Friday, March 27, 2009

I Heart... Rome in Vegas

I had never been to Las Vegas before, so when I arrived a few weeks ago, I was completely unprepared.  Honestly, I spent the first day or so in a daze -- complete sensory overload.  But I soon settled in and enjoyed my visit tremendously.  Appropriately enough, we stayed at Caesar's Palace, and I was amused by the Rome-meets-Cheesecake-Factory-in-Shanghai decor.  The hotel is vast, and like all casinos, it strives to meet your every need. 

The hotel opened in 1966 at a cost of $25 million.  Now it boasts more than 2,400 hotel rooms, 100 stores, four heated swimming pools, a spa, nearly 20 restaurants, and a theater featuring headliners Bette Midler and Cher in alternate months.  Oh, and the casino is 150,000 square feet, too! Truly there is something for everyone. 

In addition, Caesar's, like much of Vegas, is partially under construction.  When we checked in we were able to get a better room at a substantial discount (roughly 30% off of rack rate) because we didn't mind a view of the construction project across the way.  However, we did sacrifice in making that choice.  The workers were busy early in the morning to late at night, and the noise at times was inconvenient. 

The sad fact:  Caesar's won't be finishing the construction projects.  Because they are hurting financially, they are only going to enclose the large tower that they are building.  They will build out the rooms and suites at a later date when they have more money.  Such is the state with many of the construction projects in Vegas with rumors that several of the large developers will file for bankruptcy soon. 

Now, as someone who loves Rome, I had to put away my historical lens and simply appreciate the hotel for what it is:  a fantasy.  Somehow I'd hoped for or expected a Roman bath experience, and at first I was disappointed.  The artistic elements are a mish-mash of ancient Greek and Roman with some Renaissance favorites (like Michelangelo's David) thrown in for good measure.  Clearly, the designers strove for the familiar -- a greatest-hits approach to decorating, so don't expect fine art or historical accuracy.  There is also a tongue-in-cheek approach to the complex which I truly appreciated.  The tower where our room was located, for example, sported the moniker "Vive Diu et Prospera"  -- roughly translated as "Live Long and Prosper." 

Additionally, the swimming pools are gorgeous!  They are clearly inspired by the pools at Hadrian's Villa outside of Rome.  I spent several afternoons working at the tables by Snackus Maximus (the poolside snack stand), and the sound of splashing water and the warm sun was quite idyllic.  Part of the construction which will be finished is an area called the Garden of the Gods.  Located by the pools, it will be a garden area -- a classical-style oasis in the midst of a large and overwhelming casino.  I look forward to seeing it completed.  

One of the great ironies of Caesar's Palace is its lack of a good Italian restaurant within the casino itself.  Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill has a prime spot off of the gaming floors as does Chef Bradley Ogden's restaurant.  Both are well-known but were beyond our price range for this trip. 

Ironically, the best meal I ate at Caesar's Palace was of the Chinese persuasion.  In fact, I enjoyed my meals at Beijing Noodle No. 9 so much that I ate there three times.  I enjoyed the Kung Pao Chicken -- it was delicious, spicy, and far from the cloying cliche many restaurants serve under the same name.  The dumplings were also delicious with a lovely pork and onion filling and pan-fried just perfectly.  But the noodles are the star at Beijing Noodle No. 9.  They are handmade in the restaurant, and they took me back to my favorite little noodle shop in Korea -- with the same texture but a slightly different flavor.  I'd imagine the restaurant was packed with Chinese gamblers because it offered them a taste of home. 

I'd always heard that Vegas is an inexpensive place to vacation, and to a degree that was true. Our hotel room was luxurious for a relatively low price, and our airfare was very reasonable on Southwest Airlines.  However, because we were on the Strip, our meals and entertainment were costly.  So, in some ways it came out as a wash. 

My biggest complaint about Caesar's Palace is financial, though:  internet service costs $14.95 per day per laptop!  Highway robbery.  I have NEVER stayed in a hotel that charged per laptop.  And frankly these days internet service should be free.  Hear me, Caesar's:  I won't be back based on that fact alone.  Some of your colleagues along the Strip are more generous, and they will get my business in the future. 

Despite the internet costs, Caesar's Palace is worth a visit.  But if you are pinching pennies, you might want to stay somewhere else and just pop over for a visit.   


adrienne said...

I've never been to Vegas, either and we've been thinking of going. Thanks for the tour! Cesar's Palace sounds like something to see.

Lorraine said...

My first stay at Ceasars was for a college roommate reunion, and I still have memories of endless conversations by that amazing pool. Ah Vegas, still hard to believe that it actually exists.

globalgal said...

It seems so over the top! One of the days I'm actually going to have to see Las Vegas for myself!

familyadventureguidebooks said...

Fun to get your perspective on Ceasar's Palace. We are looking forward to a trip to Vegas with the kids in a few weeks.

I was just thinking today that the cost of Wi Fi in Vegas is criminal. I guess that's what allows them to keep the hotel rooms cheap.

Anonymous said...

Never been to Vegas, either. The fantasy places like this look intriguing, but I'm not much of a we haven't made it yet.

I agree with you on the WiFi charges. Places like Ceasar's don't get it. Extra charges like that are often the deal-breaker when it comes to choosing a place to stay and spend your money. There are places I won't stay again because of charges like this for "extras".

rob said...

Thanks for sharing this, Angela! I was in Las Vegas some twenty years ago and had a quick visit at the Caesar's Palace. I agree with you: it's well worth a visit. Greetings from Italy!

Rena said...

Great pictures! I was just there too and have some of the same shots as you. I had to laugh because I was taking pictures and noticed that the big Cheesecake Factory sign was blaring away in the background. Oh well -- what can you do. Loved seeing your pics, Angela! Caesars is cool because they've stayed true to their theme, unlike the others that have changed so much.

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