Las Vegas

I love people-watching when I travel, and Las Vegas is one of those places where you can always find something of interest. When I’m with a group of girlfriends for one of our spa-pool-show weekends, we have a good time with everyone’s favorite Vegas spectator sports – Which State are They From? and Is She a Pro? (honestly. sometimes it’s hard to tell).

Things are a bit different when traveling to Sin City on business, usually since you know almost everyone around you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sport of People Watching.  I’ve decided that during conferences it’s fun to see  how people handle the off-times, and I’m rarely disappointed.     Like tourists, I’ve noticed people tend to fall into 3 different categories:

The Partiers: This group tends to be single and have lots of stamina.  And I mean LOTS.  You can see them all over the strip – traveling in packs with nametags or company logowear, taking multiple huggy-pics on their mobile phones.   Some are drinking heavily, and others are trying to pace themselves – with varying success.  All are planning their next stop after the company-sponsored reception is over, usually in loud voices.  Most make it back to the hotel at some point during the night and snatch a few hours of sleep.   Others will toddle into their hotel rooms in time to shower and get ready for the next day’s round of sessions.  You know who you are, and trust me – so does everyone else.

The Parents: This group obviously doesn’t get out much.   They REALLY want to party and have a good time, but it’s way past their bedtime at home.  They’re not used to staying up late, but stick it out for a while with the partiers because they know no little one is going to wake them up at 5am.  They know they get to sleep in until 7 before their first session in the morning so figure they need to make the most of their one night without responsibilities.   Some look all-in after one drink, others can go the distance with the best of the Party Crowd.  One easy way to tell them from the Partiers – they’re the ones showing pictures of their adorable little ones on their cell phones to everyone they see, in between yawns and drinks.

The Chaperones: With this group,  if you asked their age, you’d get clocked.  Let’s just say they’ve gone through the Partiers and the Parents stage, and now they’re at the age where they’re sipping their lone cocktail, and watching the other groups.  What they’re really doing is laughing and making bets on who is going to make it back to the hotel that night.   Having a few Chaperones along on an evening reception is not a bad idea.  They’re usually the ones who make sure the others they find who are out of hand make it back to the hotel in what is relatively one piece.   They’re also the ones the next day who are bright and cheerful at breakfast, and razzing those who are hanging over their coffee in pain.

Whichever group you belong to, enjoy the delights of Sin City and remember – when at a company convention, what Happens in Vegas DOES NOT Stay in Vegas!  And you KNOW who you are (so do we!).

View from the Mix Lounge at THE Hotel.

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer slings and arrows of cruel breakout sessions or recline on a chaise with cucumbers over the eyes and chilled lemon water.  Ok, Shakespeare it’s not.  What IS pure poetry is the Spa at Mandalay Bay.

I’m not a gambler.  Blackjack, slot machines, roulette and poker hold no attractions for me.   I just don’t see the point.  If I’m going to plunk money down on a table, I want to receive something tangible in exchange – like top-of-the-line spa treatments.  I hit the jackpot at this place.

My colleague Stefanie and I used the time left open when a Las Vegas client canceled a meeting before our conference was slated to begin.  We had arranged our flights around this meeting, and we would be at loose ends for a few hours.   We could join in one of the pre-conference sessions, or we could duck into the spa.   It took us about 2 minutes to pull up the spa menu on the hotel website and book two hours of pure bliss.

After a light lunch at the Raffles Restaurant at the hotel, we sauntered down to the spa.  Clad in our robes and with spa sandals that fit, Stef and I gratefully sank into the hot pool.  Travel tension and stress melted away while we gazed at the carved pillars and golden ambiance.  The waterfalls that fuel each of the 4 pools (two hot, one warm and one cold) provided a melodious and relaxing sound.  Padded chaises were all around the pool, occupied by ladies in various stages of unconsciousness.  We resolved to be just as relaxed in the next couple of hours.

We were soon called for our treatments.   I had a coconut milk scrub first up on my dance card, followed by an aromatherapy massage and a Moroccan Oil scalp massage.   Stefanie had her massage and scalp treatment up first, followed by a cocoa butter hydration wrap that she hoped would help get rid of the dry skin and hair caused by the New Jersey winter.

The scrub and massage were superb.  I had a therapist named Sharon as my guide to relaxation, and she’s great.  If you’re reading this blog post and thinking of making a reservation on your upcoming trip, be sure to ask for Sharon.  She had a knack of  figuring out exactly what needed work during my treatment, and she didn’t break my meditation by talking too much.

The best part of the treatment was the 25 minute scalp massage and hair treatment with Moroccan Oil.  I have hair like that found on a buffalo, or perhaps Medusa, and I use that stuff every day – it’s the only thing that tames the snakes that spring from my head.  I hoped it would help with hydration and make my hair something approaching shiny.   What I ended up with was a brain that had ceased all cognitive function and hair that rivaled the Luxor Hotel for shine.  It was THAT good.

I practically crawled to the steam room after the treatment was over, and inhaled hot steam and drank cold lemon-water in about equal amounts.  When I emerged, the oil had been completely absorbed by my hair and skin and Stef said I looked 10 years younger.   An hour on the chaise with cold cucumbers on my eyes listening to the waterfalls completed the experience.   Soon we were ready to face the rigors of the next two days.

We both agreed it was one fantastic way to start the trip.  And yes, I DID look 10 years younger.  Amazing what stress relief does for a person – inside and out.

I need to do this more often.

I just returned a few hours ago from my company’s annual conference, held this year in America’s Adult Playground, Las Vegas.   250+ people who love to party, gambling, clubs, gorgeous weather, spas and work don’t always mix, but we did what we could to not work too much.   The rest, well….    Our conference organizers did their very best to maintain order – and they succeeded, pretty much.

The conference was held at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.   It’s theme is Singapore, Raffles, Southeast Asia, and I’m not really sure what else.   Having been to Singapore and the Raffles Hotel several times, I can say they didn’t really capture the theme all that well.  But, since the chances of the average punter in Vegas actually having been to Singapore are pretty microscopic, I’m sure the hotel designers were pretty pleased with themselves.

It’s at the very end of the famed Vegas Strip, and is shaped in a three-pronged format that gives every room a different view.  Some get a view of the mountains, some the strip, and for those not favored by the Travel Gods, McCarran International Airport.   Guess where I ended up…

The rooms are pretty nice, for Las Vegas.  They’re relatively large, clean and nicely decorated.   The bed is VERY comfortable, which brought this hotel up immensely in my estimation.   There is also a nice little divan next to the window that invites reading a book or sipping something while looking at the view .   That is, if you can get the funky tube-light thing to work.   I never did.  It was OK – they kept us so busy, I didn’t have much time to relax in my room anyway.

The bathroom is quite nice.  It’s decently large, with a nice shower, a deep tub that fills up very fast (kudos to Mandalay Bay!), dual sinks, and a separate toilet closet.   There are two smallish closets on either side of the bathroom door, which I really like.  This way I can keep my suitcase in one closet and hang my clothes in the other.   My own iron and board was a huge plus.  I hate having to call housekeeping and wait for someone to bring one up to me.

The only thing I didn’t like about this hotel was the noise.  The rent-a-helicopters circle over the hotel all night and the airport noise adds to the din.  The hotel did make an effort at noise-dampeners, but it still was enough to be annoying.   A couple of ear plugs took care of that problem, but unfortunately did nothing to drown out the noise of my neighbors.  Not quite sure what was going on each night, but they certainly seemed to have a jolly time doing it.  The hotel security folks were kept pretty busy.  I retaliated by taking down the “Recuperating” door sign and sliding it back under their door each morning.  I hope the maids woke them up very early…

The staff at this hotel are helpful and nice, which is key.  We didn’t encounter a single snarky person working at this hotel.  Wish I could have said the same thing about the restaurants, but that’s another story.   The people in the conference portion of the hotel were just as nice and friendly, and they really worked hard to make us comfortable and on time.   I was most impressed.  Of course, a lot of that can be the people who organized the conference from our company – they’re a really top-flight bunch of guys and gals that really know how to keep such a large group running in the right direction.    The fact that I didn’t see any of them arguing with the Mandalay Bay help (as they have in other years and other hotels) showed that in this venue, our people had a good team assigned to them.

The other item I was most impressed about was the relatively low amount of cigarette and cigar smoke that I had to wade through.  As someone with minor asthma, I’m usually very uncomfortable in Las Vegas.  You have to walk through the casino to get ANYWHERE in these hotels, and getting through usually means pushing blindly through a foggy haze of seriously nasty smoke.   Not this time, and I was pretty stoked to see that.

So to Meryl, Brittany, David, Ian, Dee and Michael – my very chic hat is off to you for putting together a really top-flight conference.  We learned a lot, and had a great time doing it.

The fun had just begun….  Stay tuned for the stories yet to come.  Gotta check with my attorney first to see just what I can tell.  Oh yeah – and take a nap – a looooong one.