Gennadius notices some things that have changed while on a recent Vegas trip.
Over the many years where I have been going to Las Vegas, I’ve read a ton of trip reports and enjoyed many of them thoroughly. What is a bit odd is that I have never written one myself. I was trying to figure out why I had not done that, and I realized that it is usually a combination of things. The first is that my trips tend to fall into certain categories, and depending on that type, it could be very repetitive and not generally interesting. For example, if I’m on a poker trip, my trip report would consist of playing cash games, eating at the table or some other quick bite, maybe a little bit of sleep, lather, rinse, repeat.
The second item that impacts this is that I tend to find several aspects of my trip that I want to write in-depth about. That desire doesn’t really lend itself to a trip report style, at least not in general, so I usually just end up writing about specific items and briefly touching on some other elements that are related.
What I have come to realize however is that there is a lot of information that I accumulate that sometimes never makes it to an article because of that. The format of this article is to provide an outlet for some of that other information and to do it in a fashion that is comparable to a trip report, without actually going full out into that format.
I’m starting with my most recent trip from this past March and will look to do something like this going forward whenever I have scattered observations and information to share. I may even review some previous trips and see if there are elements that would still be good to bring to an article in this format.
The second day I was in Vegas for March Madness, I was down at the front desk of Planet Hollywood waiting for some of my friends to come in who I had reserved a room for through my host when I noticed something new. The woman that had checked me in the afternoon before was standing by about 8 self-serve kiosks, one of which was being worked on by maintenance. I talked with her for a bit and found out that this was the first day that they were installed at PH. She was guiding people to them and helping them use them, and she confirmed that some people did prefer using them compared to having to stand in line. Some others, however, did state that while the convenience was nice, they would prefer to talk to someone directly unless they were in a really big hurry. We discussed that for a bit and came to the conclusion that it would most likely see the most usage for check-out, or during peak check-in times.
Caesars had piloted self-serve kiosks starting in March 2016, installing them at The Linq Hotel, Flamingo, and Caesars Palace. It was quite successful in reducing the average wait time, so they started rolling it out to all their other properties through the end of 2016 and early 2017. PH was one of the last properties to get them. If you want to try them out next time you are checking into PH, they are right in the middle by the big column as you walk in. There used to be an express checkout box and some benches there, and as you can see in the picture, it is the column with all the directions on it.
I know it was reported by Vital Vegas back at the beginning of April, however, I did notice the Gordon Ramsay BURGR/burger change back in the middle of March, and simply assumed that I had missed the announcement. I did note that all the signage had been updated, but I was curious about a couple of items, so I chatted for a bit with some of the staff. They noted that the name change had happened recently, and when I asked why it was changed, they stated that their official response was that they didn’t know. Unofficially, they said there was speculation that it stemmed from a disagreement of some kind between Gordon Ramsay and other co-owners of the restaurant. Perhaps they didn’t like the potential confusion the old branding sometimes generated? Who knows, as I stated, this was all just speculation.
In theme with the week overall, the Grand Bazaar shops had a new store which I can only assume was a pop-up for the first week or two of March Madness. This store was uniquely and totally dedicated to March Madness. There were merchandise and memorabilia for most of the teams that were represented in the tournament. Shirts, pennants, foam hands, hats, you name it, they pretty much had it. There were also several shirts that were specifically themed for the tournament itself, but logo’d and colored for specific teams. These were different as you don’t normally see them outside of March Madness specifically.
Another shop in the Grand Bazaar that I noticed (actually noticed on my trip last November, but I confirmed that impression on this trip, so I’m counting it) was the Istanbul Mediterranean food stand. In years past, this place would stick out since it would be blasting themed music or club music from their own personal speaker system, and while I always thought it could be good, I had never tried it. Last November, I finally got around to trying it, and this March I went again and confirmed my initial impression. They make tasty food at a decent price point. I went for the beef and lamb, and the portion size is very much on the generous side. For a twist, get both tahini and tzatziki sauces on it! This March I also did notice that they were selling baklava, so I, of course, had to try it. It was as tasty as the shawarma, and a great, sweet, way to cap off a meal. If baklava isn’t your thing, one can check out their sister store next door, Marash Ice Cream, where they make and sell a unique, Turkish-style of ice cream.
Another change I noticed at the Grand Bazaar Shops was in the main walkway. This change was starting last November, but it was only completed just before my March trip. The trees and large lights and benches that basically led the way to the Bally’s entrance have now been replaced by Giordano’s outside patio area. The big lights are gone, but other subtle lighting has taken its place. The seating areas and some of the greenery and shade elements have been moved further towards the Strip, in the form of benches or little alcoves or booths with some plants or greenery around them and sometimes with umbrellas. These areas were always fairly busy during my March trip.
I also noticed that these changes opened up the sight lines to Bally’s itself as well as to the two story tenants of the Grand Bazaar that are back towards the resort. You can see this directly by how easy it is to see all the different signs back there now, so perhaps that is a supporting reason for why they made these changes.
Perhaps it has been present before, but I only noticed this item this past March. Many of the newer slot machines have USB ports that one can use. This is great for those that are gambling and wandering around all day and forget to make time to charge their device in their room. Sure, it’s simply something designed to try to keep you at the machine longer, but overall it is a convenience, and that’s a benefit no matter what.
I noticed this specifically on the Buffalo Grand machines and the new Walking Dead machines, as well as a couple of the other big-screen machines. I’ll have to look closer on my next trip to Vegas to see if other machines have it, or if they are retrofitting something like this into some older machines.
I do know that at my home casino in Joliet, Illinois, none of the machines, including the Buffalo Grand, have the USB ports. The area is there for it, but instead of an active port, there is a cover that is sealed onto it. Perhaps it is an option or an upgrade that can be made in the future.
Last October, I went to Vegas with a couple of friends for what was largely a poker trip. We spent, quite literally, almost all of our time that wasn’t eating or sleeping, at the poker table playing cash games. It was a lot of fun, and a type of trip I had not taken in quite a while. Back then, they had just started a promo to try to get people to play during what is normally the slow time for the poker room, between 6:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Getting rated for 3 hours of play during that time would get you a buffet. In March, I noted that they still had that promotion, but it looks like they’ve decided to reward other parts of the day as well. Since the other times are more popular or are already busy, the comp or the requirements are a bit different for each time, but a benefit is a benefit, right?
Now, depending on the time one is playing, you can earn a free buffet, a $30 voucher to Burger (note the old branding still), or a $10 voucher to Ringer and Pin-Up Pizza. All of these places are good, so if you are going to be playing at the PH poker room, make sure to swipe your Total Rewards card, and claim your free benefits.
Looking out onto the pool deck from my room at PH, I noticed that they have continued to make updates. I still think they will do a much bigger renovation of the pools eventually, but over the past couple of years they have added quite a few amenities and tried to bring the overall experience up.
The changes I noticed this time was that the far, all-ages pool, has replaced all the older day beds with the new cabanas that they had installed on the near, adults only pool, over a year ago. Additionally, there are more day beds with covers that have been located in the center sun-deck area that is between the two pools.
I made it out to Rio for the first time in a long time, and that will probably have an article of its own at some point, but when I went to the buffet I did notice two things that I didn’t know. First, one can play keno while eating at the buffet apparently, and second, there is a live teppanyaki station where you can pick and choose the components to your meal, and then enjoy a short show as the chef prepares it right in front of you. This was pretty unique from a buffet perspective.
The final item of note was that the sister restaurant to Yong Kang, which I reviewed after my trip last November, is now open. There is some seating along what appears to be a sake bar, as well as tables and small booths in the area around it. Additionally, the sushi preparation area is wide open, and one can sit right up at the bar and watch them prepare your order and many others. There are seats on both sides, allowing a large number of people to have a front row seat to the sushi making.
Hopefully, this article has given you a bit of insight into some of the things I noticed during my previous trip. I will try to do one that is similar for trips going forward and may re-visit some older trips as well.