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Stripping in Las Vegas

Some are mesmerised and promise themselves to return. Others say once is enough. Whatever, Las Vegas is a must-see city.

The New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is home to a Statue of Liberty replica at the traffic-choked corner of Tropicana Avenue.

The New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is home to a Statue of Liberty replica at the traffic-choked corner of Tropicana Avenue.

What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas, at least that is what they say. Still, I am sure those who visit are likely to be keen in recounting their experiences, adventures and exploits – with a big dose of exaggeration, no doubt – on their return home from this city-casino where decadence and exploitation are written in block capitals. It may be the ‘Disneyworld of adults’ but while Disneyworld is all about fantasy, at Sin City Las Vegas it is money that rules the roost.

‘Little Venice’, part of The Venetian hotel, provides a taste of Venice.‘Little Venice’, part of The Venetian hotel, provides a taste of Venice.

Las Vegas is man-made and everything you see there has one main purpose: to make you spend as much money as possible. The mega-hotels, whose architects have an imagination as fertile as Walt Disney’s, line the 6.8-kilometre-long stretch known as the Strip, south of Las Vegas Boulevard. And if you are not careful, by the time your holiday ends – even if not earlier too – you will realise you have been stripped of everything.

For a taste of the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, watch Ocean’s Eleven, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. To try to understand how it all works, watch Casino that features Robert de Niro and Sharon Stone. As the synopsis puts it: “This Martin Scorsese film depicts the Janus-like quality of Las Vegas โ€’ it has a glittering, glamorous face, as well as a brutal, cruel one.”

I had always wanted to experience the famous Las Vegas even if I hate gambling with a passion. Once there, I also found it to be so fake. Its “Janus-like quality” is, evidently, too much of a lure.

The Venetian is a five-diamond luxury hotel and casino resort located on the Las Vegas Strip.The Venetian is a five-diamond luxury hotel and casino resort located on the Las Vegas Strip.

We flew Norwegian to Copenhagen, just over three hours away, had an overnight there and spent the following day touring the beautiful city, taking the evening 11-hour-long Norwegian flight to Las Vegas.

I was not familiar with Norwegian airline but I was very pleasantly surprised. Norwegian may be classified as a low-cost carrier but they offer a service that competes well with some so-called legacy carriers. They have good prices, even when paying for two meals (supper and breakfast) for the long-haul flight. The food is good – though it remains aircraft fare – and you are also served wine, soft drinks, water, tea and coffee.

The inflight service is with a smile and the aircraft are comfortable and quite young. On the Las Vegas route Norwegian, or Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, to give its full name, operate the very comfortable Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has in-flight entertainment – including a vast choice of feature films – too.

What I really liked is that none of the three Norwegian flights I was on had that bazaar-type atmosphere one usually encounters on some low-cost carriers.

If you are arriving at night, as is the case with the Norwegian flight from Copenhagen, make sure you look out of the Dreamliner’s large windows to catch you first view of Las Vegas and the brightly-lit Strip.

The airport is not far away from the city and a taxi ride will cost you about $20, excluding tips. It is worth noting that in the US everybody expects a tip. Credit cards are used widely but currency is accepted too.

The Fremont Street Experience – a pedestrian mall and attraction in Downtown Las Vegas.The Fremont Street Experience – a pedestrian mall and attraction in Downtown Las Vegas.
I would challenge Frank Sinatra who thinks New York never sleeps

Alternatively, you can take the shuttle bus for $7 per person, if it is running at the time of your arrival. Having arrived late at night (there is a nine-hour time difference with Malta), we took a taxi to the Flamingo Hotel but opted for the shuttle bus on the way back.

The Flamingo was opened in 1946, the third resort to open on the Strip and the oldest still in operation there. The room we were given left a lot to be desired. We complained the next morning and the room was changed but I saw no real improvement. In any case, we spent very little time in the hotel during the week we stayed there.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would say a week is too long. Indeed, we tried to break it with a tour to the majestic Grand Canyon, in ‘nearby’ Arizona, and to Hollywood.

We left at 6am for the Grand Canyon tour, returning at about 10.30pm, though we must have barely spent a total of four hours at the Grand Canyon itself. Also known as the ‘upside-down mountains’, this largest gorge in the face of the earth tells one billion years of geological history.

It was a tiring trip but all worth the while and the money.

I was looking forward for the visit to Hollywood but it did not happen as the organisers said it was unsafe due to the fires in southern California. My wife soon made alternative arrangements: shopping at the Northern Premium Outlets where big bargains can be had. We had already been to the Southern Premium Outlets (both regularly offer discounts ranging from 25-65 per cent on designer and brand name items) but, as they say, you shop until you drop, the credit card stops working or when you realise your luggage is overweight.

With a combination of music, water and light, the Bellagio delivers a spectacular audiovisual performance with its majestic fountains.With a combination of music, water and light, the Bellagio delivers a spectacular audiovisual performance with its majestic fountains.

Las Vegas is as much a shopper’s paradise as it is a gambler’s playground as well as a gastronomy delight: Gordon Ramsay, Buddy Valastro (the Cake Boss), Bobby Flay and Giada Delaurentis, Guy Fieri and Joël Robuchon are all there. Of course, entertainment is galore and you can take your pick, whether it is Cirque du Soleil, the Blue Man Group, magic, strip shows, top stars…

Four days in Las Vegas should suffice but, to make the long trip to the US worth the while, one can visit other exciting destinations in the ‘vicinity’, like California, Hollywood, Mexico, to mention just three.

After seven nights and eight days in the city that never sleeps – I would challenge Frank Sinatra who thinks New York never sleeps – we flew back, Norwegian to Gatwick and then EasyJet to Malta.

As we waited for the luggage at Malta International Airport, I mentally removed another item from my bucket list and I asked myself: would you go back to Las Vegas? Definitely, not (unless I have to). Do you regret going? Absolutely not.

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