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Leisurely floating down the lazy river, cradled by our neon green inner tubes, my wife and I felt refreshingly normal again — not “new normal,” just normal. MGM Grand Las Vegas’ sprawling outdoor pool complex was one of the many quintessential Las Vegas experiences that quenched our thirst for travel during a three-night stay at the hotel, and we honestly cannot wait to return.
Las Vegas has always been an escapist mecca, but now more than ever, it represents a lush mirage in a desert of predominantly suspended travel. Literally dark for months due to global COVID-19 closures, the Strip is starting to light back up as resorts and their famed casinos safely reopen in phases.
RELATED: How the Las Vegas Strip Is Preparing to Safely Reopen
To what degree that clients feel comfortable with Vegas’ new short-term health measures will largely depend on personal preferences, as well as the policies at each individual property.
MGM Resorts, for example, has postings of its seven “Vegas Safely” precautions throughout the resort. During my stay at MGM Grand, I got familiar with the guidelines:
1. Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all public places.
2. Please maintain a 6-foot distance from other guests where possible.
3. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
5. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
6. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
7. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, please notify one of our security officers who can assist you.
MGM further encouraged limited contact and hygiene through its app for mobile check-in; freely dispensed masks and gloves; and one-time, touchless temperature checks. Also, masks are required, albeit seldom enforced, if transiting in elevators with other parties.
Face coverings are otherwise optional for guests save for at select table games, resulting in an average of 20% or so of guests actually wearing them. I observed the same amount of mask wearing at MGM’s New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and Bellagio Las Vegas, as well as at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. The Venetian was most strict, featuring thermal cameras positioned at multiple entry points. Only at The Cosmopolitan was our temperature checked prior to dining at the trendy Beauty & Essex restaurant. All properties widely supplied hand washing and/or sanitizer stations.
Thanks to fewer crowds (picture Las Vegas Boulevard without traffic), it was easier to accommodate physical distancing from other tourists. Other factors included translucent table game dividers and having every other slot machine turned off. Plus, now-ubiquitous floor decals suggested spacing in queues. People generally did the best they could at pools, but the aforementioned lazy river did tightly fill up on occasion.
For me, overall increased cleanliness made up for any shortcomings. Staff, who are required to wear face masks, were constantly seen sanitizing surfaces, and guestrooms were cleaned and sealed with a sticker. Rooms were not sanitized daily unless requested.
Still, not everything is fully open yet. All main entertainment offerings — from comedy clubs to headlining acts — have been taken off the recent calendar, and buffets (as well as some traditional restaurants) are currently shuttered. But both are expected to eventually return in the coming months. In fact, The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas is recently reopened, highlighting all-you-can-eat extravagance (close to 90 available dishes) but temporarily with full-service delivery.
Nonetheless, the dramatic Fountains of Bellagio show has returned in all its glory, Gallagher's Steakhouse is serving delicious monster cuts at New York-New York, and visitors couldn’t be happier. The greatest takeaway from our Vegas vacation was just how genuinely thrilled everyone was to be back — an attitude I hope sustains as all other travel resumes.