VEGAS - HIGHLIGHTS
I break my experience with Vegas into three stages or categories when planning a trip.
PURPOSE and LOGISTICS
The reason for going there, and the logistics of the show passes, credentials, and appointments.
The logistics of moving my butt from Tampa Florida 1984.9 miles to Vegas and return economically and securing ground transport.
The simple search for a good rate in a clean and efficient hotel with good ancillary support such as good food and relaxation, gaming and shows.
When spending a week away from home becomes an important part of your trip away. We spend a good portion of our time sleeping, 1/3 of the day, eating 1/4 of the day and working or relaxing the rest. It's also more expensive eating three times a day out than you anticipate.
I allow 10.00 for Breakfast, 12.00 for Lunch, and 20.00 for Dinner if dinning alone or more in a group with each third day a buffet or upscale to make the trip memorable. With tips usually 50.00 a day, a fancy end meal can easily put you on a 80-100 budget. Some hotels have all you can eat all day long for a flat fee. If it is close to the convention center it is a great deal.
PURPOSE - IT'S ONLY BUSINESS
For decades I have covered two, sometimes three trade shows a year either in Vegas. Spending a week at the trade shows was the best part of working in the retail trades supporting Photography and the Outdoor sports. Trade shows with all the nice new products to hold, fondle and order was the calling. And time in Vegas itself, the "Adult version of Disney" was the icing on the cake. Unlike Orlando, Disney is adults who act like kids sometimes, not kids who are kids.
In the past, we went to the PMA show and spent three days in the convention center with reps and friends, two additional days for travel, and one and a couple half days at Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, or the Valley of Fire.
The rest of the time spent was sight seeing the magnificent hotels with stores no one could afford to shop in, the crap tables and roulette, poker and twenty-one took up the rest of the time with the exception of food, we spent lots of time at the buffets which were amazing. Nothings changed, with each year we travel sometimes with new friends and we take them on the tour.
Many things at this meeting were business financial confidential and I am sworn to secrecy. But a lot of product information was available and should be available online, especially in the consumer category.
Overall it looked like new runs of established gear with increased megapixels, new algorithms for night lighting, back lighting, smile, bad teeth repair and fart detection, with a couple of unique things thrown into the mix. Actually some of the advances are astounding.
TRAVEL VIA SOUTHWEST
We went SOUTHWEST - Non-stop. By booking early, we had $315.00 round trip, non-stop flights. Five hours to Vegas and four hours back due to tailwinds this time of year. Less cost, less bullshit, free baggage, fun people both crew and customers and you can bring food on board. We were welcomed by the co-pilot "Chuck Roast" and treated to the complimentary glass of water. I believe it was a Venetian LaSewar 92.
I asked the stewardess during the flight for a couple of peanuts and got two peanuts in a paper towel. When asked for two bags, I got two trash bags. I asked for a wing seat and was asked in turn "How far out on the wing". In the last 34 times I have flown SOUTHWEST we were never late, this is amazing. Laughing and joking with the crew makes the time go faster.
I wish all the airlines would dump the promos, classes, movies, split cabins, luggage rules, charges, classes, and other crap and keep the costs relevant. Thats Southwest's model, I may be crazy but I love that airline. I paid less to fly SOUTHWEST, got the same size seat I would have on coach on Delta or American, or US Air, and round tripped Tampa to las Vegas for 315.00, nonstop, including all charges, free baggage and two peanuts served with ice water. My rental car for the week cost more but we split that four ways.
THE RENAISSANCE HOTEL
We had a split group, one of us stayed at the Renaissance, a true business hotel next to the convention center, no gambling, great TV's (LG 37's) good bedding, not a lot of food courts, no kids seen or heard, no gambling.
Excellent bar and private conversation areas. The one thing you won't miss is the constant jingle of the slots. Some serious business takes place here. This is a high scale business hotel with a very good reputation for it's amenities, very nice rooms.
The monorail is right outside their door allowing you to cover the strip by rail, no traffic problems. Its location next to the convention center is great for the big tiring shows. This is a business hotel, period, lots of nooks and crannies for important and private conversation with a convenient central location to the trade center, other hotels, the old strip.
THE LUXOR HOTEL
My friend and I stayed at the Luxor because I had a deal I could not refuse. Cheap return rates! I have stayed there several times because I always have a car in Vegas courtesy of Hertz Gold and getting in and out of the Luxor is easier than the strip mid-way because of the traffic.
I like Hertz in Vegas, with my Gold card, I'm in and out quick. I asked for a GPS and they said, "At my age, they were giving me a map with large print".
I know the town and I was coming and going at all times, we ate in Henderson, and outside the strip on occasion, so the location was paramount to quick exits. The Valet service was excellent especially when you tip and they recognize you. Maybe the Mandalay next trip or Caesars Palace and take the back way out.
Years ago, my first trip to the Luxor (aka the Pyramid) was a Five. The second was a four and a half. This trip was a three and a half. Complaints, not anything substantial, the rooms are dated, clean, but it's fifteen years old now and just got sold and in transition to MGM.
The drapes drooped, the bedding cheapened, same TV I had three years ago, an old Panasonic non-digital, the elevators are slower, when they worked, we had a breakdown and 19 floors away from our room and the carpeting looks worn.
MY REAL BITCH
All those things are signs of age. But, room service FOOD CARTS uncovered left by the elevator for two and a half days (it was Veal Parmigiano and starting to smell) is not acceptable. I told the desk, the floor manager verbally and via email on checkout. In addition we found newspapers, magazines and a broken hair dryer on the floor while going to our room. People problems, but no one to clean it up. I know not to blame the maids but they walked past it two days in a row and it never got reported. It was still there the day we left.
WATCH THE CABS
There are some cabs that will rip you in Vegas telling you the freeway is faster than the strip route when going from one end to the other.
Unfortunately it is ten dollars more in road mileage and gets them another fare quicker. If you drive yourself, may I suggest this tip.
Avoid the main drags, I use streets like Koval and Flamingo and other routes that are off the main trail and we went where we wanted to go faster at any time. No real traffic, even though the strip was all backed up and thats how the cabs make more money off you, but less since they turn less rides. Most of them are pretty legitimate but be aware if the first thing they ask you is, "First time in Vegas"?
Some of the hotels have changed hands and have gone slightly downhill since the recession in 2008 came about. Many conventions cancelled, and many are smaller in size. Conventions are what Vegas is all about.
Vegas is coming back, slowly but the major hit points of the life in the old days have vanished on the lower levels. I never paid for a drink while playing the tables in the old days, new linens and laundry everyday in the rooms. Just simple things that made Vegas an experience. It was all about service. The three things you need in Vegas, like room, food and entertainment were slightly down in quality from the past but like in all business's they adjusted and it's still a great place.
NEW CULINARY LEADERS
Here are some of my thoughts on the Food part. Since I write a culinary blog, and have no morals, no heart, and a rabid taste for good omnivorous food, I will share some insight at http://www.aljacobskitchen.com I will tell you the ones we attended on that site and we have a new winner in the game of "Which is the best Buffet". The list of the few we went to are indicative of a new economy. We were warned about the others and turned onto new good ones.
WINNER - THE BUFFET AT The "M"
My article "Bluffing and Buffing In Vegas" will indicate the best Buffet we found was not on the strip. It was a short distance away.
Vegas and Buffets are synonymous because of the surge of people that have to be fed. It's just faster when the customers cart the prepared food themselves. Chefs don't have to be creative, they have to be repetitive and consistent.
In the past the locally approved best buffet was at the RIO hotel and it was on our list of places we were looking forward to. This year it was not the winner. Sadly, it dropped on all grounds. They were getting busy and only had two lanes open for seating. When I go to eat , I like to eat now, not wait 45 minutes looking at empty tables, and the bus folks jabbering, the seating boss doing nothing and my stomach growling.
The food was mediocre, sauces were skimmed over, drying out, the featured Crab Claws were subs or smaller, the chef was serving the prime rib like he personally paid for it.
The Wedding cakes on display above the deserts were falling apart. The hallway to the buffet or waiting area smelled (stunk) really bad from tobacco. I was about to bolt the line and leave because of the odor of the tobacco.
We were going to catch a show there after dinner, but I could not leave fast enough. The Shrimp had a funny frozen taste and the Sushi looked commercial. Nothing like it was in the past. I could have nitpicked a hundred other things but it wasn't impressive anymore. It's the economy.
NEW BUFFET WINS PANTS DOWN
The great buffet winner this year is the Studio B buffet at the "M" hotel. The only problem, it's not on the strip, and word has gotten out how good it is. You have to pick your times. Like everything in Vegas the weekend is the worst. First they actually host a food channel TV show there, by integrating a state-of-the-art restaurant with a live-action cooking studio.
In the main dining room, chefs prepare delicious appetizers, entrees and out-of-this-world patisserie desserts.
Guests may also enjoy beer and wine selections at no additional cost. The dining experience is made truly unique by the ever-changing live cooking and technique demonstrations by culinary experts.
So how did we rate the food and the experience ?
Service: ****1/2 Very Busy
It was great experience and the hotel is incredible. I actually felt the vibes in a new look in Vegas with this hotel and the unique bars and comfort zones they have. They have ample parking and the resort is huge and fresh looking. It's luxurious but at the same time comfortable, a little more quiet, and off the strip. Another good spot if you are people conscious and not a Vegas crazy.
If there ever was ever a place you did not want your lady to see with a credit card in her hand it has got to be the Forums at Caesars Palace because like Caesar you better be printing the coinage in gold "the money" with your picture on it.
This is a magnificent tribute to the exchange of currency. Opulent simply doesn't describe it. Their website best describes it.
The Forum Shops at Caesars is Las Vegas' premier retail, dining and entertainment destination, featuring more than 160 boutiques and shops as well as 13 restaurants and specialty food shops. The Forum Shops have held on to their position as the most successful shopping venue in the country through continual progress.
The most recent expansion added 175,000 square feet and additional levels that extend the mall out to Las Vegas Boulevard, where a grand pedestrian plaza creates a signature entrance for The Forum Shops at Caesars.
TSG - Another thing in Vegas thats getting anoying is touting. Through the hotels you will get stopped by the TSG (Time Share Gestapo). Their job is to offer you a free room if you go to their presentations on your next trip to Vegas. They will get in your face with a smile, and a pain in the arse. Last thing I want in Vegas is to be touted.
WORLD'S OLDEST PROFESSION
HOOKER FLIPPERS - When you walk through the strip about Midway you will be accosted by a group of gnarly looking street folks handing out the "escort cards of Vegas's best built and voluptuous working girls" who offer room service, "your room at no extra charge."
The cards are about the size of baseball cards. It must get depressing to feel that rejected, the streets are littered with cards as people who get tagged throw them in the street to avoid bringing evidence home the wife might find.
To prevent boredom and attract attention, they flip the cards against each other making a slapping noise. And they get aggressive since there is a "pit-boss crew leader watching them".
Since these girls are not part of the legal brothels in Nevada, the health checks and requirements are not founded and you may get more than just screwed for services rendered.
If you do partake please check with your doctor when you get home and make sure "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". No airline I know charges extra for clap, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV, just baggage. VD rides free.
Note: The City of Las Vegas has tried everything to get rid of the flippers. It went to those conservative thinkers on the Supreme Court. This is an example of those who test the laws of this country and sometimes Freedom of Speech goes too far in our society.
The Supreme Court felt that handing out prostitute cards was protected by Freedom of Speech. Our Supremes are too frickin conservative in allowing "Freedom of Speech" to protect illegal prostitution in Vegas and recently another disgrace, the defaming of the funerals of our fallen soldiers by the Westport Primitive Baptist Church. Thanks Mr. Bush for putting Justice Roberts on the bench. You and he made a wonderful "Screw America Program (SAP) come true.