* * *

Stratosphere: C

The scene: As with everything else at this hotel, the view's the thing. In this case, it's not much: From the eighth-floor deck you look at the smog-shrouded mountains to the west or the Sahara's neon billboard to the south. Oddly, to the east is a mural of a beach and sky that's out of place and cheesy. The pool is adequate, although it had the worst-tasting water. The basketball nets and blue-and-white balls in the pool were a cool feature, unless you're the guy sitting behind the nets who has to kick missed shots back into the water every few minutes.

In its water feature the Stratosphere fails to take advantage of its status as the tallest structure west of the Mississippi.

Jamie says: "Pool basketball is a fun idea."

Swimmability: 4. Something's not right with that water.

Price of a Coke: $2.29

Price of a rum and Coke: $3

* * *

Monte Carlo: D+

The scene: Much like its cousin at New York New York, this pool is small and ugly, although it does shake mildly as a wave pool and there's a short, lazy river too. This was the only Strip pool we saw that allowed non-guests in for a fee--a laughable $15 per person. The Monte Carlo tried to enhance its pool's allure by calling it the Monte Carlo Beach Club, but it's still merely a hole with water in it.

Jamie says: "Can we go now?"

Swimmability: 4. Yawn.

Price of a Pepsi: $2.75

Price of a rum and Pepsi: $5.50

* * *

Aladdin: D

The scene: You know you're in trouble when you get off the elevator on the sixth floor and walk out to the pool area only to have your sidekick ask, "Where's the pool?" The dominant element here is a concrete plain with lounge chairs and tables and two small, unremarkable pools on raised landings. I could put a lounge chair on my driveway for the same effect. The zigzag-shaped pools are poorly conceived as well, with room for only one row of chairs crammed next to one another. Annoyed guests stood around as if waiting for someone to vacate a parking space.

We expect more from a new hotel. The water feature here was clearly an afterthought.

Jamie says: "This is stupid."