There are times in one's life where one's patience is tested, and a sensible traveler will take a moment to step back and appreciate that bad things sometimes happen to good people, for no reason at all.
My stay at Aria, unfortunately, was not one of those occasions. In the case of Aria's SkySuites, bad things happen to bad people (management) because they are not good at what they do. Because some of their staff don't care. Because a hotel with 4004 rooms doesn't (or perhaps cannot) focus sharply on a guest's individual needs.
My understanding was that SkySuites were designed to address the needs of guests who wished for more personalized service and a luxurious experience. At least that's what they say on their website:
The SkySuites are positioned by Aria to be their "ultra-luxe" accomodations, where "elite services wait only for you to realize a desire for us to fulfill it." Where their website advertising the 1 bedroom SkySuite asks you to "Breathe in – the air really is better up here." Unfortunately, the odor I first noticed upon arriving in my suite was that of the previous guest's dirty socks. But more on that later.
Pre-arrival Concierge Telephone Call
I received a telephone call from the Aria SkySuites concierge several days before my arrival asking for my flight information and if they could arrange dining or show reservations for me. The concierge was very nice. I asked if she could recommend any restaurants in CityCenter worth trying. I was quickly given the run down of various Aria restaurants. The concierge noted my request for a dining reservation at Twist, Pierre Gagnaire's new restaurant at MO and said it would be arranged.
Ten minutes later, the concierge called again to apologize because the flight information was "lost in the computer system" or accidentally erased and she would need the information again. I was also told that Twist was completely booked for the evening I requested.
After repeating my flight information, I opened up what is commonly known as a web browser and surfed to a site called opentable.com. On this website, amazingly, I found that I was able to arrange a table for myself the very night I had requested from the Aria concierge, albeit at a somewhat early hour of 6:15PM.
Flight Delay: Attempt to call Aria to let them know
"Hi, could I have the SkySuite concierge please?"...."Hello, SkySuites"..."Yes, may I speak to a concierge?"..."Just a moment."...one minute of silence..."Hello, how can I help you?"..."Yes, I have a scheduled limo pickup but my flight is delayed..."..."Sorry sir, this is the operator. Let me connect you to the concierge."..."I need the SkySuites please"..."Hello SkySuites..."..."Yes Hi, I have a scheduled limo pickup could I speak to a concierge?"..."Just a moment"...(click, disconnect).
Redial. Rinse, shampoo, repeat X2.
Complimentary Airport Limo Pickup
Amazingly an Aria driver was waiting for me immediately as I entered the arrivals area with a sign that had my name on it. Bliss. Very nice and efficient pickup and the limo quite nice. Water was available and pleasant and appropriate conversation was shared between driver and guest.
Arrival at Aria SkySuites and the Porte-cochère
Much is made of the SkySuites' private Porte-cochère on the Aria's website:
"An alternative-fuel limousine whisks you from the airport to an exclusive arrival under a private porte-cochère. Immediately, you are escorted into a separate lobby for your private check-in. Then, after enjoying a drink and hors d'oeuvres in the exclusive ARIA Sky Suites lounge, a private elevator takes you to one-of-a-kind accommodations with custom furnishings, unparalleled amenities, and soaring floor-to-ceiling windows providing dramatic views of the world's most famous skyline."
I find the porte-cochère very nice for limo transfers but completely inadequate for getting about Las Vegas. Taxis are not allowed in the porte-cochère. To get a taxi, you must walk all the way to the front of Aria. There is a closer North Valet taxi stand, but on three occasions I waited 20+ minutes for a taxi only to give up and walk the much longer distance to the main entrance. To add insult to injury, the upstairs level seem to always have at least one or two taxis dropping off guests, yet I was told repeatedly that I could not take these taxis and would have to go downstairs to the "departure" level to get a taxi, where of course they are non-existent.
This is an example where SkySuite guests are significantly inconvenienced by their location in the hotel. I find it very similar to Signature's relationship to the MGM Grand and its very inconvenient location in the back of the property. At least taxis are allowed to go to the Signature back entrance, a convenience Aria's SkySuite guests are denied.
Check-in at the Aria SkySuites
After walking through a beautiful private lobby, my check-in was completed in 10 minutes. It would have been faster, but there were "computer problems" preventing the room keys from being generated. Very nice, friendly front desk staff. A butler carrying a silver tray of water asked me if I would like some (gas and no gas were both offered). I declined an offer for a personal escort to my room.
Arrival at 1 Bedroom SkySuite
My first impression of the suite is that it felt smaller than I thought it would. I fully recognize that I usually stay in a Salon suite at the Encore (for nearly the same price, I will add), and that is 2000+ square feet. My expectations may need to be lowered. Duly noted. Adjustment made.
The overall feeling is of a reasonably nice friend's apartment: the look is completed by the small bar and fake-looking plant in the living room. A pleasant place for sure. But no distinctive design: the year 2002 called and they want their EQ3 furniture back.
My room on the 38th floor offered pleasant views, but I can see the advantage of being higher up in the building. The views are much better on the 55th floor. I know, because I was moved there the next day. Read on to learn why.
As I walked through the room, I did notice some bothersome housekeeping issues. Notably, as I unpacked my clothes, I noted how filthy the drawers were (see video), they contained lint, used gum in a silver wrapper, a piece of paper, and the previous guests dirty socks!
The socks must have been recently used because the odor upon opening the drawer was quite strong. I have a strong stomach, so I was quite surprised that housekeeping wouldn't have noticed when they ostensibly "cleaned" the room.
The bathroom is quite nice, with a very large soaking spa tube (not the jacuzzi type, but one that blows air bubbles and "foam"), a large shower and commode. I was very impressed by the TOTO heated toilet seat which I enjoy every time I return to the Peninsula Tokyo. A heated toilet seat can be life-changing, really.
Too bad mine came with three long blond hairs stuck on a foil wrapper which I only noticed when I sat down on the commode and felt the sticky tape (sorry this isn't in the video, that was too gross to film). Did I mention there are housekeeping issues?
The bath amenities are house branded and of acceptable quality. I liked that a dental kit, lip balm (dry desert air) and mouthwash were provided. No comb was provided however.
Internet Access, Control and Connectivity Panels
Wonderfully, internet access is free at Aria. Their claim that their "wireless Internet connectivity will be up to eight times faster (128 kilobytes) than the average U.S. guestroom today." was not met during my stay. My access did not reach even half this speed. But it is free, so I accept those limitations and appreciate the amenity.
The connectivity panel on the work desk contains convenient power, USB, VGA, S-Video and audio connections. However, I couldn't get S-video or audio to work on the display panel. No cables or a technology kit were provided.
Let me discuss another issues: the electronic technology panel that drives the electric curtains, lighting systems and A/V equipment. It simply doesn't work as billed. The touch panel they used has extremely poor responsiveness and long latency without any tactile or auditory feedback that a function has been selected. The television volume could not be controlled on the external remote or panel. Adjusting room temperature requires exasperating complexity. This "green" hotel had the room set to heat to 80°C as default.
I think of the technology panel as the "iDrive" of hotel interfaces. I really do wonder if BMW was involved in engineering this fiasco. One example, when pressing the "Goodnight" button, everything in the room shut down, including the television and then the drapes opened. I finally gave up, put eyemask on and went to bed.
Bedroom and Turndown Service
Evening turndown service included cleaning and restocking of bathroom amenities and towels, placement of robes on the bed, and adjustment of lighting controls to the "turndown" position. Two foil-pack chocolates are provided on each nightstand. No complementary bottled water was provided to the suite.
I have to say, the bed is incredibly comfortable. It is a feather top bed, and it was so comfortable I had to peel off the linens the next morning to discover that it is a Sealy posturpedic made especially for Aria. Four down pillows are very comfortable.
The Nocturnal Paranormal Activity
It started at 2AM in the morning. I know because the knocking sound woke me suddenly, and like a mosquito buzzing in my ear, prevented me from obtaining any sleep. At first I thought it might be someone rolling a service cart in the hallway, and I rose out of bed to investigate. That is when I discovered the noise was coming from the walls of the hotel, specifically near the commodes in both bathrooms.
I recorded the sound on my iPhone and looped it in the movie above for your enjoyment. I hope someone will enjoy it, because I was so exhausted at this point I couldn't deal with getting dressed and calling engineering to my room. I put a pillow over my head, tissue in my ears and tried my best to rest...without success.
Interestingly, around 7AM, the sound stopped.
Service Recovery by Management
The front desk staff were extremely apologetic about the noise and noted to me that, actually, multiple guests had complained about it. They didn't seem surprised. "It is a new hotel, these things happen, we hope you understand." I was offered a $150 F&B credit and moved to a higher floor suite of the same category. Although I didn't plan to eat at Aria, I was fortunate that I could charge my dinner at Twist to my Aria hotel bill, so I was able to use the F&B credit.
The Second Night of Paranormal Activity
After an extremely wonderful dinner at Twist, I returned to my suite ready to catch up on some sorely needed sleep. My new room was 55031 and the orientation is exactly reversed to the layout in my old room, 38029. I prefer the layout of the second room and the views are dramatically better. I enjoy a soaking bath and then to bed.
Around 1AM a strange vacuum cleaner-like noise wakes me from my sleep. I really can't believe it is happening again. This time it takes me no time at all to locate the issue: the air jets in the soaking tub seem to be turning on and off randomly and because the tub is now empty of water it sounds like a vacuum.
I try everything to stop it. I press the jet button several times (this only makes things worse). Then i fill the tub with water and press the button (taking naps in-between attempts). I fully realize I could call the for an engineer at any point, but I'm just too tired for that.
At this point, I close all the bedroom doors and I go to the living room and sleep on the couch.
I'm Ready to Leave Now, Thanks!
The front desk staff are extremely apologetic the next morning. Fortunately, I stopped by the front desk of the MO on my way from dinner at Twist and found out that rooms were available the following day. After arranging a room at the MO through my Virtuoso agent, I told the front desk that I would be leaving and would like the complementary limo to the MO at 4PM. The concierge of course said absolutely, we will have it for you. This is the least we can do. No further attempt at service recovery was made by management. Just as well. I really would just like to leave with my sanity in tact.
After a long day I returned to SkySuites at 4PM. When I went to the Port-cochère, the bellman asked for my bags and said my limo would be called. Fifteen minutes later I was still waiting. At that point, I asked the valet to assist me. He said he would look into it right away. Given my experience at this hotel, I stayed with my luggage and dialed the SkySuites concierge (this time only rinse, shampoo and repeat X1, amazingly).
The concierge said there was no record of my limo reservation and was I sure that I had made one. Then I was told that the transfer was not complimentary nor included in my suite rate. Then I was told that even if it were included, the package is for round-trip airport transfers, not transfers between hotels (the MO is much closer than the airport and within the CityCenter complex).
I asked to speak with a manager. "Well, that is your right, if you insist, I can certainly get a manager for you..." was the response. More waiting. Then I ask the doorman to watch my luggage...I'm going in...someone is going to get an ear full.
The manager is sympathetic, curt but apologetic. "Certainly we can arrange a limo for you immediately." At this point, I begin to call the MO concierge to ask if they can send a house car to rescue me from this fiasco. The manager, overhearing me, stops me to say that the car is on its way. Well, forty minutes after the whole thing began I was on my way to the MO.
Heaven. Nirvana. Really, I have never appreciated a MO more than the moment my limo arrived, the doorman with the funny bowler hat opened the door, and said six magic words: "Mr. Ether, we've been expecting you."