Flight out of Memphis was on a regional jet - very tight space inside. We were crammed in like sardines on both legs of my trip, with a three hour layover sandwiched in between. I did catch some pretty good food at Fridays at DFW, and enjoyed the people-watching. American was looking for volunteers to bump for $300 travel voucher and guaranteed seats on the 5 pm flight, but there was no way I was going to be one of them!! Flight was pretty smooth; only turbulence was on the descent to LV - something about the heat?
Dropped the obligatory 3 quarters into a triple diamond machine and headed down to claim bags. Grabbed them and headed out Door 5; bought my token and waited to board the LVL. Driver was waiting for a full load. When he got it we headed out, with all passengers in a partying mood - lots of good karma to start the trip! San Remo, MGM, and then me @ Bellagio. Little did I know at the time that one of the party maniacs was Julie, who I would officially meet at the LV Talk board "meet" on Tuesday.
Stepping out of the limo, I tip the driver who bundles my bags for me and I glance around. What? No valet? OK. Drag my bags to the entrance. No door man? Hmmmm. Head into the lobby and no line at check-in. Well, that's one "no" that I can appreciate. Step up to the counter, present my player's card. She pulls up my reservation. Explaining that this trip is a birthday present from my husband and that it would mean a great deal to him if she could find me a complimentary "view" room, she returns to her monitor. Comes back with a fountain view in a smoking room or a pool view in a non-smoking room. I thank her and opt for the pool view. So, I take my key (yes, real keys) and turn to head off to the guest elevators. Glance around, and....you guessed it - no bellhop. Surprising for a place of this stature to not have sufficient service staff. Drug my luggage through the casino (lousy set up) and onto the elevator. Trek the mile down the hallway to my pool view room.
Entering I notice that the bed was already turned down (6 pm). Room's clean. Bath is large - nice deep tub. Plenty of towels, lotions & soaps. No odors. But what's this? A big black "smudge" on the ceiling, like someone has skidded on the ceiling. Wouldn't take much to paint over that eyesore. Ick. Open drapes. Oh yeah. Nice view!! Let's see: there's the conservatory roof, a parking lot, the tram rail, and the interstate. Oh I almost forgot - a corner of one of the pools and a half of another. But that's only if you are standing on tip-toes, because the bottom half of the window is obstructed by the decorative balcony railing that rings the outside of the building (9th floor)
OK, so I unpack, settle in and head off to enter the night. First stop, one of those nickel video slots (jackpot party) while I await my first drink at the Bell. Fine White Russian - smooth, strong, oh yeah!! Refreshed, I head to the Flamingo. Want to start the trip out right with a winner. Cash in the sports bet we made last year on our way out of town - Lakers for the championship! Yes!! $200 to add to my gambling budget - what a way to start the trip. Stop at the blazing 7's by Bugsy's bar and deplete my cash by $70.
Headed out the back door and off to Batista's for supper. This was a treat! Fun place. Some of the festivity was wasted on me as a solo guest - this place would be a blast with one or more people to share it with. Chianti bottles and autographed photos of stars line the walls - fisherman's nets and bushel baskets hang from the ceiling. Candles and tablecloths on the tables. Renalto strolled from table to table playing guitar. Discovering I was sans-husband, he took the opportunity to seat himself across from me and flirt a bit. Italian accent and lovely music. And then he was gone! Food was very good, and service very attentive. Less than $20 for penne pasta, salad, bread and all you can drink wine, plus a cup of cappuccino (actually hot chocolate). Love the extra-large shot glasses they use for the wine!! As many others on the board have, I recommend this experience.
Took the less-traveled route to Bally's. Joined the slot club and schlepped the mile through the shops area to catch the tram to MGM. Another mile trek through the MGM shops and past the lion habitat (all sleeping of course). Crossed over to the Trop, joined their slot club. Received a free deck of cards and some coupons. Took the coupon for a $5 match on even odds bet over to the Roulette wheel where I lost it on red. Went outside for the pull on the slot machine (only requirement is that you be 21+), hoping for a ticket for Rick Thomas or The Comedy Stop (but I don't think the latter was an option, although there was something there for the Follies Bergere). No luck. Took my coupon for free cards and went back to the slot club. (Nice cards, what can I say?). Returned to Roulette table with second $5 coupon and this time won on red (that means I was up $5, I think). People were having a good time, and this looked like a fun casino to play in. Wished I had checked out the pool area, as I've heard many good things about it.
Walked the bridges over to the Excalibur and then over to the NYNY. This casino always makes me feel claustrophobic. It has a lively ambiance, but I don't like to stay in there too long. Had received my slot card via mail, so I played a few slots to activate it, but walked out with $20 less. Headed toward the north exit, stopping by to listen to the dueling pianos for a few minutes. These guys were good and everyone was having a great time. SRO, though, so I didn't stay. Walked the short distance to the Monte Carlo. I love the fragrance as you enter through the front doors, and the feel of the casino makes me just want to spend my money there! Elegant, but not snobby or boring. Tried many of the nickel video slots there. Won on Easy Street, but lost on Little Green Men, Wheel of Fortune, Monopoly and I Dream of Jeannie. Bought in at the Roulette wheel (double 0 - Single 0 had a minimum bet of $25 - too rich for roulette for me). Presented my card with my big bill; pit staff made their recording and returned my card. After I'd spent about 2.5-3 hours I decided to ask for a meal. The floor supervisor took my card and checked her computer. She told me that I had not accumulated any points to qualify for a meal since I was not playing $25/hand. Clarifying, I asked if that meant that the time I had given them at the table was not worth anything, and she confirmed, stating that it says on the back of my card that a minimum of $25 bet was required. Now I had the answer to the question I had posed earlier on the Board. If you don't plan to bet $25/hand, and you want any consideration for comps, stick to the slots. I wasn't expecting anything grand like comp'ed room or casino rates, but a buffet for one for 3 hours of $8-15/hand did not seem unreasonable to me. To add insult to injury, I was the only one at the table tipping the dealer, too! Left a little of my cash with the Monte Carlo and took the tram back to the Bellagio where I played some quarter Monopoly. Drink service and quality were excellent. Headed up to my room and crashed at 4 am (6 am "my time"), down about $40 for the day.
Day Two (Mon) started around 8:30 with a cup of instant coffee (brought my Poly Perk, coffee mug and coffee from home), a shower, and what would become my ritual call home to let hub know I was still alive. Walked over to Flamingo to try my luck again at the blazing sevens, stopping at the Barbary Coast to grab a breakfast sandwich from Burger King. You know - the very same Burger King that used to be that isn't anymore???? Gee where have I been? Into the Flamingo, I went back to the same group of 7's by Bugsy's bar, but tried a different machine. $27 in and BOOM! hit for $200. Decided to play through the initial $100 and 5 spins later, BOOM! another $200 hit. Decided to cash out. Of course the hopper dries up and I have to wait for a fill-up. I think the casinos react slowly to this need on purpose - when you've just won, you don't want to just SIT there. So, I started feeding the machine next to it. BIG mistake!! By time they filled my hopper and I cashed out, I was down to just $219. I felt like an idiot! But I was up for the trip, so I headed out to O'Shea's for a burger at McDonald's to celebrate! hehehe (Should I point out here that I don't eat much, and that I hate to stand in lines, and that buffets are not a good value for me? I probably should because I can just hear people saying "McDonald's? In Vegas?") I needed a quick food fix. But the line at McDonald's turned me off. Bought a slice of pizza at Jay's which took care of my need. Sat down at the roulette table (50 cent chips/$3 min), with Dale spinning. Great guy. Emma followed him, and she was a good joe, too. Had some fun playing with various other players, and finally left up $50.
Headed up the strip stopping at Harrah's for a little nickel slot play, and Casino Royale for a little sensory overload - what's with that odor anyway? Ick!!! Quarter and 50 cent roulette, but couldn't stomach the smell to sit down anywhere and, in fact, couldn't get out of there quick enough.
Next stop was the Venetian. Magnificent! This was not open yet on my last visit. The artwork was beautiful - hard to believe it is "wall paper". I joined the slot club and played a little roulette and some Little Green Men, losing at both. Spent a little time in St. Mark's Square; amused with the white "statue" who took tourists unaware when posing beside him for a picture by quickly flashing "rabbit ears" behind the unsuspecting person's head. Noticed that the paint is already peeling at the bottom of the "canal". Too bad.
Left the Venetian, making a mental note to return when I had more time, and made my way to the Desert Inn to pick up a couple of chips to stick away for my (future) grandkids to take to the Antiques Road Show. The casino was like a morgue....I don't think there were more than 10 people gambling. I joined the slot club (yes, they are still taking members)....my rationale being that perhaps Mr. Wynn might make a nice grand opening marketing offer to his DI slot members..... and headed for the roulette table. $10 minimum??? Are they kidding? Mid-day in a dead casino??? Is there little wonder why this establishment was losing money? Played a little nickel slots (losing), and walked the property back to the golf pro shop. Picked up a souvenir "divot fixer" for my hunny. This is a very gracious property. Hope Mr. Wynn can do justice in replacing it.
Crossed over to the Frontier. The gag reflex was automatic - again what is with that smell??? The western theme was a hoot. Reminded me a bit of the casino that Randy Quaid took Chevy Chase to. By this time I was getting hungry again and out on the strip I surveyed my options. Decided to walk up to the Stardust to try out Tres Lobos. Joined the slot club at which time I learned that Tres Lobos was closed on Mondays
Grabbed a taxi - very nice guy, nice car, just coming on duty with no change!! I'm sitting there with about $6 in small bills and a gold dollar, and not feeling generous enough to tip $10+ on a less than $10 ride. So, we're on our way to the Gold Coast, hopefully. Approaching the Rio, the fare is $6.40. So I ask the guy to drop me, so I can at least give him a 50 cent tip. He stops the meter and takes me on to the Gold Coast, saying he'd hate to see me crossing the streets out that way - too dangerous. Nice guy! So now I'm walking into the Gold Coast, coming from Circus Circus (those of you who have been to both places are probably following where this is going). What a contrast in colors!!! I feel like I've walked into the local senior's arena. I'm here because I read about the good T-Bone special in the Monterrey Room. I get seated and look around. I'm the youngest in the room, and can count on one hand the number of folks under 60. We're talking oxygen tanks on wheels, canes, walkers. And I had just come from the land of munchkins. What a hoot! 10 minutes later my waitress takes my order. Service was sub-par, but the food was pretty good. 16 oz T-bone cooked to order, some fried potato nuggets, a couple of nice fried onion rings, some beans (too much ketchup), a salad, fresh bread and a tall glass of beer for about $8. Good value, but wouldn't make the trip out just for the food. Fortunate for me, they also had some good FPDW which I settled into for a short while. I'm too antsy and sociable to sit at a machine for long, so I grabbed the shuttle bus (very nice, BTW) to the Barbary Coast and walked back to the Bellagio to change and freshen up for the evening.
Spent the evening at the Bellagio playing Roulette (leaving the table after a couple of hours up about $50). Found a great quarter "Top Dollar" slot machine by the entrance to the Buffet that was very kind to me. There was a lady 2 machines down from me who was also quite friendly and we both played for quite some time. Obvious escorts abound and the drinks are strong and good here. At 2 am I headed up to my room and crashed.
Day 3 (Tue):
After coffee and sugar fix, and check-in call to Hub, I showered and tackled day 3. I'm starting to realize that my ambitious plans and itinerary are going to either kill me or give me enough experiences to do a comprehensive travelogue on Vegas. Actually, I'll probably get the booby prize and be in charge of planning a family reunion for an eclectic group of relatives next summer!! First stop - the "Top Dollar" quarter slot near the buffet which had been quite good to me last night; after a $40 donation, I realized that I would be better off on the south end of the strip exploring the Caribbean and Nile. Grabbed the tram to Monte-Carlo and then walked to the Excalibur. Here, I paused to watch the procession of King Arthur and his court as they passed through the lobby, complete with jester, musicians and Merlin. What a treat! My daughter would have loved this!! I grabbed the tram to Mandalay Bay. It is an express tram that does not stop at Luxor, and apparently many who were bound for the Luxor did not realize this. At Mandalay, they disembarked and took the tram that goes to Excalibur with a stop at Luxor. I entered Mandalay Bay and immediately took in the essence of the Caribbean. I didn't notice any overpowering scent of coconut as others have mentioned, but liked the open, airy, tropical feel of the casino. It is definitely a resort that caters to the young and affluent, as evidenced by the "valley" girls and other clientele. I wandered out to the pool area, hoping to catch a glimpse or two of this wonder of wonders, but it was well secluded behind high fences and tropical greenery. However, not to be defeated, I entered the convention center where I could view parts of the pool area from windows on the second floor. Plenty of skin and crowds of people, all ages having fun in the wave pool and glimmering poolside. Satisfied that I probably wouldn't fit in here, I found the slot club and joined. Of all the slot cards I have collected the past 2 years (from 26 different casinos!), this one is the sharpest looking of the bunch - and turned out to be pretty lucky. I looked for the buffet entrance and hunted down a slot machine that I had not yet tried. Found a quarter "Boom Piggie Bankin" that was an absolute blast!!! I can still hear "It's the piggie bankin big bang game!!" dittie. Turned $20 into $60 and happily walked away singing the little tune. This turned out to be my favorite type of slot on this trip, and generally speaking, one of the loosest I found.
Stomach was rumbling since I had not yet eaten, so I headed off to find the House of Blues. It was just after 11, so the lunch menu was presented to me. Pretty limited selection, although they had a couple of specials which the waiter described - a fish dish and pork ribs as I recall. I opted for a mesquite grilled chicken breast with onion relish on an onion roll. I had to ask twice for my glass of water, and the sandwich came with the mayo I had requested be omitted. The waiter was indifferent to my missing drink and the mayo issue (and tipped accordingly). The restaurant itself was a nice haven from the hustle and bustle of the casinos. It reminded me a bit of the Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans - a patio café with a big tree in the middle, and some blues/jazz playing in the background. The food was filling, but otherwise not worthy of much mention; under $10 and I didn't have to wait to eat, so I was OK with that. But I won't go back (is that a non-recommendation or what?) On a tight schedule, I was off and running...
Next stop: Luxor. Trammed to my first encounter with the sphinx. When I entered the main area and looked up into the top of the pyramid, I instantly smiled. This place was AWESOME. The Egyptian theme was just WAY cool. Instantly fell in love with it! I wandered around gawking and smiling the whole time. Joined the slot club and tried my luck on a triple diamond near the buffet entrance (starting to sound like a pattern??). Lost my $20 and wandered off to find an inclinator to ride; alas, the guard at the inclinator was checking room keys, so that was a no-go for me. Thought I'd take a look at the casino from up above; best I could do was the escalator to the second level where all of the amusements are located. I decided to try the "Search for the Obelisk" even though it didn't get very good write-ups; at that moment, I didn't even care....I wanted to "experience" as much as I could about this "Gem of the Nile". The Obelisk adventure was a bit hokey, I admit; but if the staff hadn't been so giggly and had acted a little more seriously, I think the young children would have been more convinced. Half the fun of these things is watching the kids' reactions. At any rate, the best part of the "ride" was on the elevator down to the bottom of the shaft. Once at the bottom, of course, we were evacuated and taken out on one of the "mono-lifts", but not after an eventful chase after the bad guy. It was a pretty bumpy ride, but, even as hokey as it was, I enjoyed this as part of the "experience".
It was now 2:00 and I wanted to be sure to make it to the B/C before 3 for the meet, so I headed off, taking the walk-way to the Excalibur, then over the bridges to the Trop and MGM to catch the tram. Talk about masses of people!! Make that SLOW moving people!! And strollers! The only time I busted a sweat in Vegas was trying to get to the B/C. I arrived at...get this: 3:20!!! An hour and 20 minutes to travel from the Luxor to the B/C...with no diversions...just slow traffic!! Recognizing VG from the pictures of past meets, I (huffing and puffing) introduced myself to VG, Dusty, Mars and (surprise, surprise) Julie!! Very nice folks all, and we had a good time swapping experiences, and getting to know each other a little better. Too bad no one had a camera with them! Couldn't believe that Julie, who was in the LVL with me on arrival, was here! She and I chatted a bit after everyone else left and we walked back to the Flamingo where she was staying. We parted ways and I picked up my ticket for "Forever Plaid" - I had a $3.00 off coupon, so with tax, title, license and out the door it was $24.44. Headed back to the group of Blazing 7's and donated a big bill to the cause.
Not yet having had my roulette fix for the day, I headed to O'Sheas at about 5. Spent about 3 hours there having a great time with a myriad of folks - no one stayed any too long - I broke even and made my way back to my room to change and freshen up for the evening. My tickets were for the 10 o'clock performance, so I had time for a shower, change and a stop at the Blazing 7's before the show. This time, I hit $200 before I had played $50, so I set my loss limit to the $50 mark and walked with $250 - I've lost track of where I am for the trip, but give or take $50 about even. Feeling REALLY good about my revenge, I am in the proper mood to have some fun at the show. Forever Plaid was a thoroughly entertaining way to spend 90 minutes. Really!! As I glanced around, the audience - all ages (even teen's) - were smiling and enjoying this talented quartet. For those who are not familiar with it, this is a quartet of young men who are killed on the way to a performance that would have marked their big break into the entertainment industry. They come back to life with the opportunity to give the musical./comedic performance of their career, and they do a wonderful job of it. Three Coins In A Fountain, along with a many other songs from the 50's-60's interspersed with bantering and schtick, made for a truly entertaining experience. The show was matre d' seating. I arrived at about 9:45 and got a front row seat, but off to the side. It would have been worthwhile to get there earlier and/or tip the matre'd for a seat more centered, so as to be able to take in the full performance, but I didn't miss enough to make it a bad location. Worth the money, if you get the chance!
After the show, I realized that I had not eaten since before noon, so I was on a food hunt. Didn't want to do the fast food route, so I decided I'd scope out a coffee shop special. Stayed at the Flamingo last year and was not impressed with the food there. Wasn't sure what the B/C had to offer, but I knew that the IP had a coffee shop, so off I went. There was about a 15 minute wait, but I whiled away the time talking to a couple of ladies from Minnesota, where I lived once upon a time, so it was a pleasant wait. Service was excellent, once seated. I ordered the breakfast special of 3 eggs, hash browns, toast and a 16oz ham steak. I didn't realize how BIG a 16 oz ham steak was until it was delivered - covering nearly the entire platter. I'm serious. This was enough food to feed my entire family. Everything was delicious but the amount of food was OBSCENE, and I felt so guilty being unable to eat it all (and my dog and hub were a couple of thousand miles away!) I asked the waitress if she could take it to her dog, but she had none. $3.75 for a ton of food; with coffee & tip, I was out the door with a very full belly for under $7!! (I should mention that I waddle pretty gracefully.)
Now I recalled that Julie had told me that she had a good time at the Roulette wheel at the IP. So I decided to pull up a stool where Ken was dealing, and a few gents were having a good time. We bantered with one another about our bets and such, and eventually got around to introducing ourselves. Duncan, to my right, was coveting his $10 in chips as if it were his last $10; betting only if he was really feeling lucky, and no more than $3 at a time - wildly excited when he won on his even money bets. To his right, the father of the groom to be (to Dad's right), who was just plain friendly. The groom-to-be was very quiet - perhaps pre-wedding nervousness??? Duncan was to be the best man, and they were all from the Tampa area. Great bunch of guys and we had a blast playing for about 3 hours. I think the party ended when I announced my departure and left about $5 up. Great entertainment! As I left the IP (out that little alley area), it suddenly dawned on me that I was alone, it was after 3 am, and the strip was about as "deserted" as it probably ever gets - flash of paranoia and insecurity caused my little feet to patter a bit quicker. Didn't realize how far away the Bellagio was until that precise moment. Fear not, however, 20 minutes later and I was in the safe confines of the Bell, comfortably seated at my favorite Top Dollar machine, leaving $25 in the coffers before dragging myself up to the room at 4:30.
Day Four (Wed):
The mornings are getting tougher to face in the vertical position. Nonetheless, coffee, sugar and shower kick-start my day and I'm on the phone to my hun. He's not there, but the message on our answering machine is my horoscope for the day. What a guy!! Makes me smile even on just 3 hours sleep!
Today's agenda calls for a trip up the north side of the strip to the casinos that I missed on my quest for food on Monday (yes, there were a couple!!). But first, a stop at my Top Dollar slot machine which ate another $20 bill (going to have to call the technician soon!). Strolled through the shops of Bellagio en route to Caesar's Palace. A very elegant casino greets one through the main entrance. No warm, fuzzy feelings here, though. Signed up for the slot card and played a couple of different slots, breaking even before wandering off in search of the Forum Shops. I hadn't been here for 5 years, and there was a section that I think was new. I thought the casino was pretty small, but then realized on my walk that I had only seen the tip of the iceberg, as there were other sections with slot machines. Found the animated statue show to be closed for renovations (until Labor Day weekend, according to the sign). So I browsed at the shops, stopping for some perfume (can't find it in the stix where I live); and then it was time for Bertolini's to open. This comes highly recommended by a couple of posters, and particularly by Les in Indiana (Thanks, Les!). I was fortunate to get a great people-watching table, and thoroughly enjoyed the angel hair pasta tossed with olive oil, tomatoes, basil and garlic, topped with freshly ground parmesan cheese, served with sour dough bread. Very delicious, and attentive service supports my recommendation. Less than $15 before tip (with soft drink, but no salad). Good choice! Continued on through the shops to the back where the Cheesecake Factory lies. I was still full, but made a note to try this on my next trip. The aquarium was really nice, though...the colorful fish and the stingrays effortlessly gliding through the water gave somewhat of a surreal twist to the whole Vegas experience. I had a dollar off coupon for the Race For Atlantis (normally $9.50) and decided to engage in the challenge for the ring. I sort of accompanied a young Asian girl whose parents were too afraid to try it, and it is always so rewarding to experience these things not only first-hand, but also through the eyes of a child; chatting with her about the events made this a special treat. This motion simulator ride was better than the Obelisk, and while not as exciting as the Star Trek experience, the scenery and colors were absolutely breathtaking. The opening segment was also pretty funny. Worth the money by all means.
Back on the strip I decided to go to the Mirage since, well, that's one of those things you should do. I was in the casino last year and found the staff to be on the cold side; had already done Siegfried & Roy's not so secret Secret Garden, but I love the tigers. On my way in, only one was visible, and, as usual, contently napping. I tried my luck at the megabucks and a few quarter slots, donating $57 to the cause, and browsed around the gift shop. $65 for a stuffed tiger??? Right. But, now, in the enclosure across the way, the live, cuddly-looking tiger was on the move and this was pretty funny: he walked over to the pool, and backed himself into the water - hind legs, one at a time - and laid himself down for a leisurely lap and cool down. That whole sight was worth the effort of making this side trip.
Crossed the strip to O'Shea's and got an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins and then on to the Flamingo to give a go at the 777's machine I'd targeted. Fed $100 into the machine and $27 later I hit for $200. Played it down to $250 and cashed out. I'm thinking to myself: why don't they just call this an ATM with a large service charge??
Trek over to Bally's and through the shops to the tram to MGM and over to the Trop for the daily free spin - still hoping for a free ticket. No luck. Got my free cards from the slot desk and went upstairs to purchase a ticket to The Comedy Stop. Then headed back to the Bellagio via the NYNY and Monte Carlo-Bellagio tram. Entering my room, with every single muscle aching and screaming for Calgon, I turned the water on in the tub, dumped an entire bottle of shampoo in for the bubble effects, and soaked up to my neck for a good hour! Refreshed I prepared for an evening on the town and headed out the door. Just couldn't bear another tram ride and mile long walk, so I grabbed a cab. Best $7 investment I'd made all week. Got to the Trop with time to grab dinner and had planned on Pietro's, as it came highly recommended by Moms and others. Alas, it was closed. "Settled" on Mizuno's Japanese Steakhouse. The host assured me I had plenty of time to make it to my 8 pm show time, so I sat. Alone. At a table for 7. I was first introduced to the experience of this type of dining in Texas, and I loved it! This was to be no disappointment. I was served quickly with a nice glass of Chardonnay, and then joined by a couple from Hertfordshire, England, who were pleasant dinner companions. We swapped some stories, as I had once lived in Oxfordshire, and then the chef arrived. Under his expert knife handling and culinary skills, the three of us were treated to a feast of incredibly well prepared courses, and entertaining "stunts" (he only came close to hitting me once with a shrimp tail), for a dining experience that was well worth the $40 (tip included). The meal included soup, salad, steamed rice, grilled oriental vegetables, and entrée - in my case, shrimp and chicken. I was out the door in 45 minutes, with enough time to get seated for The Comedy Stop show.
The Comedy Stop is maitre d' seating, and the 8 o'clock feature is a non-smoking show. In this instance, a very discreet "Would you like something up close, or something a little more middle of the road?" maitre de. And he approached everyone at the door with this line. I opted for the "Whatever" seating, and was placed center stage, next available seat at the table. I didn't notice anyone coming in after me preferring to tip for the better seating. The cost of the show ($17.50) included two drinks, which are self-serve from either of two small bars set up on each side of the room. Pat O'Donell opened the show and he was hysterical; definitely rated R for language and content. Matt Weinhold followed with more comedy, primarily directed at parenthood and kids. The "headliner" was Harry Basil, "the movie guy", whose comedy was directed toward movies and movie characters. Of the three, O'Donell definitely got the most laughs. This was a blast, and I'm glad I went, and will do it again in the future, I'm sure. One note though....seating is cramped...shoulder to shoulder.
I stopped once again for the free spin outside and this time, BINGO, free ticket to the Rick Thomas magic show. Of course, I'd hit this the last night on the strip. I decided I'd plan to go the next day, after I'd checked out of the Bell. Went back inside to collect - yep, you guess it - my free cards, and also to check my point balance on the card in case I'd earned any bonus points. Earned a free Tropicana T-Shirt which I accepted. Walked over to the MGM for the tram to Bally's and on to Paris. Last year this resort had not opened, so this was another first for me. I loved the stain glass ceiling outside of Tres Jazz. The casino itself, made be claustrophobic, like the NYNY. I didn't get the feel of being in Paris - just being confused. I signed up the for the slot card and donated $20 to the casino at a Top Dollar machine and then left by the first available exit. Back at the Bellagio, I played roulette for 2 hours, ending up $44 for the night, and crashing at 4 am.
Two more days to go - checking out of my bargain basement, low roller room at the Bellagio and transferring downtown to the Golden Nugget.....
Day 5 (Thur):
Up early, coffee, shower, packing and checkout. Called front desk for room charges and instructions for express checkout; was able to do it by TV. Since I opted not to eat at any of the finer dining establishments on premise, my only charges were for 4 nights room. I think I failed to mention at the start that I had booked my room under a promotion I received in the mail for Bellagio slot members - $79/night - hence my reference to it as being the "bargain basement/low roller" room. Despite it's shortfalls, the hotel's location was excellent, security was on-spot looking for room keys at night (but not during the day), and the room was comfortable. So, I didn't make a stink about the disappointing location and view from the room, the "thing" on the ceiling, and the absence of luggage service when I checked in - although I will probably write to the Bellagio to express my concerns, albeit politely.
Time to move on, so I wheeled my bags through the casino to the bell-desk (located outside, oddly enough), and left them in the capable hands of Mel, a wise-cracking young man who gave great effort to get a rise out of me; however, I met him barb for barb, outrageous statement for outrageous statement, and left with a wry grin on my face, secure in the knowledge that he would not only remember me and my bags, but take care not to let them get too far buried (tip helped, too, I'm sure). Headed back inside to try my luck "just one more time" on the Top Dollar, but alas!, I had lost my magic touch. I moved a couple of machines down to the "Pinball Machine" where, just 2 nights earlier a woman from, as she put it, "Joizee", cashed out with a hand pay of $200+, after keeping me company for about an hour (and a $5 buy in). Well, my RNG guardians were definitely napping this morning. Lost $50 between the two machines and decided it was time to collect from the slot club. Picked up a voucher for cash back (10% of points after 100 points are accumulated) at the slot desk, but when I tried to cash it at the cashier, discovered that it was a voucher for a buffet meal. Took it back to the slot desk, got a new voucher, returned to cashier and walked away with a few bucks. (Note: a buffet is awarded after 150 points, with no deduction; but cash back is deducted, point for dollar, from your balance.) My luck at the quarter slots should have been some indication to spend the rest of the day sightseeing, but noooooooo.
Decided to hit the Flamingo "ATM" again and then off to the Trop for the Rick Thomas magic show. Well, dare I say, "my" machine ate a big bill without so much as a burp? Then, searching through my bag, I couldn't find the voucher for the magic show to save my life.
Arrived at the G/N ($15 taxi). What's this? A valet? Store my bags at the bell desk until I get a room number? By all means. Now this is what one expects from a first-class establishment! A short wait to check-in, and a very pleasant clerk. We discuss the pro's and con's of the North & South Tower (I had reserved through a slot host for a North Tower Room with a view). Current options were: no view in the North Tower (closer to casino, without room safe); or South Tower with room safe and view of the Strip, but further from the casino. I was sold on the room safe, so I took the South Tower room. Clerk checked me in and retrieved a table card that my slot host had arranged for me. At that point, it was nearly 1 o'clock and with no food on my stomach, I was in need of something to eat. Got a seat pretty quickly at the Carson Street Cafe. Great service. Ordered the Club on sour dough with chips and a Mich, and I was a much happier camper. The sandwich was prepared to order, the chips were the type that are fried in peanut oil, and the beer was ice cold. Less than $10 with tip and my hunger and thirst were completely satisfied. Off to the bell desk where I left my room number with a bell-hop and then up to my room. The elevators were a bit of a walk, but at this point, I was very used to that. Up to the 16th floor where my first challenge was to navigate a bit of a maze (I never did get used to which way to turn for the quickest way to my room - but at least I always got there). Entering my room, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was comparable to the Bell in size and amenities. Instead of an armoire, it had a closet for clothing (and wall safe), with an entertainment center with drawers, housing the TV. Neutral décor. The bathroom was smaller - just slightly larger than at the Flamingo Hilton, with nicer appointments. As at the Bellagio, the sink had a very deep basin, which I really appreciated. It had the shower/tub combo, but no soaks were anticipated this time, so it was just fine. Opening the drapes I found a very nice view of the mountains by day, and later, the Strip by night. There was no turn-down service, though, and this was a nice touch at the Bellagio which I missed during my stay at the GN. But, then again, the GN was half the price of the Bellagio!
Within 10 minutes, the bellhop was at my door with my bags. He seemed to sincerely appreciate the gold dollars I tipped him, especially since they represented some of the good luck I'd had on the strip. The first order of business was a call to the Spa. I had them fax me a list of their services just before I left, as this was a priority on my agenda. Lesson Learned - reserve in advance. The first available time they had was Sunday - I would be home by then. My name was put on a list for cancellations, but they never called. :-( I had SO looked forward to this bit of pampering, but didn't really know what to expect on this trip, and didn't want to get locked into a commitment; the whole point of this trip was to just go with the flow. Well, *next* time, I'll do this one thing differently.
I unpacked the things I'd need for the next couple of days, and lo and behold!! there's my voucher for the Rick Thomas magic show - mixed in with my notes on slips of paper I'd been accumulating. So, that mystery is solved; some things are just not meant to be. Just hope I can use it *next* time I'm on the strip! The rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur as I made my way casino hopping downtown. Started off at Binions where I found 50 cent roulette on a SINGLE ZERO table. Thought I had hit the mother-load!!!! But it was not to be; as I left after a short while, down for the session, and wheezing worse than I did when I was a 2 pack-a-day smoker. I hit the LV Club (didn't like this place at all), the California, and the Main Street Station, where I ended up playing the 50 cent/3 dollar min roulette wheel for a couple of hours. Had a blast, even though I lost. Asking for a meal, I was accommodated by the pit suit, although it took a little while since I was a new member and not yet in their system. He gave me a comp to the buffet (perfect!) - and it was steak and scampi night! Now I should mention that I am not a buffet aficionado - not a big eater, so when I eat, I want something prepared especially for me, not for the masses, so a buffet is really not my style - hence my limited experience. However, I've read this is some of the best food downtown, so I'm feeling pretty fortunate. At 9:30 at night, there's no line (buffet closes @ 10), so I'm happy. I wait a few minutes for my server, but when none shows, I help myself to some pizza. Good stuff!! I mean *really* good stuff. Still no server, so I notice the wait-station close by and help myself to silverware and napkin (did I mention I was REALLY hungry??), and head off to tour the world through the eyes of an MSS diner. Salad station; Southwest Station; Italian Station, etc. etc. I pick up a little here and a little there and head back to my table. Waitress finally shows and takes my drink order. I'm halfway through my selections by that time. The steak was way undercooked and tough, and for a filet, rather bland. I'm thinking I'd make my dawg a very happy girl if I were home right now! Head back to Italy for a couple more pieces of fresh-from-the-oven pizza, and laugh at myself for preferring pizza at a buffet! But the pizza is like: Wow!! I take another walk around the Buffet making sure I didn't miss something, and pick up a couple of profiteroles and a good hit of chocolate sauce. After this, I'm thinking a nap would be nice. Free food and sleep? After 4 days on the strip...well, if you've been there, you know what I mean! I don't know that I'd pay for this buffet, but for free food - and great Pizza!! - it was a hit for me!
Leisurely waddle back to the G/N for a shower and change to evening dress. Now I packed, I guess, for evenings "uptown", not downtown. If I was slightly underdressed for the Bell, I was *way* overdressed for the Nugget (long skirt & nice top). Back down in the casino, this place was hoppin!! No casino on the strip could match this place for persons-per-square foot. And the male to female ratio? Well, let me just say that the guys were having a very good time!! The roulette limits were still $2 min which surprised me. I sat down at a friendly table where Phillip was dealing. (I passed my card with my big bill at the buy in and the pit suit made his notations, but I don't know if I actually got credit for any of my play during my stay. Typically, I bet $8-$15/spin. Guess I'll see what future offers I receive, which should answer that question.) To my left was a young man who could do no wrong with his even money red/black bets. I too, started out very lucky and up quite a bit early on. Before too long however, the luck changed. I would like to blame it on the guy who kept distracting me by breathing heavily and nearly burying his face in my hair every time he leaned over me to place a bet, no matter how far I swayed to avoid him, and no matter how many times I turned to give him an annoyed glare, but I just suspect it's the nature of the game. You have to leave while you're ahead!!! But I was having a good time, so I didn't. The young man beside me did, however, and with his departure, so too, went my good fortune. The good news is the guy behind me also bailed. Only to be replaced with a tall, dark dude who sat at my left and took every opportunity to brush against me as he placed his bets. It didn't take long before I'd had enough with the touchy/feely bit seemingly inherent with play at this table, and decided to take in some of the Naked Martinis' act which I had briefly heard as I passed through the lounge earlier in the evening. True to my current streak of luck, they were just finishing their last set for the night, but what I heard was very, very good. I tried a few slots with more losses, and decided to call it a night. One thing I noticed about the GN was the pathetic selection and quantity of nickel and quarter slots, particularly in the newer video ranks. Plenty of dollar slots, though. But everything was tight here. Some people I had met this week were regularly comped their room at the GN for their play; however, they were very low rollers at the roulette table when we played, and they were just flabbergasted at my loss of $50 during the session we played together at another casino. Knowing that they were low rollers, coupled with the tightness of the slots, makes me wonder how they accumulate their points to qualify for a room 3 times a year.....
Up a little later (9:30) and realizing that I had not checked in with my hun the day before, made that a top priority (along with a cup of java). Showered and headed out with hopes for better luck. Noticed that it was actually "cool" out under the canopy in the morning. What a difference from the strip. Couple that with the absence of crowds, and I can understand why so many prefer the downtown area.
Started out at the Golden Gate where I enjoyed the very best shrimp cocktail of my life. Had read about this, but was expecting normal size shrimp; however, these were those salad-size shrimp. That did not in any way to detract from the quality, I was just surprised at the size. They were sweet, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth shrimp. A sundae-dish-full. The sauce was very mild, but you could beef it up with the horseradish, Worcestershire or Tabasco sauce available at the bar. It was served with a pack of crackers, and topping it off with a bottle of water, I had a great "brunch" for under $4!! If you are downtown, don't miss this - it really is as good as it's claimed to be. At the San Francisco bar - well marked once inside the casino. Wow! would really love one of those right now!! Enough about food. I liked the dark cherry wood and "old vegas" feel of this place, too.
More hit and run at the slots in the casinos this morning (losing); stopped at the California for a try at the wheel there. Played for a couple of hours, losing about $50. Registered for the 2 o'clock slot tourney - $10 fee for slot members/$15 non-members (upstairs, directly above the slot club). I've always wanted to try one of these. This one worked on a time basis. You are assigned a machine via a ball that's pulled from a lottery-type machine. You have 3000 credits on your machine. When the starter indicates, you press the button for 30 minutes or until any one person's 3000 credits are gone, when all machines would stop. The top 5 scores go on to the final daily tournament. These were triple diamond machines. I only wish the cash slots would hit like these do!! I was second highest, so I was in the running for the finals that would start at 4 pm.
I had some time to kill, so I went back to the roulette wheel, and was soon joined by Mark & Cindy, with whom I had played roulette the day before. We chatted a bit and learned that they were in the final slot tourney, too. Yesterday, they had won 3rd place - $96! So we played roulette until about 3:30 (losing), then headed upstairs to get our machine assignments. Still with a little while before the tourney started, I played the Wheel of Fortune nickel machines, on which I'd had some fun earlier, although no winnings. Wouldn't you know it? I actually hit some good bonus rounds. At 3:50 I decided to cash out with about 900+ nickels (just shy of a hand-pay) so I could get started in the tourney, and lo and behold, the hopper runs dry. The change lady comes and I explain my situation and she tries to get someone over quickly to fill it up and did, but then the machine jams!! And the slot tourney lady is counting down: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Start!! So I run over to the tourney area, hurdle the rope, and dash to my seat to start slapping the button, looking over my shoulder all the time to see what might become of the 200+ credits I've abandoned in the machine. A very nice Asian lady who was sympathetic to my situation was kind enough to cash out my credits and bring me the bucket of nickels. This enabled her to be able to play the machine :-) !! The credits ran to zero and the tourney ended. Mark, Cindy and I visited while awaiting the results. I didn't even come close to finishing in the money in the tourney, but Mark was only two machines down from me, so we had a good time visiting throughout - and Cindy won a T-shirt for fourth place, so it was a really good time. I think first place was just under $500, second about $300, third about $100. I stayed and chatted with them for a bit and we exchanged addresses to keep in touch, and then we went our own way. For $10, I had 2-30 minute sessions of slap-the-slot machine-silly entertainment! What fun - and what a bargain!! I played some slots here and there, losing, and decided it was time to eat.
The Redwood Grill has a steak special that is not on the menu - $13 (I think), and I had that on my list of meals to try. However, I was not inclined to pass the hour (opens at 5:30) gambling, especially with my luck running as it had been. I was going to head back to the GN for the buffet when I noticed an ad for the $5.99 prime rib special at the Market Street Café (California) and figured what the heck. Talk about an unexpected surprise! The service was good, although the ambiance rates a zero. The meal included the salad bar (nothing extraordinary, but basic, fresh food), big slab of prime rib (cooked to perfection, succulent, flavorful) baked potato and fresh green beans. Top that off with an incredible cherries jubilee, and I was almost in heaven! If you want some good food value, this would fit the bill. Nothing fancy, just quick, good food for a *very* reasonable price!
Left California and headed down to the Fremont. Found a couple of those Piggie Bankin Boom quarter slots and played those for a bit, leaving up $65 (the jingle still playing in my head). Played the Adams Family slots for awhile, leaving after my first hand pay of $60 (1200 nickels). These nickel slots are addictive - find myself playing, not for the pay outs, but rather for the chance to play in the interactive bonus rounds!!!!
Back to the Nugget to freshen up and change for the evening. Decided that I'd go out for the FSE since I'd missed it the night before. Went outside (hot!!) at about 8:15 and found a performer working from the back of his truck. He looked a bit like Michael Bolton (before the haircut), and was very talented. Sang, played guitar, sax and keyboard. Effective at getting audience participation - started a line dance, followed by couples dancing in the street prior to the FSE. Then, at 8:30, the FSE started - lights only - no sound???? Some techno glitch. I waited a short while then headed back to the a/c of the Nugget. Another hoppin night at the Nugget, but not as surprising as last night, considering it is Friday night. Found myself drawn to the roulette wheel where, even at 8:30, the minimum was still $2 (later raised to still only $5). Personable dealer - Daniel, from Switzerland -and two young men made for some fun play. An hour later, a couple of babes from California showed up and then the real "game" was on. I've been out of circulation for awhile, so it was entertaining to see how it goes now days. Daniel, too, was a bit distracted, and my numbers stopped coming in, so I bid my fellow gamblers, dealer and money good night and headed off to the lounge.
What disappointment! No Naked Martinis tonight. Walked over to Binions. Discovered the other side of Binion's where there is a double zero wheel. Opted for the single zero and played until I lost $40. Headed over to the Fremont and joined their slot club, earning a free spin on their gift wheel. Won an ink pen (standard variety, available from any cashier's window!!) Tried the piggie bankin and Adams Family machines, but no luck. Retired about 1 am, down for the trip, and thinking that it would be a good thing to go home tomorrow. Made my notes and took a last long look at the lights of the strip from a distance, and hit the sack.
Day 7 (Sat) - Departure Day:
First order of business was to request a check-out for 1 pm. No problem. Coffee, shower and packed my bags. Moving a bit slower than I have been - guess the heat and late hours have finally caught up with me. Headed off to the G/N buffet for a serious meal (since it was travel day). Line must have been 100 people long - too much for me. Scurried over to the Fremont, like I'm on a mission from God - again, noticed it was "cool" under the canopy. There was a short line for the buffet, and slightly longer for the café; so I opted for the buffet (or actually champagne brunch - $9.95) Quickly seated at a table for 1; snacked on some donut holes as I ordered my cheese omelet. Picked up some bacon (typical greasy, tough, buffet bacon), biscuit and a piece of lemon merengue pie and settled in with a cup of coffee. Everything was good, considering it was buffet fare. The egg in the omelet was light and fluffy, and just the right amount of cheese. I wouldn't want to draw a comparison to the MSS buffet because I'm just not that buffet-savvy, but like most buffets, if you are looking for quick, filling food, this might work. I didn't have any champagne, so I can't comment on its quality (although it looked like it was served from bottles with screw-off tops, if that is any indication)! Went to the 4 Queens where I was invited to spin the lucky wheel. 2 Queens didn't win anything, but I received a temp slot card to use. "Accumulate just 1 point and you can cash that it for a coffee mug or a deck of cards." So I insert the card into a nickel machine and the countdown starts at 200. I'm thinking: $10 for a deck of cards, nah, I don't *think* so!! Left the card and the casino and headed to the Fremont and the Adams Family "pick a bonus" game. Won enough for a second hand pay ($80) but then made a donation to the Piggie Bankin cause.
Time to think about heading out, and on way back to the G/N, I'm approached by a woman to gamble in her casino; I decline but accept the free beads (for my dau). Back at the G/N, I decided I'd see if the Blazing 7's here were "blazing". Ice cold puppies. Stop at the gift shop for a few souvenirs and head back to my room, tail between my legs.
Grab my bags, checkout via the TV again, and head to the taxi stand. Cabbi doesn't speak much English but I tell him I want the quickest way to the Airport. Out the interstate and $27 later, I'm at the airport, checking in at the American desk with plenty of time to spare for my 2:50 departure. Flight out was on time but bumpy on the ascent. Hit weather about 30 minutes out, so snack/drink service was pre-empted for awhile. Caught my Coke can once before I wore the contents. Fortunately, they were playing "Erin Brochovich" for a distraction. Slept part way to Dallas; quick connection, and slept most of the way to Memphis. Hub was waiting at the gate when I arrived at 10 pm (EDT), and we passed the 90 minute ride home with me recounting the Vegas experience of the past week. Even as good a time as I had in Vegas, it felt good to be back home!
Going solo enabled me to go where, when and how I pleased without having to coordinate with anyone else's schedule or desires; and for that reason it was good. I realize that it's not for everyone, though. There were times when I really had wished I had someone to share this or that particular experience with, on the spot. I struck up conversations with strangers on a pretty regular basis and met many new people, some of whom I will keep in touch with, probably something I would not have done had I had a companion. So there were mixed blessings with the solo trip.
Obviously, I packed a lot into this trip. I felt like I had to catch up on everything I'd been missing over the years - like seeing *every* casino. (NOTE: *every* casino is not worth the time or effort to visit!! Nor is it worth the effort to join every slot club - although the cards make for some nice souvenirs.) Here are some things I did not do, should have done, regret not doing, and will definitely do on my *next* trip: Bellagio fountain shows
For those preparing for departure, here are some "gotta takes":
*Band-Aides - no matter how comfortable/broken in your shoes, if you do the amount of walking I did, you are going to get blisters. I'm just glad I brought a few different pairs of comfy/broken in shoes so that I could spread the blisters over various parts of my feet! (And thankfully, I *did* bring Band-Aides or "plasters") *Lip Balm and Visine - the air is dry inside and out, and if you get a windy day, it is much worse.
*Foot soak/bath salts - I missed this one. I walk several miles a week and thought I was in good shape; even though the leg muscles didn't hurt, the ankles and feet DO get sore. And after fighting the crowds and heat all day, I found a soak in the tub to be almost a religious experience.
I didn't take much in the way of snacks this time, and didn't really miss them. I didn't spend much time in my room, so I didn't miss a refrigerator, either. Bottled water can be had on the strip for about $1.50 a bottle; I saw several venders on the sidewalks selling it - ice cold! Both hotels I stayed at had water and snacks for sale in their gift shops.
I noticed more of the newer, nickel video slots on the floors on the strip, but not downtown. These little puppies, which seem like an innocent five cent investment, generally require 5 coin play for a decent chance to get to the bonus round, where the *real* money is won. They also fool you into thinking there is some skill involved in winning more in the bonus round, but in reality, the amount is already pre-determined - no differently than the RNG reel slots. However....they are FAR more entertaining!! Be careful though of the "play max coins" button that I absent-mindedly hit on a few occasions, thinking it was the "spin" button. At 45 nickels a pop, your credits dwindle with lightening fast speed.
Favorite dollar slot: Blazing 7's at the Flamingo
Favorite quarter slot: Piggie Bankin Boom (although getting Elvis to sing to me one night at the Trop was a real treat, and the Top Dollar at the Bellagio was very good to me, too!!)
Favorite nickel slot: Adams Family Pick A Bonus(Easy Street a very close second)
Tightest slots: Golden Nugget
Loosest slots: Fremont
Better gambling luck on the strip vs downtown
Best drinks: Bellagio
Worst drinks: Monte Carlo
Best drink service: O'Shea's
Worst drink service: California
Things I would do differently:
+Lighten my agenda/pace myself better
+Take more taxis
+Take the smaller profits from the machines and not hold out for the bigger ones (ever notice that this philosophy tends to go by the wayside the further in the hole you get?)
+Make my spa reservation before departure - in fact, make 2 or more and cancel those I don't need (or use them all!!)
+Stay less time
+Going out of my way to see the North strip casinos and getting slot clubs at every casino I visited
Things I would do the same:
+Prepare (thanks to everyone on the board for their tips, recommendations and referrals)
+Organize and prioritize restaurants, events & other must do's
+Check-in calls to home (both he & I felt more comfortable knowing there was some accountability for my well-being)
+Pick up the freebies - matches make great conversation pieces, pens are readily available, and sometimes the drink stirers are, too
+Take notes - I carried a couple of small sheets of notepad paper with me all the time so I could make notes here and there. I didn't make a big thing of it, but as I ate solo, I jotted a few things down, and when I transitioned from day to evening and at the end of the day, I jotted down a few more +Stay in the rooms that provide a room safe - this was such a convenience and comfort; although they aren't big, they held my money, traveller's checques and jewelry
+Split my time between the Strip and downtown if staying longer than 4 days
+Eat every meal somewhere different
Thanks for the opportunity to share. And good luck to all.