Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

September 2, 2006

Reader Report: Bellagio and Wynn

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader John Hall for contributing another piece, this time the focus on Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. I can't say how much I appreciate contributions from you guys, the loyal readers. If you want to send something in, send it to:

Ok, what do we have here? Well, as regular readers know, we have spent an awful lot of time looking at Steve Wynn properties, and Wynn Las Vegas over all of them. Well, before there was WLV there was Bellagio and it is still a literal cash factory on the Strip. After touring the back of house facilities, I have a renewed appreciation for the property - it's really a work of art in its own way.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ok, let's get started. Here's John's submission:


To start off, I’ve got a couple of neat Wynn updates. First, Steve finally got the clue, and has installed doors and A/C units in the self-park elevator lobbies, the A/C units actually cool down the elevator lobbies, better than their counterparts at Bellagio. Next, The 'B Bar' has finally reopened, this current incarnation, takes up about ¼ of the bar’s original space, while the remaining ¾ of the original space, is being used as high-limit gaming. This new B Bar, is actually a very nice addition to the bar count at Wynn, and is a much-needed walk-up VP bar. However, Steve still can’t compare his current bar offerings to that of Bellagio. Also, it looks like the Wynn Shoe store [editor: Shoe-In is simply being remodeled], in the Esplanade, is being turned into a new store, not quite sure what it will be thought. Other than that, the property is looking great, as always.

Mirage - The “re-designed” Onda has opened, and it is looking pretty-nice, although, it sort of reminds me of Harrah’s Italian restaurant. Other than that, not much else is happening at The Mirage, expect for the construction at Japonais, and The Beatles Lounge. [editor: For pictures of Japonais, click click here]

Venetian - nothing ever really changes here, but I was able to catch Phantom during this trip, and I must say, the theatre looks beautiful, both the theatre and the show, are a much needed addition to this property.

Aladdin - This place is right in the middle of its transformation, into Planet Hollywood, and it looks like it, there are giant, bare and white, construction walls all over the casino, which make getting around the property a real pain.

Caesars - Well it looks like Harrah’s management style has really sunk in at the Palace. I’m not a big gambler, and Harrah’s caters to their loyal players, and it is quite evident throughout the casino (from the dedicated check-in lines, and casino cage windows). I guess I won’t be staying at this property, unless I really start putting that Total Rewards card, in each slot I play, or asking each pit boss, to track my play. Oh well.

Wynn vs. Bellagio comparison:

I am a huge Steve Wynn fan, and I have followed his career, since the first time I stayed at Treasure Island (early ‘90s). So, I was thrilled, to say the least, the first time I stayed at both Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas.

To start off, I’ll give you my thoughts on Bellagio, followed by my thoughts on Wynn.

Bellagio, seems to be going downhill fast. Compared to the personal service that one receives at Wynn, this AAA Five-Diamond Award-winning property is really heading down-hill. When I arrived, during this trip, the bolt on my in-room safe, was out. So, the safe wouldn’t close. When I noticed this I called maintenance, and they said someone would be up in twenty-minutes to fix it. Forty-five minutes later, no one had come to the door, I called again, and they said it would be ten-minutes. Another forty-five minutes later, I was still stuck in my room, and no one had shown up. I called a third time, and the maintenance person, finally came. When I compare this to the fact, that the CD player in my room at Wynn, was broken, and an attendant was up to my room with a new one, in ten minutes, makes me wonder how a property with service like Bellagio’s can keeps its five-diamond rating. (Also, that was just one instance of the shotty service, that I received at Bellagio.)

Bellagio seems to, also, be in a serious state of flux, over what kind of property it wants to be. It seems like it is both an MGM property, but it wants to stay a Wynn property, and this shows. The test swatches for the wall covering are still up in certain parts of the casino, there are still test carpet test swatches up in the casino, as well. The property also shows a dip in quality, when you compare the Spa Tower crown-molding, wall coverings, and convention areas, to that of the main tower. I might be nit picking, but when you walk along Via Fiore, from the lobby, to Jean-Phillipe Patisserie, you can tell, that the same design philosophies, weren’t utilized in the two construction projects. Let me just say, when intricate mosaics stop, and fairly ugly 3-D marble combinations start, something is wrong. 

To sum up my thoughts on Bellagio, I see a property, that when it opened, was the most beautiful city, not only in Las Vegas, but even the world. Now, it’s a mish-mash of huge crowds, mis-matched guest areas, and restaurants (FIX), nightclubs (Light), and shops (La Scarpa) that don’t fit into their surroundings.

These statements bring me to this thought, Wynn Las Vegas, is truly the luxury property in Las Vegas, its has a solid, unified design, and a management team that not only keeps the guests quite content, but also isn’t afraid to admit that they certain retail/dining/entertainment locations don’t work, and they aren’t afraid to change and remodel those failing locations.

I truly believe that Bellagio, deserves to be stripped of its five diamond award, and that Wynn deserves to receive that award.

Thanks for taking the time read, I hope you all enjoyed it.

Also, I’ll be up in Vegas in August, and, if you’d like another trip report, I can write one up with my thoughts on Venetian. Also, I won’t be forgetting my camera on this next trip.

[Back to Hunter:]

Ok, that's his take. What do you think? Do you agree?

I'll admit that to a certain extent, Bellagio had dropped off my radar. I mean, I clearly never 'forgot' about Bellagio but it wasn't at the top of my list when planning activities for upcoming trips.

That changed a bit for me when I took the aforementioned back of house tour. Going on that tour reminded me of what a masterpiece Bellagio really is. When they say, 'no expense was spared', they really mean it. I haven't done a tour in all of Wynn's employee areas yet but what I am told by employees is that the simply isn't as nice as Bellagio once you get behind the 'Employees Only' doorway.

At Bellagio all the back-of-house areas are fully finished, in that the colors, paint, etc... continue into the back of house where at Wynn they stuck with the natural cinder block and concrete. That's not to say that this won't change at WLV or even that it is a big issue at all. Still, it's something I noticed and it really helped to renew my love affair with Bellagio.

Thanks again to John for submitting his report.


Read archived comments (19 so far)
September 2, 2006 1:56 AM Posted by motoman

Hunter's Bellagio back-of-house report, along with his and Detroit's comments, have made me wonder: When the newness and novelty of WLV wears thin, is it possible that Bellagio will reemerge as the top destination in Vegas? And Wynn's WLV will end up being an also-ran to his own previous creation?

It seems MGM has (finally) realized the gem they have in Bellagio and are taking steps to retain its five star image. It's true what Charlie said that it would be a tragedy if MGM allowed Bellagio to be used as merely a cash engine for City Center development. But then, to the "general public" Bellagio is still the best-known and highest regarded resort in Vegas.

We here on this blog seem to have attributed this to WLV's relative newness, but maybe that's not all. Maybe Steve reached his peak with Bellagio. I still don't believe he'd have left voluntarily if not for the takeover.

On another note, this article (Reuters, Aug. 9, 2006) ">'whaling'%20for%20the%20biggest%20spenders> states that in the hunt for Whales, whose gambling can swing a casino's balance sheet, Bellagio gained income while Venetian and Wynn customers enjoyed "lucky streaks" that caused decline in gaming revenue. Yeah. That, or these numbers tell you where the Whales themselves prefer to go....

September 2, 2006 5:55 AM Posted by detroit1051

John, thanks for the interesting report. As I wrote the other day, I'm getting more comfortable with Bellagio and hope it's on its way back to original standards.

Your comment on the room safe reminded me of another reason the suites need to be renovated. The original safes installed by Steve Wynn are too small for laptops, and I don't like leaving mine out when I'm away from the room.

When I walk west from the guest elevators and then south into the convention area, it is very obvious where the new construction starts. The ceilings, crown moldings and trim work are clearly not as good as the original, but then I have the same thought when I compare the original Bellagio to Wynn Las Vegas.

I'll reserve judgment until Bellagio renovates its casino and suites (which may be underway as reported by Mike P). After my favorable experience at Bellagio last week, I'm hoping for the best.

I believe AAA waits two years before it awards five-diamond status, and I'm sure Wynn will receive it. However, sometimes I wonder whether any large casino hotel warrants the designation. Smaller properties are better suited to superior service than 3,000+ room hotels.

September 2, 2006 9:42 AM Posted by mike_ch

With respect to the reader, none of what he said save for being unable to secure his safe, are serious problems. And if that safe story is the most significant of numerous service issues, I think I can speculate that they weren't serious either.

Every joint has a bad day or an unfortunate moment, my second stay at Wynn was a room with very obvious light burnt out near the beds. I called as soon as I tried to turn it on and was working sometime in the second afternoon. I wouldn't never stay there again for it, other resorts have done far worse, like when Luxor turned off my hot water or Mirage completely turned all the power off on me.

I'm inclined to agree wtih what detroit said about AAA and large hotels. I can't think of anything on the Strip that screams five diamonds to me. I'd guess maybe the Four Seasons, but I can't afford to stay there and judge for myself.

Finally, I don't feel the new construction at Bellagio is markedly worse. The exterior continues the same motif all the way around, and while the interior has a change (however I beileve going with silver instead of gold in the new areas was an intentional design change and not simply an effect of cheapening-out) it still has areas that are gorgeous like that convention hall by the pool or that dome ceiling by Sensi.

One can stare at the interior trim all they want, at the end of the day they still inscribed the B on the elevator doors and I doubt a complete newcomer would feel like there was any quality decline. Or most visitors, since I think we're unique among Bellagio's visitors in that we're discussing the quality of crown moldings instead of restaurants or spa or casino games. I doubt this is a fad. :)

September 2, 2006 9:52 AM Posted by mike_ch

Addendum: Just to get this out there, I am certainly not in love with all things at Bellagio at the moment, or just supporting it to bash Wynn. I'm still disappointed that the PA muzak is "90s & today" pop instead of the crooners and classics it used to be. It's just too strange to be going from the guy tinkling at the piano as you enter, as always, and then hear something like Smash Mouth or the Pussycat Dolls over the speaker.

Oddly, at a Tony Roma's the other day I heard muzak that sounded incredibly like the old Bellagio track. Others (including some of the staff) agreed, but I couldn't get any info about what they were playing from.

So sad to report that Tony Roma's feels more sophisticated than the Bellagio at the moment.

September 2, 2006 12:36 PM Posted by Hunter


As inconsequential as it may sound, the music is one of the things I HATE about Wynn. I wasn't aware Bellagio had made the same transition to crappy pop music.

You're right that the average guest probably would never notice the difference between the different areas at Bellagio and thats fine... To me, that 5th diamond or star is in those little details and beyond that, what else would we complain about if not this little stuff. :-)

I have a renewed interest in Bellagio and when I plan my next trip, I'm going to seriously consider staying there again. It's time to go back to the B.

September 2, 2006 1:45 PM Posted by Hunter

I added some MGM MIRAGE press photos of Bellagio suites (and the Salon Prive) to my Flickr account:

They are the most recent ones.

Some of the designs there are pretty far from the original Bellagio look. Detroit - was your suite like any of these?

September 2, 2006 3:00 PM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, thanks for the photos. The Spa Tower suites look pretty good. No, mine wasn't anything like those. My Bellagio Suite was the one in Bellagio's wbsite. They never reference the Spa Tower rooms or suites, probably until the original are renovated and look the same in both towers.

September 2, 2006 5:09 PM Posted by Mike E

John, a great read! I agree so with many of your points.

Since the topic has come up, if I may rant for a bit... Can we honestly believe these five star/diamond associations? Call me a skeptic, but I believe these rating are a scam for the consumer. I for one think there are some mighty undeserving properties waving the AAA four and five diamond flag and I'm sorry to say, but Bellagio has always been one of them. Certainly, the quality and fit and finish of any Steve Wynn project is capable of five stars, but when you're pushing thousands of rooms and nearly ten thousand employees, one thing will always be certain: the inconsistency of service. And yes, I even feel the same about Wynn and dare I say, Tower Suites. Anyone who is made to think they're staying at a five star establishment because of what the Travel Channel and AAA tell them has probably never spent a night in a St. Regis.

Mobil Travel Guide's ratings are of a much higher standard and I feel have more weight than AAA. There is no hotel in Nevada with their five star distinction, not Four Seasons, not even Ritz Carlton on the Lake. Tower Suites will be undergoing separate evaluation from Mobil than the rest of Wynn.

September 2, 2006 7:15 PM Posted by mike_ch


It seems like Wynn has some sort of soft-pop meets jazz soundtrack with a limited playlist and lots of repition. I've heard "HIgher Love" by Steve Winwood (Steve Wynn-would? :P) and "Fragile" by Sting a bazillion times. At least they took away that weird mellow Kelly Clarkson remix they had a few month ago.

Bellagio, on the other hand, has the same 90s & Today Hot A/C format that everybody else does. The day I hear "Hollaback Girl" in Bellagio is the day that I eat my shoes in frustration.

September 2, 2006 10:12 PM Posted by MGK

While we're on the subject of hotels and music, here's a article I found about that subject.

September 2, 2006 10:34 PM Posted by Sean

I agree with your comments regarding the 5 diamond ratings. Once you stay at a St. Regis, it becomes the benchmark against which one compares a hotel.

September 3, 2006 3:14 AM Posted by Daniel

As long as Mr. Wynn is overseeing Wynn Las Vegas, I don't forsee the property losing it's superiority to MGM's flagship. Bellagio is a magnificent property, and MGM Mirage is a very fine company, but they will always be more interested in the bottom line than creating a work of art. (It is no longer a priority that the oarsman nossels of the fountains work properly on a daily basis.) Mr. Wynn says time and time again that he is first and foremost an artist. He makes very smart financial decisions, and at the same time, he commits himself to ensuring an unrivaled guest experience. A small note of interest is that the front desk staffs at the former Mirage Resorts lost their empowerment to comp guests for inconveniences when MGM took over. Now only management at those properties can make significant adjustments in rates. At Wynn, front desk clerks are armed with a modest "arsenal" to alleviate negative guest experiences. From my understanding, clerks are able to deduct up to $100 from room charges without permission from a supervisor. (Don't abuse this knowledge. Front desk staff members are adept at indentifying fishers. Guests who lie about inconveniences are often made to feel embarrassed on the spot.)
The only way WLV could slide down the slope is if Harrah's took over. Though it's not likely to happen soon, don't rule out the possibility of it occurring later on. Wynn and Harrah's will likely form a strong alliance in a large- scale development in Asia. Once the partnership is forged, it could make very good business sense for Wynn to sell his crowning achievement, the Wynn/Encore/Urban Village enclave to the world's most powerful player in the gaming industry.

When that deal happens, don't expect the front desk clerk to comp off room and tax just because your bed linens were not properly changed the second night of your stay.

September 3, 2006 12:41 PM Posted by John

Daniel, the last forseeable company I could see Wynn selling to is Harrah's, he would sell to MGM, rather than Harrah's. I mean, if Caesars, or better yet Rio, is any indication of Harrah's ability to manage a "luxury" property, I would be quite skiddish on approving a Wynn/Harrah's. Also, Wynn will be quite content to keep his nice lot on The Strip, and his developments in Macau, for at least the next decade. Also, as much as I want to say, yes (MGM is only concerned about the bottom line), they have been making some customer service advancements.

I do have to say, this trip report is about two months old, and I have since visited the property again, but not staying there, and I have to say, they are making strides toward better customer service. When dining at Prime on my last trip, I have never had such an attentive wait staff. So, I do issue a bit of a retraction on the above customer service issues, especially after some of the problems I had with Caesars, at check-in. Bellagio is a nice property, and it is pretty much on the strip, that was truly designed in 360 degrees. Even Wynn, like Hunter has said isn't designed from a visiting guests perspective, in all areas.

September 3, 2006 1:47 PM Posted by Mike P.

Here are five things that I like about the spa tower at Bellagio -

1) Sensi. Innovative menu with fairly reasonable prices. Great lunch spot.

2) Jean-Phillipe Patisserie.

3) The suites. We've only stayed in the spa tower once - on our floor the Penthouse suites were on the corners and might be a little larger than the ones in the original tower. The pictures Hunter posted give a pretty good feel for the decor, which is more contemporary than in the old tower. Materials and construction quality are at least equal to the old rooms. I didn't spend much time inspecting the moldings though, so I can't say how they compare.

4) The workout facilities. Best on the strip (maybe a tie with Canyon Ranch), and a huge improvement on the original gym.

5) The personal training staff. My wife is a dedicated gym rat, and I need regular disciplined workouts to keep my weight in control. The trainers there are top notch - it helps that we see them a couple dozen times a year, so they know us and what we're trying to accomplish.

Has Bellagio gone downhill? Not in my opinion. I think the opening of the spa tower and the additions of Sensi and Fix to their restaurant lineup made the property better overall. Now, if they'd just bring back decent video poker like they once had I might actually spend some time in the casino.

Mike P.

September 3, 2006 5:03 PM Posted by detroit1051

I hope my resquest is honored later this month to be in a Spa Tower suite. I certainly agree on Sensi. For a corporate restaurant, it's excellent. If I'm eating lunch alone, I'll sit at the bar. Theresa is an excellent bartender and a Las Vegas native. It's interesting to talk with her about the growth she's seen over the years. Whether she's giving me a line or not, I don't know, but she said Sensi is on the 16th hole of the old Dunes golf course where she played when she was younger. I'm not exactly a regular at Bellagio, but Theresa always remembers my name. I recommend the daily Bento Box for lunch. The four offerings are excellent.

September 3, 2006 5:22 PM Posted by Hunter

I'll second (or 4th or 5th?) the thumbs up for Sensi.

I've had multiple lunches and dinners there, all very good.

September 5, 2006 7:36 PM Posted by charlie

Just returned from Vegas.

* Best stay to date.
* Service across the hotel and casino was virtually flawless.
* Red 8 was substantially improved - dined there twice. Terrace point was quite good as well.
* DBB & Okada were outstanding
* New favorite spot - the stairs down to/up from the pool. Just a nice little Matisse gallery. Also, the carpet has retained its original brilliance.
* Saw a room without a separate water closet and the room was smaller than the rest. Interesteing... XX39
* Seems there is a bit of Bellagio nostalgia going on...but Wynn is true the expression of Steve Wynn's talent. Sure its colorful and crazy-assed at times, but its him...and I love it for that. The collection of art and the unique interior design of the little spaces is just amazing.
* One potential impovement, little sitting areas in the gardens. Why not?

* Place just looks great and has amazing energy
* Japonais is up and running and appears to be a fantastic casino restaurant. Side by Side with Stack & Kokomos, this makes this an incredible 1,2,3 punch for high energy casino restaurants.

* Turning the corner in my books.
* Remodeling / upgrading is apparent and well done and it just seemed cleaner.
* Phantom is AMAZING. Beyond compare.

MGM Grand
* Continue to be impressed how I like the place - it just has a good vibe and it the entire staff couldn't be more friendly.

* Arrogant - Dealer and pit boss guy were just A-Holes...for no reason.
* Upgrades in progress (see the pictures in LVRJ article on kids in casinos)
* Faith Hill was blasting when I drove up (again).
* It almost seems they are trying too hard to convince us what luxury (or in MGM terms "High Class" or "Highfalutin") is or should be to us.
* My theory is that the management team believes they need to make it more accessible to the general public. Therefore they insult us all.
* I almost believe they base their decisions on the future of the Bellagio on irrelevant banter from fanny-pack wearing wood-ticks about how great it would be if Faith and Tim would get them a place up there on Como Lake...that way they could go fishin' and kneeboardin' with George Clooney. "Boy this here Bellagio sure is High-Class and Highfalutin. Just like hangin' out with Faith, Tim and George on Como Lake! Isn't this place something!".

*** All just additional reminders why I never need to visit this place again.

*** PS - just keep a look out to make sure they don't "upgrade" the vintage Chris Craft on the Bellagio lake with a new Ranger Fish-n-Ski with a 225 Evinrude on the back.

September 5, 2006 9:24 PM Posted by Mike E

Charlie, quite an entertaining summary! Couldn't agree more about Bellagio's fountains--their strap-on-your-eight-pound-belt-buckle tunes are more akin to a Harrah's joint. I will be staying there at the end of November after five years so I'm looking forward to it nevertheless.

The stairs leading to the pool area at Wynn--are you refering to the one that connects the entrance of the main pool area to the hallway where the buffet is located? Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but did you mean Matisse inspired? Or is there an actual Matisse in there?

December 23, 2006 6:58 PM Posted by Ben K.

Just returned from Las Vegas, and the tidings are not good. The Bellagio Buffet, once the pride of LV foodies has sunk below the waves. After several years of geriatric decline it now appears to be dead

An ominous sign was the complete change in staff since September 06. Embarressment, I assume. The quality of the food is now unaceptable at any price, let alone the extortionate rates now charged.

The potato soup was watered. The lentil soup was extended with overcooked vegetable, since when are lentils considered a luxury item. The selection at the salad station has diminshed and the available salads were of mediocre quality at best. The breads were stale and the specialty items that used to characterize this buffet has been replaced by the standard (cheap) buffet fare. The shrimp was slimey and worst of all the selection of prepared deserts was reduced to a distinctly unpalatable sour pumpkin tart. And on and on, my wife, cheritable as always, thought it might be the season (christmas vs rip off) but this kind of lapse appears to go to the MGM bone.

Those of you that experienced the crash and burn of the Mirage Buffet know what I mean. In any case, if any of you are tempted revisit the Bellagio Buffet, I would advise you try the Wynn.

Ben K.