Why Las Vegas? Earlier this year I was in California to visit my niece in the ICU, except I couldn't go in because I had the flu. And I couldn't stay were I was because it was like $425984349 a night (my niece's best hope was in San Francisco, because an ICU isn't expensive enough on it's own). So I was driving across the state, with the flu, to a free bed, when the cell phone range. Hilton, free weekend at a timeshare if I would listen to their sales pitch (fodder for another post), choices are Orlando or Las Vegas. I hate Orlando, and ever since I met the beloved he's been telling me about his dreams for Vegas.
So Vegas it was, the weekend of 16 July. Of the three Hilton timeshares in Vegas, I randomly picked the Hilton Grand Vacation Club (HGVC) on the Strip. Like many timeshares, this one also rents as a hotel, so even if you aren't a timeshare owner this tale still might be relevant to you. The one-bedroom apartment was perfect, it is a Hilton after all. However, this location has a Goldilocks issue. On the one hand, it is close to the insanity without being to close. It is restful. The pool, though crowded, was far more sedate than the pool at the MGM Grand which we also visited. It is across the street and down a very long block from the Sahara, which used to have a monorail stop. But the Sahara has closed and the HGVC is stranded. You have to take a taxi to get into the strip- a $12.00 taxi sure, but at least twice a day every day... yah.
The other two locations are attached to the Hilton hotel (soon to not be a Hilton, according to rumor), which has a monorail stop of it's own, or in the back of the Flamingo, right in the middle of the "real" strip. The Flamingo location also has it's own pool and this is probably the HGVC I would pick if I went back.
We had never stayed in a timeshare before and we had my Dad and his wife in a hotel at the opposite end of the strip, so we weren't prepared to take advantage of the kitchen. Given that the room was free, about 75% of the cost of the trip was food: eating three meals a day on the strip is more expensive than Manhattan. I can't imagine going back to Vegas and not staying in a timeshare.
This is supposedly the low season for Vegas, and if that's true I wouldn't want to go back during high season. The crowds were oppressive, though more stupid than drunk. Beloved asked how I could be so fond of Manhattan if I couldn't take this, but in Manhattan people know what they are doing. On the open street the throngs of Nebraska can't be truly dangerous as you have the slow-moving street for a final retreat, but to keep the traffic moving they have over-street walkways with escalators and those spaces are dangerous. I've only been close to being in an escalator pile-up twice in my life, and this was one of those times. A family with a baby stroller got to the top of the escalator and stopped. "But we have a baaaaby!" "But you're about to KILL 50 people!". OMG.
How to avoid the crowd: Enjoy the breakfast buffets and stare at the sights on the strip until about 1PM. Then hide. The pool at the HGVC Flamingo would be perfect.
My Dad's room at MGMwas nice, though the building shape casts a very dark shadow and I would definitely ask for a room with whatever part of the day you would must like sunshine. We enjoyed the restaurants there and the Starbucks with a bar overlooking the gambling floor, but it was the most unpleasantly crowded of the hotels including, as mentioned, the pool. We didn't even try to go in the lazy river. We saw Ka, which was of course fabulous.
We enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the Wynntwice. Our last night wasn't free at HGVC so we moved to the Venetian. Given that I was only paying for one night, rooms are cheap, and I had no idea that food was going to cost its weight in gold, I had upgraded to a room that had a recessed and oversized living room. It also had a printer-scanner-fax. If one were in Vegas for business, it would be great for an office and if one were in Vegas with an entourage it would make a great party center. Plus the drapes had a remote control. Breakfast ($$$$ of course) on the patio at Bouchon (winner of "Best Breakfast in Vegas" though we didn't know it at the time) overlooking a little courtyard and pool and then we were on a plane back home.
Las Vegas was for the beloved. Meanwhile, I got a new job (my third this year... hopefully my Goldilocks problem has been solved) and thought I deserved a vacation for me. In a way this ended up being the CSI vacation, because what we knew we wanted to see in Las Vegas (sharks!) was from CSI, and my image of lounging in a Cabana at the Fontainebleu was also from CSI.
This was a strange vacation. Fontainebleu messed up absolutely everything about our reservation, and yet everything we got instead was better than what we had thought we wanted. So it was maddening, and yet it was ridiculous to be mad.
First my room reservation wasn't exactly right and they spelled my name wrong. But we got upgraded to the corner Jr. Suite in Tower 3, which was really more of a studio apartment with an enormous porch and great views of the grounds, the ocean, and the canal.
Then they lost my cabana reservation. The entire reason we had flown there, and I had guests expected. A few phone calls weren't really resolving the situation, so at 8AM I went down there to have a chat with the recreation manager. We ended up with two daybeds (theoretically each one holds two people, but they are much larger than that suggests) with covers, directly across the walkway from the pool steps (opposite end of the pool from the bar) and next to the daybed occupied by one Manny Ramirez. We had entertainment (the circles of activity expanding outwards from Manny, along with everyone else walking by) and we had immediate access to the water.
We had dinner at Hakkasan in the hotel, and brunch downtown at Zuma. Both were fabulous. Food was expensive, but it seemed reasonable after Vegas. The Fontainebleu wasn't much less crowded than Las Vegas but it was a happier, more chilled out, place. Or maybe after four drinks by the pool it was just that I was happier. Nonetheless, I can't really see going back: the actual beach of South Beach gets the job done for less than half the price. For the beach, I will be back!