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Only a hour flight away from Las Vegas we visit frequently, sometimes once a month. I'll be sharing our trip reports, tips on making the most of your stay in Vegas, reviews of restaurants and shows we have seen, along with my thoughts related to our favorite place to get away from it all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Aria Tournament, during my July 2010 Vegas birthday trip!

Wednesday July 14th, my actual birthday.

My birthday trip started out great with a smooth flight and landing. The heat was like a blast furnace when I landed but I didn't feel it for long. Once I had my luggage I met Terri (Socalgirl) and we were off to the lovely M resort.  My room at M was on the 10th floor and had a view of the strip and their pools.

On the drive to M Resort, Terri had given me a lovely candle from Van Cleef &Arpels as a birthday gift and it smelled good enough to eat! 

I met Terri downstairs where I had lunch at the M Buffet. The selection at the buffet is huge. The stand outs for me at this buffet was the gourmet coffee with liquors you could order for free and the desserts were wonderful. 


After eating it was time for gambling and I went into my usual first day frenzy of slots. My favorites Kitty Glitter and Airplane!

During the day and night I was at M Resort I must have gambled for about 12 hours total and held my own with the slots there, sometimes up, sometimes down, but basically still even when I left the next day. M gave me lots of play and fun for my money, I had many Kitty Glitter bonuses on the 5 machines I played it on there, and while most were small bonuses it was sure fun to get them. 

I tried Ruby Slippers there too, and had my first decent hit on that slot for $267.75. Fun slot when the bonuses are hitting but for me they are a rare occurance no matter where I play Ruby Slippers. They had 1 machine of $5 Wheel of Fortune at M and twice I hit the spin on it with just a few pulls. One of the spins was for a $400 win and M resort ended up being where I had my biggest win of the trip which was for $517.00 on a Monkey bonus on the original WOZ slot. 
 I also played Monopoly's Planet Go, which usually I avoid as a money drain but this time saw it could pay off when I hit a bonus for $290.65. With Planet Go you get more turns and seem to start out at a higher level with you have more then 3 bonus symbols and there are bonuses within the bonus you can trigger which really increases the fun factor, if you are lucky enough to get them. I also played the Sabertooth slot for the first time at M resort and had a bonus win of $247.75 on it, but later when I tried it again I couldn't make the bonus pop up. Here's a few of the photos I have of some of the wins at M resort.

That evening Terri treated me for my birthday to dinner at Marinelli's which specializes in Italian cuisine. I really enjoyed dinner there, the atmosphere, service and food was all great. 

I started out the dinner and ended it with a cocktail that I loved that had limoncello and Curacao among other things. It's the Curacao that results in the drink having the lovely blue coloring.

They gave us a amuse of olives and salami, perhaps other things, memory fails. There was warm bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dripping.

My salad of arugula, roasted beets, goat cheese and candied walnuts was great.

Terri had the Italian Chop Salad of salami, roasted veggies, pancetta, and tomatoes which she loved.

My Halibut with shrimp and polenta was marvelous!
Terri had a pasta and meat sauce dish which I seem to have neglected to take a photo of, but I recall she really enjoyed it.

The desserts we ordered were great with the chocolate canoli's being outstanding.

Here's a photo of me in front of the restaurant's wine room.

After dinner both Terri and I did some more gambling but after she left to go home I continued until the wee hours of the morning. 

The next day I woke up around 10pm and got a late check out of noon. Terri was already at M resort and was getting a mani/pedi so I ate breakfast at the M buffet on a comp and we ended up leaving M resort around 1:30pm for Aria.

My impression of M Resort is that's it's a great place for the locals and those of us who want a break from the strip. I would likely never stay more then 1 or 2 nights there unless I had a car because I prefer to have the ease of moving from casino to casino when luck is no where to be found. However, you can't beat the comps that M resort offers. Both my buffets were free and they would have still been comped if I had just played a lot less as it's easy to get comped to the buffet at M resort. They give you gifts each day, on Wednesday I took the gift of a bottle of rum and also since I had played a certain amount of points, 2 cute little wine bottle toppers. The second day I didn't take my gift because I didn't need any of the ones offered but I did accept the comp of $50 in gas which I gave to Terri since you have to fill up at the gas station there at M. Unfortunately Terri drives a car that gets fantastic milage so she couldn't use all of the $50 but we tried. 

Aria, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 15th, 16th and 17th.

Check in was a breeze, there was several invited check in lines open and I only had about a 3 minute wait. I was upgraded to a strip view when I requested it and this was without the tipping trick that is discussed on some of the Vegas boards. Terri and I arrived around 1:45pm and they told me to call them at 3:00 to see if the room was ready and it was. I know that Aria has had a lot of critical comments in the past and likely they had more glitches then most hotel/casino openings and well deserved them, but during my visit everything worked and service was great. I will certainly not hesitate in the future to stay there again if their comped offers are comparable or better then my other offers.

At this point I went off again to try my luck at the Aria slots while Terri had a bite to eat as I had already eaten earlier at the M resort buffet. I had my first and only decent win on Sex in the City, a slot I like but it hardly ever returns the favor. I played it later in the trip at Aria and then Palazzo with dismal results.

Yes, you read that correctly $68.20 was a good win for me this trip on SITC. However, at least they serve a great Mojito at Aria and come around frequently.

My room was soon ready, and I just touched my key card to the round disk in the door and entered a room to the drapes opening, the TV set greeting me by name and music playing. Personally I found the high tech console that contolled everything easy to use. I ended up setting it to automatically open the drapes each morning when I wanted to wake up and turn on the lights and the TV to the news. I loved my view!

Personally I found my view of the strip to be more interesting then the ones I have had from Palazzo, Venetian and THEHotel at Mandalay Bay and other hotels.

I'm not really doing justice to it and at night it was spectacular.

The bathroom was quite nice with the tub being inside the shower. 

There were 2 sinks and enough counter space for a man but not for a man and woman, however directly across from the bathroom is a entry way alcove area where I can spread out my items instead of the bathroom counter.  

The beds were really comfortable and I can see why they have a link on their website where you can buy them. I actually meant to buy a couple of their pillows and forgot but will pick them up possibly in October or have them shipped. They were reasonably priced at $20 each.

Before going up to my room and unpacking, I registered for the slot tournament. I did the usual computer deal where you push a button and it randomly gives you the number of the machines to play. They give you the option of doing that more then once if you don't like your numbers but I always take the ones that first come up. 

The slot times have already been decided though I imagine they have some flexibility on those if you don't like your times. Usually there are 300 participants in the MGM tournaments, sometimes a few more, but when I asked this time they only had 240! During registration you select your welcome gift and this time the choices were a digital camera which you could upgrade to a IPOD touch or more expensive camera if you got 30,000 or 60,000 points during the days of the tournament, a Swarovski crystal figurine or $100 free slot play. Having plenty of Swarovski crystal figurines already to dust, and already owning the other items, I selected the free play. They also give us a ticket to put in the barrel for the drawings for the holiday gift points.

My machines and slot times.

After unpacking and meeting up with Terri again we played a few slots with small losses for me and some wins for Terri and headed off to Bellagio via the tram. Once at Bellagio we played the slots for a hour until our 7pm reservation at Sensi with just more losses for me.

We had a nice table at Sensi overlooking two of the cooking prep areas which are in the center of the restaurant and we also had a view of the bar and front of the restaurant.

Both Terri and I ordered the pre fixe which was reasonble in my opinion at $59.00 per person. I also ordered the wine pairing for $30.00.

I started out with the scrumptious Crispy Shrimp with rice flake crust.

Terri enjoyed her farmer's market salad of organic greens, cheese, candied walnuts, seasonal fruits and veggies with a white balsamic vinaigrette.

I was expecting to order Miso glazed cod that evening since that was what was listed on the Bellagio website, but instead it was halibut which was still delicious. 

Terri and I shared a side of tempura veggies, yum. In the background is the naan bread which was so good we had seconds of it. They had lovely sauces to go with the naan. 

Terri ordered the flat iron steak which she loved.

The steak came with this plate of their version of tator tots.

We both ordered the chocolate temptation dessert which was heavenly. This was layers of milk chocolate, nuts and praline salted caramel ice cream.

Service was great at Sensi until it was time to get the check and pay at which time our servers decided to take their break. After eventually getting the check and paying, we waddled back to the tram (or at least I did) and returned to Aria.

We did a bit more gambling at Aria but Terri had to leave soon after that because her sister was arriving in the morning. Unfortunately due to our schedules that was the last time I saw Terri this trip other then text messages, but I know both her and her sister loved the James Taylor and Carole King concert they went to on Saturday evening.

I continued to play slots for a few more hours before retiring. I lost and had some modest wins, but unfortunately by the time I went back to my my room I was down, but I did get some play and entertainment for my money. I think when Terri left Aria she was ahead and was thinking Aria had treated her okay. 

Here's some photos of the wins I had that evening, the losses of course don't have their own photos. 

Aria-Friday the 16th, first day of the slot tournament.

Before I start on today, I forgot to mention previously that the evening before I had more spins on the penny Wheel of Fortune ($4.00 a push) then I ever had before. Aria didn't have the Vegas city version I usually play, instead they were all the San Francisco city version, but I played all 10 machines and hit bonuses on all of them and more then once on a few of them. That streak pretty much saved my gambling the previous night, but before I retired and went to bed, I went back to play some more only to discover they were all offline and when I went back Friday afternoon to play, they were gone, not just moved, they were out of the casino, <sigh>. Now I know some of you are thinking with all those bonuses why was I a bit down by the time I went to bed that night, and it's called playing too many hours at the slots  and not lowering my bets when on a losing streak. 

I found another shot of the view from my room at night, not sure why I missed this one previously. I had quite a bit of reflection going on but you can still see some of my great view.

I woke up late to the room controls opening up the drapes, and turning on the lights and Television. Count me in as someone who likes the new technology which thankfully was working fine in my room. Randy wasn't arriving until 10:30pm that evening so I thought I would eat late at the tournament for my brunch and then eat with him at Lemongrass that evening as Lemongrass stays open until 2am.

After showering, I left for the tournament and arrived about 30 minutes before my only session for the day which was at 2:20pm. 

The lady in the session before mine was standing up and dancing to the music which worked for her as she got a great 17,000 points that session.

The food they were serving today was tortilla rollups, burger sliders, reubens, mini hoggies, salads, chips, guacamole, chili, and lots of desserts.There were 4 open bar areas set up and I ordered a Cosmopolitan which was good. There was all sorts of wines, champagne, beer and the usual mixed or straight up drinks available.

Unfortunately my slot session that day was terrible, not the worst but definately on the low end. Not a good way to start my gambling day!

That afternoon and in fact the whole time I was at Aria the casino was crowded. I was having a losing streak that afternoon at Aria and ended up walking over to Monte Carlo which isn't a bad walk and while I was inside buildings or passage ways the whole walk there is one section they don't air condition and it was hot hot hot! I entered the Monte Carlo casino from the walk way from Aria which is the end near hotel registration. They had the original Wizard of Oz slots right there, so I played it and lost. Next to that was the original Goldfish, more losses. Finally I see a quarter Cheeseburger slot where the max is 75 cents a push. This sounds good to me given my losing streak and for the first time on this type of slot I start hitting bonuses and they were fun. After about 5 bonuses before the machine went cold on me but I had made a hundred on it and broke even at Monte Carlo. 

At this point I'm starting to be what Terri refers to as the bitter gambler because of earlier losses that day at Aria so I go back to my room for a couple hours to relax.

I've read some bad reviews on some of the Vegas message boards about the Aria housekeeping staff but my room was serviced perfectly and even though I hadn't used all their products they replaced them all with the exception of the hair spray. That was fine with me as I was impressed they gave me hair spray to begin with as it's the first time any hotel as provided that. 

I return to the casino and my luck starts to come back! I've never had much luck with Survivor but I found a machine at Aria that let me hit the bonus 3 times fairly quickly. Not huge bonuses but not bad by any means.

I played Jackpot Block Party a slot I have never been able to hit a bonus on previously this year, so I took my bet from max to 80 cents and started hitting them. I think this was my best bonus on 80 cents.

I left Jackpot Party up a bit and went to play the $1 Airplane slot something I had a hard time staying away from at Aria. I had some nice hits, but for playing $9 a push they just seemed like they should be larger pay offs, though of course when the win was the bonus the amount of the win not being larger was due to me being a bad picker.

As Airplane went cold on me I wandered around and this Pink Diamond Slot called to me, and I ended up with 3 nice hits on the 3 Pink Diamond Slots in that area. The best one was this for $480.00

After that I went back to Jackpot Block Party and continued to play at 80 cents on what I thought of as my lucky machine for the next 2 hours waiting for Randy to arrive. I never did move my bet on this to max, I was afraid the bonuses would stop coming and I was having a blast with them. I ended up being a couple hundred ahead by the time Randy arrived. 

It was a good thing I had my winning steak that evening before Randy arrived, because it was the last real one before we left Vegas, though we still had some luck on the trip in the next few days. 

Randy also liked Aria and after getting him settled into our room we went to eat at Lemongrass the upscaled and overpriced Thai restaurant at Aria. I had made a reservation earlier in the day for 11pm and a good thing I did as the restaurant was packed. They did give us a excellent table and the food was fine, but not outstanding. I've certainly had better Thai at less expensive venues. 

We started out with chicken sate, it was about the same as most Thai restaurants.

The best dish I had was the lobster salad, but I wouldn't go back just for this.

The steamed cod in chili sauce was fine, but can't compare to the Butterfish (which is cod too) at China Grill at Mandalay Bay.

Randy had some chicken, egg and noodle dish, which was okay but nothing special.

We skipped the dessert, there was nothing that stood out for us on the dessert menu.

After dinner at Lemongrass Randy wanted to try his luck and it wasn't good. However, he did hit a decent bonus on Kitty Glitter something I hadn't been able to do yet at Aria.

Before we left to get some sleep we did a good job of giving back about half my winnings that I gained earlier in the evening.

Saturday we woke up around 10am and went down to the tournament area around 11:10am for my first session of the day which was 11.20pm. They had a nice buffet of breakfast food out, including desserts and of course the open bars. I'm not partial to eggs and other traditional breakfast foods so while Randy ate I watched the session before mine. Next it was time for my second session and it was the best I ever had in any slot tournament so far and I ended up with a great score of 18,480!

In a much better frame of mine I enjoyed the lunch buffet they put out of chicken, sea bass, boneless short ribs, and salad.

Scenes from the tournament on Saturday.

Randy getting a drink at one of the bars at the tournament.

Some of the desserts they served.

My last session was at 2:20pm and it started out with me really behind everyone's scores I could view around me. Fortunately it picked up at the end and I ended up with 11,860 which was okay. 

They announced the winners of the top five places at 5:00pm and we were not among them. They also have raffle drawings for holiday gift points, but again our name was not one of those called up. Going right to the player's club desk after they announced the winners of the first 5 places, I found out I came in 15th place for a prize of $250 free play. So far that's the best I've done in any slot tournament, but since my score gets better each tournament perhaps my next one will be in the big money (or not). 

After the close of the Aria tournament we dressed for our dinner at Aureole and walked to MGM Grand to get the $100 free slot play for my birthday. We played Kitty Glitter and Hitchcock slots there and this trip it didn’t last long and we were on our way to Mandalay Bay for dinner very quickly.
We had a dinner reservation of 8pm at Aureole and thank goodness it wasn’t any later because our lovely quiet corner booth with the view of the swans and fountain turned very noisy when around 9pm loud music from the pool area or one of the clubs could be heard in our area of the restaurant destroying some of the ambiance.

Service was very good at Aureole and we ended up ordering one of their regular prix fix menus which I think was $95.00 per person, plus drinks and tip. 

The bread we selected was Foccacia and Pretzel bread and while good we think Cut restaurant at Palazzo which has the same type of bread has a better baker.

The amuse was smoked salmon, spring roll and a ham and cheese type puff. All 3 of these were excellent.
Randy and I ordered the same appetizer. A mistake for my husband as it turned out while I loved the Chicken Curry Samosa with coconut lime sauce and vegetable salad and Randy didn’t care for his that much.
For his entree, Randy ordered seaweed roasted black cod with pearl potatoes, spring veggies and pomelo segments. We both love black cod, but the seaweed part didn’t sound appetizing to me so I didn’t order it, a good decision on my part as once again Randy wasn’t that happy with his selection.
That evening they offered a Sturgeon and Scallop entree which I ordered because it’s getting harder to find Sturgeon on menus and I love it. This dish was delicious!
For dessert I ordered the Meyer lemon creme brulee which was tasty but not outstanding.

Randy, his bad luck continuing ordered a fancy version of bread pudding which he didn’t care for.

What Randy did end up liking the best of the entire meal was the complimentary dessert they served me for my birthday which was a lovely presentation of different flavors of sorbet.
After dinner we played various slots at Mandalay Bay with little luck until we finally had a small win of a couple hundred on Wolf Run. 
Returning to Aria after that, we went to bed very early for us at midnight.
Check out at Aria on Sunday morning was easily completed by television and I liked that they had a regular check out time of noon instead of 11am like so many other Vegas hotels. Unfortunately we left by the door we entered upon checking in and the cab stand is quite a distance away in another section so we had a lovely noon walk in the 113 degree temperature. 
Check in at Palazzo was fast and I asked not to have the strip view that they had for me as a Gold Card member and requested a quiet room overlooking the Wynn golf course. This turned out to be a mistake on my part as this was the first time I have ever had a room at Palazzo which had so many things broken, among them the drape controls, the TV you view from the bed (no picture just sound) and the lighted make up mirror. I called up a couple times about these things but they were never fixed during our stay. 
After settling in our room we had our first meal of the day at Palazzo’s Grand Lux with me ordering the usual Manhattan chopped salad and Randy a egg dish. 

To summarize our gambling at Palazzo and Venetian for the final 2 days of my birthday trip it was brutal, mainly losses and very little play especially on Sunday.
When we were gambling at Venetian I took a photo of this lady playing 2 slots at once which were at a angle from each other. As far as I could tell she just couldn’t lose fast enough, at least I didn’t see any wins.
Sunday we tried all our favorite machines at Venetian and Palazzo and some that aren’t and couldn’t get lucky on any of them. The bright spot of our early evening was while watching Randy play at Kitty Glitter (the one Randy got the hand pay on back in May), a lovely lady came up to me and asked if I was Evoni from the Blonde4ever board. When I said I was Evoni she explained that she reads the board often but doesn’t post much and recognized us from our trip report photos. Unfortunately at this point I can’t recall her screen name but if she is reading this, it was very nice to meet you!
Sunday evening we had a dinner reservation at SambaSushi but when we arrived and they seated us we didn’t like the ambiance and left before ordering. I dislike sitting at tables where the 2 tables next to you are so close they are part of your party and all of you can hear each other’s conversations. I know some people like this because they can sometimes meet new people this way but after losing all day I was a bitter loser and just wanted a great meal in a quiet corner.  Wolfgang Puck's Cut restaurant answered that need as we went there after SambaSushi and they immediately gave us our regular table which they must have a note about in their computer system as we always get the same booth that is off by itself.
Since we ordered our usual favorites at Cut, see my past trip reports for photos. The service and food as always was impeccable and these days Cut and Sensei are two Vegas restaurants I never seem to get tired of eating at. However we did change our dessert this time from the usual chocolate souffle to a raspberry meringue dessert which we both thought was wonderful. 
Our first meal on Monday was around noon and of course we are once again at Grand Lux at Palazzo. I felt obligated to finally order something different so I tried the Sonoma Chicken saladwhich I liked.

Randy changed from his usual egg dish to the Chicken Caesar salad
Gambling wise Monday was luckier then Sunday, it almost had to be, not sure how it could have been much worse and we did get a bit of play today unlike the previous day. We also lowered our bets to slow the bleeding and found that for us with the WMS games we seem to hit bonuses a lot more if not playing max. 
We discovered a new to us at least, Press Your Luck slot machine that was not like the community gambling ones that we have avoided in the past. We hit quite a few bonuses playing this at only a dollar a push and one of them paid $172.00.

Mid-afternoon we walked over to Treasure Island for my free play that didn’t require us staying there and since it was only $50 it didn’t last long. We played it all in a Jackpot Block Party slot since I had so much fun with the ones at Aria, but even at 60 cents a bet we couldn’t hit one bonus at TI. My luck at Treasure Island as always been poor so I doubt we will gamble there again in the future unless they send us a fantastic offer, which seems doubtful at this point.
At 5:15pm it was time to meet Alaska, Jbinvegas, V and Tania from the Blonde4ever message board at the V bar at Venetian. Unfortunately something kept V and Tania from attending but we had a great time with Alaska and JbinVegas who are fun and interesting. Regarding V bar itself it wasn’t anything special in my opinion, in fact the four of us left it after our first round and walked over to the Venetian Gold lounge and had soft drinks while we continuing to have a fun time chatting.
We said goodbye to Alaska and Jbinvegas around 6:45 or so as we had a 7pm dinner reservation at Wolfgang Puck’s, Postrio restaurant which is on the second level of Venetian in the main section where they have their street entertainers. We declined eating on the patio and were seated inside the restaurant.  
Postrio was great! Service was excellent, food portions were delicious and more then generous, and prices were reasonable, we will definitely return here to eat.
We started out with Sourdough bread and olive tapanade. Fortunately I didn’t eat that as my goat cheese, grilled shrimp, broccoli rappani and tomato pizza was huge. The price was so inexpensive I thought it would be a tiny personal size one, but it wasn’t. Due to its larger size I mainly ate the toppings off and left the crust.
Randy who doesn’t like goat cheese had ordered what he thought was his own personal size pizza and it was the pepperoni, and tomato pizza, minus the Kalamata olives it normally comes with.  Randy loved his pizza and did eat his crust. 
Before the pizzas we had ordered appetizers and my steak skewers with cole slaw was excellent.

Randy had a Caesar salad with heirloom tomatoes which he said was one of the best Caesar salads he has enjoyed.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist sharing key lime pie with meringue, berries and ice cream.
After waddling out of Postrio it was time for us to see Phantom of the Opera for the third time. Phantom as always was enjoyable but at this performance we didn’t think the singer who played the Phantom was as good as the first two we had seen in the part. 
We left Venetian and walked over to Harrah’s to play the newly released Lord of the Ring slots. We were lucky to find two of the machines next to each other free and we ended up playing for about 90 minutes or so at 80 cents each on this new WMS slot and getting bonus after bonus. It was the most fun we had on a slot machine this trip. Randy hit a bonus where you pick veggies in a farmer’s field and he got to the end screen on his 80 cent bet. If he had picked correctly on that last screen he would have won about $8000.00 or so the man next to him was explaining. I think the man next to Randy was more excited then Randy when he got to the last screen of that bonus because he knew the potential pay off and we didn’t. Alas, Randy’s luck did run out on the last screen and he only won $84.40.

We returned to Palazzo where we continued to lose money and eventually retired to bed defeated this trip in our quest for a big win. 
Our flight home on Southwest was uneventful. I did have a good time on my birthday thanks to Terri, meeting Alaska and JBinVegas and a few wins earlier in my trip. Hopefully my luck will return in October.

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