Bellagio: Falling Back In Love
Wynn opened, and with an exception to a public attraction, did everything better.
Bellagio's rooms suddenly felt cramped, failed on a two-sink expectation, and featured exposed toilets not tucked away in a water closet. How quickly one becomes spoiled.
Then cue the great recession.
Just north, Wynn and Encore sat aloof and, in true Wynn style, completely removed their guests from not only their surroundings, but the reality of our nation's livelihood outside its doors. It was more than just Roger Thomas's whimsical spaces; Wynn had a clientele who were, seemingly at least, unscathed by the global financial crisis. No matter when you visited, at Wynn and Encore, it always felt like 2006.
Everyone travels to Las Vegas to live a persona just a bit more special, just a bit more lavish than their day-to-day lives. My disposable income was dedicated to that three or four times a year, 72 hours at a time, in which Wynncore turned my modest existence into palatial fantasy. From the moment I was met by a Wynn driver to the final tip I gave him upon departure, the crew at Encore Tower Suites ensured that I'd not want for anything during my stay. Upon arrival, some regulars are told, "Welcome back." Still others receive a handshake and an effusive greeting. When I would arrive, they'd leave their desks, give me a hug, and tell me, "Welcome home." The keep-your-hands-in-your-pockets, don't-make-eye-contact, third world country that had become The Strip was of no interest to me. I realized that I was no longer traveling to go to Las Vegas; I had practically given up on Las Vegas. I was traveling to go to Wynncore.
But over a number of years, so many little things changed that amounted to a sum far greater than their parts. It wasn't even the nightclubs so much as the DJ-as-celebrity movement that skewed the focus of these resorts. Yes, the nightclub crowd can be obnoxious, but they're angels compared to Electric Daisy Carnies. Then their social media dream team - a group who recognized the value of repeat customers and with utmost transparency, ensured perfection with each stay - was axed. The final embers of Wynn's past radiated in my favorite front-of-line employees, but it was only a matter of time until they left, too.
That plate of small, exotic fruits that was always delivered to my room and went untouched trip after trip? I never realized how much I missed that plate of small, exotic fruits that went untouched trip after trip until they stopped delivering it.
Then cue the opening of CityCenter.
Cue the opening of Cosmopolitan.
Cue the departure of Elaine Wynn.
And cue a financial recovery.
I was a nomad until the center strip started calling again. Most of us collectively agreed that Cosmopolitan was the coolest place to hang out so long as our heads touched the pillows of better hotels. I don't know what took me so long to realize that that better hotel is only a moving walkway north.
I recently went back to Bellagio. But this wasn't the same Bellagio of the last few years. That hotel was trying to define itself in the corporate hierarchy of MGM Resorts as crushing debt and the thought of mass layoffs at any moment prevented anything near a luxury experience. This Bellagio featured a noticeable increase in employees everywhere making for transparent service from a genuinely happy workforce. My fellow guests dressed in sport coats and evening gowns adding to the fantasy that had left the hotel long ago. My MLife Platinum pull kept the big resort just personal enough to keep an avid ETS'r appeased.
There were subtle reminders here and there that I was staying in a 16-year-old property, but the place ran so beautifully, so smoothly that it was almost as if, dare I say, Steve and Elaine owned the joint without any Macanese distractions. Bellagio's charm had returned.
I drank myself stupid at Hyde. I drank myself stupid at Mandarin Bar. I ate a season's worth of Szechuan buttons at Chandelier. And I ever-so-conveniently stumbled back to Bellagio and ponied up to Petrossian.
Before mixology and an emphasis on classic cocktails was all the rage, the team at Petrossian had the craft down to a science. They're not young and hip and doing it to pay their UNLV bills. They've worked the industry before I was born and can each write a novel on what they've witnessed. They serve Hyde's walk of shamers, The Bank's walk of shamers, the casino's defeated walk of shamers, and what might be the most high-traffic hotel lobby in the world. A classic Vegas story occurs here every half hour. In one night, I met a sleight-of-hand artist who managed to leave the entire bar in awe. I met a number of "O" cast members, witnessed a hotel guest bitch-slap a security guard, and consoled the belly-up patron next to me as he cried over the challenges of the long distance relationship he was in. Suddenly, telling you about the relentless onslaught of prostitutes just seems superfluous.
It was that night that I realized Wynncore is just too highbrow to allow Vegas to be a little... Vegas.
I haven't given up on Wynn and Encore. It is, based purely on the standards of operation and facilities, the better resort. Perhaps I'll save it for a relaxing stay with a significant other. Or perhaps one day my gambling budget will reach six-figure stratospheres and I will again receive a taste of what used to be. What I had given up on, however, was the rest of Las Vegas. That is, until my most recent stay at Bellagio.
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