Overview: A partial “hotel within a hotel” at the very “corporate” Aria hotel
Strengths: High floors afford decent views, private check-in area
Drawbacks: Numerous service snafus, marshmallow beds, low quality of furnishings
My industry holds an annual conference out in Las Vegas each year. In the past, I’ve stayed in regular Aria rooms and rooms at the adjacent Mandarin Oriental property. (Here is my review of the regular Aria rooms.) This time I decided to try the Aria SkySuites. While there are some definite strengths, the overall experience at SkySuites could at most be generously described as upper midscale. I see the property as sort of a notch below the Park Hyatt Chicago, a particularly weak hotel unto itself. Overall, however, the property failed to deliver.
Before I go on, let me highlight that there was a financial services conference going on at the hotel (which I was participating in). The sea of blue blazers definitely puts additional tax on hotels’ operations. I see this at all of our industry conferences. Against that, this is Las Vegas….conference headquarters…and the property has several hundred thousand square feet of conference space. This is their business…and we are a high spending crowd. There should be no excuses.
I booked via a Virtuoso agent. I received an email a few weeks before arrival from the SkySuites concierge team offering to assist with transportation and any other bookings. I provided my flight details and did make some dinner bookings through the concierge. This all went well (though there were subsequent issues with the concierge).
The room rate includes round trip “luxury vehicle” transportation to and from McCarran. This provided a fairly new SUV pick up fro the airport and a very new 6-passenger stretch on the return. While the ride is “free,” a $20 tip each way is pretty much customary. Perhaps $20 is even light?
Arrival at the property is into a separate, gated driveway. There were multiple bellmen on hand and our luggage was handled very efficiently. Check-in is in a small, private lounge-like area. Check-in seemed to take a little longer than it should, but it all worked out. It was nice to be separate from the main lobby where invariably hundreds of people are queuing or milling about.
The agent didn’t mention anything about the Virtuoso package but did hand me a welcome envelope which contained the program details. There was no mention of an upgrade, though their website indicated that several higher categories of rooms were available. I didn’t bother to ask.
Entry to the suite is into a small foyer with a powder room to one side.
The living room had a boxy feel to it and the bar counter to the left upon entry felt unadorned. For how high-end this property bills itself as being, a bit more fit out (a wall on the right side of the bar, a mirror, some special lighting, etc.) would have been nice.
The room itself reminded me of the Park Hyatt Chicago, not a particularly strong property. The room had what I would generously describe as upper-midscale furnishings. If you told me the living room furniture was at a Hilton, I wouldn’t argue.
The bedroom was also relatively unadorned and felt dark, even with every light on.
The bed felt like resting on a marshmallow….in a bad way. I’ve never felt a bed quite like it. I don’t recall the beds in the regular part of the Aria being like this.
The main bathroom was also just OK. The design, though nothing was out of place, felt completely uninspired.
The shower was nearly completely sealed by the glass (with just a small gap at the top of the door) had a moderate musty/mildew smell, but no mold was visible.
The technology in the room is pretty good. The bedside touchscreen control worked well and could control nearly everything in the room. The “alarm clock” could be easily programmed to turn on the television to a channel of your choice, open the shades and turn on a range of lights, if you wanted. I tried these features and indeed they worked without issue.
Despite checking in at about 10pm, my room was not turned down. They knew my arrival details (they picked me up at the airport) and should have had my room turned down upon arrival. In addition, upon arrival, the room was set to heat at 74 degrees. The room felt hot and stuffy. Failing to look after such basic items is indicative of the quality of the hotel.
Knowing the hotel was full of “blue blazered” financiers (who seem to have a genetic pre-disposition to ordering room service breakfast), I called room service to order my breakfast the night before. I ordered for 8am and the order was cheerfully taken. I was hoping to beat the invariable delays on new orders for the morning.
Come 8:30 the next morning (a full 30 minutes after the scheduled time), however, my breakfast hadn’t arrived. I called down to room service and was told they “were running late” on all orders and it would be another 20-30 minutes. I had a full day of meetings and didn’t have time to wait for a pre-ordered meal which was in best case 50 minutes late. I cancelled my order.
A manager from room service called back and asked to reinstate my order, saying she “would comp the meal.” I politely pointed out that my breakfast was already without charge due to my booking and that I didn’t have time to wait. I asked her to pay special attention to my order the following morning, however. She assured me she would.
Though I had a breakfast meeting at 8am the next morning, I had calls with the office starting sooner. To see what would happen, the second night I pre-ordered some coffee and toast to be delivered to my room at 6am. I set my alarm for 5:55am.
The next morning, at a little before 5:40am, I hear pounding on the door to my room. At first I thought it might be part of a dream, but when it continued, I quickly deduced that it was room service. Indeed, there was a waiter with my coffee and toast. This time they came 20 minutes early. Just as being at least 50 minutes late is unacceptable, delivering 20 minutes early on a 6am order is also unacceptable.
I took the tray, thanked the waiter and quickly ushered him out of the room. The toast was fine but the coffee was tepid at best. Room service was officially zero for two.
In planning my breakfast meeting, I asked the SkySuites concierge (via email) to make me a booking for three people at 8am at a breakfast restaurant in the hotel. While most of what else the email concierge did was fine, this really didn’t go well. They sent me a long set of flowery restaurant descriptions in reply…but didn’t say which were open for breakfast. I replied saying a needed a sit-down breakfast venue at the Ariathat was suitable for a business meeting and asked them to pick the appropriate location. Very straight forward, or so I thought.
Later that night, I received my confirmation. They booked me at the Veranda. The Veranda, of course, is at the Four Seasons, not the Aria.
I like to double check my schedule the night before and thankfully discovered the issue with the restaurant location. It turns out the only two places actually in the Aria open for breakfast do not take reservations. I changed the meeting to be at the Aria Cafe.
From the SkySuites room booking, I got a “line pass,” allowing me to jump the regular queue at the restaurants. Many other MLife cardholders got the same benefit. Of course, even the line jumping queue had a queue. And despite dozens of open tables, the hostesses were painfully slow to seat people. There were periods where it seemed the hostesses were just standing there doing nothing. It took 10+ minutes to be seated, despite a vast availability of tables and only three or four groups ahead of us. The meal itself was fine, though not memorable.
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The one upshot of my visit (beyond some very productive business) was some very productive time at the craps table. I am pleased to report the dice fell my way far more often than the odds would suggest. While I am by no means a “whale” gambler, at each session the winnings were quick and big. While most gambling is a luck-based activity (other than some card games), one skill which is valuable for all gambling is to know when to lock in winnings and leave the table. I’ve (nearly) mastered that skill….and I’m confident that successful execution of that tact was a big part of keeping the results of each session on the positive side of the ledger.
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While I rarely select a hotel based on “star” ratings, I find they are often not unreasonable indicators of what you’ll get. At a purported five-star rating, I can safely say the Aria SkySuites property is one, if not two, two stars overrated. Even significant gaming winnings weren’t enough to alter my view of this hotel!
The property was clearly overtaxed by the demands of the customers. When you built and operate a convention-oriented hotel with thousands of rooms, you do need to be prepared for the property to be full. I’ve stayed at other mega hotels in Las Vegas and while it is never a boutique feeling, it has never been this bad, even when all the beds are full.
Even if you were fortunate to visit when the property wasn’t overtaxed, the quality of the SkySuites rooms was weak. The regular Aria rooms (non-SkySuite) offered a better quality build out, in my opinion. If you are looking for luxury accommodations, you won’t find it many of the regular suite categories within SkySuites. (Perhaps the absolute highest SkySuites rooms are different?)
Absent special circumstances (such as the convenience of staying at your conference hotel), staying at Aria SkySuites is not recommended. And, even then, readers would be wise to at least consider other options.
Telephone: (702) 590-7757
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