Saturday, January 24, 2009

McCarran Airport Numbers down 7.7% in 2008

McCarran Airport's 2008 passenger numbers were released yesterday and traffic for the year was down 7.7 percent with December being down 14.1% over the same month in '07. It was the worst year over year showing since 1981 but the December stat really tells the story of what is going on in Vegas. A 14% drop represents over a half million less people coming to town. Ouch! That equates to a whole lot of empty hotel rooms.

I definitely noticed a difference in the size of the crowds during my trip the week before X-Mas. It is usually not the busiest weekend of the year but this year was definitely unlike anything I have ever seen. Last year, I spent the same weekend at the Palms and on Friday night, the line to get into the Rain was circling the casino. It was easily a 2 hour wait to get in. This year, I was there also on Friday night and not only was there no line, I overheard one group of people talk about club-hopping around the Palms, something that would have been impossible just 6 months ago. Just about everywhere else has similarly light crowds.

The upside to the Vegas downturn is the abundance of deals. Not a day goes by without at least 3 emails with new offers and I am even seeing offers for Super Bowl weekend, typically one of the busiest and most expensive of the year. I also received 3 free nights this month at Encore just days after it opened and I am the furthest thing from the biggest fish in Mr. Wynn's database. I wish I could take him up on it! So those who are still planning to come to Vegas, shop around as the deals are plentiful. You can end up with an amazing room at a great price or a decent room practically free and I don't see it ending anytime soon.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Week in Vegas - Other than CES!

With CES going on in Vegas this week, it has been all the buzz on 7,283 different blog. It's a geek's wet dream! Despite the biggest techfest of the year, there actually was some other news coming out of Vegas this week.

MGM Mirage announced that it was delaying the opening of "The Harmon" component of City Center until 2010 and pulling the condo option out of it. With this change and others they have done, they managed to shave $600 million off of the price tag for City Center. They will finish the exterior of the building but leave the inside unfinished. The cancellation of the condo part is keeping inline with the overall weak demand for Vegas high-rise condos. I don't know how they are going to sell the rest of them in Vdara and Veer and they were banking heavily on that cash to finance the whole project. We will see how the whole thing pans out when it opens in December 2009.

On the very next day after the MGM announcement, a very different story came out. One that used to be common in Vegas but now is a serious head stratcher. An Israeli group asked for a permit to build the world's largest hotel on a site next to the Hard Rock Hotel.. At one time it was to be Las Ramblas, a massive project that was proposed then cancelled which involved actor George Clooney. This is absolutely puzzling to me. Everyone who has not been dead for the past year knows this thing will never happen. Especially since the company that proposed it is currently dumping properties just to pay it's bills. My guess is, they feel the permits will raise the property value but considering the nose dive that resort corridor property has taken, I don't think it will help much.

On a website note, I still have a bunch of property maps to add from my last trip, hopfully they will be done this week.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mirage Review and Room Pics

The final night of the trip was in a Tower Deluxe room at the Mirage. In my 66 trips to Vegas, I have never found myself staying there which really is a shame since the Mirage is the place that started what is modern Vegas. I left Aliante Station a little before noon on Sunday and was at the Mirage in less than a half hour. On this stay, I got to experience both a remodeled and non-remodeled Tower Deluxe room during my check-in saga which I detailed below.

First off, the un-remodeled room... The Tower Deluxe rooms are larger than a standard room, located at the top of hotel and have a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. The room was decorated in light browns and beiges and is dominated by a giant armoire in the middle of the room. Instead the beast resides a tiny 21" CRT TV! There is also a small desk as well as table and chair. Aside from the armoire, the room seems big for the amount of the furniture in it. Despite the age of the room which I am guessing is at least 5 or 6 years old, it has held up pretty well with only minimal stains on the carpets and little wear showing on anything else. The bed was a bit lumpy but not terrible by any means. The bathroom is large as billed and covered in marble. There are 2 sinks and a vanity area on the counter with the tub and shower on the other side. As with the rest of the room, the bathroom looked great for its age. My only complaint would be the water pressure I had in the shower. If I hadn't known any different and this was the room I was given, I would have been more than happy with what I got. It is definitely a step above a standard Vegas hotel room. Unfortunately, I saw the remodeled rooms and watching the dinky little TV was a bit of a bummer! That's what I get for being a smoker!

The remodeled room was even nicer as you would imagine though it did seem smaller than the other room. The design is similar to Aliante and Red Rock with a lot of dark brown and instead of an armoire dominating the room, its the flat-panel TV. The bathroom is actually pretty much the same in both rooms with just the sinks and counter top replaced. The one awesome feature of the room is the media access center. From a panel in the desk area you can connect virtually any device to the TV. There are USB, VGA, HDMI and Composite/S-Video connections so you can use your laptop of portable DVD on a giant screen. I wish I had gotten the chance to use it!

As for the rest of the Mirage, it is still a pretty nice place. The casino is largely catering to mid to high rollers with virtually no tables under $10-15 even on a Sunday. There is also no decent video poker worth playing either unless you have gobs of cash. Needless to say, I keep my money in my pocket. So were others it seemed as well. The only real busy place was the sports book, which is expected on a Sunday during football season. I did get a chance to eat while staying here a few times. I had a late lunch at the Carnegie Deli which almost requires you to get a pastrami on rye. I am originally from New York and have eaten at the original many times. The sandwich was decent enough with a ridiculous amount of meat but in no way like in NYC. I guess you just can't get a good Jewish rye in Nevada. Go figure. One thing that was similar to New York was the price, $12.95 but does include pickles! Later that night, I was in the mood for some late night dining and wandered over to the coffee shop to find out that it closes at 11PM on weeknights! Yet another example of the on-going death of the Casino Coffee Shop (see my Dec 14th rant below.) You can however go back over to the Carnegie for a $15 burger and that is the scam they are pulling. Why offer a burger for $6.99 when you can charge $15 at the name brand restaurant! It is stingy little moves like this that are driving people away from Vegas, especially those of us who come to town frequently. They need to remember what made Vegas great to begin with but that is another rant all together! Anyway, I ended up with a giant potato knish and a coke for dinner and managed to get out under $10. Although I didn't eat there on this trip, I have eaten at the Brazilian steakhouse Samba in the past and if you are a carnivore I highly recommend it.

Now for the details of my check-in saga.. I got there at about 12:15 on a Sunday so I wasn't surprised when I was told that my room wouldn't be ready for a half hour. The desk clerk was very pleasant and offered a line pass to any of the restaurants to bide my time. I didn't use it instead going over to the Sports Book to watch the early NFL games. After 45 minutes, I go back to the Invited guest line as instructed where I am at first told it would 3 hours. I say I was told it would only be a half hour, 45 minutes ago. So she starts clicking away. After a minute of searching, she tells me she thinks she has a room for me and calls housekeeping to check. On hold for what seems like forever, she finally gets the OK and sends me on my merry way off to the top floor. I get up to the room and open the door to find a very UN-remodeled room but at least they got one part right, it's a smoking room. Now, I am not a 5-star room snob but I reserved the "Tower Deluxe" specifically because they sent me numerous emails bragging about the remodeling so I nutted up and paid the extra $20 a night. I debated whether or not to call the front desk to change rooms and decided it would be worth the effort. I spoke with a very friendly person who apologizes, puts me in a room several floors down and switched my key over so I didn't have to go back to the lobby. Great, that was easy. I proceed to get downstairs and into the elevator for my new room when I notice on the button for the floor is a "No Smoking" sign. Damn! So I go to the room, which is quite nice by the way, and call again. At this point, the 4th front desk clerk finally explains to me that there are no remodeled smoking rooms Tower Deluxe rooms. I really wish that would have been explained to me upfront, I would just taken a regular room to begin with! So I now drag my stuff back to the original room only to get there and the key doesn't work. Fortunately security was up in no more that 5 minutes to get me in and he assures me it will work in a few minutes. Sure enough, on my next trip to the room the key still doesn't work. Once again, security was quick about getting up there. I finally went back to the front desk and got new keys and didn't have any more problems.

Overall, it was a decent stay at the Mirage despite the room snafu and the late night dining issue. A few days after I got home, a survey request can via email so I filled it out noting my problems. A day or two later I received a reply from a person in customer service apologizing and offered me a discount or upgrade if choose to return. I may take them up on it on a trip with the wife since the location is great and pool looks like a lot of fun but it definitely wouldn't be my choice as a new home base anytime soon.

Click Here for Room Pics

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gold Coast Review and Room Pics

The first night of my recent trip was in a "Premium" room at the Gold Coast. I arrived around 3 PM on a Friday and there was a decent line at the check-in desk. With only two people working the desk, it took almost 45 minutes to finally get up to the room. They have recently remodeled all the rooms in the place as well as made extensive changes in the casino and restuarants. The upgraded room cost about $10-15 more a night than the regular rooms but have a trendy look to them. I was a sucker a spent the extra few bucks... The room is decorated in the dark wood that is all the rage these days. The armoire/dresser/ TV Stand is one unit and has a nice sized flat-panel TV. There is also a small desk near the window. One puzzling thing about the room... They spent thousands redoing everything but left the $5 alarm clock? They couldn't have spent $15 and got one with an IPod connection? It seems like a small thing but its one of the amenities that makes a difference for me. Anyway, like the Orleans, the bathroom is at the far end of the room and also has the little window in the shower that actually opens. There is just one sink and no tub. A interesting "feature" is that the shower has no door, just a fixed piece of glass covering half of the area.

I didn't eat at any of the restaurants this stay but did want a room service breakfast before checking out. There was no menu in the room so I ask a housekeeper; she proceeded to hand me a photo-copied piece of paper with the menu on it. I actually chuckled to myself. The food arrived quickly, was reasonably priced for room service and was hot and excellent all-around. I also have eaten at the buffet several times in the past. Dinner is just ok, nothing spectacular but the breakfast is one of the better spreads in town and only $6.

I have stayed in several remodeled older rooms recently and they all suffer from the same difficult issue, an old room still has old bones. You can't make the room larger or install central AC where none exists so it's tough really compare with the new hotels. However, given the price on most nice nights, the Gold Coast is definitely a very nice room if you are looking for a deal near the strip but not necessarily on it.

Coming tomorrow... Mirage Tower Deluxe Room Pics of both a remodeled and non-remodeled room.

Click Here for Room Pics

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