My plan was to fly from Charlotte to Atlanta to Detroit, meet up with my girlfriend and spend the night at an airport hotel, then leave bright and early Saturday morning for Vegas. My Charlotte to Detroit flight was on Delta and our Detroit to Phoenix to Las Vegas flight would be with America West.
I decided to take a taxi to the airport this trip. I figured it would be as cheap as the long-term parking at Charlotte Douglas, and I wouldn't have to lug 300 pounds of luggage across the airport parking lot. I was wrong on the cab costs ($23.00 on the way out and $30.00 on the return, compared to about $40 for LT parking), but I still think it was worth the cab fare as far as lugging the bags goes.
I boarded the plane in Charlotte and off I went. Or, so I thought. Our 737 had to sit about half an hour on the tarmac, waiting for weather to clear. At this point I started to worry, as I only had an hour lay-over in Atlanta. We almost made it to Atlanta when the pilot told us that a local thunderstorm had briefly shut down the airport. We ended up circling for another half an hour. After we finally reached the terminal, I found that my connecting flight to Detroit had managed to leave on time, so, I was pretty much screwed. I headed to the Delta customer service counter and they scheduled me for another flight... three hours later. I ended up in Detroit 4 hours late, but no biggie. We had our cell phones with us and I kept my girlfriend apprised as to what was going on. It was 2 A.M. when we finally checked in to the Fairfield Inn in Detroit.
We had a 6:50 A.M. flight out of Detroit Metro, so that meant a 5:00 A.M. wake-up. We spent awhile "catching-up", then hit the sack. She managed a couple of hours sleep, me... none. I lay awake until the alarm went off. Can anyone say 'anticipation'?
We took the hotel shuttle to the airport and checked in at the ticket counter at 5:30. The clerk told us the flight was running about half an hour late. At this point let me mention that I will never, EVER, fly America West again. Period. After one of the roughest flights I've ever been on, we finally arrived in Phoenix to find that our connecting flight was delayed as well. Whew! We boarded the plane and sat on the runway for an hour and a half. Mechanical problems, they said. After the maintenance staff finally repaired the problem, the pilot came over the P.A. and told us it was going to be a little while longer. It seems that someone forgot to put the luggage on the plane! What a joke. We eventually took off and arrived at McCarran around 2:00 P.M.
Now before I go into our Las Vegas adventures, I'll jump right to the flight home.
Our flight home on Wednesday was at 3:35 P.M. We checked in at the America West counter around 2:15. After we checked the luggage, the clerk told us again that this flight was going to be delayed a little. Knowing we only had 35 minutes between flights at Phoenix, I asked "how long"?. She said she didn't know, but there would be an announcement at 4:00. At this point, we started surveying our options.
Our connecting flight is the last one to Detroit for the day. If we miss it, that means spending the night in Phoenix. There was another flight, a direct flight, out of McCarran at 11:30 P.M. So now, we have two choices, take a chance on making the connecting flight or take the direct flight later. We headed up to the gate with this new info, to wait for the 'announcement'. Just as we thought, the flight was delayed half an hour. We decided to take the 11:30 direct flight. The clerk told us the plane was pretty full, but there shouldn't be a problem getting us on. We said 'cool', grabbed a cab and headed over to the Rio, one of the casinos that we had missed.
We cabbed back to the airport and checked in at 10:00. Now there's another problem. The flight's overbooked and we may not even make it on the plane. As a matter of fact, we're 5th and 6th in the stand-by line to go on 'IF' someone wants to take a voucher for a later flight. With the frustration pot already boiling, we both came unglued and I stormed off to the smoking lounge. After about three cigarettes I settled down and we headed back to the gate desk. The clerk that we 'expressed our disappointment' to had been replaced by three others, working frantically on the computer. One of them said 'don't worry, we're going to get you on this flight'. Needless to say, we were still at wits end. It turned out they found a couple of seats in first class. Imagine that. We were given a couple of drink/movie vouchers and their sincerest apologies. In all honesty, America West came through, but I'm sorry, they lost me as a future customer.
The flight back was uneventful and on time. We had to call and cancel our reservation at the airport Fairfield Inn because of all the BS, so the only sleep we had Wednesday night was on the plane. We finally docked at the terminal at Detroit Metro about 6:30 Thursday morning. We both held our breath as the luggage started coming around on the conveyor. We didn't know if our bags were going to end up in Phoenix, Detroit or Las Vegas! Sure enough, there they were. Another sigh of relief.
Our Vegas Experience - a summary.
We took the LVL limo from the airport. I wasn't sure what everyone meant by "outside door #5", but as we were in the baggage claim area at McCarran, it all became clear. There were 6 of us. Only one stop before us, the Tropicana. That's the only way to go from the airport, as far as I'm concerned.
NY-NY was awesome. My girlfriend had a 'special offer' that she had received after signing up for a slot club card online (I signed up too, but for some reason I never received my card). The offer was for $50 a night, for two nights. The clerk said there was a large convention in town and they could only honor one of those nights. Fine with me. That meant $149 for Saturday night, $50 for Sunday and $79 for Monday and Tuesday nights.
Our room was... in a word.... incredible! A huge room with a king bed. No suite, but a very large room. In all seriousness, about the size of my apartment. Very elegantly appointed, plenty of marble in the bathroom. No Jacuzzi, but still VERY nice. The room was facing the back, overlooking the interstate. A nice view of the Monte Carlo and the mountains. No strip view, but that was OK, I guess. We were on the 19th floor, not really high up, but high enough. The roller coaster track was just off to the left, but we never heard it.
It was always finished for the night by the time we got back to the room, usually 3:00-3:30 A.M.
We both really liked the casino. It was, at first, a little difficult to navigate, but big and airy. Of course, after a couple of days there, it was a breeze to get around. Of all the places we gambled, my girlfriend had her best luck on the slots there, and I found it to have the worst blackjack.
The Hotels on the strip all looked closer than they really were!
No blisters, though. We never walked farther than the Venetian on any one trip. Took the strip trolley once. From NY-NY up to the Stardust. Once was enough, as that trip took about an hour and a half in a very hot bus. The one thing nice about the trolley was, it gave us time to just 'look' as we rode up and down the strip. Took the Excalibur/Luxor/Mandalay tram and the MC/Bellagio tram a few times.
We played a wide variety of machines, as you can imagine. And we played them everywhere. We had the best luck (and most fun) on the 'bonus' round machines... Elvis, Wheel of Fortune, Slotto and Jeopardy. She played a few nickels, but mostly quarters. I played about even between quarters and dollars. The last day, while we were at the Rio because of the botched flights, we both hit 500 coins (quarters) simultaneously on side-by-side Elvis machines. We both emptied the machines and were making so much racket, we actually drew a crowd! That was the highlight of the trip. We actually left the Rio ahead!
We only saw one hand-pay the whole time we were there. A fellow hit 1000 coins (quarters) on an Elvis machine near us at Bally's. Almost seen another one. This is kind of cute, but sad. Late one night, I was cruizin' the NY-NY casino, looking for my honey. I came around the corner and heard this slot going nuts. Bells, whistles, lights. You know the sound they make when they hit big. There was a young kid standing next to it, maybe 18 or 19 years old. I looked at the machine as I walked by, it had had hit for 5000 coins (again, quarters). The kid sez to me 'hey mister, how about accepting this money for me'? I smiled and told him 'not a chance' and walked away. Doing some quick math, I figured $1,250.00 and I knew the IRS would be involved, so I bailed. Poor kid. Wonder what happened?
The ONLY 9/6 Jacks Or Better machine I saw on the entire strip was back near the sports book at NY-NY.
I was going specifically to play BJ. Having spent hours and hours learning the basic strategy, I was pretty comfortable playing against the computer. With a gambling budget of $500 a day, I was hoping to have enough of a bankroll to be able to withstand the negative swings that always occur playing 21, and I pretty much did.
With the exception of dropping $400 at NY-NY and another $200 at the Paris, I broke even just about everywhere else. EXCEPT for the Monte Carlo. In three sessions, I was able to walk away from their tables with $1500 of THEIR chips. I felt pretty good about that. Too bad I piddled most of that away in various slots up and down the strip.
Hated it! It absolutely sucked. I should've had an idea when our cab broke down on the way there. We sat on the side of the highway while the cabby cranked and cranked on his car. He finally got it going again. Apparently just before we got to the Golden Nugget, a couple of tour buses dropped off about a zillion people. People were everywhere. Milling about outside, waiting for the FSE show to start, jammed in the Nugget. Everywhere. To top it off, half the slots in the GN were roped off. I guess they chose that particular time to re-arrange their casino. In any case, there were twice as many people, with half as many machines. PLUS, a "not-so-friendly" slot host clerk and snotty change person. We left the Golden Nugget with a bad taste in our mouths.
Crossed over to Binion's Horseshoe. Way too dark and smokey in there for us. Kind of spooky. I probably would have stayed, had I been by myself. Didn't even bother with the Fremont or the 4 Queens. We grabbed a cab and headed back to the familiar digs of the strip.
When I finally got up enough nerve to talk with our slot host, she said she couldn't do anything about the food, but gave us the casino rate ($50) for three nights and gave us the 4th night free. Surprised myself by just asking! A special thanks to Billy, who helped me (by his post) come up with just the right way to ask for comps.
The Luxor had the best margarita on the strip.
The Rio and the Venetian had the best drink girl outfits. (-;
The Venetian literally blew me away! The casino, the shops, but especially the architecture. I LOVED that place! It's amazing what 3 1/2 billion dollars will do.
We saw 3 or 4 fountain shows at the Bellagio, went through Madam Tousaud's Wax Museum, missed both the Pirate battle at TI and the volcano eruption at the Mirage. We just never managed to be in the area after dark. Wanted to get to the Elvis-A-Rama museum too, but never did.
Typically, we would run up and down the strip, joining slot clubs and gambling during the day, headed back to NY-NY to re-group and eat, then pick one casino to go gamble the rest of the night.
We ended up with slot cards from 12 casinos. Paris, Rio, NY-NY, Golden Nugget, MGM Grand, Treasure Island, Harrah's, Caesar's Palace, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Monte Carlo and the Venetian.
It's an absolute shame that Steve Wynn is going to destroy the DI. We didn't go in, but that place looked like a classy old hotel! )-;
We ate (with hopes of getting comped and for the shear convenience) for the most part at our hotel. America (food was great, service average), Gonzalez y Gonzalez (food was great, service was terrible). We FINALLY got our silverware 15 minutes after the food was served! Motown Cafe (food was average, service excellent). Our best meal of the trip, believe it or not, was at the Outback across from the Rio. We were going to eat at one of the buffets at the Rio, but the lines were so long, and we had to be back to the airport by 10:00.
The only buffet we tried was Nathan's at NY-NY for breakfast. Food was good enough, but it was screwy. Not your typical 'help yourself' buffet. You actually told them what you wanted, ala high-school cafeteria style. Didn't go back.
We fell in love with the Rio. Very classy and BIG. It has everything. I think that's one place you could stay for three or four days and not even leave to go anywhere else! Didn't check out the pool. We would gladly stay there, given the right room offers.
About NY-NY's pool. Although we didn't use it, the only thing I didn't like about it is it's laid out all wrong. The architects really screwed up on this one. Because of where it is, it's in the shadow of all of the buildings around it, until about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. And in Vegas, at 2:00 in the afternoon, in August, you just don't want to be lying in the sun! Too bad.
The heat was pretty nasty. It was 111º when we got to McCarran on Saturday. We avoided it when we could. Dry heat or not, it was still HOT!
I thought the Luxor was the coolest hotel/casino there. What a strange concept for a gambling joint. I don't remember winning anything there, but in all fairness, it was the very first casino we played in (after NY-NY), so it's buried somewhere deep in my memory. I *do* remember the margaritas and the drink girls, though. Hehehe.
Didn't even go into the Excalibur, except on the way to the tram. I had heard from a taxi driver that the place had gone downhill, plus the 'kid factor'. And they were everywhere, by the way.
The greatest collection of porn peddlers seemed to be right in front of Holiday Inn, Boardwalk and the stretch along B/C, Flamingo, and IP. They didn't bother us too much, as we just ignored them. Same for the timeshare people. Only were confronted a couple of times.
Didn't make it to Batista's either. Wanted to stop and play at LV Hilton and the Sahara, but even in the daylight it looked like a pretty nasty part of the strip, so we didn't.
One thing I learned here (among MANY tips from you guys!) was I always tipped on the front end for the drinks. The girls always kept my margarita glass full. Good advice from someone. I also tipped the housekeeping staff this time, only $2 a day, but we always had plenty of soap, shampoo, notepads & stuff and a nice clean room.
All in all, we had a blast. Two grown adults running up and down a strip of asphalt in the middle of the Nevada desert, spending money like it was water, not having a care in the world and loving every second of it! We refused to let the sorry airlines spoil our vacation.
And before you ask, you betcha we'll be back!
Jerry in NC