Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mirage's 20th Anniversary

It was November 22, 1989 when "New" Vegas officially arrived with the opening of the Mirage. The first new building on the strip in years, it was a casino like no other. It sparked not only an unprecedented building boom on the strip but also around the world. Shortly after would follow Excalibur, Luxor, MGM and many others. More importantly, it created a casino explosion throughout the country and even the world turning places like Tunica MS and Macau China into gambling Meccas. It's hard to believe how much has changed since that day 20 years ago.

Steve Wynn has many critics but there is no denying the immense impact the man has had on Las Vegas and the gaming industry. His bold vision and fearless drive has made the city what it is today for none of the others would exist were it not for the success of the Mirage and Bellagio. The places he has built have provided the livelihood to tens of thousands of people and are largely responsible for turning a "sleepy" desert town into the sprawling metropolis of today.

Golden Nugget's New Tower

In somewhat ironic news, this week also welcomed the opening of the "Rush" Tower at the Golden Nugget downtown. Ironic because it not only was Steve Wynn's first casino and a blueprint for the Mirage but also because it just happens to also be the first new hotel tower downtown since... 1989. Think about that for a second. All of the construction that Vegas has seen in the past 20 years and ZERO was on Fremont Street. That pretty much sums up the situation down there, doesn't it?

As always, I wish the best for new endeavors anywhere in town but coming out of the gate, management is a bit delusional about the environment in which they are opening. The CEO is quoted saying "We're not going to drop rates just to turn dollars, I'd rather not have all the bodies. It's got to be profitable dollars for us to rent a room." Really? An empty room is better than a head in the bed? Once again, I am amazed at how some of these guys got to where they are. Fortunately, there is some sanity somewhere in the organization as despite the CEO's proclamations otherwise, the prices have been dropping steadily since the day they started taking reservation.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Orleans Review and Room Pics

The second night of the trip I moved over to the Orleans and got there around 1 PM. There was only a short wait of about 10 minutes at the front desk. It was a double on the 15th floor very close to the elevator. Since my last stay a few years ago, the rooms have been "refreshed" with new linens and draperies but definitely not completely remodeled. Never the less, the room was in pretty good shape. They are on the larger side for a standard Vegas room and has a seating area with a small couch and coffee table. I always love having a couch but in this case the downside was that the TV was little small and far away to watch it. Similar to other Coast Casino hotels, the bathroom is located at the back of the room and there is no closet, just a rack in the bath. A unique feature of the Orleans room is a small window in the shower area that actually opens, All in all, the room was decent enough with no real complaints though I preferred the room I had the night before at Palace Station especially considering was $5 cheaper.

As one of the largest locals casinos, the Orleans has a decent collection of restaurants, most of which skew towards the cheaper ends of the scale. There is a decent food court, a large buffet which was slightly better than average, the dreaded TGI Friday's as well as a still 24 hours coffee shop plus a couple of nicer places. The lunch buffet was nothing out of the ordinary but did have a good selection and everything I tried was fresh and tasty. A late-night room service burger while also nothing spectacular, arrived ridiculously fast which was nice after the problems the night before at Palace Station.

One of the reason I choose the Orleans was because I wanted to catch a Las Vegas Wrangler game; the minor league hockey team who plays at the Orleans Arena. The game was entertaining enough though not NHL quality but certainly priced right at $38 for a seat right on the glass and just about every other one was $8. Being a small arena, every seat is a good one. As a bonus, it was Dollar Beer Night which made it a hell of a bargain for an evening of entertainment. They should definitely be marketing more to the Strip as an option if one of the dozens of Cirque Du Soleil shows isn't your idea of a good time.

Staying at the Orleans, I got the feel that it is like the MGM of the locals casinos. It has everything every other one has, just more and bigger. Plenty of rooms, many restaurants and a giant casino. If you want to try staying at a locals place, it's a great way to go plus its only a short hop down Tropicana to the strip. The room was nicer at Palace Station but otherwise Orleans has much more to offer.

Click Here for Room Pics

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Palace Station Review and Room Pics

I arrived around 6PM and check-in was fast with there actually being more clerks than people waiting. I have noticed less front desk staff at many places these days so this was a nice surprise to start out the trip. In a matter of minutes I was up in my room on the 16th floor of the tower. For only $30 a night, the room was incredible. It looks freshly remodeled in the past 6 months with all new furnishings including a nice sized flat panel TV and marble counters in the bathroom. The\ shower had a nice, high "rainshower" head with good pressure. One note, there was only a shower stall, no tub in the bathroom. Not a problem for me but might be for some. The whole room was in great shape and quite clean with no stains or burns anywhere. I couldn't have been happier with the quality especially at the rock bottom price.

Several times in recent posts I have discussed the issue of the dying coffeeshop and the Stations are at the forefront of movement. I got to experience the new Coco's replacement when I had a late room service meal a little after 11 PM. I pressed the button on the phone for room service and the it rang at least 25 times before I hung up. I tried again with the same result. After waiting a few minutes, once again no answer. I called the operator and she said that room service was available from 11PM to 11AM so they should have answered and she would connect me. Still no luck. I called back the operator who puts me on hold for a minute before finally finding someone at Coco's to answer the phone. Hardly stellar service! If I wasn't looking to make a point, I wouldn't have made that much of an effort and simply would have been pissed off and went with another option. To their credit; once I did place my order, it arrived quickly and was pretty good but the whole experience underscores my point that there is no way an outside establishment will treat the casino customers as well or offer the value as an in-house place would.

The following morning, I was in the casino playing a little Keno when out of the blue I was approached by a slot host who asked if I would like a buffet comp! It was good for anytime and for up to week with no points coming off your account. In all of my trips and all of the hours playing in a Vegas casino, that has NEVER happened to me. It happened once at an Indian casino in So Cal but never in Vegas. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked. It is precisely that type of stuff the casinos need to get back to if they ever want to fill all those new rooms coming online in the next few months. Kudos to Station for that move. I used the comp for a lunch buffet that was above average in quality but short on quantity. There just wasn't a really large selection of items especially compared to some of the other locals buffets around.

All in all, I was very happy with my stay at Palace Station. You just can't beat a freshly remodeled room for $30. Aside from the issue with room service, everyone else I dealt with was great with fast service at the valet and front desk plus the unsolicited comp while only playing quarter keno was an added bonus. Considering its location close to the strip and just off the freeway, it definitely is a decent alternative to a Strip place if you are looking for a good deal on a room.

Click Here for Room Pics

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