Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

January 23, 2008

Palazzo Las Vegas - Opening Weekend Thoughts

Posted by Hunter

Palazzo is the finest hotel ever built in Las Vegas - Las Vegas Sands In-Room Magazine

"Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." - Red Faced Guy

I was in Las Vegas at the end of December on a trip that was supposed to coincide with the soft opening of The Palazzo, the first major property to open on the Strip since Wynn Las Vegas in 2005. Of course, we know how that turned out - Las Vegas Sands postponed the soft-open for a few days and by the time guests were walking through, I was back at home.

When another excuse for a trip popped up, this time coinciding with the 'real' opening of The Palazzo, the credit card was primed and ready. I reserved a standard 'suite' for two nights at a rate of about $300/night. I've been a critic of The Venetian in the past but I really wanted to go into this past weekend without pre-judging the property... at least that was my goal.

Keep reading after the jump for my thoughts on The Palazzo, some comparisons to other properties, and some specific notes on the photos.

Photo gallery:

First off, despite being open, this property is far from finished. The pool and spa aren't done, only a couple of restaurants are open, the show isn't open and according to the front desk, only 2/3rds of the rooms are available. I would guess it's actually less than that - the place was pretty dead at all hours, especially hotel related services.

Our check-in was quick and efficient. The bellman outside took our bags, passed them to another bellman who then waited for me to finish and walked us upstairs to our 'suite'. This level of service is impressive but I doubt this is standard or would be available when the hotel is actually busy enough to keep these guys occupied. Still, it was great - he was polite and friendly. He told me that he used to work at The Venetian and that they had only had access to the new building for about '2 weeks' at that point.

The access to the elevator bays is right across the casino from the main entrance - very easy to find. There was a guard there checking keys 24 hours a day (I've noticed that at WLV, early morning there is often no one there). The elevator lobby looked sorta cheap, similar to The Venetian and not as nice as those at Bellagio or Wynn Las Vegas.

We were on the 17th floor (they use room numbers in the format of 17-737 - one thing I like about WLV is the four digit room numbers, such as 6017, not 60017). I thought the guest room hallways were fairly nicely done. The carpets and colors were subdued and of course everything is new. There is glass with etchings near the doors to the rooms.

Our 'suite' was at the VERY end of the hall and I remember thinking that it was a bit of a long walk. This turned out to be sorta funny because in the in-room mag, they boast of short walking distances (I don't think the people who did the magazine have ever seen the hotel or its plans because it was bragging about things where often the opposite was true).

We walked in and my immediate impression of the room was that it is a nicer version of what you see at The Venetian. Everyone is familar with the basic setup - sleeping area up top and then a step-down to a living area with a couch, desk and table.

Of course, everything was brand new and I personally like the stylings here. Some of the individual pieces of furniture looked a bit cheap (and included the appropriate 'Made in China' stickers) but overall this is very nice standard hotel room and is quite spacious. It was very clean, though it was missing robes (the hangars with the 'if you steal these we will charge you' note was there - they later brought robes when I called down).

A couple of random things about the room that I noticed:

* The pens are really cheap looking.
* There was a lack of electrical outlets - between the two of us we had two laptops, two cell phones, and two cameras - the entire room has only TWO open outlets. I had to unplug stuff to get things charging.
* The in-room safe is a drawer vs a wall mount. It is quite large, easily fit both computers and my camera plus it has outlets so you can charge your computer while it is in the safe. This is brilliant and I haven't seen it elsewhere.
* A DVD player is included standard, as is a fax machine/printer.

The bathroom is also nice, similar to The Venetian's standard fare. Two sinks, tub, separate shower and water closet. Also a make up station to make sure everyone has their space. My wife was impressed that when the maid cleaned the room, they organized all of her make up on the counter.

Ok, so that's the room. Check out the photos to see what I'm talking about.

What about the rest of the hotel? In short, I think it's good and bad.

The lobby/check-in area, as well as the atrium connecting the hotel to The Venetian, both are open, grand affairs that I personally really liked. These are open areas with flowing water and greenery (mostly fake though, too bad).

So far so good! Now, how is the casino?

Disappointing. The casino is the definition of a slot barn - you can see all the way across the floor from virtually any point, which is an attribute I personally find very distracting.

Around the edges of the casino are walled off construction areas that will be the bulk of the restaurants, opening directly on to the casino floor in most cases. The high limit slot area looks like something out of Green Valley Ranch or some other Station joint, not a top Strip property. The slot salon is pretty small, very open (no privacy) and I did not see any food area like those you see in other high end rooms. It was also empty every time I walked by. The high limit table / baccarat area is larger but also very basic looking. I tried to get some photos here but I encountered very aggressive security guards who seemed to be on to me and my little property review walk. Frankly, I was surprised at the high limit areas. I assume there is private gaming somewhere on property that I will probably never see but these spaces were very, very basic looking.

There are several bars in the casino, similar to The Venetian, plus the 'Salute Lounge' that features zebra-colored furnishings and live music, tucked off in the corner.

I walked the casino floor with several friends on Saturday night - the negative opinion was fairly universal. No one liked the open, barn look. Take from this what you will.

One potential big plus is easy access to the self-parking area - escalators drop you right in the casino, a benefit of the underground parking.

As I had said earlier, most of the restaurants are not open yet. The Grand Lux Cafe is basically a replica of the one at The Venetian and I'm sure some guests will be confused when meeting friends. I did not eat at Morels, which is open, but a friend did and said his food was not prepared properly and was sent back.

On the shopping front, some of the stores in the mall expansion are open, including Barney's. It's nice to have the latter with a Las Vegas outpost and it is quite large and well stocked. Several of the other fine dining outlets are upstairs in the mall, which I personally think is a bit tacky. Nothing in the Palazzo shops will surprise anyone, though some of the boutiques have not yet been in Las Vegas. It's more, fairly high end shopping.

Overall, I guess The Palazzo was exactly what I guessed it would be. In some ways it is a nicer Venetian and I think fans of that property will love it. I realize that many guests don't care but I was constantly bothered by the feeling of cheapness - plastic this and fake that. There's also construction dust and grime everywhere. Check out this, over the main Strip entrance:

In another city, The Palazzo would be a king but on the Strip, depending on the room prices, it is hard to recommend it over Wynn Las Vegas or Bellagio. Unless you really like to stay in new hotels, I probably would avoid it until the Spring when the pool areas, restaurants and Canyon Ranch Spa Club are open - the property is VERY unfinished.

For others that have stayed there, I'm hoping you will leave your take in the comments.


Read archived comments (21 so far)
January 23, 2008 12:13 PM Posted by mike_ch

LOL at the opening.

One of the few (only?) things I liked about V were the rooms with the separate living quarters, although I wonder how accessible that layout is to people with disabilities. You would think a hotel owned by a guy who is often using the assistance of a cane or other device would know that it's hard for a wheelchair to go up that step that connects half the room. Perhaps they have rooms for people with special needs when identified at the desk or when requested?

I've already spoken a lot about fake plants, so I won't go there again. I haven't gotten to see the shopping yet, but I don't think restaurants in a mall is entirely that bad. My first preference is for a restaurant neighbourhood somewhere on the property where you don't feel you're eating just off the casino floor, but eating just off the mall floor is only a slight step up from that. Though nobody's seemed to complain about the location and atmosphere of Spago so far.

The nice thing I can say about it is people who are strongly loathe to walk through the casino where there's so much smoke can also just go through the shopping level instead. I know, "people who hate casinos in Las Vegas?" but it's a convention hotel and that means there's going to be people who would wish they were anywhere else.

My first visit to Venetian was spent going up the incline to the mall level, crawling the mall looking for food, eating at the food court, and retracing my steps back. As a "smoke nazi" who was also not old enough to gamble at the time, I learned and appreciated what hotels put services, amenities, etc in places where you didn't have to wander casinos to get to them. That's why I like THEhotel even though I had a bad experience, and Diamond Suites even though I've never stayed there. I just wish somebody at LVS could design a mall that didn't feel like I was walking through an ant colony. I totally lose my sense of direction at the Canal Mall and it sounds like Palazzo is more of the same. Someone get me an indoor GPS.

January 23, 2008 12:37 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike, Venetian, and I'm sure Palazzo, has accessible rooms for people with disabilities. I was mistakenly assigned one (twice) in 2005:

Hunter, I think the hotel corridor looks great in your photo. The archways bring the long space down to size.

I'm not sure I understand the glass with etchings. There isn't a glass panel next to the door leading into the room, is there?

For a second, the photo of the casino ceiling brought the Tropicana in its heyday to mind with its Tiffany ceiling centered over the tables.

Your lead-in about the finest hotel ever built along with Clinton's comment made me laugh out loud.

I hope other properties take Palazzo's lead with better in-room safes. A great idea.

January 23, 2008 12:49 PM Posted by Hunter

I don't have a good shot of the glass panels but they are in the hallway, outside the rooms, next to the doors.

January 23, 2008 1:13 PM Posted by Joey from Boston

Yikes, I'm hoping that the Spa is opened by mid-February but for $200 a night during the weekend I still think I will be happy. Hell I thought Venetian was decent for $200.

Time will tell but if I can score Wynn for close to the same money I may think about rebooking there.

January 23, 2008 1:21 PM Posted by Hunter

I was told that the spa is actually an extension/expansion of the existing Canyon Ranch Spa Club at The Venetian and that it will bridge the two places together at the pool deck level.

January 23, 2008 2:43 PM Posted by Joey from Boston

Thanks for that Hunter, I'll call within the week and see if I can get an answer if it will be ready or not. A big part of the reason we booked Pallazzo was because of the wet facilities that were advertised on the Pallazzo site, and we were assured that everything would be up and running by Jan 18th.

Seeing as everything obviously isn't "up and running" it looks like hope is fading fast.


January 23, 2008 3:29 PM Posted by Mike P.

I'm still wondering how Palazzo's "slot barn" of a casino differs from Wynn's besides quality of materials. I remember a lot of early reviews of Wynn criticized the casino for exactly that reason, but if Hunter found it disappointing he didn't mention it in his first review.

Personally I came not to mind it after spending time there gambling. If nothing else it's easy to navigate.

Anyway, as a low stakes video poker paytables trump design for me. Wynn has a good inventory of playable video poker at $1 and up denominations and even had some true full pay games for a while. Palazzo is reported to have at least a few banks of decent VP. I hope it lasts long enough for me to get a chance at it.

January 23, 2008 3:47 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, let me try to explain why I prefer a floor like Wynn LV, Bellagio, or The Mirage to how Palazzo is set up right now.

The floor at Palazzo feels *really* open. You can tell you are in a very big room with a high ceiling.

At the other properties mentioned above, the ceiling is a lot lower and the layout is broken up into smaller areas. When standing on one side of WLV's casino you (at least for me) don't feel like you're looking into a airplane hangar sized room.

This is kinda hard to explain but I'm pretty sure that if you spent time in one and then walked to the other, you'd understand what I meant. Maybe you'd disagree but I think it would make sense.

Of the five or so people I was with, all regular casino patrons, they all had variations on 'wow, this casino is awful'.

This part of my criticism has nothing to do with build materials at all, it's just the size of the room, how the height of the ceiling magnifies it and the lack of significant elements in the middle of the floor (bars, etc... - Bellagio has the cage, Caramel, etc... to break things up and it works well).

Other places have elements of this but even the very open MBay has the Eyecandy bar in the middle so when you walk in you don't feel like you have seen every nook and cranny of the casino floor from the first step.

January 23, 2008 5:38 PM Posted by mike_ch

There is such a thing as too high a ceiling. This is why PH has put in those square-shaped coloured lights that hang down from the ceiling where the old Aladdin had none, and at the tables have actually built mini ceiling-like structures with lights and cameras now.

Still, I enjoy a high ceiling over a low one unless there's a great air circulation/filtration system, and in my mind LVS doesn't have one at Venetian. The lowest ceiling I can comfortably deal with is some of the oldest/tightest corners of Bally's. Some areas of Circus Circus have ceilings which are too low for me to ever play, such as the tables area.

On the other hand, I quite like Paris which has a really high ceiling, though it doesn't seem as high as PH or NY-NY or Rio which are all too high. In fact, Rio feels at once too low (in it's old areas) and too high (in the Masquerade Village area). New Rio and NY-NY most give me the aircraft hangar feeling.

Bellagio, I would argue, has put too much stuff in the middle of the room to break it up. Getting to your room is a long walk down a crowded path in the center of the room, and since the western wall is blocked off for a good third of the casino with bars, restaurants, and the enormous Club Priv´┐Ż (which employees can shortcut around with an Employees Only path, which I find really frustrating.) On the other hand, the eastern most wall is usually rarely traveled, especially in the daytime hours when Circo and Jasmine aren't serving.

January 23, 2008 9:27 PM Posted by Mike T

Mike P:

Let me put it to you straight: Palazzo's casino sucks. It's a Wal-Mart with casino games in it. I didn't think LVS would do worse than the Venetian's casino, but they accomplished exactly that. The people whom LVS pays to design their properties need to be put out to pasture. Palazzo's casino really is like one of those slot barns you see in states whose legislatures are too chicken shit to approve full blown casino gambling.

Just for comparison, Palazzo cost $200 million more to build than Bellagio did, and there can be no comparing the two.

January 24, 2008 12:43 AM Posted by mike_ch

Price tags aren't a good comparison. Bellagio was built dot-com economy. Palazzo has been built in an era when an American dollar struggles to keep value with a Canadian dollar.

Worse than Wynn, sure. Worse than Bellagio, I can buy that. Worse than Venetian? Really? That casino doglegs out in all sorts of directions and there's whole dead-end areas all over. I much prefer the cavern/slot barn over the series of interconnected caves. But that's just me.

January 24, 2008 4:05 AM Posted by Joey from Boston

Can anyone recommend a certain view that I should ask for? I was thinking South Strip View but after looking at it on a map it seems like Venetian may block everything out.

January 24, 2008 6:22 AM Posted by Mike T

Quote of the day, from Stiffs and Georges:

Palazzo "is about as thrilling as a Bank of America branch in Akron Ohio." -- "Mark$" on a Las Vegas Review-Journal message board.

January 24, 2008 7:36 AM Posted by Joey from Boston

I just got off the phone with a representative from the Spa at Canyon Ranch. I called the number for the Pallazzo Spaclub but it was forwarded to the Venetian's.

The woman I spoke with told me that she had been originally told that the spa with all the cool wet facilities at Pallazzo would be open in January but now that date has been pushed back to February. She had no idea if it was early or late February.

In case anyone else was interested.

January 24, 2008 10:44 AM Posted by detroit1051

"It turned boring, at least by Vegas standards."
Interesting comments by LA Times.
Wolfgang Puck was clearly irritated by the staggered opening.

January 24, 2008 11:00 AM Posted by Beth

I was just in Vegas for the last few days, staying at the Venetian. I went to the spa, noticed the brochures for the expanded spa, and asked a couple of the attendants about it. They've been told "mid-February," but then laughed and said that the original opening date was late December. So, I wouldn't plan a mid-February trip around their spa. The new and improved Canyon Ranch does look like it is going to be spectacular, which they need - while their treatments and staff are quite good now, their amenities (steam room, whirlpool area) are small, unimpressive, and completely insufficient for a hotel the size of the Venetian. A couple of comments on Palazzo: I thought the casino had some nice features, especially the large bar in the center which serves unbelievably strong drinks. We ate at Carnevino, which was excellent food - a bit slow on service, but it only had been open a few days so I think they were working out the kinks (and it was packed the whole time we were there).

January 24, 2008 11:49 AM Posted by Joey from Boston

I'm thinking about moving to a 750sq ft Great Room suite at Mandalay Bay instead.

A Spa with great hot tubs and amenities play a big roll in my Vegas experience and I was sorely disappointed with The Venetian's wet facilities last year.

January 24, 2008 5:41 PM Posted by socalduck

Great photos, thanks Hunter. The rooms look identical to the remodeled rooms in the Venezia tower. Corridors also look almost identical. If you hadn't said it was Palazzo, I would have never known. I think LVS really missed an opportunity to build something unique. Instead, it appears they simply added another wing to the Venetian/Mega Center.

January 25, 2008 5:03 AM Posted by Joey from Boston

I can't help but wonder if The Pallazzo bashing is a bit overdone.

I'm having a hard time believing that it is worse than Venetian, and Venetian has a lot of good things going for it.

From the room pics and photos of the lobby and everything else I've seen it looks pretty swanky.
Maybe some of the details like the fake plants and construction is bothersome but the standard rooms are probably the number 3 standard room in Vegas. Does it really deserve to get slammed the way it is being slammed in the media?

January 25, 2008 5:44 AM Posted by Beth

I would highly, highly recommend the spa at The Hotel - which you can use as a guest of any hotel in Vegas. The hot tubs and other spa amenities are absolutely amazing - it's a very "zen" atmosphere. The spa at Mandalay Bay itself also is quite nice - they are my two favorites in Vegas.

January 25, 2008 10:52 AM Posted by Hunter

There's no doubt in my mind that The Palazzo is nicer than The Venetian. Guests that like the latter should love the former.