As Steve Wynn spent more than $2.7 billion over the course of five years to acquire the former Desert Inn, tear it down, and build a sparkly new mega-resort in its place, he missed no opportunity to trumpet what he was doing, using phrases and terms that tried to get us all to believe that Wynn Las Vegas would be unlike any other hotel in Vegas - unlike any other hotel in the world. If Mr. Wynn was to be believed, it would revolutionize the way we thought of a Las Vegas resort, a masterpiece of form and function that would change everything.
How does something live up to that kind of hype? Quite frankly, it couldn't. In many ways I wish they had just shut up about the whole thing because once you stripped away the carnival barker PR and what you were left with was a beautiful hotel.
Now that the hotel has had a chance to settle into its groove and mature as both a property and experience, almost all of the pre-opening hoopla has been forgotten and what you have here is a true luxury resort, one of the best in the city. Revolutionary? Not really. Great? Absolutely.
The building itself is a bit bland at first glance, a curving bronze tower that arcs up to dominate the skyline around it. But I think there's something to be said for understated and since it's the one and only time they went in that direction, perhaps that's a bonus.
Inside, the comparisons to Wynn's previous hotel Bellagio are long. The color scheme is different - bold reds and deep chocolate browns here - but the shopping esplanade, the casino appointments, the restaurants, the show, and even the font type on the signs is all so remarkably similar to Bellagio that you start to wonder when that revolution is going to start.
The lobby is tucked into a corner and since there is no single queue (how gauche!), you have to choose one of the many lines leading up to an agent and if you're like me you will inevitably choose the one with the person ahead of you who has to argue about the $4 phone charge on their $1,000 bill while you're watching all the other lines soldier on faster than yours. The good news is that once you get to the front desk, the staff here (and everywhere) is very professional and efficient, calmly going the extra mile to find the missing reservation for a very tired and very cranky travel writer.
Many newer hotels have eliminated the casino trek - you know, that thing where you have to walk a seeming mile from the front door or parking to the check in and then to the elevators through a crowded casino, but not at Wynn. Navigating from the garage to the front desk and back to the guest elevators is not fun when you're loaded down with luggage.
A long curving hallway delivers you to the guest rooms, which are quite simply among the nicest and most luxurious in town. Done in all creamy whites and plushness, it's like you booked a room on a cloud. There is high-tech everything (push button drapes, flat panel televisions, high-speed Internet access, multi-line cordless phones, CD players, etc.), the beds are super-plush facing the windows as opposed to the wall (a neat touch), the towels and robes are ultra-soft, and the bathrooms are enormous with dual vanities, a separate tub and shower, an enclosed water-closet, and plenty of upscale bath amenities.
That's a standard room, but you can get a variety of different upgrades including a Panorama View room, located on the end of the tower with two walls of windows, and a number of up-market suites including an entire section of the tower with its own private entrance and elevators. And of course there is the neighboring sister property Encore if you need even more options.
Back downstairs there are more than a dozen moderately expensive to very expensive restaurants, a couple of expensive nightclubs and bars, and a lot of expensive stores (Dior, Tiffany, etc.). There are two show rooms, one playing the Cirque du Soleil style show Le Rêve and the other hosting a series of headliners doing two or three week stints such as Harry Connick Jr., Tony Bennett, The Moody Blues, John Fogerty, and Diana Ross.
There is a "free" show in the lake that fronts the hotel, but good luck seeing it. The only way you can get a decent view is if you are eating in one of the restaurants or drinking in one of the bars that overlook it. There are no other good viewing points except from a small balcony near the Parasol Bar or in the lobby, both of which provide limited sightlines at best. The good news is the bubbling, fiery, color-changing water show really isn't worth the time or effort to go out of your way to see. In other words, you aren't missing much.
An indoor garden conservatory evokes more Bellagio comparisons although this one seems a little larger and more traditional.
The pool area is lovingly and lushly landscaped and while it's a little too formal for my tastes it certainly fits in nicely here. The spa is a huge, Zen wonder offering just about any pampering you can imagine and quite a few that you probably never knew existed. Out back is the Wynn Golf Club, a super exclusive 18-hole par 72 course designed by Tom Fazio that is restricted to hotel guests only (no guests of guests allowed) and will run you a cool $300 per person for a tee time.
The casino area is simply laid out, basically one big rectangle divided into four smaller ones with plenty of slots of all denominations (pennies, nickels, quarters, dollars, and higher), a surprising number of video poker machines, and lots of table games all with very high betting limits. The cheapest blackjack table you're likely to find is going to run you $15 a hand.
That of course brings us back to the issue of cost. Everything here is crazy expensive and I'm not just talking about the rooms. Dinner at most of the restaurants will run you at least $75 per person with some double that. The show is over $120 per ticket. A drink at the bar is going to be $10 with tax and tip. Even the sundry store charges $7 for a bottle of water and $18 for a small container of lip balm.
And then there are the rooms themselves. Although they are running some specials that could net you one of these rooms for at low as $159 a night during the week, you can usually expect to pay much more than that Sunday through Thursday and over $250 a night on weekends. In any other city in the world, these rooms would probably cost double that, but here in Las Vegas it still seems crazy to me that anyone would willingly pay that kind of dough. And don't forget the parking charges and mandatory $39 per night resort fee that they tack on top of the standard rates. It includes things like Internet and gym access but still.
If you're looking for a luxury experience, you will get your money's worth here but you better be willing to pay for it.