5 days, 4 nights just before Christmas with my partner C. His mother and step-father stayed at Paris.
Will post as a reply.
Blizzarding snow at home as we taxied to the airport to catch our 9am international flight, we were both very excited to get away to the comparatively warm desert winter. Both Nexus travellers, it took us only 15 minutes to get through the whole process and sit down for breakfast to wait 2 hours for our boarding time. On the plane we had some drinks and arrived at the happiest place on earth with big smiles.
Once in the taxi the driver asked us if we came to Vegas often - when we told her yes she made the right decision and took us the direct route to the Venetian. On the way there we chatted about how pre-Christmas is always a really slow season in Vegas and she told us a story about her only prior fare of the day: an older lady trying to get to her medical appointment only to arrive 30 minutes early, so the driver waited with her at a coffee shop only to find that her appointment was for a different day after all. My boyfriend is a soft touch and gave her a $40 tip when we got out of the car – our first loss in Vegas but it sure put a smile on her face. We had decided to come to Vegas during the “slow season” before Christmas because the rates for everything are incredible, and the crowds aren’t as insane either.
When we got out of the car we were greeted kindly and upon entering the reception area were offered hot cider by employees dressed up as elves. There was an accordion player in the lobby by the fountain, and absolutely no line at the check-in desk. We were checked in quickly and our crafty clerk offered us 2 options for upgrades – either the Piazza suite at 1,400 sq feet in the Venetian, or the Prestige option of a regular suite with a strip view at the Palazzo. C is not usually the planner for our trips, and so had no idea what the rooms were like or what the extra level of amenities we would get with either choice, but he did hear “champagne check-in” and “cocktail hour every night” so we decided to drop the extra money for the Palazzo, which turned out to be a great choice. Our clerk drew us a long map of how to get to the room (down the hall, past the cash cage, past the fountain, through the casino, to the elevators) and after picking up C’s mum and step-dad in the lobby we were on our way.
The Venetian and the Palazzo were decorated beautifully for the holidays with Christmas lights and wreaths and ribbons everywhere, and the entertainment singing Christmas carols. We were charmed right away. After heading up to the 23rd floor Prestige lounge to collect our champagne, we walked a short way down soft elegant hallways to our room. Mum and dad were quite impressed, as the contrast between their smaller Paris room and our suite was quite evident... Double sinks, a shower with 3 heads, giant soaker tub, vanity table & mirror and of course the sunken living room. The view was of the Palazzo pools, Treasure Island and their sunken Sirens show – there was a great deal of construction going on though the ships are still standing. No indication as to what the plans are with the front of the hotel now that the show has been cancelled. Because we had chosen to upgrade our suite, we had been given an extended Passaporto di Winter in Venice in addition to the regular one that we would have gotten with our original Luxury Suite at the Venetian so we spent a bit of time perusing the deals and deciding where we would use them in the days to come.
After unpacking and getting our bearings, we all went down to the casino floor to get our toes wet and have a little fun. I’m not a gambler by any means but the MyVegas game has certainly warmed me up to the idea of at least trying – their strategy works even if my first go wasn’t at one of their hotels, haha. After visiting the Grazie rewards desk and getting my card I put $20 into the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory penny game and immediately hit a bonus. My chair was vibrating, all sorts of noise was coming out of the machine, I went on a boat ride down a chocolate stream and walked away $30 richer then when I sat down... from one play! The guy next to me didn’t look very happy.
The rest of the family didn’t do so well and so we took a walk down the strip with no specific goal in mind other than to soak in the nice weather and enjoy being there. I always forget what that side of the street is like between Paris and the Venetian – there were scads of hustlers, slappers, mascots and beggars all over the sidewalk so we crossed the street and headed into the forum shops at Ceasars Palace. Mum wanted to see the animatronics and as we wended our way through the shops we couldn’t help but notice how much walking room we had – Wednesday before Christmas is definitely the quiet season in Vegas... So much so that the robots were shut down for maintenance by the time we got there. No worries, we went the other way to the King Neptune and the aquarium, and sat down for a late lunch at the Cheesecake factory. I had beet and spinach salad, ahi tuna for the main and a huge slice of carrot cake for dessert. The show came on while we were seated on the outside-the-restaurant-not-really-a-patio-but-still-part-of-the-restaurant area and the whole place went dark except for the screens and the fish tank. The server recited the whole show while he came and cleared our plates in the dark, poor guy.
After lunch we went our separate ways; mum & dad back to Paris for a nap and alone time, C & me back to the Palazzo to explore our hotel further and check out the Prestige cocktail hour. There was seafood soup, devilled eggs, beef kebabs, raw veggies and dip, crackers and cheese, salmon puffs, and other assorted finger food. The drinks were free (aside from the tip we gave when we left) but the food itself wasn’t really to our liking. The best part was the seafood soup which C had 2 little cups of, but he suffered from a sore belly and the chills later on in the evening. I spilled my almost-full glass of Prosecco into my lap (the only drink I’d had since check-in hours ago!), and so ended our first and only Prestige cocktail hour.
The Venetian puts on a holiday show 3X a night during the holiday season, and after changing into clean clothes we headed over to the Venetian and watched from the balcony level overlooking the strip. Juggling jesters, stilt-walking flower ladies and light beings, flying fairy-ghosts, princesses, lords, dancers, singing statues and electric guitar; it was truly a spectacle for about 20-30 minutes. The main plaza in front of the hotel was mobbed with people as the tree lit up and synchronized to the music – like moths to flame. On this quite Wednesday there were almost no skaters on the artificial rink set up in front of the hotel – being from the land of ice and snow I couldn’t bring myself to skate on the plastic “ice” that they use... it seemed like a lot of work to get going, and the rink is pretty small. We wandered back through the hotel and enjoyed a show in St. Marks square; a flutist, a violinist and a cellist. They were beautiful and truly talented and we thoroughly appreciated the gift of being able to hear this calibre of music for free. Not all of the attendees seemed to agree however, with families talking loudly amongst themselves immediately next to the performers.
The final meal of the day was at the Grand Lux cafe in the Palazzo, where there were almost no other diners. We had hot bread on the table, and I thoroughly enjoyed my perogies however C was feeling the effects of the seafood soup by now and only finished a small portion of his beef tenderloin. The food was quite good but the service we received did not meet expectations – after 3 asks for water from our waitress, I didn’t get it until I asked a different server who had brought our food. Our server kept us waiting much longer than necessary given the busyness of the restaurant though I would return for the food and the soft, quiet atmosphere. Feeling ill and tired, we went up to the room and had a hot bath.
Today was the only day to spend our MyVegas rewards at the Aria lunch buffet – two 2-for-1 passes and two 2-for-1 bottomless drinks! C & I made the walk from the Palazzo to Paris to collect mum & dad, and while we waited for them in the casino I put $10 in the Family Guy penny slot machine – hitting the chicken fight(?) bonus after 2 spins! Really a very fun little game and good way to pass the time – I walked away with $40. Mum gave me $5 to play in a machine of my choosing to win for her, but it was gone in a heartbeat.
We walked down to Planet Hollywood and across the street to the Bellagio to watch the fountains and take in the Christmas decorations. I stayed at the Bellagio over Christmas a number of years ago so knew the hotel would be crammed with tourists, but it’s so pretty that I had to take them through it. The conservatory was of course packed to the walls with people looking to take festive Facebook profile photos, but it was still lovely. There’s a snow tunnel to walk through, a chocolate house, reindeer and polar bears made of flowers, a huge Christmas tree with giant bells and a train running around the base with a camera on one of the cars, which was my favourite. Nearby was the world’s largest chocolate fountain which Mum got a tickle out of.
From the Bellagio we took the free tram to the Aria and after registering at the Mlife desk we headed to the buffet. Funny thing, the Mlife employees said that any and everybody who came to the desk only wanted the buffet, and it’s well worth it.
Our server was prompt and friendly, and made us feel happy to be there. Mum went to town on the crab legs, while I got caught up with the curry options. Wasting all that belly space with na’an bread and rice! Rookie! Most of the stations seemed very homey in a weird way; soups and sauces in pots and pans on the heating elements instead of in big commercial containers. We stayed the whole afternoon until after 3pm when they stopped serving us drinks (lunch was over) and had a wonderful time.
After the Aria bottomless brunch lunch we were feeling merry and headed to NYNY to ride the roller coaster. MyVegas provided a 2-for-1 ticket that C & I used happily. From there we hopped in a taxi to Fremont, forgetting that it was nearly 5pm now and not only rush hour, but not really party time, even in Vegas haha. After a long traffic jam we toddled into the street and walked up and down – not much going on in the way of entertainment or even people-watching, so we headed inside the Golden Nugget to relax. This hotel was also very festive, with all the trees out by the shark tank pool decorated with lights and a reindeer display at the front door. We settled at the ... Ice Bar... I think... and watched the registration desk ebb and flow with arrivals and the hotel guests walking through. We saw a number of characters and were surprised at the amount of children we saw coming in. Vegas doesn’t really strike me as a kiddie kind of place, and Fremont even less so. After a while a sharply dressed older gentleman came over to us and offered us free tickets to Gordie Brown, whom none of us had ever heard of. We politely declined and kept on with our drinks and people watching, and after another couple of rye & cokes C went over to the concierge and came back with 4 tickets to Gordie Brown! I guess he got the idea in his head and decided it was a good one, haha. Still with no clue who he was or what kind of a show we were about to see, we meandered through the casino and up to the theater. Gordie Brown turned out to be a musical act with impersonations and comedy thrown in – some good and some not so good. Some of the guests were howling laughter at every single joke and applauding wildly at the singing impersonations, so though I don’t think it’s for everyone, you might be the kind of person who would enjoy it. Two hours later and we were ready to head back to the strip.
C & I used our first Passaporto di Winter in Venice coupon and had dinner at Taqueria Cononita – 20% off from our upgraded coupon book and we had sangria and scarfed nachos while listening to the gondola drivers sing to their empty boats. Mostly drunk and a little hungover, we headed back to the room. I got very excited by the satin pouch of chocolates that housekeeping had left for us and promptly fell deeply asleep after eating them.
Waking up early has it’s good side, and on Friday morning we went to the complimentary continental breakfast served in the Prestige lounge (service ends at 10am). We expected nothing more than some muffins, apples and oranges... maybe some cold cereal for the kids. When we arrived there were 3 kinds of juice, hot coffee and tea, oatmeal, croissants, muffins, toast, bagels, fresh fruit, cereal, hot potatoes, sausage, eggs, bacon, cinnamon buns and other pastries. We were so pleased and the staff was so welcoming and kind. If I had wanted to have an alcoholic drink they would have provided, but I was in recovery mode from the day before. :)
We spent some more time in the casino at the Palazzo, and I promptly lost $100 in the slots so decided to stop playing for a while. C played the Deal or No Deal game for about half an hour before giving up on it; it wasn’t our lucky day. We wandered back to St. Mark’s square and had lunch at Postrio, edging on to the square. We saw a pigeon pecking around on the ground and when we asked the hostess about it, she said she had no idea where they came from! Is the hotel bringing pigeons in to make it more of an authentic Venice experience? It freaked me out a bit. Lunch was a squash soup and roasted chicken with mushrooms and potatoes; I think I was feeling festive with all the decorations around, and the opera singers that came and sang Christmas carols during our meal. For dessert I had a cocktail called the Drunken Pumpkin, which was full of liquor and tasted of pumpkin, haha.
After lunch we went for a nice nap, and then had to get dressed for our dinner reservations at Zeffirino’s. Since it was mum & dad’s last night in Vegas, we decided to have a nice dinner together, and when we arrived we were seated on the second floor with a table next to the windows overlooking the canal. We all ate from the set menu and shared many a laugh with our server, and we drank a Californian sparkling wine with the same name as the restaurant in honour. The wine arrived in bright blue bottles with sparkling letters spelling out Zeffirino’s. The food on my part was mediocre – I had the tomato & mozzerella to start, the pasta and then sea bass for the main. The fish was covered in tomato sauce that ruined the texture and the flavour. For dessert we had little chocolate and pastry bites, which were quite good. Service was a pleasure throughout the meal and even though the set dinner was supposed to be a set price with no coupons, they allowed us to use the 10% discount that we had in the regular Passaporto di Winter in Venice.
When we left the restaurant we decided to use more Passaporto di Winter in Venice coupons for the gondola ride – the Prestige booklet had a free ticket and the regular booklet had a 2-for-1, which again wound up with us taking 4 people for the price of two, which was great. We were one of the only groups to be using the gondolas, and our driver encouraged us to kiss under the bridges. It’s a lovely cheesy experience, and we did wind up getting the photos afterwards at the cost of $20 for one, $25 for two. Afterwards we watched the Winter in Venice show again, and called it a night.
C & I watched a movie in bed while sharing a bottle of wine from the little shop in front of the Prestige elevators. Ahh, romance.
We didn’t have plans to meet up with mum & dad until later in the day, so C & I hopped on the Monorail and headed down to the MGM with the intention of showing C the Luxor, which he hadn’t seen yet. When we arrived at the MGM it was a Saturday crowd and again, we noticed a large amount of families with small children. We walked through MGM to NYNY to Excalibur, and couldn’t take the crowds so instead rode the express tram from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay with the intention of seeing it and walking back to the Luxor. Instead we decided to cash in a MyVegas reward to 2-for-1 the shark reef – this was the only MyVegas reward we redeemed in Vegas but it quelled my concerns that none of my regular rewards would be available once we got in to Las Vegas... Everything was still available. The shark reef was great aside from the one shrieking kid (10 years old) whose parents encouraged him to yell throughout the enclosed area. It was too much by the end when we were trying to enjoy the enormous sea turtles flying through the water and this kid kept yelling and yelling and yelling and yelling... We “shushed” and left.
From Mandalay Bay we taxied back to Paris in time for one last meal with mum & dad at Mon Ami Gabi. I’ve had a few wonderful experiences there and was excited to share the food, service and atmosphere with the family. We arrived on time for our reservation however mum & dad were yet to be seen – the restaurant refused to seat C & I while we waited and shunted us off to the side. I was thirsty and tired and would have appreciated somewhere to sit and relax. When our whole party arrived we were shuffled into the middle dining area between two other close tables. Our server was lippy with mum and I was taken aback. We ordered simple lunch/brunch fare, with soda to drink. My food specifically was the eggs benedict, which came out with burned english muffin, tough ham and inedible hashbrowns. The table immediately next to us was used as a garbage/storage table with all the empty glasses and dirty dishes being placed there – I guess until they could properly bus the tables and clean up this was the temporary solution. I was really unhappy with the whole experience and if it weren’t for the glowing times I’ve had at dinner, I would never be back. As it is I won’t be back for lunch, ever.
Mum & dad said their goodbyes and got in a taxi to the airport, and C & I took a taxi to the Atomic Testing Museum to use a Groupon voucher I had purchased. The Area 51 exhibit was something I would have seen at a science fair, with posters and placards around “Is it real?” “Are they among us?”... while kind of cute, I didn’t spend much time in that portion of the museum and moved on to the Atomic Testing part. It was very complete and very interesting, with bombs, artifacts, videos and information everywhere. I really enjoyed it and it was very interesting to see from a Canadian perspective the American outlook on atomic weapons. We stayed until it closed at 5pm and walked back to Bally’s where we took the monorail back to the Venetian.
It was almost dinner time and we had tickets to see Penn & Teller at 9pm, so we were looking in our coupon book and at the Rio website to decide where we wanted to go for supper, when I started to not feel well. In fact I was so unwell that I spent the next 2 hours throwing up in the beautiful washroom. Food poisoning, thanks Mon Ami Gabi hollandaise sauce. Yikes. Throughout the time I was ill I drank ginger ale and took Pepto Bismol to settle my stomach – we were going to Penn & Teller no matter what! The tickets were a birthday gift from me to C, which we had done last year but Penn & Teller had cancelled the show a couple of months before the date last year. This was our second go. We slowly walked to a taxi and asked him to take it easy on the ride over to the Rio – however I’m 100% sure that the coffee cup in the back seat that *I* was considering using as a barf bag was already full of somebody elses vomit. It was the rankest, sickest smell you could imagine, but we made it there intact!
Settling in to our seats in the theater, everyone had an opportunity to go up on stage and look at a box, take their photo from the stage, and sign an envelope which would be used later on in the show. There was also a 2 piece jazz band playing, and heyo, it was Penn on bass. He had his hair down and was wearing a hat, so I’m sure a lot of people didn’t recognize him. I watched the show with my ticket clenched in my hand in case I had to run out and be sick, but it was a wonderful, magical, entertaining and funny piece of work that I would strongly recommend to anybody, whether you like magic or not.
When we returned to the hotel I was feeling a bit better and C was starved, so we ordered room service – chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for me, and a giant cheese burger for him. It was amazing.
Because our flight didn’t take off until after 7pm, we requested a 2pm checkout to relax and take our time in leaving. We got up early enough to enjoy another complimentary Prestige breakfast (thankfully I was fully recovered), then returned to the room and watched cartoons while we prepared for our trip home. The Palazzo had emailed me a detailed copy of my bill and provided instructions on how to check out with the TV, so we did that and it was simple.
For our last meal in Vegas we went to Lavo for their proper Sunday brunch. Using our last Passaporto di Winter in Venice coupon, we got one free bottomless beverage pass, a $30 value. C ordered a bottomless beverage pass as well and we were set for the rest of the afternoon. I had heard great things about the meatballs at Lavo, so I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs which was everything I could have hoped for. C ate steak and eggs and it was done perfectly. We both ordered dessert as well – C the oreo cookie dessert and I had the peanut butter chocolate cake. The cake is definitely designed for at least 2 people to eat it, I tried to be a hero and finish it because I don’t like to see food wasted but I only made it through half. Our server was professional and pleasant, and we ended our Vegas experience on a very high note. I will make the effort to come back to Lavo in the future, no matter where I’m staying. The Palazzo was such a beautiful place to stay for the holidays I would be surprised if we didn’t return for another winter holiday.
P.S. The taxi back to the airport was through the tunnel. Boo!
Sounds like a great trip (except for the final taxi ride). Thanks for sharing.
What a great report, Thanks...
Enjoyed your report! Sounds like lots of positives. On the digestive issues note.. sometimes just the richness of foods coupled with more alcohol than usual can give us tummy troubles. Happens to me every trip! Not usually food poisoning per se just the result of excesses that we are not accustomed to. Glad you recovered relatively quickly. Sorry to hear of a bad experience at MonAbiGabi! I know it is not fine dining in the true sense but we have always had a good experience there and find the price and quality are good. Can have a bad day anywhere I think. Anyway, thanks for sharing!
Pretty much in agreement with Bloomview - although for me the only thing that normally sets it off for some reason is the hollandaise sauce at Paris!!! I wouldn't have thought it would be the same in mon ami since that is a separate venue, but one never knows. I thought the first time it was 'bad'. Next trip - SAME issue. 3rd trip I had a 'dollop' of it on a steak with asparagus from the Café. SAME thing. You can pretty well guess I go NOWHERE near the hollandaise at Paris now lol. Evidently it is a seasoning in the sauce that I do NOT get along with. I just found it really funny that both of us do not get along well with once sauce!
And by the way - LOVED your report!Edited: 27 December 2013, 23:18
Really enjoyed your trip report...thanks for sharing with us. Thanks for the recommendation for Penn and Teller - now will probably go and see them this February.