Sunday, April 18, 2010
My Strip Adventure Last Weekend
So above is the evidence of the mischief I got into last weekend, when I had the chance to do a little Strip exploring. In the spirit of Mike C's famous "Strip Walks" in Two Way Hard Three (Rate Vegas' blog), but still boasting my own style and doing it my own way, here are my thoughts on the various Strip casinos I visited.
What else can I say? It's always so gorgeous as hell! The spring atrium display looked lovely, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next door when Encore's Switch Beach Club opens.
TI (Treasure Island):
Oh jeez, this place is a bit of a hot mess. Now I'm not out to be rough on Phil Ruffin... In fact, I wish him the best of luck in his effort to turn around the troubled ship TI. I'm just wondering if the strategy of "downscaling of amenities while upscaling prices" will work. Will people pay Wynncore/Venelazzo prices for food, drinks, and other services that are more on par with mid-level off-Strip casinos? That remains to be seen.
However, I will say that the casino looked to have a healthy crowd... And the casino itself still looks like an odd hodge-podge of vintage Mirage Resorts v.1993 pirate theme and MGM Mirage v.2006 "Modern Generic Moderne" with just a hint of Ruffin v.2010 updates.
Hail, Caesar! No really, Mr. Caesar is still looking quite hot these days for an over 2,000 year old guy... He's definitely no geezer!
And the casino itself is still going strong, especially for being "The Cougar of The Strip". Foot traffic in The Forum Shops looked strong (as always), while the casino looked busy and hungry gamblers faced forty minute wait in line for a table at Serendipity 3.
And speaking of Serendipity, I just slipped into the bar and ordered way too much grub for what turned out to be a surprisingly warm day in Vegas! But hey, how can one say no to what may be the best use of cheddar ever in a mac & cheese dish??!! Oh my, that cheddar was strong... And I liked it that way! And how could I say no to Serendipity's famed mile-high cheesecake? It was so yummy, I had to force myself to stop 2/3 of the way through because my poor tummy couldn't handle any more! (Btw, check out the above Urbanspoon link for more of my thoughts on Serendipity 3's food.)
Even with the marble floors chipped, the outside frescoes fading, and overall MGM Mirage maintenance of Steve Wynn's 1998 crown jewel (before he embarked on his newest crown jewels, Wynn and Encore) lacking, Bellagio is still such a sight to behold. The spring conservatory display was lovely, even with the giant insects giving me a sense of "things that make you go WHHAAAAA??!!"
The casino looked quite full, so it seems there's little, if anything, MGM Mirage can f*ck up to the point of damaging Bellagio's still solid popularity among Vegas tourists.
Perhaps the worst is over? We've all heard by now about MGM Mirages 1st Quarter struggling with CityCenter, complete with a rather dismal 63% occupancy rate at Aria. Obviously something has to change... And perhaps it is now?
While foot traffic at the Crystals mall was rather light, Aria itself was probably the fullest I've ever seen it with actual lines at the hotel check-in desks. I know that's not entirely indicative of better times ahead for the rest of 2010, but there looks to be hope that summer season will be kinder to CityCenter.
My, oh my, does this place look different! If you haven't seen Monte Carlo since the horrific 2008 fire, take a look at it now! MGM has been repositioning it as "The Gateway to CityCenter"... And while Q1 earnings aren't yet showing it to be successful, perhaps the tide is now starting to turn (along with its new next-door neighbors/siblings). The pool area below the Monte Carlo/Aria South tram stop looked quite crowded, with DJs spinning hip-hop tunes and people taking a ride down the lazy river and in the big wave pool. And while the crowds inside weren't quite as big, they weren't anemic, either.
For quite some time now, we've all been asking... WTF is this "New Trop" all about??!! Are they really "changing everything"? Well so far, the answer looks to be... Quite the resounding "YES!!!!"
I don't think I was even born during the last time The Trop received any kind of renovation, so automatically everyone is wondering what will happen with The Tropicana's new owners and their highly publicized plans to "change everything". So far, much of the casino has received new flooring... Light beige stone and refreshed burgundy, orange, and gold floral carpeting. All the old restaurants have also been replaced with new ones (Bacio for Italian, Havana a Go Go for sandwiches, Legends for steak, and South Beach for 24 hour cafe), a new hypnosis comedy show is playing, and newly renovated hotel rooms are now starting to open.
Honestly, the new parts of the hotel look quite snazzy. It will be interesting to see how The Trop looks when renovations are finally complete. And looking at the early hotel pics, I'm even a little tempted to try out the new rooms to see if they're up to my admittedly snootily high standards.
And finally, the southern-most anchor of The Strip! Overall, M-Bay is looking good as usual. The casino was pretty lively, and I'm sure the new "pleasure pit" complete with skimpily dressed dancers and freely flowing booze helped. However, I'm wondering if it will continue to be effective if MGM Mirage puts this exact same act into all of its casinos from Monte Carlo on south. After the third casino, it starts to get over-repetitive and boring.
Meanwhile, I saw THEHotel's lobby more crowded than before... Are MGM's many Mandalay promotions working? I guess we'll continue to find out in the coming weeks.