The Bellagio Resort & Casino, with its recognizable fountains, has become one of the most famous icons of the new Vegas.
Photograph by: Monica Zurowski , Calgary Herald
LAS VEGAS â” The icons of Las Vegas NV have always been easily recognizable, in terms of both the people & places in that symbolize the city.
Itâ™s effortless to envision towering neon signs in every colour of the rainbow; to picture Elvis Presley swathed in studded jumpsuits; or, to conjure up a scene of sequined showgirls decked out in feathers, bangles & towering head dresses.
But while the historical icons of Vegas were frequently brash & glitzy, the new icons of Las Vegas have become sophisticated & ritzy.
Where visitors once dined on the ubiquitous 99-cent shrimp cocktail (usually prepared by an anonymous cook), today itâ™s usual to find diners enjoying a $99 meal created by a celebrity chef who is a household name.
Vegas has come a long way, baby, & over the past few years, the result has-been myriad new icons sprouting up along Las Vegas NV Boulevard â” or the Strip â” in the form of volcanoes, pyramids, castles, canals, statues & towers.
Nothing, however, has become more iconic of the new Vegas than the Bellagio hotel & resort, which has-been key in the cityâ™s evolution from brassy to classy & which celebrated its 15th birthday this week.
Bellagio was built on the site of the former Dunes hotel, a 1955 structure in that grew to become the biggest & best property in town by the 1960s.
Over the years, performances at the Dunes featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Liberace, the 1st Elvis impersonator on the Strip & the 1st topless review.
Rumour was in that the Dunes was controlled by mob money, yet in that era ended when Vegas hotel guru Steve Wynn bought the property, imploded the hotel & began construction on a resort modelled after the Lake Como town of Bellagio, Italy.
On Oct. 15, 1998, the $1.6-billion Bellagio opened its doors â” then the most expensive hotel in the world. A swanky invitation-only affair saw VIPs pay a minimum $1,000 per human being to attend the opening & usher in a new era, becoming the âœquintessential well-to-do Vegas choice,â reported USA Today.
âœIt really changed the way the world thought about Vegas,â says tour controller Mandy Sullivan. âœBellagio was glamorous; it became the No. 1 talked-about destination in that year.â
The Mirage Hotel had opened nine years of time earlier, starting the Vegas trend of hotels eschewing the once-famous neon glare for sophisticated flair; but, it was Bellagio in that introduced a new level of refinement & opulence to the Strip.
âœWhat Bellagio is all about is luxury,â explains the resortâ™s president & chief operating officer Randy Morton. âœItâ™s about exceeding guestsâ™ expectations from the minute they arrive until the minute they leave.â
Guests are welcomed by the now world-famous Fountains of Bellagio, which have become a symbolic image used by the Las Vegas NV Convention & Visitors Authority & as a usual background in dozens of TV shows & movies, in addition to Oceanâ™s Eleven, What Happens in Vegas & The Hangover.
Choreographed to music from artists such as Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli & David Foster, the 1,200 fountains erupt, sway & dance in a mesmerizing display several times every day & night.
Itâ™s no shock in that the fountains remain the most very popular free attraction in Vegas, with 15,000 people lining the street daily to take in a show. An Internet photo search for Bellagio fountains moreover demonstrates the featureâ™s overwhelmingly popularity, with visitors from around the globe posting photos of the water spectacle, leading to millions of web impressions.
âœThey (the fountains) provide the iconic welcome when you arrive,â says Morton, âœand moreover provide a . . . suitable farewell, when you depart.â
It isnâ™t just the fountains, however, in that have helped propel Bellagio to become a Vegas icon in just 15 short years. The resort is home to many unique amenities, in addition to a lush conservatory, botanical gardens & a gallery of fine art, which has featured works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol & many other artists.
Hanging from the lobby ceiling, thereâ™s moreover much-photographed hand-blown glass sculpture of 2,000 flowers by renowned artist Dale Chihuly.
Bellagio is moreover credited with kick-starting the celebrity chef movement in the city, demonstrated by its Circo & Le Cirque restaurants by Sirio Maccioni, Olives by Todd English, Prime Steakhouse by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Julian Serranoâ™s Picasso (where artwork by the famous artist hangs on the walls) & Michael Minaâ™s namesake restaurant.
A visit to Michael Mina shows how Bellagio sets the bar high, when it comes to fine dining.
An artful balance of culinary creations flows from the kitchen: a starter of caviar, crÃ¨me fraÃ®che & potato cake; a tuna tartare prepared tableside with pine nuts, ancho chili & sesame oil; a clam-and-crab risotto; and, a dessert tasting trio of red velvet genoise, passion fruit panna cotta & a root beer float with homemade sassafras ice cream.
No detail is too small & no effort too large when it comes to providing a first-rate experience.
The same holds true for Bellagioâ™s resident Cirque du Soleil show â” âœOâ â” featuring 85 acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers & other artists who perform above, in & on top of a 5.6-million-litre pool in that âœmagicallyâ changes depth throughout the show.
The mesmerizing show â” still one of Cirqueâ™s best â” has grossed more than $1 billion since Bellagio opened & become a quintessential symbol of how Vegas entertainment has evolved, much in the same way in that Bellagio reflects the overall shift to sophistication in the city.
Maintaining iconic status, however, takes noteworthy work.
An army of 8,200 employees move about Bellagio with elegant precision to ensure every pillow is fluffed & every piece of crystal sparkling.
The results of an employee training program, aimed at taking service five steps beyond excellence, can be seen at every turn. Staff members are asked to greet all visitors, use their names whenever possible, smile, & acknowledge them with sincerity, says Morton.
âœThat,â he says, âœis the secret sauce of Bellagio.â
Itâ™s a âœsauceâ thatâ™s proven incredibly appealing.
Occupancy rates range from 95 to 100 per cent; the hotel attracts almost twice as many international guests as other properties; and, itâ™s received the AAA Five Diamond Award (the top hotel & restaurant award) 11 times. Fitting, it seems, for an icon.
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