January 19th, Friday
We arrived in Las Vegas just a little after 8:00 in the morning via Southwest. Bumpy ride for a nervous flier but all went well from checking in our luggage to grabbing it off the carousel and dashing to the taxi stand where there was no line. We normally just take carry-on, but no way can two women stuff all their 'products' into 3 oz containers and two Ziploc bags....guarantee you a man came up with that one.
Got to the MGM Grand in short order. Didn't check-in at the airport as the check-in desk doesn't open until 9am. Check-in at the MGM went quickly and smoothly. Clerk was very nice. Room wasn't ready yet, so we left our luggage with the bell desk. When we checked in we were assigned a room and handed card keys, but no room number for obvious reasons. No reason to give someone's auntie Mable a heart attack by walking in while she's swinging from the curtain rods. The front desk gives you a number to call from the courtesy phone to check on your room status. Once your room is ready you'll be given the room number. Our room was ready well before the 3pm check in. Around noon as I recall. Once we called down for our luggage the bell man had it upstairs in about five minutes.
Our stay at MGM was a three night comp offer with some Free Play. We asked for a room on a high floor and not in the West Wing (I'd just as soon not brush my teeth with my arse hanging out in the hallway). No problem. We were given both. Room was very nice. Fabulously comfortable bed. Big room, big bathroom. No complaints whatsoever. Well okay, we were treated to the sounds emanating from the room next door. Sound travels quite freely through the doors between the rooms. After being awakened around 3am on our first night there, we thought maybe we should smoke a cigarette and send flowers next door.
After leaving our luggage with the bellman our first stop was Ellis Island. We bought a day pass for the monorail which has a station right there at MGM. Day pass is $15 per person. Rode the rail down to Bally's and walked over to EI on Koval. We signed up for EI players cards. CC, the players desk lady, told us in her gravelly voice that in 24 to 48 hours we'd be given $5 on our account that could go toward a food bill. In CC's defense, there's no way you could work at Ellis Island and not have a gravelly voice. The ceiling is about a foot off the top of your head and it's a wee bit smoky in there. Everybody in the place is either smoking or has an oxygen tank hanging from their walker, or both. We also got two used decks of Ellis Island playing cards. Sweeeet.
I loved the place. Something quaint about it. And comfortable. After reading someone's post that it and The Restaurant are dirty, I inspected the place. I'm happy to report it is not dirty. It's worn and dated, but not dirty. No surface was sticky nor had any kind of residue. No dirt in the grout lines between the tile. All bottles, salt shakers, etc were clean. The clear plastic container with jelly stacked in it was clean. Just outside the kitchen door was a folding chrome stand with one of those black plastic pans for dirty dishes. Even it was clean. Bathroom was spotless. I'm telling you folks, while it may not appeal to fine dining aficionados, the place was just fine. And the food was solidly good. As was the $1.50 beer, one of their microbrew stouts. I recommend EI without reservation. Hey looky there, a restaurant pun. As for the walk between Bally's and EI, I don't think I'd feel comfortable making it after dark, but no problem during the day, just don't make eye contact with anyone on the street. On the way back to the monorail station, we stopped at the corner store right there by EI for some bottled water.
After eating we played a bit at EI and then walked back to Bally's. Played there, hopped back on the monorail and rode it down to the LV Hilton and the Sahara. Gambling for us generally involves either slot machines or video poker and we happily give our money away to any and all varieties although neither of us is too crazy about those cartoon video slot things. I never have the slightest idea of what's going on or why I won. They seem to be having a good time without benefit of my participation. I think it's quite funny that you bet 75 coins, 'win' 20 and the machine is having a party for you. And if you don't pay attention you can wager a gazillion dollars on a penny machine with one innocent push of a button. Nah, I like the reel machines. Call me old fashioned.
After our visit to the north end of the strip, it was back to the hotel (via monorail) to get in the room, shower and head down to Paris (again via monorail) for the dinner buffet. Got there early and didn't have to wait in line. We'd eaten the Paris champagne brunch a couple of times, but not the dinner buffet. It was very good with an excellent assortment of food. Enjoyed everything. For those who want details, there was lots of food, it was all good. How's that? Sorry, my memory just isn't what it used to be. I do remember there was a berry-filled crepe involved that was delish. And my glass of wine was good. That was extra. I paid the waitress the ten bucks or whatever it was.
My memory is fuzzy here (you'll be reading that a lot), but I think we then played at Paris a little and maybe at Aladdin and then walked back to MGM and played a bit before making an early night of it. Bedtime was probably 10ish, which is midnight back home. We'd been up since 3am.
January 20th, Saturday
Woke up at 3:37 to wild monkey sex next door. I think the gentleman kept hitting the bonus spin button. It was about time for us to get up anyway. I went down to Starbucks in the casino which is open 24 hours. A very important feature of the MGM for me. Got our coffee and returned to the room. We had coffee, chatted, showered and dressed.
Hopped back on the monorail (we still had a little time on our 24 hour pass) and rode down to Bally's or Harrah's (can't remember which) and crossed the street to the Mirage. On Saturday and Sunday the champagne brunch starts at 8am versus 11am at most hotels. This makes us happy as we are early risers and like to jump right into the day. Other than crepes and dessert, I'd say the Mirage champagne brunch is on par with that at Paris. You get a full breakfast spread and other stuff....crab legs, shrimp, Chinese food, breakfast pizza, carved meat, etc. All the food was very good. While I'm not the biggest fan of the desserts at Mirage's buffet, their gelato is excellent. We had the cantaloupe, coconut, chocolate and pistachio. Drank water, coffee, orange juice and champagne. Rolled out of the buffet well-hydrated and stuffed to capacity.
After breakfast we gambled a bit at the Mirage, had a couple of cocktails, rode the tram to Treasure Island, played a bit there, then walked over to the Fashion Mall, looked around, then walked across to Wynn, played a bit there, then walked and played our way back to MGM, a long danged way. Grabbed some coffee and took it up to the room. Freshened up and went over to NYNY and played a bit. Walked around looking for a place to eat. Settled on dinner at the bar at Gonzales Y Gonzales. No wait. Being from Texas, we have high standards for good Tex Mex or even actual and in fact Mexican food. GyG was solidly okay. Service was a little slow, but hey it's Vegas on a Saturday night. Had a couple of Tecates with dinner.
Let me interject here that the most important thing you can pack for Vegas is a good attitude. Relax folks. You're in fabulous Las Vegas. I don't know what other people do in Vegas, nor do I particularly care (that's their bidness), but we go to Las Vegas for one reason...have fun.
I can't remember what else we did, but we went to bed early as is our custom. We are not ultra lounge people. Nothing wrong with ultra lounge people, we aren't them. I don't understand someplace that opens at midnight. Unless they don't mind us showing up in jammies with sticky up hair and a pillow.
Jan 21st, Sunday
Up early. Dressed in sweats and went downstairs for coffee and gambling. We loved playing the Elvis machine. When you get a bonus a little video clip of Elvis plays on a screen. After coffee we had a couple of morning cocktails...bloody marys or white russians made with Absolute. we've never had a problem ordering a drink with premium liquor but we always tip well. Always. ($4 to $5 per two drinks) Anyone who stiffs a CW is a boor and just an all around rotten human being. Okay, got that out of my system. LOL. Those women work hard and put up with a lot of nonsense. And they have to wear silly clothes. We should pay them well.
By the way, we have figured out that the Russian bride business must be really suffering because all the Russian women are now cocktailing in Vegas. And they are all lovely, sweet people. Truly. Great service.
Oh yeah, we took someone's suggestion on the LV Talk board and took a stack of two dollar bills with us for tips. Tipped a two dollar bill for every drink we ordered and they were a big hit. Hey, whatever keeps the cocktail waitresses happy keeps us happy too. Happy to do it. It's still cheap drinks for us and a little money for them. The only win/win in Vegas. LOL.
After our morning session it was up to the room to shower, dress and head off to breakfast again at the Mirage buffet. Took a cab. Sunday's champagne brunch was just like Saturday's. We were there early, so no line. Whenever we've eaten the Paris champagne brunch we've had to stand in line no less than 45 minutes.
Ate brunch, drank champagne and then walked down to the shops at Caesar's. Saw Pete Rose signing autographs in a shop. Anyone else see the irony in Pete Rose being an icon in Vegas? Then walked down a bit to the creepy and kind of weird moving statue show there in the middle of the mall. Unless something truly spectacular happened after we left I don't get the attraction. Does one of them eventually pee in the fountain or something?
Then made our way to the Caesar's casino. This may have been where I played rapid roulette for a few minutes. I just wanted to try it. It was fun. The Saints/Bears ballgame was on by this time. I cashed out down or up a little bit (can't remember which) and we exchanged the chips for real money. First we had to figure out which line to stand in at the cashier....are we diamond, platinum or just plain old folks? Plain old...excellent. Give me my plain old money. This Harrah's thing is not appealing to me. Actually saw a woman waiting in the platinum line when there was no wait in the just plain old folks line. Odd. But maybe there's something I don't know about.
After Caesar's we walked back to MGM and went up to the room to watch the end of the ballgame. Not many seats to be had at any bar along the way. We did stop and have a couple $1 Michelobs at Casino Royale. They taste just as good as the $5 variety.
Now normally the only reservations we have in Las Vegas are for the hotel room and the plane ride home. However, this time we made reservations for Emeril's (since it was right there in the MGM) and at Mon Ami Gabi (wanted to try the steak and butter and mound of fried taters). Neither ended up being necessary since we don't usually eat at prime dining times. I booked them through the Open Table site.
We had 6pm reservations for Emeril's. I had asked to be seated at the bar. We prefer the more casual, comfortable and less fussy atmosphere at a bar. So we went down and played some before dinner, walked over and admired the lions in the lion habitat (by the time we left I had the lion spiel memorized) then walked down to Emeril's at about 5:30 or so. Told the hostess we had 6pm reservations. She looked a little bemused when she said, 'your reservations show you requested seating at the bar.' 'Yes maam, we did.' LOL. The restaurant was probably 80% empty at that point. We sat up at the bar. Just FYI, the front half of the bar has a wooden top and the back half a granite top. Very pretty restaurant. People were nice, particularly the bartender who waited on us. Personable. Attentive without being annoying. Not pretentious. I can tell you that the attire of the clientele varied from jeans and a t-shirt to sparkly clothes.
The food at Emeril's was very good. I had the onion soup appetizer. For an entrée I had the pork chops and sweet potatoes. She had the pecan-crusted Texas redfish. For dessert we split the banana cream pie. It was all very good. We also had two very dirty martinis and were pleased when we asked for Tito's vodka and they had it. Tito's is distilled in Austin, Texas. Good stuff. After the martini, I asked the bartender to recommend a red wine by the glass. Something not too dry but full-bodied. He recommended a very nice Chapellett Meritage that didn't cost $50 a glass. See? Nice guy. All in all a very good meal.
Seems to me that if you're not eating at prime dinner hours (maybe 7pm to 9pm) you should be able to get a table or a seat at the bar. I never saw a queue outside the restaurant while we were there.
I think we gave away more money after that and went on to the room. There was a moment of panic when we read the notice the hotel management left behind. Due to emergency maintenance (or something like that) on the water system, water supply to the hotel would be interrupted between the hours of 11:30pm and 5:30am. WHAT!!?!! Okay, that's not good. Really. Not good. We considered our options in the event of our own water emergencies. There was a fountain downstairs. And that river thing out back. LOL. We managed to survive the night and, as promised, the water was back on at 5:20am. I know, because I was checking it every few minutes from about 4:30 on.
Jan 22nd, Monday
Due to the lack of water, we slept a little later than usual. By 6am though, we were downstairs for coffee, cocktails and Elvis. We were moving over to NYNY for our last night (comped). Requested and received a 1pm late checkout. So off we went to Ellis Island for breakfast. Took a taxi. The ride was well worth the few bucks as our driver was a sort of hippie zen guy who regaled us with his Vegas wisdom and then turned into the EI parking lot on two wheels with the front bumper mere inches from the wall he nearly ran us into. Ever wondered what it would be like to get a taxi driver with a death wish? We now know. While we were rearranging ourselves in the backseat he said something about the driver behind us. We crawled out of the taxi and into EI, just happy to be alive. We did note he had some giant sized cans of tea in his center console. Maybe hippie man needs more meditation and less caffeine. He did tell us some interesting stories about folks he's come across in Vegas. People who gambled away all their money and couldn't get home. And he left us with a funny Vegas phrase...?from vacation to probation.?
Okay, so back to EI. Breakfast was the steak breakfast special for me and the steak dinner special for her. With two coffees the total came to 97 cents after our $5 a piece players card credit. Food again was quite good. The breakfast special was a NY strip steak, eggs, potatoes and toast for $3.49. Unbelievable.
Stayed and played at EI after breakfast. At 9am there was free bingo. Once bingo started, with the exception of CC calling out numbers, you could hear a pin drop in that place. Apparently bingo gets pretty heated at EI, because while CC was announcing the rules and the start of the game she admonished all....'this is a free game...let's keep it clean...? which had us wondering how one cheats at bingo. Rigged blotter? But anyway, I sat down at a $5 blackjack table (my first time ever) with a fella who looked for all the world like Mayor Ray Nagin wearing eyeliner and mascara. Hmmm. The dealers were extremely nice and helpful. I played for less than half an hour. Left up $15. And I learned a little about how to play. The first dealer explained to me why you have to use hand gestures to indicate what you want the dealer to do. It's because the camera can't hear you. With hand gestures there can be no dispute ('I said stand, but she gave me a card' kind of thing). This may be old news to all of you, but it was news to me. The dealer also told me that at 10am there was $1 blackjack.
I can't remember what happened here. LOL. I think we walked back to Bally's, played a bit and took the monorail back to the MGM. At any rate, shortly after noon we checked out of the hotel using the express checkout on the tv. Went downstairs wheeling our luggage. There was a very short taxi line. We took a cab to NYNY while the driver complained (good naturedly) the whole way. Wheeled our luggage into NYNY where there was a line at the registration desk, but not one at invited guests. Since we were there on an offer we went over to the invited guest check-in and got checked right in. Even had a room ready. Score. From one room to the other was maybe 20 minutes.
NYNY is a definite step down in hotel quality from the MGM. This is not to say it is a bad hotel. Not at all. But the quality of furnishings and finishes is nowhere near the same. Still, it was free so we weren't complaining.
From NYNY we went over to Paris for lunch at Mon Ami Gabi. We actually had reservations (through Open Table again) for 7pm, but decided to have lunch there instead. We arrived sometime close to 1:00. We were told there would be a 30 minute wait and handed one of those blue blinking things. I asked how far we could roam with it and she said not beyond the white bridge and not outside. Initially we tried to find a seat at the bar, but just missed the last two available bar stools. The restaurant wasn't full inside, but half the restaurant wasn't open. I guess they open that part up for dinner only.
So we took our blue blinking thing and went into the casino to throw away money until it was time to eat. We speculated that the machines near the restaurant are big money makers as they have us trapped. About the time the cocktail waitress brought us our drinks the blue thing went off. Let that be a lesson to you...if you want your table ready in a hurry, order a drink that you'll have to suck down or leave behind.
Lunch was quite good. We each had the onion soup with an inch of melted cheese on top. They also brought warm bread and soft butter to the table. Don't you hate it when a restaurant serves cold bread and frozen butter? Then we ordered a shrimp and scallop crepe (her) and steak Roquefort (me). We were happy with both. No complaints. Excellent service. I had a glass of red wine. Can't for the life of me remember what it was. A syrah I think. I liked it.
When we left I did let the hostess know we wouldn't be back at 7:00 for dinner. After lunch we walked down to Barbary Coast to catch the 3 o'clock Big Elvis show. Enjoyed it as usual. When the show was over we played some 25 cent Wheel of Fortune machines. Had some other ladies, including one with a tiara (I was jealous), sit around us and we had a blast. Hollering 'big money, big money' for everyone else's spins. It was a lot of fun.
We made our way back to NYNY and eventually sat down at the rapid roulette table. Had a blast. Played for hours. We each bought in for $100 and between the two of us we left up about $20. We stopped playing close to midnight and went for a slice of pizza there in the streets of New York. Played some dollar slots and then off to bed.
Jan 23rd, Tuesday
Up at 4am to get ready to leave for the airport. Had time to go downstairs for a coffee and a little playing time. Checked out via express checkout on the tv. Then took a taxi to the airport for an uneventful flight home. Bumpy again. And I managed to drop my carry-on on my head trying to get it in the overhead bin. I can still feel the bruise on my temple. I wrestled it up to the bin and then started giggling when it wouldn't fit and that was it. Whump, right in the face. When we landed a very nice gentleman got up and offered to get the bag down for me. Said his wife made him. LOL. I thanked them both. Very sweet.
MGM Grand is a fine place to stay. It's not too big. Just learn the floor plan a bit and read the signs. Good service. Great beds. Nice rooms. Of course it helped that I was with someone who has an unfailing sense of direction...all I had to do was keep her in my sights and I'd not end up in the cloak room or parking garage.
If you're staying at the MGM the monorail is very convenient and easy to use. It was fun to ride and see the view from up there. The day pass is a good deal if you're going to use it.
Table limits at the big properties vary quite a bit with the time of day. At MGM, after about 6am there were plenty of $10 tables and I once spotted a $5 blackjack table. Over the course of four days I occasionally saw $5 craps at various properties.
Seems to me that Vegas is what you make of it. And we have an absolutely grand time.
And yep, our next trip is already scheduled.