Day 1 Friday, August 28. Leave PDX on SWA at 6:05 p.m. it was a perfectly uneventful flight, except for the cup of ginger ale I poured into my lap. My companions tease me about 'drinking too much', and I'm annoyed that I'm soaked and sticky. Arrive 8ish, swoosh through the airport, and right onto the Alamo Shuttle. We have a Quicksilver rental and are into our car in less than 5 minutes. We got upgraded to a Bonneville sedan. Lots of leg room for my daughter, but I think the front seats are less comfortable than in the lower model GrandAm that we had last time. AC is icy cold.
Decide that we've got lots of time to check in, and stop in at the Orleans to eat (my daughter choose their buffet because they have Cajun style food.) The parking lot is packed! However, the buffet has no line, and we go right in. Food was good, but different from other buffets, because of the style of food is 'Cajun'. I thought the beans & rice, and the Jambalaya were good, the seafood etouffe' was 'odd' tasting. Service was good. Deserts were average, though their caramel coconut cake was really tasty. Iced tea was weak.
We go to the Tropicana selfpark lot to the south of the entrance, and walk up to the check in desk. (Its around 11pm at this point.) The clerk we get is very silent, and unfriendly. Not once does she smile, or say anything other than "I need to see your ID. Spell your last name." We get assigned a garden room, and go to check it out. YUCK! It was on the third floor of the building that juts out towards Tropicana Blvd. The street sounds were very loud (honking and sirens and what not) in this room, far worse than I imagined. There's no way I could sleep in that room, so we trudge back to the check-in desk. (The room is large, has two beds, and a sofa, a small bathroom, a desk/dresser & TV.)
I complain and ask for a pool side room. There are no more garden rooms available. I'm grudgingly offered an upgrade (for $10 a night) to a smoking room in the Island tower on the 5th floor. As I have no other choice, I take it. It's a *long* hike back to the Island tower. The people movers in the 'nature walk' are broken.
The place has an icky smell everywhere - in the elevators, hallways, etc. It's not smoke, it's some thick perfumed kind of smell, likely used to cover up some other smell.
This room is much smaller than the garden room, and is right next to the elevators. The guidebook I have says that all tower rooms have sofas, but ours did not. It couldn't there wasnt any room for one.
The beds are the worst I've ever encountered. Thinly cushioned springs, and worn out so bad that they slide off the box springs when you sit on the side, and almost dump you on the floor. The sheets don't stay tucked in because of this. The sheets have holes in them, and the bedspread has cigarette burns. The bathroom is large, and the tub is a soaking corner tub, with tile walls. There is no blowdryer, and the only amenities are shampoo, lotion and a bar of soap. The closet is large, and has mirrored doors. There is no iron or ironing board. The TV is small, and sits on a desk/dresser. A small table is in the corner with two Bamboo armchairs, with seat cushions that are stained and dirty. There is one nightstand between the two beds, with one lamp. There is no alarm clock. Local calls are $1.00 each. In room movies are 8.95 each. No TV checkout is available. The safe is closed, and can't be opened. The AC barely keeps the room tolerable, we check out the filter in the AC compartment, and it's probably been months since it's been cleaned, so hardly any air can get through. Unfortunately I also noticed that I could smell fresh cigarette smoke every morning - it was coming through the AC system.
We have a view of the pool area, and the Excalibur, MGM and NYNY, which is nice. But the bright lights illuminating the tower are blinding, so it's only after about 2 am that the view is really nice. And then the MGM sign keeps "flashing" so brightly it's like lightening! I call down to the front desk to see if there's anything else available. Nope, nothing with two beds. They do agree to send up a fridge. It's there when we get back, but it looks like it's been drop kicked down a flight of stairs. Old, dented and scratched up. At least it wasn't noisy.
So we trudge back to the self-parking lot, and move the car around to the back of the Island tower to park. This isn't too bad we thought, it's close to the back tower entrance. However, the entrance to the ground floor is under a flight of metal stairs, it's unlit, feels very unsafe, and there's a pile of old mattresses next to the door. These mattresses never move the 4 days we're there. This is supposed to be a 'classy' hotel. The path to the island tower takes you through a hallway where they stores sheets & towels, and through the employee area next to the basement tunnels. I feel like the least wanted customer they have.
The one good thing about the island towers is that they are very convenient to the pool area, and you don't have to go through the casino to get to the pool.
We dump our stuff in the room, and head out to check out Gameworks. My daughter manages to spend $25 there, and I play an hour of so of pinball. This uses up a couple of hours of our time, and it's getting into the wee hours. So we head down to Von's on Tropicana for 'supplies' - we pick up bottled water, some munchies (chips and granola bars) and notice that "Von's" is the same as Safeway back home, to the point of carrying "Safeway Select" items.
Day 2 Saturday: My daughter and I wake up early, and go down to check out the pool. We get towels (2 very thin ones per person, they all have holes in them. ::sigh::). The pool doesn't get sun until sometime much later. The pool is shallow and *icy* cold. Neither of us can stand it for more than about 10 minutes at a time. The hot tubs weren't very hot, and felt about the same temp as bath water. We're disappointed, because the much raved about pools were what persuaded us to switch from staying at a motel with a full-size heated swimming pool to the Tropicana.
We go back and rouse the sleepy headed male out of bed, force him into the shower, so that we can get going and eat. We ate breakfast at Liberty Cafe, which is in a drug store just north of the Stratosphere. Excellent diner style breakfast. A real 'locals' place. My daughter had the biscuits and gravy, and there was easily enough for 2 people.
Next stop - Harrah's, we leave Evelyn in the Arcade with $25, and go to signup for the slot club, so we can take advantage of the $100 loses back offer. Each of us gets a two for one lunch buffet coupon (which we don't use). I play Odysseys Arabian Riches, and have the *hardest* time losing, or getting ahead. By the time it's time to pick up my daughter, I'd only played "27" minutes, (according to the slotclub personnel) and I'm dead even. I don't know how they count the minutes, because I know I've been playing for close to an hour. No problem, we'll come back later and play out the time. I pick up this cool retracting slot card tether from the gift shop.
We head out across the street, and go to the Mirage, and Treasure Island. The Mirage is *mobbed*. I have never seen so many bodies in a pool in my life! It's so busy we can barely walk through the lobby! We wanted to check out the secret garden, but decide it' just too hot and muggy for it. So we walk back through, and take the tram over the Treasure Island. The shops there are neat, and we end up buying some Mystere stuff. $$$ ka-ching! My daughter pronounces the Arcade at TI the best.
We walk across the street and walk through Casino Royale, intending to get a snack at their 2nd floor restaurant. It's closed for remodeling, but there's a tiny snack bar in the casino, where they have the cheapest soft drinks we encounter in all of Vegas. A giant sized cup of any pop or iced tea for just 1.35.
Where did the day go? Anyway, it's getting later, and we decide to take a drive out Bonanza drive, to the edge of the city to see the sunset. We get snarled up in traffic near Charleston, and miss the sunset, but when we arrive at the edge of town, the view is breath-taking. You can see everything from the road that's behind the Morman Temple there; the city of Las Vegas just stretches out before you - everything from downtown, to the furthest end of the strip. It's like the view coming in from the air.
We drive back, and realize we're starved, and have dinner at In-and-Out. Service is fast, the restaurant very clean and the food is so-so. Fries are kinda like potato flavored Styrofoam. Consensus is we prefer Fat Burger for the food, In & Out for the atmosphere. I buy two t-shirts, and we head back to the room, drop off our days spoils, rest our feet a bit, and then walk through the Tropicana, and out to the overpass to the MGM. It's like we're moving against the spawning of the black-mini dress wearing women! Apparently some pop concert had just let out, and the people were pouring out of the MGM afterwards.
We make our way through the MGM, and over to NYNY, where we wander around, checking out the shops (the magic shop's very neato, with impromptu magic shows!), and heading back to the "midway" for my daughter to spend some more of my money. It's not that impressive, but we have some free passes for the bigger ticket items, so we decide to return to it later. We walk over to the Excalibur, hoping to check out their arcade, but by this time, it's closed, so we just look around, and my partner throws away $40 on some giant-sized slot machine. By this time, we're really really tired, and head back to our room to collapse. It's like 2am.
Day 3 Sunday: My little mini alarm jars me awake this time. Last full day in Vegas, gotta go go go! Well, if I could just get the rest of my body in gear, I'd go go go, but it cant even get up. It takes a nice long hot shower to get the kinks out from the crappy mattress. A least the bathroom at the Trop is pretty nice. Big tile shower - no elbow bumping, no shower curtain sucking in and sticking to your backside! Even a place to sit down and wash your tootsies. The shower head could have used replacing, but that's a minor complaint. There was plenty of hot water and it never 'self adjusted' to cooler or warmer than where I set it.
Once I rouse the rest of the bunch, we head out for breakfast. This time, we decide to hit the Luxor buffet, and then do their motion ride & arcade. The line was pretty long, and it took us about 1/2 hour to queue through to the hostess. We sneak in just under the lunch time change over, so pay the breakfast price for lunch. There was some good stuff here, though some of the breakfast items had been out too long, and the waffle I took was too crunchy to eat. They kept the omelet station open all through lunch, so it was really a brunch. Service was prompt, and I really enjoyed the baked lamb, and their rice is the best I've had in a restaurant, jasmine rice, perfectly cooked. (I'm really picky about rice.) There was plenty of fresh fruit and they had cups of Yoplait yogurt. The coffee however, was awful. Stick to orange juice & tea here.
Then we get tickets for the motion ride (Search for the Obelisk?) and it's fun, but the story line just isn't interesting enough.
We play a bit of Monopoly in the casino, but don't do anything but flush the $40 away. Oh well.
We get to our car, and there's lightning playing along the southern hills. Wow, I don't get to see this kind of show in Oregon, so we sit in the car and watch for awhile. It's pretty awe inspiring your first time.
Off to the Las Vegas Hilton for the Star Trek Experience. Now *this* is a fun motion ride! My daughter, who's not a trekkie, thinks it was great! We don't gamble at all here. Their arcade sucks.
Next stop, Caesar's palace. Their arcade is so-so. I'm not much of a mall shopper, but the Forum Shops mall is pretty impressive. We spend some time in FAO Schwartz, but we're used to Toys R Us, so they don't seem all that great. Then we finally work our way to the end of the mall where the Race for Atlantis ride is, and the animatronic display is already in progress, we watch for a few moments, and then shuffle around the crowd, and find *no* line at the Motion ride. Go right in, and are instantly taken in by the atmosphere of the waiting area. The wait's actually pretty long, but it's a soothing, water misted place, and really gives one the feeling of being down in the misty recesses of some underwater world. The ride itself is *fantastic*. Unlike other motion rides, with this one you wear 3-D goggles, and that makes a world of difference. I wear glasses, and it was no problem fitting the headwear over them. My body reacted to the "dangers" as if they were real. It was the most concentrated fun I had the entire trip, and we would have gone on it again, but there was a *HUGE* line waiting when we got out. Apparently, we got in just in time.
We wind our way out of Caesar's, just in time for the weather to turn. It's pretty windy, and the rain is starting to fall. We stop at Harrah's and collect my partner's $40 return, and head to find someplace to eat. We have a 2 for 1 coupon for Main Street station, so that's where we go. I can't recommend this place enough. Great food, *beautiful* open atmosphere, seating is prompt, and the space between tables is good, making it easy to make our way back to the line. Everything we tried was really good.
We decide to go over to the California, just to have a look. There's a glassed in walkway over the street to the California, and the wind is blowing something fierce, it's rattling the windows. We go into the little mall that's upstairs, and while we're in a gift shop, the power goes out. They shoo us out of the shop, and the power comes back on. 10 minutes later, it goes off again. The storm's getting worse, and we have no idea if there's a flash flood warning, so we decide to call it an evening, and head back to the Tropicana. For about an hour, we listen to a wonderful radio program about Dean Martin on KJUL, and watch the lightning from our room.
Then we decide we should probably gamble at least a little at the Trop, and head downstairs for a couple of hours - get slot cards, and play a long time at piggy banking. The slots are really tight, and my piggy bank gets up to 83 coins before I get my first piggy bank! Well, I've had enough of that! So we decide just to play some nickel slots and see if we can't win a progressive. Nope, no luck there either. The casino area near the nickel slots was horribly hot, as if they turned off the AC on purpose in that area! The drinks are served in cheap plastic cups.(which seems odd, since everywhere else used real glasses!) Service is pretty regular however, even in the nickel slot area.
I play more Piggy Bankin, and some other machines, and end up down about $60 dollars. But I've finally put in my requisite 1/2 hour of play, so that I can try to win the mountain of Cash the next day.
By the time we get back to the room, my daughter's totally sacked out, and we go to bed early.
Day 4 Monday: Wake up early, and get mostly done packing. (well, I do, the lazy butts I'm with have to wait to the last minute)
We take stock of what we did, and what we didn't get to do - there never seems to be enough time.
Because of the storm the previous day, we had to forgo two planned items, 1: Wet & Wild, 2: Fremont Street Experience. OH well, we'll have to wait until next year for Wet & Wild because they close down in September.
We decide to do Excalibur, rather than the MGM grand theme park for reasons I can't remember. So off to Excalibur we go, we intend to go on the motion rides first, and then eat, but the motion rides don't open until later, so we decide to brave the Excalibur buffet. Uh, well, I've had worse, but not much worse. Fortunately, it's cheap, and there's lots of fruit available. The hashbrowns are a funny color and taste weird. I didn't even touch the eggs. The bacon is fine, so I feast on bacon & bagels & fresh fruit. :-)
We watch a really bad mime in the Excalibur 'theatre' for a few minutes. I guess I just don't like mimes.
Then we split up, Michael & I to spend sometime playing the casino, and Evelyn off to the arcade. Again, we play, but don't win, and come out about $20 down each. My daughter's done well, however, and has two cute stuffed white tigers that she's won in the arcade! Then we go to check out the Excalibur motion rides. Well, they're the k-mart of motion rides. Nothing fancy, flat screen, but it's marginally fun, and we end up going to two of the rides. (Cosmic Pinball & Street Louge).
Then we go over to NYNY, to spend our fun-card credits in the Coney Island midway. The bumper cabs are lame. The area's too small, they have too many cars, and they don't bump hard enough. The laser tag area is much better, and Michael & Evelyn decimate the other team. The rest of the arcade games are so so. Evelyn does manage to win a bunch of tickets, and cash them in for some nice trinket type prizes. Overall, she did much better for her money, than we did for ours - she came home with a big bag full of stuff. :-)
She's got some Gameworks credit left, and so we split up, she to Gameworks, and Michael & I to test our luck at the NYNY slots. Ahhh, Odyssey! I come out $20 down, and Michael's $40 up. We're there for an hour or so, and never see a cocktail waitress. I'm just not impressed with the place.
But alas, the time's come, and we have to be shoving off. We have just enough time to see if we can crack the safe on the Mountain of Cash, finish packing, and return our car.
We try our 9 digit combinations (you make up your own) and sadly, we didn't win. The poor guy manning the cash was so disappointed, he said he wanted to go home early, but he wouldn't give us a second chance to send him home early. Too bad.
We pack, return the car, and make it to the airport in what I think is record time. We're way early for our flight. However, the flight before us hasn't left yet. And there's a reason. The planes are coming in from California, and due to bad weather, all the planes are grounded in CA! Feh. So we sit, and wait, and wait. We're right next to a carousel of Megabucks machines, but everyone says that the airport ones are too tight, so I don't play. But I do notice that people are winning at least small jackpots. I get tired of waiting (they say that the plane hasn't left California, so it'll be at least another hour) and so I go shopping in the airport mall area. I didn't find anything. We go back, still the plane hasn't left CA. I'm *really* bored by now, and notice that the 'winning' megabucks machine isn't occupied. I step up, put in my 10, and after two spins, I'm 18 dollars ahead. Hmm. I cash that one out, step around the corner, and put 2 coins, then another, and up comes 12, I spin once more, and get 4 more. Gosh, I wish it had been this way at the casinos I like turning $10 in $40! I didn't even have time to cash in my slot coins before they were calling to line up for boarding! So I go home with a dead weight of $40 in McCarran coinage in my purse. (That's the nest egg for when I'm *going* to win Megabucks, don't you know?)
We finally arrive home 2 and 1/2 hours late, but we get to see the sunset over Vegas on the way out, and see the city lights of Portland on the way home.
Despite the icky room at the Tropicana, we had a great time, and can't wait to go back. My daughter, who scoffed at the idea of going at all, is now hooked, and wants to see all the movies she can that show Las Vegas. . .