Monday, July 9, 2012

Seared and Smoking in Las Vegas: 2012 Trip Report Part 4 (arrival and hotel review)

Part 1: The Plan
Part 2: Baker
Part 3: The Buffet
Part 4: Monday (arrival)
Part 5: Tuesday
Part 6: Wednesday
Part 7: Thursday
Part 8: Friday (departure)

Las Vegas greeted us with 111-degree heat on Monday afternoon.  Thanks, Las Vegas.  Nice to see you too.  We pulled into the Tuscany and I went to check in.  


The wait for check-in was about 5 minutes.  The Tuscany never seemed to have more than two people working the front desk as long as we were there.  Although, more than 3 would make it crowded.

According to the confirmation email I received, "Resort fee includes:  2 for 1 entree at your choice of 2 restaurants: Cantina or Marilyn's Cafe, $20 food credit with $40 purchase at Tuscany Gardens, Match play on table games, Valet Parking, use of Fitness Center, In-room safes, Local Phone calls, In-room coffee, Internet throughout the reception building and convention public area; extra fee for internet use in suite."  It is ambiguous with regard to the number of coupons you get if you stay multiple days or with multiple people.  It turned out that you get the promo coupon book once no matter how long your stay is.  So if you plan to use the coupons multiple times, make separate reservations for each day you stay.  I didn't, but the check-in clerk seemed sympathetic and gave me a second coupon sheet.  Incidentally, each coupon sheet includes two $5 match play coupons, one of which can be used per day.

After checking in, we shlepped our own bags to the room, relaxed for a bit, and went down to Marilyn's for dinner.  We took it easy the rest of the night, swimming in the pool while I had some laundry going in the laundry room.  I didn't realize the laundry room was locked at 10pm; I still had clothes going in the dryer.  I was able to get someone to open it for me.

The following are reviews of the Tuscany Suites Hotel and dinner at Marilyn's Cafe.

The Hotel

Tuscany Suites is a small hotel by Las Vegas standards, with 716 rooms, although it would probably be considered large if it were just about anywhere else.  It also has a couple features that are unlike just about all other casino hotels in Las Vegas:
  • The hotel is a large number of low-rise buildings of about 60 rooms each, scattered around a campus, rather than one or two skyscraper buildings.  This means that you can almost always park fairly close to your room.
  • The hotel is the only casino-hotel I have been in which you can park, check into the hotel, and go to your room, the lounge, the pool, and one of the restaurants without ever passing through the casino.   For this reason, it may be a good choice for people who want the benefits of staying in a casino resort but don't enjoy casinos.   The casino is located down a narrow hallway from the hotel area.  However, you do need to go through the casino to access the Cantina, the Mexican restaurant; and Marilyn's Cafe, the coffee shop.

The Room

Wet bar/kitchen area.  The black appliance on the counter is
a single-serving drip coffee maker.  Refrig. at lower left.
We were on the third floor in building B, which is along Flamingo Avenue.  Our room looked inward toward another building and we had a pleasant view of treetops outside our window.  The room is very nice.  Not overly sumptuous or fancy, but very comfortable.  If it didn't have a bathroom, it would be approximately square, about 25'x25'.  With the bathroom, it is L-shaped, cutting into that space.  Importantly during this very hot week, the air conditioning worked perfectly.  The bed felt larger than our king-sized bed at home, and the convertible sofa was comfortable, although most of the time it was opened into a bed.  There is also a dresser with a flat screen TV bolted to it (classy!), and a wet bar area with a refrigerator, sink, and cabinets.  There is a single-serving coffee maker that brews directly into cups.  The bathroom has separate tub and sink, and a separate toilet room, but is appointed in sensible white tile, rather than marble like you would find at one of the five-star strip resorts.

The view out our window

The Pool

Stolen from the web, but a better photo than I could have taken.
It's small by Vegas pool standards, but it is nicely landscaped with short palm and other trees.  While we were there, it was busy, especially in the evenings, but never crowded like at some of the big resorts.  There were always plenty of lounge chairs for everyone who wanted one, and there are lots of trees so there is plenty of space to sit in a chair in the shade.   The only thing I don't like about the pool is the fake grass, which stays hot during the summer.

The pool stays open until 10 pm, unlike at some other hotels, so you can enjoy a late evening swim.  It's much cooler at night so this can be very pleasant.

The hotel provides pool towels for the asking.

We kept a cooler with us filled with cold water and sodas, as well as ice from the ice machine, and nobody gave us any problem with it, although it may technically have been against the rules.  However, there are cold filtered water dispensers and cups there for anyone to help themselves.

A single waitress is sufficient to serve the entire pool area, and prices were reasonable.  I ordered an iced coffee (since I can't tolerate alcoholic beverages while in the sun), which was $2.25.  I think that is less than Starbucks charges for carry-out.

There is also a lap pool at the fitness room.

The Heat

Tuscany Suites is a good place to stay in the middle of summer.  Its landscaping features lots of trees and plants, which provide shade and passive cooling, taking the bite off the heat.  Also, air conditioning worked well everywhere on the property.  You do need to go outside to get from your room to the hotel's public areas.  However, even in the extreme heat of last week (111-116 degrees), I found it to be surprisingly tolerable. It felt hotter on the Strip, where there are mainly hard concrete and asphalt surfaces.

Other Amenities

There is a decent fitness room, with about 8 cardio machines and a weight machine area.  It has some massage rooms for an outsourced massage company called La Riva.  More on this on Day 3.  Also, there is a laundry room with coin-operated washers and dryers (3 each). 

The Theme

Does Tuscany Suites bear any resemblance to Tuscany?  Not much.  Having been to both the Tuscany Suites and Florence, I never would have confused the two places.  Tuscany Suites does have mediterranean-style buildings, but looks more like mediterranean-style buildings constructed in the Southwestern U.S. than in the actual Mediterranean.  Which, of course, is what it is.  Also, the interior of the lobby is decorated in stone veneer, but nothing really felt Tuscan.  Maybe because the hotel was built in 2002 of modern materials such as plywood and drywall, whereas pretty much everything in Tuscany was built of brick in the 1500s and shows wear that can't easily be replicated.

There is a fine-dining predominantly Italian restaurant, the Tuscany Gardens, which we did not visit since it was a bit fancy to visit with our kids.  Also, the non-Tuscan-named coffee shop, Marilyn's Cafe, does have several Italian-influenced menu items.  For example, my daughter ordered lasagna, which I tasted and it was good.  They also sell pizza.  Both of these resemble what you would order at an Italian restaurant in the U.S., not so much like what you would get in Italy.

The muzac is American.

On the plus side, the rooms are much larger and more comfortable than those we stayed in in Italy.

The Clientele

We saw all kinds of people at the Tuscany.  Lots of families with kids, adults age 30s on up without kids, of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, several Europeans on their month-long summer vacations, etc.  However there were not many party people in their 20s.  


Aside from a brief wait at check-in, we found service everywhere in the hotel to be fast and courteous.  We needed sheets for the sleeper sofa, and they were delivered in a couple of minutes.  When we checked out on Friday, the bellman was right on time to help us with luggage.

Dinner at Marilyn's Cafe

After the drive, we unpacked.  I was tired of being in the car, so we went down to the coffee shop, Marilyn's Cafe, for dinner.  My wife was a bit skeptical because we had gotten the Thursday special, baked chicken with BBQ sauce, 3 years ago and it was pretty bleh.

We were seated immediately in a booth at the back of the restaurant.  

The staff was very happy to have us there.  I am certain of this because the waitress said to us in a genuine way, "We're so happy to see you!"

I ordered my annual fried chicken dinner ($8.99 + $1.99 for side salad); the Mrs. ordered chicken fried steak ($10.99), and the kids agreed to share an order of lasagna ($11.99).

The adults drank water and the kids "made their own lemonade" with water, lemon wedges, and sugar packets.  Ever since beverages increased to about $2.50 a glass, this is what we have been doing, in order to avoid adding $10 to our meal on soft drinks alone.  Plus, it keeps them busy for about 3 minutes, and every minute helps.  However, they are starting to catch wise to this ploy and it may not last too much longer.

Our waitress brought fresh warm dinner rolls and cornbread.

All of the dinners were very good, as were the sides.  The fried chicken was crispy and tender, fully cooked without being overcooked, with just the right amount of spice and salt in the coating, and made me feel like a winner, winner, as it should.  Once the lasagna arrived, my daughter dug in with gusto, but my son was no longer interested in it, as usual.  However he was perfectly happy to eat the drumstick from my fried chicken.  Who wouldn't be?  I had a few bites of the Lasagna and was very impressed.

My wife is from Texas and has cultivated much more of an appreciation for chicken fried steak than I will ever have; I always thought it tasted like something out of a TV dinner.  Anyways, she really liked it.

The only thing I would have changed was the side salad came with shredded cheddar cheese on top.  This is superfluous when I order blue cheese dressing.

Service was also very attentive.  At one point my son spilled water onto the table, and a staff person was right there to wipe it up.

Total with the coupon we got at check-in, which took off one meal, was about $24.  I left a $6 tip on top of that.  Not bad at all, with respect to most value metrics I can think of (taste, freshness, service, and calories served per dollar spent).

Thanks Marilyn!  and kudos to your staff as well.  You haven't seen the last of us.

The Finagle

As noted earlier, the coupon for Marilyn's comes with the room at check in.


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