March 2008
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Grazie very much

My investment in achieving Total Rewards Diamond with Harrah’s is already starting to pay for itself.

I just had to flash the card at Venetian and instantly got an upgrade to their own Gold level.

Oh, and the $50 in slot play for upgraded members was a very nice bonus too. We’d only stopped in to get $10 free play for Claire as a brand new member, but walked out with $55 of their cash after playing it through.

Gold is not the top tier of Club Grazie but it’s enough to get access to their VIP lounge and it’ll rack up slot points a little bit faster if I ever play video poker there. They do have 9/6 Jacks or Better at both Venetian and Palazzo, although even with the points multiplier it doesn’t quite make a positive game.

I’m hoping one other hidden benefit might be when playing poker if I make sure the card is in view when sitting down at a table. Anyone who is paying attention will clock me for the big gambler that I am, then all I need to do is make a big hand and the monies will flow even faster than usual.

We crawled along the strip by foot on a free money run from Harrah’s ($5 bonus comp for 50 points earned) down to Sahara ($50 in blackjack chips for a $40 buy in) via a complimentary hot dog at Slot-a-fun.

Casino Royale told us that we should have had room offers in the mail for this month, and it’s nice to know we’re still in the system but not much use when we’ve already booked places to stay. Oh and look, we’re already in town too. But they explained because two of us are have qualified for mailers – usually a 2 or 3 night free stay – we can combine them and take 4 or 6 nights in the same room if we book at the same time.

In fact, as the offers are one stay per month if we were ever able to time a trip over the end of one month and the start of the next we could take up to 8 or 12 nights free all in one go!

This has to be the best hotel offer in town – to get into the comp system you only have to earn about $10 cash back, which is about $2000 coin-in. Play it through on 8/5 Bonus Poker at 99.2% payback and it costs a theoretical $16 for the mailers, and I’m pretty sure it racked up at least $10 in food comp as well as the $10 cash back.

They’re virtually paying you to stay there before you get started!

Hotel 1 of 4: Monte Carlo

It looks like there’s still some work to be done on the upper floors of Monte Carlo following the fire earlier in the year.

But this really doesn’t get in anyone’s way, 36 floors up. It’s the construction of the monstrosity that is CityCenter next door that’s making life difficult.

With sections of Frank Sinatra Drive closed off while they build, there’s really no other route than to drive down the Strip to get to Monte Carlo. Which was fine in the early hours of the morning while I was getting up jet-lagged, but any later in the day and the traffic around there just gets horrendous.

Not to mention the dozens of pedestrians at every set of lights that look at the red hand on the crossing sign through the blue drink in their dice-shaped glass and see some other god-knows-what symbol and colour pairing that apparently always means they should cross whenever they feel like it.

There is also no access to the garage right now.  The only place to park a car is a makeshift outdoor lot next to New York New York, and it’s not even close to being big enough. When it takes 30 minutes of circling to get a spot on a Tuesday morning you know they’re going to have major problems with this. I’m just glad I didn’t try to spend a weekend there.

So what about the hotel itself? First impressions go a long way, and unfortunately they weren’t particularly good.

We decided to valet park and hoped to get some assistance with our bags after a long flight, but the valet jumped straight into the car and waited for us to unload the bags and that was that. We juggled everything together and strolled past two bellmen rolling a cart back and forth between themselves on the way into the hotel, who eventually thought to ask if we needed any help with the luggage.   I declined as politely as I could: "It’s OK, we’ve done the hard bit now".

The room (on floor 13, can you believe – how many hotels in Las Vegas
even have that floor number?) was fine and did the job, but it was nothing special and felt like it was about due for some modernisation. Also, I blew the food credit that came with the room package on room service on the first night and that took well over an hour to arrive.

Overall slightly disappointing. I guess I just expected a little more from a hotel I was actually paying for.