An August 2004 trip
to Las Vegas by E. B.
Quote: Ever get a travel certificate from Casablanca Express? I received one as a prize when I test drove a car. I received a couple as a gift for attending a timeshare presentation. Have you wondered if it was even worth redeeming? Here's what I did with my Casablanca Express certificate.
Hotel | "Sahara Hotel & Casino"
As I waited for my friend to arrive, I ordered room service. Service was quick. Although I did not enjoy the Sahara Buffet, I did at least find room service fine. It only took minutes for them to bring my order to my room.
My room had two beds, a TV, night stand, drawers, a table with two chairs, a vanity table with chair, ironing board with iron, and a closet. The bathroom had a blow dryer, a bottle of shampoo, and two bars of soap. Fresh towels are replaced only if you place them on the floor. Pillowcases are exchanged, but the bed is made with the same sheets.
The pool is open from 8 AM – 8 PM. Unfortunately, I did not realize how hot it was that day. Temperature was close to 120°F. After spending an hour in the heat, I returned from the pool at 1 PM. I went a few steps into the cool air-conditioned area near the registration desk, and everything went completely black. I woke up to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) asking me if I was OK. I had fainted from heat exhaustion. My right cheek hurt. It turns out that I had fallen onto my knees and hit my right thigh, and then the right side of my head. I had a goose egg above my right ear and a huge throbbing pain on my chin and right cheek. EMS was quick. It took them only minutes to respond; however, I did notice that the EMTs didn’t have much experience. When they took my pulse, they failed to ask my baseline. They assumed that because my pulse was within normal range that I was OK. In fact, my pulse was quite high. I also lost my watch. Either the EMT took off my watch to take my pulse, or someone actually stole my watch. Considering that it wasn’t a Rolex, I wondered if it was just the incompetence of the EMTs who didn’t return my watch to me. Or someone was desperate to pawn my watch to get more money for gambling. I checked with the front desk and was redirected to security. My watch was nowhere to be found.
Check-out was fairly smooth. There is a $1 per day phone charge and local taxes. I had never been charged for making local calls, but I guess the hotels are doing that now. At least the airport shuttles run regularly from the Sahara.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 15, 2004
Sahara Hotel and Casino
2535 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Restaurant | "Pyramid Café"
I ordered the Chicken Caesar on Focaccia, which is a grilled chicken breast with rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and Caesar salad on Focaccia bread. It also came with a choice of French fries, potato salad, or coleslaw. I chose coleslaw. My friend ordered the Jumbo Fried Shrimp which came with a choice of soup or salad (she chose salad), vegetable of the day (green beans), and a choice of French fries, rice, mashed potatoes, or a baked potato (she chose mashed potatoes). I ordered an iced tea with my meal. My friend ordered a Sprite. Our meals were fine. Not fantastic, but not poor. Size portion was a good value for what we paid.
Service was slow since there were many people who decided to eat after Blue Man Group. Our waiter did refresh our drinks as we finished them. He was chatty with one of the customers, explaining that some Japanese tourists wanted to eat there, but when a bilingual Japanese American translated the menu from outside the restaurant, the tourists chose items that were no longer offered. I suppose the café should update their menu outside.
After a leisurely meal listening to the various conversations around us, we left to pay our bill. It came out to $35 for two, including tax and tip.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 15, 2004
Pyramid Cafe at Luxor Hotel and Casino
3900 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, Nevada
We selected a table then began our search for dinner. My friend went first as I watched her 3-year-old son. We played with his Thomas the Tank train set. After she returned with her food, I set off in search of edibles. Unfortunately, I didn’t find most of the food appetizing to me. I was not in the mood for the meat dishes that I saw. I didn’t want the pastas, pizzas, or soups. I ended up with pork loin, pasta salad, mashed potatoes, and a slice of peach cobbler. The salad looked wilted, so I avoided it altogether. I drank water and iced tea. I went back for a couple of sweets, but after that, I was full. I didn’t even enjoy my meal.
The atmosphere of the place was somber. It was as if everyone was disappointed with the food. People generally ate to fill their stomachs then leave. No one looked very excited. It feels like that in a lot of places in Vegas, though. Perhaps some of the folks were on a losing streak.
The Sahara Buffet is open 7 AM – 10 PM every day. I don’t recommend this place. Save your money and eat somewhere else.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on August 15, 2004
2535 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
+1 702 737 2111
Attraction | "Blue Man Group at the Luxor"
We walked down to the Stratosphere where we jumped on a bus for a $2 fare. It took almost 20 minutes to make it down from the Stratosphere to the Luxor Hotel. When we entered the Blue Man Group Theater, they had just started the show. Since we came in late, they had us go upstairs to sit and watch the show in the back. There are chairs for that specific purpose. Then at an appointed time, the ushers brought us downstairs and had us don ponchos since we bought seats in the poncho section, third row center. Luckily, we were not selected to be the "latecomers." The show completely halts, the lights go up, and the latecomers are paraded in front of the audience. Three college kids were selected. After the lights dimmed, and the audience had their laughs, we were taken to our seats in the dark. We were very thankful to stumble to our seats.
Our perspective was so different in the 3rd row after sitting in the back. Luckily, we were not splattered with paint. It’s a very interactive show with loud music and jokes. The poncho section audience had crepe paper twisted around their heads, wrists, or necks. It would be a good show to come back to repeatedly, but at almost $100 a pop, I don’t think I can afford to do it. Several audience members are picked to participate. My friend and I were happy not to be selected.
When we left, I took some crepe paper as a souvenir. I hope that with all the paper that they use in the show, they recycle. I bought a baby T-shirt as well. My crepe paper was quickly forgotten and discarded. After reflecting, I think the main section is best. The poncho section is a bit too close to the action. The main section is dangerous, though. Be prepared to participate if you are called upon.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 15, 2004
Blue Man Group at The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Going from LAS to the Sahara was simple, too, only three stops. I ended up taking Gray Line Tours of Southern Nevada (Coach USA). It cost $4.75 for a one-way fare. It was $9 to pay for a round-trip fare. I thought I’d save myself the trouble of arranging another trip to the airport, so I bought round trip. Wrong move. I found out later that the shuttles drive by the hotels often. Someone is always leaving the hotel for the airport. If there’s room in the shuttle, you can hop on by paying cash. Unfortunately, when you buy round-trip fare, you lock yourself into one company. If I had to do it again, I’d just wait for the next shuttle to pick me up and jump on. Since I had already paid my return fare, I was forced to be picked up at 8:30 AM for a 11:30 AM flight. Much too early, but my friend had to leave at 4:30 AM for her 7:00 AM flight. That’s pretty brutal.
When I waited for my Gray Line shuttle to come and pick me up, the shuttle happened to hide behind another big shuttle so that I did not see it. As the shuttle pulled away, I realized that my shuttle had just left. I had to run to a pay phone since my cell phone battery had died. I called the shuttle company number. They redirected the shuttle back to me after about 10 minutes. I found that nice since they could have easily asked me to wait for the next scheduled shuttle pick up. Obviously they are trying to keep their customers returning. There is a lot of competition in Las Vegas for shuttles. Gray Line operates 24 hours a day. (800) 559-9522.
Upon my return trip from LAX back home, I took Prime Time Shuttle. I had booked this online before leaving for Las Vegas. It cost $18.48, and I was able to pay by credit card. The driver was not familiar with the South Bay, so we ended up directing him where to go. Luckily, all the stops worked out. The driver who happened to be Persian told us about a very good Persian restaurant in Torrance. I will have to try it out. I signed my receipt, tipped him in cash, and directed him on how to get to the next stop.
Here’s my guide to redeeming these certificates. You are allowed to choose three different dates. Travel is off-peak, generally starting Sunday - Wednesday. Trips usually last 3-5 days. The first date must be 60 days or more in the future. Keep in mind that you must account for the mailing time. When Casablanca receives the dates, they will be checking to see if it’s 60 days or more in advance from the day they receive your request. Be safe and request it 65-70 days in advance. Each date must be spread apart by at least 21 days. Don’t bother with holidays. You definitely will not get any dates that fall around a holiday. If none of your dates work, they will mail you a slip of paper with available dates. Pick three of the dates and resend the information.
When Casablanca accepts your dates, a sales representative will call you to offer an upgrade. Although I have never used an upgrade, I have wished I had a couple times. I have taken a few Casablanca trips that were less satisfactory than others. On my first Casablanca trip to Las Vegas, I drove there. I ended up at the Rodeway Inn. It was a budget motel. Definitely not for those who want a luxury trip. If that’s your taste, you’d better upgrade. For my trouble, I paid less than $5 in taxes. With the money I saved, I bought tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s O. Some folks complained about the Rodeway Inn, so Casablanca called all the folks who stayed there to offer more trips. On my second trip, I ended up going to Palm Springs to the The Plaza Resort and Spa. I paid about $40 in "taxes." I wasn’t pleased. It was a timeshare presentation in disguise. Very sneaky. I should have complained to Casablanca, but I didn’t know where to call to complain. Sometimes I wonder if I would have gotten more trips from them if I knew where to call. On my third trip, I drove to Phoenix. I stayed at the E-Z 8 Motel, another budget motel, but it was my first time being in Phoenix. I didn’t really mind. It was extra pocket money that I used towards my expenses like gas, food, and entertainment. I paid less than $15 in taxes. For my fourth trip, I finally got a certificate for airfare as well. We were offered upgrades, but decided against it. My flight times were perfect. Accommodations were good at the Sahara Hotel & Casino. We spent the extra money on Blue Man Group. I paid about $60 in taxes including hotel and airfare.
By now you should know that my modus operandi is to get free travel from Casablanca Express in order to finance my big ticket items, i.e. show tickets. I still have two or three more shows to check out in Las Vegas, so I’ll be utilizing Casablanca as much as possible.
Recently, Casablanca Express has put up a website. They have posted their FAQs online. If you check their destinations, they offer trips to places like Vegas, Reno, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Hawaii, Laughlin, New Orleans, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Most offers are 3-day trips. Take in account that you lose one day flying to your destination, then another flying home. That leaves one full day. Do you really want to fly to Hawaii or the Bahamas only for one full day? Pick a close destination so that you won’t be left with only one mouthful to taste the vacation you could have had if you didn’t use Casablanca. Don’t make it a bitter experience.