Around 1:00pm, we pull into the valet parking area at Mandalay Bay. That in itself is quite a feat for first timers because it is very hard to find. There is a line of about five cars and a sign saying "sorry, lot full". A parking attendant comes along and asks us to roll down our window. He says it will be about five minutes and we'll be able to pull in.
True to his word, about five minutes later he's back, guiding us in. I tell him we have a ramp and to please put us somewhere I can deploy it. He says ok and proceeds to put us 2 feet from the car next to us with no room for the ramp. I then ignore him and pull forward to where I can open the ramp...I figure if he can ignore my request, I can ignore his. No one makes any kind of deal about this and we proceed to get out of the van.
About ten minutes later, a bellman comes up and takes our luggage and we go to registration to check in.
There is a HUGE crowd at the check in counters.
Here is the first place I see where Mandalay Bay could improve itself. There are around fifty check-in counters open. Instead of having one line and whoever is next in line go to the next open window (like an airport or a bank), they insist that each counter have its own line. Too bad if your counter person is very slow and you didn't get in the line with the fast person.
Check in goes very, very slow. An hour and fifteen minutes later we finally get up to the counter, get our keys, and go up to our room.
Our roomy ninth floor room is very nice. Two queen size beds and floor to window ceilings. A 27" TV in a amoire, his and hers closets, and a big bathroom. The bathroom has a tub and a separate shower. There are two sinks, all the toiletries you could ever want (plus more), and the toilet is in its own separate little room with a phone.
OK, so we call up the bell desk to get our luggage. Just a few minutes more and we'll be ready to hit the town....
Except that we have to wait another hour for our luggage! So, pulling into the valet, checking in, and getting our luggage....grand total, two and a half hours. Mind you, this is one of the more expensive hotels in Las Vegas.
After getting our luggage, we hop on the monorail and head over to the Tropicana. We just have barely enough time to grab a very quick bite for lunch and then settle down to watch the Rick Thomas Magic Show.
Tropicana Security escorts us around the backstage area where we can get to the accessible table seats in the Tiffany Theater. We get good seats at the middle aisle and it's a very good show.
The illusions range all the way from simple card tricks to making white tigers appear out of thin air. Sigfreid and Roy are not the only white tiger handlers in Vegas. In fact, Thomas makes a point of this fact that the white tiger is rare with only about 100 left in the world. He has one...and Sigfried and Roy have the rest.
There is no drink minimum at this show and regular price is $16.95. You can also win free or discounted tickets at the free pull slot machine in front of the casino. This fantastic show is really a bargain and one of the few shows in town you can be comfortable taking kids to.
After the show, we head back to our room to rest and refresh before heading out to see the evening's sights. That evening, we drive up to the Flamingo where we park and head out to the strip.
Next, we were going to head over to Treasure Island to see the pirate show. The crowds were just too thick and we couldn't get to within a block of the place, so we cancelled that one.
Instead, we head back across the street to the Venetian where gondolas ply the canals. Really, they just do circles around the pond out from and make laps of the one canal inside. At $15 per person, it just didn't look worth it to us (for a great gondola ride at a great price - free - see our Dining in Scottsdale report).
Inside the Venetian, I have to give high marks to their shopping area. It's beautiful....and this is coming from a typical guy who hates to shop and will go to great lengths to avoid a mall. The ceiling looks exactly like a daytime sky. The grand canal with its many bridges puts a very serene backdrop to the area, and the grand plaza with its many performers is an entertaining place to sip a cool and refreshing drink.
Back outside, there is a plaza between Bally's and the Imperial Palace with a Mardi Gras theme that offers free live entertainment in an outdoor theater. It's kinda cramped but it's still a fun place to waste some time.
The crowds on the strip have done their job at wearing us down, so we head back to our hotel at the southern end of the strip.
The next morning we order up some room service for breakfast and make a pleasant discovery. You see, last night we were walking by the coffee shop and notice a basic bacon & eggs breakfast was around twenty dollars. We figured for that price, we might as well order room service. So we order just a side order of eggs, a side order of bacon, and coffee for breakfast and found out that with room service, they throw in all the other stuff like fruit, toast, and hash browns anyway.
Although it turned out to still be expensive compared to many places, it was quite a bit less than the coffee shop downstairs and we had a spectacular view from our little table next to the big windows in our room.
Today, our plan is to spend the entire day at Mandalay Bay's gigantic pool area. At eleven acres, it is quite a sight. Access is strictly controlled to allow only hotel guests in. Everyone, down to the littlest child, must posses a room key to get inside. All are checked.
Inside, there is a huge sandy-beached wave pool with four foot waves suitable for body surfing. There are two smaller, traditional pools, a few hot tubs, and a lazy river.
We find some lounge chairs adjacent to the lazy river.
Tim has never been in a wave pool, so that's the first order of the day. We can get his wheelchair almost up to the edge, but from then on I have to carry him in. Since the pool is very shallow at the edge and very gradually deepens, it's quite a feat to get him to water deep enough to float in.
After bounding around the waves for about an hour, I manage to get him out and we make our way over to the lazy river. A hut rents tubes for the river but at a cost...$20 per day. You can trade back and forth between the tube or a floating lounge during the day at no extra cost (Only tubes are allowed in the lazy river but you can take the floating lounge into the regular pools. Neither one is allowed in the wave pool). Life jackets are free. You can also buy a tube ahead of time at Walgreens or a sporting goods store so you avoid the rental fee.
I help Tim into his tube, jump into mine and proceed to float around for the next few hours while my wife alternates with laying in the sun and occasional forays into the river. A cave with two waterfalls ensures that no part of you will stay dry in the lazy river.
Servers sporadically bring drinks to our lounges...very sporadically. I also found out that giving them a big tip does nothing to speed up their rounds! There's a couple of good restaurants here and we have lunch at the nearest one with hot dogs, burgers and salads.
The pool here is one of Vegas' great pools but I like the laid back party atmosphere of the Tropicana's pool better. I don't know if it's the correct term I'm looking for, but the crowd around the Mandalay Pool seems a little more uptight.
After our day in the water and sun, we head downtown to what is supposed to be one of the city's finest steak houses, The Ranch at Binion's Horseshoe.
On arrival, we make our way through the smoky casino to the restaurant elevator. Despite emphasizing we had a wheelchair upon making our reservation, no table is held for us. We end up being the only diners that do not have a table right up next to the top floor windows.
We order and soup is brought. I have to admit, the soup was delicious. Next the steaks. Supposedly dry-aged, USDA prime steaks from their own ranch, they were not near as tender or tasty as they should have been. The Ranch, far from being the best, was a major disappointment for us.
We go back to the hotel, pack up, and the next morning - after another round of room service - check out and go home.
Lesson learned: More does not mean better. As you can see in the main story above, the Tropicana at one third the price delivered twice as much fun and bang for the buck as the supposedly luxurious Mandalay Bay down the street.
Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
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