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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Pools at Mandalay Bay: The Sun is Free, The Shade is Big Bucks

Never again. Las Vegas was not a good place to take the family. It's true that we had a lot of fun together, loved being together and getting together was a great idea, but The bills have come in. The piper wants what's due. And the conclusion we drew yesterday was: we could have gone nearly anywhere in the world for what Vegas cost and been more comfortable.

The standard rooms at THE Hotel at the Mandalay Bay were lovely and inexpensive. They are all suites, seven hundred and fifty feet large, and in expensive for what you get. A hundred and a half a day for a beautifully appointed large bedroom, living room, a flat screen television in both, a safe, an honors bar and most importantly, a bath and a half. The view from our wall to wall, ceiling to floor windows was disappointing. It wasn't the Caribbean. It wasn't the strip; that was on the other side of the hall. It was a view of a city that looked a lot like a trailer park, but was interesting nevertheless to this artist/space designer who likes looking out at any cityscape with highways and neighborhoods and trash collectors and whatnot from a high perch. Our room was on the thirty sixth floor adjoining my son's room. Of course we opened the doors between, and our two living rooms became one grand meeting place. We had requested that arrangement, but never expected to get it. We were thrilled when we did and didn't mind sacrificing our view for togetherness.

THE Hotel is an elegant hotel with 1172 suites. It's located on the Mandalay Bay property and is part of the Mandalay Bay complex. It doesn't have a casino. It doesn't have its own pool. Not being gamblers we didn't mind the absence of a casino. We did mind --at least Honey and I minded--not having access to a normal resort swimming pool with working umbrellas for shade, cushions on the lounges and pool guys to set you up with towels and reposition the umbrellas as the sun moved across the sky.

But the kids were happy. And that's what this trip was about. We had come to this complex for them. We knew they'd love the eleven acres of beach wave pool, Lazy River stream and two Lagoons. And they did. We did not. Absolutely did not. We were turned off by having to pay through the nose for shade--either from inferior fixed umbrellas over the only chaises with cushions located in a cordoned off area on the sand,(pictured above), which rented for seventy five dollars per chair. Or they wanted five hundred plus dollars for a cabana that only filtered the sun.

For all that money, a cabana at the Mandalay Bay did not block the rays. We still needed sunscreen. For all that money, you got two couches, a table for four, a frig stocked with water and sodas, a safe for valuables, a flat screen television, a fan that only worked on slow, three walls and a roof of mesh with no openings for air circulation, and two inner tubes to use on the Lazy River--otherwise you would have had to rent them for the children. Desperate for shade,due to my fear of the sun after my experience with radiation therapy, we opted for the cabana--for the three days we were there--and that's what pushed the cost of the trip over the top and gave the trip its name: The Cabana Fiasco. Take a look:

In all fairness to the Mandalay Bay, I suppose we just came at the wrong time of year, the day after our grandkids got out of school for the summer. But we would have been just as distressed by the sun if we had visited in May or October. Shade is shade. And there just wasn't any at these pools unless you paid for it. So the room (150 week days) plus the absolutely necessary cabana (550 week days) brought the total to 700 per night more or less. For that my dear traveler, you can stay at some very fine hotels around this world of ours.

And it was as highly priced as the food, the drinks and the shows. My daughter in-law was a smart cookie though. She moved in to the suite with two coolers filled with snacks and drinks--water, sodas and milk for the kids, wine and beer for the adults--trail-mix, mixed nuts, assorted cheeses and breakfast cereals. She even brought serving dishes, a tray and coffee cups.
While The Hotel had the fancy Krup coffee maker in the rooms offering free coffee, if you wanted it in a cup, the cup cost four bucks--but you could take it home with you as a souvenir. Generous.

Vegas is for gamblers. They might have said in their advertising in recent years that it was a great place to bring the kids, but it's what they didn't say. They didn't say, gambler or not, we're going to take your money at the pools too. The Mandalay Bay is supposedly a five star hotel. The rooms are five star. The company I was with was five star. The rest of our hotel experience wiped it off my list.

In the advertisements the Mandalay Bay shows this photo of its famous Beach (wave) pool:

Inviting huh? This is what it really looks like:

And here's a less congested shot. You see the white strip of slanted, coping where those guys are standing? That's a recycling drain. That's where you've got to watch out for your belly when you belly surf the waves. It's made of cement, not sand, and if you don't hop up or drop off the wave before it hits that strip, you'll have a belly scrap as a memento. Lucky for my grandkids, I brought my fabulous scar healing cream.

My advice: if you feel your grandkids might enjoy a couple of days at the Mandalay Bay, stay in THE Hotel. It is elegant and you get a lot of room for your money.

Do see the Shark Reef Aquarium; children under twelve are free. Adult passes cost eighteen dollars. It's fantastic and do talk to one of the guards. There is much more to the exhibit than what you see and they will be glad to tell you all about the good work they are doing there for sea life.

Do take them to see The Lion King. That extravagant expenditure was well worth it. We got the best seats in the house and my kids left their first live theater experience in awe.

Do go to see Hoover (Boulder) Dam. I saw it from the air, but we didn't make the forty five minute trip out because we were surprised by another son and grandson joining us. We always choose family first. We're just not going to do family in Vegas anymore.

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