When my wife told me in March that she was considering attending some events at a conference in Las Vegas in May it certainly seemed like a good idea to me. When she told me that the conference was going to be at Rio my first thought was to stay at Gold Coast next door. Gold Coast is one of our favorite casinos, and we really like the renovated rooms there in addition to the great dining choices. But it is May and prime pool season, and the one area where Gold Coast is really lacking is in the pool.
I also didn't like the fact that she might have to walk to her conference early in the morning. So we decided to stay at Rio. We had been there for dining, the Show in the Sky and Voodoo Lounge, but never stayed at the hotel. We knew the pool was fairly nice, so we were looking forward to a new experience.
Sunday May 22nd
We arrived in Las Vegas around 11:15am and found the longest cab line we have seen in over a year. The fact that it was Sunday morning has something to do with it, but we have found the cab line at McCarron to be fairly indicative of how crowded Las Vegas will be. It was nice to see the big difference from our last trip in March.
Noon on Sunday is not the best time to try and check into a Las Vegas hotel either, and Rio was no exception. We waited over 20 minutes, but were actually lucky because the line was a lot longer by the time we got to the desk than when we started. I asked the clerk for her help, explaining that this was our first visit to this hotel and I needed a very quiet room, as I don't sleep well due to my medications. So I required a room away from Voodoo Lounge, the nightclub, and the beach club. After some searching we were given room #1484 in the Ipanema Tower.
So it was upstairs to check out the room, and we were basically pleased. The room was what I expected, comfortable but not modern. The only thing that jumped out at me was the mini-pillows (standard size) on the bed, but I could live with this. The view was facing south, but we don't require a Strip view and didn't want one of the pool. We also had a nice view of the AC units about 10 floors below. In addition to seeing the units, we could also hear them.
My wife looked at me and immediately said 'You're not going to be able to sleep. We better change rooms.' So I call the front desk and request to be switched to a room in a quieter location. The clerk puts me on hold for a couple of minutes and then says there isn't anything else that would be better. I ask for a manager, who explains that we are on the 14th floor and there are only standard rooms up to the 16th, and even if he moved us up two floors it wouldn't help. I offer to pay for an upgrade to a larger suite as long as it would be quiet, and am told there isn't anything else available. I thank him and hang up.
Then my wife says 'Let's just move to Orleans.' I reply that I can go to the business center and see if I can book reservations online, possibly for tomorrow as we both have offers in our accounts. 'Let me call them' she says.
'Hi. I hope you can help us. We're at another hotel but we'd really like to move to Orleans. My husband had a reservation there but canceled it.'
'Yes I have my account number. Do you want his too?'
'Today if possible, for 4 nights.'
'Two nights on each account, with a dining credit on each? That would be wonderful. Thank you so much for your help.'
So it was back downstairs to check out of Rio. We were lucky as there were only 2 people in the check out line in front of us. In what might have possibly been another display of wisdom my wife tells me 'Let me do the talking. I'll get our deposit back.' Now, not once during all this have I raised my voice, used scathing sarcasm, or vented my frustration in any way. But for some reason, now that we have someplace else to go, my wife (who thinks she knows me) doesn't feel I should be the one to tell the clerk that we are leaving and would like our deposit refunded. Maybe she's right. In all fairness, the supervisor at Rio was very reasonable, and the refund was posted back to our credit card.
By 2:30pm we were resting in our room on the 20th floor at Orleans. Having moved from a hotel where we were paying full internet rate to one where our stay was comped.
A couple of comments on the rooms at Orleans: They finally got some new white quieter fridges, after using those old noisy brown ones for years. My wife (who has short legs) wants me to mention that the beds at Orleans are higher than normal, which is inconvenient for short women.
Even though the BBQ Championship was outside in the parking lot, we decided that we just didn't have the appetites to appreciate it. So we grabbed a light lunch at Big Al's Oyster Bar. 2 Bowls of outstanding Boston Clam Chowder and Iced Teas $20.50.
Down to the casino to see if anything changed since our last visit in March. Sad to say they have finally removed the last four quarter 9/5 JOB machines from the floor. And to my wife's dismay they took out the original WOZ machines, although they did add a couple of Ruby Slipper machines at a different location. They had a poker tournament going on last week, so the WOZ machines may have just been removed because they were in the way. Hopefully that is the case and they will be back soon.
As usual we made no plans for our 1st day, so it was mostly spent in the casino. First we tried the Ruby Slippers machines. As mentioned my wife doesn't like these as much as the 'real' WOZ machines, but we gave it a try. I was playing 1-2 credits per line, and after a few minutes hit an instant bonus (comparable to a visit from Glinda on the other machines) that paid me $198! I know this might not be a big deal to others, but it was the biggest amount I've ever won on a slot machine of any kind. As you can see I'm not much of a slot player, lol. So I instantly cashed out at $210 from my $20 start. The slots would not see this money again. I think I put another $40 in the entire trip, as I only sit down at a machine every once in a while to keep my wife company, and she doesn't play that often most trips herself.
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing VP and kind of lollygagging around. My wife is currently into playing Scrabble online so this occupies some of her free time. So if we are separated I knew I might find her near the coffee stand with the wifi searching for the right word at one of the games she has in progress at the time.
I did get a royal flush this afternoon, but unfortunately it was on a DW machine. I mention it because it was my only one of the trip. I did walk out to the pool and reserve a cabana for Wednesday, so my wife could stay at the pool all day and she would have a nice place to Oprah's last show, something she didn't want to miss.
We weren't really hungry (Big Al's chowder is amazingly filling) at dinnertime, so around 9pm we stopped at the Courtyard Café for BLTs and Iced Teas, $25.50.
After that we wandered over to the new Big Al's Comedy Club, where it was open mike night. We stayed for 3-4 fledgling comedians. There was no cover charge, and you frequently got what you paid for. Why is it that many just starting out feel that you can make something funny just by adding profanity? And that constantly repeating the same profanity is somehow funny in itself?
The first day is always a long one, so no shame in going to bed before midnight.
Monday May 23rd
Pick up coffee and Danish and head down to the pool before 10am. This is typical for us. Most of our mornings in Las Vegas are spent at the pool. Parts of the Orleans pool remain in the shade until past 11 this time of year until the sun clears the building. This suits me fine, but the time from 10-noon is kind of interesting watching people move around from one area to another, some chasing the shade and others looking for sun.
The Orleans pool is really comfortable. There is one large main pool, a large kiddies pool that is 1ft deep, and a very large circular hot tub. Today we sit by the kiddies pool, but because of the time of year there are only a few kids to watch play. Somewhere along the way we figured out that we would much rather spend our time at a quiet luxury pool (Four Seasons, MO) or a family pool like Orleans, than a typical loud active Las Vegas pool. It is a lot more relaxing for us watching children play than watching 20-somethings do their thing. And if we do want a drink, the Pina Coladas are about half the price of the trendy pools at $7.50 each. We stayed until about 1pm, and as we left I added a cabana for Tuesday to make sure we could spend all the time we needed relaxing in the sun.
I wanted to go pick up our tickets at PH for that night, so I hopped on the shuttle to Bills and then walked to the Miracle Mile. I also wanted to see exactly where the walkway to Cosmo was in relation to the shopping, as we had reservations there for dinner. We don't go to the center Strip area very often, so like most I was surprised to see so many characters in costume walking around. The tourists must love this!
We had used a Groupon special for tickets to see 'Echos of the 60's' at the V theatre. $15 each to see a show I was interested in seeing anyway seemed like a good deal. This was a 6pm show, but I hate standing in a long line to pick up tickets before the show so I wanted to pick them up early. Upon arriving I find the show has been canceled for tonight. So I pick up tickets for Wednesday's performance instead.
We still had reservations at Comme Ca for 8pm and decided to keep them. This would give my wife a chance to see Cosmopolitan, which she couldn't do on our last trip. A little after 5pm, we took a cab to Cosmo.
My wife signed up for an Identity Card and then I took her on the grand tour. She hated that there were so many bars, which helps make the noise level in the public areas so loud all the time. We couldn't see the pool as it was closed for a private party. But she did like the public lounge area on the 3rd floor and LOVED that there was wifi everywhere. So she could sit and catch up on her email and ongoing Scrabble games on her ipod. We played some VP, not making a lot but getting a lot of play for our money with the decent paytables.
At one point I needed a drink (no lunch) and there wasn't a CW around, so I sent my wife to one of the bars for a Bailey's and coffee. She returned with my drink and a little vial of cream the bartender included, just in case I wanted to add some more later. She thought this was so cute! And of course right after that a CW came bye.
I was really looking forward to dining at Comme Ca, because I really like that type of cuisine, but hadn't heard much about it. You can't see the restaurant itself from the 3rd floor public area, but I knew they had tables with a view of the Strip, so I requested one. While we weren't right next to a window we did have a view of the Strip lights.
We went on a quiet Monday night and were surprised to see how crowded it was. Hip & Trendy describes this place perfectly, AND LOUD. I'm sorry, did I shout? Well I had to, in order to be heard by my wife on the other side of the table. And every one else in the restaurant also had to speak loudly to be heard over the din, making it worse. The food was good. We both enjoyed our salads, although mine was a little light on the bacon vinaigrette. The Veal Breast was outstanding and my wife enjoyed her Scottish Salmon. The roasted mushrooms we included as a side dish was a very interesting combination of various mushrooms. The service was a little spotty, and we ended up with a different waiter than we started with. The timing between salad and entrée took way too long, as the kitchen was obviously backed up.
Looking at the menu I wanted to sample the desserts, but the atmosphere didn't lend itself to making us want to linger over coffee. The meal took 90 minutes, but certainly seemed longer. If loud, hip and trendy places are your style you will enjoy Comme Ca. I can certainly see it as a place for drinks and appetizers. But we will not be back. If we want this type of cuisine we will go to Bouchon, as there is no comparing the overall dining experiences. Beet Salad $12, Frisee Salad $14, Scottish Salmon $28, Veal Breast $31, Roasted Mushrooms $9, Sauteed Spincah $9, Total $111.34. Note there was no charge for bottled water or our Iced Teas. I'm not sure if those were just missed, normally not included, or left off by the waiter due to the long wait between courses.
It is now 10pm and Cosmopolitan is teeming with young people. It is crowded everywhere! And of course the style of dress is amusing to us older folks. Sometimes you have to wonder if these people don't have any friends who can tell them how silly they look. But then you realize that this is the kind of look they are trying for, lol.
Obviously it is time for us to leave, as we no longer belong here. So we join a VERY LONG cab line. It was really surprising as there is no show at Cosmo to cause a lot of people to leave all at once. And because the entrance and line is under a building overhang it is very warm. I can't imagine what it will be like during the summer. But a good tip might be to walk to another hotel if you need to catch a cab. Finally we make it back to Orleans and a little peace and quiet.
Tuesday May 24th
Danish and coffee for breakfast and then we stroll down to the pool before 10am. We have the center cabana reserved for today and tomorrow. It's only supposed to be around 90 degrees today, but the shade is appreciated and will allow my wife to spend the whole day there. And of course, Oprah is on at 2pm in Las Vegas.
We are pretty low maintenance when it comes to service in a cabana. As long as someone comes by to make sure we have enough water, or offer a drink every once in a while we are happy. But it seems like we are getting an awful lot of attention this morning. Not only from our server but also from a lifeguard and even the manager. And they seem to be working diligently to prepare the cabana to our right. So my wife asks the manager if we were going to have company and he replies that the president of the hotel has the cabana next to ours. I ask: 'You mean the President of Boyd's?' 'Yes' 'Well you know the annual meeting is Thursday. We probably would have gone if we weren't going home that day.' About an hour later 3 women (wife and daughters') took residence next door. So we were the recipients of some excellent collateral service all day.
I absolutely love the Orleans pool on Tuesdays. It is the quietest day of the week for Las Vegas hotels, but most importantly at Orleans Tuesdays are Senior Days. In addition to discounts and earning extra points on Tuesday the music in the hotel, including at the pool, is changed to Oldies music. A cabana, 85 degree weather with a slight breeze, a pina colada in hand, and great music in the background, lounging around in Las Vegas. Life doesn't get much better than that.
And for those who think Orleans is over-run with children, on May 25th there was one family with 2 kids at the pool before noon. A little later there might have been a total of 5 or 6 kids at the pool.
Around 1pm I left my wife to Oprah and started my day. After a little VP, I decided there was enough time for a little poker. Even though there was a tournament going on (Omaha today) there were still plenty of games going on. After a short wait I was able to get a seat in a $4-$8 game. It wasn't a great game with almost all locals, but I played for a couple of hours and left $47 ahead.
Our plans for tonight were for dinner and the Trivia Quiz at McMullan's Irish Pub. So a little after 7pm we walked over there. The food is always good, and they are home to one of my favorite desserts, the Sticky Toffee Pudding.
What can I say about Trivia Night? To say we are not trivia nuts or experienced at this type of contest would be a huge understatement. And we are certainly no threat to the regulars. But we have a great time. We always meet other people, almost always locals.
We take joy in the questions that we get right and laugh at the ones that we don't.
There are 10 rounds with 10 questions in each, including one Picture Round and one Music Round. The whole process takes right around 2 hours. We were so proud, and a little surprised, when we got 7 right in the 1st round. And we did fairly well in the next few rounds, although certainly not threatening the leaders.
Then came the Music Round. The category was: The 10 most popular Graduation songs this year. They then play a few bars of music from each song---no clue and no vocals. We know a grand total of one Graduation song between us, and 'Pomp and Circumstance' wasn't one of the answers. And you can count the titles of popular songs recorded in the last few years that I know on one hand. Needless to say we got ZERO that round. But we couldn't stop laughing and joking with our neighbors about how much we didn't know on the subject. After all, having a good time was the object. But we didn't give up and finished all 10 rounds. This time we finished 32nd out of 36 teams. And I hope the 4 teams we beat had as much fun as we did. BTW: The winning team got 74 correct out of 100, and they won by 5 points.
Great pub food, good drinks and the ability to laugh at how much we don't know, help make Trivia Night at McMullans a fun evening out, and we will return. Bangers & Mash $11, Fish & Chips $14.50, Bread & Butter Pudding $6.50, Sticky Toffee Pudding $7, 2 Iced Teas $5.50, 2 Coffees $6. Total $53.66.
Wednesday May 25th
This may not come as a big surprise, but this morning we grabbed coffee and Danish and had breakfast in our cabana. We might be a little predictable, but we didn't forget why we were there---mostly to rest and relax. Cabana service was back to normal today. It was still friendly but not as constant and nary a manager in sight. It probably had something to do with the 'regular people' in the cabana next door. Although it got up to 96 degrees this afternoon, so my wife really appreciated the cold washcloths brought by.
She did get to see Oprah's last show today, and I'm glad that she could enjoy it in such a pleasant location.
I of course left around 1:30pm, as it would be hypocritical of me to watch Oprah today when I missed her show the last 25 years. I spent the afternoon in the Orleans casino, mostly at the VP bar with the 9/5 JOB progressives. I enjoyed watching the baseball game and discussing the world of sports with the regulars there, And did very well on that machine cashing out a couple of hundred ahead.
Around 5pm we took a cab to the V theatre. I don't know any other way to access the mall except through PH and neither did the driver, although I was sure there must be one. So we were dropped off at the PH registration and had to walk all the way through the mall to get there.
The V theatre is actually more than one room, and Echo of the 60's is shown upstairs. It's quite a climb up some small stairs, and the theatre itself is tiny. The main part has a grand total of 4 rows of seats. It is General Seating with the exception of the VIP seats, which I believe cost $10 more. DO NOT pay for these seats. We sat 3rd row center, right behind a couple who had VIP seats in the second row.
For those of My Generation (yes it was part of the show) this was an enjoyable experience. But don't expect to be blown away by the performances. It is a musical look at the decade of the 60's, covering the various styles of a period when music was in a state of constant change. Unfortunately for the timing of the show, the music at the end of the decade was the worst of the period, so I was kind of disappointed in the finish. The show lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes. We enjoyed the show, but of course I know every word of every song. For the normal discount price of $30 it is worth seeing, but don't choose it over LOVE or Jersey Boys.
Chinese food seemed like a good idea, so we decided on Ping Pang Pong. And we were able to find a way out of the mall down to a cab without having to walk through PH. Although I'm not sure I could find it again from the outside.
Ping Pang Pong is such a pleasure. Yes the Dim Sum lunch is great, but it's also a comfortable place for dinner. You know they must be good when you see all the locals picking up orders to go. Can you imagine this from any of the fancy Strip hotel restaurants? And the entire restaurant is full of Asian families and older customers.
While standing waiting to be seated my wife watched a plate being delivered to an older Asian man and said 'I want that.' 'What is it.'? 'I don't know, beef maybe. But it looks like there are crispy noodles on the bottom.'
So after being seated she tells our waitress 'I'll have whatever that man at the end table is having. Does it have crispy noodles?' Of course the waitress has to walk over there and take a look. 'Yes, crispy noodles.' 'Great.' So we added Shrimp Fried Rice, which my wife really likes here because the rice is white and not full of soy sauce. Chinese Comfort Food! Beef Satay Flat $9.95, Shrimp Fried Rice $9.95, and they don't even charge for the pot of tea, Total $21.91.
We spend the rest of the evening gambling at Gold Coast. My wife finally gets to play her original WOZ machine and is rewarded with a $76 visit from Glinda and a win. And some 9/6 JOB upstairs by the bingo parlor, where we got a lot of play for our money. We make sure to leave around 10:30, as we have been caught in the stampede that occurs when the last bingo session ends before.
We had to wait around 15 minutes for the shuttle to Orleans and it had become quite windy, which would last until morning. We were really lucky that the wind stayed away and didn't affect our pool time this trip.
Thursday May 26th
I woke up early as usual and went downstairs to allow her to sleep. Played a little VP, and the only Pai Gow Poker of this trip. Played for about an hour making a $114 profit.
I stopped by the front desk to pick up a copy of our bill and let them know we would be leaving by 12:30 pm. I went upstairs a little after 9am to wake my wife so we could leisurely pack and prepare to leave.
We didn't feel like going out, so breakfast was at the Courtyard Café. My wife likes the Ham Steak and eggs there and I had an omelet. And we finally used our 10% off coupon received at check in for a whopping $2.45 savings.
We spent our last hour in Las Vegas playing VP, and then it was time to go home. And I'm so proud of myself for not stopping at the office 'just to check the mail' on the way home at 5pm. Of course that meant I had to go in early the next morning. Welcome back to the real world.
Thoughts, Opinions and Conclusions
It seems kind of silly to say we got lucky with the weather, because the weather is supposed to be great in May, but considering what it has been like in Las Vegas this Spring it is one of my first thoughts.
I'm really sorry that we couldn't stay at Rio. Each hotel in Las Vegas provides it's own unique experience, and unfortunately this is one we will miss. But we were also so pleased that Boyd was so accommodating and helpful when we needed them.
My wife was disappointed in the housekeeping service at Orleans, and this never happened before. On Monday our room was not cleaned until after 6pm and on Wednesday between 4pm and 6pm. This is simply not convenient for us. We prefer service between 10am and 2pm while we are at the pool, and that is typical at most Las Vegas hotels.
Each time we stay at Orleans we feel more comfortable and at home there. We really like the pool. It's doesn't have the lazy river like Mandalay Bay, or the waterfall like Mirage, or the pampering and comfort of Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental. But it's what a pool is supposed to be, a place to rest and relax. Where you don't bump elbows with the person crammed in next to you, or have to raise your voice to be heard over the music blasting over the speakers or the 20-somethings drinking and making noise. The cabanas there have to be one of the greatest values in Las Vegas.
We still stay on the Strip about half the time, but when we don't we find ourselves spending less time there. We only visited twice this trip, once for dinner at Cosmo and once to see the show at PH.
As usual we spent some time gambling but it wasn't much of a factor financially. I brought $1300 in pocket money (not counting change for tips) and came home with $1200. This means I made a small profit that helped pay for cabs and minor expenses. Speaking of gambling, I played more Deuces Wild machines this trip. This was partly for a change, but also because my wife was playing scrabble on her Ipod and there aren't any decent JOB paytables near Java Best. It was fun having to slow down and think about certain hands for a change.
Every time we take a trip that is only 4 nights I always feel that we need one more, but they often work out better at home. We love Las Vegas in May. It allows us to do anything we want, day or night. Even if mostly what we want to do is nothing.
This is the first time in a while that we don't have another trip planned, or even a general idea of when it might be. I know we have to plan a trip for a wedding the first week of December, but don't know if that will allow us to sneak in another trip to take advantage of the wonderful Fall weather first. At least we know there will always be a next trip.
I realize this wasn't the most exciting report, but it does reflect what Las Vegas is for us. When we talk about Las Vegas with others we know they don't believe that we really go to get away and relax. They really think we go because we like to gamble, lol. But now you all know better.
Thanks for reading.