A Surprisingly Likeable Stay
When Sam Nazarian sauntered up to the doors at Sahara and stuck a hand written note saying “Be Back Soon!” in May of 2009, I figured the 59 year run of the property was over. Once a name up with Dunes, Sands, and the big boys, the Sahara had faded into a dog and pony show with 6 pound burritos and a rollercoaster you might get stuck on. Turning this place around into a mid-upper tier luxury resort would be nothing short of a miracle, one that I personally laughed off.
Fast forward to August of this year and somehow the SLS Las Vegas is a reality. I personally was never a fan of the SLS brand here in LA, with it’s hipster vibe and douchetastic dining options. It hit with the Cosmopolitan crowd in demographic, but what about everyone else? A new player on a dead area of the Strip that caters to the young and rich as well as the seasoned Vegas traveler and hell, maybe even locals. Was this possible after so many other places got it so wrong?
Determined to find out for myself, I followed up on a lead from a friend and banged off an email to their generic host account. “Can you match other offers?” was the question. The reply was yes, freeplay and rooms only though, no food and beverage at that time. Sold. Within a day I was booked for a comped post opening stay with some generous free play comps through their Code players club based on an offer sent by the Palms. The SLS is eager to build its database, and this is one way of doing that while getting on the good side of players. I approve.
In all honesty the little time I spent playing at the SLS was great. Staff was friendly, with monkey-on-the-back vests and no name tags to encourage, a la Cosmopolitan, a conversation between your dealer and yourself. Odds were good, and 3 to 2 paybacks on 6 deck shoes kept me playing for an hour or so a day. But the casino was slow during the day, and therefore I inevitably traveled further away to where to action was. Sad really, as there’s a good vibe to the floor…when it’s not sparsely full. Also of note, the high limit room bathed in white and red is unique and beautiful without feeling too stuffy or secluded.
Upon arrival at the white and silver Tron-esque port cochere, I decided to self-park for easy access to my car as I had little luggage and would need it a lot during the visit. The garage has three sets of elevators, and I took the front which dumps you along the curving entrance a short walk from the front doors. Once you wonder up and through the LED-studded main entrance you’re into the huge room that is the casino. The food and beverage outlets ring the space, with the main bar in the center. Navigation however is a bit more difficult.
I couldn’t for the life of me find a single sign that pointed to the reception desk. Finally, after wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, I found an employee who directed me to the rear right and sure enough, just past the pool and Code desk was the main lobby area. A sign would really be helpful here, in case I didn’t make that clear.
The main desk is simple, with grey walls and lit desks. Lines were haphazard, but moved quickly and I was helped within 5 minutes. Unfortunately, due to my early arrival, a normal LUX room wouldn’t be available but I could check in immediately to a slightly smaller room. The LUX tower itself is the front tower of the SLS, which had balconies that were removed and enclosed during the remodel. I would get one of the non-balcony rooms, therefore losing about 100SF of space. I nodded that it would be OK, and I was quickly charged my $150/night incidental deposit and given my RFID keys.
One of the nice things about the SLS is that all three sets of elevators for the three towers (LUX, World and Story) are right off the main lobby. Navigation is quick also to the parking garage with an entrance by the Story tower as well as the Monorail near LUX’s private VIP lobby, an amenity I could have used but didn’t.
Each elevator lobby has its own theme, the Story tower’s being Starck’s typical gray and chartreuse, World having a soft pink hue, and LUX with shiny chrome and deep red walls with a diamond pattern accented by small monkey chrome heads at each intersection.
Because LUX is a small tower, there are only 3 elevators serving its 25 odd floors. There’s a guard to keep people away who aren’t guests, and an RFID puck in the elevator to wave your key in front of to approve your access to your floor. The elevators are eclectic in white with dancing figures and chrome, and the buttons light bright pink, another interesting design choice that stands out.
Once I arrived on the 17th floor, the mood once again changes drastically. The floor is dark, with black walls, ceilings and carpets accented by barcode-like lines and pink stained glass with the SLS mascot monkeys set within. It’s a bit like a gothic version of a church. Disturbing yet relaxing.
The hallways are short, ice next to the elevator, and within 15 steps I arrived at 21709, with its kitschy mismatched numbers. Wave the keycard and in I go.
Immediately its apparent how small the room is. While laid out well as you’ll see, the whole space has a very European feel to it, with a larger than normal bathroom. The entry is dark, with a single light. The wall to the right is bare, to the left is a floor to ceiling mirror that slides like a barn door to reveal the bathroom and serves as your “check my face before I head out” mirror.
The bathroom is narrow yet deep, and I apologize but I couldn’t get a picture that captured it fully. It is bathed in white square tile which makes the entire space feel clean, modern, and larger than it really is. Immediately upon entering are two cubicles on each side, identical in pink with pink and chrome open closet fixtures. The one to the left contains hangers and robes, as well as an ironing board (with monkey!) and accessories. The lower drawers contain slippers for turndown (top) and a drawer safe (bottom) which easily fit my iDevices and laptop. Although housekeeping was punctual and on time daily and did a fantastic job, I never got the turndown service LUX touts. And I was missing a Do Not Disturb hanger, but a nice maid in the hall gave me one with no hassle at all.
To the right is the second cubicle, this time with a minibar perched atop with a glass fronted door. The fair is standard and priced in the mid-upper range, with an assortment of chilled and dry goods on weighted sensors. The lower drawers here were open on top, and filled with a shoe horn and other laundry items below, including a brand new iron.
Further in to the left is the vanity area, an open vessel sink on a mirrored base with a square lighted vanity. Counter space is slim, so plan accordingly. Also worth noting is the fact that although the look is good, the sink is an annoyance to use. It’s shallow and flat, doesn’t drain well, and causes splashing all over. Beyond that the spigot is so close to the back it’s hard to get anything under it. Design loses here on all accounts. The toilet is a Euro-style low power flusher, and often it took two times to get the deep bowl clear of whatever was left behind. Again, design first I guess.
On top is the usual tissue box and lighted makeup mirror. Products are Ciel branded like the properties spa but manufactured by La Bottega in a variety of floral and natural scents. There’s an army of containers on the sink including lotion, dental kit, mouthwash, shaving kit, vanity kit, sewing kit, and a shower cap along with hand soap. Toiletries are large and often replaced by housekeeping so use up.
Under the sink is towel storage, as well as a hair dryer in a nifty SLS bag with some nonsense words written on it. Under that is a scale, a nice touch for those who are diet conscious.
To the right is a large walk in shower. Because the SLS was converted, many of the rooms had to keep an original footprint and didn’t have room for a tub/shower area. As such, it seems the solution they chose to go with were larger walk in showers with plenty of space. In the case of the LUX tower, each one also comes with a large standard shower head and an overhead rain shower, which can be used simultaneously. This is a dream for those who love long hot showers and was easily the best I’ve been in outside of the Salon Suites at Wynn. Shampoo, conditioner and bodywash, as well as a loofa scrub are on the shelf, however a bench is missing and would be welcomed in a shower this size.
As you moved down into the main room, you pass through an archway of sorts into the primary small, yet well though out bed/sitting area. Although the space is tight, it’s again awash in light colors and mirrors which help to add extra floor space without actually adding anything. The archway you pass through is part of the main decor of the room, an elaborate design motif that covers the walls making them look rich and deep with woodwork and decor.
Look closer, and it’s all a facade. In an interesting way, they’ve taken these patterns and put them on wall sized curtains, stretching the entire canvas on hooks at the ceiling level over the walls. While pretty, I’d imagine these never get cleaned and therefore I decided best to look at not touch. Also worth noting is that I discovered an adjoining room door behind one panel, a great way to hide it when not in use.
Just down the wall to the right is another large mirror. Again the idea is to add space, but it seems like an industrial afterthought to the rest of the room.
Under the window is a curving banquette with a pouf on the left side and a table with accessories on the other. While the idea is to have a sitting/lounging area, the room is in reality far too small to do this comfortably, and mostly it served as a catch all for belongings, being careful not to mar the white leather covering. The windows are covered with darkening curtains over aluminum shades, an interesting and different take. My view was of the pool area and the Life pool and luckily stayed noise free. To the left of the banquette is the AC unit, which thankfully doesn’t have the motion detectors many have installed to save money. I cranked it on 65 and it stayed there for the entire trip. Icy!
The table includes a small metal log to sit on (I’m guessing which is as comfortable as my former VT cohort MikeE’s chair at Bazaar) and mismatched glassware for consuming in your room, as well as an ice bucket and things touting the hotel’s amenities and dining options. It’s a perfect space to have a nice in room snack before bed, in my case cold Du’Par’s pancakes and bacon. Cold pocket bacon.
At the other corner of the room is the bed area as well as the TV, which hangs on the adjacent wall as you can slightly see in the picture. Also for those of you adventurous, there’s a mirror on the ceiling at an angle, something that’s consistent across the SLS’s three towers. It is not a good sight when you wake up hungover after one too many Makers on the rocks.
The TV is a pivoting flat panel affair by Samsung and features the usual bells and whistles you come to expect from new resorts. Room service menus are directly accessed here similar to Cosmopolitan, however here they are much more easy to read and less convoluted in execution. There’s a broad range of channels to keep yourself entertained after hitting the tables or before passing out.
To the sides of the bed are two open night stands in white and chrome, each with a white sconce above it. All the lights are on a pull chain without dimmers, which would have been nice considering the white level of the room. The left contains a corded phone as well as note pad.
Under the front of the stand is a charging port for iDevices including two plugs and a USB port. Under that are standard Vegas fodder magazines.
The right night stand is identical with no charging ports or plugs, however holding the TV remote and a white brick device that plays a fancy version of an iHome device. Schmancy and with semi-decent sound.
Despite the horrifically scary woman hovering above the bed, the SLS beds are extremely comfortable and run a bit cool with crisp linens in all white. There’s embroidered lines and the SLS logo is front and center on them to remind you where you are in the world. The mattress is good, but still loses to the Wynn Dream Bed and Aria’s magical cloud concoctions. That said I slept like a rock, but that could have been due to alcohol intake more than anything else.
At the end of the trip, looking back on the sum of the parts, what the SLS adds up to on the hotel side is a very strong competitor in what is already a saturated mid-luxury market. The rooms, quirky in design yet mostly thoughtful in consideration, are nice enough, but at the price I’d go with options from places such as Aria or Cosmopolitan which give you the same level of luxury for a lower price and a much more convenient location. That said, you won’t be remiss trying the SLS if you can snag it for a discount.
As for myself, I’ll give it a try again, but likely on a trip when I want to spend a little less time in the hustle and bustle and more time seeing the city on my own with an easy yet comfortable place to stay and travel to and from. For the SLS’s sake Resorts World and some of the other North Strip plans can’t come soon enough. The casino was dead at night, and that is never a good thing. Just ask Revel.