Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 10, 2010

UPDATED: Cosmopolitan: Different That Matters?

Posted by Hunter

I'm writing this post several hours after getting my first look at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with my good friend Chuckmonster, following an interview with CEO John Unwin. Let's be honest - the hype machine surrounding the opening has been running overtime for the past few weeks. Cosmo has been getting a lot of ink, most of it positive, even if tentative. I won't be coy: I was impressed with what I saw. In some cases, very impressed.

Given that, when discussing this new property I think it's useful to turn back the clock a year. When I first toured Aria in November of 2009, I found a few things I liked there too. Based on my glance today, there's more to appreciate in the design and innovation of Cosmo than there ever was at Aria but it underlines a fundamental truth: without great service, no hotel will matter very much to any customers that matter very much.

We saw a lot today and to be honest, I'm still processing everything.

One thing though, stood out so dramatically that I can't stop thinking about it - the views, from the terraces in the tower to the restaurant patios to the windows overlooking the lake at Bellagio from the Identity Lounge - they are stunning... beyond stunning.

The Cosmopolitan appears to be embracing it's place on The Strip and reveling in it - personalizing it and making it an integral part of it's identity. Doubling down on it even. Unlike CityCenter, where designers seemed almost ashamed to be part of the legacy of their neighborhood, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas seems to be all about providing a window to the excitement that's both inside and outside it's doors.

I had a lot of fun on our tour today. I love the little details like the varied light fixtures and chandeliers (not THE chandelier, though that is stunning as well), the Japanese soaking tubs (again, with great views), the huge suites with their wine fridges and complete cocktail gear, the varied and interesting restaurant designs, the at-first-seemingly-random but at closer-examination-definitely-not collection of LP covers leading the way down to the now not-so-secret pizza place, and one gaming innovation: casino cabanas.

That last item is a simple but unique idea and I'll be very curious to see if it plays - table games, separated via beaded curtains, allowing you and your buddies to have a semi-private experience without running afoul of state law.

In our interview, Mr. Unwin repeatedly gave us the phrase 'different that matters'. It appears that's something of an ethos for the new resort - change and challenge the operational and design status quo but not just for the sake of doing so - it has to be done for a reason. I like the sound of that philosophy but it's too soon for me to judge if that's just a catch-phrase or if it means something tangible.

I'm back here next week and I'm looking forward to it. It will be a lot more fun to write about this stuff when I have photos and tales of customer service to share. Right now the place is all promise.

I hope that promise is fulfilled because that would be a lot more fun than the alternative.

UPDATE: We got permission to post a few new, blurry photos of the joint - the lobby, part of the casino and the Vesper bar, which is right off the lobby. We'll have full-on, real, non-blurry photos and video in a few days.


Read archived comments (15 so far)
December 10, 2010 8:40 AM Posted by Brian Fey

What looked like a stained glass ceiling above one of the elevator lobbies looks pretty interesting. More and more pics are leaking out and in several media outlets, the place looks pretty interesting to say the last. Its interesting, how so many of these hotels are able to profit from Wynn's greatest carnival creation. Its amazing how hotels get extra money for rooms with a lake view, for a lake that's owned by their neighbor. I'm not even sure Cosmo will charge a premium, but many places do. I'm very curious to see how Cosmo does when battling with the big boys. I don't see how DB ever gets their money out of this project though, $4 Billion dollars is a huge amount of money, It could be a life time before they ever get their money back.

December 10, 2010 9:22 AM Posted by Hunter

Cosmo's rooms have the best view of the Bellagio lake you can get anywhere - it's a huge asset for them.

It's pretty awesome to be standing out there, 55 stories up, and hear the SuperShooters fire off a column of water a couple hundred feet high.

The money thing is a very tough nut to crack, even with the write-offs they've already done. There are a couple of ways they could go to post good numbers, some of which are risky. Hey, I wouldn't even be shocked if they did a spin off and IPO at some point, in an effort to lower their exposure at least somewhat.

December 10, 2010 9:33 AM Posted by Jay

This place has some potential, but after the initial fizzle what will separate it. I already hear the gaming is terrible odds, they could have separated themselves from everyone by offering good Video Poker and table game odds, but apparently not! Other than another sheek and classy hotel, like City Center I dont think it will offer much. Sad!

December 10, 2010 9:45 AM Posted by Hunter

I think it's too soon to evaluate the state of the casino in terms of odds. They're a new operation that will likely experiment with that a bit over time, especially since they're so easy to change.

I agree though, it would be nice if that was a selling point. I have this feeling it won't be but we'll have to see.

December 10, 2010 10:57 AM Posted by TC from Boston


I've only just started listening to the Unwinterview, But I have two questions that may or may not be brought up..

Is it safe to assume that the "Premium View" portion of the rooms are that of Bellagio? Or when you book one of the "Premium Views" It's a crap shoot of something they deem premium?

Are there rooms that when you open the get a lovely view of the Jockey Club?


December 10, 2010 11:33 AM Posted by BigHoss

I really enjoyed the interview and your thoughts. I'm getting very excited to see the place and wish I could be out there next week with all of you. Oh well, April isn't too far away.

I agree with Brian about the payback being a tall order. However, if the value that John Unwin et al have built to date is backed by exceptional service, then the concept could produce an outstanding brand with a lot of potential in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

December 10, 2010 12:09 PM Posted by Aaron_b

I would bet that Cosmo will be able to get away with charging a premium for the rooms with terraces facing north due to the spectacular views. The private outdoor terraces are such a unique feature being so close to the strip that I could see them greatly boosting Cosmo’s occupancy rates. Over time it will be interesting to see where Cosmo’s room rates settle.
Hunter, are there any plans for a pre Cosmo opening meetup of blog readers & Vegas Gang listeners who are in town for the opening? Though I haven’t posted here very often it would be great to get to meet the gang.

December 10, 2010 1:33 PM Posted by Dave

I'm so steeped in the marketing at this point that I actually used the phrase "new-to-market food and beverage concepts" in a conversation about the place.

Great interview.

December 10, 2010 3:43 PM Posted by parchedearth

I'm surprised with how much of the marketing message overlaps with what Aria was mocked for trying just a year ago. It's almost like Cosmo is a second bite at the apple, but they haven't completely learned from MGM's missteps. I do think there are some clear differences which give them a better chance for this message to succeed, but I would have gone another direction given how poorly the CityCenter messaging was received.

The Marriott convention bookers may be a big help in filling the place. Unwin mentioned Ritz Carlton several times. I still think they might end up branding the hotel as being "managed by Ritz Carlton".

The balconies may end up being a big selling point instead of a problem. Let's hope they don't get trendy for suicides.

I am starting to think the walk-in strip traffic may not be such a great thing. It even has the potential to overcrowd the casino during the summer months; especially with the small footprint.

December 10, 2010 6:42 PM Posted by Hunter

Aaron - I plan to be at most if not all of the meet-ups listed on this page:

December 11, 2010 2:13 AM Posted by Chris77

To me, "different that matters" is not just balconies or iPod docks, it's ideas like the Forum Shops, Mystere, Rehab, or the Stratosphere thrill rides. Those were all new business models that created entirely different Vegas experiences that simply hadn't existed before. Even little things like Wynn's golf course, Ferrari dealership, Lake of Dreams, and custom Bentley fleet; those were all promises of new experiences to have, not just a new building to have them in. I've yet to hear about anything like that from Cosmo. I like the marketing and am excited for the opening, but it still just seems like the same old product in a different package.

December 11, 2010 10:17 AM Posted by stevecovington (steve_c)

I really like the fact that it is right on the strip more than anything. Very urban. Very old school Vegas, sort of what I stupidly managed to think CityCenter would be like.

Really love the photos. Is the huge chandelier bar thingy right off the strip, or is it tucked back near hotel registration? Looking forward to seeing revised property maps.

December 11, 2010 11:24 AM Posted by Hunter

The chandelier is closer to the Strip side. Maybe a third of the way back if you enter from that direction.

December 11, 2010 1:20 PM Posted by socalduck

Wine fridge? Awesome!

Don't underestimate the power of Cosmo's relationship with Marriott. Cosmo has a prime spot on the Marriott home page, right where it can be seen by all those legions of MR members looking to burn a few thousand points for a real Strip casino resort.

If the service lives up to expectations, this place could really pop. I won't get to find out for myself until next year, but I can't wait to hear the feedback from the grand opening.

December 12, 2010 12:49 PM Posted by Gypsy

Hunter -

If you go high enough in the Eastside tower (55+), you will see something MGM wasn't counting on...the unfinished upper floors of the Harmon. Can you actually "top off" if you only throw up several stories of reflective outside walls to increase the overall height?