Another day in Vegas as part of our travel writing gig! The tour continues.
We're anxious to check out what we didn't get to yesterday. Looking out of our floor-to-ceiling 19th floor windows, Aria's pools look very inviting. Frustrated by the $15 "super fast" Internet service that's hot and cold, we decide to call in a ticket to tech support and head down to check out the pool.
On our way down, we duck into the spa and fitness center for a tour. The Canyon Ranch Spa, at Venetian/Palazzo, is one place where we will always indulge and other options always seem subpar in comparison.
It's a gorgeous area. The fitness area appears to be about the size of a basketball court. Right outside, there's a fire blazing in a minimalist, living-room-like relaxation area complete with snacks and beverages. The opportunity to workout and enjoy the wet areas of the spa will set you back $30 a day or $80 for three days. Unlike many of the other Vegas resorts, Aria does not charge the uniformly hated resort fee, which will often include use of the fitness area.
We decide to take a pass on this fee and stick to working out on our own - Insanity workouts in the room and running in 110 degree heat. Can't wait!
Lots of water but no Liquid for us.
The pool area is hopping; it seems that most people are intent on getting into Liquid, Aria's version of the lounge/pool combo. Too much "scene" for us. Instead, we plop down next to one of the three other pools and marvel at all of the chairs that remain available. This is rare in Vegas, as you routinely read of hungover people having to force themselves out of bed early to scope out a spot for the day.
They've made the area very nice with many trees and bushes incorporated to make the area less stark. Also, each of the pools offers a number of cabanas,where guests can, essentially, enjoy a room away from their room. All in all, it's on the positive side of what you'd expect for a Vegas pool, complete with bikini clad women in stilettos.
Hanging out by the pool, we were able to look in at buffet goers wrestling with crab legs and choosing from rows and rows of desserts. Unable to avoid the temptation and hungry from all of the sun, it was time to dive in ourselves.
As guys who like food, we've enjoyed keeping an eye on how the dining experience morphs in Vegas. Over the last few yeas, the number of celebrity-chef restaurants has skyrocketed and buffets have moved from quick and cheap to more refined dining experiences. Well, at least they are marketed that way.
Are we at Ikea?
It wasn't fun to wait in line for 30 minutes. All that time, however, enabled us to come to the conclusion that the buffet area looks like an upscale version of the restaurant you find in Ikea stores. As is the case all around Aria, there's a museum-like scale to everything. Gazing around, it's apparent that many people are enjoying the $5 add-on (to the $24 base price) for unlimited champagne or bloody marys. A server doesn't drop by for 10 minutes so that we can make our comparatively boring request for water and diet coke.
It turns out that the buffet (or, The Buffet, as Aria has named it) has been the low point of our experience so far. There's no "wow" factor like we've found at Wynn's buffet or even at Treasure Island's buffet for that matter. Yes, the snow crab legs are a nice touch but certainly nothing that distinguishes the experience. There are some interesting salads, heavenly mashed potatoes and a deep-fried and crispy Asian-hashbrown-ball that is delicious. Most items, including dessert, seem standard or even disappointing. The pancakes are fluffy but too crispy, having sat out for too long. The coleslaw looks like someone made a Costco run for it. The cheesecake tastes as though it's of the no-bake variety - delicious in a pinch at home but not ideal for a place like Aria.
Do we have a connection?
We meander our way through Aria's public spaces, which are looking more and more like they were designed for a hip office building, and head back to the room. Maybe our support guy has worked some magic. After all, we need a reliable connection in order to make a living and to complete this fun assignment.
It's still not working great. Amazingly, we get a follow-up call to check on it. When we report that it's better but not at all good, we're told: "It might be that there's a lot of people on the network." An answer that - like the building - is a bit too office-like.