Annual family trip with spouse, parents, in-laws, siblings, friends- the whole gang. We love coming Christmas weeks because the town (and airports) are extra empty. We usually leave for home Christmas day a great day to travel.

Family loves the Canyon ranch spa so we stay at the Palazzo. Upgraded to a very comfortable Sienna (like the Prima on the Venetian side) which is about 1400 sq.ft. with one side all bedroom and huge double sized washroom, and the other side (through a door) all sitting room and guest bathroom. We were comped for 4 days and were set to pay for the rest so we decided to stay with concierge floor access. Great help, lovely service and extras but we don't drink a lot so the $100 charge per room per day is not worth it to us. But we were comped for most days so we took it- they also have a great computer room with 5 or 6 terminals and a colour printer.

Was able to get the rest of the family in to the Palazzo for $129 which I was happy with given the not generous discounts this season from the Palazzo.

Lots of non-stops from Toronto and everyone got in ok on their various flights. Put my sister up at the Vdara for two nights (including the Dec. 16th night opening of Aria) and they have a lot of work to do still. No real coffee stand or tuck shop. Lights in the suite with switches across the room from the lights. Checkin in confusion. She loved the property but lots of growing pains.

We had tickets to the 2nd public paying performance of VIVA ELVIS at Aria on Saturday. There were 8 of us in total in groups of 4-2-2 and we generally LOVE the Cirque product (Except for Chris Angel!). We saw early previews of Ka. We remember seing Mystere in a Tent before it opened years ago at TI. We saw LOVE during it's first month and every lived through the famous tech delays. And we love O over and over again. And have seen LOVE several times. We did NOT enjoy Viva Elvis at all- no emotional connection to the story or material. There were a few nice moments but not an emotional or dramatic experience for us. Great music of course but you expect more from Cirque and for $100 or more. Need s a lot of work. Not one of our family young or old would recommend it to their friends.
We had one pair of tickets available because of a family no-show but the box office said they would not give us an exchange even though we booked them on the official web site. We quietly sold them to some Aussie travellers looking for tickets even though the house was only 2/3 full.... We gave them a great price and were happy to get something back.

Played a bit at Aria and although it is new and fancy and stylish is is way too dark for my liking. Dark walls, small pools of light, dark low ceilings, dark carpets.... all too dark and I felt claustrophobic. Unusual casino layout didn't seem inviting or friendly even after playing there and walking around for an hour. Won't go back even for a comp room.

Palazzo offered us the free room for 4 days and a generous slot/ table play credit and it was fun. Their video poker payouts are C+/ B- but are fantastic compared to their terrible video keno payout tables. Did enjoy some of the bonus VP machines like Ultimate and Double pay and just plain old 5 row and 10 row quarters and halves. Played some Crazy 4 poker and Pai Gow poker and won a bit on Pai Gow and on $15 craps. Overall lost a bit but enjoyed the stay. EXCEPT ON SUNDAY EVENING WHEN THEIR ENTIRE COMPUTER SYSTEM WENT DOWN. On the casino floor from about 8pm on, all telephones were dead, all slot machines locked if you hit cash out (they still worked if you played them but no rating) all pit rating computers, all tv screens, all air conditioning, all house music, all cash ATM machines- everything was down until after 1am... Overworked floor staff were giving out hand pays to any cashout but people were waiting hours for any cash out. And it all locked up again the following night at midnight. Everyone was polite and doing their best but it was a terrible experience. Cell phones were also down because I was told the hotel runs the cell repeaters in the hotel and they were affected also. It took three notes and complaining to get an adjustment to my hotel bill even though they were charging a resort fee for local phone service and high speed access that wasn't even working at any price.

One of the secret best reasons to stay at the Palazzo (not the Venetian) if you are travelling with people who cannot walk long distances is the parking. If you are careful about where you park, you can go down to P4 and always park RIGHT BESIDE the parking elevator that takes you right next to the room elevator. My parents didn't have more than 35 steps from the car to their room- amazing for a hotel of 4000 rooms.

We also booked at Bally's with our excellent host Jerry there, because we had a shopping certificate at Caesars to use. He upgraded us to a gorgeous Celebrity Suite which we used to host a dinner party for our extended family and friends group of 18. Most brought take-out food from the Burger Brasserie between Paris and Bally's and it was great. At Bally's on Monday I drew four to the royal on 10 row Double double video poker quarters on the bottom and hit the royal twice! Then on the same machine I hit another royal 7 hands later. Extraordinary. I went over to the $5 Ultimate Texas Holdem table game in the party pit and bought in with $200. I bet 10-10-10 and hit a straight flush on the first hand. I am not exaggerating when I say I hit a bonus hand 6 out of the next 7 hands. Most unusual. I kept adding a nickle to my bet and was betting for the dealer a couple of bucks. The single best run of my life. Lost two hands and then cashed out for $3200. Considering the buy in and bet size this was amazing for me. We had four family members that had not seen Jubilee so I grabbed 4 VIP half price tickets for them on my Harrah's points and treated them. A very fun night. Bally's is old and reliable and I like the lounge music and the large rooms and although it could use a make-over it is like a comfortable slipper and we keep going back.

We had a great family dinner at Joe's Stone Crab in the Caesars Mall. And another group dinner at the Palm. And many of our lunches at Grande lux which never disappoints.

Some of the rooms on some floor of the Palazzo have extra vents that I think are designed to help balance air pressure in the hotel or hallways or something. These are vents NOT connected to the heat/ac system and air seems to rush out of them most hours of the day or night. It is actually quite loud and there are lots of complaints. there extra vents seem to be in some rooms but not all rooms. In some rooms you can lean a pillow on the ledge over the closet to cover the sound. If not, the trick I learned this year was to pop down to Walgreens (underneath the Palazzo) and buy a $2.49 room of clear shipping tape and just secretly tape over the vent. Silence and a good night's sleep- finally.

Will be back in a month or two.
A fun relaxing family trip.

Best: being with family and just having fun. Also a great run at Bally's
Worst: paying too much for Viva Elvis not ready for the public yet, a too dark and cramped Aria casino and master computer meltdowns at Palazzo for hours at a time