Wynn Las Vegas is the latest and greatest hotel on the Strip. It was built and is managed by Steve Wynn, the man behind the Mirage and Bellagio. Wynn is built on the grounds and golf course of the Desert Inn, dynamited in 2001. The Desert Inn was quiet and all of the rooms had balconies on which one could sit, read a book, and enjoy the desert air. What happened to make the Desert Inn unprofitable? “Starwood bought it and they didn’t understand the casino business,” a bellman said. “I worked at the D.I. for 24 years. The new managers came in and fired the casino hosts because they were expensive. A casino host makes a base salary of $250,000 per year and then gets a percentage of whatever the people he brings in lose. So you can see why someone would want to cut them out, but it turns out that you need these guys.”
The Desert Inn had 700 rooms; Wynn has 2700. The hotel portion of Wynn is a big high-rise with plate glass windows that don’t open. Forget balconies. When you’re in your room, it is like being in an office building. When you’re in the rest of the facility, it is like being in a shopping mall. The surfaces and finishes are sort of luxurious, but the environment makes one desperate to get out and see what the air feels like.
Because the Wynn is so huge and makes so little use of information technology, there is no advantage to being a guest. If you want to get your car out of the valet, you need to have your ticket. They don’t record the name of the owner or the room number associated with a car. If you lose your ticket, we were informed, you have to drive around the entire lot with a valet and look for your car. When you find it, you have to prove that you own it (good luck with an airport courtesy car!). If you want to walk out on the terrace and see the waterfall, you have to pay $20+ for drinks. If you want to visit the Ferrari dealership on the ground floor, you and your fellow Wynn guest will have to pay $20 to get in (and then pay $38 for a baseball cap or $280,000-400,000 for a car (more than a brand-new four-seat Robinson R44 helicopter)), just like the rabble who walk in off the Strip.
The entire hotel and casino pulses with a Pop music beat. The pool area doesn’t open until 8:00 am and the music is loud in every corner of the patio. If you want to use the exercise machines, you have to pay an additional $25/day. If you and your friend want to escape back to your room and use the Internet, it will cost you about $24/day to hook up your laptops. When you’ve just about finished writing a Weblog post and hit “submit”, Wynn’s service will decide that you need to renew your agreement to pay for Internet service. Your work will be thrown away and your browser redirected to a screen where you promise to pay them.
Some good things about Wynn: comfortable beds, large and intelligently designed bathrooms (though it would have been nice if they cleaned the bathtub between our first and second night), friendly, helpful, and well-informed staff. The nightly show, Le Reve, is fantastic. The stage is a big round swimming pool with elaborate platforms for the Cirque de Soleil alumni to run around on. Prodigious quantities of rain fall from the ceiling. People fly and then dive.
Practical travel tips: If you have the $400+/night to spend on a Las Vegas hotel room, but want a bit of fresh air, consider the Ritz Carlton in Lake Las Vegas, a short drive east. Some of their rooms have balconies, a feature that hotels on the Strip have been eliminating due, supposedly, to suicides by distraught gamblers. If are on a tighter budget and want to be in a place where you can walk out of the casino into a public street, consider downtown Las Vegas where you can stroll on the shaded and misted Fremont Street. If you really want to hang out at Wynn, stay for $45/night across the street at The Frontier where you can drink $1.99 margaritas while viewing the nightly female mud wrestling and bull riding. Now you have an extra $350/day and can easily afford the services of the Wynn ($85 for a man’s haircut, $70 for two people to dine at the buffet, etc.). When you’re done with Wynn, you get a bit of fresh air strolling back across the street to your hotel room.