A September 2005 trip
to Las Vegas by Shaken_Bake
Quote: My husband and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Sin City when we found an unbeatable package deal with America West. Three days in Las Vegas is the perfect amount of time for me; we gambled, ate well, and saw all the sights. Viva, Las Vegas!
Hotel | "Riviera Casino Hotel"
We arrived on a Labor Day weekend Saturday and were able to check in at about 2:30pm without any wait. We had a large king-size room on the 14th floor near the rear of the complex. The decor was plain and the room looked a little sparse. At first, I was dismayed to discover that the bed was actually a Murphy bed that could be lifted into the wall to allow the room to be used for meetings, but the bed turned out to be comfortable enough. We also had two sofas, a table and chairs, and a desk area that gave us plenty of room to spread out and relax. The bathroom was fairly small but very clean, and all the plumbing worked well. The noise level was not good; we could hear the clock radio go off in the empty room next to us at 6am on two mornings and voices in the hallway could be annoying. Luckily, the air-conditioning worked well and was able to drown out the noise enough to allow us to sleep.
We did not spend much time in the Riviera casino after the first evening. It is very smoky and I just didn't get a good vibe there. We took advantage of two-for-one coupons for the breakfast buffet, which allowed us to eat for $9.99 total. They have an omelet chef and plenty of hot and cold options. It's decent enough if you pay half-price. We did not use the pool, but there was always a crowd of people lounging and swimming. The nearest monorail stop is about a 10-minute walk to the Hilton from the back of the hotel, a hot walk during the day, and I’d hesitate to walk there alone at night.
The Riviera is not luxurious or in the heart of the action in Vegas, but if you get a good price, it certainly provides clean rooms and adequate amenities. It’s not the best, but far from the worst.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 12, 2005
Riviera Hotel & Casino
2901 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Restaurant | "Chin Chin Cafe"
The server was attentive and quick, which got our visit off to a good start. We did enjoy our appetizer, four Cantonese dumplings with a number of sweet and savory dipping sauces. However, our menu selections were pretty disappointing. I ordered a tangerine beef dish, crispy beef strips in a tangy sauce, which I hoped would be similar to orange beef. I found the sauce to completely overpowering with a combination of sweet and salty tastes; I was thirsty all night long after that meal! The beef was tough and hard to manipulate. If you're using chopsticks, the food should be in bite-size pieces, easy to pick up or bite. My husband had almond chicken which was very salty and bland. The size of the entrées was large enough that neither of us finished our meals. We were also very surprised to find that rice was not included in the price of the entrée, a staple at every other Chinese restaurant I've ever visited!
Although I expect inflated prices in Las Vegas, the value was not in relation to what was received, particularly if compared to the prices in traditional Chinese restaurants. Our meal, including a beer, cocktail, and appetizer, cost $70. All in all, I doubt I would choose to eat dinner at Chin Chin again. We just weren't that impressed.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 12, 2005
3790 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119
+1 702 740 6300
Restaurant | "Pepper Mill Lounge and Restaurant"
We came for breakfast, and believe me, you don't need lunch after eating here. The Peppermill serves great breakfast concoctions and classics like pancakes, waffles, and omelets. I enjoyed just a fraction of Joe's San Francisco Special, which included scrambled eggs with spinach, onions, and sausage served on potato skins and smothered in a golden cheese sauce. My husband, who is a big eater, couldn't even finish his short stack of pancakes with both sausage and bacon! Their dinner menu looked quite appealing, featuring an enormous array of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, and seafood and desserts. Apparently, their ice-cream sundaes and banana splits are legendary. I believe that fasting for 3 days before (or after) consuming one those would be in order!
We also came back to visit the Peppermill Fireside Lounge for a nightcap. As expected, the decor here is also over-the-top, featuring the "flaming pool," a cozy seating area surrounding a fire pit that appears to be floating on deep-blue water. Elsewhere, comfy pink sofas semicircles filled the lounge, music videos played on many plasma-screen monitors, and an extensive frou-frou cocktail menu was served by women who must be aspiring models, clad in low-cut, slinky black dresses. I liked the way our server sat down at our table with us to take our order. Our server was very friendly as well as beautiful; she told us how during the day she's a student and varsity basketball player at UNLV. Only in Vegas!
The Peppermill is Vegas at its classic best. It's next to the Riviera, across from the Stardust on the north end of the Strip. It is absolutely worth going out of your way for!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 12, 2005
2985 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109-1930
The Steakhouse is an absolute oasis once you’ve navigated through the corridors and casinos in Circus Circus. The cool, dark paneling in the entryway is very inviting and immediately calming. We were warmly greeted by a hostess and seated quickly. The restaurant certainly has all the qualities of a good steakhouse: open grill area, dark decor, booths and tables with white linen tablecloths, and white-jacketed waiters, predominantly male. Our server was friendly and efficient. We quickly had menus, water, and drinks at our table.
The menu is simple and the epitome of "steakhouse," with all cuts of beef offered, as well as some of the usual alternatives, such as poultry, pork, and seafood. Their side dishes are renowned for size and taste. I ordered my favorite, surf and turf, with a lobster tail and filet mignon. My husband is very predictable and ordered the porterhouse, which was over 1 pound. I thought that the beef was excellent, cooked exactly to my order, tender and flavorful. I wasn't as happy with my lobster tail because it was a little chewy and the flavor was rather boiled out of it. I suspect that it may have been a long time since it was happily swimming in ocean! My husband's meal was delicious and disappeared in due time, every bite. That man takes no prisoners! We also had garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus, which were very well prepared. The wine list was extensive and not very expensive in comparison to other steakhouses of similar quality. We consulted with our server, who knowledgeably discussed the pros and cons on several different selections. We were very pleased with his suggestion, a Sonoma Valley Cabernet. Although we had no room for dessert, the cart passed by our table several times and everything looked scrumptious.
Our meal came to a total of $150, which is a good value for the quality, service, and ambience. After dinner, we stopped to look at a meat locker near the entrance, where many cuts of beef were aging, waiting for the appropriate time to be served. A gentleman, whom we later found out was the general manager, stopped to chat with us. He told us how the restaurant cuts its own beef and how the aging process works. He gave us his card and let us know that if we ever had problems getting a reservation, to ask for him. I don't know if he knew we were just there for a short time, but it made a good impression on me to be treated like a VIP! Despite its notorious location, The Steakhouse at Circus Circus is a wonderful dining experience!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 12, 2005
Steak House at Circus Circus
2880 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Attraction | "Cirque Du Soleil - Zumanity"
I would first of all describe Zumanity as the least spectacular of the four Cirque du Soleil performances currently playing in Las Vegas ("Ka," "O," and "Mystere" are the others). The website describes the show as, "a provocative, cabaret-style production with a Cirque du Soleil twist. The adult-themed, 90-minute production is unveiled at New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas." Reviews of the show were mixed; some patrons didn’t like the humor, sexual themes, or lower-key production. Because I had nothing to compare it to, I didn’t expect to be disappointed. That was an understatement, I would say!
The theater is not huge and even offers intimate love seats in various areas for some patrons. Our seats were in the third row, off to the side of the long, narrow stage that protruded into the center. The experience began immediately as members of the troupe dressed in outlandish, sexy costumes intermingled with the crowd taking their seats. The different characters began to emerge: the MC as a caricature of the sleazy, preening Romeo, cracking funny jokes at the expense of a few patrons; the chubby French maid pushing her way through the seats, rubbing her bottom or bosom on everyone; the naïve country girl brandishing enormous rubber… "toys!" All this before the show officially began!
When the lights dimmed and the MC explained the "concept" of the show, how different takes on sexuality would be portrayed, it was hard to know where to look. Everywhere in the theater, not just on stage, the performers were standing, dancing, and walking around. The music was excellent, modernistic but well-suited for the action on stage. The "acts" were very different from each other. My favorite was the trapeze and aerial stunts. The acrobats were truly astounding, flying through the air on various materials. This was not your parents' Ringling Circus! The performers were stunningly beautiful, the men so muscular and the women athletic. Some women performed topless and sometimes their costumes were suggestive of nudity, but there were certainly no overtly sexual acts or anything "worse" than a typical strip club. The most erotic act consisted of a woman simulating bondage in an athletic, but riveting, solo sequence. There were also some very funny parts between the dance and aerial shows that were keeping with the cabaret theme. For each act, the stage was constantly being transformed into visually stunning playgrounds for the performers. Two women even swim in a large fishbowl at one point!
I truly loved this show and would recommend it for open-minded adults. If this supposedly isn't the best that Cirque du Soleil has to offer, I can’t wait to see more!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 13, 2005
Cirque Du Soleil: Zumanity
New York New York Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Slots-o-Fun (next to Circus Circus) was our hangout for low-stakes gambling. We gave that dollar craps table a workout, perfect for hubby, who was a craps virgin but had been practicing diligently with Casino-on-Net! There was always a good vibe, decent winnings, and a blackjack table, where, one afternoon, the dealer always went bust and never got 21! Overall, we were just down slightly and had money in our wallets going home. I didn't expect to do much better than that.
I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the Wynn and Bellagio. I thought those public spaces were superb, and I can't wait to make my fortune to be able to stay there. On several occasions, I spoke to security guards and other employees. Each one was as helpful as could be, even for a non-guest. That made a good impression.
PRETTY DAMN GOOD:
Sportsbook in the Stardust was Hubby's favorite, and they were very helpful. We bet on champions for baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Now I just have to not lose the tickets before the winners are decided!
The Monorail is a great addition to the public transportation system, but it was a hot hike from most locations on the north end of the Strip.
I enjoyed the lion exhibit inside MGM Grand, right next to the casino! Both adult lions were lounging on top of the transparent walkway, and you could really get up close and personal!
Express Shuttle/Coach USA airport transfers are far from express! Sure, it's cheap, just $5 one-way from the airport to any hotel on the Strip (our transfer was included in our package deal), but we waited 45 minutes in an un-shaded area in 100°F heat, with the promise from the starter, "Oh, it'll be here in just a minute!" Our return van was also 20 minutes late, which made some passengers very anxious about their flights. Sure, it's a crapshoot whether you'll have a bus waiting for you or have to wait because traffic is bad, but when your luck runs out, you're pretty stuck!
Jeez, Las Vegas is a dirty city, especially around construction areas and away from the immediate entrances to the big hotels. Sure, with crowds like that, you’re going to get trash, but it was hard to not step in gobs of old food and other crap just walking down the street. Blech.