Starling Travel

April 9, 2008

Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino “Apologizes”

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Take a little something from FlickrYou may remember my unpleasant stay at Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino back in November of last year. If not, you can read about it here:

A few months after posting that entry, I received a call. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered the call anyway.


“Hello, is this Laura Moncur?” He mispronounced my name, but then again, everyone does.


“I’m calling from Buffalo Bill’s Casino and I notice that you stayed here last November. We were wondering how your stay was.”

“You can find out about my stay on Starling Travel.”

“Ah… yes… I have that review here. We were wondering if there is any chance you’d be willing to stay with us again.”

The first response that came to my mind wasn’t very polite, so I asked Mike. “Is there any chance that we’d be willing to stay at Buffalo Bill’s again?”

Mike said, “Yeah, I guess…”

I replied to the man on the other end of the phone, “Yeah, I guess…”

“Well, we’d like to give you a couple nights’ stay to try us again.”

I gave him my address and he made promises of free meals and hotel suites before he hung up. Mike and I discussed the offer and decided that we would take them up on it, but at the same time, bring Stacey and Dan and see how they treat normal customers. We’d test them again.

We talked to Stacey and Dan about it. “Isn’t that the hotel on the California/Nevada border?”


“That’s like a half hour away from Vegas. Didn’t you say that their Internet was slow?”

“Like molasses.”

“Um… no… As inviting as that sounds… no.”

“Fine. We’ll test ’em on our own.”

Over a month later, the letter finally arrived.

Apology letter from Primm Valley by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Dear Ms. Moncur,

Thank you for contacting us during your recent visit. One of most important tasks is to learn directly from our guests how they enjoyed their Primm Valley Casino Resorts experience.

Please accept my sincere apologies for the disappointments and inconveniences you experienced during your stay at Buffalo Bill’s. I regret that your stay with us did not meet all of your expectations.

As a gesture of goodwill, I would like to offer you a complimentary room for one night at Whiskey Pete’s, Primm Valley or Buffalo Bill’s. Please contact my assistant, XXXXX, directly at (XXX)XXX-XXXX extension XXXX, and she will make the necessary arrangements. She may be reached Monday through Friday between the hours of 9am-5pm. This offer is based on availability, valid through February 2009 and excludes holidays, special events and major conventions.

You are truly a valued guest of ours and we look forward to welcoming you back to Primm Valley Resorts in the near future.

It took a month for the form letter to come and when it finally did, they offered us ONE night’s stay with restrictions and based on availability. They didn’t address any of the deferred maintenance problems or the Internet connectivity issues. One night’s stay at their hotels ranges from $31-$50. After all the issues that Mike and I had that night, all they offered was a one-night stay. It teetered on the edge of insulting.

They say that customer complaints are the perfect opportunity to create a loyal customer for life. Unfortunately, Primm Valley didn’t achieve that. As “gracious” as their offer seems, I won’t be taking them up on it.

April 8, 2008

Luxor Hotel Remodel 1996

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit,Tourist Attractions — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

We made reservations to stay at the Luxor Hotel, but when we arrived, I was heartbroken. They were tearing out everything I loved in the hotel and it was all blocked off by big walls. It was 1996.

Luxor Hotel Remodel 1996 from Flickr

They had already removed the Nile River Ride on the lower level and were constructing a huge registration desk right at the front of the pyramid (where it should have been in the first place). I had been looking forward to riding the Nile River Ride again, but it wasn’t going to be. If I had known, I would have taken a bunch of pictures the previous time.

Luxor Hotel Remodel 1996 from Flickr

Large portions of the attractions level were quartered off. The Manhattan Buffet was gone and a transformation was overtaking the big city skyline. I’m so glad I took this photo with my beloved 110 camera. It was the last time I was going to see that little King Kong on the top of the Empire State Building in the Luxor. Sure, the “building” is still there, but it is painted to look like a building from Egypt instead of New York.

Luxor Hotel Remodel 1996 from Flickr

The Millennium Cafe was intact. Little did I know that it was going to become a La Salsa. I like the foot long margaritas and the Mexican food, but I still miss the “Cafe Eighties” feel of the Millennium Cafe.

Luxor Hotel Remodel 1996 from Flickr

They didn’t ruin everything. The view from my hotel room on the twentieth floor was still spectacular. The pool looked inviting as ever. It is the one facet of the Luxor Hotel that has changed little over the years.

You can see more photos from my 1996 stay at the Luxor Hotel here:

The Luxor Hotel has gone through yet ANOTHER renovation this year and I talk about it here:

What used to be my favorite hotel in Las Vegas has dwindled down to just another casino. It makes me sad and I wish for its glory days of the Nineties.

April 2, 2008

France: M( ) goes to Paris, France

Filed under: Food,Lodging,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Eiffel Trees by Megan WallentMegan Wallent visited Paris, France last month and shared her experience with us all:

My favorite entry, A Day in Paris, but no Good Food? (Almost!) talked about how exhausting traveling and getting fed can be:

At this point, Anh and I, in our tiredness, broke one of our rules – always eat good food. We settled for a crappy café, and while edible, was not great. Oh well.

I don’t have a rule like that: “Always eat good food.” Most of the time, I am so absorbed in what I am experiencing when I’m traveling that I delay eating until I’m starving. Then I will eat anything that is nearby. Sometimes, we end up finding wonderfully delicious food from a street vendor, other times… well, you know.

I know the food of a place is just as important as the architecture, museums or amusements, but sometimes I let it fall by the wayside.

Looks like Megan and Anh had a wonderful visit to France and I wish them much happiness.

March 28, 2008

Key Cards: Leave Them Or Return Them?

Filed under: Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It seems that Best Western is giving out some mixed messages:

Key Cards: Leave Them Or Return Them?

blue_j on Flickr describes it best:

On the wall, a placard stating a number of important rules and regulations. Important enough to be posted in every room, even if they did stick it in the back of the ‘closet’, behind the ironing board.

In my hand, the key card I was handed when I checked in, as well as the protective sleeve it came in.

The Placard. Full of information, but the first thing it mentions, in big bold lettering, is “PLEASE LEAVE KEY IN ROOM WHEN CHECKING OUT”

The Sleeve. Sparse and elegant, but the last thing it tells you is “Please return key when checking out.”

So which is it: Leave the key in the room when I check out, or return it?

I usually leave the key cards in the room because I don’t bother checking out at the hotel desk. What do you usually do?

March 27, 2008

Strange Threat On The Back of a Hotel Key Card

Filed under: Hotel SWAG,Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

If you have never read the fine print on the back of a hotel key card, today is the day to start.

Eyes Like Hawks on Flicker

eyes like hawks on Flickr

It reads:

If you find this key Card, please read below. Until 12 o’clock tomorrow, this card is valid in one of 532 rooms or in one of 17 conference rooms at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm. However, if you are a thief do not even consider visiting us, as we have very good security both inside and outside the Hotel and our Front Desk personnel have eyes like hawks.

It almost sounds like a dare to me. From now on, I’m reading ALL the small print if gems like this can be found!

March 26, 2008

Germany: Zadi Diaz Goes To Berlin

Filed under: Lodging,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 8:56 am

Zadi Diaz went to Berlin a few weeks ago and she was nice enough to share her experience with us:

Once again, the hotel has used a key card for the electricity. Their first room had trouble connecting to the Internet, so they had to change rooms, which is a common experience, but the rest of the hotel was different from the U.S. in many ways.

berlin, germany day 001 / hotel from Zadi Diaz on Vimeo.

When they finally get out of the hotel, they show us some of the city:

berlin, germany: day 002 / bits of the city from Zadi Diaz on Vimeo.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Zadi and Steve!

February 22, 2008

Open Letter to The Luxor Hotel and Casino

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit,Tourist Attractions — Laura Moncur @ 8:48 am

Luxor Offer March 2008: Click to see full sizeDear Luxor Hotel,

I used to really love you, but the Luxor has really gone downhill. Despite all the renovations, I really don’t want to step into a casino with Carrot Top with top billing and EVERY casino has a strip show. Advertising yours (Fantasy) just makes you look pathetic.

You keep sending me these “offers,” but they aren’t appealing in the least. If you don’t have a good show to draw me in (in all honesty, your shows are scaring me away), and you don’t have anything else to draw me in, then the price of the room needs to draw me in and I can beat your price at the Las Vegas Hilton or Imperial Palace every time. Barry Manilow and “Dealer-tainers” are just as scary as 3 Redneck Tenors, but I pay MUCH MUCH less for the room.

Seriously, the Luxor hotel used to be my FAVORITE hotel. I’ve written about it online many times:

I didn’t realize how many times I had written about the Luxor until I looked it up. I even went so far as to call it my “beloved Luxor Hotel.”

I’ve visited since the “new pulse” was installed. Stripping the hotel of the theme was kind of silly, but I understand that you’re trying to make it upscale. A lot of casinos are trying to play down their kid-friendly aspects right now. Of course, that doesn’t explain Ronn Lucas and his puppets. I understand what you’re trying to do, but there is NO WAY that you’ll be able to be upscale if you don’t draw in some better entertainment. And by the way, paying stars to come dance at your nightclub doesn’t count as entertainment.

And don’t even get me started about the billboards plastered on the side of the pyramid. Anubis himself might have come to take down that Absolut bottle if the wind storm hadn’t gotten to it first. Adidas? Since when are you a sports bar? Aren’t you embarrassed that Google Maps shows you with half a sign advertising Motorola from InterOp plastered on your beautiful, black pyramid? You should be.

Satellite shot of the Luxor Hotel from Google Maps

Luxor Valentines offer February 2008: Click to see full sizeWhen your advertising isn’t merely unappealing, it’s downright insulting. For example, take the Valentines Day offer you sent in February 2008. Here was the offer:

  • Complimentary admission for two to Cathouse: This is your restaurant where women in lingerie serve you food right? I noticed you didn’t offer me a dinner there, just admission so I don’t have to pay the cover charge. Do you really think women in lingerie feeding my husband food is romantic? What kind of Valentines Day do YOU celebrate?

  • 2 for 1 Admission to Fantasy: THE STRIP SHOW? What kind of couple goes to a strip show on Valentines Day? Not only that, you expect my husband to pay for himself and I get in FREE? Wow… thanks for the offer… I’m so underwhelmed.

  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries (from in-room dining): That sounds nice, I guess…

  • Complimentary admission for 2 to Nuture The Spa: I don’t care what you call it. Nuture The Spa is just a hotel gym with a massage therapist or two. I’ve been there. I know. I love to exercise there, but your admission doesn’t include the cost of a massage, so really all you’re offering me are a few treadmills and a hot soak in a tub. Admission to your spa should ALWAYS be free.

  • Complimentary Deluxe Tower Room Upgrade (based on availability): Have you not figured out yet that the coolest part of staying at the Luxor Hotel is the room in the pyramid with the fun, slanty walls? I don’t WANT to stay in the tower, but if I did, I would be pretty underwhelmed with the lack of promise that “based on availability” gives me.

Really? Is this really the best Valentines Day offer you could make me? Mike and I were in Vegas right before Valentines Day. A really good offer might have made us stay a couple of days longer at YOUR hotel. Instead, you insulted everything about the holiday.

Every time we drive past the Luxor now, my heart aches for what you used to be. How much longer until you dismantle whatever is left of cool that you had? Please, please, please fire the advertising company that you have hired. If you are doing this in-house, STOP IT and hire a good advertising agency. I would hate for the Luxor to suffer the fate of The Sands, Stardust and so many other great casinos that couldn’t compete in this market. You deserve so much more than a burst of fireworks and a carefully timed implosion.

Laura Moncur

January 28, 2008

The Smart Show: How To Live In A Hotel

Filed under: Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 9:49 am

Imagine my surprise when Henry from The Smart Show, explains in perfect detail MY methods for how to live in a hotel.

Remember: The Smart Show is sponsored by Holiday Inn Express, so this is kind of a commercial for the hotel chain. There are a lot of good ideas in this little video, though, so check it out anyway.

I’m not the member of any priority clubs with any hotels, but I DO have a similar ritual when getting settled in a hotel. I felt a sudden wave of justification when I saw Henry setting up the hotel room as quickly and efficiently as I do when we get into our room.

Here’s MY list I follow when I move into a hotel room:

  • Check the room: Honestly, even really nice hotels make mistakes. Mike and I have been given UNCLEAN rooms in the best of hotels, and I know I’m not the only one. In all fairness, we have never been given an unclean room in a dumpy hotel. This has only happened in three and four star hotels. I have no idea why, but make sure you get in and check that the linens have been changed and that you have Hotel SWAG. Those are the two biggest indicators of whether your room has been cleaned.

  • Set up the computer and check the Internet access: A lot of hotels brag about their wireless Internet access, but fail to mention that some of their rooms are unable to get a signal. For me, having Internet access is almost more important than having a clean room (not quite, but almost). I actually prefer wired access with an ethernet cable, but wireless access is nice as well. You paid for it. Check it to make sure you got it.

  • Unpack clothes: I take my clothes that I usually hang and place them in my suitcase (hanger and all) when I pack, so all I have to do is lift them out of the suitcase and hang them in the closet. I used to do that with a garment bag, but I found the garment bag to be a HORRIBLE suitcase and my clothes actually wrinkle LESS when I pack them in the suitcase. I put my jeans, undies, socks and nightgowns in the drawers.

  • Use the suitcase as a dirty clothes hamper: There are two schools of thought on travel. The “Moving In” and the “Live Out Of Your Suitcase.” I prefer the “Moving In” school of thought. I unpack all of my clothes and I use my suitcase as a dirty clothes hamper. This doesn’t work if you are moving from one hotel to another each day (such as a cross-country trip). It only works if you go to one spot and vacation there for a week. With the “Live Out Of Your Suitcase” school of thought, it’s best to have two suitcases, one for clean clothes and one for dirty clothes. When the dirty clothes suitcase is full, take it to a laundromat and clean your clothes.

  • Use a toiletry bag in the bathroom: I have talked about this in detail here: Travel Essentials: Toiletry Bag

If you haven’t started watching The Smart Show yet, you really should. There has only been this episode that has seemed like a commercial for the hotel chain and the rest have been cool stops in places all over the country. If you are at a loss of where to go on your vacation this year, they have a ton of offbeat ideas for you.

January 22, 2008

The Smart Show: Sponsored by Holiday Inn Express

Filed under: Lodging,Places To Visit,Tourist Attractions — Laura Moncur @ 3:22 pm

I have been enjoying The Smart Show on my iPhone for months. I just now realized that I probably should share it with you. Here is episode one for your enjoyment.

If you think that visiting the Fluff Festival just outside of Boston is a strange way to travel, you haven’t seen anything yet. Follow these guys around while they enjoy the free continental breakfast at Holiday Inn Express and travel across the country. As of today, they have over 48 episodes for you to enjoy on YouTube or on your iPod or iPhone.

Enjoy traveling across the United States with The Smart Show!

November 28, 2007

Don’t Stay At Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino

Filed under: Lodging,Nevada,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 7:56 am

Self Portrait Sunday 11-25-07 from FlickrI don’t like to do bad reviews, but I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you about Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, Nevada.

It is about a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas, so I thought it would be a good place for us to stay. We have sorely missed Nevada Landing since it closed earlier this year and we were trying to find a replacement for our favorite hotel.

Buffalo Bill’s is NOT it.

We decided to take Buffalo Bill’s Hotel for a test run on 11-22-07 and 11-23-07. It was a nightmare.

The staff at the checkout counter was understaffed, but friendly. We had to wait 30 minutes in line to get our room. The staff was very helpful when we finally got to see them, but there just weren’t enough of them to handle the line of people checking in.

Unfortunately, the room we were given was unpleasant. The toilet was clogged before we were able to use it. I called down to the desk to have someone bring me a plunger. The maintenance man who showed up, wouldn’t let me keep the plunger (is there only ONE for the entire hotel?!). He insisted that he wait while I get the toilet unplugged. Unfortunately, he had brought a sink plunger, which would turn inside out every time I applied pressure. I was disgusted as the thing flipped sewer water on me every time I turned it right side out. Despite all I did, I was unable to get it unclogged. The maintenance guy said he would get someone with a snake to unplug it. I told him that we were going to get a different room.

I waited in the room while Mike went down to get another one. He waited another 30 minutes in that long line. They gave him keys for a different room on the same floor.

We took all our suitcases, left the previous room and headed to our new one. The key cards didn’t work. Now, we were stuck in the hallway with all of our suitcases and no room. I waited in the hallway with all of our belongings while he went down AGAIN to have them fix the problem.

He barged to the front of the 30 minute line and they gave him cards for a third room. It was one floor above ours. When we arrived in the room, the smoke detector was beeping, the window was stuck open (cold wind blowing the curtains) and there was only one chair instead of two. Frustrated with the line at the checkout desk, we called housekeeping and maintenance.

A woman arrived at the door about thirty minutes later. She didn’t have a chair, so we assumed she must be maintenance. Sadly, she didn’t speak enough English to communicate to us that she had been sent to our room from housekeeping and no one had told her that she should bring a chair. We told her the smoke alarm was beeping (you would think it was obvious) and that we couldn’t get the window closed. She suggested that we put bath towels along the crack to block the air.

That was the point where I lost it.

Maintenance showed up and replaced the battery. Mike and I finally forced the window shut (most of my rage was used up on the window). It was almost 2 am by that time, so it was too late to get a room somewhere else.

Once we finally had a non-beeping, non-freezing room, we had even MORE issues. The next morning, we were greeted by the noisy ruckus that was housekeeping gathering right outside our door. Apparently, they gave us the room right by the housekeeping area. After all the trouble we had, they gave us that room. I understand that it’s just a job and it’s fun to talk and laugh with your coworkers, but we had been up for HOURS last night just trying to get settled into a room. We arrived a little late the previous night, but that was aggravated by changing rooms so many times. We just wanted to sleep.

Even worse, the wireless Internet was slow. Okay that’s a lie. It was almost non-workingly slow. Mike took the readings and it was slower on upload than a telephone modem. I had to upload two pictures about seven times just to get it to work. You shouldn’t brag about having wireless Internet if it’s unusable.

After all the trouble, we just wanted out of Buffalo Bill’s as soon as possible. I made a reservation for the Las Vegas Hilton as soon as they had rooms available (11-24-07) and we checked out of Buffalo Bill’s three days too early.

We were so angry, we didn’t gamble at all. We saved our gambling money for the Hilton.

The staff were all very nice, but the hotel has some SERIOUS deferred maintenance. We were going to book a week’s stay there during CES and go the extra drive every day to Vegas, but now we are looking at hotels in the city. Terrible Herbst might be a great car wash, but they are running a miserable hotel.

Read this entry to hear about Primm Valley Casino Resorts’ “apology”:

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