Lisa and I headed to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago for a sunny vacation with my brother and his wife. We drove up to Cleveland a couple days before we had to fly out and dropped the kids off with Lisa's parents before jetting away on Monday of the week. Our flight, with American Airlines, generally sucked (and unfortunate condition I'm coming to expect from most domestic carriers) and we arrived in Vegas late. We then hired a shuttle service and got a ride to the Westin. I had booked the Westin room via priceline.com back in December when I first told Lisa about the trip as part of our Christmas present and we had a pretty good deal of $70/night.
As the trip approached Lisa was getting pretty nervous about the Westin being off the strip but it wasn't very far off the strip at all and you could walk right across the street to Bally's to catch the monorail which worked out wonderfully for us as Ted and Cyndy were staying one monorail stop up at the MGM Grand. The Westin was OK. I can't really give it a great review but it wasn't that bad either. The hallways were a bit dingy but our room was clean and the staff was generally friendly. However, our initial check-in was full of problems. Our first room (on the fifth floor) didn't have an in-room safe. Of course we didn't know that till we got to the room so we locked our bags in the room and went back to the front desk where we had to wait in line again. We were moved to a new room on the fifth floor but it had two problems. The first was a dead battery in the smoke detector (they fixed that) but the second was the presence of a very large dog in the room beside us. I was unaware that the Westin was a dog friendly hotel. The neighbor dog didn't like the smell of me or something because we could hear him growling through the wall so I went back downstairs and got in line again. We were then given a room on the 12th floor. Finally, we had a solid room with a safe, no neighboring dogs, and a working smoke detector. We were settled in about an hour after we first arrived at the hotel. I don't want to dog the Westin entirely becuase, quite frankly their seemingly hyperbolicly named "Heavenly Bed" is one damn comfortable bed. In fact I'd say it was vastly more comfortable than any bed I've slept on including our tempurpedic (Lisa has always liked the tempurpedic but she even preferred the Heavenly Bed). If I had $3500 to blow on a bed I'd order one today.
That night Ted and Cyndy came down to our hotel and we enjoyed some very light snacks at the hotels mixer for guests and then we headed out and did a little light gambling. Ted, Cyndy, and Lisa all like doing slot machines so that was all we did that night. I don't really care much for the machines but I tried to enjoy them and managed to lose my days gambling money in record time. It was not a good sign for things to come in regards to me gambling during the week.
We had pre-purchased some tickets to go to the Price is Right show at Balleys on Tuesday and so, once we had breakfast, we headed over there and made sure we were signed in and that we had our name badges on. Bally's and Paris are connected so while we waited for the show to start we walked around Paris a bit and did some minor sight-seeing. Then we headed back to the show and had a great time. It was a lot like the version on TV but there were some noticeable differences. First if you were called to "Come on Down" you only got one chance to get up on stage. If your bid wasn't the closest without going over you were sent back to your seat with a tee-shirt as a consolation prize. By rotating contestants through this way they were able to give a lot more people a chance to play which was pretty cool. The second noticable difference was that between each prize round they gave away 1000 gaming credits at Bally's to four people in the audience. Via these two gimmicks they could claim to have more than 50 winners in the show. Finally, in the show case showdown there was only one show-case and both contestants (people who hadn't played in any game at all yet) bid on the same prize package. The person closest without going over would win a cruise to Mexico and if they were within $100 they would win the entire showcase (including a new Nissan). Both players overbid by about $7000. It wasn't that their bids seemed that outlandish but that the value of the showcase was so incredibly low; $13,000! It had the cruise, a 61" DLP, the Nissan, a fridge/freezer, and some other stuff. It was pretty shocking.
We had a great time cheering on the contestants and shouting out "HIGHER", "LOWER", and "ONE DOLLAR!!" and we felt the show was well worth the money even though we didn't get called up to play. It was neat being a part of something we all remembered from our childhood.
Wednesday was a day with nothing planned so we just wandered around a lot and had a good time. To be honest I don't even remember Wednesday.
For Thursday we had a special treat planned as we had pre-ordered tickets to see the Cirque Du Soleil show, "O". All four of us saw "Ka" the last time we were in Vegas and Lisa and I had seen "La Nouba" when we were in Orlando back in 2001 so we knew we were in for a nice treat. Even though Lisa and I were a little let down by Ka after La Nouba our faith in Cirque was fully restored by "O". "O" was much more enjoyable to us than "Ka" and Lisa thought it was even better than "La Nouba" - I'm not sure about that assessment but I really enjoyed "O". My favorite part of the show wasn't one of the acts or athletes but rather the technological marvel that is the stage they performed on and in. "O" is a water based show and the stage can disappear in part or entirely and leave a pool in its wake. It was awesome. At times the entire stage would sink beneath the water while at other times just a small pie wedge would be submerged. The flow of the show was so well timed that it would seem like the stage couldn't have time to disappear before a suicidal high diver would descend head first into the water. It never seemed like the water could be deep enough yet it was. It was fantastic.
On Friday we two couples split up and did our own things. Ted and Cyndy were flying home while Lisa and I were flying, via helicopter, to the Grand Canyon. Our shuttle bus picked us up at the hotel and then took us to a small nearby airport where we met our pilot and, before we knew it, we ascended to about 3,000 feet for a great trip around the Hoover Dam and then onward to the Canyon. We only got to see a small part of the canyon but it was still really cool. We flew past the Grand Canyon Skywalk and then landed at the base of the canyon for a picnic lunch and about 30 minutes of photographic opportunities. After that the pilot loaded us all back up and we flew on a different route back to the airport. Lisa had never flown in a helicopter before so she was a bit nervous before the flight started but by the time we landed in the canyon she was loving it. It was a great excursion and I highly recommend it. However, don't limit your Grand Canyon encounter to just that - you need to make sure you visit the South Rim at some point as well becuase it is a much grander vision than the portions of the canyon we visited. Someday I'll be taking Lisa back to see that part (and, who knows, maybe another Helicopter flight from the Canyon rim).
Finally, Saturday arrived and we had to check out and prepare to leave. By this point I had not won at all during the trip but instead had lost my daily allowance each day. It was very strange. However, even ignoring my losses the trip itself was great. It was nice to see Ted and Cyndy and I was really glad to get Lisa to the Grand Canyon and in a helicopter. Overall it was a great trip and I look forward to our next vacation (wherever that may be).