Home Up June 1998 August 1998

This was my first trip to Vegas.  I'm hopelessly *hooked*.  I can't wait to go back, and we've already booked our next trip - Sept 18 - 25!!! And  we're planning another one for December.  (wouldn't it be cheaper just to *move* to Vegas???)

This trip was such a blur to us, that the only way we could piece the trip back together is by the date/time stamp on our digital camera pictures. WHEW!

Weather : It was hot, dry and sunny everyday.  Into the 110's.   Somedays it was windy - so windy that it broke the glass automatic doors to the Monte Carlo Lobby, and we could barely push open the regular doors.


Our flight was an early morning flight out of Portland, 7:05 am, on Sunday. We stayed up all night Saturday, doing final packing, and watched "The Las Vegas Story" (old murder mystery movie set in 1950's Las Vegas.)  at about 4 am.  A fitting beginning to a first trip to Vegas. . .
We were booked on an internet special with Southwest Airlines, but had never flown with them.   So we did a dry run to the airport three weeks prior to our flight, and knew how long it'd take and the whole South West Air drill for boarding . We got there early, and despite the airport construction, were in the first boarding group - and so got good seats (window for me). The seats were comfortable, and I'm a large sized woman.   Drink service was slow, but for the price ($48 each way) I will fly SWA again.   The flight was glass-smooth except for the approach to Las Vegas, where we had to circle twice before landing and encountered a bit of turbulence.  Shades of motion rides to come. . .

We arrived 10 minutes early (9am), and walked directly to the Alamo shuttle. We had a Quicksilver reservation, and literally had our car in 2 to 3 minutes of arriving at Alamo.   We got an "intermediate" 4 door, which turned out to be a 1999 GrandAM.   Very nice car - lots of get-up-and-go due to the 6 cyl 170 hp engine.  We were pleased, and will use Alamo again.

We drove down the strip, and I was awestruck by the size and variety of the hotels.   I don't know what else to say. . .  I was stunned.

Traffic was light (it was only 9:30 am on a Sunday, after all!) and soon we realized we were both pretty tired, and very hungry.  We went to see if we could get an early check-in at the Rio, but our room wouldn't be ready until 3pm.  The buffet there was mobbed, so we went to the Gold Coast Brunch Buffet (not having heard bad, nor good about it.).  It wasn't awful - didn't make us sick, but I wouldn't go there again.   The help was rude, and never brought our drinks.

We wandered through the Gold Coast Casino, and then went for a drive through west Las Vegas - just to see what it was like.   Then we went back to town, and hit the souvenir shop on Bonanza street, and I picked up post cards to send back home.     We also went to the Nickel Town in the Rivera, which we enjoyed.   Can't say if we won there, so I assume we didn't.

By now, we were really ready to hit our room at the Rio.  Parked in self-parking, and drug our bags all the way to the front desk (HINT: don't do this.  Leave the bags in the car till you have room keys, or do valet parking, and let them drag the bags to the room.), and then all the way back to our room. I think it's annoying that you have to go through the casino for everything. And on top of that, it's an overly confusing layout for the casino. No casino we were in the rest of the trip was more convoluted than the Rio's.

We'd gotten a masquerade suite for one night for just $125.  What a perfectly gorgeous room, with a fantastic view!  180 degrees of floor to ceiling windows.   Dining room with mini fridge, sink and coffee maker, living room with 27 inch TV, big comfy sofa and overstuffed chair and ottoman. Bedroom was huge, bed super-comfortable, and the bathroom was superb!  The giant-oval two person, Jacuzzi tub was marvelous, and the view from it fantastic, as they'd set it next to the window.  The shower was huge, tiled with a bench, and had a glass door, and an overhead light. The toilet was in a separate room, and there was also a 1/2 bath in the entry way to the room. Separate air conditioners in each room made it easy to have a nice chilly bedroom, and a bathroom comfortable for showering.

We oohed and aahed over the room, showered, and then hit the casino.  We weren't playing table games, and so tried to find some FP jacks or better VP machines.  No luck here.  So we played some Sneaky-Queens VP, and came out about even, not counting the great drink service we got.

I honestly don't remember eating dinner that evening - for what ever reason, I had very little appetite on this trip, and had to be reminded to eat!

We did drive out to get some bottled water, and checked out a local discount liquor store - we pay sky-high prices here in Oregon, and were amazed at the 1/2 price or less of the liquor in Vegas.

At some late hour, we returned to our room, filled the Jacuzzi tub, and marveled at the city lights we could see from the room.  We also called down to the front desk, and arranged a late check out for the next day (1 PM).


The next morning, we ate breakfast at the Rio buffet.  It was o.k. but nothing really remarkable.  Drink service was too slow (we never got our waters refilled in the hour we were there.)   And in my opinion, the price was too high for a basic buffet breakfast - 7.95!

Then we headed to town, and we checked out the Las Vegas Hilton, and bought our tickets for the StarTrek experience.   Got our slot club cards, and watched someone else win two 800 $1 coin jackpots on a slot machine.  We of course, had no such luck.

Time seemed to fly, and we headed back to the Rio to check out.  Alas, I would miss that wonderful room.  But then off to the HardRock.

We had an LVRS reservation there, as the hotel said they were sold out when I called to make direct reservations.  We got a 7th floor, airport view room.  All the poolside king-bed rooms were taken.  The room was nice, and I loved the french doors that opened to the desert air. I'd have preferred a pool side room, but oh well, I was glad to be in the HardRock!

The Hardrock was really cozy, a very nice place to stay.  My feeling was that everyone was happy to be working there.  The drink service in the casino was great, and the slot club people really nice.  We managed to get 6 of the entries for the bug, and 11 points each on our cards.   I love their 'in the round' casino, and we found a couple of full pay VP machines that were *very* good to us.

We ate dinner at Mr. Lucky's having the steak & shrimp special (5.95).  The service was excellent, and the dinner very good.  No room for dessert!

Back to the casino for a bit more gambling, and then off to a peaceful sleep.  The rooms are *very* quiet and comfortable at the Hardrock - contrary to what we'd read in one of the guide books.


The next morning we slept in. We ate breakfast at Mr. Lucky's using our $10 discount coupon from the front desk and our waitress Mindy, was a delight. (Nanoo Nanoo!)   Checked out late, and went directly to the Monte Carlo for the last three nights of our trip.  There we had reservations for a "Monaco Suite".  We waited in line for a while, but check in was quick and smooth. They even let us change the credit card we'd reserved it on, and took off the third person charges that we'd thought we'd need, (our dear friend had to cancel at the last minute) but they wouldn't let us have a fridge unless we had a *verifiable* medical need for it.  I did like that the self parking was close to the lobby, and the elevators were right off the lobby.  You could almost entirely avoid the casino if you wanted to, unlike the Rio.

The room, compared to the Rio and the HardRock was disappointing.  The drawers on the amoire wouldn't stay closed, the room door had to be slammed closed, or it wouldn't lock at all, and the window was small, and had ropes hanging down in front of it.    The room was right by the elevators, and was a wedge shaped space.  The sofa was hard and uncomfortable.  And overall, it was noisy - I could hear everyone going down the hall, the vacuums at 6:00 am, the ice maker grinding all night.  And the air conditioning barely kept it comfortable, even going full blast.  I would never stay there again, given other choices.

Here's an odd comparison - the Rio had a real ice bucket - insulated.  The HardRock had a pretty glass bowl as an 'ice bucket'.  The Monte Carlo had over-sized slot-coin buckets that looked used.  Yuckoo.

So, instead of having a fridge, we just kept the bathroom sink filled with ice, and kept our water, coke, and bourbon in it.  ::grin:: (Hmm, is needing water to keep from getting dehydrated a verifiable medical condition?)

Anyway, we then we down to the casino got our slot cards, looked around, and decided to eat at the Buffet there.  It was a nice buffet - the iced tea the best I'd ever had.   The selection was not great, but everything we tried was good, except for the 'swiss steak'.  (It was dried out.)

After that, we hit the strip again, and hit the Saraha, (it was filthy and the slot club person refused to believe we weren't married.), then Circus Circus (YUCKO! Dead & out of order machines everywhere, screaming kids everywhere!) and Slots-o-fun.  I played for over an hour on a 10.00 coin buy-in and came out ahead - go figure.   Then over to Westward Ho for another $25 for $20 cash-to-coins deal, but didn't win there.

Then back to our room for a breather and a shower, and then we toured the South strip until we could barely walk.   NYNY - hmmm, I didn't like it - noisy and disorganized. Excalibur - hmmm, nothing to write home about, Luxor - what's up with those non-egyption buildings built off to the side of the second floor?  They ruin the effect of the pyramid inside, if you ask me.   Then we walked through the Tropicana.  We by-passed the casino, and went for a walk on the grounds by the pool - very soothing and relaxing, and we noticed some people were in the spa and it was well after midnight (looked very romantic.)  We walked through the hallways of the garden rooms, and decided we wouldn't want to stay in them, they smelled musty and felt oppressive, and the green color was hideous!

Then we walked over the walkway to the MGM grand, got inside, and promptly got lost.   That place is *TOO BIG*. We noticed that their buffet is closed and undergoing remodeling.  We did finally find our way out, and drug ourselves (barely) back to the Monte Carlo.  It was after 2 am, and we were starved and desperate, so we bought food at their late-night McDonalds, and we got some cool Las Vegas McDonald's drink cups in the deal.


The next day, we tried to sleep in, but the vacuums started roaring at 6am. We went to KeyLargo for their steak & eggs breakfast, (which was fine for the cheap price) and played video poker there for a couple of hours, and came out about $125 ahead.

After that we hit the Star Trek Experience.  WOW!  I loved it.  They really made it an 'experience', rather than just a motion ride.  I like SF, but I'm not a trekkie, and I was thrilled.  It was definitely worth the 14.95 for me and my partner.  The casino is fun, and a novelty compared to other casinos.  We liked the 'wave your hand through the laser' slot pull device.  They didn't seem to be very loose however, and we left non-winners overall.

Michael just had to have some of those souvenir coins that are made by crushing quarters into long ovals.  He made 12 of them at $1 each, after winning the money in one of their video poker machines.   What ever.

Back to the MonteCarlo for a nap, and then we woke up later, and decided to eat.   Couldn't decide, and looked through the LVA stuff.  Decided on the Barbary Coast Victorian room, and headed there.  Very nice staff, o.k. food, o.k. prices.   Then we played the two Full Pay Bonus poker machines there, and left nearly $300 ahead.  Hit at least 3 quads between the two of us.

Thank you Barbary Coast!


Awoke again to the roaring of the vacuums.  ::sigh::  Our last full day in Vegas. Where did the time go?    I have no recollection of eating breakfast, if we did. This morning is a blur - I don't really remember the early part of the day.

At some point, we headed out to Boulder Hwy to see Boulder Station and Sam's Town.    I was pretty impressed by Boulder Station - I liked the high ceilings, and the organized feel to it.  We played nickel VP for a long time, and then ate lunch at their buffet.  YUM!   Everything I tried was great, and I loved the ribs, and their little pecan-pie tarts were delicious!  Definitely the best buffet I've ever eaten at. (When we came home, we tried our usual buffet here in town, and it was very much a disappointment, in comparison!)

Then we cruised over to Sam's Town to check them out - I was disappointed by the fact they all their VP machines were old slow ones, even if they were full pay in some areas.   The atrium there is really nice, and it's amazing how you can't really hear the casino if you're inside the atrium.  Very soothing and relaxing.   I ended up loosing about $50 there playing some kind of combo-wheel slot that was very addictive. Michael made some money via  Quads on VP, and then proceed to lose it on the Wheelie game. . . I think it's a plot.  The staff at Sam's town was very friendly and cheerful - and we even got drink service playing the nickel slots!  The waitress looked shocked when I tipped her a $1 on each beer.  ($1 seems like a minimum to me, but maybe not for Sam's town.)

Later on in the day, we went to the Coke-Cola museum, and the M&M shop.  I really enjoyed all the foreign flavors of soda - except the Italian bitter stuff !, and the 'fountain' gushing to the coke jingle music was fun.  The M&M place didn't impress me much at all.

Then we went up to the Flamingo Hilton - and played there for hours on just about $20.00 or so each.  No full pay VP, so we just browsed the slots - I kept getting lucky paying Haywire and Totem, and then promptly shoving the quarters back into the other slots. I ended up about even.

Then we went to the Hardrock, as our last gambling spree, and managed to loose all the rest of our hard-earned gambling money, mostly due to the great drink service there.   (Even getting a quad didn't prevent us from ending the day down.)  We had intended to eat a banana split at Mr. Lucky's - but it was packed, so we, out of gambling money, went back to the strip, and decided to eat at Fat Burger, at 1 am.  Uh, well, *that* was our "let's see the seedy side of Las Vegas!" experience.  The food was good, hot and plentiful. I watched a drug dealer take calls, and make 2 deliveries while we waited for our burgers.  Once we got our burgers, a business associate joined him for a conference.  Within about ten minutes, a drug dealer convention occurred, and we high-tailed it back to our room to finish our food in safety.

We packed that night, knowing we had an early flight out, and cat napped for about 3 hours.


Woke up to the musical vacuums yet again - who needs an alarm clock with this kind of service!?  Changed our clothes, and packed up the final items. Checked out through the video check out, and determined that the Monte Carlo charges *$4.27* for a 1 minute for long distance call. (*GASP!*)

Packed our things in the car, got gas at Arco, and dropped our car off - got instant check-in of the car via a scanner gun, but then spent 15 minutes futilely attempting to get instant enrollment in the SWA rapid rewards club* as directed by Southwest.  No luck there no one had ever heard of it. Hopped on the shuttle to the airport, while the driver told us *all about* his family (snore), and once there, we determined the gate for our flight. About 1/2 to the gate, we realized we were over 2 hours early for the flight.   Then about 10 steps from the gate, Michael figured out why.  He'd left our very $$$$$expensive digital camera on the back seat of the rental car.  PANIC AND DOUBLE PANIC.  We run to catch the next shuttle back to the Alamo lot.  The piggy back clip on Michael's roll-on bag breaks on the escalator, and dumped his other bag, making our mad dash even harder.   It's still before 8:00 am, and there's no one in the lost and found, or the customer service department of Alamo.  No one wants to help us find our camera, and the car is gone out of the drop off line up.   Michael dashes (hauling two roll on bags) from clerk to clerk begging for help.   Finally, someone decides to find the car.  It's already been through two check points, and is ready for return to California.  The guy disappears, and then comes back with a car, and drives through the outer lot and finds the car, and luckily our camera (with all it's smart cards and pictures!) is there, on the seat. . .     Another mad dash for the shuttle, through the airport, and arrive at the Southwest Gate an hour and 10 minutes before our flight departs.  Amazing that we made it!  Of course, we haven't eaten, and all that dashing has used up our last reserves of energy (Fat Burger!) and water.   Then the flight was late, and packed to the gills.  Of course.

Made it home by 11:30 am Friday, and while I didn't think I was tired, I slept all the way through to Saturday,  except for waking up briefly for dinner.

* We did call Southwest later and  got the problem with the Rapid Rewards cleared up.   They were upset that Alamo claimed not to know anything about it, and will be sending out our cards within a few weeks.  In plenty of time for our next trip!

I do believe this is the longest post I've ever made. . .

Viva Las Vegas!