Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas Review

(Click here to view video)


The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas is located in the new City Center complex, and is positioned right on the LV strip for convenient walking access. It is a luxury hotel and private residence. There is no onsite casino or theater.


Adam D. Tihany, a New York based-designer best known for his restaurants (Daniel, Le Cirque, Per Se, Aureole) was the design consultant who worked with the architecture firm Adamson Associates to design the interiors of the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, including the guest rooms and suites, F&B outlets, spa and pool areas. I was surprised to learn this because this property shares so much in common with its sister property in Tokyo which I visited during its opening week five years ago.

As with Tokyo, guests enter a ground-level lobby to a top level grand lobby (23rd floor) which has majestic views of the Las Vegas strip. The tea room, bar and Twist are also on the 23rd floor. All other guest rooms, suites, the spa and pool are located below this level. Private home residences are located above the 23rd floor, and I was informed they are being sold as empty spaces to be finished to owner specifications. They are apparently beginning to close escrow on many of these spaces this month. What this means in terms of the impact from noise/disturbance due to ongoing construction work at the hotel going forward remains to be seen.

Arrival at Hotel

As my limo from the Aria pulled up to the MO, a doorman in a distinctive top hat opened the door and said, "Mr. Ether, we've been expecting you." I sometimes wonder how hotels manage to greet you by name before seeing your luggage or checking in, but in this case I suspect the concierge alerted the doormen to be on the look out for a frantic guest trying to escape the Aria hotel (see Aria SkySuites review). Needless to say, I was personally greeted and escorted to the 23rd floor while my bags were whisked away by the bellman.

"Welcome back, Mr. Ether!" was the greeting I received from Sang at the front desk. He remembered me from the previous evening when I stopped by the front desk to talk with the his colleague Nicholas about possibly changing hotels. Additional welcomes rang in from staff along the front desk. The check-in process was quick and I received my room keys and a package from the concierge. I made the booking under virtuoso but did not receive an upgrade and they were not able to accommodate a late check-out for me the following day.

In the envelope was a short typed letter from the concierge Joe. It said, "We are delighted that you enjoyed your experience at Twist. Here is the menu you requested. Should you need anything at all, please don't hesitate to call upon us." That's right, I did mention to Nicholas the previous night that I thought it would be nice to get a copy of the menu. I'm surprised and delighted he remembered my comment, considering I wasn't even a guest of the hotel at the time and I hadn't made my booking until the following day. Nice.


The lobby is a grand experience. You are greeted by a modernistic, Asian inspired mosaic lattice wall which opens into floor-to-ceiling windows of the Las Vegas strip and the front desk area. A large sculptural piece anchors the front desk and fresh flowers accent the wall. On the video the lobby appears very dark, and this is a bit misleading. The decor is very intimate which contrasts with the expansive architecture. Like the MO in Tokyo, Tihany creates this effect by using dark wood on the walls, and lighting the floor in pools of light so that what remains are elegant pieces of furniture, table sculptures and elements of human-scale luxury.

Mandarin Premier Room (650 square feet)

The premier room is the largest room category and leads to the executive suite (850 sq feet) which is the next category up. My room (921) was located approximately in the middle of the hotel tower.

The room itself is elegantly furnished and lighted. There are floor-to-ceiling windows, but I am a bit disappointed that they are panels that are blocked by the curtains (which ostensibly could have been recessed into the walls). My window panels were interrupted by a solid panel in which a mirror was placed. The windows were somewhat dirty and provided views of the strip and the Crystals shopping center. Sound isolation seemed excellent the evening I arrived, but I did note some noise leakage during the day from either an outdoor concert or someone playing a stereo outside very loudly. Otherwise, the overall environment was excellent.


The furnishings in the room are of very high quality. There were several Asian-inspired pieces, and I found the desk chair so nice and comfortable I wanted to take it home with me. Solid wood with rich surface grain in dark finishes were used for furnishings throughout the room. Delicate crystal sculptures were placed on two side tables throughout the room.


The bed itself is not as comfortable as the Aria SkySuite's. It was a bit too hard for me. However, the sheets and pillows were very comfortable and I had no problem getting a wonderful night's rest. The bedside lighting controls are straightforward but I found them difficult to use at night because they are unlabeled in the dark. Therefore I found I had to randomly press buttons to activate lighting in the middle of the night. The same control panel and A/V system from Aria is employed by the MO, but somehow their system works better. The television worked flawlessly with the remote and had no audio issues at all. In addition the control panel had many cumbersome features stripped away so that it was simpler to use. This increased the utility of the device tremendously.


The bathroom is large and contains twin sinks, television, large vanity mirror, a shower large enough for two people, and a large soaking tub. It was also well stocked with the following items:

Amenity Chest

  1. Sewing kit
  2. Dental kit
  3. Shaving kit
  4. Vanity kit
  5. Shoe Polisher kit
  6. Men's collar points
  7. Loofah
  8. Lip balm
  9. Nail pick

Products by Aromatherapy Associates

  1. Body lotion
  2. Shampoo
  3. Body wash
  4. Conditioner
  5. Bath soap bar
  6. Face soap bar
  7. Bath salts near soaking tub

Bath Accessories

  1. Bathroom scale
  2. Blow dryer
  3. Device for flat-ironing hair
  4. Television with remote


The walk-in closet area came with three drawers for storing clothes, as well as an elevated luggage space, electronic safe with electrical outlets for phones/laptops, umbrella, ironing board and iron, additional blankets and pillows, and a yoga mat. A tray is provided to place your shoes for cleaning.

Turndown Service

The turndown service includes the following items:

  1. Room cleaned
  2. Ice bucket filled
  3. Tray with breakfast menu and vase with orchid placed on bench at foot of bed
  4. Orchid placed on bath tub
  5. Bathmat placed in front of shower door
  6. Coffee/tea set and water placed on dresser
  7. Slippers placed on floor mat by bed
  8. Bottled water and glass placed on night stand
  9. Lighting dimmed
  10. Television set to mood music channel
Work Desk

Very comfortable desk chair and work desk with lamp is provided in room. The connectivity panel is accompanied by a technology kit that has every conceivable connector and cord one might need. It would be nice to have a built-in fax machine with personal number as the Peninsula hotels offer, but I don't expect this from MOs and don't expect this will change in the near future.

Update: Mandarin Executive Suite

I recently stayed in an Executive Suite and there appears to be three different sizes of these suites. Makes sure to request a suite ending in "35" or the "largest" executive suite possible.

Here's a movie of my recent executive suite stay.


Because MO was not able to accommodate my late checkout on this Virtuoso reservation, I left my bags with the bellman and went to the spa at 1PM for a 3PM treatment. Upon completing my spa treatment, I requested that the spa services be added to my hotel bill immediately because I was going back upstairs to checkout. I was assured this was done.

When I returned upstairs to complete my checkout, the bill did not show any spa charges. When I mentioned that my spa charges were missing, I was told that "they were already taken care of with the spa credit". I'm certain that a $340 spa charge wouldn't be covered by a $100 spa credit, but I didn't have time to press the point as I was leaving for the airport. However, I can see this coming back to bite me later with an additional charge from the spa (sans $100 credit). To be sure, I called the spa on my way to the airport and they assured me the charges had been added to the hotel bill and been paid with the spa credit. Well, nothing more I can do if they are forcing me to accept a free day at the spa from MO LV, I guess!


  1. Brings an established luxury brand and international-level luxury service to Las Vegas.
  2. World-class spa
  3. World-class F&B (Twist)
  4. Non-gaming environment
  5. Proximal to the Las Vegas strip and Crystals
  6. Public spaces are stunning yet offer intimate, human-scale luxury

Service Issues/Nitpicking

  1. Bill lacks sufficient detail for many expense reports, spa credit was not applied properly (?)
  2. Turndown service: commode lid left upright, toilet paper not folded or foiled
  3. No comb in amenity chest
  4. $18/day charge for internet connectivity
  5. Late checkout and upgrade were not accommodated on this Virtuoso reservation.
  6. Expensive room rates ($595/night for a premier room, caveat being CES).




(Click here to watch video)

Las Vegas is blessed with many different and excellent spa options. I have personally tried Canyon Ranch at Venetian (70,000 sq feet, 80 treatment rooms), Qua at Caesars (50,000 sq feet, 51 treatment rooms), and the Spa at Encore (61,000 sq feet, 51 treatment rooms). Although I'm sure there are many other wonderful spas in LV, my comments will focus on the MO Spa in comparison to the ones above. One note: I am not a spa junkie, but I do enjoy hotel spas for massages, the associated facilities such as pools, laconiums, whirlpool tubs, saunas, and relaxation rooms--especially after a long day of meetings.

I believe that MO's spa is unique and offers several advantages over the ones above. Specifically, it offers world-class features and amenities usually only found in large spas, yet caters to a small number of clients. The MO spa seems specifically created to offer an outstanding spa experience with personalized attention to a very small number of guests. This is because this 27,000 square foot spa only has 17 treatment rooms.

I believe MO offers the best spa experience in Las Vegas. Please read on to find out why.

Check-in to the Spa

The MO spa is located on the seventh and eighth floors of the hotel, and I was greeted at the front desk by a receptionist and attendant who simultaneously welcomed me with a Namaste gesture. I arrived at 1PM for a 3PM massage treatment, and I would recommend arriving early so that you can enjoy the spa facilities.

Beginning the Journey

My attendant, speaking in hushed whispers, invited me to the reception lounge where I was asked to complete a short health form. He left through a hidden door panel in the wall and returned moments later carrying a tray with slippers. "Mr. Ether, at Mandarin Oriental we mark the beginning of your journey with us through the slipper ceremony. This is where you remove your shoes and leave the worries of the world behind you and allow us to take you into our care."

This is followed by a cup of tea and refreshing scented towel.

Down to the Men's Spa Area

Men's and women's spa areas are located on the seventh floor of the hotel. My spa attendant JP walked me past the boutique (Espa products mainly, but they have others) down a set of stairs to the entrance of the men's area. Before we entered, he asked me if I had any electronics and counseled me that they should be turned off to avoid disturbing other guests.

I was shown to my locker, which contained a spa robe, towels, and a complimentary amenity kit that I was invited to use and take with me after my visit.

I was given a complete walk through the facilities, which took about eight minutes, the highlights of the facilities and my experience there include:

A large elevated Vitality Pool area with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the strip that had water heated to 102°F. Submerged within the pool are chaise loungers that have air bubbles that blow up from below creating a sensation of floating. A perfect area to relax, and the temperature is not uncomfortably hot so you can linger for a long while. The pool appeared large enough to accommodate six guests. One of my attendants, Adel brought a neck pillow and suggested I use it while I leaned back to read my newspapers. He promptly brought two big fluffy pillows and sat them on the pool floor to my right and suggested I place my papers there to keep them dry. My robe and slippers were promptly hung and stored close by.

The steam room is large and has LED lights embedded into the ceiling that slowly change colors as they glow. The steam is scented with various essential oils or extracts, Ylang-Ylang was what JP told me they used the day I visited. The temperature of the steam room was not too hot, and I enjoyed a long and pleasant steam. After about five minutes in the room, JP arrived with a bundle of ice wrapped in a cold towel, which he suggested I use to cool my skin. It was so very refreshing. After another ten minutes, JP arrived with a bottle of cold water just as I was beginning to get thirsty. "Stay hydrated," he suggested. This is an example of the high level of service provided in the spa. Your needs really are anticipated and yet you are given private space to relax without unnecessary intrusion.

Three Tepidarium chairs (contoured heated bench chaises) overlooking the strip. These Tepidarium chairs were located in a separate room, for quiet relaxation. I enjoyed them for a very long time reading and relaxing prior to my treatment. They are extremely comfortable and the heat soothes an aching back.

Aqua experience showers. The Encore men's spa has something close to this made by Kohler, but MO's takes the concept to an entirely new level. The MO has two aqua experience showers, which are completely enclosed spaces (with a glass door). LED lights and speakers are embedded in the ceiling. Six high pressure jets are placed on the walls in front and behind you. A large plate of jets is mounted on the ceiling and a main shower head and cascade head are located high on the wall in front of you.

The experience contains five pre-programmed water and light "shows", Arctic mist, tropical rain, island storm, and others. The water can be intermittently warm or cold, it is a play on contrasts of temperature, force and texture of water sprays on your body. To best enjoy this experience, I found, is to turn the normal shower head on hot as you can stand, and then activate one of the pre-programmed shows. The lights, sounds, and different types of water jets is really refreshing. Especially after the steam or sauna rooms.

The sauna at the spa was imported from Europe and has intricate wood details applied to the walls. It is a large sauna with multilevel benches. The heat was comfortable, though a bit less hot that I normally like. I found the heat increased the longer I stayed in the sauna, though I didn't sweat very much. JP brought another bottle of cold water and sprayed orange-lavender essential oils into the air, then left as quickly as he had arrived.

The laconium area is a warm room best enjoyed in your spa robe. The heated bench is a great place to lay down and rest in a peaceful atmosphere.

Finally, the relaxation room contains a refreshment area that has fruit, teas, and water as well as magazines. The highlight are the four beds, similar to the "cacoon pods" at the Peninsula NYC spa, which I particularly love after a red-eye to JFK. These beds are very comfortable and I could take a nap there for hours. I do wish they might have some heavier snacks like nuts or dried fruit available. I like to stay at a spa for several hours, and sometimes the stomach starts to growl and an apple just won't do.

Treatment: Thai Massage

Napping with an iced towel on my chest in the steam room, my spa attendant JP found me and reminded me that my treatment was scheduled to begin shortly. Renny, my therapist, escorted me upstairs for a Thai massage.

I normally get standard Swedish or deep tissue massages as these are de rigeur at most spas, though Balinese is my favorite. I opted to get a Thai massage because it is not commonly available and my lower extremities needed a really good stretch after all the walking I had been doing in Las Vegas. Thai massage isn't for everyone though, which is an important caveat. You don't just lie on a massage table like a lump of coal.

The treatment starts by changing into yoga clothes. Thai massage is done fully clothed. The treatment room is non-traditional, there is a large 12-foot square futon-like bed on the floor which you are asked to lay upon. The treatment itself involves pressure, compressions, and a lot of stretching. It is like Yoga except the therapist is doing the work for you, putting you into a series of postures.

Still sleep deprived from two horrible nights at the Aria, I amazingly fell asleep towards the end of the treatment. Apparently my therapist had flipped me over a couple of times and stretched me like a puppet, or so I was told later. When I did eventually wake up my therapist was kneeling on the floor waiting for me and invited me to change back into my spa robe.

I was very pleased with the treatment and felt much more relaxed. My lower extremities felt much more limber and the soreness from the previous days had vanished.

Check-out of the Spa

JP escorted me back up to the boutique to receive my shoes and checkout. I asked the charges go to my room bill, and the receptionist assured me they would be added immediately. I also purchased a spa robe and asked that it be shipped to my home. I declined an offer of tea or water before I left the spa.


  1. Penultimate Asian spa experience in Las Vegas.
  2. Extremely modern and advanced spa facilities catering to a small number of clientele.
  3. Pitch-perfect spa service by men's area attendants. They are there to give you what you need before you even need it, then they disappear.
  4. Aqua experience is a very unique feature, but instructions must be followed to obtain optimal experience.
  5. Amenity kit is a nice gift. The robe was so comfortable I purchased one to have sent to my home.
  6. Nice array of Asia services, such as Thai massage. I would like to see Balinese massage offered.
  7. Handwritten thank you note from therapist given to me upon checkout was a very nice touch.
  8. Use of spa facilities only is $100/day and complementary with a treatment


  1. Treatment rooms and spa facilities are located on different floors, so you will have to climb stairs and walk a few minutes to receive your treatment.
  2. The spa does not have Vichy showers, so if you seek those type of services you will have to look elsewhere.
  3. Pool is not open until Spring/Summer.
  4. No shoe horn is available to assist in putting on your shoes as you leave the spa.
  5. Prices are expensive, but on par with other luxury spas in LV.

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