Las Vegas Trip Report: Shows And Staying Off-Strip

David C. Surette of Vancouver, British Columbia wrote:

Many thanks for your newsletter during the past few months as I planned my 1st time ever Vegas trip. We have just returned from what turned out to be a totally enjoyable vacation which included a few days in Vegas. The spectacle of the Strip was overwhelming; we didn’t manage to get to the downtown area or the outskirts as we were thoroughly immersed in centralized exploration. The mega-resorts were fabulous and provided great backdrops and settings for our numerous photos. We were only there for 46 hours but managed to see all the major sites and resort properties between the Luxor and the Stratosphere. We tempted fate and the laws of physics by partaking in both of the Stratosphere’s attractions (fortunately, before the wonderful buffet dinner at the Bellagio). Our other meal was the Dinner Buffet offered by Mandalay Bay. Almost every review we read rated Bellagio as the #1 Buffet in Vegas…. however, we found Mandalay Bay to be superior in this respect. The food quality and selection was equal or better than Bellagio, the cost was ~$7 less and the setting/ambience was similar. At Bellagio they peel and devein the jumbo shrimp and slice the Alaska King crab legs for you… I’d rather do it the Mandalay Bay way where they make you work bit for that wonderful seafood flavor by not deveining the shrimp or slicing up the crab legs ! Believe it or not, seafood tastes better when savoring that wonderful taste is prolonged by wrestling with the shells.

We saw a great show both evenings, booked through “Best Reservations” as advertised in your newsletter (editors note: ).  As the tickets were prepaid (in addition to a $9.90 service charge per show) we merely showed up at the “will-call” section of the Box Office an hour before showtime, presented the credit card and sited the reservation #. Our tickets were handed to us and it was “showtime”. We had great seats for both shows: Sigfreid & Roy and Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. Overall we preferred Mystere over S&R but wanted to be counted in the many who have seen S&R during their 29 year reign in Las Vegas as the #1 Box office draw. I am already planning our next Vegas jaunt which will include seeing Cirque du Soleil’s “O” and Lance Burton, shows we couldn’t possibly fit in this time around.

Our fondest and most vivid recollections of the Strip were Paris and the Venetian’s facades, the Star Trek experience at the LV Hilton,  Bellagio’s fountain, everything at Mandalay Bay, Treasure Island’s “touristy” Pirate Battle, and the realization that things (mega-resorts) are actually much farther away than they appear. We stayed about 3/4 mile off the Strip at Quality Inn Key Largo and took taxis everywhere we went. In retrospect, it would have been less expensive to rent a car but the hassle clearly wouldn’t have been worth it.

We discovered that Vegas is a tip-hungry town… especially taxi drivers. Standard tips at the Buffets seemed to be about $5/table…we tipped about $5 for drinks at the gaming tables. The only uncomfortable or disturbing experience we had was with a cab driver who insisted on a better tip. He literally was not going to let us out of the cab until we paid him off. The trip was from the Bellagio to the Mirage for the S&R show… the cost on the meter was about $4.60 .. I gave him $6 and waved off the change, tried to open
the door and found it locked. From his broken English I initially thought that he wanted to give me change or misunderstood that he could keep the change but quickly realized that he was asking for more. He seemed to suggest that he had to pay out-of-pocket for the right to pick up guests of the Bellagio and that he was losing money by only receiving a $1.40 tip. We were already running a bit late for the show (had to forego the two free drinks) and I didn’t want to argue so I firmly and with some authority in my voice demanded that he immediately unlock the door (as we couldn’t). He complied but continued to rant as we walked toward the Mirage entrance, a tad embarrassing but we survived.

On our next visit we’ll shell out the extra bucks and stay at either Treasure Island or Mandalay Bay. Our accommodations at QI’s Key Largo were adequate (clean, quiet and roomy) but too far away from the Strip. The check-in staff there were exceptionally polite, efficient and courteous. Given the nature of the interaction we observed with some of the other guests, I commend their patience and professionalism. We missed our flight to LA because we arrived at the airport after the baggage check-in time limit. We were held up in traffic because of a serious accident and the flight time was moved 20 minutes forward…. two things I didn’t count on. We had to be in LA to catch a Cruise Ship so we split up and hit the other airline line-ups in search of two seats to LA in time to make the cruise. Fortunately, Southwest Airlines came through for us and we were in LA with 2 hours to spare.

Looking forward to our next visit!

Ted Responds:

Thanks for the great letter. It inspired us to write our article on tipping today. If a cabby has to pay to pick up at Bellagio, that’s not only news to us, but not your problem. Your tip was plenty generous for a short trip.

I too have had cabbys attempt to screw me by taking me the longer route, etc. (thinking I was a tourist that didn’t know any better). Anytime you get into ANY dispute with a cab driver, simply mention that you are going to call the Taxicab Authority and file a complaint. Ever seen a cab driver’s face turn pale? I have. The Nevada Taxi Cab Authority is at 486-6532 and is also listed in the white pages under “Nevada – State of / Taxicab Authority.”

Also, remember that is says right on the cab – that they carry less than $5 in change. While that is generally not true, and unpleasant cabby can refuse to change in your bigger bills so get small bills before you catch the cab. Casinos aren’t short on change! Better yet, just rent a car at and save yourself the hassles and cab lines.





CEO/Managing Editor