I just returned from a few days in Las Vegas where I talked about how to go to Las Vegas and get the 5 star treatment for FREEEE!
I stayed at Aria Sky Suites, which comes with roundtrip Limousine Service to the Airport, lounge access with free snacks, including some of the highest quality water available to man, and complimentary wine from 4pm. It doesn’t get better than that, well, perhaps it does at the Mandarin, but let’s keep the romance alive for a moment.
As we know, travel hacking is 99% bragging rights, 2% actually enjoying yourself, and -1.5% fuzzy math. So to say that anything is less than stellar, especially when we could ‘sell the dream of Freeee travel’ isn’t always the case. I mean, how many times do you hear a review of the A380 suites experience where the blogger has dodgy guts from waking up far too early to drag their sorry self to the airport?
Luckily for me, my guts remained intact, but I didn’t like the Sky Suites, and here’s why:
The checkin counter for SkySuites is a separate part of Aria, billed as an exclusive area. However, they over man this short counter, meaning that you stand shoulder to shoulder with the next guest. Everyone knows exactly what room you are staying in, for how long, how much room credit you have, and anything else that might be remotely personal or discrete. I contrast that with my most impressive hotel experience, the St Regis Bal Harbour, where we were seated at a table to check in privately, and immediately offered (real) Champagne to grease the wheels.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal to you? That’s fine, for me though, when I wanted to complain about something later in the stay, it became very awkward, and I had to lead the front desk supervisor away from the crowded lobby to speak quietly.
Walking to the elevators and room
I quickly discovered that SkySuites is the number 1 destination for the 30+ frat guy who hasn’t been away from home in a year and is really excited to get a kegger going. The elevator was filled with these characters chomping away on slices of Pizza and calling one another ‘Bro’ as loudly as possible. For what its worth, the Pizza was pretty good.
I got a crap room. There are great rooms in this hotel, so if you get one of those then more power to you. Me, I walked into the #2 ranked hotel in Las Vegas to a view of the Freeway. I later found out that I had a connected room to more of the 30+ year old frat boys who insisted on talking loudly over one another while eating more of that yummy pizza right through the night.
The exclusive Pool, only for Sky Suites guests
The Free stuff
The lounge had bottles of San Pellegrino and Fiji water, along with juice and soda. But the rooms did not, you had to buy it at hotel prices.. that meant that if you wanted some water for the morning you basically went down to the lobby and raided the fridge there, everyone without pizza in hand had their arms stuffed with ‘Freeee!’ water. This approach really set the tone. For a 5 star/diamond whatnot resort you’d think they could slip a bottle of the water into your room for you… the food items were top notch though.
Is it ok to be over entitled and picky?
Just like the Pizza Bros wanted to have a good time, I did too. With that in mind I went to the front desk to get me the hell out of Dodge, my only request being:
Please can I have a room that actually has walls on each side of it.
I wasn’t rude or demanding, and I offered to downgrade if necessary, either to the plebeian tower or another mLife property. I had decided that if they couldn’t, I would just check out early and go elsewhere. The way I travel hack means that I tend to have several layers of protection before needing to revert to real money, but I put experience above savings in my ranking. I had only 3 nights in Las Vegas to relax and take a break from things, so if that meant paying actual cash to make the 3 nights great, I’d be happy to. In this case my fallback plan would have been to walk to the nearby Mandarin Oriental on a FHR rate, or to call up the Wynn/Encore and cash in some free nights I have there.
Just as I was about to start making that happen, I received a call from the front desk to inform me that they had found another room in the main tower, and it had walls where walls should be, and doors where doors should be. Plus a strip view!
This ‘downgraded’ room was actually pretty nice, though I couldn’t say much for the Strip View part:
Aria is set back from the strip, so I think only a small section of high floor rooms will come with a good view, the rest will be absorbed into the quagmire of the property – still, I was happy with this.
Are you allowed to complain about free?
When people complain about ‘first world problems’ they are often derided, and told to be more grateful. Well, I call BS on that. I find that when I make a conscious choice to get a nicer room and pay more for it, even if it is just more ‘points’ or whatnot, then it is because I expect the ‘free’ trip to be in line with expectations for a higher end property. In my case, I spent no points or miles in Vegas, but I did decide to select this offer at Sky Suites over staying in a suite at the Monte Carlo at a cost of receiving $500 less in Vegas funny money.
Overall, Sky Suites didn’t impress me. The Limo was a nice touch, but even that was a bit messed up, my 7:30am reservation turned up around 7:45am, and there were other people waiting longer… Since I felt it was a bit excessive to ride alone, I invited a couple of people to join me in my car back to the airport since they were getting frustrated at the slow service too.
In short, it has all the right pieces of a top notch hotel, but the clientele is a bit of a hot mess, and the service is a little lacking to make it a truly great experience. I doubt I’ll go back there, even for free.