Monday, May 30, 2011

Aria Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

As long as I am on the subject of hotels (see the two previous posts), allow me to add some more thoughts about Aria Hotel and Casino, which opened about a year and a half ago on Las Vegas Boulevard (''The Strip'').

Las Vegas hotels are known for their lavishness and size, and Aria certainly has both. At 4,004 rooms and suites, the place is not small, and the property's look-at-me colors, ornamentation and all-things-happening-at-once quality turns the hotel into a 24-hour sensorium. There is the obligatory casino, with its games of chance, smoke and polyester and desperate-looking patrons trying for the big score, of course. Beyond that, the hotel boasts 16 restaurants and 10 bars. Here, as elsewhere in upscale Vegas hotels, dining is not only about cheap breakfasts and groaning board buffets anymore - though there there is a popular buffet, called The Buffet. I settled-in at Julian Serrano, the tapas place right off the main lobby, with its smart barmen, swift service and toothsome Spanish food and drink.

Speaking of the lobby, it is of course huge, and as it, too, opens off the main lobby, it has that come-hither quality. This is in sharp contrast to the big gaming hotels in Macao, China, where I went just 10 days after leaving Vegas; in Macau, military-style armed guards stand sentry at the entrances of hotel casinos, providing a distinctly intimidating air - though that doesn't stop Asian gamblers, who have long since passed Vegas in generating gaming revenue, from going in.

When you're as big as Aria, any problems can become magnified. When I checked in, the reservations computer system was down; I had to stand in very long lines for 45 minutes before the computer issue was resolved and I was able to check in. Checking out two days later took about 20 minutes - not bad but certainly not fast.

The place has big virtues, too, though. When I joined another stalled queue at the concierge desk, a staffer roaming the lobby came right over and helped me without being asked. It was a welcome personal touch in a massive hotel. The guest rooms are spacious and come equipped with lots of high-tech features, including having window curtains open automatically when you come in and flick on the lights - an energy-saving feature. Incredibly for a huge Vegas hotel, Aria has won LEEDS Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its attention to environmental concerns.

The hotel is connected indoors and out to the inevitable shopping mall, and to The Strip. On the way out of the building, you pass a massive and nicely done water wall. Like many Vegas hotels, Aria does a lot of discounting and incentivizing. When I checked in, I was given two drink coupons, which I forgot to use. More importantly, I paid just over $100 U.S. per night to access 5-star comforts, due in part to the fact I was attending a meeting at the hotel. I am not a Vegas guy, as over-the-top glitter is not something I value highly. That said, I would stay in Aria again if, heaven forfend, I have occasion to go back to Sin City.

Aria is located at 3730 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV USA, tel. 866.359.7111,


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