Stephanie’s Vegas Trip

I was lucky enough to have spent 3 nights with Westjet and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and getting to see all this fantastic city has to offer. Over 100 agents from across Canada had been invited to join, which is the largest agent trip I’ve ever had a chance to participate in. It was a total whirlwind of a trip!


I started this journey with a 6 am flight from Saskatoon to Vegas, through Calgary, with Westjet. Everything was on time, and ran without incident. I was greeted at the airport by a Westjet and LVCVA rep, and then shuttled to my hotel. There are 4 different hotels we were split up into, and lucky me, I got to stay at The Venetian. I’ve never stayed at such a beautiful hotel – grand frescos painted everywhere, crystal chandeliers and marble floors. I was wowed once again in my suite, which was over 700 sq ft with a sunken living room, luscious king size bed, double vanity, soaker tub and 3 TVs. It almost felt like too much room for just one person.


Vegas Suite 1

Vegas Suite 2


After settling in, my afternoon was free so I head out shopping. I planned to take the bus up to the north premium outlets. You can buy a 24 hour pass for $8, or a 3 day pass for $20. This will get you unlimited travel on The Deuce and the express lines. It’s the SDX line that takes you to the outlets, as the Deuce only goes as far as Freemont Street. It took about 30 minutes from the stop in front of the Wynn (there is a stop in front of the Venetian, but I missed the bus and decided to walk a little further.)


Group activities were planned for 5:30 on the first night, so after shopping I made my way back to the hotel to change. My group from the Venetian walked to the Wynn for a great reception hosted by the hotel management. Oh my, the Wynn is beautiful! The flowers in the lobby are flown in from Holland every 3 weeks or so, and they have a Ferrari dealership on site. I was blown away. During the reception we mingled with agents from across Canada, Westjet members, and tourist board staff. The food was amazing; I had a fantastic mushroom risotto, and an absolutely delicious Peking duck rice bun. The balance of the evening was free, but since I had been up since 4 am, all I could manage was a walk to Harrah’s before I had to turn around and head to bed.


The next two days were full of events hosted by the hotels, Westjet and the tourist board. Tuesday we started out at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country bar with breakfast and a day of networking with different suppliers – hoteliers, attractions, golf, weddings and shows. There are so many things to do in Vegas besides gambling, it’s impossible to fit them all in with just one visit. We ended the afternoon with a few beers and bull riding; however I was not brave enough to give it a go. A few people were, and I’m sure it’s a lot harder than it looks. I have poor balance on flat ground, so I had a feeling the bull and I wouldn’t get along.


For the evening we had a reception hosted by the Cosmopolitan in the absolutely amazing Chandelier bar. It’s the largest chandelier in the world at 3 stories high, and made with over 2 millions Swarovski crystals. I was in heaven. The service at the Cosmo was top notch, and the reception appetizers were delicious. I wish I had more time to explore the hotel. It’s very modern, and one of the few hotels on the strip where most rooms have a terrace. After the reception, we split into 6 groups to attend different shows or activities. I was with the group to the Cirque du Soliel show Mystere. If you have never seen a Cirque show, I highly recommend it as the acrobatics and athleticism is outstanding. The show was at 9:30, so by time it was over at 11:15, I was pretty exhausted. Since we didn’t have a huge meal prior to the show, I was on a mission for food. I wasn’t really up for sitting in a restaurant for 90 minutes for a full meal, so I went to the Grand Luxe Cafe at the Venetian and got a nice turkey sandwich to go, which I took back up to my room to eat. After a long day, it was nice to just relax in bed and catch some zzzzzz’s.

Vegas Chandelier


On Wednesday, the group split up for the morning, and we each went to a different hotel for a site inspection. My group headed to Treasure Island, which luckily is just across the street from the Venetian. Another great hotel, TI is not part of any major chain in Vegas. It’s a “boutique” size hotel for Vegas, though it still has around 3,000 rooms, and most things are compact around the casino floor. They are also building a new shopping complex on the façade of the hotel, which should be opening this fall. We also had breakfast at the buffet here, which was delicious and offered something for everyone – made to order omelets, eggs benedict, hash browns, sushi, fruit, and an assortment of breakfast meats. The hotel was at full occupancy, so we were only able to see one room, a petite suite. It’s a bit larger than the standard room, with a sitting area and split bathroom design, but the decor and general layout are the same.


After we were finished at TI, we headed to the Monte Carlo to meet up with the other groups for lunch and games hosted by MGM resorts. Lunch ended up being only about 2 hours after breakfast, so I didn’t have anything but a small sandwich. MGM hosted their own customized version of Scene It, which is trivia game about movies. They gave out prizes with complimentary hotels stays, but I was not a lucky winner. I guess I’m not as good with movies as I thought I was, but it was still loads of fun.

Afterwards we were split into groups again for another activity. I chose a visit to the Mob Museum and a ride on Slotzilla, which is the newly renovated zip line on Freemont. The museum was great, but I definitely could have had more time there. We had just under an hour, and I probably could have spent three. There is everything from Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Frank Lucas, and Lucky Luciano, to a piece of the wall from the St Valentine’s Day massacre, history on the mob in Vegas, and different movies based on mobsters. It made me want to go home to watch Casino and American Gangster.

Vegas Mob Museum

With a few free hours that afternoon, I decided to go check out the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. With over 170 stores, there is something for everyone. If you love to shop, be sure to pick up one of the discount coupon booklets, which are worth over $2,000 in savings. The coupons don’t expire right away, so you can use it again or give leftovers to a friend who is going later.

For the third and final night, we headed to the Flamingo for dinner at their steakhouse, Center Cut. What another great meal! We started out with a seafood platter, which had crab legs, shrimp and oysters. I’d never had an oyster before, so another agent showed me her way to eat one – lemon juice and Tabasco. It wasn’t awful, but I don’t think its top on my list to order again. The rest of the meal however, I could eat every night. A Caesar salad to die for, grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes, and a fillet mignon that melted it my mouth. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again. As dessert was being served, a few speeches were made by Westjet and the LVCVA, when a surprise visitor came by – Donny Osmond! He was just stopping by the restaurant kitchen to get a salad before his show, and decided to come in and say hello. What a great way to end dinner!

For one final activity, we had a ride on the High Roller, which is the newly opened observation wheel. At 90 feet taller than the one in London, it’s the largest observation wheel in the world. The ride is approximately 40 minutes, and the views are amazing. At night you can see all the hotels lit up, the Bellagio fountains, and the city all around you. It’s just breathtaking. Each capsule holds up to 40 people, and they can even be booked for private functions and weddings!

Vegas High Roller

So thus ends the night and now we had to part ways. Unfortunately I had the earliest flight back home the next morning, so I had to miss the breakfast windup. I said my goodbyes to the Westjet reps and the many new friends I’ve made, and made my way back to my room to pack. I can’t wait to go back to experience something new next time. Viva Las Vegas! Until we meet again.

Jamie’s Italian Adventure – Final Blog

Well, we have made it home from our delightful tour of Italy and it’s time to catch up on our last few days.  We spend two nights in Florence and Florence was a treasure.  It’s quieter than Rome and quite a bit smaller – a very pedestrian friendly historical downtown, which was a nice change.


Our hotel, the AC Firenze, a Marriott Property, was just across the street from the start of the historical downtown area.  It was a brand new hotel and very modern, nice bed (best we had in Italy) and a great breakfast buffet in the morning.  The only complaint was that the Air Conditioning couldn’t be turned down lower than 20 degrees and I found it quite warm at night.  We could walk to the main sights, like the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio, the Accademia Museum and some world famous shopping areas with top of the line leathers and gold.  However, it was quite a long walk from the hotel.  If you had mobility issues, they had bike-taxis (a guy peddling a two seat carriage) and a few regular taxis that could take you around, but most traffic is restricted within the downtown area.  A Bike-Taxi from the Duomo to our hotel was $12 EUR – we took one back at the end of our day.


We had one full day in Florence and made the most of it.  Unfortunately, as it was a Monday, we couldn’t visit the Uffizi or the Accademia as they are closed on Mondays. But we did a walking tour of downtown to familiarize ourselves with the area and saw where the Duomos was, as well as the replica of David which is in David’s original home in the Piazza della Signoria, the Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza di Santa Croce which is the square with the best shopping and also home to the Basilica di Santa Croce which was well worth visiting.  It is the oldest Franciscan church in Florence and one of the oldest in Italy and is home to the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and more.  It was also a beautiful church.  After visiting the Basilica, shopping for some leather goods and filling up on lasagna, we decided to tackle the 450 steps or so to the top of the bell tower, connected to the Duomo.  We first visited the Duomo and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the famous cathedral with the huge dome that dominates the Florence skyline.  The outside was very ornate and the Duomo incredible, however, most of the masterpieces and sculptures from this Basilica have been moved to the museums, so they say it is like an empty jewelry box.  We had the option of climbing the Duomo (almost 500 stairs) or the Bell Tower (about 450 stairs).  There was a lineup for the Duomo and none for the Bell Tower, so that made our decision easy.  It was about $6 EUR for an entry fee.  The stairs are very narrow with people coming up and down and at times they are steep and you can feel a bit claustrophobic.  However, the views from the top were incredible and made it well worth the effort!


Following these adventures, we had to go back and prepare for our evening in Tuscany.  We were driven about a half hour outside of Florence into the Tuscan hillside to the Castello del Trebbio – a 12th century castle, surrounded by 350 hectares of vineyards and Olive Groves.  It was originally the home to the Pazzi family, and was the site of an attempted murder of the Medici brothers, who were the biggest advocates and supporters of the Renaissance movement.  The current family bought the estate in 1968 and raised their 5 children there.  After the death of the parents in the 1980’s, one of the daughters, Anna, took over the running and management of the estate with her husband.  They further developed the winery and olive oil production and opened the estate up as a venue for weddings, special events and also started renting several farmhouses on the estate to tourists – all to support the upkeep of their lovely castle.  The castle itself has the winery and wine cellars in the basements – which also used to be the prisons.  The castle is heated only by fireplaces, with the exception of one special event room which has central heating and it is filled with antiques and is very authentic.  It was magical.  There were rolling hills, flowers and vineyards everywhere.  It was very peaceful and easy to see why tourists would want to come and stay.  It was also one of the best meals we had on our entire stay in Italy and included wine tasting.  Although I had to abstain from the wine this time, I was sure to buy some to bring home for a later date!


The next morning, it was on to Venice and the city I had been waiting for! Venice, like Rome, was just as I had imagined it to be.  Our hotel, the Amadeus, was only one street over from the Grand Canal and about a 5 minute walk from the train station, so it was very convenient.  The rooms were decorated with antique Venetian furnishings, but the bathrooms were quite modern and the rooms were very charming and clean.  We had a little balcony and the nicest part was with the windows open, we overlooked a quiet courtyard and all you would hear in the morning when you woke up was the birds and the bell tower.  You didn’t hear the people or noise of the canals and busy streets, etc at all.


We had about a day and a half in Venice and we spent quite a bit of that time just wandering through all the quaint streets and alleys and over bridges and canals.  It was the nicest city to just walk around.  At first I was worried about getting lost, but they had little signs on the sides of the buildings pointing you down each alley and street either towards St Marks, Rialto or the Piazza del Roma.  Our hotel was near the Piazza del Roma and we usually wandered towards St. Marks or Rialto and shopped or saw the sights as we came across them.  That way, we could always have an idea which way to go and which way to come home.  It worked well and we never had to look at a map – we just enjoyed the journey.  We did a private Gondola ride for two, leaving from right near our hotel.  It was 100 EUR for about a 40 minute ride (total for two of us).  I didn’t think that was too bad compared to prices I had seen online.  The Gondalier was very good, although he didn’t sing – he told us it was better if he didn’t as he only ever sang in the shower!  We did the Gondola at Sunset and it was dark by our return.  I think this was the best time to see Venice and see the city light up.  It was well worth the money.

We also toured the Doge’s Palace in St. Mark’s square and were glad we did.  There was no lineup and it was 15EUR each.  You tour the private apartments of the Doge, which were incredible, as well as the Institutional Chambers, which is where a lot of the official meetings and judicial/court proceedings happened, etc.  Then we were able to tour the Armoury and go across the Bridge of Sighs to the Prison.  It was really interesting and you should plan to have at least an hour to an hour and a half to tour.

The main public transportation in Venice is the Vaparetto (water bus).  It is quite expensive!  For locals, it’s only about 1.5EUR for each ride, but for tourists, it was 7EUR for each ride and they have a schedule, just like buses, so in one case we ended up waiting about 40 minutes for the bus and we could have walked back in that amount of time (but my feet were tired!)

Getting back to the airport doesn’t really have any inexpensive options.  You can take a water taxi right from historic Venice to the airport for about 120EUR, or we could walk (and drag our bags) the 10 minute walk to the bus terminal (just past the train terminal) and from there you can take an airport bus for 10EUR each or a taxi for 40EUR flat fee.  We opted for the taxi for 40EUR so we didn’t have to wait and drag our bags on and off the bus.  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the 120EUR on the water taxi, but it would have been very nice and convenient!  You could also take a train, but you would have to change trains in Mestre and again you would be dragging your bags to and from the trains.

From Venice we flew Alitalia to Rome.  We arrived at the airport early and they put us on the earlier flight for no charge, so we didn’t have to wait three hours for our flight – we basically just checked in, went through security and boarded the plane.  It was a quiet 45 minute flight and we were there.  In Rome we had to overnight before flying back to Canada on Air Canada.  We opted to stay at the Hilton Rome Airport as it is connected by covered walkway (5 min walk) and we wouldn’t have to take a taxi or deal with shuttles.  The best rate I could find was a prepaid non refundable rate of $189EUR.  I have to say, this was the only hotel I was disappointed with on the whole trip.  The pillows were terrible, the sheets were worn out in places, the bathroom was not very clean and there was rust on the fixtures and mildew in the grout in the shower.  It was OK, but definitely not the standard I was expecting from a Hilton.  The best part – the Hilton Burgers from room service.  For 18EUR each, we got enormous Beef Burgers with onion rings, cheese and bacon on them and fries and after two weeks of pasta and pizza, it was nice to have a taste of home!  🙂