Trip Report: Aria Sky Suites - With Photos
At the end of April, we had a three-night stay in a 2-bedroom penthouse at Sky Suites. The purpose of this trip was to celebrate my wife's 50th birthday. She specifically requested Aria, as our previous stays there have always been enjoyable, so it seemed like a great opportunity to try their top-tier room product. While there is much to love, here is the fundamental question: is it worth the premium? Well, it all depends.
Aria offers a wide range of rooms on the resort side, including a variety of very nice suites. Having stayed in a corner suite and three different 1-bedroom configurations, I can attest to the fact that they are all first-rate. So exclusivity and personalized service are the major selling points that should distinguish Sky Suites from the rest of Aria. Does it deliver? Here are my impressions:
Arrival: My wife, our two teenage kids and I were met in baggage claim by our driver, Christian. Friendly and efficient, he had us and our belongings loaded into the back of the hotel's Escalade and we were off. Access to the Sky Suites entrance is via a non-descript, gated entry off of Frank Sinatra Drive. Once we arrive, we passed through the guarded entry leading to a private drive that brings you to the Sky Suites entry. Greeted by name by the two bellman and a doorman, we were ushered through the lobby/concierge lounge to the front desk, while our bags disappeared for the trip up to the room. The check-in process was very quick and efficient, if somewhat impersonal, with the desk clerk handing us our keys and itinerary for the weekend, along with a line pass to Aria Café and a couple of the clubs. Total process was completed within three minutes, which is lightning fast by Vegas standards.
Dragon sculpture guarding the Sky Suites port cochere
Accommodations: Arriving on the 37th floor, it was a short walk from the elevator to 37030. In standard Aria fashion, the curtains part and lights come up as you enter the suite. Even our teenagers, in Vegas for the first time, were impressed, although they quickly went from awe-struck to looks of worry as they wondered whether the lavish digs were at the expense of their college fund (don't worry kids, that's why you have grandparents!). The entryway leads to a living room with sectional couch to the left, and the bar and dining room is to the right. The guest bath is behind the bar. HD flat panels abound, with one in the living room, a second behind the bar, one in each bedroom and smaller ones in each of the master baths. About the only place you can't watch TV is the guest bathroom.
The overall decor of our suite was elegant, if somewhat restrained compared the extravagant Roger Thomas-designed suites at Wynn and Encore. Fabrics and furnishing were high quality and everything was immaculate. While it looks a bit bland in the pictures, it all works well together when you see it in person. Apologies for the low-quality iPhone pics, it was all I had at the time.
There are two master suites, one adjacent to the living area and the second is adjacent to the dining room. While both are quite nice, the master adjacent to the living room has a somewhat larger bathroom. Both bathrooms have stand-alone jetted tubs and separate enclosed rainfall shower with steam. Just off each master bath is a walk-in closet, which contains the safe, robes, ironing board and all the other stuff you expect to find in a hotel closet. The best feature of the closet was that our kids had a place where they could toss everything into the kinds of piles that only teenagers can make, without cluttering the rest of the suite. If you have ever shared a standard room with your kids, you know how quickly chaos can reign.
View of the living room and first master bedroom.
Entertainment center in living room, looking towards the dining area.
View of the wet bar, which includes a wine fridge, regular fridge and minibar. Guest bath is off to the right.
Looking towards the 2nd master, living room and dining room on the left, entry and bar on the right.
View of the 1st master bath. Walk-in closet to the left, water closet with Toto toilet/bidet, and shower enclosure. Steam shower feature worked great, and was a life-saver on a couple of mornings.
Master bath makeup/dressing area. Dual vanity on the opposite wall. The second master bath was slightly smaller, and had a separate vanity instead of the makeup table. Both master baths have a stand-alone Jacuzzi tub.
King bed in both master bedrooms. Excellent bedding, but the mattress was too soft for my liking.
Spectacular view from the 1st master towards Mandarin Oriental, MGM Grand and LAS. Looking the opposite direction, great view towards Planet Hollywood and the Cosmo/Marquee pool complex.
Service: Just like Sky Suites, resort suite guests get daily newspaper delivery and evening turn-down service. Prior to our arrival, the concierge had set up our cabana reservations, but we still had to wait for the morning call from Cabana Services before we knew whether we made the cut for that day. There is a butler on-call, but aside from ordering up some champagne one night, we were not particularly demanding. While maid service on the resort side can be somewhat unpredictable, Sky Suites service was outstanding. We would leave for breakfast each morning, and by the time we returned, they had already finished up. Similarly, the evening maid service seemed to be timed perfectly with our dinner plans. Discrete and professional.
Although not specific to Sky Suites, the cabana attendants at Aria are consistently fantastic, on par with Wynn/Encore. This was our fifth stay, and we have never had anything other than a great pool experience. As much as we enjoy the Aria pool deck, the addition of outdoor gaming would make it even better.
Sky Suites concierge lounge: I travel a lot for work, and I stay in a lot of hotels, most of which have some sort of concierge or club lounge. In Asia, these can be quite elaborate, with different food presentations throughout the day, complementary high-end liquor and champagne, and in some instances made-to-order items like omelets. Expect none of those things at Sky Suites. Juice, coffee, some fruit and pastries was the extent of the morning offering, along with water and sodas. Even most run-of-the-mill Marriotts will offer eggs, bacon or other items like smoked salmon and bagels. For a hotel that strives to offer a luxury experience, this was pretty pathetic. The lounge area itself is nice, and looks much nicer in person then it did in some photos I had seen previously. There always seemed to be quite a few people hanging around, but aside from grabbing coffee in the morning, I did not see a reason to linger.
Design/layout: I will hand it to Murren and Company, they really did a great job when they laid out the physical location of Sky Suites within Aria. With the casino entry tucked away near the Baccarat room, it sits pretty much in the center of Aria, and is short walk to the cage, craps pit and sports book. Better yet, unlike the rest of Aria, the walk from your room to the elevator is pretty short, and with six elevators, there was never a wait. In fact, despite the hotel being close to capacity, I don't think I had share the elevator with anyone else more than twice. There is also a second, discrete entry on the Promenade floor adjacent to Sirio that can only be accessed with your room key. This entry provides easy access to the coffee bar, pool and spa. And while cabs do not service the Sky Suites entry, the cab stand at north valet is just around the corner. Overall, a very convenient and user-friendly design.
So was it worth it? On balance, I would say yes. Christian our driver was the first and last impression we had of Sky Suites, and he really set the tone. Housekeeping was also excellent. As noted above, the concierge lounge was lame, and definitely the weakest part of the experience, but the fantastic room and excellent location in the heart of Aria does set Sky Suites apart from the rest of the resort. Plus, the wife and kids loved the "secret” entryway, which beats the arrival experience at Wynn TS hands down. I would not hesitate to book Sky Suites for a future visit.
As for the rest of the trip, having our teenagers along for the ride made for a different, albeit pleasant experience. Having never been to Las Vegas, everything was new to the kids, which was fun for us both. We had some time Saturday afternoon and I wanted to check out Cromwell, but seeing as I was with the kids, we visited the always-impressive Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay instead. Walking back through Luxor, my daughter remarked, "The inside is kind of boring, and not all that nice. Why didn't they make it more Egyptian? Seriously, it's a giant pyramid.” I burst out laughing, as I could not say it better myself. In fact, like her father, she was interested in the design and business aspects of the different resorts, so we may have a future Vegas Tripper in the family.
My son is a big fan of Pawn Stars, so we got up early Saturday morning, grabbed breakfast and took a cab up to the Gold and Silver store. We arrived just after 9am, which is when they open up for public tours. At that hour of the morning, there was no one in line, so we were able to walk right in. We did not expect to see Chumlee, the Old Man, Rick or any of the other stars of the show, so we were not disappointed that none of them were in the store. I have to say, it seems quite a bit smaller and dingier in person than it appears on TV, with one section devoted to selling Pawn Stars t-shirts, mugs, etc. Still, there were some interesting items on hand, so it was worth the trip. However, if I had to wait in a long line to get in, it would have been very disappointing.
Apart from a couple last-minute business meetings, the focus of this trip was my wife's 50th. Tagging along in addition to our children and in-laws were 35 other friends and family members. The term "herding cats” entered my mind on a few occasions, but overall everything worked out in the end. A special thank-you goes out to the folks at Tod English P.U.B, who were able to accommodate us at the last minute, on a very busy Friday night no less, despite yours truly not having a reservation. Dumb shit mistake, I know. Ultimately, what could have been a big disaster was averted, and turned into a great evening.
For the big birthday bash, we hosted dinner at Mastro's Ocean Club in Crystals. I've been to both the Vegas and the two Orange County Mastro's locations on numerous occasions, and have never been disappointed. This night was no different. Seated in one of the private dining rooms upstairs, the service and food were outstanding from start to finish. I'm a huge fan, and if you have never had the opportunity, I highly recommend you give Mastro's a try.
Following dinner, it was back to Aria, where we took over a bunch of tables at Javier's. Seeing as that I had not really had a chance to scratch my gambling itch, one of my nieces and I found a craps table where we had a raucous (if ultimately, wildly unprofitable) few of hours of fun. By the time we got back to Javier's, it was clear that we had missed a few rounds of tequila shots. As her family is Irish Catholic, there was a high probability this evening might not end well, so my wife and I made a somewhat-graceful getaway, and called it a night around 2am.
Sunday morning arrived too soon. Bags were packed and we were out of the room just after 11am. Once again, Christian was our driver, this time behind the wheel of Town Car limo. On the way to the airport, American sent a text message informing us that our flight would be delayed an hour, a delay that eventually stretched to three hours, resulting in an unplanned night in Dallas. Fortunately, the American gates are adjacent to the excellent American Express Centurion lounge in Concourse D. Free to Centurion and Platinum card holders, it blows away other domestic airline lounges, with free premium liquor and a very good (by airport lounge standards) buffet. It is definitely worth a visit if you expect to be in the airport for an hour or more, and it beats the other lounge options at McCarran, although it can get very crowded on Sundays.
Between Sky Suites, Todd English, Mastro's, countless rounds at Javier's and the pool, topped off with a beat-down in the craps pit, it will probably by quite some time before the next Vegas trip, so I will be looking forward to reading other trip reviews while I replenish the coffers. Still, it was a great experience, and I'm glad we were able to share it with so many of our friends and family.
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Chuckmonster responded on Friday, 30th May 2014
Another great report... thank you!
detroit1051 responded on Friday, 30th May 2014
Socalduck, what a great report. Thanks! Now that I'm back into Vegas, I'd really like to try Aria, but I'm afraid a 2-bedroom Penthouse in Sky Suites is out of my league. Got a kick out of your kids' comment about their college fund.
Looking at the floorplan on the Aria site, the 2-bedroom is about 2,100 sq ft, similar to the same suite at Bellagio which I stayed in once in 1999, but Aria looks so much more contemporary (which is a good thing).
On my two trips this year, I noticed the American Express Centurion Lounge in the D Gates. I wonder if I can buy a one day pass if I'm ever delayed on Delta.
Your daughter's comments on Luxor brought back memories of when it opened, and we took the Nile River Ride and smelled the chlorine in the water.
socalduck replied on Sunday, 1st June 2014
Detroit, while Centurion and Platinum can enter for free, any Amex cardholder can buy a day pass for $50 (at least I think that is the current rate). The Club at LAS (also in D) is cheaper ($35 for a day pass), but lacks the food and beverage options of the Amex lounge. Amex has also opened a lounge at DFW in Terminal D, with another location schedule to open this year at La Guardia. I think there are plans to expand to SFO and JFK, as well.
RateVegas responded on Friday, 30th May 2014
Great report, love the detail.
I've not done Mastro's in Vegas but the LA versions have made me happy.
Nice to hear kind words for Sky Suites as well.
motoman responded on Thursday, 5th June 2014
Your photos are awesome, and the angles show off the room better than standard perpendicular-to-the-wall shots. As I commented to the bellman who delivered our luggage, the layout is similar to other two-bedroom suite product but that half-wall divider between the living and dining areas makes for a nice separation of spaces. He agreed, it's more like having two separate rooms. (DoubleD, I hope your and your friend's wives do not see this! And BTW, tell us about your stay!)
I thought the lounge was fine, not pathetic; in fact it was a thrill to be able to grab coffee, juice, Fiji water and/or soda at our convenience as well as morning pastries and afternoon snacks. As I am not a business or international traveler, I can't think of another room product in town where I can get (afford) such things, nor one that offers the food items you mention. (This type of room is admittedly a splurge for us, however. Any concierge lounge would've been a thrill!) We have yet to partake of the happy hour complimentary wine & snacks.
Two things about the room: 1)With two kids, you perhaps could've asked for the layout with two double beds in the second bedroom. Given you description of the second bathroom, I initially assumed that's what you had. The vanities on separate walls in the second bathroom are ideal for this situation, though. 2)With your trip ending on Sunday, late checkout should be yours for the asking (with a little schmoozing of the desk staff). Did the Concierge help w/ PUB? We have yet to utilize their services and made our one dinner reservation (at Heritage) via OpenTable.
Agree on the convenient layout & location. Finally discovered the Promenade entry, which gives you access to all the upstairs restaurants and buffet (plus that annoying oontz lounge). We had previously gone all the way downstairs and back up the escalator! D'oh!
As a fan and former exclusive customer of Wynn, I thought the "modern" decor would be off-putting. Turns out we actually like this room better, and now Wynn's suites (of which I have only seen photos) and even some public areas look stuffy and overdone. (I say that and yet, a visit to Wynncore for brunch and gift shop items felt like coming home…. )
Finally, I hope you did (or will) explain to you daughter why you laughed at her Luxor comment! So true!
socalduck replied on Monday, 9th June 2014
Yes, it would have been nice to have double beds in the second bedroom instead of a king. The kids flipped a coin to decide who got the bed each night, with the loser taking the couch in the living room. However, at least from their perspective, the couch was also pretty comfortable, so not too much griping.
Great suggestion on the concierge, a simple phone call a few days in advance would have saved a lot of grief. Lesson learned.
If we had gotten the flight delay notice before leaving the hotel, I definitely would have asked for a later checkout. We had some friends that stayed over until Monday who sent us pictures from their cabana as we waited for our flight. Rat bastards.
motoman replied on Wednesday, 11th June 2014
Sucks, doesn't it? ;) Once saw a fellow try to go to Wynn's pool after checking out, while waiting for his late flight. Showed his bell desk luggage ticket, even. The gatekeeper denied him. Had I not been so tired (thus braindead), I would've said my "friend" had to leave earlier than the "rest of us," and could he come in as my "guest?" Wynn service fail.
Twice now, just by random coincidence, we've been assigned the two-doubles configuration. They don't show or mention these, nor would they be guaranteed, but they do exist.
Glad the kids had a coin toss. If the girl got the room 100% "just because" then we'd have a problem! ;)
Concierge says they provide "on-property assistance." I'd have no hesitation in future to ask their help with a same day/last minute situation, as opposed to attempting it myself. I'd be flexible, but figure they'd have more pull in such situation.
motoman responded on Wednesday, 25th June 2014
One final comment on the concierge lounge:
The furnishings and decor did indeed look different than earlier photos seen here. They updated/upgraded at some point after opening. And they did initially offer complimentary booze but this ended for one or both of two reasons: the recession (or perhaps it was only a short-term promotion to kick things off), and the fact the privilege was being abused. There is a YouTube somewhere of what looks like a frat party happening in that lounge. A goddamn frat party! Some mega-douche invited all his homeys to come and partake. Tank top and backward baseball hat-wearing Spicolis filled that video.
I guess they just put up with a certain amount of this nonsense. When we checked in, the front desk lady asked how many extra keys we would like. A bit stunned, I asked if some folks have the gall to abuse that privilege as well and she said, Oh you'd be surprised.
And I still think it's a great lounge, not lame. As former low-rollers we were almost shocked into speechlessness at the free access to beverages & treats, presented so elegantly. Unless a change was made as part of the remodel, I know for a fact we did not have access to such an amenity at Wynn Tower Suites. From what I've read, Bellagio's seems similar in its offerings, albeit in a larger & more elegant setting.
socalduck replied on Friday, 4th July 2014
Having the lounge as part of the lobby was a mistake, IMO. Perhaps if they had located it on a separate floor or somewhere that required access via room key, they could have avoided some of the abuse. Of course, if the front desk is willing to give out an unlimited number of keys for each suite, don't be surprised when such abuse happens.