A limousine ride can add a touch of class to almost any occasion — even a pit-stop at Wal-Mart.
Yep. That’s right. Wal-Mart. Turns out the discount mega-store is a common destination for Las Vegas tourists riding in limos.
Maybe it’s the tinted glass or the driver opening the door, but something about a limo adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to any trip.
In other areas around the globe, limo service is often limited to celebrities and the wealthy. “It’s just the opposite in Las Vegas,” said Brent Bell, president of the Las Vegas transportation company Bell Trans. “We work hard to keep our rates low so everyone can enjoy a limo for less than the industry standard.”
Charlie Horky, owner of CLS Las Vegas, agreed. “It is far cheaper to get limo service in Las Vegas than most other cities,” Horky said, explaining that limo services in Las Vegas charge an hourly rate as opposed to a flat
fee. “It’s better than taking a cab. It’s more luxurious … you can relax, enjoy a drink … and the chauffeur is like a concierge.”
Apparently it isn’t Wal-Mart’s rollback savings and everyday low prices that constitute the biggest bargain in Las Vegas. It’s the affordability of riding in style while vacationing here.
That’s not to say that Las Vegas limos – which come in traditional as well as Hummer, Escalade and even earth-friendly models – don’t also cater to the rich and famous. CLS Las Vegas, which was started by Horky in 1994 following his success with limo companies in Los Angeles and New York, has chauffeured many celebrities, including Aerosmith, Britney Spears, The Rolling Stones and Sting.
Bell Trans, an almost 40-year staple in Las Vegas, chauffeurs celebrities on a regular basis, as well, but declined to name them for privacy reasons.
Even without a name on the A-list, B-list, or any list at all, a passenger in the back of a limo is made to feel like a star.
“I try to make them feel like the most important person I’m dealing with at that moment,” said Aaron Merrell, a personal chauffeur for Bell Trans. “People don’t come to Las Vegas every year. This is something special. And it’s my job to pamper them, because they don’t get that treatment every day.”
Limousines usually seat from four up to 14 passengers depending upon the model (limo coaches can accommodate more), and come along with standard amenities, including uniformed chauffeur and curbside service. Typically the vehicles are equipped with a television/VCR unit, stereo and CD player, privacy dividers and a stocked bar (upon request).
Chauffeurs stay well-versed in the Las Vegas buzz, such as hot spots and events, and try to point out areas of interest and fun facts to their passengers. Sometimes they’ll even swing by the famed “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign for an impromptu photo opportunity.
“This is more of an experience than a traditional ride,” said Brek Opeka, general manager of Bell Trans. “The chauffeur knows where he’s going. There’s a feeling of enjoyment and relaxation in the back. It’s not like hopping in a cab where the meter is running.”
The service is so memorable that one limo passenger actually tried to keep his limo as a memento. When the chauffeur left the vehicle, the passenger hopped into the front seat and drove away. He was quickly tracked down and the limo returned. Note to limo guests: Taking the limousine back home with you is not part of the package deal.
Also don’t plan on having any “I’m the king of the world!” moments in a limo. Although it has become a popular rite of passage in movies and music videos, standing up and sticking one’s head out the sunroof is heavily frowned upon in reality.
So much so, in fact, that Bell Trans stopped buying limos with sunroofs in the late 1980s. “It’s against the law and it’s dangerous,” Bell said of sticking your head out of the vehicle. “If they’re looking for it (the sunroof),” Merrell added, “they’re probably trying to do something they’re not supposed to be doing.”
Horky said sticking your head out of the sunroof of a CLS limo can get actually you kicked out. “We ask them once to stop,” he said. “If they persist, we stop the charter.”
Merrell said in his seven years with Bell Trans, he’s never had to pull over and ask someone to get out of the car, “But I have had to ask them to put things away.”
For the most part, however, a limo ride is a pleasant experience without much consequence. It’s also a chance to keep the party going and arrive at a destination in style.
“The cost is reasonable, it’s convenient and private, it just makes sense,” Bell said.