Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Las Vegas Trip

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Las Vegas Trip


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Just a few weeks back I was in Las Vegas. Many of you likely remember from my never ending tweets and facebook updates. This is part one of my Las Vegas posts. Look for my review of Sake Fever in a post later this week.

This post will go over some of my highlights of the trip but you can find more detailed reviews of my the hotels I visited on this trip on my travel blog under the category Las Vegas. None of these posts have been subsidized by the properties in any way so you can be certain that you're getting an accurate depiction.

I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and checked into The Venetian. The Venetian was the last of the hotels in the middle of the strip I had not yet stayed. I like staying mid-strip for the obvious reason, easy access to other areas if you want to move about town. I had visited The Venetian in the past, walked about and shopped but I don't think you get a true sense for a property until you stay at the property. In fact, I don't think you get a true sense unless you stay for a minimum of two nights.

You may already be well aware that The Venetian is a monstrosity of a hotel/casino. It has an absurd amount of retail space, especially if you include The Palazzo. My favorite spots at The Palazzo was the 85,000 square foot Barney's and the Illy Cafe. I walked out of my way most days to grab myself a proper espresso.

My elevator bank was just off a frozen yogurt stand, which was nice, and in close proximity to Tintoretto Bakery. One morning the bakery was out of SUGAR...you heard me, there was no sugar for my coffee. Unacceptable.

My room at The Venetian was great, spacious and comfortable. My room was plush, decorated in a modern baroque fashion with two flat screen television sets, I believe I may have had a suite. Large living space, large bathroom, full sized tub with a separate shower. The room had to be about 550 square feet.

The Venetian


I cannot say I enjoyed the pools at The Venetian. Poor design or just poor space planning. We walked outside and there was one small pool, then we had to walk through tiny corridors to get to a second pool which was not large and it was full. Then we walked behind buildings to a third pool, which was a kiddie pool and then a fourth pool that had no exposure to sunshine. Finally, we went back to the kiddie pool and settled in on the only two remaining lawn chairs. The waitress took forever, we ended up going to the bar. We were never even certain whether or not food was served poolside because we never had the opportunity to ask anyone, no one to ask!

Eventually, we ended up at Tao Beach - where the magic happened. Though I am a seasoned Vegas traveler (This trip was likely my 30th trip to Las Vegas), I rarely do the nightclub thing. I live in Chicago and worked in nightclubs in my early 20s, I most certainly do not need to go to Las Vegas and watch 10 bachelorettes from Michigan do the Humpty Dance in their bad shoes and discount clothing. But, I did love Tao Beach.

Picture this... It is noon on Friday and you're outside in the sweltering sun. You're in a smaller, contained space where the crowd is not out of hand (unlike The Hard Rock). The pool area has just the right amount of people to watch, but there is plenty of room for dancing and general acts of debauchery. There is loud (but not too loud) music being piped in from speakers surrounding a pool. The DJ is quite good. The crowd is young, their bodies are tight, heavily tattooed and tan. Every which direction you turn, you see a model-esque, cocktail waitress (not one over 115 lbs, allot 5 lbs for each boob) offering you a free frozen shot of something or a frozen melon ball. People in the cabanas are ordering bottle service, the people at the bar are ordering Jagerbombs while girls are dancing in bikinis. You ask yourself, have I arrived at the gates of Sodom, a city of violent promiscuity? No, you have not, you've arrived at Tao Beach.

Bikini Waitress


Tattoo galore


Perhaps it was because I arrived early and only stayed for about 45 minutes but I had a great time at Tao Beach. We ordered a frozen Red Bull & Vodka, they had many frozen drinks, found a great table and watched the revelers of all ages do their thing. In my opinion, the kids in their 20s were pretty mellow, the 35+ crowd were the ones getting down with the beats, throwing back the shots and looking for trouble. Probably because trouble doesn't find them much these days.

On Sunday, I checked out of The Venetian and headed over to Aria at CityCenter. My first impression, I did not like Aria. In fact, had I not ended up staying at Aria for four nights, I probably would have departed with that impression. Lucky for Aria, I was there for a conference and had to stay for a while. I will go through the basics of what I liked and did not like - you can find my detailed post here.

Aria Las Vegas



What I liked about Aria at CityCenter
  • My ultra contemporary, urban-feeling sleeping room
  • Blossom the Chinese Restaurant
  • The sommelier from Blossom, the Chinese restaurant at Aria
  • The pool

The things about Aria that I eventually grew to like
  • The location
  • The decor (I will contradict myself below)
  • The common areas
  • The casino

The things I did not like about Aria
  • They are struggling with the staff, service is just not up to par yet
  • It looks like a giant convention center or an airport
  • Why is everything so brown?
  • It is an older hotel, lots of seniors, I am 38 and I felt like a spring chicken
  • It felt weird...I know this is an odd statement but there is something about the whole development that just doesn't feel right and I cannot put it into words

The biggest problem with Aria is their obvious struggle with occupancy. It was oddly apparent, just by looking at the bodies in the casino and common areas, that Aria was offering severely discounted rooms for Players Card members. My father had four nights of hotel comped as an incentive to come out to Aria. My father is not a big gambler by Vegas standards, he plays the quarter slots and has never lost more than a couple thousand dollars on one trip. I felt like a lot of the bodies floating around the casino at Aria should have been floating around Circus Circus instead.

One night I was speaking with a sales & marketing person from the property (I will not say how or whom in order to protect their position) but I asked this person what the general perspective was regarding the hotel. At first, they said, "People love it!" After some poking and prodding they revealed that the reviews were quite mixed. I think "mixed" is code word for "not too good".

Who do I think will like Aria at CityCenter? Probably people over 30, or even over 35. People who like to dine out. People who don't care about being dead center of the Strip. People who appreciate luxury. People who like to gamble but are not serious gamblers. The casino is on the small side and none of the other hotels in CityCenter have casinos. People who like to shop. The mall next door, Crystal Gardens will be a nice addition when it is full (Only about 40% occupancy right now). You can find stores like: Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Kitson, Carolina Herrera and Kiki Montparnesse.

The upside for Aria is, the economy is on an upswing. The staff can only improve (and that they need to do) and soon enough fall will be here bringing convention season with it. They really need to think of a better way to promote their property than the methods they are currently using - it simply is not working. The clientele they're drawing is likely substandard. Perhaps a new marketing and PR team is in order.
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