I'd like to present a new category, 'Reader Reviews'. This is where we take reader submissions of long-form reviews. This gives you guys a chance to share your thoughts with our readers, which at this point is a pretty large number of folks.
Please feel free to submit your reviews here: Submissions to the Editor
Our first entry is from Sean Simpson and the property in question is THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. Regular readers know that this is an option that I highlight frequently as a bright spot on the usually dim South Strip.
I hope you guys enjoy it and thanks to Sean who was nice enough to spend the time to write this up for us.
Update: For those that want photos, we have a bunch of THEHotel at Flickr: here.
Understated Class—Review of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay
By Sean Simpson
I recently returned to Toronto from a 4-night excursion to Vegas with 5 friends, aged 22-25. Booking 4 months in advance, we were able to get a great deal at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. I have been to Vegas twice before and have stayed at Mandalay Bay and Treasure Island, but this was quite some time ago (before I was of age). I am writing this review as a means by which others can become more familiar with THEhotel, as it lives in relative obscurity when compared to other higher-end properties.
If one had to sum up THEhotel in three words, they would be: understated, classy and chic. Upon arriving at THEhotel one winds through the underground parking lot to the lobby. There is no grand promenade leading up to the entrance in the same way as the other strip properties, and thus the appearance leaves you a bit worried. Upon stepping into the lobby the initial impression received by the parking garage is transformed into an impressive view of high ceilings, dark tones, and an immaculately polished black and white marble floor.
The reception staff was very courteous, professional and friendly. Upon helping the clerk, Ivan, with a 20, he informed me that a suite on the 34th floor with a strip view had “just opened up”. I was so impressed that I gave him another 20, and the second room in my reservation found itself strip-side. Unfortunately there were no other strip views open, so the third room was a 32nd floor sunset view (mountains and freeway).
After leaving the reception area which was sufficiently staffed with business services, hotel reservations, and VIP concierge, we walked towards the elevator banks, which were not that close to the reception area. Very pleasant staff greeted us at every opportunity. It was actually quite difficult to find the elevators, because the sheer elegance of the building resulted in very poor signage. Vanity was the predominate function, not information.
THEhotel is an all-suite tower at Mandalay Bay, and it is a suite in its truest sense—separate living and sleeping area. Entering our room near the end of the hallway, you are greeted by an impressive, chic and comfortable living area, and a small washroom located in the front hallway. A stylish desk, with ample writing materials, colour printer/fax was situated in front of the far window. Extremely comfortable and stylish furniture warmed the room up, and a fairly large Plasma TV was situated on the wall opposite the couch. The bar was well-stocked with cocktails and snacks, and was quite impressive looking in itself. I was quite impressed that they had a hard-water tap at the bar as well, meaning that one did not have to drink the bathroom water. The prices were reasonable to high, but that is to be expected. One other thing that was impressive about the living area is that one never lacked note pads, hotel information, etc., as leather portfolios of all sizes were strategically placed all over the suite. THEhotel has come up with a rather clever theme…THEnotepad, THEroomservice, etc. I chuckled to myself and found it to be intelligent.
Walking through the door to the bedroom, I continued to be impressed by what I saw. THEHotel had the most unbelievably comfortable beds on which I have ever had the opportunity to rest. I have lower back problems, but my back was not sore at all after sleeping on these beds. At the foot of the beds was a large wall unit: 2 closets on either side, and a central area that housed the fairly large, flat-screen television. Underneath the television, in a separate cupboard were drawers for clothing, and an in-room safe. The closets were very well stocked with ample hangers, clips, nubbies, hooks, an incredibly comfortable bathrobe, and slippers for the lady, and a light that illuminated upon opening the closet.
The bathroom was another impressive site. The glassed-in shower was nice and roomy and could easily fit two people (if not three…) The pressure was great, but I found that the temperature of the water fluctuated greatly. I often had to constantly adjust the temperature, which was a bit of a nuisance. The bathtub, with a waterfall spout, was incredibly large and comfortable. One, or two, could easily lie down and be up to the neck in water. Alternatively, one could even sit sideways, cross-legged, and watch the LCD TV that was on the wall while bathing. There were ample towels, and the BATHE products in the bathroom were all quite exceptional: dental elixir, hair masque, bath powder, and exfoliating soap, among other things. I was very impressed by the engineering of the shower. At the end of my first shower, I was in a bit of a predicament. I was wondering how I was going to get the towel that was hanging from the bar, on the other side of the glass door. I then realized that the door swung in, as well as out. Since the shower was so large, there was plenty of room to swing the glass door into the shower to grab the towel (except that the unusual way of folding the towels onto the bar caused me to drop them onto the wet floor of the shower. Nevertheless, kudos to the shower peoples
The housekeeping was quite good and thorough. However, upon check-in, the other two rooms under my name (my friends) both had problems with them. In the first room the TV in the bedroom did not work. The front desk promised to “send up an engineer right away” to fix the problem. I wasn’t sure why an engineer needed to go up to fix what was probably a loose cord, but it was fixed right away. In the other room, cigarette butts and other garbage was left by housekeeping from the previous occupants. The lady at the front desk almost had a heart attack when I told her about this. I am sure somebody in housekeeping was in a bit of trouble after that.
The view out of my room on the 34th floor was absolutely stunning. I am convinced that it has to be one of the best views in the city. Looking over the top of Luxor’s pyramid, I could see every hotel in the city—quite impressive. It seemed that the only other rooms in the city that would be higher than my room was the top floors of Bellagio, NYNY and Wynn, but that could have just been from my vantage point.
While the walk to the casino is a bit lengthy, SUCK IT UP! It is a very fun walk to take, time and time again. The long hallway is the epitome of chicness (is that a word?) and class. On one side is a restaurant that is filled with classy looking people. On the other side, floor to ceiling mirrors in between the dark wood tones. The floor…incredibly pristine. Props to the floor cleaning staff (who are constantly at work) because really is impressive. The black really sparkles. The walk down this hallway makes you feel like a million bucks.
The entrance into THEHotel from the Mandalay Bay Casino (right outside the Mama Mia theatre) is like a transformation from the MGMMirage/Mandalay Bay corporate image to elegance and understated, refined taste.
I do quite enjoy the Manadlay Bay property: the pool area (beach) is out of this world. If you are going to Vegas in the summer, Mandalay Beach is the place to be. It is filled with attractive guests and waitresses. Presumably it gets such a good draw of young girls because of the beach itself. Now that THEHotel is targeting the 21-35 year old crowd with money, the girls at this property are even more intoxicating.
The casino is very nice. While it does not have the feel of Wynn or Bellagio, I do like it more than the Venetian casino. There is live music being played in the centre of the casino, and pretty cool spots scattered about the property. The House of Blues has rock star karaoke on Monday and Tuesday nights, which means a live band plays and sings backup. It was pretty neat.
The casino table limits get quite high into the evening, but during the day it was a good place to gamble. In the evenings, Luxor or even Excalibur were nice places to play reasonable blackjack, pai gow and craps. The dealers are very friendly and the casino has overall a nice atmosphere. I really enjoyed the poker room—Wayne is the best dealer I have ever had.
The cocktail waitresses are very attractive (although Wynn takes the cake on that one), and they wear incredibly flattering attire, although it is more trashy than classy. I prefer the more classy than revealing attire at Wynn. You see less, but there is nothing like a classy-looking beautiful girl.
We also went to Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce, which is a smoky, intimate (as in small) club with a live 3-piece band with saxophone and a Burlesque (strip-tease) show every hour. We were fairly dressed up coming from dinner at the Mix atop of THEHotel, so our cover was waived. It wasn’t that busy when we arrived, but it was a Thursday night. The show was alright, and the saxophone player was great. It is a neat experience, but the place is filled with hookers. You’re never quite sure which girls are free, and which are not. I’m not sure any of them were. I didn’t get far enough to find out, but that wasn’t due to lack of them trying.
Dinner atop of THEHotel at Mix restaurant was wonderful. I had requested a table on the terrace and was given just that. It certainly deserved the 20-dollar tip to the Maitre D’. The service was quite good, the food was excellent, and the view was spectacular. The waiter seemed very embarrassed when he had to come back and tell me what they had no Dubonnet. I wasn’t sure how a french-inspired restaurant, as the waiter put it, could be out of “Le grand aperitif de France”. While they brought out an assortment of bread with homemade peanut butter and butter, they did not bring any olive oil to match with the French baguette.
On the day that we checked out, the bellman stored our bags for the day as we were taking the red-eye flight home. Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with our stay at THEHotel, and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys the finer things in life. The view of the strip is amazing, the amenities are fabulous, and you truly feel like a million bucks in this hotel.
As an addendum, I must say that we had dinner at the SW Steakhouse at Wynn. We dined on the patio, overlooking the lake and the mountain, covered with trees. The view was spectacular, and when evening came, the lights on the trees, and the light show on the waterfall (akin to an acid trip) were equally impressive. The food was to die for. I was quite impressed by the fact that, when I was in the washroom, the Chef, Eric Klein, came to our table and shook our hands, and asked how everything was. I was VERY upset that I missed that.
A few of my friends saw Avenue Q, the new show at Wynn the next evening. They really enjoyed the show, and said it was hilarious. In fact, Steve Wynn himself was sitting 7 seats down from my friends, and following the show they had a chance to talk. Steve Wynn had said that it was his second time seeing the show, and that this second cast was just as good as the first cast the first time he viewed the show. I wasn’t really interested in seeing the show, but had I known that I could have talked to Steve Wynn on the way out, I would have gone for sure!
One night we dined at Fix at Bellagio. The food was great, the atmosphere was funky, and the presentation of the food was really impressive. I would recommend this restaurant to everybody. It is a great place to dine for those who do not want to eat Lobster every night. We then viewed the Fountains from the terrace of the Fontana Bar. Great suggestion Hunter! I really liked the feel of Bellagio. I especially enjoyed playing $10 blackjack in ear-shot of the pianist at the Petrossian Bar!