Trip Notes: Cleveland -> Las Vegas -> Los Angeles -> Cleveland.

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Here is a collection of random thoughts and advice from my recent trip. I’d appreciate feedback in the comments to see if this type of report is worthwhile or not...

Departure:
Sunday, 03/15 on Continental flight 757 leaving Cleveland at 8:50pm, arriving in Las Vegas at 10:30pm.

-This may have been the latest east-west coast flight that I’ve ever been on. It’s kind of nice to have a whole day to do stuff before the trip, but when you arrive at your destination you are totally wiped out.

-The sold-out flight was surprisingly light on elites. As of Saturday night Continental had not sold a single first class seat, so all 9 elite members who had tickets on the flight were given complimentary upgrades, leaving 7 open first class seats.

-On Sunday I noticed that Continental had blocked seats in the first class cabin, indicating that coach was oversold and Continental was going to have an op-up situation. An op-up occurs when the airline needs to “bump” people from their coach seat into first class due to too many seats in coach being sold and not enough no-shows in coach. Anticipating this I was waiting at the gate 70 minutes prior to boarding. At 60 minutes when the gate agent arrived I was able to easily land an op-up for my wife just for the asking.

Invaluable tools used: pda.continental.com, seatguru.com and flyaow.com/classamex.htm

-Just as we were about to board the flight the lead flight attendant was knocked unconscious by the errant luggage of a passenger. We were deboarded while 2 ambulances came to take her to the hospital. Continental quickly scrambled for a new flight attendant and the flight took off only 40 minutes late and landed only a few minutes behind schedule.

-The brand new Continental Presidents Club is the nicest non-hub lounge that I’ve ever seen. It is expansive and has a beautiful view of the Vegas skyline.

-I brought along the lonely planet guide for Vegas as well as the lonely planet guide for the incredible looking Zion and Bryce Canyon just in case…

-Renting a one-way car from Avis the airport: $280 with tax.
Renting a one-way car from Avis on the Las Vegas strip: $170 with tax.
Only problem: The strip location wouldn’t open until Monday morning, which meant finding my own way to the hotel on Sunday night.
You definitely want to rent a car in Vegas as there is an abundance of free parking at every hotel, and the good kosher restaurants are over 7 miles away from the Strip, or about an $80 taxi ride round trip!
We wound up with a fully-loaded Saturn Aura with leather seats, which turned out to be a nice mid-size car, perfect considering the amount of miles (over 600!) we put on it in such a short time.

-Supposedly there is some law that the strip hotels can’t provide shuttle service to/from the airport. So that left me with the taxi vs. shuttle debate. The hotel said that a taxi should run about $15, so with the shuttles costing $6.50 per person it seemed like a no-brainer to take a taxi…Until I saw the impossibly long line for the taxi.
I had read in the lonely planet guide that the airport porters have access to skip the taxi line and one even offered his services when we doubled back inside the airport after seeing the taxi line. For a simple $2 tip for our solitary suitcase we skipped the entire taxi line.

-The lonely planet guide warned about taxis fare-gouging by using the airport connector tunnel to the interstate for a longer route. Instead it suggested to tell the taxi to take paradise road. Good luck with that though-our taxi driver refused! At 11:30pm, which was 2:30am as far as my body was concerned. I was too tired to argue with the steadfast taxi driver. The fare wound up being $27.50, and incredibly the guy had the nerve to scream at me for not tipping! How about following directions next time buddy?

-It’s hard to express just how nice the Wynn and Encore resorts are. To get an idea, they cost over $5 Billion (yes, with a B) to to develop. The Wynn opened in 2005 and the Encore just opened a few months ago. They are true masterpieces. The 2 buildings are attached via an ultra-high end shopping mall.

-The Wynn and Encore hotel checkin areas appear to be chronically understaffed at nearly all times. Surprising for such a luxury hotel…

-We started off the trip with 2 nights at the Wynn. The nights were absolutely free! No tax, no nonsense, no nothing!
At check-in I was given a personalized letter thanking me for coming and offering $120 of breakfast credit, $90 of lunch credit, and a 4pm late checkout. I explained that as a religious jew I wouldn’t be able to partake in the food offerings and asked just to trade it for free wi-fi (normally $14/day), which was immediately granted.
As part of the AMEX package we were upgraded to a panoramic view room on the 58th floor, which was quite spectacular!
The room had it all, an amazing view, a coach and workspace, a widescreen HDTV, etc. The bathroom was huge and had 2 sinks, a jacuzzi, a separate shower, and a separate room for the toilet. The robes provided were splendidly luxurious.

-We had no problem checking out of the Wynn and immediately checking in to the Encore. Same deal, except this time I was turned down for the free wi-fi. We were upgraded in the Encore as well to a panoramic view suite on the 55th floor.

-The Encore is brand new and we both preferred the look and decor of the Encore. Also the room layout, with a split bedroom and workspace was nicer at the Encore as well.
I also loved the power panel at the Encore next to the bed. From it you could control the shear drapes, the main drapes, all of the lights in the room, and you could even turn on a privacy light so you aren’t disturbed by housekeeping in the morning. Another nice thing at the Encore was the number of available outlets-at the Wynn those were hard to find!

-There is so much to do (Visit Paris, Venice, NYC, Cairo, and French Polonesia) and free shows (Volcanoes erupting, pirates fighting, fountains dancing, circus acts, Carinival, etc.) to go to in Vegas to keep you occupied for days without betting a dime. And that’s all besides for other sites and side trips like the nearby Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam, or even the Grand Canyon and Zion/Bryce.

-If you look around you will find promo offers at every hotel for signing up for their frequent players card. For example we got $20 of free play at the Excalibur just for showing them our Wynn room keys!

-Tix4tonight offers up to half off on dozens of shows. They have multiple locations throughout the strip and it’s definitely worth stopping by before paying retail.

-If you are into gambling it’s worth investing the $0.97 to buy a card like the blackjack basic strategy card, which limits the house advantage to under one half of a percent. The casinos allow you to refer to the card while playing. (If you’re mathematically inclined it is also totally legal and fairly straightforward to count the cards in play to actually give yourself an advantage over the house. Just do it discreetly as it is frowned upon…)

-Kosher restaurants that we went to:
Adar Pizza: Great location, but breathtakingly overpriced. $15 for a calzone? $7 for fries or refried onion rings? $6 for an ice cream?
The kicker? After returning 2 pitchers of water with highly suspicious objects in them we were offered bottled water-and then charged $4 for it!
Once and done.

Panini Grill: About 8 miles from the strip, the food was very good but the service was entirely incompetent.
My wife’s greek salad ($10 was quite good, but I decided on a eggplant parmigiana ($12). What came was literally half of an eggplant, skin attached, with cheese on top. When I asked the waitress where exactly the sauce was, she apologized and brought it back to the kitchen. When they remade the meal the eggplant was still frozen in the middle. At this point they asked if I would just like another meal so I chose one of the ravioli dishes. What came out was entirely different…a plate of spaghetti!
Aurghhh!
Finally they got me the ravioli, which was actually quite nice, and comped us a delicious piece of cake (normally $8). They were friendly and quite apologetic throughout, so I did actually leave a nice tip…

Village Steakhouse: Now this place is a gem!
Service was outstanding, and everything we ordered was made to perfection! One night I got the green peppercorn prime reserve steak and the next night I ordered the orange bbq ribs. Both were absolutely incredible and well worth their ~$40 price tags. The side dishes were even more impressive. The sweet potato fries with maple aioli were out of this world. Best of all a generous portion of them was just $5. The menu was different both of the times we went (both of the entrees I ordered only appeared on one night) which was neat as well. The complimentary bread and dips also changed between the two times that we went. Equally impressive (especially for those who have been to restaurants with me) is that I never reached the bottom of my water glass!
This is also located about 8 miles from the strip.

-On Wednesday I hid the room key to my Encore room in the parking garage in anticipation of giving the room away for that night. Joshua F. was the first confirmed respondent and he had the privilege of playing detective trying to find the hidden room key! Congrats on getting the free night!

-We decided to drive from Las Vegas to Irvine, CA where my wife was to attend a wedding. People there seemed shocked that I would drive. Honestly I can’t understand why. It took about 3:45 to drive the 260 miles at an average speed of about 70mph. In order to fly it would take well more than that to return the car, clear security, fly to LAX/LGB/SNA, rent another car, and drive to Irvine.

-Those Virgin America creative floks weren’t making up the “somewhere over Zzyzx, CA” place in their promo video. We passed by the sign for it on the drive! Double miles if you can pronounce that correctly!

-I took the liberty of slipping out of the wedding in order to go learn with my brother JJ in his yeshiva for an hour before treating him to a “gourmet” meal at Jeff’s gourmet. Mmm now those are good homemade onion rings!

-We stayed in the category 2 Westin LAX for 4,000 Starpoints. The paid rate would have been over $200+tax!
I was upgraded to a terrace suite with 2 rooms and a nice balcony with just clear skies above it. A decent hotel, but it can definitely use better soundproofing!

-We flew back on the red-eye, Continental 634 from LAX-CLE which was a completely sold-out flight. Luckily we were seated in row 14, in which you probably have more leg room than first class, and have the added bonus of being able to recline while the row in front of it has no ability to recline on you!

-Poor timing: With an 11:20pm PDT red-eye return flight, I was on one of the last Continental flights to not qualify for the double elite miles promo ;(

Pictures (Click on thumbnail to expand in a new tab/window):

Wynn Bathroom 1

Wynn Bathroom 2

Wynn Bedroom

Wynn Phone (personalized)

Wynn Room Key (personalized)

Wynn Hotel

Wynn Hallway

View of Encore From Wynn Room

Encore Bathroom

Encore Bedroom 1

Encore Bedroom 2

Encore Entryway

Encore Living Room

Encore Hallway

Sweet Potato Fries At Village Steakhouse

Leave a Reply

20 Comments On "Trip Notes: Cleveland -> Las Vegas -> Los Angeles -> Cleveland."

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Me21

wow. Sounds great. first of all, you got a real winner of a gal- only one suitcase! second, what did you do during the day in la?

cb

Love it!

mo

Welcome Back.
Thanks for the feedback, you may never know when it comes in handy.
Had a couple of questions,and comments>
1- Where on continental’s site can i find that pda.continental.com link?
2- How did you know that there wasn’t one first class ticket purchased by Motzei Shabbos, and how were you aware that there was 9 elite members scheduled on the flight?
3- How did you know “On Sunday I noticed that Continental had blocked seats in the first class cabin” -How did you know they were blocked, and not purchased or reserved for crew members or family?
4- Op-up only takes place at the gate? Is there now way to do it at check in, or for a nominal fee?
5- Had I been in front of you on the line, would your wife have lost out on the first class? What would you have done then?
6- Can you see in advance with other airlines as well who was upgraded? If yes, which?
_______________________________________________

JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT WE WERE DONE WITH AIRLINE BAGGAGE RULES AND FEES, WE ARE ABOUT TO GET SLAPPED WITH A NEW ONE:
“carry-on luggage will be restricted to a minimal amount of weight so that flight attendants don’t get knocked unconscious by some errant luggage”
Thanks again!!!!!

levi

Dan, This is a great trip report! Thanks for all the info.

I plan on going to Vegas soon and all this information will be very helpful.

“No tax, no nonsense, no nothing!” I thought that you have have to pay the tax on your Platinum card?

“fully-loaded Saturn Aura” Was that the nicest car they had on their lot? Chairmans Club??

chulent

exellent,
now lets hear about hawaii

Jeff

Hey Dan.
Thanks for the report. We can all learn alot form your travel experiences!!!

danFan

Dan, this was an AMAZING summary!!!
THANK YOU!!!

Eli

Very nice Dan. I also ate at those 3 restaurants when I was there recently and had the same opinion…Adar was not so good (Although they delivered twice to my suite in the Caesers) and VERY expensive. Panini cafe – food also wasn’t great and service sucked although the waitress I had was new and at the end they worked everything out. Village Steakhouse…WOW. It’s like Prim Grill (both in ambiance and food taste and selection) at 2/3 the price. Excellent and highly recommended.

d

Excellent report! Thanks, will prove handy.

mommafrica

W/ no form of disrespect, can u pls explain why ur not allowed to accept the food offering & does this happen often? N other words, is it ok for u to book a rm that includes breakf/is this something totally different?

yossi

Cool! quite some hands on information there!!
A bit long whith the restaurants, though. Keep up the good work Dan!!

Flyer

Dan, It’s really nice that you take time to write this all up, although I don’t see myself taking a trip like yours in the near future it is still good to know, and I think this should be tagged on the top of your web page.

Dan/Ctownbochur

@Me21:
You should’ve seen how many suitcases we had in Hawaii!



@mo:
1. Why do you need to find it on continental.com? Just use pda.continental.com from your PC or phone.

2.The PDA site showed 9 FC seats were booked as well as 9 elite upgrades. It also showed that there were no elites standing by for an upgrade, meaning that all elites were already upgraded.

3.The PDA site said x blocked seats.

4. Op-up, or operation upgrades, generally only take place at the gate, and is totally at the discretion of the gate agent.

5. You would have needed a good reason to make your case for an op-up. Mine was pretty good as an elite member who’s wife was stuck in the back.
Had the upgrade not cleared I would’ve traded seats with the person sitting next to my wife in coach.

6. I believe Delta has that functionality now as well.



@levi:
The AMEX agent said the tax would be charged to the card, but it never was, and the checkout bill showed $0.00!

I have yet to receive a Caddy on a one-=way rental with CHM status.

@chulent:
All in good time 🙂


@Eli:
Thanks for backing up my restaurant report!
I thought the ambiance in Village Steakhouse was actually quite a bit nicer than Prime Grill! It was really really nice there and the food was just awesome!

@mommafrica:
No disrespect at all!
As I can only eat kosher food it is nearly impossible to find such food at an ordinary restaurant, hence my reason for turning down the food credit.


@cb, @Jeff, @danFan,
@d, and @Flyer:
Thanks for the feedback guys, I truly appreciate it!!!

mo

Thanks for your response.

yossi

do they offer 2 seprate beds or only one king?

Avid Reader

Dan, great report. Thanks for sharing!

The Bub

Loved reading about the trip-as you never have time to go into details in person.

mommafrica

Thanks for answering. Nice report. It feels even better doing these trips w/ someone u love, huh!

lost in CA

Dan,
I gotta quibble with your restaurant review in vegas. I travel there quite often and been to all of them (unfortunately).
Village steakhouse – overpriced, where’s the beef? maybe i’m a CA spoiled brat, but this place is way over the top and not much to show for it.

Adar Pizza – I’m with u, don’t go there!!!

Panini – We enjoyed it, decent food, sorry about your misadventure.

Jaffe – lousy food, only redeeming factor is close to the strip.

Sababa – the place u should have gone to. moderately priced, good simple morroccan food, owner is a ball of fun.

esther michael

i am desperate for two tickets round trip for this sukkos from sunday September 30th to October 10th but I cannot figure out how to work your website

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