With the opening of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas, New York developer Donald Trump is bringing another dose of bravado to a city that already swaggers with it. Trump's approach to luxury hospitality may be more gilded, exclusive and Manhattan-inspired, but it's no less bold.
Seven weeks ago, the guy opened a $1-billion hotel in Vegas without a casino. Madness. He built the thing off a lonely stretch of road behind the Fashion Show Mall. Insanity. He created his 64-story condo-hotel tower by selling the residential-style units to deed-holding investors, who may or may not add them to the hotel's rental pool. That's possibly brilliant -- or disastrous if sales of the units, priced from $700,000 to $5.6-million, continue to slow.
But he's added enough novel, indulgent features to warm jaded travelers and soothe frequently frazzled fliers. A white-gloved doorman ushers guests into a high-ceilinged lobby that shimmers with crystal, marble and golden trim and is continuously scented with a lightly floral fragrance. Guests are immediately offered a chilled bottle of water and a heated hand towel on individual trays. In half a minute, the elevator whisks them to the uppermost floors, where cozy but contemporary rooms offer vast views of the neon Strip or the golden sunset.
Trump leaves no doubt about his ambitions. The hotel's logo -- a T emblazoned across a map of the globe -- is woven into napkins, embossed onto coasters and stationery.
In case you forget
Trump is omnipresent: His name appears nearly three dozen times within the guest room, whether on his namesake magazine, a catalog for daughter Ivanka's jewelry collection or on the bath toiletries. He named the main restaurant with his initials, DJT, and put his favorite dishes on the menu (Mr. Trump's Butter Whipped Potato Puree, Mr. Trump's Butter Lettuce Salad). He installed his personal chef, Joe Isidori, at the helm of DJT, a grand restaurant of chandeliers, giant half-moon banquettes and inscrutable menu items. (Frozen goat cheese? Evaporated carrots?)
Moreover, plastered across a mirrored wall in H2(eau), the poolside restaurant, Trump spelled out his personal vision in capital letters: "As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big."
He does. Viewed from the side, the tower looks like a giant upside-down T, one that Trump crowned with his name in lights. With 1,282 rooms, it's not the largest hotel in Vegas, but it may be the biggest gamble.
Tranquillity isn't usually what brings the big-spending throngs to Vegas, but this no-smoking hotel is a serene oasis apart from the action on the Strip. The building sits alone behind a dusty vacant lot where the New Frontier hotel once stood and where a second tower may someday be built. To leave the hotel, guests must travel by car, traverse a rocky path without sidewalks and street lights or navigate through Nordstrom, which offers the nearest entrance to Fashion Show Mall across the street.
With the Wynn and the Palazzo as its luxury hotel neighbors, the Trump helps form a new Golden Triangle at the increasingly upscale northern end of the Strip. He's dressed the building to fit in with its rich friends -- in 24-karat-gold glass, we're told. He should have spent more on sound insulation: Sirens, freeway noise and train whistles came right into my 46th-floor room, loudly enough to wake me.
The studios, one-bedroom and penthouse suites, from 515 to 3,500 square feet, are outfitted with golden-hued, contemporary decor and brand-name kitchens. My studio came with a compact Sub-Zero refrigerator, a two-burner Wolf stove and enough Cuisinart tools and appliances to make breakfast or mix cocktails but not a full meal. Rack rates for studios begin at $349 and penthouses top out at $5,000, and at those prices (among the highest in Vegas), I don't necessarily want to lie in bed facing a microwave.
The studios, which comprise nearly three-quarters of the tower, make efficient use of space, however. A wall of built-in shelves, drawers, closets and cabinets contain the kitchen and flat-screen TV. On the opposite wall sit the king-size bed, nightstands, four lamps and a compact writing desk. The floor-to-ceiling windows are framed by a sleeper love seat, coffee table and two armchairs.
The bathroom is appropriately Trump-ified. A gigantic spa tub is big enough for two and surrounded by marble. Click the TV remote and, from within a mirror that stretches across two sinks, a foot-wide TV screen blinks to life. Cool.
Trump pops up again on the room service menu; you can order a $125 bottle of Trump vodka or Ivanka's $199 Caviar Breakfast for Two ($550 if you insist on Dom Perignon).
The hotel aims to lure travelers who demand not just luxury accommodations but also a high level of staff attention. Toward that goal, an "attache" calls travelers before and during arrival to answer any requests. By the time mine called, I had independently made my spa and some restaurant reservations. Evidently, my attache hadn't quite enough clout to secure good reservations at several top restaurants, though she scored at Charlie Trotter's new Restaurant Charlie.
During my mid-May visit, about 10% of the units were functioning as hotel rooms, while the rest remained unsold or were private condos. The low occupancy should have meant abundant, swift service. Yet in two days, housekeeping failed to clean the room or perform the promised turn-down service, even after I phoned to complain. Still, when staffers were on top of their duties, they excelled, anticipating needs and working hard.
The nine-treatment-room spa advances the look and feel of spas by putting the hair dryers in private dressing rooms, using glossy wood paneling instead of the ubiquitous stone and assigning guests a spa attache, who brings water, tea and other lovely things. It's also among a top tier of spas to offer products and treatments from Los Angeles skin guru Kate Somerville.
The 1,500-square-foot fitness center offers a view of the pool, Technogym cardio machines and staff members who offer training tips and chilled water bottles.
Sometime in the future, I'm told, the hotel will offer travelers personalized business cards and in-room loaner computers. Also to come: a gift shop and air-conditioned pool cabanas. The pool is a long, shallow stretch of glory for lap swimmers or sunbathers, who can pop into H2(eau) for cocktails or wonderful La Quercia prosciutto panini or salads.
Things may be a little slow at Trump's golden oasis right now, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. The traditional temptations of Sin City are, after all, exhausting. It's nice to have a place to indulge in quieter pleasures, such as fine wine, hot baths and lazy days by the pool. Trump didn't get to be Trump by being a bad judge of human nature.
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How it rates
* * *
New and noteworthy: Donald Trump's $1-billion, 1,282-unit condo-hotel now open with a spa and namesake restaurant.
The stay: The 64-story golden ode to glamour looks like New York, feels like old-money country club.
The scene: Conventioneers roast by the pool, couples splurge at DJT, owners go incognito.
Deal maker: No casino means no smoking, no lobby chaos, no grandmas blowing inheritances.
Deal breaker: Remote-feeling location, train and airplane noise, absent housekeeping.
Stats: 2000 Fashion Show Drive, Las Vegas, (702) 982-0000 or (866) 939-8786, www.trumplasvegashotel.com.
Rooms: $349 to $5,000, not including summer discounts.
Green touches: Not evident. Plastic water bottles abound, and down bedspreads mean keeping the air conditioning cranked.
Rating based on room, service, ambience and overall experience with price taken into account in relation to quality.
* * * * * Outstanding on every level
* * * * Excellent
* * * Very good
* * Good
No Star: Poor
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