Matt & Lisa's American Adventure (Long)
Written in English and by an Englishman so no apologies for my English!!
Before I went to the USA, I used to read these trip reports with great enthusiasm, I used to upload them to my PDA (Ipaq) and read them on the Train to work, I hope I have been able to give something back by writing this one. Many thanks to those that have written previous Trip reports.
I had been to Las Vegas before seven years previous, but Lisa had never been before. We had booked up with Virgin holidays to encompass New York, Las Vegas and Orlando. I'll spare you the details about these bits of the Holiday (read Vacation for the Americans amongst you) for I'm sure many of you live there and wouldn't take a Vacation there if I paid you!!!
Sunday April 25
After spending a few nights in New York (Hudson hotel) we arrived at JFK in good time for the HP53 12.00 to Vegas on America West. Strict security was in place but that was understandable. What we couldn't understand was the check-in girl. What bad manners she had. She explained she couldn't seat us together and that we could sort it out at the gate....yeah right I thought. So like a dog with a stick that he is not going to let go of, I pursued my case onwards. I don't think she had banked on my London stubbornness, being no shrinking violet I voiced my complaint and told her I didn't believe her and that I could change a seat at the gate, she finally relented and gave us...Yes the Holy of Holy's...Row 10. The Exit Rows!!
So we boarded several hours later, and were asked to take the Oath, the oath that is that we could speak English and open the escape doors in the 'Highly unlikely event!' The flight passed without incident, despite having no food and only junk for sale on board, bad planning by us really.
We landed in Vegas on time, but having circumvented Vegas to the East we never saw the Strip from the Plane. I knew what was coming, but my Wife had no idea, she had never seen so many slot machines at an Airport, we just had to have a go, whilst waiting for the baggage. We won a large handful of quarters, which we had to split between our pockets as our bags had arrived and we had to go!!! Virgin Holidays had arranged a Shuttle Bus for the short trip to the Luxor. Wish we had ordered a Limo or Car to be honest, for a few minutes journey, going via a couple of other hotels was a bit annoying, but what the heck... we're in Vegas!!!!!!
Just as we had been tipped off on this site, but could do nothing about it, we were dropped at the North door, which is stupid as the only check in there, is for groups and it was shut, why on earth she dropped us there we can only guess was to save her a short trip down then back up the strip, never mind our arms and heavy cases!
No queue at all at Check-In despite the time being around 3 Pm. I went up to the desk, a very pleasant girl started to check us in. I, acting on all the tips once again I had gleaned from this site, got my credit card ready with a nice crisp $20 folded up and sticking up so she would see it. I asked if there were any Corner Jacuzzi suites in the Pyramid available, I gestured to the Twenty and said I'd be very appreciative if she found one. She said she had one that would only be available for the last 3 nights of our 4 nights we were there, I was just about to say it would be no problem, when she added something to it which took me back.......'It will be $50 extra a night' I explained she misunderstood and that the nice crisp twenty was for her and she said quite haughtily, yes but it's fifty extra a night!!! Hmmm so she had never heard of the $20 trick I take it. So dropped that idea and pursued my other request of a high floor in the Pyramid facing the strip, I know the Towers are supposed to be newer and bigger but we wanted the novelty value. She managed to come up with a high floor with a view over the roof of the Excalibur. For this I was grateful and I pulled a little trick of my own as if by magic the $20 changed to a $5, as I'll be beggared if she was getting the full $20 for just getting me a normal room, so the $5 was for the High floor, ample tip I think!
The room was on the 22nd floor and we had to take an inclinator in the far corner, shame we hadn't realised the walk was so far with cases or the bell Boy would have earnt a few dollars too! Huge disappointment in the inclinators, we thought they would have glass sides for a fab view of the Casino, no they were enclosed and you wouldn't know you were travelling at 45 degrees but for the start and stop motion!! We loved the fact that they had Security guards for each lift, made us feel much more secure. Then a walk right round to the other side of the Pyramid to find our room, a chore made much more pleasurable by the fact there was a fantastic view down over the balconies in the huge atrium. The room was comfy and very spacious (compared with European room size standards) if a little tatty around the edges. The view if not fantastic was pleasant over Excalibur and the Hills and Freeway.
After unpacking, my feet were itching to get down to the Casino and GAMBLE!! I had planned as that if I had all my spending money at once, I'd probably blow it all at once, so divided it up into 4 envelopes of roughly 400-500 bucks a day and needed to hide it somewhere safe, so we got a security box, I don't know why they don't have in-room safes but the Camp Safe Teller guy was a hoot and always a laugh to talk to. Straight away we joined the slot club and had an unsuccessful pull on the fixed sorry I mean the Free Slot, strange that you have to buy the bouncy cords that affix to your cards, seeing as that many other Casino's give them away free, still we got a few now J
Then on to play some slots, I had pretty much come to an agreement that when Lisa was with me I'd play slots (she hates cards/dice) with her and in the Evening 11-midnight or so, she'd go to bed and I'd play cards or Craps, quite a good arrangement me thinks.
We went and played a few slots but settled at some 'Big Times Pay' 25c, played didn't really hit anything at all, but a guy who was slot wandering i.e. 3 coins in one machine and 3 in another here and there, did. He stood 2 machines away, and wasn't really looking at what he was doing but I sat dumbstruck when THREE x Big Times Pay landed smack on the payline. Flashing lights followed by this very confused guy saying.....'Have I won'...'Err yep'...'Cool how much is that'? ......'Oh just a mere $1500' I told him....He spluttered!! (Also I noticed he didn't tip the payout girl) Then he moaned about all the Tax he'd have to pay, I felt like saying let me worry about it and give me some :)
We felt peckish and went for a bite or two at the Pharaoh's Feast, not a bad Buffet at all, left very stuffed. Spent the rest of the evening playing slots but no big cashouts at all, we started to feel the slots in The Lux were tight despite our witnessing the guy hit the JP on BTP!! Lisa went to bed about 11 or so and I went back down to play Caribbean stud, I know the odds aren't good but I enjoy playing and my money always seems to last a lot longer. Our table every night from 11pm to about 3am seemed to be a haven for Brits on vacation, occasionally visited by am American or two for a while, we all had a great laugh. One thing I did notice, that most of the Croupiers at The Lux looked like stuffed dolls or corpses that had had embalming fluid on, all their faces looks plastic-y and the same. They had dead personalities to match, humour was obviously not a requirement on the CV resume. Off to bed, down in $ but content.
Monday 26 April
I woke next morning far too early, as body still on East Coast time. So at 5am with Lisa still asleep I headed down again. Played a lot and won nothing but had fun, which counts for a lot, if you don't enjoy it don't do it! Had breakfast and set out on foot for The Strip.
First casino Excalibur, we found the slots much more favourable to us there and had a $160 cashout on Yahtzee, played a few 5c slots for novelty value but playing 4000 lines and upto 30,000 coins per line or something, I had no idea what I was doing, and with such silly amounts as nickels I had no idea whether I was winning or losing.
Went outside and crossed the road and headed past MGM and did a bit of tacky souvenir shopping, in which we bought some silly lucky trinkets, but strangely they seem to work, though we didn't win big during our stay we won and lost so the money went a lot further than it did on the first night in the Lux and kept us going without having to dip into other funds. Carried on up the Strip and played in Aladdin, lovely Casino, then to Paris where I cashed out $187 on Five Times Pay. Headed into Barbary Coast had a Free Hot Dog and Free beer (Coupons) then got ripped off in a Taxi. He was waiting just outside the BC, I really didn't take much notice of the $5 on the meter when we jumped in it, but have since been told by other cabbies in LV that the Max is $3 they put on the meter, so was conned, maybe just $2 but if he did that 10 or 20 times a day it's a fair pay off!!!!.
Back to the room and changed ready for our Heli tour of the strip with Heli USA. We got a good discount as Lisa is a Travel Agent but boy were we in for a disappointment.
The heli tour pick up took us directly to the Heli USA offices where we waited and waited after drinking some very cheap fizzy wine, we had a Safety lecture then went back and waited then we were slowly called couple by couple to the waiting shuttle buses. We were almost last, and then we were made to wait ages before we were allowed out of the bus ready to wait for our helicopter. By this time 2 hours had elapsed from being picked up at the Luxor and we hadn't even been 2 foot off the ground. I had been timing the other Choppers and they were taking just 8 and a half to nine minutes!!! Total time was 3 hours to fly for 9mins! We were made to wait again then we were ushered to the back right seats. IF YOU ARE DIRECTED TO THESE SEATS INSIST YOU FLY ANOTHER HELICOPTER, YOU WILL NOT SEE ANYTHING!!! You are seated behind the pilot so he blocks your view, then you fly up the strip so all the strip is on the left so you see nothing but suburbs, then its turns at downtown........and you guessed it flies down the strip with all the views still on the left, it crossed the strip at Excalibur so we never saw it there either. A total disappointment other couples said the same who had the back right seats, that their view was severely impaired. To the contrary if you get the front seats the trip is worth double!!!! I even couldn't believe it when the Helicopter Pilot plied for a Tip afterwards, what cheek a pilot probably earns 3 or 4 times what I get, it's hardly table waiting, so needless to say he got Jack S***.
Back to the Luxor, with Lisa in bed I played Poker until the early hours and drank lots of Comp Beers and slowly forgot about my Heli trip experience.
Tuesday 27 April.
Despite going to bed at 2 or 3 am we got up at 8.30 and took a Taxi out to Alamo to pick up our car. I had decided on a premium vehicle as a treat and got a reasonable rate pre-booking in the UK through Expedia. Again we were taken for a ride as the guy told us fuel was included and rushed me to sign the consent forms, I said I want to read it thanks, he said it's just the usual so I took his word for it. Little did I realise until I got my Credit card bill back in the UK, that he had made me sign for a Tank of Gas everyday, so that was a full cost fuel charge times 2 even though we only did 100 miles in the car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
$40, yeah right, never again!
We headed out of LV and drove to Green Valley Resort as we had heard good reports about the Casino and its' Buffets. We signed for the slot club and got a 2 for 1 buffet coupon which we went straight away and had a huge breakfast, it was VERY GOOD, with copious amounts of hot tea being supplied by our waitress. Highly recommended.
Found a good looking $1 Five Times Double Pay after losing on - Wheel------Of----Fort---unnnnnnneeeee. Within several goes we got mixed sevens times 5! A nice cashout of $400, that was what our budget was for the whole day and now we had doubled that, yippee. Hardly a jackpot but it was to us at this point, with Lisa never having won or seen me win anything big before. We played a bit more then jumped back in our hire car, which incidentally was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a very strange shape but full of toys and gadgets and comfy to drive.
We drove to Red Rock Canyon and spent and enjoyable afternoon driving around soaking up the desert atmosphere and stunning views. We then drove back into town at the North end of the Strip and went to play in Circus Circus. After tripping over some brats we found our way onto the floor and played a few slots. Hit a Treble Bar with Two Big Times Pay, hit the 5 on the spin and cashed out $200. But soon Slots O' Fun, Westward Ho and Riviera had eaten most of it back. Drove back to The Lux and did something I had always wanted to try but never did before, Valet parking, wow, how easy and fast, never gonna park my own car again in Vegas and all for a buck or two. Brits you got to try it, it's not really in our nature to let others park our cars but it so simple and cuts out all the walking through dodgy car parks!
Later that evening we drove back to Aladdin and had the Buffet, no description is needed as we all know it's the BEST. We then walked through to The Bellagio we stood and watched the Fountain show, WOW, it was fantastic, what with Frank belting out Luck be a Lady at high volume and with the water it fair made the hairs on my neck stand up. We went in to the Bellagio and immediately felt out of place, rather like Jack felt when he went for dinner with the posh folk in Titanic after being in Steerage. We saw some World Poker tour winner who was playing Blackjack, he had a bit of a crowd round him, so I nosed through the crowd and glanced at his chips, I thought I saw 100. I remarked about this to a guy standing next to me as the Player had them on every space on the table, the guy said look again, to my astonishment the chips were $10,000 ones and some were doubled up. The first 'Whale' I had seen, it made me feel so insignificant I left the Bellagio, it wasn't for us. We headed back through Aladdin and back to the Lux where I played Stud until about 4am.
Wednesday 25 April
We woke up about 9am. Drove to Barbary Coast (convenient parking) and walked across into Caesars' Palace as we had to find the Virgin Holidays rep, I can't believe how big that place is and just the shopping malls are exhausting to walk through. We then headed for Harrah's and played there, in fact we found a machine that Lisa was to become rather attached to and thus played every time she ever found one afterwards. Triple Double Diamond deluxe with Cheese!!!! A fun machine, on which we won $193 over in the Monte Carlo later that afternoon. It was quite fun too, to snack on Mc Donald's Burgers whilst looking over a Casino floor!
Then we headed to Tropicana (that place just doesn't do it for me, seems like a really cheap and cheerful place rather like some Motel in Kissimmee in Florida) their coupon offers are very misleading and you have to play $$$$$ to get the freebies and not like they make them sound with free show tix and tee shirts, yeah right, think not. We didn't stay there long so went across the road, a real contrast, MGM. The atmosphere in there is kinda strange, but enjoyable.
That evening we walked thorough to the 'Montecito Resort & Casino' ....Oops I mean The Mandalay Bay, very quickly blew $100 on Roulette whilst Lisa played Triple Double Diamond Deluxe wth Cheese, I just wanted to leave, the place has this sterile atmosphere that's too spaced out, rather akin to a hospital ward than a Casino :( We headed via tram and dinner in the Lux to Excalibur played a bit and then back to leave Lisa in the room whilst I played Craps and Stud until the early hours.
Not so much luck, but I spent what I went out there with to spend, won some lost some, just no big Jackpots this time (7 years ago I won $4500 in bits & bobs)
Thursday 29 April
Up at 6.30 am, checked out, and paid my Bill, despite the night before asking the Pit boss to comp my buffets as I played Stud most nights with my card behind the table for hours on end, to no avail. I am not one for being backwards in coming forwards and found getting all the comps and freebies that others go on about almost impossible to get. I put it down to the fact that the folk getting rooms, buffets and hotel bills cared for are spending thousands of Dollars and are being economical with the truth. We dropped the car back at Alamo, no queues (lines) then on the shuttle bus to Mc Carran, Check-in and security, no queues, so uneventful until we boarded the plane. We were heading for Orlando via Phoenix, the weather had changed and it was extremely windy, we could see the various aircraft landing being buffeted about all over the place. I rather crazily had a Burger King breakfast, it was quite greasy and as soon as we took off immediately it filled me with gas that just wouldn't go away I felt my tummy was going to explode. I spent five hours and two flights in absolute agony and only felt better driving away from Orlando Airport!! The flights too were a nightmare due to the high winds, huge free fall drops in the turbulence and the pilots taking avoiding action miles around a storm over Texas or a nearby State. All in all leaving Vegas was a miserable day.
Luxor, Cool Hotel and would stay again
Luxor slots were tight as were the comps.
Aladdin Buffet was all it was cracked up to be.
Heli USA tour disappointing if in the Rear Right seats, but fabulous if up front.
Las Vegas-City of Lights, Fan-bloody-tastic. I'll be back soon despite the 11 hour flight from the UK.
Thanks for reading.