Old-school luxe or just old? A review of the Bellagio Las Vegas
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Las Vegas: you love it or you hate it — or maybe you can feel a little bit of both, depending on the day or how kind the tables have been to you.
Personally, I love Vegas much more than I hate it. Starting with a visit during the family-friendly early ’90s as a kid through my hitting a royal flush at video poker on my 21st birthday, our Las Vegas wedding and subsequent trips (some with kids), I am drawn in by the Strip’s bright lights, quality shows, delicious food and the full house of hotel options.
This time, the excuse for my husband and me to visit Vegas was our anniversary weekend, so we wanted to do it up right on our two kid-free nights. There are dozens of hotels right on the Strip and a total of 150,000 hotel rooms in the city, so it can be hard to choose where to stay.
We decided to spend our first night of the trip at the Bellagio because of its prime mid-Strip location, great on-site restaurants, bright and airy conservatory, dancing fountains, the highly acclaimed Cirque show, O, and the hotel’s reputation as being one of the nicer places to stay in Las Vegas. On paper, Bellagio was a safe, slam-dunk choice. But in reality, O was dark that entire week, the conservatory was being overhauled, and the room, well, I’m sure it was lovely in 2004.
Booking a stay in Las Vegas is actually part of the fun, because there are so many ways to get perks. One of which is the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts programme. You’ll get perks like free breakfast for two, late checkout, room upgrades when available and more.
The room itself was about $400 for our Saturday-night stay, which when combined with the resort fee and taxes turned out to be well over $500.
But Bellagio isn’t always that pricey. You can sometimes find nights for around $200, which isn’t bad if you make full use of the booking perks.
Should you wish to use points to book the Bellagio, it’s sometimes available using 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night, though award availability is not guaranteed at M life properties using Hyatt points the way availability at regular Hyatt properties is guaranteed if rooms are for sale with cash. Additionally, you still pay resort fees at M life hotels, even when staying on points. Speaking of which, the nightly resort fee at the Bellagio is now over $50 per night when you factor in tax.
The Bellagio hits the jackpot on location, sitting right between Caesars Palace and Aria, with a tram running to Aria and an outdoor walkway to Caesars. At Bellagio, you are a reasonable distance to the Mirage, Venetian, MGM, Park MGM, Paris and Bally’s.
We arrived at the Bellagio at 11:15 a.m., and there was a line roughly 20 people deep for the check-in desk, so we hopped in the much shorter line for those with M life elite status and were helped within three minutes. (Here’s how to avoid lines across Las Vegas.)
Though we had not talked about it ahead of time, my husband tried the “$20 trick” at check-in. This method of tipping the check-in agents in Vegas in the hopes of a room upgrade has worked for untold numbers of people over the years — including us, on occasion. However, perhaps $50 is the new $20. In any case, it very much seven-ed out on this attempt.
When going over the benefits as part of our booking via the Chase program, the check-in agent said we were eligible for an upgraded room as she went through the line items. She said a Strip-view room was available. I asked if you could see the fountains from there (and mentioned how much I loved them), but I was told no, just the Strip. No further upgrades for us. But it wasn’t even noon and we had our room, so it was onto the fun.
We were on the 14th floor in the Spa Tower, a good walk from the front desk. Moving at a brisk, kid-free pace, it took eight minutes to go from the check-in desk to our room.
This is where I point out that, in my mind, Bellagio is a high-end hotel. The $500 that was spent to book the room for the night only added to those expectations. But, I think that when it comes to the rooms themselves, Bellagio was a high-end hotel … about 10 or 15 years ago.
The olive-green and purple decor that pulled together the carpet, sitting chairs, wallpaper, throw pillows, curtains and lamps was probably a swanky look in the early 2000s.
The olive-and-brown hues continued into the bathroom, which consisted of a double vanity, soaking tub and stand-up shower.
Remember that upgraded Strip view? Me neither. This “upgraded” view was perfect for rooftop-parking-lot-people-watching but wasn’t really what I would consider an upgrade.
To be clear, our room at the Bellagio wasn’t bad, but it was far from modern. The switches for things were old and a bit discolored, the wallpaper was starting to peel, it smelled a bit stale, and from the hallway to the bathroom, much of it just felt heavy and outdated. If this had been a midtier Vegas property, I wouldn’t have thought a thing about it, but for a high-end resort, I hoped for better.
When I think of Bellagio, I think old-school Vegas opulence. But the room now is just bordering on old.
The room was meh, but there were high points of the stay outside of where we slept. For one, there were truly great places to eat at the Bellagio. We only went to two of the on-site dining establishments, but there were somewhere between one and two dozen options, depending on how you counted.
A fine breakfast choice is Sadelle’s, a New York brunch institution that recently came to Las Vegas. I can’t compare the two, since the NYC Sadelle’s canceled our reservation on us without explanation over the summer, but at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday, the Bellagio version was empty and readily accepting walk-ins.
On the menu were standards such as a classic breakfast sandwich with bacon, hash browns, cheese and fried egg for $18. I went for the house salmon with capers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, chive cream cheese and a sesame seed bagel for $23, and it was more than worth every penny I didn’t have to pay thanks to our rate including breakfast. Seriously, it was great.
Breakfast was served all day long, and lunch and dinner items were served starting at 11 a.m. Seriously, don’t skip Sadelle’s.
For dinner, we dressed up and made our way to a fancy meal at Le Cirque within the Bellagio. Le Cirque is fine dining without the attitude. There was a predinner early meal that started at $74 per person until 5:45 p.m., and that was the cheapest option on the menu. After that, you were looking at $100-plus per person. We used our $100 dining credit to offset the pain of this meal, but it was expensive.
This was a place where men wear jackets, women wore dresses and dozens of people buzzed around to assist the roughly two dozen tables housed under a “tent” with views of the fountains.
Dinner here was a show in and of itself. The multicourse meal took several hours but was truly delightful and highly recommended for those looking for high-end service with food to match.
Otherwise, dining standouts at the Bellagio include Harvest, Fix, Spago, Yellowtail, the Juice Press and the snack shop with a massive chocolate fountain.
This was, after all, Las Vegas.
There was also The Buffet, fun if you’ve never done one of the never-ending Vegas buffets.
Since it’s Vegas, let’s lead with the obvious: Bellagio has an extremely large casino with table games, slots, a massive sports book, poker room and more.
Table games started at $10 to $15 per hand on our stay, but we spent most the time in the sports book, since it was Week 1 of the NFL. Games kicked off on the West Coast time zone at 10 a.m., but all the free chairs were claimed by 8 a.m., so get here early.
Bellagio’s pool opened at 8 a.m., and there was a line of folks ready to get in and claim their spots starting at about 7:45 a.m. There were plenty of spots to choose from around a variety of pools, but come early for the best spots.
This isn’t the type of pool area with waterslides, waterfalls and splash areas, so though kids were welcome, these were traditional pools largely filled with adults.
If you were making a pool day of it, there were also cabanas to rent for a fee.
Bellagio had a spa, salon, gym and workout classes. Access to the gym was included in the resort fee, but classes such as yoga, spin, Pilates and even stretching will set you back an additional $35 per person.
I’m a sucker for getting my hair done on vacation, so I stopped into the salon for a shampoo and blow dry. This service is often $40 to $55 at a standalone blow-dry bar, but in Vegas most things cost more than you think. A shampoo and blow dry at the Bellagio salon was $114. Oh, and when I asked for some waves, the use of a curling iron was $20 extra on top of that.
Given the price, it should be zero surprise that the salon was empty, other than me. The service was fine, but that price was marked up by well more than double even Manhattan prices, so skip it and head to the Dry Bar at the Cosmopolitan, Fashion Show Mall or Miracle Mile Shops instead to get your hair done.
Free things to do at the Bellagio include enjoying the display in the Conservatory and watching the dancing fountains. Our timing was bad, and though the Conservatory was lovely the first day of our stay, at some point in the night, it started undergoing one of its periodic transformations.
Changing out the display is a massive and loud undertaking of indoor construction.
The fountains fire every 15 to 30 minutes during the afternoon and evenings and shouldn’t be missed — though we totally missed them other than views from inside Le Cirque.
Bellagio is home to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, near the main pool entrance. Tickets are $10, $5 for M life members. Platinum M life members and above should be able to show their M life cards for free admission.
A final piece of bad luck for our particular stay was the water-based Cirque show, O, being dark for the week of our visit. Normally, O is dark on Monday and Tuesday each week, but it was even shut down for our Saturday night stay. We’ve tried for about 15 years to see this show, and we’ll keep trying until we get the timing right. I’ve heard nothing but great things, so check it out if you can.
Should you hit it big on the slots and get the urge to shop, Bellagio is home to retailers such as Chanel, Prada, Tiffany & Co., Rolex, Valentino and probably any other high-end designer you can think of.
O was dark, the conservatory was being flipped, the $500 room was a dated array of olive and purple, the wallpaper was peeling a bit, and the Strip view was … of a parking lot.
Bellagio was, at one time, the crown jewel of the center Strip. The hotel’s location, fountains and dining are still exceptional. However, the rooms are no longer shining stars. There are better options at lesser price points to be found at places such as the Nomad. Or, if you are working with a larger budget, the 51-room Skylofts at the top of the MGM Grand still shines brightly.
Don’t get me wrong, our stay was just fine and free of any real issues, but for $500 in a standard room for the night, the Bellagio felt dated, dark, smoky and in need of real changes if it wants to attract the next generation of Vegas visitors who aren’t making booking decisions based on the reputation of decades gone by.
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