The Times' favorite summer vacation photos from readers in 2014

Las Vegas resorts want their guests to take the plunge

As Danish tourists Benjamin Jensen and Peter Andersen get a tutorial in blackjack, the pit boss at Caesars Palace isn't concerned that they're barefoot and wearing only swim trunks.

The dealer is clad in a white sweatshirt and shorts. She places the cards — a promising ace and 7 for Jensen, a less desirable 9 and 6 for Andersen — on a blue vinyl table cover.

The water cascading down the nearby waterfall and dripping off the men's tattooed arms would ruin the typical green felt table top. The men are sitting at a swim-up blackjack table in the middle of Fortuna, one of five new swimming pools dotting Caesars' Garden of the Gods.

As temperatures creep toward triple digits, several Sin City resorts are tempting guests with cool, new offerings for the 2010 season — including secluded havens offering respite from the action and high-energy beach clubs in the thick of it.

At Caesars, the oasis — with columns, statuary and greenery with a Greco-Roman theme — now has eight pools dotted across 5 acres. The project's $60-million price tag is an eye-opener, particularly in tough economic times. In 1966, it cost $25 million to build the entire hotel-casino complex, which then had just one pool.

"You can pretty much tailor the experience that you and the people you're traveling with want to have," Gary Selesner, Caesars' president, says of the revamped Garden of the Gods. "When you have a legacy that is as deep and as renowned as Caesars Palace, you have to keep doing things that are big."

In a city known for continually reinventing itself, no one should be surprised by the current game of aquatic one-upmanship. At the Four Seasons Las Vegas, work is underway on the pool area's third makeover in its 11 years. Chic furniture is being added, along with amenities such as an espresso machine and a sunscreen station so guests don't have to tote their own lotion. Pool attendants also offer complimentary treats, including frozen fruit and made-to-order smoothies.

"The service is second-to-none," says Linzi Pinto, who with her husband, Laurie, and their two daughters is spending a couple of weeks at the top-rated hotel. "They know what you need before you ever know that you need it."

Rajiv Malhotra, hotel manager at the Four Seasons, says it's all about being proactive. "It's very necessary to change before change becomes necessary," Malhotra says.

At Steve Wynn's Encore, big changes are apparently necessary, even though the place is less than 1 1/2 years old.

During Memorial Day weekend, the Encore Beach Club will welcome its first guests. Featuring a pool party atmosphere catering to a young crowd, the hot spot will have two-story cabanas and bungalows, each with a terrace or balcony almost within arm's reach of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Sean Christie, the mastermind behind several of Vegas' top nightclubs, points out that the Encore Beach Club will be easy to spot. It's right in front of the hotel, where, until recently, valets greeted guests under the porte-cochere.

"We actually knocked down the front of the building to put this in," he explains. "We feel that we've raised the bar and set the new standard."

A mile or so away at Caesars Palace, Jensen, the visitor from Denmark, says that last year's blockbuster movie, "The Hangover," initially attracted him to the Vegas icon. After spending time at the expansive Garden of the Gods, he finds that his first impressions are confirmed.

"It's the place to be," he says. "It's big, and it's really pretty."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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