Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mandalay Bay Review

The final 2 nights of the trip were at Mandalay Bay in one of the remodeled Strip view rooms. All 3 of the rooms on this trip were recently redone showing that Vegas never stays with the status quo even at the lower end joints. This room cost more than the previous two combined and at $239 a night, the most I have paid for a room in ages. Since it was a buddy's birthday, he decided where we would stay.

We got there pretty early, around 11:30 but were still able to check-in. We were given a 2 queen room on the 33rd floor with an incredible view all the way down the strip and out to the airport. At 550 Sq.Ft., the room is a nice size. It had a funky table/chair combo thing by the window with a desk, dresser and nice size flat screenTV rounding out the furnishings. The bathroom is great with a large vanity and seperate tub and shower. The bed at first glance appear big and comfortable but I would soon realize, it was the worst bed of the trip. It completely sloped to one side and made for 2 pretty bad nights of sleep. I ended up sleeping on the edge of it for both nights. Also, the safe was useless for anything larger than a wallet. I just can't fathom how a room that was redone in the last year doesn't have a laptop sized safe, especially at a place that is trying to pull down the convention traveler.

We spent a good portion of the our time at the pool of course. Mandalay Bay is all about the pool. It is huge with several regular pools plus a giant wave pool and a lazy river. There is also a poolside casino, nudie pool and a stage to host outdoor concerts. The drink service was good once they realize you are drinking. They keep it flowing at that point, at $11 a piece of course... We had a blast hanging out going from pool to pool and just being idiots. No doubt this is one of the top 2 pools in town.

The casino is typical new, hip casino garbage. Loads of 6/5 Blackjack and nothing in the way of playable video poker. Yet despite that fact, it was packed all weekend. On both Friday and Saturday nights, they had 10 craps tables open and they were lined up 2 deep and there wasn't a BJ table under $25. Needless to say, there wasn't much gambling going on at the "Bay." We did however spend way to much on overpriced drinks in the casino bars.

The only restaurant we tried was the Burger Bar in Mandalay Place. It is most famous for the $60 Fois Groi and Truffle Kobe burger but the standard run of the mill burger was excellent. A nice half pound of beef with just about any topping you could imagine, hence the name "Burger Bar." Highly recommended if you are in the mood for a nice, big juicy burger.

Mandalay Bay is a very nice place they just think WAY too highly of themselves. The room prices are ridiculous in this economic environment and judging by the way it dropped from $289 to $239 in the 2 weeks I watched them before booking, I think they are realizing it. There were no bargains anywhere else in the place from the casino to the gift shop to the bars. Its a nice place to stay every once in a while, especially during pool season but I just could never see staying there on a regular basis. There are just too many other places in town that offer much more for less.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bill's Gamblin' Hall Review

The second night of the trip was at Bill's Gamblin' Hall. You just got to love the downhome feel of the apostrophe in "Gamblin'!" This room was a 2 queen on the 3rd floor facing the Flamingo.

These rooms have also been recently remodeled but it definitely was not a top to bottom refurb as the bathroom was still pretty dated. It is a strange room in that the bathroom is in the far corner of the room instead of near the door. This configuration made for a very small bathroom that was even smaller by the closet area being in there as well. It definitely was unlike any other room I have ever had in Vegas. The bed was comfortable though nothing to write home about. The flat panel TV was actually appropriately sized unlike the one at Circus Circus the night before. For $50 a night, it was well worth the price.

It was an interesting stay at Bill's. The valet is in the back of the building, not directly connected to casino which is out of the ordinary. The front desk is about 5 feet long with never any wait since it is only 200 rooms. It certainly wasn't a mega-resort experience, that's for sure. All in all though, Bill's was a very enjoyable stay. You can't beat the location with 10 casinos within a stones throw of your room. It made it easy to just stroll down the strip for a couple of hours, which I haven't done in years. The combination of location and price makes Bill's an excellent choice if you are looking for a modest priced room.

Click Here for pictures of the remodeled Bill's Gambling Hall room.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Circus Circus Review

I spent the first night of my recent trip in a recently remodeled room in the West Tower of Circus Circus. It was a single king on the 17th floor facing the strip. The decor was pleasantly surprising without a trace of pink to be found anywhere! The bed was pretty comfortable as was the large chair by the window. The bathroom also has been remodeled but it is still small with just 1 sink and a combo tub/shower. Not much you can do about that. With that said... for a remodeled room, it was a bit worn already. There were some stains on the carpet and a cracked tile on the bathroom floor. The window also looked like it hasn't been cleaned since it was built! The flat panel TV, while a nice touch, was definitely on the small side. Another curious thing I noticed about the room was a complete lack of "accessories." No matches, pens, notepads or even the ubiquitous hotel guide. I don't know if that is standard policy but that is what I got.

I only had 1 meal during my stay at "Le Cirque," a late night breakfast special in the 24 hour Casino Cafe. I didn't see it offered anywhere but when I ordered the normal breakfast off the menu, the waitress told me about it and saved me $5. It was served up piping hot in about all of 5 minutes. I may have just been starving but it was all very good. I was out the door in 20 minutes for under $10. 2 enthusiastic thumbs up for the Casino Cafe.

Of course. the first thing comes to mind when you think about Circus Circus (after the horror of the clowns) is the KIDS! Personally, I dont believe that kids belong in Vegas but that is just my opinion. However, I fully expect that at CC and it doesn't really bother me. I actually bought an all-day pass for the Adventure Dome and had a blast on the riding the roller coaster a bunch of times.

Other miscellaneous thoughts... The elevator are not the speediest in the world. I swear only 1 was running in my bank as I always ended up on the same one. The valet is also pretty slow. Getting out of there on a Thursday morning took more than 20 minutes. One of the best amenities ever, the phone check-in service. The Circus Circus lobby is ALWAYS a nightmare, day or night. I bypassed what was easily an hour wait to check-in. There was only person at the window when I walked up and had my keys in 2 minutes. Make sure you take advantage of this option if you are staying here.

Click Here for room pictures of the remodeled West Tower Room.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just Back from the City of Sin!

I just returned from 4 more nights in Vegas. I did the first night at Circus Circus then one night at Bill's Gambling Hall and finished with two nights at Mandalay Bay. Interestingly, all three rooms were recently remodeled. It was a guys trip with a bunch of old friends from around the country meeting up for the first time in years. Needless to say, it was a very different trip than when I am with the wife!

There will be quite a few updates over the coming days. I will have room pics and reviews of all 3 hotels (CC wasn't that bad, really!) plus a bunch of property map and other miscellaneous updates. Check in through the week for new stuff!

In other miscellaneous Vegas news of note while I was gone... The Clark County Commission voted last week to proceed with a new terminal at McCarran Airport at a cost of $1.7 billion despite opposition from the airline industry themselves. They claim that there is a need to re-evaluate the need for the terminal in the face of $140 oil.

This is a tough call for airport officials. In the past, every new hotel room that got built also got filled. With new rooms comes the need for more airport capacity. There are 30,000 room coming online in the next 3 or 4 years; they need to be able to get bodies into town. On the other hand, is this downturn unlike others Vegas has faced in the past? Many before have all but counted Vegas as dead and they have all been wrong. Are things different this time around. Of course, I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I don't think that prices of rooms, shows and meals will continue as they have in the past. The days of charging $400 are over. There will be a return to value, at least on some level, that will make Vegas appealing once again to the average American. The airport guys need to look at every way to squeeze capacity out of the existing terminal and perhaps scaling back plans for a new terminal to something a little less ambitous. After all, the people who have to pay for this thing are the ones who use the airport. I know the temptation is almost irresistable for government but don't screw us more than is absolutely necessary.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Downright Awful Numbers!

The Nevada casino numbers for the month of May are in and it is not pretty! Strip revenue was down 16% representing almost $100 million less in business over last year. The news pounded casino stocks with MGM dropping more than 20% and Wynn taking it in the shorts to the tune of 10%. Many of the casino stocks are trading at levels not seen in 2 or 3 years.

This is just more bad news for the Strip.The way they spent money building the latest wave of resorts is coming back to haunt them. They have relied on the "non-gaming" business to rake in the bucks and that money just isn't there anymore. Less people are coming and those that do are spending less money. Out goes the dinner at Emeril's or Wolfgang's when for 1/4 of the price you can eat at the coffee shop.

Vegas got away from its roots in the effort to become all things to all people(with cash!) The casino became an afterthought and they still apparently don't get it(see my May 19th comments on the new City Center hotel "ARIA.".) They need to get back to offering a good deal on a vacation and good odds in the casino. It is Vegas. Sell it for what it is and stop being something it's not. Otherwise this downturn is going to last longer than anyone wants to believe.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crazy Heat!!!

Its not really big news considering its July in Las Vegas but the National Weather Service has issued an "Excessive Heat Warning" for the Vegas area tomorrow and Thursday. Temperatures are expected to be over 112 for the next several days. This may only be of interest to me since in addition to being a Vegas fanatic, I am also an amateur weather geek. Click Here for the current conditions at my house in southern California.

I personally don't mind the summer Vegas heat. I enjoy sitting by the pool and drinking frosty beverages for a few hours each day. Less than 2 weeks til the boys trip to Mandalay Bay where plenty of pool and drinking time will be had.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sad Closings

Last week, the Stage Deli at the Forum Shops closed for good. When it opened 15 years ago, it was one of the first famous restaurants to set up shop in Vegas. While I have never eaten at the Caesars version, I have enjoyed the original in New York and if it was even close in quality, it will be a loss. The last thing the Forum Shops needs is another "high-end retailer" that will be replacing it.

Also announced this week is the September 1st closing of the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. Millions of Trekkies the world over are in mourning over its passing. In all seriousness, the attraction was seen by millions and has to be considered a success. Despite what was always a curious location at the Hilton which never seemed like a great home and a high admission price, it lasted 11 years and long outlived the Vegas as a family place phase the town went through a decade ago.

Adios and farewell to both places. Two more pieces meet the scrap heap of Vegas history for whatever is bigger, better and new.

Visit for the complete guide to Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos. Property maps of every major casino, 100s of pictures and a ton of other info all without annoying ads!