Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Las Vegas, Nevada – Part One

Now, dear reader, if you have made it this far and have read all preceding reports in chronological order, then you will have been peering at your screen for very nearly the same length of time as it would have taken you to undertake the trip yourself. For this I apologise, but I fear that you should also apologise even more to your boss, as you’ve probably been doing it on company time.

So, if you started at the first post and read the full list of Trip Reports, you’ll have been expecting this trip to Las Vegas. Which is more than two out of three participants in the actual trip were. You see this was all a surprise in recognition of MCCs 60th and FCCs 65th birthdays this year. The news was broken in the US Immigration queue at Calgary. MCC looked a bit excited. FCC looked as if his wisdom teeth were giving him gyp. A former member of the communist party, he has matured towards geriatry as all ardent socialists do – by veering from thinking that Stalinism was a bit wishy-washy to ending up politically-aligned slightly to the right of Genghis Khan. En route, of course, they pick up little of the charm of either extremism and therefore hedonism remains their constant foe. Viva Las Vegas. Hehe.

Purely for the purposes of badness and to ensure that his discomfort began immediately, I had booked a superstretch for the short whisk to the Four Seasons. Rolling around on the back seat like an egg in an earthquake, under the fibre optics and booming Bose, he was clearly not enjoying himself. His pain being made much the more excruciating by the fact that MCC thought the whole thing hilarious. Me too. I was still laughing when we slumped out at the Four Seasons and, leaving them to variously glower and titter on a sofa, I checked in.

I soon stopped laughing. The receptionist was sweetness itself, tapping the keyboard as she stood next to her superior. She described the beautiful room we had booked, confirming everything that I knew from my pre-trip research. I have long since learnt that you should never book anything that you know will not meet your expectations, resting all your hopes solely and potentially vainly on an upgrade. Book what you want; anything better is a bonus.

But now she tells me about this wonderful suite upgrade that I can have, which is of course excellent as the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts rate includes a subject to availability upgrade. And she can do this for just $150 a night. Definitely no laughter here. I manage a smile to point out the Ts&Cs of the AMEX rate. Either there’s an upgrade available or there’s not. If there isn’t, I’m happy with what I’ve got. If there is, then comp. it as part of the rate, an example of great Four Seasons service and my first taste of the hotel and the company. She looks at the superior nervously.

The supervisor stares intently at her screen, ignoring the conversation. I press the receptionist on the policy, but she says that it’s too big an upgrade to comp. For fun now, I offer half. No can do. She completes the check-in and walks us to the lift. She wishes MCC a happy birthday just past and, out of earshot of the superior, apologises profusely for the upgrade scam. ‘I’d have given it to you,’ she said, ‘but y’know......’

Apart from the really poor first impression, the particularly daft thing was that, when we got to our room, there was a lovely Birthday Cake waiting for MCC. Which, of course (unless there were two?) wouldn’t have been in the suite we were nearly nickel and dimed into.

I’ve since spoken to a charming Manager from the Four Seasons, who called me in response to their post-stay online survey and he’s promised to look into the policy and the way it’s communicated. I hope they do review it, or others will I am sure feel as I did. In these difficult economic times, impacting nowhere more than Las Vegas, the Four Seasons missed a real opportunity to impress and encourage loyalty there.

Back to the room however, on the quiet (non-airport side) of the hotel and with a fantastic full-length strip view. The Four Seasons occupies the uppermost floors of the Mandalay Bay resort and our foreground view is of Luxor’s pyramid, with the Stratosphere twinkling in the distance.

Yet another hotel unable to service a room booked for three guests with amenities of similar multiples, however with a quick call to housekeeping to acquire an extra coffee mug, the Geriatric Meerkats and this Passepartout sit, with the lights off, eating birthday cake and gazing at the neon, and trying to reconcile having woken up in Banff that morning.

The room itself is generous in proportion and expensively (if a little sparsely) furnished. There are two doubles, a large side board, plasma, coffee maker, desk, coffee table and easy chair. The wardrobe space is not overly large however (something I’ve previously thought to be an issue at The Wynn, too). The bathroom is marble, large and well lit, with a separate room for the loo, an over-sized bath and glass shower cubicle.

Things perk up immeasurably in the morning. Despite the AMEX FHR package including ‘continental’ breakfast, confirmed verbatim by the embarrassed receptionist of the previous evening, no such thing exists on the menu. Beaten and cowed, but seated in wonderfully comfortable chairs at a spacious table on the poolside outdoor terrace, welcomed warmly by greeter and serving staff and surrounded by lush planting, we are in no mood to query further.
Uniquely on this trip, there is no breakfast buffet, so we order a la carte from an extensive menu. The service, food and environment is just lovely and it sets us up royally for the day ahead. Even FCC looks like he might be starting to lighten up, although I suspect that he is still considering what General Pinochet would do in a similar situation.

Given that trip reports abound on the many diversions and distractions which this most iconic of cities can offer, there seems little point in merely repeating them.

Suffice to say that it’s an expedition of several hours in length to cover merely the principal sights of The Strip, accelerated slightly at beginning an end by the Mandalay/Luxor/Excalibur tram and the Las Vegas Monorail respectively. There's nowhere like it on Earth; not even the places it's meant to replicate.

A little unhelpfully, the Monorail does not hug Las Vegas Boulevard as it heads back South, runnng several blocks East of The Strip in line with the Las Vegas Convention Centre and Hilton rather than hotels like the Venetian, The Mirage, TI or The Wynn. It snakes West to the Strip further South by Harrah’s. That said, there is a free shuttle from The Wynn to the Convention Centre Monorail Station, which drops and collects from The Wynn’s Tower Suites entrance on Sands Avenue. The monorail takes you South to the MGM, from whose station a walk through the gaming floor, out of the main entrance, across the road and into The Excalibur takes you to the free tram back down to Luxor and Mandalay Bay for the Four Seasons.

Helped by the 96 degree June heat, FCC appears to be thawing as the time to freshen-up for the evening ahead arrives. It actually sounds like he might have been quite impressed by curved escalators and painted ceilings in malls that can fool you momentarily into thinking you are indeed outdoors. He’s even chatting about the (now relatively antique) animatronic show in Caesar’s Forum and the indoor gardens at the Bellagio and The Wynn.


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