ARIA Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV
By: Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
It’s a work in progress.
When I was planning a trip to Las Vegas for early January, I called casino marketing to find out about the new ARIA hotel – not only the latest hotel to open in Las Vegas, but the only casino hotel in the new CityCenter complex that includes an upscale shopping mall, art gallery, and a variety of restaurants and nightclubs. I was informed that the ARIA was being positioned “above Bellagio as the new flagship MGM hotel in Las Vegas” and, with that, I booked my stay.
One drawback to anything in CityCenter (ARIA, Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, and Vdara plus the Crystals shopping center) is that the monorail won’t be an option. It’s not a major drawback as the monorail is generally inconvenient anyway since it’s so far from the main area of any casino it serves, but CityCenter is on the wrong side of the street for it entirely and it seems worth noting. There is also no on-property convenience store.
ARIA has a 5 Diamond AAA rating but that wasn’t apparent at check-in. A 5 Diamond property is supposed to have a check-in process where you are greeted and brought to the next available check-in agent. On my arrival there was not a single greeter to be found and a long counter of very busy check-in agents with hoards of confused guests trying to figure out where the lines actually were and which might be shortest. It took roughly 25 minutes to get an available line to check-in with. The agent was very polite but – and here’s where it sets the tone for the stay – placed me in a handicapped accessible room without advising me of that fact. While it is very obvious once I arrive at the room, it is less clear that my room with be lacking some basic amenities. I don’t learn this until I’m checking out… so more on that later on.
On the walk up to the room I noticed that the decor, while very nice, is a bit dark. It’s not depressing, but it’s not inspiring either. The casino floor is nice and new but I found a distinct variety of slots to be lacking (they were all a new kind of IGT electronic slot that had different games, but they didn’t have many of the fun slots of the last decade with various games on top – a personal favorite). Also, if you play BlackJack, know that ARIA won’t take your Players Club card unless you are betting a minimum of $25 a hand. If you like to play $15 or $20, they won’t count your play at all. Good to know if that’s your game since playing for 20 hours in a stay would earn you, well, nothing.
On to the room. Here’s where ARIA gets one thing unequivocally right – the bed. The beds are absolutely fantastic. I kind of want to compare it to what it would feel like to sleep in a cloud – except for the obvious fact that you’d fall right through a cloud! But the bed absolutely envelops you and allows you to wake up as refreshed as can be each day. The next thing you notice is that everything in ARIA is controlled by buttons on the wall or remote control. To the point of confusion. You’ll need to use a wall switch to open the curtain and to watch TV, set a sleep timer, turn the bedside lights on and off, and probably 50 other things, you’ll need to use a large remote on the nightstand that seems like something from the future. Does it have a “cool” factor? Absolutely. Does it seem like a bit much? Yes. Even some random guest in the elevator remarked to me how confusing the remote control for the room was. Sometimes hi-tech can be a bit too hi-tech.
I was expecting a 5 star caliber bathroom but found it a bit sparse. Nice, but nothing special. Note in the picture that the shower is very basic and there’s no tub. Now, here is where this review takes the turn that I mentioned at the outset. While it was clear on inspecting the room that it was handicapped accessible, it did not register that, aside from the grab bars and the place to sit in the shower, that it would actually be significantly different. You’d think the agent checking me in would have mentioned something like “Sir, the room I’m placing you in because of our overbooking tonight is handicapped accessible and does not contain a soaking tub like our other rooms. Is that acceptable or would you like to wait for a different room?” But of course nothing at all was mentioned and I assumed the standard rooms did not have tubs. I found this out only as I checked OUT 3 days later – when I casually mentioned to the clerk that I was surprised they didn’t have soaking tubs. An assistant manager was apologetic and I realize that things happen in a new hotel so when I got home, I wrote to Public Relations asking for a picture of a non-handicapped bathroom for my readers.
Unfortunately, not only couldn’t they provide this, they actually scolded me for not knowing to not accept the room I was given and cause this situation in the first place! They then asked if I had booked the room through Public Relations. When I advised that I had not originally booked the room through PR but, instead, booked as any guest would have booked, I was told “Then as the vast majority of other guests would do, you should have let the Front Desk know about it right away and they would have moved you.” Sorry, my psychic powers were off that day. And with that, it was confirmed (in my mind) that ARIA is far from a 5 Diamond property. A guest, whether he is in the travel industry or not, should never need to know that they’ve been placed in a room that is missing standard amenities so that they can ask to be moved. A 5 Diamond property gets it right the first time, no matter who the guest is.
There was a major standout in the ARIA hotel – the Spa. Whatever other disappointments I had in the hotel were completely forgotten the day I had Spa access. In addition to all the treatments, you’ll have access to a gym that rivals most free standing gym complexes with an array of every kind of equipment you might want. You can use the large steam room, a sauna, one of four hot tubs, and the long pool out on the balcony. Remember how I said the hotel’s atmosphere was a bit somber? Well, the Spa has the decor just right. Everything is 100% relaxing and 5 Star. If they could make the entire hotel part of the Spa! Note that if you want access to the gym only, you still need to pay for Spa access – $30 as of this writing.
While you’re staying at ARIA, you’ll no doubt want to eat. And you’ll have lots of options. Casual options include the buffet (which was really one of the best I’ve ever had in Vegas), the cafe (Cafe Vettro), Skybox Sports Bar and Grill (really a good low cost option), Lemongrass (Thai), Jean Philippe Patisserie (coffee, chocolates, light meals), Sweet Chill Gelato, and a Roasted Bean Coffee Shop (no Starbucks here). Fine dining includes BarMasa, Shaboo, Sage, Julian Serrano (Tapas), JeanGeorges Steakhouse, Sirio, American Fish, Blossom (upscale Chinese) and Union (lounge just off the casino floor).
Jean Philippe was a daily morning stop but it operates something like the Front Desk in that you really have no idea where to go when it’s crowded. Do you order coffee at the register? The sandwich area? Tough to say for sure, but I had luck getting people’s attention near the sandwiches. Sometimes.
Looking for nightlife? Haze downstairs seemed to be a major hotspot (possibly “of the moment”). But once again, confusion reigned. There were signs everywhere for VIP access, but who is a VIP? Are hotel guests given priority entry? The guy upstairs didn’t know. The person manning the entry to the VIP line didn’t know. Everyone just knew you needed a VIP card. After a big loop, we tried the front desk which, as it turned out, had those very VIP cards we needed. You just need to know that you needed to ask for them. In the end, the line was too long even with the card and we went just next door into the Crystals complex to a smaller nightclub and danced the night away.
Summary of the ARIA Hotel and Casino: It’s a great bed in a new and modern complex. Service is a bit lacking but hopefully that will improve in time. You’ll find more luxury at Wynn, Encore at Wynn, Bellagio, Venetian, Palazzo, and THEHotel at Mandalay Bay (which I gave high marks in this review) but, if you get a good rate at ARIA, it might be worth it.