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City In Review: Las Vegas

Whether you are a single person who wants to party or a parent who wants to enjoy time with your family, Las Vegas has something for everyone.

If you do not care about staying off the Strip, the Orlean is a location and they have family activities like a cinema on site.

If you want to stay on the strip, here are some suggestions

Caesar’s Palace, Venetian, Bellagio – All their rooms look like luxury. If you are trying to go to Vegas on the cheap, you probably will not be able to afford to stay here. They have deals sometimes, but these hotels are usually going to be the higher priced options.

MGM (My favorite) – All of their rooms clean, neat, look like new. You can find rooms at affordable rates without worrying that the quality will be similar to a Super 8 or Motel 6. I have stayed here for as low are $59/night.

At the Stratosphere, Excalibur, Luxor, Tropicana and Circus Circus, it is best to stay away from the cheapest rooms they have to offer. Most of the time, the cheaper rooms have not been renovated as the premium rooms. Those rooms could be on par to rooms you might find at a Super 8 or Motel 6. I pay the extra few dollars for the upgrade instead of taking a chance on the quality of the room.

When deciding on a hotel, check what coupon books you receive with your room. Most likely you will receive discount coupons for hotel stores and restaurants. For example, Stratosphere offered a coupon for a free pass to the observation deck which was a $13 savings. Many of the hotel restaurants have 2-for-1 offers or hotel credit too.

Wherever you stay, Saturday night is probably going to have the most expensive room rate. Many shows have “dark” days when they are not performing, so keep that in mind when planning what days you are going to be in the city.

There is a lot to do in Vegas. You can go shopping, pamper yourself in the spa, try out different celebrity chefs’ restaurants, visit museums, or see one of the many shows. Any time of day or night, there is fun to be found.

If you are not going to rent a car, you will probably not leave the strip. If you rent a car during your stay, do not worry about parking because many places have valet parking. Be nice and tip the hard working people though. Whatever you do, make sure you have comfortable shoes.  There are taxis, buses and a monorail, but everything is farther than it appears. It might seem close, but after walking for 20 minutes and you have still not reached your destination, you begin to realize that.  

Also with a car, you have to plan a day to ride to the Hoover Dam. It is only about an hour away and worth every minute. Since you are so close, it is also worth the drive to go to the Grand Canyon too. Be prepared to spend close to $50 for entrance to the Hualapai Indian Reservation Grand Canyon West to see the Grand Canyon. The tourist trap of a skywalk is located here and you can walk on it for an additional $29.95. The Grand Canyon may be breathtaking, but I was still grumbling about the entry fee. It seemed to be excessive to me.

Since I love desserts, I have to go by Freed’s Bakery every time I am in Vegas and get some of their wedding cake (white cake with strawberries and Bavarian cream between the layers and buttercream on top).

Overall, Vegas is a fun town and there is something for every budget. It is not all about playing in the casino. There is no doubt that Vegas is an extremely commercialized that is designed to get you to spend your money, but there are ways to spend as much or as little as you want. Whether on or off the Strip, you can have a great time. And remember “What happens in Vegas, STAYS in Vegas”

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City in Review: Cozumel MX

Going to Cozumel, MX as part of your cruise vacation? Most people will go to Carlos and Charlie’s or Senor Frogs and play the liquor games, dance, and eat. There is more to Cozumel than that. If you have never been to Carlos and Charlie’s or Senor Frogs, you should go at least once. The drinks are free flowing and the music is pumping so that you want to dance the whole time. Just be mindful of the time because you do not want to be left on the island when your ship sets sail.

In Mexico, the currency is the Peso which can be converted 10 pesos to 1 dollar. Most stores in the tourist section will post prices in USD. If you go into a store to buy some souvenirs and the prices seem outrageous, ask if the currency is Peso or USD. That happened to me and once I converted the prices to USD, I was relieved to know that I would be able to afford to buy for everyone on my list.

As with any foreign country, find out how to contact someone in case of an emergency. If you are taking a cruise to Cozumel, this information is usually available to you before you leave the ship. You never know what might happen so it is good to take precautionary measures. Since this is a tourist town, most people speak some English. If you are downtown in Cozumel, you will be able to find plenty of people who speak English. If you are going to explore the island, having a small Spanish-English dictionary should be able to help resolve any communication problems that may arise.

If you are going to travel around the island, your options should be taxi or jeep. Scooters should not even be an option. There will be many people riding scooters and making it look like fun. But is the most dangerous mode of transportation if you do not know what you are doing. If you are taking a taxi, ask how much it will be for a tour of the island. You can even arrange for the taxi to drop you off at one of the parks and pick you up later. If you rent a jeep, many of them are manual transmission. The car insurance that you have in US does not cover rentals in foreign countries. You want to make sure you get full coverage for your rental. If you do not and you are in an accident, you will be stuck with unimaginable expenses. It is worth the $10-15.

Cozumel has one main road that goes around the whole island. It probably takes 45-60 minutes to circle the island. From the main road, there are signs that tell you the name of the different beaches and guide you to the ruins. On the ride to the beach, I saw where the water crashed against the rocks at times. If you stop along the road to walk along the beach, you need to be careful. There are not a lot of sandy beaches, but slippery limestone rock. If you do not have on the right type of shoe, it can be very dangerous. It is best only to stop where there is beach access. You can tell where there is beach access because there are little bar restaurants that are situated near the beach. These restaurants offer margaritas, tacos, chips, and salsa. People can eat these while they are relaxing on the beach or sitting sit at the bar. There are usually little gift stores adjacent to the restaurant too. If you have children, you want to know that a lot of the souvenirs are not very family friendly at the beachside restaurants. On my last trip, I saw A LOT of male and female anatomy shaped items.

One of the beaches that I have visited was Punta Morena. People were surfing, swimming, and lying out on the beach. The waves were choppy at times because there was storm earlier that day. These little restaurants do have bathrooms, but there are no lockers for your valuables. Since many of the rental vehicles are soft-top Jeeps, you cannot exactly lock your valuables in your car. It is best that you keep these with you in a waterproof pouch around your neck. I do not eat anything in the beachside restaurants, although I saw other people that did. If you want to eat something in the restaurant, you do so at your own risk. I do not advise it. However, I did order a margarita. I think that tequila kills all bacteria.

I was not impressed with the advertised Mayan ruins. If you are the exploratory type, you might like that sort of thing. But if you go in the rainy season, be prepared to be eaten alive by mosquitoes. I had insect repellant on and counted over 50 mosquito bites.

Overall, Cozumel is nice. There is not much to do besides lay out on the beach and drink margaritas. Recipe for a good time.