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I stayed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for 3 nights and 4 days in August 2008 and can honestly say I had a great time. Please let me warn you that this is a fairly lengthy review of my experience.
We got a taxi from the airport to the hotel which cost about $7 which worked out at less than £4 at the time. The first thing you notice about stepping out of the taxi and into the hotel is the fabulous air-conditioning. Vegas in August is VERY hot, well over 40o Centigrade! So it's really a relief to get out of that heat into the fabulously spacious lobby of the MGM and feel cooler straight away.
On stepping inside the hotel (if you arrive by car) you are greeted by the large gold lion in the centre of the lobby in front of which it seems everyone who goes there for the first time rushes to have their photo taken in front of! As did I and my roommates! Once that first couple of minutes of excitement was over we went to queue at the check in desks of which there were about 20 and pretty much all of them were manned by very smartly dressed and cheerful and professional check-in staff. The queue was at least 3 or 4 deep at each counter but moved very quickly and we only had to wait literally a couple of minutes to check in.
Knowing that the hotel has in excess of 5,200 rooms I had been advised by a friend in the past to ask for a room near the main lifts when checking into large hotel or spend much of your time walking from the room to the lifts and being worn out before you even got started exploring, so I had a good excuse ready should I be asked if there was any particular reason for wanting a room close to the lift. I didn't need the excuse, the bubbly young lady who served me said "Absolutely no problem!" when I asked about a room near the lifts and she was happy to give us 3 separate room keys, gave us directions to the room and asked if there was anything we needed. My companions wanted to visit the Grand Canyon later in the week so I asked where that could be booked and she pointed to the concierge desk and said anything we wanted to book could be done from there and I noted that there were at least 10 desks at that counter. Over the check-in desks were huge screens showing Vegas attractions and events going on at the hotel to keep you entertained whilst waiting to check-in. It was quite over-whelming as it was very busy everywhere and quite exciting - especially for me being in Vegas for the first time - actually just being in the USA for the first time.
We found our rooms easily enough after having to wait just a few seconds for the lift, there were 8 lifts in our lift section - if that doesn't make sense, let me explain. There were a set of lifts going from floors 13-20 (we were on the 13th floor), then lifts going up different floors to make your journey quicker. Everything seems to be geared towards making your trip from the lobby to your room as easy as possible as a guest but the cynical side of me also presumed it was to keep you happy so you'd be more inclined to spend more time and money in the casinos which are their main money-earner!
Once you get to your floor there's a lovely pillar in the middle with all rooms clearly signposted, e.g. rooms 100-174, 175-249, etc, we were in room 315 and had just 10 yards to walk from this really fabulous pillar which had huge posters of famous Hollywood stars on it, including the wonderful Frank Sinatra.
On walking into the room we were impressed by the size of the room and the huge window. I was staying with 2 others so we had booked a room for triple occupancy and were given a room with 2 queen size beds, although the Americans' idea of a queen size bed and our idea in the UK are somewhat different. I had no complaints though as I had a bed to myself! I would point out that check-in time is after 14:00 and we had arrived at around 10:30 and they were quite happy to let us have our room early. It was very sunny outside and we had a nice view of the side of the MGM, looking down we could see the cars arriving and leaving from the front lobby and across the road we could see various hotels including Hooters. When I saw Hooters, I was so glad we were checked into the luxurious MGM as Hooters did look rather dingy, flashy and cheap from where I was standing right then! The beds were well spaced out and there was a desk with 2 armchairs - it would have been nice if there was another chair seeing as we'd booked a room for 3 people but it wasn't an issue. I have a habit of checking out beds in hotels by sitting on the edge and bouncing and then falling back to see how soft (or hard) the bed seems. I was already impressed and knew I'd have a comfortable night's sleep on my bed which was closest to the window.
On entering the bathroom I was delighted to see how luxurious it was. It was spotless and shiny and the sink area had a huge vanity mirror as well as lots of space to keep your toiletries, as
well as an array of hotel toiletries, such as shower gel, body soap, shampoo, conditioner and hand soap which were of a very good quality. The bathroom was really big and there was also a full length mirror. Everything in the bathroom seemed to have a really good finish and I understand all the bathrooms are of custom made black and white marble. They really did look good! I'm funny that way, I really like my hotel stays to include a clean and luxurious bathroom and I had no complaints about this one at all!
One thing I noticed about the room early on was that there were no tea/coffee facilities. There was an ice bucket on the desk and a tray with lots of brochures about the hotel and Vegas in general and 2 small water glasses (again I wondered why they hadn't supplied 3). I also found that the lighting in the evening was not sufficient for my tastes, even with all of the lights and lamps on, I found the lighting lacking. The TV was adequate - who goes to Vegas to sit in their room and watch TV - but I would mention that on flicking through I noted that many of the channels didn't work.
Out of 10, I would rate the room a strong 8 and out of 10, I would rate the bathroom a perfect 10!
BARS / CLUBS / RESTAURANTS
We freshened up and decided to go for a wander around the hotel. Being a smoker (and in a non-smoking room as my roommates were non-smokers) I wanted to go off and have a cigarette so headed for the nearest bar which luckily was near the lobby. This bar was called Zuri which is marketed as a martini bar and I visited it 3 or 4 times during my stay. The bar staff were all very friendly and polite and it was fascinating being asked for ID for the first time in my life when ordering drinks! The lighting in the bar is pleasant and not too bright. Everyone seemed to be very comfortable chatting away with the bar staff about where they were from and I found myself getting into various conversations with random people who were all just very friendly - both male and female. A glass of wine was about £4, beers and spirits with mixers around the same price and cocktails were around £6 but they were fairly good sized cocktails and the bar staff were certainly not mean with the measures. I think they serve the best Bloody Mary I've had in my life and I've tried them in quite a few bars and clubs in my time! The music in Zuri was quite upbeat and enjoyable but not loud enough to make conversation difficult.
I went to the Rouge Bar once but found it a bit too brightly coloured for my liking as it has chrome and red Ferrari leather decor. They have a wide variety of drinks available as well as many interesting cocktails. There's also the West Wing Bar which has a fairly relaxed atmosphere with non-intrusive lounge music playing.
The MGM Grand has several categories of eateries - fine dining, casual dining and cafe type establishments. Restaurants in the fine dining category include Joel Robuchon (average price per head £125 for a 6 course meal), Craft Steak (about £50 a head), Shibuya (about £40 a head) & Fiamma Trattoria and bar (average £30 per head) - I didn't try any of these out but can only assume they would suit people who enjoy "posh" cuisine. On the casual side there is Emeril's - which has the signature dishes of one of the US's most popular celebrity chefs - Emeril Lagasse. Again I didn't try this out as I'm not partial to things like scallops or pike - average cost per head is about £20 here. The Grank Wok & Sushi Bar costs on average £15 per person and specialises in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine. Their signature dishes are Soya Chicken, Cantonese Roast Duck and a large Sake Selection. It has fresh sushi and has the added advantage of being next to a beautiful waterfall!
In the cafe & quick eats there are several places which include Studio Cafe, Rainforest Cafe (designed like a guess what? Yes, a rainforest!), Stage Deli, Studio Wok (which is located on Studio Walk, Cabana Grill and a Starbucks as well as the fabulous MGM Grand Buffet which costs $17.50 per head (less than £10) and has an amazing selection of hot and cold foods available including salads, Prime Rib and Shrimp, Chinese, Japanese, Alaskan King Crab Legs, a huge selection of fruit and mouth-watering desserts. Even better is the fact that unlimited soft drinks are included in the price of the buffet. If you are a big eater you can honestly have a ball here as I saw some people going up to the buffet 6 or 7 times and coming back with plates stacked high with food. What I didn't like was seeing some people pile up plates, bring them back to their tables and not finish the food - pure wastage and very inconsiderate! The staff were so friendly and really there was no chance to even tip anyone here as you pay before you enter the restaurant and then wait to get seated - we waited just 2 or 3 minutes to be shown to a free table and our drinks order was taken very quickly and we didn't have to wait long for them to be brought over - even though the restaurant was almost full to capacity. Friendly service and lots of genuine looking smiles!
As well as the above there are places such as McDonalds within the hotel with small sandwich bars and pizza and chicken places. I bought what I thought was a snack of 9 chicken wings for about $4 which is about £2 and they were quite large and it ended up being a full meal and not being able to even finish all 9!
I would rate the bars and restaurants a strong 10 out of 10 as there is so much variety, even the hardest to please will find something to like!
I didn't visit any nightclubs during my stay, so unfortunately I can't rate them but there are several within the hotel including Tabu Ultra Lounge which apparently has "beautiful models as servers" (when reading about this I chuckled for some reason), Studio 54 which boasts 4 dance floors and claims to be a wilder version of the legendary 70 club, Vida is mostly Latin music and only open Fridays and Saturdays from 11pm. For those who want their entertainment to be somewhat raunchier; there's always the Crazy Horse Paris (if you're staying at the MGM with children, I'd warn you that they advertise this quite adult entertainment on the screens in reception where you check in). I saw a few parents actually make their children turn their faces away, although from the MGM's point of view, their main business is casinos and you need to be over 21 to go in the casino or bars or clubs so they want to advertise their entertainment as much as possible. Also on the room TV there is a whole channel dedicated to advertising the hotel's entertainment.
THEIR MAIN AIM
One thing to remember about all hotels on the Las Vegas Strip is that their main mission in life is to get you spending your money in their casinos which is why even the cheapest rooms are quite luxurious so you're not spending all your money on your accommodation. They want you to spend the rest of your hard earned cash in their casinos be it on the slot machines or at the tables. You basically cannot get anywhere in the hotel (apart from the lobby and Zuri bar) from the Tower rooms without having to go through part of the casino and it's a walk and a half to get anywhere! Of course their aim is to tempt you to put your money in the slots or spend it at the tables - no matter where you want to go, you need to go through the casino (this is the same with all the hotels on the Strip by the way)!
MGM has 1000s of slot machines which you can play with denominations ranging from 1c to $500! Sensible old me stuck to 1c machines mostly but played some 10c and 25c slots too during my stay. It's sensible to set yourself a limit (which I did) as it's very easy to get carried away with the glamour of it all and think you're going to be a big winner - obviously some people win but many more people lose - it's their business to make money not to give it all away to their players.
If you are going to play the slot machines, it's advisable to sign up for the MGM Players Card which, once registered (which takes just a few minutes) you insert in every machine when playing and you get points whilst you play. By the end of the 4 days I had accumulated enough points to get a late check out (instead of 11:00 we checked out at 18:00), a limo ride to the airport and a buffet lunch for 3 people. I didn't leave the MGM Grand with any winnings but I didn't go over the limit of how much I had set aside to play with (what I could easily afford to lose basically)!
One thing also to consider if you're going to play in the casino is that your drinks are free. Casino hosts wander around with trays taking drinks orders and bring over your drinks orders - I had no problem with tipping them with $2 or $3 each time, but don't expect them to return within a few minutes. A few times I had to wait nearly 20 minutes for them to come back with the drink - bear in mind that they are walking around the machines and taking orders from several people and then have to wait for these drinks to be poured at bars where the bar staff are already serving customers too.
There are many shops in MGM and not being much of a shopaholic, I had no intention of visiting all of the shops in the hotel. I did however visit the MGM Grand gift shop where there was a huge selection of Vegas souvenirs to be had as well as souvenirs specific to your stay in the actual hotel. I have to admit that these items were somewhat dearer than gift shops located on the Las Vegas Strip itself, items such as shot glasses, ashtrays, bags, baseball caps, etc, were about half the price outside the hotel - but to be honest, it was real fun browsing the shop within the hotel and I did purchase a couple of items specific to MGM. You can find Cartier, Armani and some other big names in the hotel but I specifically went
Pictures of MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
view from our room in the MGM Grand Tower
looking for the store that advertises that it sells Versace within the hotel shops available and they did not have Versace and tried to put the hard sell on me to buy some other expensive designer items which I'd never heard of before. The shops are located on Studio Walk on the ground floor level of the hotel or shops are in Star Lane. There are other stores located in and around various parts of the hotel.
The Grand Spa & Health Club is indeed a grand affair. You can get a one day pass for $25 which lets you access the whole area which includes: fitness centre, steam rooms, whirlpools, saunas, showers, lockers and relaxation lounge. No one under 18 is allowed in here so you can be sure of a fairly relaxed and peaceful time here and you can book additional treatments such as massages, manicures, pedicures, etc.
Then there's the Christophe Salon which is as its name implies a salon, the Grand Pool Complex has 5 pools to choose from as well as 3 whirlpools, an indoor river and pretty waterfalls! I mustn't forget to mention the Lion Habitat which MGM has created as a showcase for the education of the public and for them to be able to appreciate lions. Whenever I tried to get near the glass enclosure, it was surrounded by eager visitors trying to get photos of the lions inside who seemed completely as peace and not at all bothered by the many people around their glass cage. They seemed very proud to be admired by so many to be honest!
KA by Cirque du Soleil is a show at the MGM which is basically a themed circus and is described by MGM as a masterpiece in storytelling. Prices start at around $69 per person to $150 (approx £35 - £80 each).
Another unique thing about the MGM is the ability to watch existing TV shows as audience members and give your opinion about the quality of the show. I was given tickets to participate but did not take the opportunity as the shows were not really ones to my taste at that stage. Tickets for these are given out randomly to hotel guests and/or can be collected in person from the stage desks.
Out of 10, I can't really rate all these additional facilities fairly as I did not use them all but as a guideline I would say 8 out 10!
As for the prices, I stayed in the MGM Grand Tower where the room prices start from approx £45 - what a bargain, considering what a fabulous hotel it was. These rooms are over 440 sq ft in size. Rooms in the West Wing start from about £50 a night but can only accommodate 2 guests per room, these rooms have a DVD player as well as everything you get in the Tower rooms and even a TV in the bathroom! The Hollywood Suites start at £100 - for this you get a bedroom and a living room and entrance to both rooms from the designer bathroom as well as two TV sets and a bar and fridge. If you want to go more upmarket, the Premiere Suites start at just over £150 which have L Shaped floorplans with whirlpool tubs and showers and corner views from the windows. These rooms are about 950 sq ft and include luxury items such as robes and slippers, marble bar and bar style seating. Want to go one further? The Glamour Suites are 1250 sq ft of luxury with each suite housing an entertainment area for guests, a large living room with a full sized sofa and luxurious side chairs. You even get the added benefit of high speed internet access. Why would you want to leave this suite? Well I might not want to leave it after paying around £180 - I think I'd want to move in permanently!
If you have even more money to spend, why not try the Terrace Suites which start at £450 a night? You get your own patio in these suites with views of the Las Vegas Strip. These 1300 sq ft suites are spread over two floors and have 2 separate bathrooms as well as the additional luxuries mentioned in the earlier rooms. I'm not finished yet, there's more! If you want quiet and privacy, you can take one of the Signature Suite which were designed as quiet enclaves. These start at £85 a night for a Junior Suite to £190 for a Two Bedroom Suite and you get the advantage of a private balcony which has views of the Strip and mountains. For maximum luxury you can also book the Skylofts Penthouse Suites which start at 1440 sq ft to 6000 sq ft, and have private lift access, 32" LCD TV in each bathtub, pick up from airport in limousine. These suites are so exclusive that the prices aren't available unless you make a booking! The prices quoted are per room per night and not per person.
To be quite honest, my stay at the MGM Grand felt like pure luxury to me. I would highly recommend anyone going to Vegas to spend at least a couple of nights there and to experience the pure pleasure and fun that is the MGM Grand. All things considered, I would rate the hotel a strong 9 out of 10.
NB: I did note that everywhere within the hotel seemed to be disabled and wheelchair friendly, although in the 4 days I was there, I did not spot anyone in a wheelchair.
UPDATE: One of my closest friends stayed here for a week recently after my recommendation and had a fabulous time, so much so that we've decided to go there again in the next year or so!