The report will cover:
Who we are
Cirque du Soleil's "O"
Various restaurants and buffets
News heard while I was in town
Not necessarily in that order.
Who we are (to give you a sense of my perspective):
I am 38 year old M and live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I was joined this trip by my Mother, who is 68 and lives in Toledo Ohio, where I grew up. Mom flew up to Montreal to spend a few days prior to flying to Las Vegas.
There were numerous conventions in town, the biggest being the National Business Aircraft Association at the Hilton. This caused a LOT of big money to be in town, those desiring private jets. As a result, the hotel rates were either high or sold out when I inquired. We ended up booking the Barbary Coast for the first two nights, then Bellagio for the final two nights.
When I was researching where to stay, I noticed a shortage of info about this place, so I'll be as descriptive as possible.
Location: The BC is located next to the Flamingo Hilton, across the street from Caesars and Bally's, the other corner is Bellagio.
General: The hotel only has 200 rooms, normally reserved for regular guests, but we got it at a $59 rate. The hotel/casino is decorated in a turn-of-the-century San Francisco style with lots of dark wood moldings, red carpeting and stained glass. It has three restaurants, Drai's, rated one of the top restaurants in LV, Michael's which is also highly rated, and the Victorian room which is open 24 hours. The casino has Odyssey machines, 2 dollar blackjack, Megabucks, and all the usual games. Sports book is small/medium size and not overly comfortable.
The rooms: Are decorated in the turn-of-the-century style, with brass head-boards on the beds. This is NOT like the photos on the web site, which only shows the suites and are modern. The wallpaper in the rooms is a cream color with a blue and rose scroll pattern, the carpet is a red flower and gray pattern, which goes nicely with the "dusty rose" coloured bedspreads. The beds are accented with small flowered curtains on brass rods, another pair which separate the sitting area from the bed area. Our double room contained a table for two, a small writing/make-up table (both in dark wood), a dresser on which sat the TV, and a large oval mirror. NOTE: There is NO CLOCK in the room. The bathroom and changing area are separate, allowing one person to shower while the other can use the sink, etc. The "closet" area is here also. It only contained 8 hangers, so between my mother and I we were doubling up. The bathroom has a small stained glass window in the small tub/shower, which opened to a beautiful view of Caesars. Toiletries included: shampoo, bath oil, body cream, mouth wash, in addition to the regular soaps. Lighting in the rooms was very good, provided by "antique" frosted lily lamps. The cooling/heating was provided by and in-room unit which was a bit noisy, but not overly so. We did hear the buzz of the Flamingo air-conditioning units, but it wasn't very bad. The rooms are older, but ours was maintained very well.
All double rooms are on the Flamingo side, while the King rooms are on the Bally's side.
Restaurants: We only ate at the Victorian Room twice, both for breakfast, and it was very good. They have a "Skillet breakfast", and iron skillet layered with home fried potatoes, onions, ham/bacon or sausage, and topped with three eggs. All for $5.99. They also have a $1.79 eggs/bacon/toast breakfast from 11:00pm to 7:00am, which you can get a 2 for 1 deal for with their funbook.
Overall: We liked it. It was very nice just to be able to "pop up" to the room from the casino because of the intimate size. Liked the low minimums, friendly staff. It's perfectly good "back-up" to the larger casinos if they're booked. Can't beat the location.
General: The most beautiful casino I've seen, in a classical way. The Mirage is beautiful, but in a tropical way. It's like trying to compare Tahiti and Venice, they just don't equate, but both are stunning. Bellagio is all white Italian marble, the lighting fixtures are "antiqued" wrought iron, the marble floor is interlaced with red/green/navy paisley carpets and intricate tiled mosaics, which actually sparkle in the light (I'm not sure how they do that). The overhead walkway from Bally's leads you past the lake, then into the shopping area of Bellagio - a covered atrium lined with high priced shops such as Chanel, Armani, Fred Leighton Jewelers, etc. the merchandise is no where near as accessible to the "common man's" pocket book as the Forum shops at Caesars.
The casino: Is carpeted with more of the paisley and flowered carpeting, each of the gaming areas are underneath a golden and orange canopy framed by white wood and plaster framework. Almost every other bank of slot machines contains a sign above it indicating which denomination machines are near it. This is a GREAT idea, which is used sporadically in other casinos, but applied consistently here. Here's something that surprised me: There are more Nickel machines here than at Treasure Island. Yep, I couldn't believe it either, but we went back to TI to verify it. Bellagio is still mostly Dollar machines, but there is a very good selection of others too. Lots of Odyssey machines, and yes there was Megabucks (which invariably had lines waiting for them in the evening, but were accessible during the day). The Slot Club sign-up is located on the opposite side of the main cashier, on the left hand side of which are the only ATM machines I found. Once we got the layout, we found the casino very easy to navigate.
The Rooms: VERY beautiful. Ours was decorated in tans and creams, nice and large. Two queen beds. We were on the 17th floor, overlooking the lake and fountains (room 17056) and Bally's/Paris. Perfect. The beds, by the way, were taller than normal due to an extra thick pad on top, pillows which my Mother and I both coveted, and would have stolen had we had room in our bags, alas, they were too thick and fluffy. Wallpaper coloured like coffee with cream in it, inscribed with a diamond pattern, carpet of thick wool of off white and the occasional small square. A large blond wood armoire contained the TV, four drawers, and two closets. One closet was full length for gowns, etc, the other was split in half by a rod so you could hang two levels worth of shirts. The electronic safe was here as well, but ours didn't work (no power) - it is not deep AT ALL, maybe three inches deep, but still full size otherwise. Also in the room was a table with two chairs (18th century style). The table was made of wrought iron and topped by marble and is VERY heavy. There is a small writing desk with phone and lamp (both phones in the bedroom are 2 line speaker phones and have extra jacks for computers), there is also a phone in the bathroom. The wall that faces the windows is fully mirrored. There is a marble topped night stand between the beds, which also has a digital alarm clock and lamp. Lighting is excellent and the switches well placed. The Bathrooms: Wow. LARGE, approximately 9 feet by 12 feet, and all marble. Large soaking tub big enough for two smaller people or me (I'm a large guy), approximately 22-24 inches deep with a sloped back to recline against. A separate large glass walled shower stall is on the other side of the room. The vanity is all marble, of course, with a sculpted white porcelain sink. Large mirrors over the vanity and the tub with gold frames. Amenities included: Built-in hair dryer, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, hand cream, sewing kit, vanity kit (contains two cotton balls, nail file, two Q-tips), but NO BUBBLE BATH!!!! It's a pity with that large tub. I ended up buying some at the gift shop (and paying $6.49 for it. Aaargh) A cheap touch in an otherwise classy place. The toilet uses very little water, and uses what sounds like a compressed air flushing system that whoooshes everything away. Other stuff: The room was TOTALLY QUIET. We never heard anyone, no water sounds, no doors, no voices, nothing. Nice.
The Buffet: We went to the dinner buffet. It was good, but I was disappointed for $19.50 I expected more. I think of you like seafood, which neither I nor my Mom are big on, you'd probably like it more than we did. The shrimp were VERY large and peeled, large crab legs, salmon, etc. There are almost NO vegetables, and only ONE type of bread (I would have expected some of that wonderful Italian bread, but no). Some Chinese, some Italian. A carvery station, various chicken dishes. Again, it was good, I guess I was just expecting more. I had a better meal at Harrah's buffet actually, even though the shrimp and crab legs are smaller.
Sam's American Snack Bar: Stay away. Total rip-off, badly designed area. Weird food. (i.e.: turkey sloppy joes). $3.00 for a small thing of fries smaller than a medium fry at McDonalds.
Pool area: Beautiful (am I sounding repetitive yet?). Designed like a classical Italian garden you see on PBS (or in real life), with numerous smaller pools, plus jacuzzis.
The Conservatory and Art Gallery: Stepping into the conservatory is a sensory overload. A classical atrium FILLED with flowers, the smell is heavenly and powerful, people walking around, their mouths agape, taking pictures. A huge cornucopia spills out orange and yellow flowers, HUGE planters of roses everywhere. heaven. This exhibit will change constantly, so the colours will fit the season. The art gallery ($10 admission) is in the back of the conservatory. 50 people are let in at a time and you can rent a "wand" that you hold to your ear that talks about the paintings ($4 extra). It empties into a gift shop where you can buy books and prints about the art. If you love art, it is a stunning collection.
The Lobby: First, I should say that I blow glass as a hobby. My hero is Dale Chihuly who designed the glass "flowers" which fill the lobby ceiling with colour. SMALL Chihuly pieces go for $5,000, with most of his pieces in the $20,000 -$40,000 range. Well, the ceiling contains (my estimate) approximately ONE THOUSAND individual pieces!!! It brought tears to my eyes, but I'm weird that way about art. Large flower arrangements also dominate the area.
Cirque du Soleil's "O": Stunning. We bought the $100 orchestra (floor) section seats. You don't get any choice of where your seats are, except for balcony ($90) or orchestra. You get the best seats available at the time you reserve (I called a week in advance). I was about to bitch about this when the girl handed me my two tickets. Second row center. I guess they'll do . Anyway, I get to see all the shows as they try them out here in Montreal first before they take them on tour. This was the only one that wasn't, simply because the pool/stage is such an integral part of the show. The show has acrobats, divers, fire, penguins, trapeze artists, ships, carousel horses that fly and swim, clowns, icebergs, etc. As I've said, I've seen all their shows and this is by far the best. The only thing I noticed was that people were staring in awe and didn't always know when to applaud, even though there were amazing feats going on. I think it is worth every penny. As far as seat selection, there is a small pre-show before the real show which is hard to see from the front rows, but the rest of the show the closer you are the better. The technology behind the pool/stage is amazing. It becomes solid, deep, in between, sections, etc at various times and you can see all of this much better up close, unlike Mystere which is better from further back.
Sports Book: This is as close to heaven as it gets. Great TV's, wonderfully luxurious LEATHER chairs to sit in, friendly staff. Mmmmmmm
Miscellaneous: Bellagio requires a $50 per day deposit for the phone (I declined). You can still call internally if you don't do it, just not out. A ton of people walking around just looking. The monorail to Monte Carlo IS open, despite earlier rumours of a two week closure. It seems faster than the Bally's one, and it is MUCH less of a walk from casino to casino. Saw one guy being taken away in handcuffs. Security EVERYWHERE, asks for room key at night to get to room elevators. Every employee we encountered was VERY friendly and knew the answers to all our questions. Saw Steve Wynn and the President of Bellagio on our last night, chatting in the lobby. Didn't want to interrupt.
Other stuff around town: Newspaper reports that Tommy Tune (of Broadway fame) will replace David Cassidy in EFX! Mandalay Bay started hiring while we were there, Tap Dogs at the Stratosphere is rumored to be closing to make room for a sports book. Saw Penn & Teller shooting a promo with Terry Garr in the lobby of the Hilton. Actually got a picture of Teller speaking! Very rare, LOL. Star Trek: The Experience was worth it. Fun. Lunch at Quarks restaurant/bar was good but service sucked. One Ferengi walking around. Didn't think that Bally's buffet for breakfast was as good as everyone says. We won the most money at Bally's, but of course, lost it all before we left town. Caesars Palatium buffet was a wonderful breakfast. Cheesecake Factory at the Forum Shops was WONDERFUL. I don't even eat cheesecake, but the rest of the food was sooooooooooooo good and HUGE portions.
That's it I guess. Sorry for being long-winded. Let me know if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
Mark in Montreal