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KenoQueen's Vegas Blog

Birthday Trip for Mom
by KenoQueen
Posted: 4:56:00 PM, Friday, January 8, 2010

After a very quiet Christmas and New Years, I was off to meet my Mom in Vegas for her 77th birthday.

Day after Christmas I caught a flu bug that would not leave and finally after 4 days I got a fever, which broke in 2 hours and the cold and cough and sore throat started to move through me quicker. I stayed in bed, drank Theraflu twice a day, but still felt like crap until the day I left at which time I had a coughing fit on the way to the airport and at DIA. If you saw me in the United terminal, I was the gal coughing and gagging into her purse! Embarrassing, oh just a tad……….

After we both arrived at Mc Carran, we boarded an Executive shuttle that took 20 minutes to get loaded up and get going. We were booked for TI for 1 night and double booked at Monte Carlo and Aria for 2 more nights. I had never stayed at Monte Carlo but the offer was for $100 Freeplay, up to 3 comp’d nights and $250 resort credit, which we used up on meals throughout our entire stay. Mom had an offer from Aria for $109 a night and grabbed it. I tried to make the room at Monte Carlo lived in each day, and grabbed bottled water on the way out. The resort fees were still billed to my folio but the resort credit covered them at check out.

TI-First let me say that all the gloom and doom and comments about how Phil is ruining this once decent property are true. It’s becoming what I like to call a dump! For starters, the invited guest line had 1 person manning it, and with only 1 couple ahead of us to check in I figured I would be outta there in 5-10 mins tops, WRONG! The guy behind the desk was so busy trying to build a relationship with this couple that he forgot he was in the service industry and other people were waiting. No relief in site, I used the old, “I’ve been staying at this hotel since 93” and walked into VIP check in where no one was checking in, asked the gal behind the desk if she could do me a favor and check us in because it might be tomorrow before the other guy finishes with his 1 customer of the night. VIP was great, they allowed us to check in quickly and we grabbed a chewy oatmeal cookie and cold water on the way out. Whew!

TI rooms in a word are starting to slip. Beds are still comfy beds, plenty of towels, but the shower head was in need of repair, to at least caulk it back on to the wall. The enamel in the toilet was wearing and it looked shabby. We were on a high floor but still heard ambulance noises and did not sleep as well as we did at Aria.

We redeemed our freeplay at the players club and new cards were given out that are yellow and gold and white, same number as I had before. The computer system went completely down for about 90 minutes so all the slot machines and video poker were not allowing gamblers to cash out with a TITO and had to get hand paid, regardless of the amount. Mom and I decided to have dinner at Isla, and wait out the technical difficulties in the casino. We arrived at Isla at 7:30 to find a virtually empty restaurant, on a Saturday night mind you. Service at Isla was good, fish tacos, chips & salsa were fresh and fajitas were also good. We washed it all down with raspberry margaritas. I told our server it was my Mom’s birthday and she told me that they no longer give out desserts for birthdays, which I thought was a sting. I am sure Phil had something to do with that.

After dinner we decided to try our hand at using the Freeplay and everything in the casino was back to normal. I played Ultimate X poker in nickels and hit quad 2s, no kicker for 1200 and cashed out. Played a very loud unicorn type game, very high tech and fun. Played 4 card keno, picking 3, 4 & 5 numbers but no great shakes. Blew thru my ½ of the Freeplay and gave the rest to Mom, she played penny games and did not have any sizable wins. On the way back to the elevators we tried the 4 card Wolf Run machines and they were quite friendly. Gambled $5 and turned it into $60 in a matter of minutes, and this was without the extra spin bonus. I love that game; it reminds me of coyotes howling at home, and then our dogs chiming in.

Off to bed around midnight. Tomorrow would be moving day.

Got up and fetched Starbucks for me and Mom to wake up. Showered and dressed and ordered a decent room service breakfast. Blueberry pancakes, eggs, juice, coffee and everything was fine. What annoyed me was no local paper or any paper at all unless you wanted to buy the Sunday paper for $2.50 which they try and sell you a few times during the process of placing a breakfast order. Lots of hotels still give the Sunday paper or some paper daily, regardless of the day.

We packed up and blew this hole! Off to Monte and Aria. Took a cab for a little under $10 and the driver dropped us right in front of Aria. Check in took about 25 mins as the agents were a bit pokey, but we were given a room on the 24th floor facing the mountains, the highway and surface streets leading into Mandarin. The room although near the street side, was very quiet, much quieter than you would expect, and certainly quieter than TI.

Aria truly is a whole different ball game when you line it up with others like Bellagio and Wynn. I have to say cave comes to mind, but a very high tech one at that. The casino is too dark. When you think of Wynn and Encore casinos you think of the entrance and as you walk to the casino you are hit with natural light from behind and on the side. Bellagio may not have natural light coming through the casino, but the lighting is ample and the lobby gains light from the conservatory to some degree. When you walk into Aria, yes it’s a stunning example of modern architecture but it’s a cave, I felt like I needed a flash light to get around in there! The signage sucked out loud and it’s so easy to get lost, even after 2 days of staying there, it was still unclear how to get out to go to the tram. I also just remembered what cheapened the experience of Aria for me was the glass doors leading into the casino from the tram where you could see fingerprints and decals from Christmas still left on the doors, up to the 5th of January. The doors at Bellagio and Wynn are not glass, but heavier and I prefer them. Glass doors leading into a casino remind me of downtown, sticky and dingy. I didn’t like them.

As for the rooms at Aria, all I can say is wow! As you approach the door to gain access to the room, you simply wave your key in front of the door lock; no fiddling with key inserts; nice touch. Bedside controls were sometimes a bit hard to master but the ability to control everything from 1 place was great. Bathroom amenities were plentiful and housekeeping kept us up to our eyeballs in body lotion, bath gel, soap, hairspray, toothbrushes, shave gel and razors, you name it they brought it, and fast! For those who have commented that the bath amenities were unscented, they are not, but have a lovely light green tea/citrus scent. Loved the safe in the nightstand in between the 2 queen beds. Very convenient and also big enough for a lap top.

The Aria had bathrobes hanging up in the closet that were your standard white with a medium blue logo on them, but you could not buy them in the hotel gift shop because of some patent snafu! Another loss in revenue that could have been prevented prior to opening. I normally wouldn’t bother mentioning things like bathrobes but these robes were unique in that they were plenty long enough and big enough for a tall man or anyone else with some meat on their bones, I being one of them. They were warmer than most spa robes and very soft and comfortable. I might have bought one, but MGM has to get permission to sell it to me first! What nonsense.

Also, we were on a non smoking floor but our neighbors were smoking for 2 days during our stay and you could really smell it coming through the vent in the bathroom where the toilet is. Stunk up the whole room. We called the front desk who were apologetic of course and offered to move us, but we didn’t feel like it so we stayed put.

After getting checked in & settled we ventured down to the casino to try our luck and have a much needed cocktail. I played lots of HD looking video keno but only managed to hit 240 quarters and that was it. The machines at Aria were not in a giving mood, so we played for a little while and I went to check in at Monte Carlo.

Was coded to VIP check in and I have to say they could not do enough for me. I was assigned a room on the 31st floor, offered to have my boarding passes printed anytime, given a late check out at check-in, charged $50 a night vs. the standard $100 for incidentals and invited back for wine, coffee in the morning, drinks, etc. The attitude was “glad you’re here” and for a first timer at Monte, I have to say I was very pleased with their service and attitude. I went up to see the room, no flat screen tv, but bed was ready to be slept in and I moved the pillows around and made it look slept it as best as I could. Bathroom was good sized with a shower/tub enclosure. Plenty of towels, nice smelling bath amenities and very quiet from what I could tell.

Off to the players club to activate Freeplay and try out the café for lunch.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of very new machines that Monte Carlo had and the good drink service. I had a champagne or two while playing a variety of games including Super Jackpot Party, Cleo Keno, and some machine, a few years older with a hamburger, fries and shake theme where you climb your way to the top which is a 5000 coin jackpot. I was able to climb to the level just below the top prize and cashed out $100 ahead. Was a fun game and the bonus was a long one for me, as was the bonus I had while playing Super Jackpot Party. I have always loved this game and was playing it in 2 cent denom when I got my first party that included a dance party, prize multiplier and several whack a poopers that went on and on and on, as well as picking a party saver 4 consecutive times. I originally started with $5 and cashed out $108. I had 3 parties in a row and then a surprise party right after that.

I also had a bit of luck on Cleo Keno playing 3-4 coins and scored about 800 on 1 bonus round hitting 6/7, so I cashed out a few hundred ahead on that one. I also played Money Storm for a nice profit, and some other wheel bonus game where I had double on 7s and cashed out also $100 ahead. It was a day filled with bonus after bonus and a winning day.

For lunch Mom and I tried the café at Monte Carlo and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a great menu, great service and fabulous fare. I am not normally a café or coffee shop person, but this ended up being our most popular place for meals and it was cheap. Mom and I shared a berry salad with feta cheese and spinach leaves, a Rueben with fries and iced tea. Service was exceptional and we knew we would be back.

We played a few hours longer and enjoyed more cocktails throughout the afternoon. The casino was quiet at Monte but a lot more profitable that Aria was. For dinner we decided to try Dragon Noodle. The restaurant was very quiet until after we sat down and people started milling in in small numbers, but at lease the restaurant was half full when we left. We had Wor Wonton soup, pan fried dumplings and Walnut Shrimp which were all fresh and very tasty. One thing I will mention about Wor Wonton, it seems to be a favorite soup when you are feeling poorly or suffering from a cold. Their soup was piping hot, full of lean chicken, baby corn, etc. and very flavorful. I thoroughly enjoyed their soup. Also, service was outstanding. Would definitely eat here again, probably for dim sum, which they serve daily 11-4 PM.

After dinner we wandered back to Aria and found that the new Sex and The City Machines had been installed. This game was a blast even though I didn’t get the ring or shoe bonuses. Still it was pennies and it is set up like the 4 card games like Wolf Run and Cleopatra. Mom did better than I at SATC but no big jackpots to report.

We headed up to the room a few hours later and enjoyed a thoroughly comfortable room and beds that made you think you were sleeping on a cloud. The bedding at Aria is better than Wynn in my view.

Up at 6:30 I showered and got dressed to fetch Starbucks from Monte Carlo and bring it back for Mom. The showers at Aria are unique in that the tub sits behind the shower so two can use it at once. The shower head is square and the pressure could be better but all in all it was fine, no cold blasts, just smoke coming from the vent to make you feel like you were showering in a bar!

Walked back from Monte with coffee and pastries for Mom and got our day started. I did notice that no employees were really around at Aria to open doors, which would have come in handy for me while I was carrying a tray of coffee and breakfast. It’s bad enough they have glass doors to make you feel like your downtown, but having no help was not a good thing.

After breakfast from Starbucks in the room we ventured out on the tram to Bellagio to see if we could get one last peek at the Christmas display to no avail, they were putting up the Chinese New Years decorations and the conservatory was closed. Took a few photos of the holiday floral arrangements and the “fat horse” in the lobby. Still great photo ops.

Played at Bellagio for several hours and again, got more play from there than Aria. I went to the usual keno room where one gal hit for 5/5 in dollars over $3300. Good for her, keno is alive and well. I lost about $200 playing keno and decided to try my hand at other machines, and glad I did. I was playing a 5Times machine in quarters and hit 2 lavender 7’s and a 5Times for 350 quarters and a few other small wins, cashed out a $100 ahead and then wandered back over to the keno room area but decided to stop and try a 2Times, 4Times machine and put a $5 bill in it, hit a 2Times, 4Times and red 7 for 400 quarters and cashed back out what I had lost. Went back over to keno and held my own for a few hours, and got a call from Mom she was ready to go have dinner and go back over to Monte. Fine by me, I was even for the day.

We decided to try the buffet at Monte Carlo and I must say it was not dinner, but a journey through iccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! No other way to say it. The only carved meats they had were prime rib, when turkey or ham would have been nice. No fresh seafood at all, very limited salads and when I went to the pasta station to have some fettuccini, I took 1 look at the water being used to heat up the noodles and decided against it. The dessert area was marginal at best and for $19 a head, I am glad I didn’t pay for it. Service was also poor and we stiffed the wait staff as they let the plates pile up and offered no service at all until the end.

Back out on the casino floor I played more Cleo keno and the unicorn bonus game and decided to call it a night early. Back at Aria Mom and I played SATC again and enjoyed a glass of champagne and headed up to bed earlier than usual as we were both tired.

Woke up Tues morning our last full day and Mom decided she didn’t want me trekking through the ugly glass casino doors from Starbucks and decided to splurge for room service coffee. We ordered just a small pot which they said was just 3 cups but it was more like 6 as that pot was full. They also offered a complimentary newspaper, nice touch. It arrived in 20 mins and we enjoyed waking up and getting ready for the rest of the day. Coffee was wonderful and strong enough to hold up to ample amounts of cream.

We packed up our suitcases with and overabundance of shower gel, shampoo, etc and decided to call for a late check out as our flights did not leave till 5PM. Aria staff was nice enough to give us till 2PM. Made life easier for both of us.

We ventured back over to Monte Carlo for our last breakfast at the café and this was the best breakfast we had the whole trip. Fluffy pancakes, sausages perfectly cooked, a mushroom and cheese omelet, orange juice and coffee. Best mushroom omelet I have ever had and great service.

After breakfast we played for an hour at Monte and I checked out via VIP and had the same warm welcome checking out as checking in. Tips were the only thing left on the bill and we used up all but $12 of the resort credit, although not from lack of trying. We checked out of Aria and headed to the airport where I breezed through security with extra bottles of shampoo, body lotion, etc. from 2 hotels without being noticed. I would definitely double book the same hotels again. I saw photos of the Hotel 32 rooms and it looks very nice. I would stay there in a minute.

Elements Gift Shop @Aria-for me I always love to venture into the gift shop at hotels and I don’t know why. After staying at Aria for 2 nights, I never once set foot into Crystals, but thoroughly enjoyed an hour in Elements. They had a large selection of candles, bath products, scented hand creams, foot creams, perfumes, leather goods, tee shirts, etc. The store was well organized and had testers out for everything which impressed me. I thought it was a great store for buying gifts. I loved it.

It was a very relaxing trip and I didn’t have any coughing fits on the way home. I give Monte Carlo high marks for service as it was an unexpected pleasure to play and dine there. I got a lot more play than at Aria.

Hope you enjoyed the report, albeit a longer one than usual.




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