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Some observations from my recent trip

Boston
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Some observations from my recent trip

I'm not going to call it a trip report, because I'm not going to describe every minute of my trip. But I thought I would share a few things that might be relevant or interesting.

First the basics - This was a solo trip, 2 nights at Encore followed by 3 nights at Rio. For those of you who don't know me, I am a single man in my late 30s, and I primarily go to Las Vegas to gamble.

Boston
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1. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

TAXIS: For the first time in all my trips to Vegas, I got tunnelled. Frankly, it never occurred to me that I would have to ask the driver not to take the tunnel in going from the airport to Encore. But I spotted that's what he was doing as we approached the tunnel, and I called him on it. He said I should have said something sooner. I retorted that I shouldn't have to, as nobody in their right mind would go that way in the middle of the day on a weekday, and that it had better not cost me more money. I watched as the meter climbed until it was clear that it was going to go well over $25, which I pointed out and complained about.

At that point, the driver knew that he had tried to long-haul the wrong guy. He asked me how much I thought I should pay, and I told him it shouldn't cost more than $22. He shut off the meter and we proceeded the rest of the way in silence. I ended up giving him an extra buck just for conceding relatively gracefully and not raising a huge fight about it. So the moral of the story is, no matter how obvious or unnecessary it may seem, as I learned you should ALWAYS make clear to the cabbie to take the most direct route, and if you do get tunnelled, stand your ground and don't pay a penny more than the trip should cost.

I had no problems with any other taxi drivers during my trip. The guy who took me back to the airport asked me directly whether I wanted him to take the freeway or the local route.

Kenosha, WI
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2. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

Great start! Looking forward to the rest of the report! Ummm, I mean observations.

Brisbane, Australia
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3. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

OMG, I'm glad he picked on the wrong guy. Sounds like you got out of the situation better than many though so congrats for that.

Boston
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4. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

ENCORE: My room at Encore was nice. I asked for a quiet room and got one without having to memorize the layout of the rooms. It faced north and had a view that I'd call interesting if not lovely - I could see Circus Circus, Riviera, and LVH. It had a large bathroom with the toilet separated by another door, which is always good when people are sharing a bathroom. I found it odd that in order to get to the "living room" area of the mini-suite, one had to walk through the bedroom. I talked to someone who had a room with 2 queen beds and he said his wasn't like that (mine was a king.) The room decor had a somewhat masculine feel - blacks and beiges - which reminded me a bit of THEHotel. I did find the bed comfortable though I am not overly picky.

I also liked the main pool at Encore. It was relaxing and the music which seemed to come from the adult pool was not too loud. There was no difficulty getting a lounge chair and there were both sunny and shady areas. I asked for and received a free bottle of water, and around 11:00 everyone at the pool was offered a small cup with about a dozen chilled grapes (also free).

What I didn't like about Encore was how often I had to walk over to Wynn to do anything. The Encore casino is a tiny afterthought. Want to place a sports bet? Walk to Wynn. Want to eat at the buffet? Walk to Wynn. Want to catch the bus? Walk to Wynn. You get the idea.

Of course, I also don't like the $25/day resort fee. The only reason I even agreed to stay at a property that charges one is that I got offered an extra discount for pre-paying my stay which essentially offset the resort fees, and they threw in 4 free buffets for the two days I was there.

I had been underwhelmed by the Wynn buffet previously. I tried it 3 times during this visit. While it wasn't as bad as I remembered (I didn't actually choke on anything this time), much of it was still pretty mediocre. The focus remains on "fancy" dishes and not on executing them properly. For example, they had an Asian-inspired salad with sliced beef and crispy fried noodles was served very attractively in a little cup, but the ingredients were just thrown in with almost no dressing and certainly no culinary effort. Mashed potatoes were bland and boring. There were one or two dishes that were worthy of the price and reputation of the Wynn buffet, notably a sweet pea risotto with mushrooms. To me, the Bellagio buffet is far superior at the same price point.

The best thing about Encore was the level of service from the staff. Everyone there was not only professional but very pleasant and seemed concerned to make sure that my needs were being met. That attitude really did make an impression and contributed to a good stay.

There were all age groups represented among the guests, but I did feel that younger people would appreciate Encore more as opposed to Wynn.

Los Angeles
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5. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

Loved your observations so far plus your writing style is superb. Waiting for more...

Boston
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6. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

RIO: This was my third stay at Rio, and the least enjoyable. The first problem came right off the bat. I arrived about 11:15 AM, understanding that there is no guarantee a room will be available that early, but I have always had success in the past. I waited in line behind several other people also checking in at that time. When I got to the front desk, they immediately tried to upsell me to a "view" room for $20/night. I politely declined. They then told me that I couldn't have a room before 4 PM unless I paid a $10 fee. WTF? I said that was news to me. They said it was a new policy that had just begun a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, I declined. They processed my paperwork so that I could come back at 4 and just pick up my room keys, and I left my bags at the bell desk. I saw other people getting room keys, guess they paid the $10 or agreed to the upsell.

When I returned after 4, I still had to do more paperwork, but did get my room key from the desk clerk. I explained that it's ridiculous to charge a fee for something that incurs no cost - either the room is ready or it isn't, and it costs the same amount to clean either way. And if the fee had been disclosed online when I made my reservation, I might have arranged my schedule differently to arrive later. I am not clear whether this is just a Rio thing or if it is being implemented at all Caesars properties. But it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

By contrast, the Rio buffet, which is one of my favorites, did not disappoint, including a couple of seafood dishes which are very hard to do well in a buffet setting.

My actual room was what I expected - good sized and with a real fridge to use, a vanity area with sink outside the bathroom proper. The TV was annoying as it couldn't be pulled out enough or turned enough to be viewed fully from the bed. There were also no electrical outlets near the bed except behind the bed itself. My laptop did fit in the in-room safe (and also did at Encore.)

The Rio pool area is nicely laid out and landscaped, but I made the mistake of visiting it on the weekend. Starting at about 11 AM the "Voo" adult pool emits a deafening, ceaseless percussion track that was enough to drive me out of the pool area completely. Otherwise, there was no shortage of lounge chairs and there were some shady areas to be found.

Finally, on my last night while trying to get some sleep ahead of my flight home, I was awakened at 2 AM by the hotel's deafening emergency alarm system going off. I had experienced this previously at the Rio, so apparently it's not that rare. This was fortunate as I was only momentarily terrified. The alarm went on intermittently for ten minutes until it decided it was a false alarm. I've never experienced anything quite like this at the other properties I've stayed at, and they really need to cut down on having so many false alarms.

Altogether, I am no longer eager to return to the Rio as I had been in the past.

Boston
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7. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

GAMBLING: A few things worthy of note. I made a sports bet at Wynn, and asked about drink tickets. The guy told me the minimum bet to earn a drink ticket was $200. That's a pretty expensive drink.

Second, they no longer have parlay "teaser" cards at the Lagasse sportsbook at Palazzo, though you can still do your own parlay bets.

Third, the Sigma Derby machine at the D downtown is just like the one at MGM except it has a lighted canopy over it.

Finally, I had the opportunity to play the new "Free Bet" blackjack variant at the Golden Nugget. There is only one table and it was a $10 minimum. I probably played for an hour and a half, and although I lost, I enjoyed the game and think it is fair. The free doubles and splits (denoted by a shiny gold token) more than make up for the dealer pushing on 22 (denoted by a Blue Puck of Limbo that says "Dealer Pushes on 22" to keep people from having a fit the first time it happens.) Dealers like it because if there's a tip in play the free doubles and splits result in more tips for them.

I would encourage any blackjack players to try this game. It's obviously an experiment but one that is a fair game (house edge about 0.45) and we should do what we can to encourage fair games as opposed to 6:5 tables. I have a sinking feeling that the experiment won't last long but maybe if it proves popular enough it will survive.

Boston
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8. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

FOOD: I already talked about the buffets. The breakfast burrito at Lagasse's Stadium is no more, but now there is a breakfast pizza. It's very tasty but it's HUGE - I have an enormous appetite but it was too much for me. If you get it, plan on sharing it.

As of a couple of months ago, there is now an Earl of Sandwich in the Palms food court. Because it's in the food court where there are other food options, the line doesn't get long like the one at PH and your sandwich comes out much more quickly. Seating in the food court is at a premium during popular meal hours, though.

At Rio's BK Whopper Bar, you CAN get a Whopper without the salty fries, sugary drink, and calorie-laden toppings, but you have to ask for it.

Boston
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9. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

One more GAMBLING note: At Mirage, they now have TINY signs on the blackjack tables indicating whether the table pays 3:2 or 6:5. The signs are metallic and located underneath the electronic sign that has the table minimum. In short, they are totally unreadable, and obviously designed to be unreadable. I couldn't believe that Mirage, which used to be a good place to play blackjack, would stoop to trying to trick its patrons in such a sleazy way. I won't be playing any more blackjack at Mirage.

Boston
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10. Re: Some observations from my recent trip

One final random note: They now have rent-a-cops posted at the bus stops along the Strip, which is reassuring if you are trying to buy a ticket from the kiosk with your back to the sidewalk and the street.

That's about it really. I didn't see any shows, go to any nightclubs, or eat at any fine restaurants. I'm happy to answer any questions if I can.