The Cosmopolitan surprised me. There, I’ve said it.
As I headed over to the press tour today, I was prepared for a routine Las Vegas hotel press preview with lots of hype, but very little real payout. After attending more than 30 hotel premieres stretching back to the Excalibur, I’ve got an over-developed been-there, seen-that, got-the-hotel-swag-bag indifference to property openings.
I was going to celebrate the fact that the Cosmopolitan managed to open despite a flat-lined Vegas economy that has left the Fontainbleu, Echelon and Harmon Towers shuttered and incomplete. However, I didn’t expect to see anything new.
In a sense I didn’t. The Cosmopolitan doesn’t radically redefine Las Vegas hotels the way the Mirage did in 1989 and the Bellagio did in 1998. There’s no magical new formula for Las Vegas hotels being introduced. Instead, the Cosmopolitan is a hotel that, through providence and street smarts, looked at the lessons learned in Las Vegas for the past 50 years and actually applied them. And they did it in a very smart way. Would that every Las Vegas hotel was this well designed.
Customer service, amazing views, easy access to casino, shops and restaurants and rewarding visitors for patronage – all of these ideas have been tried in some form in Vegas and proven to work. The difference here is that the Cosmopolitan has managed to incorporate them all in one stylish hotel from the get go.
It all begins at the front door. In the course of walking through the property, even before they knew I was press and thought I was a lost contractor (must have been the comfortable hiking boots I was wearing), I was greeted with genuine courtesy. People smiled. They asked me if I needed help. The valet took the time to explain where I could pick up my vehicle – in detail. The doormen asked if I had been on property before and then proceeded to walk me to the front desk and actually introduce me to the front desk person.
Jonathan Segal, CEO of The One Group who is opening up their first restaurant in Las Vegas (STK) at the Cosmopolitan, remarked that “Las Vegas is our single most important opening by a mile.” Why? “Las Vegas is the hospitality capital of the world.”
Segal went on to describe how in Vegas, you have to offer an exceptional level of service. It’s what the city is known for doing. How refreshing to encounter staff members that appear to have taken this lesson to heart. It remains to be seen if this welcoming and service-first attitude will continue through the opening months, but for now it’s a sign that the Cosmopolitan is listening to one of Vegas visitors’ greatest concerns – customer service.
Cosmopolitan’s next great success might be divine providence, but it was reinforced by a thoughtful design. The property sits on a small – by Las Vegas Strip standards – parcel of land – 8.7 acres. It only has 355 feet of Strip frontage yet it manages to make this restriction a benefit.
How to make use of a long, narrow parcel? Orientate your towers to maximize the views and build vertically.
I could write pages and pages about the extraordinary views the Cosmopolitan offers. The scenic shots from the wraparound terrace suites in the east tower of the resort left me speechless (Check it out in the slideshow below). There are terraces on 2,200 of the resort’s 2,995 rooms. Those terraces offer views of the Bellagio fountains, the Las Vegas Strip and City Center. With its location center Strip and buildings designed to take maximum advantage of the view, the Cosmopolitan has created a property that capitalizes on being at the heart of all the Vegas action.
Tourists walking the Las Vegas Strip can enter the Cosmopolitan in a matter a few steps. It’s convenient. It’s easy. And they are immediately rewarded visually. Walk in the front door and you are immersed in the casino while The Chandelier – a towering, three-story crystal-enshrouded series of bars – commands your attention. A restaurant – The Henry – serving revamped classic American dishes, is directly to your right along with another bar – Bond. Slots and table games becon enticingly close.
Exploring the hotel’s main floor I was intrigued by how welcoming the design was. Everywhere there is color and texture, but instead of being a cacophony of competing design it became a cohesive look that just begs you to reach out and touch from the many and varied crystal chandeliers to the semi-private gaming areas separated by a drapery of decorative cords. There’s granite, marble, leather, lace, steel, glass, crystals – each note creating a symphony of interior design. While a number of designers worked on the resort’s overall look (The Rockwell Group was one of the chief contributors), the overall presentation is dynamic and cohesive.
The result is a property that is elegant without being stand-offish. You can easily picture women in evening dresses and men in suits descending the staircase of The Chandelier lounge, but at the same time the jeans and t-shirt crowd would be right at home catching a free concert at Book and Bar.
That’s another secret of the Cosmopolitan. The resort has put in stages and DJ booths in a number of locations on the casino floor. The goal – bring entertainment back onto the casino floor. It also helps to off-set the property’s one curiously missing element. There is no permanent show at Cosmopolitan. Instead, the hotel plans on booking up-and-coming bands and major acts to perform at various small stages inside the property or out on one of the three pool decks.
If the first few weeks’ entertainment line-up is any indication, the lack of showroom is hardly an encumbrance. The resort opens at 8 p.m. tomorrow and features a concert by Killers frontman Brandon Flowers. Mayer Hawthorne and Beats Antique will perform at Book and Stage and The Chandelier respectively through Dec. 18. Liv and Mim Nervo will perform at Bond through Dec. 18. On Dec. 31, the hotel and Marquee Nightclub are hosting performances by Coldplay and Jay-Z. For even more entertainment, see our schedule here.
The main floor is also home to the resort’s lobby. Located at the west end and easily accessible from the Harmon Avenue valet and self park entrance, the lobby features an amazing electronic art installation. Digital images dance up and down a series of columns in the main lobby offering champagne bubbles, blooming flowers and meandering butterflies. While the lobby’s forward-thinking interior design may be what first grabs guests, they’ll be infinitely grateful that the elevator banks to the resort’s main west tower are just steps away. No need to feel like a Sherpa packing gear across a never-ending casino floor. Now enjoy a short stroll to your elevator. Even the East tower elevators are relatively accessible.
Once you are checked in, the genius of the Cosmopolitan’s vertical design becomes apparent. Shopping – check it out on the second floor. It’s all centered above and around the three-story Chandelier lounge and easily accessible by stairs, escalators and elevators. Dining is located mainly on the third floor (though there are some restaurants on the second and main floor). Again the majority is concentrated around the Chandelier lounge. Pools are located on the 4 and 5th floors.
The Cosmopolitan has managed to design a major Vegas hotel that is actually navigable by someone who is not a Las Vegas native. How novel – let’s make it easier for visitors to actually get around the hotel.
I could bleed a lot of ink on the page writing about the Cosmopolitans restaurants and shops. But we’ll save that for another article. What you need to know is that 1) they are all new to Las Vegas and 2) they are intriguing.
Take CRSVR Sneaker Boutique – a custom sneaker store and more. Co-Owned by Las Vegas resident DJ, DJ Vice, CRSVR offers unique shoes that can’t be found in even high-end stores.
On the restaurant side, the Cosmopolitan has brought in a series of powerhouse players from New York to create their first Vegas locations. The Cosmopolitan dining line-up features: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, China Poblano and Jaleo from Chef Jose Andres, Comme Ca from Chef David Myers, D.O.C.G. and Scarpetta from Chef Scot Conant, Holsteins, Estiatorio Milos from Restaurateur Costas Spiliadis and STK from The One Group.
These restaurants bring a unique take on their menus and dining rooms. Many have amazing views either from the main restaurant or off their patios. Estiatorio Milos features their well-known fish market display where patrons can choose their evening’s fish from the day’s fresh catch (flown in of course). Holsteins has 7 different varieties of handmade sausage and they source many of their ingredients locally. Comme Ca has a patio overlooking the Strip that will become the place to eat and observe the city. Scarpetta titillates your inner Italian and the view from the main dining room encompasses the Bellagio fountains. China Poblano – featuring Chinese and Mexican cuisines – may seem an odd combination, but you won’t be disappointed. Make sure to check out the restaurants two take-out window when you are jonesing for a late-night snack.
And, unlike other resorts, dining at Cosmopolitan counts in the hotels rewards program – Identity. The rewards programs takes into account the traditional metrics of hotel stay and wagering, but members also earn points for restaurant and spa expenditures as well as select retail spending.
“This program recognizes guests for indulging in all areas of our resort experience, helping to illustrate the level of appreciation The Cosmopolitan maintains for all our customers, as well as both the gaming and non-gaming segments of our business,” noted John Unwin, CEO of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
All this and I haven’t even begun to touch on the pools and nightclub – Marquee. We’ll be featuring Marquee in an upcoming blog post, but I can say TAO group has succeeded again. The nightclub actually fulfills on its promise for a unique entry in the crowded Vegas club scene, the dayclub has awesome infinity plunge pools off the cabanas. “The Library,” one of the rooms off the main club floor, will most likely become “The Spot” for celebrities and the ”In” crowd to hang out.
The Cosmopolitan will have to weather the test of public opinion and in a recession economy that judgment can be harsh. Still, after expecting a hotel that would fail to deliver on its promises, it’s intriguing to find a resort that is well designed and well implemented.
I’m curious to see how it delivers. Are you?