Theater REALLY NEEDS EXPANSION! Two minutes after intermission began, there was a line out of their restroom halfway through the lobby. I don't know how many stalls they have in there for the women, but it's nowhere near enough. What were they thinking when they designed it? (I know, I know...designed by a man.)
* Besides being naked, the women of "La Femme" are very talented dancers. I wonder if the Chippendales guys could perform their act in heels? Anyone know?
* I wouldn't watch the Sirens of TI again if the women were topless....that's how bad it is.
Only 350 days until my next trip(if there is one). Can't wait!
It's Vegas, Baby!