Travelogue: Quick updates from Las Vegas, featuring Jimmy Buffett, Gordon Ramsay, and Uber

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Jimmy Buffett enticed us back to Las Vegas last weekend–no April foolin’ here–for a long weekend at Signature at MGM Grand. With Signature’s proximity both to the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the Las Vegas Monorail station, it’s an ideal and affordable option to enjoy relative quiet and little to no smoke. You still have the ease of access through the District to MGM Grand proper, and the entire strip is accessible one way or another, including the Harmon Ave sneaky path to Planet Hollywood.

California has worn me quite thin

First of all, you’ll remember that a $200 Uber credit is now a benefit of the American Express Platinum charge cards. If you have an eligible card on your Uber account, you automatically receive a $15 credit in the app each month, and $35 in December, which can be used toward any Uber ride (and apparently UberEats as well). However, Amex decided to start this benefit on March 30, giving you two days to use the first credit.

We used Uber to get from home to the airport and from the airport home, so we used both the March and April credits. One concern I had when this was announced was that people using Uber for business travel might end up donating the credit to their employers, but when requesting our ride on the 31st, there was a checkbox for the credit, which should mean you can choose not to use the credit if the company is paying.

I expect I’ll “donate” the credit in months I don’t use it for personal travel, but with a few personal trips coming up, I’ll probably get at least the $100 annual fee difference worth of benefit out of this perk. I’m a third of the way there in the first week of the benefit, so that’s a good start.

The sharks that live on land?

On the ride from the airport to Signature, we saw some nightmare traffic thanks to the historic windstorms the previous day. Airport transit was modest since it’s very close and doesn’t require access to the Strip itself. The fifteen minute Lyft ride from Signature to Venetian for dinner at Yardbird Southern Table took a bit over half an hour though. We also saw that Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey were performing a live show at SLS Las Vegas, and got last minute tickets.

The ticket process brought out the only real complaint I’ve developed about the Signature at MGM in over two years of visits there. Ticketmaster, known for their logical and customer-friendly practices (that’s sarcasm, folks), decided that it would be  more useful to offer tickets by US Mail, and not Will-Call, for a show occurring a bit over 4 hours after the purchase. With no e-ticket option available either, we chose the Print-At-Home option, and discovered that the business center at Signature was not included in the exorbitant resort fee. We paid a bit over $8 for the pleasure of printing two pages.

I can understand MGM not wanting people to camp out in the room, not that you could really install a lot of powerful software to play in your World of Warcraft guild or anything… but nearly $40 for wireless Internet access is obscene. Maybe someday I’ll need a hundred bucks worth of notary service during a visit.

And one other item that just came out this week, for those of you driving to MGM properties. MGM Resorts will be increasing parking fees everywhere in Las Vegas but Circus Circus. These changes seem to take effect in a week or so, and MLife Rewards pearl and higher (as well as MLife Rewards Mastercard holders) do get free parking. New details should show up at the MGM Parking page when they take effect, or see the previous link for local news coverage of the hikes.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Saturday we visited Gordon Ramsay Burger — note that they’ve restored the “e” (perhaps recovering it from Letterman?) since a lot of people didn’t get the initials in BurGR. As usual, Total Rewards Diamond status got us quick seating, and we had the opportunity to try the new menu that goes along with the new colors and slightly expanded naming.

2017-04-01 12.27.49 gordon no fireA brief fire alarm interrupted the meal, although nobody left the casino that we could see. We did discover that the fire alarm system shuts off the fire display in the front of the restaurant. It came back on a couple of minutes after the alarm was reset.


Entree side of the new Gordon Ramsay Burger menu at Planet Hollywood

Gone are the Euro Burger, the pudding shakes, and (alas) the secret Gordon Burger. In their place, there’s a lobster and shrimp burger (top right, below) which my companion loved, along with a couple of new burgers and a delicious mushroom poutine. There is also a refresh to the dessert menu; while pudding shakes are gone, there are two shakes on the menu as well as a parfait and the blood orange dreamsicle you’ll see below, filled with creme fraiche.

A pirate looks at forty

Saturday night we celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Margaritaville” with the man himself, Jimmy Buffett, starting his 2017 “I Don’t Know” tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

2017-04-01 20.06.23
360 Panorama of the Jimmy Buffett crowd about 20 minutes before the start of the show

This was my fifth evening with Jimmy Buffett, with a five year hiatus since he hasn’t been to Northern California for a while and I haven’t been able to schedule a trip. Jimmy never disappoints; at 70 years young he still puts many younger musicians to shame, and the audience is very diverse in age and other demographics, with tweens (or younger) playing in the aisles and batting the beach balls around, to folks who probably saw Jimmy when he still had a full head of hair.

It did seem like there was less “square grouper” in use at this show, perhaps because it’s an indoor arena in a casino property. But it was a great show as always, and we’re hoping to make it to the tailgate pool party at the Flamingo before next year’s show.

Monday morning we joined Jimmy’s restaurant team at Margaritaville at the Flamingo; they’ve expanded breakfast to seven days a week, and expanded the deck facing the LINQ as well.

Little Miss Magic, what ya gonna be?

2017-04-02 20.48.15 penn teller
Great TR Diamond seats for Penn & Teller at Rio

Sunday, once again thanks to Total Rewards, we made it to see Penn & Teller live for a second time. Our seats were actually better than the paid tickets from 2014, about 9 rows back on stage right.

As you probably remember, Total Rewards Platinum and Diamond (and Seven Stars) members get free tickets to select shows, two tickets per member per month to be exact. You visit a Total Rewards desk in any of their properties to get a voucher, and then visit a box office to redeem for the tickets you want, within 3 days of voucher issue.

We found a catch to this process, arriving on the last day of the month. If you want to get tickets, say, for May 1, you need to collect your voucher on May 1. On April 30 they will still only issue vouchers for April tickets. There is an apparent exception; the folks at Harrah’s told us on March 31 that if we were going to an April 1 or 2 show at that property, they could help us out, but since we wanted tix at the Rio All Suites, we had to come back the next day.

We picked up our show vouchers at Planet Hollywood on April 1, and were pleased to find that the AXIS theatre box office could redeem our vouchers for the Penn & Teller tickets without our having to go to Rio first.

During the show we learned that the new season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us completed filming last month, so fans of the show can look forward to new episodes in the near future on the CW.

Tryin’ to reason with hurricane season

2017-04-03 13.24.30
Storm clouds over Caesars Palace, April 3, 2017

All good tiring things must come to an end, and after a bit of shopping at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, we came back and checked out of the hotel. On the way, however, the sky darkened and our monorail ride back to MGM was pelted with pretty strong rain.

I’ve been in Las Vegas every 3 months on average since Christmas 2011, and I think this is the first time I ever got rained on. However, the storm passed in about half an hour, and our ride to the airport to go home was sunny and dry.

Wonder why we ever go home

Regular readers will known we’re gunning for MLife Rewards Platinum status this year. Alas, three nights in an affordable room with no spa and limited MGM property dining meant we nudged our number up a little bit. We have three trips left on the calendar before the magical September 30 cutoff, so it’s looking promising, but the visit to Interop ITX in May will probably not push us over the Platinum threshold. But Cisco Live should be about the right time to get Platinum status.

How are your status goals going for Las Vegas this year? Found any cool ways to boost your progress (like buying your Tumi gear at Mandalay maybe)? Share in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Minds.

All photos, including featured image, taken by Robert Novak (C)2017 during the trip discussed.


3 thoughts on “Travelogue: Quick updates from Las Vegas, featuring Jimmy Buffett, Gordon Ramsay, and Uber

  1. Pingback: Quick take: World of Hyatt (and MLife Rewards) promo opportunity – rsts11travel

  2. Pingback: Eight days in Burger-town with @gordonramsay @nomburger @pub1842 @fleurbyhk #rsts11travel – rsts11travel

  3. Pingback: Happy Anniversary to #rsts11travel – rsts11travel

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