A quick hotel review.
I came to Las Vegas yesterday afternoon for a helicopter tour operators’ symposium sponsored by HAI (Helicopter Association International), which I am/was (long story) a member of. The event is being held in the conference rooms at the Westin Casuarina Hotel, which is about two blocks east of the strip on Flamingo Boulevard, not far from Bally’s, Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace.
Reservation and an Overactive Imagination
I screwed up my reservation. When I was invited to the event and decided to go, I clicked the link in my invitation e-mail to get the special rate of $134 (I think) per night (plus tax, of course). I did the Web reservation thing and got myself a nice room with a king bed and turn-down service (which I haven’t experienced since my ADP auditing days in the late 1980s). Unfortunately, I must have forgotten to click the final “reserve” or “confirm” button because my reservation was never saved. I discovered all this on Sunday when I called the hotel to check. (Good thing I called.)
The reservation person was very nice and helpful. She got me the same kind of room for only $10 more per night. She also told me how lucky I was, since the hotel was very popular and the rooms were normally much more expensive. I believed her. The photos on the Web site backed her up. The place looked great and included a spa. I imagined a relatively large property with an outdoor pool and lounge area. I was looking forward to the trip, for a chance to get away to a nice hotel with a resort-like atmosphere in the heart of Sin City.
Reality Strikes, but not Hard
On arrival at the hotel, I realized it wasn’t nearly as big as I’d imagined: a 17-story building set perpendicular to the strip. Inside was a small casino, the obligatory Starbuck’s, a nice but not terribly trendy restaurant, a gift shop, some conference rooms, and the registration desk. There were more conference rooms on the second floor, which also housed the spa,fitness room, and pool. They’d decked the halls — probably right before Thanksgiving — and everything had that seasonal feeling that comes from lots of fake pine and poinsettias and red sparkly balls.
There was no line at the desk and I stepped right up. The woman who helped me was pleasant and friendly and did not put on airs. (That was a good thing because I’d chosen comfort over style and was wearing cargo pants and a thermal shirt with a scarf around my neck and sneakers on my feet.) I asked for a room on an upper floor, telling her that this was my big few days away from home. She obliged and put me on the top floor with a room facing south.
The room is small — probably the same size as the room we recently stayed at in the Sheraton New York and Towers. But it’s much more pleasantly appointed. The bed is big and soft, with a cosy down comforter. There’s a desk, two easy chairs with ottomans, and a dresser with a TV on top of it. There’s also a mini-bar, but I turned down the key at check in, not wanting to be tempted by $5 packages of M&Ms or $8 cans of Coke. (I might be exaggerating here; I didn’t actually check the price list.) It’s also pretty quiet up here, although my fellow floor mates do have a tendency to slam their doors on their way out.
The room looks recently renovated. It’s clean and very comfortable. My only gripe is that they charge an extra $12.99 per day for Internet access, which I think is obscene. But that’s why I have the Treo — I can use that to connect my computer to the Internet. (Look for an article with detailed how-to instructions for that on Peachpit’s Web site soon.)
The bathroom is also well-appointed with a blow dryer, lighted makeup mirror, shampoo and all the stuff that goes with it, and thick towels. There are two shower heads, so you can shower two parts of your body at the same time. (Has anyone told these folks that we’re in a desert?) There’s even a terry robe in the closet. And I can iron the Flying M Air shirts I brought with me because there’s an iron and ironing board in the closet.
From my big windows (which, sadly, do not open), I can see the airport 2-3 miles away; MGM Grand; the fake Chrysler and Empire State Buildings of New York, New York; the backs of Planet Hollywood and Paris; most of Ballys; and a glimpse of Belagio’s front. I can also see a long row of multistory parking structures behind the strip hotels. Not exactly a perfect view, but not a boring one, either. (Heck, how can you go wrong on the 17th floor of any hotel that doesn’t have an equally tall hotel right beside it?)
I didn’t get turn-down service last night — Darn! I was so looking forward to the mint on my pillow! — but there were three newspapers on my doorstep this morning: the Wall Street Journal, USAToday (McPaper), and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The conference rooms downstairs were set up nicely and the food and beverage service was excellent. As someone who has conducted seminars in many hotels all over the country, I was impressed with the facilities and catering service. So it seems like a really good place to have a conference.
Overall, the Westin Casuarina isn’t a bad hotel. It’s definitely not the place to come if you like to gamble in an exciting atmosphere — the small casino was pretty dead at 7 PM when I came up after dinner. Its location off the strip means you’re walking a bit if you want to go exploring. (But don’t we all need to do more walking?) I can’t say I recommend the restaurant — I think the price was a bit high for the quality of food served — but it won’t kill anyone to eat there.
There are definitely some very nice things about it: the comfort of the room and small size of the hotel. Ever stay at the MGM Grand or Caesar’s? You’ll walk a half mile just to get back and forth to your room. A hotel this size is much more manageable and real. The furnishing seem to be of a higher quality, too. Service is great and everyone who works here — from the desk clerks to the restaurant personnel to the women at the Starbuck’s counter — is incredibly friendly and helpful. I could be at a small hotel in a small city for the way I’m treated and the service I get.
Would I stay here again? Not sure. Truth is, I’ve stayed in Las Vegas at least a dozen times and I seem to stay at a different place every time. But I certainly prefer it over some of the other big name hotels I’ve stayed at — Circus Circus comes to mind; that place is a pit! But with dozens of hotels and thousands of rooms to choose from, every stay in Las Vegas is a new adventure. Who knows if I’ll be back for seconds here.