First, a little back story. My husband has been going to the National Association of Broadcasters yearly conventions for over thirty years. For the last six years, he has been employed by a large motion picture studio and is the engineer for their extreme sports channel, FuelTV.
For the last 14 years between NAB and visiting my parents, we have stayed in many hotels on the Strip from economy (that would be you, Tropicana) to very nice (the Venetian, Thanksgiving 2001). A few years back, Fox sent the crew up for NAB and we stayed at Bally's, which is actually a very good place to stay as long as you don't eat in any of the restaurants.
For the last two years, we have been staying at the Orleans and the only bad thing we can say about that hotel is the long walk from the parking lot to the hotel rooms feels like a ten mile hike. We've enjoyed many of the restaurants at the Orleans as well.
This year, in a cost-cutting measure and with the idea of being able to send more people, Fox and the Sahara made a deal for the mid range employees and some of the upper executives to stay there during NAB.
Its' a historic property, one of the last remaining original Strip hotels. It's had its ups and downs and during the winter closed one of its two hotel towers.
But, it had the advantage of being close to the Convention Center and we could take the Monorail.
So, we thought (and we weren't the only ones), how bad can it be?
Well, I am sad to report, it's pretty darn bad.
We checked in mid-afternoon on Saturday. The registration desk had three people working and a line that snaked down the hall. The clerk we got was not polite and I would be truthful in saying that she was not only semi-rude but refused to work with us when we discovered they had messed up our reservation. They had our room type wrong as well as Jon's check-out date wrong. After going round and round with her about the wrong check out date she was finally able to sorta fix it in the computer but said we should call down later that evening and confirm that it went through! (Because really, on your first weekend night in Las Vegas you want to have to plan for calling the hotel to make sure they didn't screw up fixing the screw up on their end, I guess.) That should have been the first warning sign.
Instead of the king bed we had reserved, all they had to offer (for one night and then we could move) were two queen beds. We were offered the Hospitality Suite for another $50 a night and felt like victims of a bait and switch. We declined to spend the extra dough on the suite.
After all, how bad could an average room be?
Turns out, pretty bad. After we escaped the Clerk from Hell, we stopped by the small shop, Sahara Spirits, that sold water and sodas. We were parched and hoping to get some cold water. The smell from the shop hit us in the face as we walked in. It was that Vegas sewer smell and we turned around and left without buying anything.
The lobby that once had been brightly decorated with an Egyptian and Casbah motif was now shades of gray. I am not joking. Gray. Because the color is such a pick-me-up? Whoever thought the grey and brown color scheme works should be fired.
The elevator took us up to our floor. As we walked down the corridor and got closer to our room we could hear the Ice Machine making enough noise to wake the dead. A hole was knocked into the wall next to our door.
By the next day we could sympathize with whoever had hit the wall. They were likely tired of dealing with the staff.
Our room had a view of the Stratosphere Tower (where Fox had tried to house our group but was unsuccessful). It also had two different types of carpet. One type was for the entrance and felt like astro-turf. The other, completely different carpet type, covered the rest of the room.
The telephone was located on the desk across from one of the beds. This meant if you left a wake up call, you had to get out of bed to answer it. I am still trying to understand the logic of that one.
The air conditioner made a wailing sound. Though there was a thermostat on the wall, that didn't work but the old fashioned wall air conditioner did. It was making the wailing sound.
The box springs had smudges on the top of them where they met the mattress. We didn't want to know.
There was no remote for the TV and we had to call housekeeping to bring us another. The guy who brought it implied we had palmed the other. I guess guests of the Sahara have nothing better to do than rip off remotes that work 20 year old televisions.
We went out Sunday morning about 10:00 am and returned to the room at 3:30 pm. Housekeeping had not been there. A call to them let us know that they were working their way towards us and it would probably be another hour.
We walked around, played a few slots (which took our money fairly quickly with no return) and ended up sitting by the pool area, in the wind and cool weather.
Finally, our room was cleaned (or what passes for clean at the Sahara).
That night we had dinner with Jon's co-workers. Most of them were staying at the Sahara and each of them had their own horror stories they told us about checking in and more.
As the dinner progressed, we began joking about going to Fry's Electronics to buy black lights so that we could run our own CSI-type tests for bodily fluids in our rooms.
We all agreed that we really didn't want to know.
The sad part is that it doesn't have to be this way. Mike Nolan and the crew at the El Cortez have trail blazed the path for how to restore and rejuvinate an aging hotel/casino. Yes, it costs some money but the El Cortez is doing a land office business these days and the majority of people who stay there are having a good time.
The same can't be said for staying at the Sahara.
Bottom line, I don't think Fox will be returning to the Sahara (everyone we met was planning on lodging complaints with the Fox Travel office based on their daily experiences with the staff).
I don't see us ever going back as well.
Which is too bad. The hotel deserves better treatment from her owners and her staff.