Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players . Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.
Mississippi, Here I Come
I’m making my first trip to Tunica this month, and will give you a full report in the March issue. Anyone have any suggestions or tips to make my visit more enjoyable?
One Restaurant Opens, Another Closes – Temporarily
Old Homestead has opened (in the location formerly occupied by Neros), but Café Lago and its buffet are closed for renovations. That also means you have one less buffet to choose from if you purchase the Buffet of Buffets.
Chef From Hell To Open Paris Steakhouse
Gordon Ramsay, star of TV’s Hell’s Kitchen, will open Gordon Ramsay Steak in the space formerly occupied by Les Artistes Steakhouse. The restaurant is expected to open next month.
Speaking Of March Openings. . .
The Broadway hit Jersey Boys will move from the Palazzo Theatre to Paris’ Les Theatre des Arts.
Turns Out You Did Hear It Here First!
An item in the October 2011 issue [“Hide and Go Shrimp (and other rumors)”] reported:
· Shrimp cocktail is going to disappear from the menu at the Diamond Lounges – at least during the week and continuing through Memorial Day weekend.
Turns out that in mid-January, this is exactly what happened – at least at Bally’s. All is not lost, though. From what I can gather, the other three Diamond Lounges are still serving shrimp, but at Bally’s one Tuesday last month servers and bartenders were instead offering bruschetta to customers. In addition, the buffet included a nice selection of cheeses and gourmet crackers. Other options may also be tested. For those who are allergic to shellfish, or simply don’t like shrimp, this is a welcome alternative. That said, I’m not sure that all customers will agree (or approve) – especially when those shrimp were the centerpiece of Caesars justification for charging some Diamond cardholders $10 to use the lounges – and the fact that the Borgata and Golden Nugget offer bowls of chilled shrimp as a regular part of the buffets at their player’s lounges.
Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comps
While most casino-owned restaurants, as well as many shops and spas, accept Rewards Credits (comps) on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals $1, others accept them on a 2:1 basis. In other words, a $50 meal costs $100 in comps. Unfortunately, this comp policy is not always clearly indicated, so there is a bit of “sticker shock” when that $3 cup of coffee ends up costing $6 in comps. Here is a partial list of restaurants, bars, clubs and other places that accept comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio:
Bally’s/Wild Wild West – Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerry’s, M Star Mart, Macy’s gift cards, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Taste of the Shore outlets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores
Caesars – Morton’s The Steakhouse, Dusk, Tazza, Boardwalk Beer Garden (seasonal), 21 Bar @ Dusk, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores (for Pier Shops gift cards and Pier Shops restaurants that accept comp dollars, see below.)
Harrah’s – McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, Taste of the Shore outlets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores
Showboat – Johnny Rockets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores
In addition, the following restaurants at the Pier Shops accept Total Rewards comp dollars: Phillips Seafood, Sonsie, Buddakan, Piazza di Georgio and Souzai. (Check at a Caesars casino kiosk first, sometimes these restaurants offer specials, accepting comps on a 1:1 basis.) In addition, a Pier Shops gift card may be purchased at the Total Rewards desk in Caesars, but, again, at a 2:1 ratio, e.g., a $100 gift card will cost $200 in comps. [Purchases at the Total Rewards Store in the Pier Shops should be made directly with Reward Credits; using a gift card “bought” with Rewards Credits will amount to paying double for purchases.]
AC Country Club
Only because I’ve run into several players who were not aware of this, allow me to remind you that, not only is the Atlantic City Country Club open to the public, but you can use your comp dollars (Rewards Credits) to pay for meals and greens fees. Sometimes it takes a couple of swipes for all of your comp dollars to show up in your account. I had this happen at lunch one day, but, knowing I had plenty of comps, I asked the server to swipe again and, voila, there they were.
Call First, Eat Later (but maybe somewhere else)
As some folks discovered January 31, you can’t always trust the posted opening hours of Caesars restaurants. Scheduled to be open from 4 to 9 p.m., the Waterfront Buffet at Harrah’s was closed that night, as well as on February 1. Those who had coupons for free buffets were offered a $15 per person credit at Sammy D’s or Bill’s Bar and Burger.
The Good. . .
Not two hours before a wonderful dinner at Arturo’s last month I was bemoaning the fact that I am rarely offered the complimentary amuse-bouche, mini-dessert sample and/or after-dinner cordial anymore. What a nice surprise to receive all three! They were the proverbial “icing on the cake”! Kudos to Arturo’s kitchen staff, as well as servers Jay and Jose (and their assistant whose name I forget) for a great meal.
The Bad. . .
Actually, it’s not their fault, probably just some quirk in New Jersey law, but my original plan to dine at Nanking was thwarted when my guest and I were told we had to finish our cocktails before we could enter the restaurant. Since we had just left the Diamond Lounge with two perfectly good drinks, we weren’t about to dump them down the drain, nor were we going to guzzle them cooling our heels outside the restaurant. Instead, we cancelled our reservation and opted for dinner at Arturo’s. While I’m sure Nanking is very nice – and I plan to return (lesson learned regarding cocktails!) – everything turned out fine (see above).
The Ugly. . .
Who designed the new L | Lounge in Bally’s lobby – a former Viet Cong prison guard? With its perimeter surrounded by various lengths of bamboo, it looks like a prisoner-of-war camp. And that name? A female friend thought that Bally’s was going after the lesbian market to compete with Resorts’ Pro Bar [formerly Prohibition Bar], a bar that caters mostly to gay men. Hasn’t anyone at Bally’s heard of Showtime’s The L Word? [Hint: “L” doesn’t stand for “Lobby”.]
Text For Your Car
With the removal of the self-scan valet parking kiosk, hotel and casino guests who have either a Diamond or Seven Stars card can text their valet ticket number. Hotel guests should use (609) 705-4886; casino guests, (609) 350-0955. Allow about five minutes when requesting your car.
Wild Wild West Table Games Closed
It’s probably just for the slower winter months, but, according to a sign in the casino, table games are “currently unavailable” at the Wild Wild West.
$100,000 Hidden Free Play
Don’t forget to swipe your player’s card everyday this month between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to see if you’ve won your share of $100,000 in hidden free play.
Gold Tooth Gertie’s, at the base of the escalator from Caesars to the Wild Wild West, is history. It’s a shame, because I used to enjoy popping down there to grab a quick light breakfast if I was staying in the Centurion Tower at Caesars. The nearest option is the Corner Café at the end of the corridor leading from Bally’s to the Claridge.
Fusion Cuisine Without Knowing It
I was surprised when I got home to find that my takeout order from Kwi was in an Olive Garden container. Caesars is really taking this recycling thing seriously!
Watch Those Logos
While it was a popular giveaway – after all, it was “free”, those watches last month would have been even more appealing had they not been cheapened (in my opinion) by the Caesars logo – no matter how small. I don’t mind a jacket or T-shirt, but why spoil a nice watch? You can’t “re-gift” it, donate it to a charity or even sell it at a yard sale – which is what I (and many others) usually do with a lot of these giveaways.
Chinese Bad Year?
Last year’s Lunar New Year Marketplace was really great – terrific entertainment and interesting, inexpensive things to buy with “shopping dollars” provided to many of Caesars better customers. I didn’t attend this year, but many told me they were disappointed by this year’s vendors and what they felt were prices not commensurate with the quality of the goods, i.e., overpriced.
‘Two Eggs Over Easy With A Side Of Cleaning Solution, Please’
Sammy D’s is finally open for business. At first glance there doesn’t appear to me too much different, with the major exception of a large oval bar and some high-top tables that replaced a section of “regular” dining tables when Sammy’s was Reflections. Open less than a week when I had breakfast – er, “Brunch” (more on that later), the large staff was really hustling, with servers, bussers and even managers racing around taking orders, delivering food and cleaning tables (more on that later too). While some might say it isn’t fair to criticize a place so new, if it’s open for business and charging full price, then I think it’s OK to make a few “observations”: First, the good news. The room looks great, the service is efficient and professional, and the food is fine. However, like Bill’s Bar and Burger, it’s going to be awfully hard to live up to all that hype about a “coffee shop on steroids”. Granted, the menu is a huge spiral-bound volume of offerings, but many are listed several times in different sections so there aren’t really as many choices as you’d think. The problem, though, is that not everything on the menu is available 24 hours a day – or even seven days a week. It’s like having your cable company offer you 400 channels, but allowing you to watch some of them only from midnight to 6 a.m., or just on Saturdays and Sundays. Case in point: It’s 10 a.m. on Saturday (or Sunday), but you can’t order from the “Breakfast” section of the menu; you have to order from the two-page “Brunch” section (to which the person who seats you conveniently opens the menu). Not knowing this in advance, and temptation being what it is, you start thumbing through all the other pages – as I and just about everyone around me did – and you land on the “Breakfast” section and make your mental selection. Unless it’s listed on the “Brunch” menu, though, you won’t be able to order it (at least between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays). Chances are, it will be, but if customers are going to be allowed to order only from a limited selection, why give everyone the entire menu? Some other comments:
Ditch the cheap pre-packaged “breakfast syrup” and serve real maple syrup or even a high quality “blend”.
If you’re going to charge me $4 for a glass of orange juice, I don’t want something made from a concentrate. It doesn’t have to be “freshly squeezed” (as at Café Roma over at Caesars), but Tropicana and other brands have some pretty good quality products and, last time I checked, you can buy a 59 ounce carton for around $3 (even less when it’s on sale).
Find a new cleaning solution. The smell of that “industrial strength Windex” they’re using is enough to take away someone’s breath (and appetite!). If you’re about to be seated next to a party that looks like it’s ready to leave, ask for another table. The fumes from the solution they’ll use to clean that table are overwhelming.
If you’re going to continue to limit your offerings to certain days of the week and specific times, please order some new separate menus for those occasions – and don’t print some of the type in light pink or yellow (it’s unreadable).
Dishing Another Giveaway
I felt sorry for some of the folks who were wrestling with their heavy sets of dishes at a giveaway one Saturday last month. Even though the boxes were thoughtfully attached to lightweight handcarts, trying to get them up and down escalators (and stairs) was obviously a chore – especially for some of the older guests. One woman was so fatigued simply pulling her cart from the ballroom to the elevator that I thought she was going to have a heart attack. Then there were all those extra security guards needed to limit the number of people on the escalators from the ballroom level to the casino level. And there were other minor “traffic jams” caused by people trying to get their carts up the steps leading to the self-parking garage (after awkwardly getting them up the escalator to the overhead walkway). Next time, Harrah’s, before you pick an item to give, think about the consequences, not only for your guests, but also the extra labor it must have taken to get all those boxes into the ballroom, attach them to handcarts (another extra expense), and the additional personnel needed to monitor the escalators.
Sunday Brunch May Be History
I received several e-mails from Seven Stars cardholders claiming that the complimentary brunch may soon serve – or already may have served – its last omelet. The little-publicized Seven Stars benefit regularly drew small crowds, but mostly the same people every week, according to some observers. Over the past six months I went twice to check it out, but found it disappointing – not so much from the standpoint of the food, but the caliber of the patrons. Several people brought their young children and too many were sneaking out food in everything from ladies’ purses to large shopping bags. If you can afford to play enough to earn a Seven Stars card, you shouldn’t have to depend on a complimentary buffet to pad your groceries for the following week.
Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)
Changes At The Cove
Manager Michael DiTomassi will be sorely missed at the Cove. He made a real effort to know his customers and, through his professionalism and experience, made vast improvements in the overall atmosphere and service. That said, the latest menu (which dumps an earlier Tuscan concept) now offers discounts not only to Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders, but any “Total Rewards Member”. What was once a nice perk for top tier players is currently available to anyone who takes five minutes to sign up for a player’s card. Seven Stars cardholders, though, can get a free cocktail at the bar from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, and there are other drink and appetizer specials. (The C-Bar also is running drink specials: $2 each for selected wines, beer and cocktails.)
Caffe Napoli To Open
Pizza, pastas and desserts will soon be available at Caffe Napoli, to be located in the area formerly occupied by Café Cappuccino. A temporary food cart with sandwiches and desserts has been set-up outside the construction wall.
‘Big Game’ Sunday
Since, legally, you can’t use “S—- B—” (it’s trademarked), several casinos are having viewing parties under various names. If you weren’t invited to a party, check with your local Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge to see if it might be open later than regular hours – especially if you’re in the Eastern or Central time zone. Several lounges that normally close at 8 or 9 p.m. will remain open through the game; they’re just not publicizing it.
The Agony Of The Feet
Whatever happened to “No Shoes, No Service”? I was having drinks on a Friday in the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s last month when a woman sitting near me hardly let her backside hit the sofa before she kicked off her shoes and put her bare feet up on the cocktail table in front of her. An hour or so later I was having dinner at the Borgata’s SeaBlue and a woman sitting across from me had her shoes off and one leg tucked up under her behind. The next morning a woman was having coffee at Sammy D’s with her bare feet propped up in front of her on the bar stool seat. Leaving Sammy D’s I spotted another woman – again, barefoot – seated on a stool at Temptations, her shoes on the floor. I don’t mean to sound sexist – I’m just as appalled at men who insist on wearing baseball caps inside restaurants, lounges and bars (or worse, when they’re also wearing shorts and flip flops in the middle of winter). Enough already. If you want to dress (or undress) that way, stay home! (And, servers and managers, if you see this sort of behavior, please say something. It’s not only unsanitary, but disgusting to your other customers who are forced to see this.)
The End Is Near
While the calendar says “February” it’s nearly the end of the year in terms of using many of your Seven Stars benefits, e.g., annual trip, celebration dinner, gift, Signature Experience, etc. All benefits must be used by March 31, and certain trips can require up to 30 days to schedule. In particular, be sure to arrange your celebration dinner in advance through a host. I know of too many people who didn’t do that, only to finish their dinner and tell the server to charge it against their “Seven Stars Celebration Dinner”. It doesn’t work that way. What may happen is that the restaurant will use your comp dollars in the interim, but it can take months for those comps to be returned to your account. Please follow the rules. (And, by the way, whatever portion of the $500 you don’t spend, will no longer be available to you – and you can’t use the “leftover” for – or towards – your gratuity. However, if you dine at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Las Vegas, you may be able to use any excess in their gift shop to purchase a cookbook or apron. Someone else told me he used his $500 comp for room service and worked out the total bill in advance so he spent exactly $500 by including a couple of bottles of liquor with his order. I haven’t confirmed this, but it might be something worth checking out.)
Survey Says: New Year’s Eve
I didn’t get a whole lot of feedback, but, based on comments regarding the Atlantic City celebrations, Caesars was the place to be. Rather than take up a lot of space in the newsletter, I am going to post a separate New Year’s Eve document on the Web site. Keep in mind that these are just some individual opinions of the various parties held at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City (as well as a “review” of the Don Rickles show), Showboat in Atlantic City, Bally’s in Atlantic City and Caesars in Windsor, Ontario. (Plus, there is a “bonus” report about the Golden Nugget dinner in Atlantic City.)
Survey: Vive La Différence!
What are you doing differently – if anything – in terms of your play this year? Being more conscious to space out your play throughout the year? Playing less because you don’t feel the Seven Stars (or Diamond) card is worth it? Trying other casinos, i.e., playing at non-Total Rewards casinos? Send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog
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