[UPDATED] Vegas is open again, but is it worth the visit?

Update November 2020: Vegas is open — I did return to Vegas in November 2020 for the Circa Opening. I also had the pleasure to visit another Caesars property. I was very critical in this article of my June 2020 visit to Caesars Palace Las Vegas, but things have improved in November 2020. So, it’s important to point out the hotel experience has gotten much better at Caesars Properties in Las Vegas.

Episode 104 Vegas Is Open Differences
Comparing Vegas June 2020 to November 2020

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Original Vegas Is Open” Article from
June 12, 2020, Continues Below:


I’m torn about Vegas
I’m torn about the changes
I’m worried, happy, sad, thrilled

Return To Vegas – Vegas Is Open

Nobody ever thought we would be saying the phrase “Vegas Is Open.” If you are not a true lover of all things Vegas, you might not understand what it means to return to Las Vegas. That feeling you get when you see the strip landing at LAS. That feeling you get. You have arrived. You have not just arrived anywhere; you have arrived in Las Vegas. Everything is a possibility; it’s only positive; anything can happen; anything will happen.

But, then. Covid.

Vegas closed; Vegas never closes. Vegas is not supposed to close. It’s unnatural; you don’t close Vegas. Vegas is always in motion. No matter what happens. Vegas is OPEN 24 HOURS, except when it’s not.

The last time Vegas closed was the 25th of November, 1963. It was for John F. Kennedy’s funeral.

Michael Mason Trager Las Vegas 1970sMichael Mason Trager Las Vegas 1970s
Michael Mason Trager in Las Vegas – 1970s

For some of us, Vegas is in our blood. It was actually in our blood before we even realised it. My earliest memories of Las Vegas were the Caesars Palace Las Vegas and MGM Grand. I think my mother always wanted a daughter, or she felt that kids need to look “sharp” when they went out with their parents in Las Vegas.

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But enough about my Vegas sentiment. Casinos closing are a pretty big deal, and an even bigger deal in Las Vegas. When the Las Vegas casinos closed in March due to COVID-19 it was not only historical, but also a logistically complicated situation.

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Vegas Is Open – Caesars Palace Las Vegas

We figured a great place to start for the iconic re-opening of Las Vegas was Caesars Palace Las Vegas. After a bizarre but seamless cheese and pickle sandwich journey from London to LAX and a relatively easy drive from LAX to Vegas, I arrived.

COVID-VEGAS

This was not your normal Las Vegas arrival. First off, there was no valet parking. I at first assumed this was a ubiquitous change for Las Vegas due to COVID-19. It was time to reacquaint myself with the joys of self-parking

When you park in a Las Vegas casino you are seldom going to wind up parking anywhere near the desired entrance or property location. This time was no exception.

I gathered my hand baggage which consisted of a rollerboard and a duffle and made my way to the “casino” entrance from the parking lot. Having been to Caesars quite a few times in the past, I had some understanding of where I would be once I actually got into the property.

I had a nice walk through the property, and the excitement tends to build as you near the “iconic” Caesars Palace Lobby Area. Things were familiar but different. I mean, you usually don’t have so many or any people wearing masks and you definitely got the impression that there was some change in the air.

Caesars Palace Las Vegas Temperature CheckCaesars Palace Las Vegas Temperature Check
Photograph ©2020 Michael Trager | Caesars Palace Las Vegas Temperature Check

First major change was that the normal queue for the front desk was started with a temperature check area. Setting aside whether you believe that checking the current temperature of guests is a prudent preventative measure, it just looks odd.

In front of the main statue were anti-bacterial stations that were contact free, and there was a security guard with a mask that also had additional masks to hand to new visitors who desired a mask.

Being a travel loyalty person, and this being Vegas, it’s often about status. I asked if there was a line for Seven Star Caesars Rewards Members. Nobody likes a queue, and you especially do not like a queue in Vegas. Fortunately, they said yes! The Diamond/Seven Stars check-in area was operating, and they told me to proceed towards the special VIP check-in room towards the Augustus Tower.

Now, this is where knowing the layout or perhaps a bit of “luck” pays off. I chose a room in the Augustus Tower which is one of the newer towers at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Caesars is a sprawling hotel complex that has been expanded on in a rather haphazard fashion since it opened in (insert year)

While I have always loved and appreciated the history of Caesars Palace, in recent years there has been a bit of disconnection with regard to the super high quality product that Caesars represented for years, and certainly in its early years.

In recent years, Caesars associates and service levels has been saddled with draconian cost cutting measures. Oddly, Caesars Palace Las Vegas still commands some of the higher prices on the Vegas Strip. In some cases, it can cost more to stay at Caesars in a premium room than Wynn Las Vegas.

The newer towers were something to behold. When Augustus Tower first opened, I remember how awestruck I was at the size and quality of the hard product. It was huge and perfect. Including lovely amenities and minibar. After Augustus came the Octavius Tower (a real schlep from the casino floor, or perhaps really good for those who need to get in their “steps”).

Caesars Palace Las Vegas LobbyCaesars Palace Las Vegas Lobby
Photograph ©2020 Michael Trager | Caesars Palace Las Vegas Lobby

I was excited to have booked a five-night complimentary stay for opening in the Augustus Tower. I figured it would be a return to an old friend, who I had not seen since when the tower first opened. But, alas, much as the rumour goes of the death of Augustus by poison from his wife Livia, we will soon find out that the Augustus Tower at Caesars Palace Las Vegas had a similar fate.

Photograph ©2020 Michael Trager | Caesars Palace Las Vegas – VIP Check In Desk

Caesars – Poisoned by Cost-Cutting

We will never be certain if Livia really poisoned Augustus, but for sure it became clearly evident quite quickly that Caesars Entertainment has “poisoned” The Augustus Tower and the entire casino resort complex by cost-cutting.

While checking in we found out about the new procedures during the reopening. This included:

  • No Housekeeping Services
  • No Room Service
  • No Valet Parking (Update 23 June – It has been reported there is now valet for certain guests.)

Were these changes for our health and safety? Or were these change really the #CovidExcuse disguised as cost-cutting? If these items were truly health and safety items, why are other “luxury” properties able to figure out safe solutions. Why does delivering room service and leaving outside a door pose a risk to hotel guests?

While the only people who believe Caesars Palace is a 5-star luxury property is Caesars Entertainment, how are other properties dealing with their reopening?

In comparison, Wynn Las Vegas is offering all of the services in a “COVID-Friendly” way. For example, Wynn Las Vegas offers all of the services which Caesars Palace Las Vegas has discontinued for “our safety.” Further, Wynn Las Vegas even offers Turn Down Service on request.

Caesars Health and Safety Protocols outlines these procedures. You’ll quickly notice some of the most important points that impact a visitors guest experience.

  • Team members, including guest room attendants, will not enter occupied rooms.
  • Guest deliveries will be dropped off outside the guest room door.

We are being told these procedures are for our safety. But, it’s questionable whether that is really the case. Is looking to reduce housekeeping and labor expenses the ultimate goal, not guest safety?

“Gambling” with your safety

Safety protocols are developed to keep guest safe. In this case, dealing with significant guest safety challenges due to COVID-19. I noted many times when these policies were directly violated. These violations of Caesars Policy included:

  • Enter my room to deliver ash-trays, even though I was told that they would have to be left outside the room.
  • Delivery of towels and other guest items (note: there is no housekeeping service) which required the physical entry of an employee.
  • Delivery of a package, which also required that I be in the room and directly receive the package from the staff member.
  • Housekeeping entering the room at approximately 10:30 AM on the day of check-out even though it was prior to normal check-out and the room had already been assigned a late check-out of 2:00 PM.

In a number of tweets I brought up many of these issues, in addition the cornerstone of the policy is supposed to be cleaning. The property had been closed since March. Did Caesars “really” clean these rooms to an improved standard? Considering the amount of noticeable dust and dirt, it would be hard to come to that conclusion.

Then you had numerous other items such as a phone system that was not operating at the property. The was even acknowledged by the executive assistant of the VP of Hotel Operations for Caesars Entertainment.

If Cost Savings NOT Health and Safety
Maybe That Explains Things?

The door lock issue was the worst. Since the door would “trick” you into thinking it closed when it was really left open. Further, my biggest concern where the claims made by Caesars with regard to COVID-19 safety and employees not maintaining a contactless environment. It seems Caesars is not particularly concerned. But, why would Caesars NOT be concerned with being compliant with their out health and safety protocols? Could it be, some of these protocols were for cost-saving and not guest safety?

In any event, if you say something is for a guest’s safety, the guest should have an expectation that you will follow these protocols. I reached out to Caesars via twitter and also had a follow-up call from the office of the Vice President of Hotel Operations for Caesars Entertainment. I can only assume this person is Stephanie Richter, but surprisingly the executive assistant would not give the name of his boss.

This assistant agreed there were significant issues and they would be addressed. I tried to follow up again, and they have refused to discuss any of these issues. Instead, I was given an offer for a “future” three-night luxury hotel stay by the Senior Director of Hotel Operations – Caesars Palace.

I Wanted Clarity – NOT a “freebie”

Since my intention was to understand the policies and a “free” Caesars stay was the last thing I wanted, I quickly declined the offer and asked and made clear I wanted to understand these health and safety issues, issues that were part of Caesars Protocols.


Wynn Las Vegas – An Oasis of Safety

I also compared the differences when after checking into Wynn Las Vegas and was shocked. I went from a “luxury” hotel with no services under the guise of COVID-19 to a luxury property that was truly operating with safety protocols.

Wynn Las Vegas In Room Safety KitWynn Las Vegas In Room Safety Kit
Photograph ©2020 Michael Trager | Wynn Las Vegas In Room Safety Kit

Not only were all the services provided, but Wynn Las Vegas also provided safety items such as sanitizer and masks in the room. A far cry from Caesars which does not even provide bottles of water at check-in due to “safety.

The conclusion was very clear after checking into Wynn Las Vegas. Caesars was not really interested in safety protocols. They were interested in #CovidExcuse being used to save money and further cost cut.

Oh, and I also happened to notice a butler/server pushing a room service cart toward the Octavius Tower. Perhaps, COVID-19 is a virus that is smart enough to not bother with big VIP casino players with $250k credit lines?

Wynn even had their spa and salon open, something that was not the case at Caesars Las Vegas.

Wynn Las Vegas continues to impress on all levels. But, more so, you feel safe at Wynn Resorts because they are following their protocols. Following protocols and providing service, imagine that.


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