Recently I had a case which required the full use all of my deft craftwork in the art of disguise and subterfuge to infiltrate an illicit electronics syndicate working thru channels throughout the world. My attendance was thus required at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV, a gaudy paean to all that glitters being gold, neon, or simply scintillating......yes, quite scintillating..... I looked forward to the adventure with great relish!
Now, over the past many years such visits to the Entertainment Capitol of the World have almost become de rigeur in my line of work for all that is untoward and nefarious in this corner of the globe at some point passes thru Las Vegas. Thus on this particular occasion I was required to maintain a very low profile and travel as inconspicuously as possible, avoiding all the usual high profile venues (with their high profile room rates much less) so as not to tip my hand by announcing my singular presence among the some 150,000 conventioneers from Azerbaijain to Zimbabwe.
|The Samsung 'Mother Ship'|
This city is all about SEEING and BEING SEEN, especially during this high profile week what with Hotel Casino's like MGM Grand, The Wynn, Mandalay Bay, and even The Cosmopolitan, all sporting solid bookings throughout the week. And with these bookings come the thin air rack rates that supply and demand dictates. Additionally, the advent of transportation (or gridlock more likely) in this city led me to The Stratosphere Tower and Casino as my choice of residence for a number of reasons.
|The Samsung Wrap Around|
First, The Stratosphere is not a hotel and casino with the cache that many of the first rate hotels might command. Therefore, if one is looking to simply blend in and avoid the hoi polloi surrounding the mania that is CES, then the Stratosphere meets this need. If, however, your business dealings absolutely require you to be amongst the throngs and masses, amidst the electronics giants in the industry (Samsung, Toshiba, and Bose, OH MY!), if you absolutely must 'See and Be seen', then the Stratosphere is not for you. No, for a stint at the Stratosphere one must put oneself into a more calm and resolute Zen mindset.
Second, the location of the Stratosphere, particularly for the madness of CES traffic, is almost ideal......for the cost! Found at the NORTH end of the Las Vegas Strip, the Strat sits at the polar opposite end of where the thickest of traffic and congestion occurs during this week of bedlam. And this traffic I speak of is not the normal, everyday Las Vegas traffic. No, this is 'CES Traffic'......found only when 'Lost Wages' is set upon by such a horde of visitors that a simple taxi ride......when you can secure one, can take 40 minutes for just a few miles on the Strip.
This my good fellows is the beauty of the Stratosphere! The hotel is just two blocks north of the last, northernmost stop on the Las Vegas Monorail allows one to take a 5 minute rail ride to the Convention Center but more importantly, it allows one to avoid the thousands upon thousands of other conventioneers who have the same idea of arriving at the CES Convention.....and most assuredly at the exact same times!
By being NORTH of the throng whilst most others are south, thus traveling 'against the grain' of traffic, one can avoid all manner of hassle and give oneself the luxury of a stress free travel experience to and from the halls themselves.
Yes, yes my dear boy, I am well aware that the Las Vegas Monorail with it's wonderful serpentine spine travels behind many of the Las Vegas Casino's in a very accommodating and cost effective manner. And yes, on any OTHER travel week, this would be accorded the respect and esteem it richly deserves for it's simplicity.
|The HUGE 3D Experience......|
Staying at the MGM Grand in prior years, which is the first (or last) stop on the LV Monorail, have I witnessed 30-45 minute waits at the transit station to get UP TO THE monorail platform and wait for the arriving railcar.....let alone the 15 minute ride to the LVCC. (This scene reminded me of many a crowd at train stations in Beijing tho with more smartly dressed travelers!)
Additionally, and perhaps MOST importantly, the lines to get to the monorail whence LEAVING the convention hall can border on lunacy....as will the wait for all manner of taxi, livery, bus, coach, horse drawn carriage or rickshaw!
|The View North from the Monorail Platform|
|The 'Old Style' McDonald's one block from The Strat|
I have witnessed with my own eyes taxi and coach lines at the LVCC at the end of the day that were more than an hour long, without a coach in sight! Similarly, lines up to the monorail platform (Le Mode de Simplex!) had been halted at the ground level as there was simply no further space ON the Monorail platform to stand had you even the good fortune of ascending to said platform. If you cannot even get to the NORTHBOUND platform due to the swarms themselves, in this pinch one can actually walk to the Strat in 10-15 minutes!
The third reason for visiting with the Start is cost! The highest rate for a room at this hotel that I have ever paid during CES is $129.00.....and THAT reservation was placed one week prior and came with cancellation priviledges. (I've actually paid LESS than that by reserving on the very day of arrival, a risky venture unto itself at CES with this show growing by 20K visitors in just the past year alone.) Normal rates run approximately $79-$89 during CES which, for travelers on a budget or those small business minded folks such as myself (Holmes Private Investigators, Plc) looking to scrimp a quid at every turn, well there is no better mix of cost with location and convenience in my book. (My next venture to Las Vegas the last week of January has an almost ridiculous $31.00/room rate for comparison sake.)
|The North Hall|
Surely, one might offer that the Las Vegas Hilton (LVH) is also north of the convention center, and is even within a tighter walking distance from the North Hall if you can manage to circumvent the halls with a map from a Baker St. Irregular! But the pricing of the accommodations can top $239 on an OFF night, exceeding $300 per evening very easily!
All that said, I must stress again that the Stratosphere is NOT a 5 Star property, not even a 4 Star but is a firm 3 Star property. What it certainly is NOT is a tired old lady like some of the lesser marquee names have become.......or were, like the erased Sahara for example.
Yes, the Stratosphere has everything a clandestine conventioneer like myself might want.....quick and easy travel to and fro, economics of attendance that will leave you feeling quite accomplished, clean rooms with wi-fi, board and iron, cable TV, along with a number of respectable (tho not overly stellar) restaurants and food establishments to choose from.
And with another caper upcoming back in the Marriage Capitol of the World, I will further test my theory by NOT staying at the Stratosphere but at a more 'choice' property located directly within the Strip confines.
Once that visit has transpired I will circle back and report on other aspects of the Vegas experience in comparison.
Now, off to meet Inspector LaStrade!
|The View from the Suite|