Wednesday 22nd November, 2017

Stratosphere Casino Hotel & Tower Las Vegas

I booked a lower cost room at $39.95 a night at this landmark hotel at the top end of the famous Las Vegas Strip. Arriving at the hotel by taxi, I was immediately approached by a bellman who took the bags, issued a ticket and requested that I phone down from the allocated room and baggage would be delivered. I then navigated our way through the casino area to the registration desk. There was quite a line, around 25 people waiting to check in, and 5 attendants at the registration desk. The number of attendants progressively grew, as the line did, and ultimately there were 10 attendants quickly processing the check-ins. In-all despite the long line, check-in was taking place within 10 minutes of arrival at the hotel.

Photo ID was required and a credit card to secure additional charges. Two keys were issued and a passport booklet which detailed the attractions of the hotel. I was then directed to the number 3 bank of lifts, to the 21st floor and Room number 32103. There were 20 lifts in all, servicing the hotel's 2400 rooms. The room was right at the end of 5 inter-connected buildings. The hallway and carpet was showing some signs of wear, although consistent with the 3 star rating of the hotel. The room, at first glance, was sufficiently spacious, well furnished , although there were a couple of items needing attention. The carpet had some stains, the wardrobe had no door, was fairly compact, and had an ironing board and iron, and a large safe in full view. There was a king bed and one bedside table, which housed a phone (with modem for Internet connection), and a small digital clock. There was a luggage rack out in the open, and a cabinet containing 3 drawers and a TV. On top was an ice bucket, and about 6 plastic cups. Ice was available on the floor, although about 50 meters away from the room. There was a small picture window, which looked out over the back end of the Strip, and the hotel parking station, which was quite extensive. The room was attractively wall-papered, had nice prints, and colorful drapes surrounding the small window. The air-conditioning comprised a large wall unit, which was quite noisy, and kept cutting in and out. I switched it off because it really was too intrusive. The bathroom was quite small, with barely enough room for a full size bath/shower, and toilet. Immediately outside was the vanity, with basin, mirrors, a hair-dryer and limited bench space. The vanity was actually part of the room, and not the bathroom. There were 4 globes above, although only 3 were working,and these provided ample light. There were two lamp stands in the room, a small dining table and two timber frame lounge/dining armchairs, which had a pink covering and black ornamental loops at the back. There was a panel of four power points on the wall, which provided plenty of power access for laptop useage, or mobile phone charging. I did later learn that the hotel completed a $75 million expansion in 2001, which added 1,000 rooms, 67,000 square feet of recreation facilities, a pool, and outdoor event center. At the time the casino was refurbished, and a number of restaurants were added.

No doubt the hotel has a range of rooms, and suites, of different standards and furnishings. The room I had was at the budget end, which should be borne in mind when considering this review.

After checking in, I wandered firstly along the hallway to establish that in fact all the hotel towers were joined. It was a seamless, and extremely long walk, but the decor of the hotel maintained a certain sameness, although it was obvious as to the newer sections of the property.

I then went down the lift to the casino area. I walked through the areas, a couple of the restaurants obviously only opened for dinner. I eventually came across Roxy's Diner, a 1950s decor establishment, with waitresses in pig-tails and clothing of the era. There was a disc jockey playing 1950s and early 1960s favorites, and at times the waiting staff went on stage to mime some of the hits. The theme was really well done, the menu was excellent, and the pricing quite reasonable. I ordered a chocolate malt which was $4.49 and a philly cheese steak sandwich, which was $8.49. I then toured the casino, and checked the outside. Not too much in proximity, the hotel is a little away from the rest of the Strip. I decided to take a walk downtown to the original Las Vegas and check out the scene there. It was quite a walk, an interesting one through less glamorous areas of 'Vegas, into Downtown. This area is almost like a museum, the whole town, the buildings, casinos, and particularly the neon signage, it was all exactly the way you would have expected it in the 1950s. There was the Golden Nugget, a casino often pictured in scenes of old Las Vegas movies, and brochures, and there was the Four Queens, Fitzgeralds, the Golden Gate (has origins back to 1906), the California Hotel, Lady Luck, the Fremont Hotel, Las Vegas Club, and many more. Many of the main casinos and retail establishments form a pedestrian mall along Fremont Street, with numerous attractions, restaurants, cafes, an Irish pub, cinema complex, and specialist boutique stores, selling a variety of souvenirs, and more. There was music playing, and after a while the Drifters, which were appearing at a nearby casino, came out and did a few shortened versions of some of their most famous songs. They then stood around and chatted to passers-by, and posed for photographs, and signed autographs. Downtown Las Vegas is certainly more downmarket, in comparison to the glitzy, glamorous Strip, but it has a flavor, and attraction of it's own, meshed in with the feel and atmosphere of an era of bygone days.

Back to the Stratosphere, and I decided to check one of the lounges. Two of the main lounges at the Stratosphere have large video screens, and one I passed earlier was playing country and western music. When I returned the music was more contemporary, however I decided to give it a try. Alas they didn't have draught beer. I was directed to Images Cabaret lounge, there they had a variety of beers on top. I ordered a Budweiser. Playing on this video screen was a replay of the Buckingham Palace concert, which a variety of international and British acts, including Tom Jones, Cliff Richard and Tony Bennett. This was enjoyable, however as time approached 10pm the screen was taken up, and there was a live band, which plays nightly at 10 o'clock.

I then ventured upstairs to head to the Stratosphere tower, and the Top of The World Restaurant. After going through security I caught one of the high speed lifts and seconds later was 840 feet above the earth and looking out over the lights of Las Vegas. A simply superb 360 degree view of the city, and capturing all of its glitz and glamour. I had a shrimp cocktail, and a prime rib, both meals were superbly presented and were very tasty. It is not difficult to understand that the restaurant was voted 'Best Gourmet Room' by a Las Vegas Review-Journal's readers' poll.

The hotel has a number of other restaurants, catering for all appetites, and budgets. There's a McDonalds, Crazy Armadillo Oyster Bar, Madam Ilardo's Pizzeria, Fellini's Ristorante Italiano, Hamada Asian Village, Lucky's Cafe (which is new), the Poolside Cafe & Bar, Roxy's Diner, and Top of the World of course, and others, including the Courtyard Buffet, which is a very large restaurant, providing elaborate buffets morning, noon, and night.

The hotel offers an express check-out, which means you simply drop your keys in an express check-out box, and you're free to leave the hotel. Charges are simply added to the credit card you provided at check-in.

The hotel is really good value, has plenty to offer people from all walks of life, and is a fully self-contained destination hotel, which tries hard and stacks up on most counts. The Stratosphere Tower really is a landmark in Las Vegas, and obviously a marketing masterstroke of whoever it was that decided to make it part of the original hotel.

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