DSCF2534Once upon a time, in the far away kingdom of Las Vegas, there was an enchanted castle.  It rose majestically from the desert floor, looking every bit the fitting home for King Arthur and his Knights.  Amidst the blue, red and gold turrets, the wizard Merlin himself, gazed out of the central tower, surrounded by glittering lights and bolts of multi-colored neon, demonstrating his awesome power.  But that was long ago.  The castle still stands, but some of its grandeur has faded.

Don’t stop reading, though!  This fairy tale ends happily!

I chose to stay at Excalibur for a number of reasons - First, I had never stayed there before, but many people still do, so I figured there had to be something good about it.  Secondly, I like it’s location at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana, where famous casino hotels reside on each corner - New York New York on one, the Tropicana on another, the MGM Grand on the third and finally, Excalibur.  It’s a busy, lively area and the views are amazing.  Lastly, I chose it for the price.  I know I haven’t discussed prices in my write-ups before, but the rate I got for this particular trip was too good not to share.  I had noticed that the room rates at the Excalibur always seemed extremely reasonable, but through www.vegas.com, I got a five night hotel and airfare package for just a little over $500.  For a round-trip flight from New York to Las Vegas, and five nights at a hotel on the Strip, that was too good to pass up.

IMG 6849Excalibur opened in June of 1990, at the height of the attempt to create a more family-friendly Vegas.  The fairy tale castle environment, along with attractions like an animatronic Merlin-versus-dragon show in the “moat” and the Tournament of Kings dinner show, which features jousting knights, sword fights, dancing maidens and a meal you can eat with your hands, was meant to bring in the family crowd that Vegas hoteliersIMG 6824 were courting back then.  When it opened, it was the largest hotel in the world, with over 4,000 rooms.  These days, it’s the fifth largest.  Starting in 2006, many of the medieval elements were removed as part of a four-year renovation, and more modern touches were added to the rooms and the casino in general.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the newer Excalibur, and what I got was mostly good, a little bad, but overall very comfortable.

IMG 6648As is my pattern, I arrived much earlier than the 3 PM check-in time, but the nice woman behind the desk set me up with a room immediately.  I asked if I could upgrade to a suite, and there was one available, but the cost was an extra $100 a night.  I told her a standard room would be fine, but asked for one with a nice view.  She found a room for me on the 19th floor of Tower Two and gave me my key.  I found my room and immediately went to check out the view.  Unfortunately, the blinds were broken and I couldn’t raise them.  I called downstairs, explained the situation and waited about 25 minutes for an engineer who came in, took a look at the blinds and left.  After more waiting, two maintenance workers came up, took the blinds apart, and corrected the problem.  Okay, so that little glitch was solved.  I unpacked and got settled in.

IMG 6649The room was very sparse - two Queen sized beds with one large, padded, chocolate-brown headboard and no bedspreads.  A vaguely medieval looking table divided the two beds and against the opposite wall, was a large bureau, which looked a bit second-hand.  Above the bureau, was a flat screen TV, and in the corner, a small table with two chairs.  The bathroom had a single sink set into a spacious granite countertop and a shower stall with sliding doors.  The window dressing is a clever piece of camouflage.  The window itself is actually quite small by Vegas standards - about 4x3 feet, but cheap curtains cover the entire wall, giving the illusion of something much larger.  Still, I enjoyed the view.  I could see New York New York and MGM Grand.  I could also hear the screams from the riders on the NYNY roller coaster across the street, which was amusing but never intrusive.  The feel of the entire room was utilitarian - not fancy, just the basic necessities.IMG 6661

IMG 6650I suppose the two real drawbacks of the room, were the lack of an in-room safe in which to store my valuables, and the flat screen TV, which refused to work.  I generally don’t watch a lot of TV when I’m in Vegas, but on one particular night, I wanted to watch the local news.  I tried to turn on the TV and got nothing.  I called downstairs and they sent someone to fix it.  A couple of days later, I tried turning it on so I could check out via the TV.  Again, nothing.  I was leaving anyway, so I let it go.

Excalibur has a large casino - 100,000 square feet of gaming space, still featuring medieval touches like stone ramparts, stained glassIMG 6818 “windows” and suits of armor, but on this trip, I noticed that the casino seemed rather empty during my first two days there.  Now, my trips to Las Vegas usually take place during the week - prices are generally cheaper and crowds are almost always smaller.  I try to avoid the weekends, as there are usually too many loud, drunken 20-somethings on the Strip, in the casinos, and wandering the hotel hallways shouting “Wooo!” while I’m trying to sleep!  For this trip, however, I was meeting family for a pre-Christmas get together, so I decided to arrive on a Wednesday and leave the following Monday, while my family flew in just for the weekend.  When I booked the trip, I found that December is a fairly slow month in Las Vegas - thus the great rates and smaller crowds.  But the Rodeo came to town later that week, so on Friday and Saturday, the hotel and casino were full of honest-to-God, cowboys, complete with cowboy hats and boots, many of them extremely cute!

IMG 6812Even if you’re not a gambler, there’s plenty to do.  There’s a beautifully renovated pool, a large spa and fitness center, shopping, and an arcade for kids.  For your entertainment there are the Tournament Of Kings show, A Bee-Gees Tribute show, and Thunder From Down Under - an Australian take on the famous Chippendale’s male strip show.  There are a variety of restaurants - The Steakhouse At Camelot, an Italian eatery called Bucca Di Beppo, and most notoriously, Dick’s Last Resort, a casual restaurant where customers are made to wear bibs and tall, sillyIMG 6815 paper hats, and are verbally abused by the “rude” servers.  There are live bands, big frozen drinks, and dishes with names like Macho Nachos and A Case Of King Crabs - it’s not to my taste, but people seem to love it.

DSCF2507So here’s my overall opinion on Excalibur: While the hotel is a little shabby and some of the amenities are lacking, my stay was actually quite pleasant.  Customer service was mostly very good and I was treated quite well - I was even able to arrange a late check-out on my last night.  Honestly, I would stay at Excalibur again.  Their rates always seem affordable, year-round, so if you want to stay on the Strip, not luxuriously, but comfortably, give Excalibur a try.  You won’t pay a king’s ransom, and that might just make you feel like royalty!