Finally, here's my trip report, and sorry for the delay in producing this. But, better late than never?
We flew Delta from London Gatwick to LV via Atlanta. If any of you Brits have any questions about the flights, please ask - I'll try to keep this report strictly about Las Vegas.
We arrived at about 6.30 pm and were welcomed by this really hot, dry desert air. We were exhausted and couldn't face another long-winded journey so we got a taxi. I decided against asking to take a specific route, being unfamiliar with the traffic in the city. He took the infamous tunnel, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and considering that it was early evening, I'm pretty sure that the Strip would have been fairly congested by then. The Ride to the Mirage came to about $20, which didn't seem too bad to us, and we tipped $2 or $3.
We finally stepped into the Mirage, and I can now understand what people say about the piped-in coconut fragrance! It smells wonderful. We got to the check-in desk, which I'd recognised from a distance because of the famous fishtank. There was only one person in front of us. The clerk told us that the only non-smoking rooms available were twin rooms; it was quite late in the day so I thought it was understandable. We decided to take a chance and opted for a smoking double instead - and asked if we could have a nice view. I didn't ask for an upgrade, because, to be honest, at that point late in the evening, and having booked with Expedia, I thought our chances would be slim and deep down I didn't really care. The lady said she'd give us a volcano view room, and stressed that if we did find the smoky smell unbearable, they would change us back. She asked if we needed help with our bags but we declined. We were given a map of the casino, which, together with the clerk's indication, made it very easy to find the guest elevators. I don't know how people can complain that the guest elevators are hard to find from check-in.
We got to our room and it was absolutely fine, you couldn't really tell that it was a smoking room - to me all hotel rooms smell weird anyway. The view was fantastic - overlooking the volcano, facing the Venetian, the TI and the Wynn. We found the room clean and spacious. The bed was incredibly comfy and HUGE to European standards. The bathroom was absolutely adequate, not very large but absolutely fine for your average person. However - and I'm not trying to be funny or sizeist here - I can see how it might be a tad small for the larger person, or for someone with children (but then they shouldn't take their kids to Vegas!).
I was also pleasantly suprised to find that there was a combination-operated safe deposit box in the closet, and, had I brought my laptop, there were connections for both dial-up and high-speed internet access. We had been warned about the weight-sensitive minibar at check in. We decided not to bother asking for a fridge as there was an ice machine on our floor.
I'll start by saying that due to our budget and the fact that I'm a vegetarian (who will eat fish occasionally), we decided to stick to the cheaper options. I had checked several restaurants' menus online (places recommended by you folks!) and I got the impression that most of the so-called 'fine dining' places had very little vegetarian choice, and I wasn't going to go and pay through my nose for an omelette. In addition to this, my b/f lives in his Abercrombie shorts, and I had heard that in some places trousers would have been required. We are simple folk: we don't really belong in stuffy, fussy places!
CARIBE CAFE (MIRAGE)
So on our first night we ate at the Mirage's Caribe Cafe - I was delighted to find out that they had veggie burgers. The portions were huge, and we thought it was good value. The service was impeccable. It was our first meal in America and it was enough to make us fall in love with your country and your people! It doesn't matter if it's all in the name of tips: a service with a smile is well worth a couple of dollars!
We subsequently ate at the Caribe Cafe on two other occasions, both at breakfast. Once again, the food was fantastic, the pancakes superb (remember my old 'Bad but Good Food' thread?), the waffles excellent, and the prices, which gravitated at around $8-$10, were perfectly justified considering the huge portions, the premium location but above all, the excellent service. Even once when the food was taking a while to arrive, the servers would come and apologise and reassure us it was on its way. Oh, how I wish they did that in the U.K.!
CRAVINGS BUFFET (MIRAGE)
On our first morning we went to the buffet (I was SO excited) and the queue was very short. I made a dash for the pancakes, waffles and french toast, whilst my b/f opted for bagel and cream cheese. I thought the food was wonderful - I knew that the pancakes were not going to be top quality because of the buffet setup, but they were very good indeed. I was quickly stuffed to my eyeballs! But I went round to get some fruit to get some vitamins after all the sugar! I thought $12 each was a fair price considering how much one could have eaten.
On the Saturday morning we went back again for the Champagne Brunch. It was steeper at $22 or $24 (can't remember) but I knew that from these forums. I had my glass of champagne and it was very good - I expected cheap battery-acid plonk but it wasn't. Once again the food was very good, although my b/f had a steak which was very very rare - it was still mooing in fact - and he couldn't eat it. He felt very bad about throwing food away. The server offered to refill my glass with champagne but I turned it down as it was fairly early in the morning. On second thoughts though, I should have said yes to get my money's worth - unfortunately I don't think that the Champagne Brunch is very good value unless you a) eat like a horse b) drink at least 2-3 glasses of Champers. We just couldn't manage to eat enough!
THE PUB & BREWERY (MONTECARLO)
On our second night, after a very long walk along the strip, we were ravenous and I thought we'd check out the pizzas at the Pub & Brewery, which is always praised on this forum. We arrived and there was a bit of a queue. We finally got seated and realised that it was a very, very noisy sports bar type of place. The place looked great and the hosts/ servers were brilliant, but it really was not what we needed as we were hungry, tired and jet-lagged. The food took a while to arrive although our waitress was fantastic - kept coming back to apologise and brought us new drinks without us even having to ask. The pizzas were very good - to the vegetarians out there, remember to order off the menu, I couldn't see any veggie pizza on the menu but asked for a cheese and tomato and it was no problem.
The noise got worse when a hen party (or should I say, bachelorette party) arrived and was seated next to us. We coulnd't wait to leave when the bill came - I can't remember the price but it was excellent value for money. So all in all, thumbs up for food, prices and service, but if you're a couple wanting just a meal, that is most definetely NOT the place to go to on a busy Friday night!
THE CHEESCAKE FACTORY (FORUM MALL)
I was determined to check out the CF after hearing so much about it on this forum. It was very busy on Saturday night and we were given a ticket and asked to go back in 90 minutes (it might have been less - not sure). So we went round the shops in the mall for a while. When we got back and as we were sitting by the aquarium, the CF host was walking around asking if anyone was waiting to go in - so in the end we didn't have to wait as long as we were initially told to.
The menu is indeed huge - however, once again, if you are a veggie, the choice is very limited. I tend not to order pasta dishes, because I'm Italian and I'm inevitably disappointed. So I opted for a veggie burger again. My b/f had some sort of chicken dish. The food was very good, the portions, once again, huge. We had to leave some on the plate in order to make space for the cheesecake! I had the Oreo-type cheesecake, and it was delicious! But I couldn't finish it. The bill came to £41, and we left a $6 tip because of the great service.
THE PYRAMID CAFE AT THE LUXOR
We ate there after visiting the Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. At a first glance, the place looked in a bit of a sorry state and had that kind of depressing air about it which - to us - was straight out of the movies so it was quite intriguing! We were seated very close to a family that had about 400 children. Luckily though, they stayed quiet. Most people at the cafe seemed to be either half asleep or suffering from severe depression. However, our server was upbeat and friendly, and I was quickly cheered up by the drinks menu, which featured cocktails at very good prices. My 'Egyptian' version of a Long Island Iced Tea was cheap ($6.50) and strong, and very good. We had junk food - I had the grilled cheese which was a triumph of saturated fat with the fried bread, Orange Alert cheese and freedom fries. But it was good enough and I was hungry. Once again the service was very good and we made sure it was rewarded.
For all the remaining meals we opted for quicker and cheaper options, not only for budgetary reasons, but also because we couldn't face spending a good 3-4 hours of our evening going through the whole palaver of a proper sit-down meal. We had several snacks at the Mirage's Roasted Bean - their muffins there are MASSIVE! My b/f had the turkey/chicken wraps there several times, but I was too full most of the time to eat during the day. The Roasted Bean isn't particularly cheap but neither it is more expensive than your average Starbucks in the U.K.
We also tried the Carnegie Deli, again at the Mirage, although I was too full to eat! But my b/f liked the burgers. If you eat meat, I'm sure that place is heaven for you. Their cold meat sandwhiches are humongous. We bought their famous cheesecake for take-out one evening though, and it was delicious, and the slice was huge. It was expensive at $7.50 but considering that it's a meal in itself ( I couldn't finish my slice), it's not bad value.
We also ate at various food courts on a couple of occasions - just things like pizza and burritos.
Unfortunately we didn't get to try all the places you had recommended - we never went near the Stratosphere and therefore we didn't get to visit the nearby IHOP - which we will HAVE TO do next year. And the cafe at the Barbary Coast, the Champagne Brunch at the Paris and Margaritaville will also have to wait until next year.
So this is the end of Part 1 of my Trip Report. There is so much to tell! Please bear with me while I write the next report about what we saw in Vegas, the Mirage Pool and 'On Tipping'!