FIVE QUEENS AND A KING TRIP REPORT

Although this is not my first trip report, it is the first one I have ever published on this Website. First, a little history....

Every year for the past 15 years or so, between 3 and 5 of us ladies (now ranging in age from early '40's to late '60's) have been going to Las Vegas for one week each year. Ever since our beloved Sands Hotel left the scene, we have been staying at a different hotel each year. This year, in June, we stayed at the Stardust. However, after we got back home (home being the south suburbs of Chicago) I decided it was time to take my husband to LV to see the many new sights since his last visit about 12 years ago. Well, what started out as a trip for the two of us ended up a trip for six of us - five queens (the ladies who decided to go twice this year) and a king (you know who). Believe me, the King will not wait another 12 years to go again!

What follows are my comments on this latest trip to LV (as well as some thoughts on previous trips).

Transportation:

Almost every year we rent a car - usually a big car. We like to travel around a lot - from casino to casino, sometimes to the Boulder Station/Sam's Town area, and to North Las Vegas, as well as downtown. We like the convenience and, being smokers, the ability to light up whenever we want. This trip we rented a Lincoln Town Car from Budget for our 5-day stay. Total cost was $307.00, or about $50 each. Even though renting a car in LV can be a hassle, we still feel it's worth it. Of course, if we're partying heavily, we just leave the car and taxi back. Easier to pick up the car the next day than worry about someone getting a DUI or, worse yet, having an accident.

Hotel:

We stayed at the Flamingo Hilton, mainly because of its great location. Although we didn't get the adjoining rooms we requested, we did get rooms next to each other. The rooms were good-size, either a king or 2 double beds. Maid service provided shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, body lotion, etc., and if we needed more of anything, we just left a note. Hotel also had hair dryers in all the rooms. We ordered a refrigerator for the room (we always do) at a cost of $5 per day. This is a must for what we like to refer to as "room time" - usually in the afternoon, the time when we all gather in the "host" room to talk about our winnings/losses, take a break from the casinos, plan the evening, and most importantly, enjoy snacks and libations (which we purchase from the local grocery store as soon as we arrive). The fridge is also great for dinner leftovers. Anyway, we felt it appropriate that the "host" room should be the room in which the King & I were staying. So we ended up with the fridge and the "room time" gatherings.

The Flamingo grounds are beautiful - very nicely landscaped - with a great pool area (even though we are not pool people - we prefer to enjoy the many other things LV has to offer that we can't find in other vacation spots). The grounds have habitats for penguins, swans and flamingos, and it's a nice escape to just stroll through them to relax.

On our June trip, we ladies stayed at the Stardust. We had very nice adjoining rooms there, and the fridge was free for the asking. Unfortunately, the view was not the greatest. Of all our past trips, we probably enjoyed the rooms at the Sands the most, where you could open the patio doors and just sit out in the air. But, the Sands is no more than a very fond memory now (oh God! I'm getting sentimental). On to the next topic....

Restaurants:

Drai's at the Barbary Coast - our second visit here. Not as good as the first time. Early (5:30 pm) reservation - we were the first ones there. Entrees included filet, pepper steak, 7-hour lamb and grilled halibut. Halibut was the best - a huge piece, very juicy. Also great was the mashed potato assortment, served family style for 6 people at a cost of only $9.50 total. On the downside, we each ordered the mixed green salad which we didn't realize was extra - to the tune of $8.00 per person! Our waiter could have told us it wasn't included with the dinner, but he didn't. Dinner bill for 6 without tip (and with only 1 cocktail each) was $286 - a little pricey. But the atmosphere was good and it's worth a shot for a nice meal.

Emeril's Fish House at MGM Grand. Put on your walking shoes to get to this one - it's a long, long walk through the casino to find it. Dinner was pretty good. Entrees included crabcakes, mahi mahi, steak and pork chops. The crabcakes were the best. Some in our group thought it was over-rated, some really liked it. Here again, a little pricey, but it's the "in" place to eat and we wanted to try it once.

The Steakhouse at Circus Circus. Beyond a doubt, the best meal for the money. Hard to believe that it's actually at Circus Circus. It's at the back of the casino, a rather small, dark room where, upon entering, you walk past a glass enclosed cooler displaying the many aged steaks they have to offer. Great food & service. Black bean soup was excellent, as were the salads with outstanding bleu cheese dressing. Our entrees included petit filets, prime rib, strip steak and porterhouse steak. The tab for 6 of us ws only $162.00, and that included 10 cocktails. So good, in fact, that as we were leaving, we made a reservation to eat there again in two nights. (On our second visit, we tried lobster tail and lamb chops - very good, but not as good as the steaks. After all, it is a steakhouse.)

Hugo's Cellar downtown at Four Queens. A truly memorable dining experience. A long-stemmed red rose for each lady upon seating. Wonderful cocktails served in individual carafes nestled in individual little ice buckets. Salad prepared tableside with a choice of many ingredients including hearts of palm, bay shrimp, artichoke hearts, chunks of bleu cheese and skinned (yes, skinned) tomatoes. Then rasberry sorbet in tiny cones served between courses to cleanse the palate (am I starting to sound like Julia Child yet?). Our entrees were herb encrusted rack of lamb (for the King, of course), chicken and veal Dijonnaise. All of this was followed by a complimentary dessert tray with chocolate covered strawberries, figs with whipped cream and apricots. The coffee was served with real whipped cream and chocolate chips for sweeteners. The ladies finished with grasshoppers and sambucca, while the King nursed his second Bombay Sapphire martini. Wonderful meal, great (and unobtrusive) service, and the bill was $330 for the 6 of us, which included a 17% tip. But we enjoyed it so much, we tipped extra. This is a place everyone should visit once, no so much for the food, but for the whole experience.

Miscellaneous - the Lindy Coffee Shop at Flamingo served good breakfasts - nothing spectacular, but good. Bugsy's Diner at Flamingo had great hot dogs & fries, cheap, but it seems to open and close at will - no set hours. Missed out on the Golden Gate shrimp cocktail on this trip - ran out of time. We mostly did late breakfasts, snacks in the room and full dinners.

Casinos/Gambling:

The Flamingo Casino is large, but nothing special. Not a lot of the newer machines. Didn't win much here, except one night at a $1 Double Diamond Deluxe machine where the King & I (playing partners) hit for $300, followed by a $100 hit on a $1 Wild Cherry machine. Our best night of the trip.

Barbary Coast had some great nickel machines - Reel "Em In and Boom. These are very addictive but lots of fun. Hit several times for 2,000 nickels. That's when the fun stops. Waiting for the coins to drop, and the hopper always needs to be filled. Then carting the nickels over to cash in. Oh well, that's the price you pay and I sure shouldn't complain. Of course, the King caught a lot of big fish on Reel 'Em In, while I came up with the babies - and he won't let me forget it.

Luxor is different, the Egyptian theme carried throughout the casino. Machines didn't play very good here, but it's someplace to see.

Gambled a bit on the $1 carousel machines at Circus Circus (before and after dinner). I think the main draw here is the revolving carousel. Had fun, all 6 of us pooling our dollars and playing one machine - but no luck.

The Mirage is another must see for first-timers. The atrium bar serves up some really good tropical cocktails, and we always stop here for some. King & I did hit 540 quarters on some gimmicky machine (that I can't remember). I tried to show him the White Tigers, but they must have been out to lunch as the habitat was empty.

O'Shea's is another favorite gambling spot, but on this trip, nothing was hitting there. Even when I sat down at the bar to play Video Poker, the bartender never even asked if I wanted anything to drink, and usually, they're very good about that.

Went to the Continental Hotel to play the mini-crap table. On our June trip, we had a blast here. The table is smaller than a regular crap table, but the highlight is that they had chairs around the table - almost like bar stools. Anyone who has ever played craps knows how tired you can get standing around the table. Not only were we comfortable here, but we also made money. To our dismay, the mini-crap table has been removed. The dealer told us it just wasn't making enough money to justify its existence in the casino. Another favorite LV experience is now just another memory.

Entertainment/Attractions:

The Forum Shops at Caesars just keep getting better and better. Not so much for the shopping, which is very expensive, but for the whole attraction. The new Neptune rotunda/statue show is marvelous. Did the "Race for Atlantis" motion simulator ride before the statue show. This is a great ride. Much better than "In Search of the Obelisk" at Luxor, which we also did.

Lord of the Dance at New York New York was OK. Most in our group liked it and the audience gave a standing ovation, but in my estimation, this production was made by and for Michael Flatley, and the current main dancer doesn't have Flatley's charisma or dancing ability (and probably not his ego). The music was good and when the entire cast was on stage performing, it was great. However, it may have been even better had we been sitting closer to the stage. I ordered these tickets well in advance from home, and I don't understand why our seats weren't better.

Cirque du Soleil's "Mystere" at Treasure Island. Saw this in June, but went again so the King could witness this very special show. Had seats in 5th row, off center. King was impressed, especially with the two strength performers who have to be seen to be believed. Well worth the price (even though I was nodding off toward the end - remember, I had just seen it in June).

Earl Turner Show. Went to Boulder Station expressly to see this show. He was good, especially when he performed an audience participation number to Macho Man and YMCA - very funny. However, he's no Sonny Charles or the Checkmates (favorites of ours from the old Sands days - where are they now?).

Fremont Street Experience. Saw the Country-Western themed show. Very neat. Best part was the stampede at the end. However, didn't feel like waiting another hour to see a different show.

Cook-E-Jar at Continental Hotel. Saved the best for last. It's hard to describe this show, it's actually more of a party. Cook-E-Jar performs alone with CD's for background music. Draws a lot of local people, we were probably the only out-of-towners in the place. But boy, did we have fun. Cook-E does great impressions of the old LV performers --plays some Sinatra, some Dean, some Sammy. Does Rod Stewart really well. And somehow, he gets everyone up to dance. He's a must see for us on all of our trips. There is no cost, except for a 2 drink minimum (and drinks are only $3 each). If you've never experienced Cook-E-Jar, please do on your next visit. Of course, if you don't like to have fun, or you're inhibited or take offense easily, or don't like loud parties with happy people, you'd better skip it.

Finally, some miscellaneous musings....

We didn't play table games much this trip, maybe because the King was with us. Normally, we play a lot of blackjack, some craps and some roulette. We usually play as a team, even at the tables. Seems to keep our losses to a minimum which is very important when you're in LV for a whole week.

Also, I find that as we get older (in body, not in spirit) we tend to have fewer "all-nighters" during our stay, maybe only 2 now during a week's trip. Maybe it's because we love to drink and usually start imbibing in the late morning with Bloody Mary's, then "room time" cocktails (vodka, our favorite), then cocktails with dinner, and more vodka and Irish Coffees during the evening. It's amazing how much you can drink out in LV and not really get sloppy or wasted. Maybe there's some truth to that myth about the casinos pumping oxygen in!

If you do go to the Continental Hotel, make sure you have transportation. This is not the place for cabs. When we left after the Cook-E-Jar show at 2:00 am, there wasn't a cab in sight. Lucky for us a private livery was dropping someone off and was kind enough to take us back to the hotel (we didn't have the car with us - we never take the car to a Cook-E-Jar show because we don't want to worry about driving back).

Hope you enjoyed the report. We can't wait to get back to LV, but probably won't go again until Spring, 1999 (April or May). We're thinking of staying at either Bally's, The Mirage or Sam's Town, although Sam's Town is kind of out of the way. Until then, I'll keep tuned into the Discussion Board to keep track of what's going on.

I'll be looking forward to your comments.