Day 1- Our SWA flight was scvheduled to leave Baltimore @ 5:25PM and put us in LV around 7:40. Inclement weather earlier in the day backed a bunch of flights up, and as a result we left not quite and hour late. SW handled the delay very well, though... kept us fully informed, etc. Bad weather almost all the way to LV, too; a bumpy ride and strong headwinds, so no time recovered on the flight out.
Arrived @ McCarron AP about 8:30. Picked up the bags and rented a Chrysler Sebring convertable from Payless (formerly AllState Rental). I don't know how competitive their rates are (we've never rented from anyone else), but their service is fast and friendly. Put the top down and zipped off to the Strip; sliped a CD into the car stereo ("Wild, Cool & Swingin'" on Ultralounge). First track: "Ain't That A Kick in the Head" by Dino!
Arrived at the Monte Carlo for check-in. They offered us a "deal" on an upgrade to a "Monaco Suite." We took the deal, although it wasn't REALLY a suite... it was a HUGE single room with a bathroom AND a "powder room." More details on the Monte Carlo itself at the end of this trip report.
Took a few minutes to join the slots club and then went to the brewpub for a late snack and a beer, heard a pretty good "cover" band (called "Real Surreal") and then gambled for a while. Just so you'll know, when I say "gambled" I mean slots and video poker... my wife and I are NOT high rollers, but we do find slots and video poker a lot of fun!
Then off to bed (long day, what with the delayed flight and all).
Day 2- Slept in (a little) and then headed for the Mandlay Bay and had a look at the new Shark Reef exhibit ($12 a person for adults). It was VERY well done and pretty cool. A perfect example of the non-gaming entertainment to be found in LV. Had a good lunch at the new Border Grill in Mandalay Bay, too (the Border Grill is run by the "Two Hot Tamales" from the Food Network). Also had two of the best frozen Margueritas I've EVER had.
Back to the MC for more slots & video poker.
For dinner we went to the Top of the World restaurant at the Stratosphere. Folks, I gotta tell ya, this is one of the most UNDERRATED restaurants in LV. We had read on various message boards and travel guides that the food is mediocre and overpriced... nothing could be further from the truth. During our first trip to LV in April 1999, we ate at Charlie Parker's Aureole (Mandalay Bay), Circo and Olives (Bellagio) and Emeril Lagasse's Fish House (MGM Grand), and the meal we got at the Strat was every bit as good as ANY of those. And the prices were right in line with a first-class restaurant.
I had been checking various sources for the week before we left to see what time the sun was setting in LV (around 8PM) and made dinner reservations accordingly. We sat down at our table (right against the windows!) at 7:30. We got to see the sun set behind the mountains, the purple sunset fade and the lights come up in the desert (not to mention on the Strip!). It was AWESOME!! After dinner we went up to the observation deck and spent an hour just gawking like touristas!
Then... you guessed it... back to the Monte Carlo for more slots & video poker!
Day 3- Up a little earlier today. Spent the morning checking out the Venetian and Paris (which had opened since our last visit). Of the two, we were more impressed by the Venetian... wonderful shops and a beautiful casino. In fact, we liked the casino so much we spent a few hours there (you guessed it: slots and video poker!).
Then on to what HAD to be one of the best deals in LV: the new Lion Habitat in the MGM Grand. Unbeleivable! RIGHT IN THE CASINO they have a plexiglass lion habitat ste up so that YOU walk through the habitat and the lions get to look at YOU! Of course, you get to look at then, too! Amazing to see these huge juvenile lions playing just like house cats. We spent over an HOUR watching these big boys. And the best part?? The whole thing is free!
We had a late lunch at the MC brewpub, and then more S&VP in the casino.
That evening, we went to the Sahara to see "The Rat Pack is Back." Folks, I can't stress this enough... if you're going to be in LV before August 19 (when the Sahara is kicking them out in favor of yet another magician... I mean really, aren't there ENOUGH magicians on the strip?) YOU MUST GO SEE THIS SHOW. I guarantee you won't be disappointed! It was wonderful, fabulous, an absolute Wayback Machine to the "old" Las Vegas. Really, GO!
The Sahara itself was interesting, too. She's looking a little long in the tooth, but a real architectural gem from the Golden Age of LV (before the days of the mega-resorts).
Back to the Monte Carlo for a last bit of gaming, and then "early" to bed (for our 9:10AM flight back the next day).
Day 4- No time for much other than packing, turning in the rental car and lining up for the plane. Weather was great, flight left on time, and we picked up a tailwind that got us home almost 45 minutes early!
Now, some details about the Monte Carlo. Prior to the trip we had read on some message boards and other sites that the MC had some noise problems, and that there weren't quite as many kids/families as you might find at some of the other large resorts. Our verdict: sorta yes and sorta no.
Our room was right next to the elevators on the twelfth floor. I thought this would be a problem, but it turnrd out not to be. We didn't hear the elevator ONCE, nor did we hear anyone traipsing up and down the hallways. HOWEVER... we DID hear the plumbing BIG TIME. It seemed like every time a toilet, faucet or shower anywhere in the hotel was in use, we could hear it. And, while we couls her a LITTLE bit of noise from the guests in the next room, overall it wasn't that bad.
As far as kids/families, the MC was crawling with them. Maybe because it was the height of "vacation" season, maybe because the MC has some of the more reasonable room rates for the newer mega-resorts. But just so you'll know, there were a LOT more kids.families than I expected.
Now, on the PLUS side, the MC is one of the most logically-configured hotel/casinos on the Strip. There is absolutely no reason to valet park your car; the garage is HUGE and VERY close to the front desk entrance of the hotel. The brewpub alone is also worth staying there for; great (bar)food, terriffic beer and reasonable prices. AND, the MC also has a great food court; if you just want a quick bagel, burger, pizza or hot dog without the rigamarole of a sit-down meal, it's perfect.
In the casino, I SWEAR that the cocktail waitress came by for drink orders every 30 seconds! And overall, each member of the MC staff was super-friendly and accomodating.
BUT... we had a BIG problem with the slot and video poker machines. Most of them refused to take any of our folding money, and we had to end up getting rolls of coins from the cashier. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but we like to play on credits instead of handling a pile of dirty coins.
Overall, though, the good outweighed the bad and the MC was a nice experience. I think I'll try the Bellagio next time, though!
Tarrbaby <david,email@example.com> - Baltimore,MD