A billion dollar hotel in Vegas is usually a splashy affair, done with the attendant spectacle that price tags like those can afford. But Palazzo took up residence on The Strip in a quietly dignified way that is both a refreshing change and a bit of a letdown (but only a bit).
Located next door to sister hotel Venetian, The Palazzo is an extension of that property in many ways. The two hotels are connected via a restaurant lined walkway, they share many behind-the-scenes facilities, and the rooms are virtual carbon copies of those in the original hotel. But it is there that the similarities end. The decadent Italian theme stops the second you step across the border to be replaced by the kind of quiet luxury that satisfies but doesn't necessarily excite.
I'm going to start the meat of this review in an unusual and completely unexciting place - the parking garage. I only bring this up because it is an unexpected joy. Four levels of subterranean parking are directly under the building, allowing quick and easy access to the casino via escalator or lobby via elevator. Compared the epic hikes that are required at some Las Vegas hotels, this is like a delightful reward. Your feet will appreciate it, for sure.
The main lobby is a typically grand affair, all cool marble with a soaring rotunda highlighted by a huge frosted glass statue and fountain. Giant urns and vases are tucked into coved walls here and around the property (there isn't a "theme," really, but if you are desperate for one it involves an urn or a vase). There are some snapshot worthy vantage points but again the overall affect is quiet and tasteful.
The casino follows this blueprint, with the decor of octagonal space fading into the background. I spent a pretty decent amount of time in there gambling and I can't tell you a single distinguishing feature of the room. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it is definitely worth noting.
Table games cover all of the usual suspects and fall into the higher end of the betting limit stratosphere. On a relatively slow Thursday night I didn't see a blackjack table for less than $15 per hand although they did have a $10 3-card poker table so I was happy. Those tables are grouped along one axis of the octagon with a wide walkway from the lobby to the guest elevators crossing the other direction. Yes, you have to cross the casino to get to your room but it's a straight shot and the pathway is unobstructed for the most part.
There are slots of all denominations, from pennies to $100 a pull beauties, however it's worth noting that there are very few traditional one payline mechanical slots here. All of the penny and nickel machines are the multi-line video style and the bulk of the quarter and dollar machines are also multi-line monsters, which can get expensive pretty fast if you're a "max bet" kind of person. I actually had a hard time finding machines that I wanted to play and the even worse news is that when I did, I have never won a dime on any of them. It's all about the luck of the draw and you may have much better luck than I did, but every time I come here I might as well have been throwing my money on the floor - it would gained me the same return and might have actually been more entertaining.
The sports book is quite different from a tradition standpoint. It's located away from the main casino, on the lower level under the main lobby. A big betting board occupies a lobby area but unlike traditional sports books there are no seats here to watch the action. Instead you go inside the adjacent Lagasse's Stadium (yes, that Lagasse). It's a giant space with tons of flat screen televisions, comfy couches, and a diverse menu of food to keep you satisfied while you watch the game. Or scream "Bam!" just to amuse yourself.
Restaurants and lounges are scattered around the periphery of the casino, mostly higher end places but with a few moderate entries like the always dependable Grand Lux Cafe. Entries from celebrity chefs include another restaurant from Emeril and others from Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck to drop a couple of names.
A waterfall in the center of another three-story rotunda is the centerpiece to the Grand Canal Shoppes, an extension of the mall that starts on The Venetian side and continues over here, although without the grand canal. Much like the rest of the hotel, the two are connected but the mood changes dramatically when you cross from the Venetian territory to the Palazzo territory. Think Rodeo Drive instead of Venice and you'll be in the right neighborhood.
A large pool deck with multiple places to swim and lounge is connected via walkway to the pool deck at The Venetian - guests at the two hotels may use either area. There is also a giant extension to the already giant Canyon Ranch Spa, offering every treatment and workout and spa service known to man a few that were never imagined before this.
The rooms are all located in one tower and have the same footprint as The Venetian rooms. A massive bathroom is just inside the front door with a tub, separate shower, dual sinks, a water closet, a make-up table, robes, hair dryer, high-end bath amenities, a small flat-panel television and more. Beyond that is he sleeping area with one or two beds, a big flat-panel television, and a closet. Go past that and down two steps into the sunken living room with a very comfortable sectional sofa, a writing desk with its own printer/fax machine, high-speed Internet access (wired or Wi-Fi for a fee), another flat-panel television, a DVD player, and a mini-bar.
The furnishings are all sleekly modern, done in muted charcoals, browns, and beiges. It's a lovely and comfortable room with very fine linens and plenty of room for lounging. However, there are a few ergonomic missteps. For instance in the bathroom, one of the sinks had the cold and hot water spigots reversed, resulting in a bit of a scald for me; the television is not visible from the tub or the toilet, the two places where you might actually want to watch TV while in that particular room; there are about thirty seven light switches throughout the suite (an exaggeration but not by much) and oddly they all seem to do the same thing but never twice in a row; and with the multiple televisions, DVD player, and electronic drapes there are more remote controls than I have in my house and I have a lot of remote controls.
And this is really being picky but I noticed some disturbing signs of wear and tear in my room. The surface of the small dining table in the living room was so scuffed it made it appear as if it had been dragged across a parking lot; one of the velour covered benches at the ends of the beds had a very visible hand print etched into the fabric; and there were a whole assortment of small gouges, nicks, black marks, and even a stain or two on walls, carpet, baseboards, and upholstery. Granted, most people who aren't there to review the hotel probably wouldn't notice and granted (again) it's nothing that can't be expected in a giant hotel like this that has a high occupancy rate, but for a room that costs as much as this one does, I have a hard time excusing the little things that I may overlook in a room that goes for half as much.
So while we're on the topic let's talk about prices. The lowest you can reasonably expect to pay here for a standard room as described above is $159 during the week and in the neighborhood of about $259 on the weekends. If you can get in at those kind of rates, you would have a hard time doing better for the money. But those prices are not going to be common -- fees of well over $200 a night are more likely on the weekends and over $300 a night not unheard of and that's before you factor in the $39 per night (plus tax) resort fee. I don't understand why anybody would want to pay that kind of money but if you do, there are other hotels that I think offer a little more bang for the buck and would never tolerate allowing a table in a room that looked as if it had been dragged across a parking lot.
Service was of the highest caliber throughout my stay, from the front desk agents to the casino attendants to the security staff and more.
I like The Palazzo. It has an almost effortless luxury that somehow manages to be comfortable; stuffy and intimidating are not on the menu here and that's a big change for most hotels of this caliber and price range. But I'm not in love with The Palazzo simply because effortless luxury is not really why I go to Vegas. I want excitement, fun things to look at, entertainment, and most of all the reckless sense of anything-is-possible that this city seems to offer up at every turn. The Palazzo is lovely but it isn't exciting.