By Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 5, 2011
Reporting from Henderson, Nev. —
Ever crave your own swanky personal retreat, with a seaside vibe? The recently opened Ravella could be it, with rooms starting at $117 a night.
Certainly, that's a nice contradiction — elite digs at Holiday Inn prices. If you are one of those travel treasure hunters, point your sonar in this direction and congratulate yourself on just how shrewd you are.
Ravella, formerly the Ritz-Carlton on Lake Las Vegas (a $70 groaner from the Strip by cab), is one of those what-were-they-thinking properties plopped in the middle of where God left his golf shoes.
It is gorgeous, to be sure. Seemingly carved from a giant chunk of marble and jutting out over that improbable lake, this Italian knockoff has almost everything you would want in a luxe hotel, except for other guests.
Of course, every palace needs intrigue, and Ravella offers gobs of it. It's not haunted, but the owners, Deutsche Bank, must think that sometimes. Wisely, it's chosen Dolce Hotels & Resorts to run it, with hopes of making it a major destination for big groups. That's Dolce's specialty.
But that has been the hope for this property all along, and though Ritz-Carlton hung with it longer than many companies might have, you must wonder whether merely halving room rates will stir enough interest to allow Ravella to survive.
Without a dramatic turn in the economy, it's hard to imagine this becoming a vibrant, bustling place, but some income is better than no income.
What you want to know is what you get for your $120, and the answer is plenty: Ritz-caliber rooms, gleaming lake, first-rate spa, fly fishing, golf. The lake itself, dubbed the biggest private lake in the country, is a desert jewel that is just the right remedy after a few days of decadence on the Strip. Come here to dry out, chill out or pig out while your bachelor party friends try to make bail.
Ravella had been open only 10 days when I visited in February, but things were working smoothly. Left from the Ritz days are all the high-end creature comforts you'd expect: great towels and linens, hangar-like lobbies and all that expensive stone work.
The lone restaurant, Firenze, serves mostly small plates — succulent scallops and calamari — at $8 a pop, from a kitchen showing imagination and verve. Small plates always seem so sensible to me, until I realize I need three of them to constitute a real meal.
Meanwhile, the wait staff is just chatty enough — friendly without being intrusive.
The room itself still had that new-car smell. I may well have been the first person to stay in it since the reopening, and you'd have to be the sort of picky person who looks for flaws and shortcomings.
I'm that person, and the thing I noticed was that there was no wastebasket by the desk. Oh, and the spacious bath featured that European affectation, the water closet — basically a stall within the bathroom itself. Guess it's a privacy thing, but it's always lost on me.
In a property with 349 rooms, you might wish for a few more on-site dining options but MonteLago Village, with seven restaurants, is only about a quarter-mile from the back door, a great place to stroll, shop and dine. Locals recommend Sunset & Vines, a wine-oriented little eatery. The kitchen was closed the night I was in town because of a gas leak. Guess I was lucky it was there at all.
Note that there is no gambling at Ravella, but the casino next door was just renovated and opened Memorial Day weekend.
In summer, there is boating on the lake, and at all times of the year, there are great hiking and jogging trails along the upscale golf courses bordering the water that have closed. It's a little like running through a cemetery.
As with a cemetery, there's no one to complain when you take a shortcut, and a morning jog followed by a restorative massage should be part of any rehab plan you're considering. Golf is not as available as it once was, steps from the door, but the Jack Nicklaus-designed Golf Club at South Shore is a five-minute drive.
Be sure to ask about car service to the airport. When I inquired, the front desk said there was no such option. But as I was arranged for a taxi, it somehow came up with a $30 town car trip to McCarran.
All in all, Ravella has a lot to offer. You get a lot of bling for your buck, so you hope it can pull itself together.
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