After my recent trip around California ending in Las Vegas, I have literally so much to share with you, but thought I’d start at the end, with a review of the hotel we stayed in. It was really between Encore and one of the CityCenter complex hotels, which I think I would try next time, so I’ll be interested to hear if you can compare them.
When we were browsing hotels for our Vegas trip, there seemed to be 2 options; classic Vegas-style themed hotels that make up The Strip and much of Vegas’ characteristic attractions, or the new breed of uber luxury. Given that we wanted to treat ourselves and prices are relatively cheap considering the standard of hotels, we opted for the latter and chose Encore, the all-suite sister hotel of the Wynn. Built in 2005 the rooms looked stunning and the vibe seemed very young, cool and geared towards eating and drinking, plus essential poolside people watching.
Impressive is not the word for this hotel. On first arriving I was really over-awed. I’ve stayed in similar hotels before (Dubai seems the best comparison for opulence and sheer excess,) but having come from the solitude and isolation of Death Valley and other National parks before that, it was overwhelming in its contrasts.
Our room was incredible, with a wide hallway, wardrobe and large marble bathroom off that and then the bedroom followed by a separated lounge area with desk and floor to ceiling mountain views. (Strip views would have been amazing but were significantly more expensive and we were later told they could be noisy with traffic and party noise filtering up.) We also upgraded for about £40 to the top 10 floors and actually ended up on the 62nd, just under the top floor.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the all pervasive gaming and casino atmosphere. That might have seemed a little naive but we watched the hotel video and it was made such little note of. I expected the newer hotels to be a little less casino orientated and how wrong I was. Although much of it was close to windows and therefore different to some of the basement holes that passed for casinos in other hotels, of course, the whole hotel revolved around gaming. Bars have gaming screens built into the bar top, and many of the restaurants overlook the casino. There was even poolside gaming!
Most annoying for me was the smoke. Smoking is allowed in the casinos in Las Vegas and as a result basically filters throughout the whole hotel. We came face to face with cigars in the lifts, hotel corridors, cigarettes by the pool, in fact everywhere except the restaurants. It was a major turn off to Vegas for me, particularly when a short walk to your room or restaurant could leave you smelling of cigarettes like a blast from 2006 in the UK.
We ate in the hotel restaurants each evening, first at Mizumi, a Japanese fine dining experience for our anniversary, the second at Society Cafe, (the fanciest cafe I’ve ever sat in that’s for sure,) and on the final night in Stratta after an epic walk down the strip. Although obviously expensive, the food was great in all of them, stunning in Mizumi and the decor in each was out of this world.
On our last day we also visited the brunch buffet which was incredible, although I was beyond disappointed that there were no breakfast items amongst the sushi, grill, barbecue, italian, seafood, asian and dessert offerings. I do like my pancakes!
One of my favourite things about Encore was the pool scene. There are 5 pools at the Wynn – both Wynn and Encore have 2, a ‘resort’ pool and a ‘European’ pool, which was described as a place ‘you can go topless if you want to‘. We were a little bemused by that and I can only imagine they were trying to covey an atmosphere of beautiful people and decadence. In reality the guests weren’t topless (all but!) but there was brilliant music (on loud) and a great atmosphere, with people basically there to see and be seen.
I loved it and we spent a couple of hours each day at the Encore European pool. The fifth pool I mentioned above is the Encore Beach club – a pool party with DJ’s like Tiesto and Deadmau5. We thought about checking it out but it turned out tickets were $150, perhaps worth paying if you’re a fan of the DJ or club scene, but as we basically wanted to be a bit nosey, we opted out!
What I loved:
- The range and quality of restaurants
- The luxe rooms
- The pool scene
able expected to dress up for everything from going to pool to dinner.
- The incredible decor – not my personal taste but incredible all the same with amazing attention to detail and luxurious touches everywhere, from the curtain trims to table tops inlaid with mother of pearl.
What I hated:
- The smoke
- The cool kids (and not-so-youthful people flashing the cash)
- The service, or lack of.
- Did I mention the smoke?
To just qualify my statements about the service and the people, it really felt like the hotel was a conveyor belt designed to take our money. I’m not foolish enough to think that any hotel this size or in Vegas might be different, but from the lack of a bell boy, to the exclusive attitude of club managers (the lines were patrolled for pretty girls who were then ushered in for free, while men paid in excess of $100,) and the jaded looks of the casino staff, it really wasn’t for me. I like my luxury understated. We queued for check in like at the supermarket and it was a very faceless, impersonal experience. Little things like complimentary wifi, actually weren’t complimentary when we arrived. It was implied that as a hotel guest, you would get preferential access to things like the clubs but in reality it was very much about the way you looked and the image they were trying to create.
My conclusion, Vegas is like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it and I swung between the two throughout our stay. In the past, I thought it would be a great place to go back to in winter for guaranteed sun and some adult fun, but now, I think I’d choose another location. That said, I am glad we went. It’s not somewhere I see there being a lot of things you can do with kids (although we did see them at the pool with families,) but it’s certainly somewhere you have to see once.
I’d love to hear if you have a hotel recommendation or any thoughts on Vegas hotels. I’m going to do a post on things to do another time, so save those suggestions for me!