David Yeskel

In this episode of Judgment Call I talk to David Yeskel about travel, cruises and Las Vegas.

You can follow David on Twitter at @vegasguru_ or @cruiseguru_

You can find the episode’s transcript here.



Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of Judgment Call, a podcast where I talk to risk takers, adventurers, travelers, entrepreneurs, and simply mindbogglers. My name is Thorsten Jakoby and I’m your host. Today, my guest is David Jaskyl. David has covered the cruise industry and Las Vegas travel options for several trade publications like Travel Weekly, The Travel Agent, and Travel Age West. He’s also appeared on radio and TV as an expert of Vegas hospitality and entertainment in Vegas and he himself is quite the cruise connoisseur. David knows where to find the best travel deals, not just in Vegas, but today we’re going to talk about cruises, how not to get bored on a cruise, but to do what not to do, I find the best deals. I hope you’ll enjoy. Judgment Call is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Mighty Travels Premium finds the best airfare on hotel deals from anywhere to anywhere. Mighty Travels Premium scans 450,000 fares every day just to find the exact deal you really want. You can customize and select from hundreds of easy notifications. The company’s AI works tirelessly and in real time to send you the airfare on hotel deals anywhere you specify. On average, Mighty Travels Premium subscribers save $190 with just one ticket buy. Some users have saved up to 95% with mistake fares to Asia in business class for under $600 round trip, or when they buy 5 star hotels in Dubai, New York, or Chile for under $50 per night. Mighty Travels Premium is less than $5 per month when purchased annually, or $7.99 per month when purchased through a monthly plan. Try out Mighty Travels Premium today and sign up with the code Judgment Call for your 30 day risk free trial. That is www.mightytravels.com slash judgment call for your 30 day risk free trial. David, my first question was, you are an expert in cruises in Vegas. So me, that’s kind of two very opposite ways of traveling. They’re both a bit of mass travel. How did you get into this? How did that all start? Yeah, so they are very different, but I think both represent very innovative products. So years ago, I was a part time travel agent and I loved cruising. I discovered cruising was really great and I also love going to Vegas. I was close by living in Los Angeles and I started writing for a travel trade magazine about both and both had their own advantages. Cruising I think is a great vacation value. Also a very innovative industry. The ships are continually progressing, new bigger ships with all kinds of wild options on board. And Las Vegas I think is the most creative and innovative tourist destination on earth. It changes so rapidly and with fascinating results. So both of those became kind of an interest point for me and I decided to specialize in both as I continued writing. Okay, how long have you been doing this? Like 20 years? Yeah, I’ve been doing this about 25 years on both cruise and Las Vegas, primarily writing for travel trade magazines. So this would be travel weekly, travel age West, magazines that are aimed at travel agents and people in the industry. So I’ve got to know my stuff because I’m writing for a very discerning group of readers who think they know more than I do and I’ve got to prove that I know more than they do. So I always have this kind of one of the mandatory questions to get started. How many countries have you been to? How many trips did you take to other countries? How many trips I’ve been to other countries? I didn’t count. I would estimate that maybe 20 countries. Okay, that’s a good collection. Yeah, it’s a decent size collection. What was your favorite? Where do you think back to and say, wow, that was totally unexpected and that was really exciting? I think I had two favorites and I can narrow them down to cities within the country. So my first is probably Florence, Italy. I’ve been there a couple of times, I was so impressed by it, you know, the art. They say that the art runs in the sewers in Florence and it really does. The art work on the street, Michelangelo’s history there, the Uffiti, the Academia, the Church of Santa Croce, all this gorgeous renaissance art. And the city has a fascinating history, of course. So for that reason, Florence is one of my favorites. And the other is St. Petersburg, Russia. I think it’s a fascinating city, you know, specifically what they went through during World War II, during the siege. It’s fascinating that the city survived that and it really may turn them into what they are today, I think. And just also fascinating from an artistic standpoint, from a historic and cultural standpoint, and with the World War II history, you know, blended in, it also made a big impression on me. So I think those two cities, Florence and St. Petersburg, made the biggest impression on me of all the other places I’ve traveled. Yeah, they are awesome cities. And there is so much unexpected art to see, especially in Florence, I totally agree with you. I do think you went there on a cruise, right? They are both big cruise destinations and I feel for St. Petersburg, there wasn’t a visa requirement for cruise arrivals until recently at least, is that correct? Yes, there is, that’s correct. There is a visa requirement now, but there’s a tip I could give you and our listeners. And that is, if you’re on a cruise visiting St. Petersburg and you’re just going to buy the shore excursions from the ship, you don’t need to apply for a Russian visa. You can just, you’re covered by a visa from the tour operator. Even if you buy a third party tour, that tour operator will cover you with the visa when they pick you up in the terminal. So people are under this mistaken impression that they always need a tourist visa for Russia, Americans, and they don’t, as long as they’re using a tour company either through the ship or on their own as a third party, they just can’t go explore on their own off the ship without a visa. Yeah, yeah, that’s a good way to say, I personally applied a couple of times for Russian visa and that process used to be extremely easy, you know, it had this demonic bureaucracy to it when you first read through the guidelines. But the application, at least here in San Francisco at the Consulate, and then they had an outsourced visa office, it was actually very easy, very straightforward. And as there was many other major countries, you can get 10 year visa for just $120, $140. Unfortunately these visa fees have increased quite a bit and now actually, sorry, it was a seven year visa, not a 10 year visa, but still a lot of time it’s multiple entries for the US passport. Now I think the visa fees have gone up to somewhere around $300 and if you use an agency, that’s another $100 to $150. So typically it’s $500, not just for the visa, which is outrageous. It is outrageous. A lot of people skip Russia because it’s just not worth it to them, $100, you know, that seems extensive, but kind of the standard for many countries, but $500 is just too much. A lot of people skip St. Petersburg, unfortunately. Yeah, right, and they shouldn’t because it’s so fascinating. And really the Baltic cruise itineraries pretty much every ship sailing the Baltic calls at St. Petersburg for at least two days, some for three days and two nights, and it’s really the most popular port in the Baltic region for all those reasons. I know you know a lot about these new cruise ships that come out all the time. You have some insider stories on this, right, they seem to go to really come out with new features every year. I’ve never been on a cruise, so I really don’t know anything about cruises. It’s really a great way to travel. I think it’s not only one of the best vacation values. People think they’re very expensive and there are expensive ones, but there’s something for everybody in the cruise industry. Just like in the rest of the vacation industry, where there are budget hotels, there are mid price hotels, and there are luxury hotels, the same kind of strata applies to the cruise industry. And they’re just building these incredible ships with all these great features on them. So I was just on two of the industry’s newest ships. One is the new Staten Dam, and that is a Holland America line ship. So Holland America is a great line that’s been around a long time, and what they’ve done on this ship is they’ve made partnerships with these prestigious musical enterprises. So for instance, they made a deal with BB King’s Blues Club to put blues musicians on board that are vetted through the Memphis BB Kings. Lincoln Center Stage is another venue in concert with Lincoln Center in New York for classical music. Billboard On Board is another venue on board, and they partnered with Billboard to put music from the last 40 years on board the ship. So they’ve done great things, at least Holland America has, with their live entertainment in the evening. And on a lot of cruise lines, it’s just kind of something to do to go listen to some music after dinner, but they really made it special on these Holland America line ships, especially on these newer ones, like the new Staten Dam. And they’ve really ramped up the quality of the cuisine. Food is great. People used to think of cruises as just endless buffets, but that’s not the case anymore. There are all these specialty restaurants on board the ships with great chefs and food that’s comparable to the best restaurants and land based resorts or in cities. I was quite saying for food, I always have that impression that the cruise tickets from what the other I’ve seen, they can be really, really affordable, but I always feel you’re hostage to the cruise ship for a week and it’s very expensive to drink and eat for relatively mediocre quality. I don’t know if we can say that for the industry as a whole, or maybe it’s different from company to company, but that’s always been my fear that kept me back from taking a cruise. Right. So it’s a common misconception actually and the old lines, regardless of whether they’re on the budget end or on the luxury end, I think do a very good job for their particular demographic in their market. So as far as the value goes, a couple can cruise on some of the contemporary lines like Carnival, Norwegian, even Royal Caribbean, starting at about $150 a day and that’s per couple and they get all your meals, your entertainment, your shipboard transportation, of course, great service. So for $150, you can’t even touch a cheap hotel room in a city. So without all those extras and then it goes up from there and like the line I was just talking about Holland America, for instance, I’ve seen cruises on their ships that have gone with promotions as low as $150 or $200 a night per couple and their restaurants are great. Their food is incredible and it’s gourmet quality and almost all that is food at their feet. Yeah. Is their food included already? I actually don’t know. Yes. So $150 is including pre meals? $150 includes three meals and snacks. So all the lines now have specialty restaurants that you can pay an extra charge to eat in but you don’t have to spend for the specialty restaurants. You can eat in the main dining room, the buffet areas, so the food is included and more than you could possibly want is all included in the fare. Well, it’s not typically so you pay extra for that but the inclusive nature of a cruise I think really makes it a great value and like I say, the quality of especially the cuisine has really improved in the last few years and it’s now restaurant quality cuisine in most cases. I’ve got to hit you with another one of these cruise myths. You’re probably going to tell me those are all bad statistics but I hear a ton of news when people A, fall overboard or B, there’s a cruise ship in trouble either because of major waves or just that air issues with the engines. You could probably say the same thing about planes. Filled with cruises maybe just because I don’t have enough fat, those seem to be real, real but they’re not. Yeah. They aren’t and so we can knock down those myths one by one. The falling overboard, falling overboard first of all, it just doesn’t happen by accident I can tell you that people are drunk typically and occasionally it happens when somebody is drunk, does something stupid late at night when they’re drunk like they may climb up on a wet railing and slip off but nobody can just fall over on their own. The railings are all at least four feet high. When it does happen mostly, it’s suicide unfortunately so people have committed suicide off the side of cruise ships and that’s most of what we hear about. When we hear of somebody going overboard, it’s typically suicide, very rarely somebody doing something stupid but it does not happen by accident. You can’t just fall overboard and it’s important for people who haven’t cruised to understand that because there’s no way to know that otherwise. As far as ships getting in trouble like the Viking sky incident that just happened off the coast of Norway where the ship lost engine power in bad weather and they started evacuating the ship. That was a combination of factors, it was a one off incident that was a combination of bad luck, bad weather, poor decisions, low engine oil, all these things come together and cause something like that but it was also kind of a one off incident that is unlikely to reoccur especially with the lessons that they learned from this incident. Well that just leads me to the next myth with the Norr virus, when I travel I met quite a few people that worked on cruise ships and they are now working in hotels or work in the airline industry and many of them tell me the Norr virus is a real problem so it’s something that is stuck on many ships and it seems to be hard to get rid of once a couple of people are infected. So this is also, it doesn’t happen as often as the media portrays it. So I was looking at the statistics for 2018, about 11 million people cruised from US or North American ports, 11 million passengers and of those there were only 547 reported cases of Norr virus that were reported to the CDC so by law the cruise lines have to report Norr virus cases that exceed a 3% threshold in the passenger load to the CDC. So once it’s over 3% of passengers or crew that are sick they have to report that. So there were only 547 individual cases, this is individual people with reported Norr virus out of 11 million who cruised. So I would take those odds pretty much any day and I can tell you that the cruise lines do a great job at trying to lock it down when it does happen. I’ve been on ships once when there was a Norr virus outbreak and they pretty much cancel all any kind of self service food or drink service, they quarantine sick people in their cabins, they’re constantly wiping down surfaces with a bleach solution and an antiseptic solution. So they do a great job of really locking it down and confining it when it does happen but when it happens it’s spectacular because everybody’s together in one place. So what we don’t hear about are the majority of Norr virus cases which happen in schools, in institutional environments, in nursing homes, those don’t get reported and everybody’s living like in the case of a school or cafeteria, people go home, they’re dispersed and they may have symptoms there but they’re not all together in one place, in one enclosed environment like on a cruise ship and thus it magnifies it when it happens on a cruise ship and it becomes more spectacular news but the risk of contracting Norr virus on a cruise is only slightly more than falling overboard I would say which is pretty low. Okay, that’s good to hear. I mean it seems to be specific to the cruise industry and as far as I know it’s being transmitted from person to person like coughing, it’s amazing and it never really happens in planes at least it’s not a story that I really follow and in a plane it’s very uncomfortable to be so close to people for so long and I myself I got the flu a couple of times some people were sneezing behind me but then and there’s food also involved, right? Right, yeah and you know what all goes back to people using good hygiene so what our mothers always told us, wash your hands with soap and water often is the best way to keep yourself healthy, best way to keep yourself healthy wherever you are. It’s just a lot of airplane bathrooms are really gross in the first place. They are, they are gross so you know what I do, I actually take, when I fly, when I fly I take some antiseptic wipes like Lysol wipes and a pack and I just wipe down the tray table and the seat in front of me of course because that’s the dirtiest part of the whole airplane. Wipe down the tray table, wipe down the seat belt, wipe down the hand rest, the arm rest and just careful when I use the bathroom you know use the towel to open the door, to close the door, people just need to be aware of these things and you can keep yourself healthy just by you know following basic common sense precautions. Yeah, that certainly helps, I’m always a little worried about them, they are conditioning because the air is reused and there’s filters but you know some of these jets are 10, 15 years old and while they get a lot of maintenance for the you know mechanical parts I always doubt the exchange of air filters so it happened a couple of times to me but certainly the wipes help I just, I feel it’s one more thing to be worried about and if you take a lot of flights you eventually run out of these things and then you know you can’t bring in the sanitizer either so it’s challenging, I don’t want to be too germophobe, there’s reports like on flyo talk where people go into hotel rooms and what they do for the first two hours basically disinfect every single surface and then you change the sheets you know and bring down one sheet and tell them like if you’re at that stage right you just shouldn’t leave, I mean that’s just right, I agree, I agree, I agree, I find the balance important. Right, you have to find the balance, you shouldn’t leave but yeah what I do also when I want to get into my cruise cabin I use the wipes, I just sanitize, I use the wipes just to wipe down the you know the high touch areas that may not be cleaned during routine cleaning like the telephone handle, the bathroom door handle, the TV remote, things like that that may be new and cleaning but just give them a quick wipe, yeah I do, it takes five minutes and then I feel a lot better about it and you know what I’ve read and found is that you know those areas harbor the most germs so just take a normal precaution and spend a couple of minutes just cleaning up the environment, I don’t go to the extreme of you know bringing my own sheets or spending too much time cleaning the room but just a few quick swipes with the wipe and I think that helps and as far as the planes go, as far as they are on the planes you’re right, the older planes don’t have as good air circulation or filters but the newer equipment certainly like the 787 has a great air exchange system and the newer planes are much better and I think for that reason help keep us healthier. Yeah, you can really feel that, I was just two weeks ago when I went to China, I was on the new A350, the latest variant of this slightly longer than 1000 that Cathay Pacific just got and they’re just so quiet but they also, the air humidity is noticeably higher and it’s just as barely any noise from the AC so a lot of innovation really went into the air conditioning system which you know seems like an afterthought but I think the air was especially got this right, the Boeing 777 has the same advantages because the air can be slightly more humid because of the confidence, fuselage. Introducing humidity was big because air has always been so dry on planes. Yeah, well it seems like an afterthought, the quality of air and the plane you want to make it safe but this certainly will prevent a couple of diseases. I don’t know, have you ever gotten sick from cruise ships because I’ve gotten sick at least like a half a dozen times from flying. I’ve never been sick coming back from a cruise and I have been sick after flights, a couple of days after flights so I can certainly attest to that happening probably as a result of being exposed to airborne viruses or bacteria on a plane but no, I’ve never been sick on a cruise and like I said the one cruise I was on that had a neurovirus outbreak, they were great about it, they really locked it down, they kept quarantine people who were sick in their cabins for 24 hours until their symptoms subsided after their symptoms subsided and they locked it down and they ensured that it didn’t become a large outbreak and that’s what they have to do with a current like that. Yeah, I mean that’s good to hear, that’s good statistics. I would panic slightly if I know there’s a major novel outbreak on the ship. You can’t really go anywhere right, unless they land in the next port which it seems like they didn’t hit in your case so you’re a bit of a hostage there. You are right, if the ship is infected sometimes they won’t even call at the next port if there’s enough infection on board but like I say it rarely happens so people shouldn’t use that as a reason to avoid cruising because it happens very rarely. Yeah, I know you just went to Cuba a couple of months ago on the cruise. Yeah, a little while ago but last year I was in Cuba, yeah, on a cruise. It seems like a good way to do it, one of the things I noticed about Cuba is how it’s very difficult to find chain hotels, hotels with good standards, at least from the outside it might be different and I’m curious about your opinion, it might be different once you get to the country but in the major cities that seems to be a challenge and also the way to prebook them didn’t seem to be so easy. And now it seems like just the last few days, I haven’t fully read through it but it seems like the Trump administration has made it harder to get to Cuba, get into the country and it seems like you can’t just go on a cruise anymore, is that right? No, no you can’t, unfortunately they clamped down and now that’s cruising to Cuba, it’s now off the table, effective immediately, so the cruise lines essentially had, some of these itineraries were in progress and the ships had to miss that port of coal say in Havana, the two days in Havana and quick hurry up, line up another port of coal and for future cruises to Cuba, these were scheduled, there were hundreds of sailings to Cuba that were scheduled over the next year and those are all pulled back now unfortunately. So it’s very unfortunate for travelers and devastating for the Cubans because they were counting on this, the cruise industry had ramped up because after all Havana and Cuba was a forbidden fruit for so long for us Americans and now we could go and it was a fascinating place to visit as you know if you’ve been there, it’s kind of in a time warp, it looks like time stopped there about 60 years ago and that’s because it pretty much did and different than anything else in the Caribbean certainly and I’m just a fascinating place to visit culturally and historically and I was recommending it to everyone to do it while they could but now cruising is off the table and also the cruise ship was actually, I was calling it, I was saying that your cruise ship was your best hotel in Havana for the same reasons you mentioned, the same reasons you mentioned. So the hotel infrastructure and you know the restaurant quality, all the tourism product really wasn’t or isn’t up to the standards that most Americans expect and they’ve been catering to European and some South American tourists for years in beach resorts but as far as the city, the city hotels and the restaurants and the hotel infrastructure you know it just wasn’t reliable in terms of power, water, sometimes your toilet flush, sometimes it didn’t and so most Americans don’t want to lower their standards like that when they travel and so cruising was a great way to go, you’re on your ship for a couple days and that’s your hotel while you’re right in the middle of Havana and it was a great option. Yeah I think this was a great shortcut, I should never have been to Cuba for a long time, you know I have a German passport so I could have gone but it wasn’t 100% clear because I also have an American passport and I’m an American citizen, that would be something that potentially someone would object to so I never actually went, I was never really picking on my list and lately when I really wanted to go I felt like the internet is going to be unusable, everyone who went there told me you have to go to a specific internet cafe and then you buy it, 30 minutes of internet and that’s kind of all you’ve got, there’s no LTE and there’s no roaming and even if you buy a local car it’s going to be slow and I’m like okay I can’t do that, I have too much to do every day even an hour or two it’s just not going to happen for me so I really was hoping, you know a cruise sounded like a great idea to me with at least a certain internet infrastructure and a better hotel so I always hide away from it, I know the Europeans love the beach resorts because they’re incredibly cheap, I mean for them it’s often the cheapest way to get to the Caribbean and they really didn’t mind the whole politics and you know I don’t mind the whole politics either, I find that a very difficult way to you know just stay away in a trade with the country how this is going to pull them closer to America on their way from the Soviet Union never appeared to me that that strategy was particularly well designed, more emotional I agree, I agree yeah up to now it’s been it’s been a you know the cheapest Caribbean vacation especially for Europeans and Canadians and that’s why it was popular, it’s the cheapest way to spend a week on the beach in the Caribbean at these all inclusive resorts with all your food and alcohol included and it was a great draw and it still is, it still is for that market but unfortunately for Americans now it’s tightened up and it’s really a shame and like I say it’s a shame for Americans who should have gotten to experience Cuba because it’s right in our backyard and it’s fascinating but I think just devastating for the Cubans because they were really depending on that revenue from all the cruise ship visits. Yeah well now we have to go to China to see communism in real life, I was just there you know I always have mixed feelings about that I you know I grew up in Eastern Germany so I know what it does to people’s minds is often not visible when you go to a country you say oh wow it’s really good value like I was in Mozambique a former communist country that seems very communist and it’s a great value and there’s a lot of good news to this to the casual observer but there’s something going on that is very negative to people’s minds that hauls them out culturally just to have this yeah this strong policy pushed on you that really this orthodoxy that doesn’t allow you to think left or right and you know every thought crime is being punished in a way that to outsiders and especially Americans we can’t really we can’t fathom those we don’t we don’t even know that this is a thing you know that there’s a performance because you all look the same to us sure yeah yeah so I was a feeling your communist country mm that’s probably the problem in China it’s very obvious but only if you look behind the scenes if you just go to China and look at the fantastic infrastructure they have but there’s a lot of things to admire and it really pulled up getting a middle class into you know like a middle income country that’s pretty spectacular right this is for time frame right they turned right you know there are a couple of a couple of hundred million middle class Chinese now all of a sudden in the last few years so it’s pretty amazing thing yeah and they’re really thankful for this and they should be but on the other hand you know this this this thought control it’s really beginning to take it all or even on people who were really hopeful that this you know we make more money if you get more freedom in terms of thinking it didn’t really happen probably if anything it’s gotten more tighter as with more people got more rich thought control is stronger so so do you find that you do you find that the the people the Chinese people of the newly middle class Chinese people are pushing back on the thought control now that they realize how tight everything is or are they pushing back on that in private maybe but definitely not in public and you know in eastern Germany just a ratio of informants of people who could basically just write a letter and you would be taken to a prison camp for at least a couple of years there was no evidence needed it was just you know it someone wrote a letter and that was the end of you the ratio was about 60% were informants and that includes old people and children so basically every single adult or every second adult was definitely an informant and you couldn’t talk to them if you say the wrong word you know they had people go to prison because they knew words in the wrong language that was their crime that they knew what in Chinese or what in Japanese and that must have been the traitor so it’s really out of an Orwellian book the society lived and that it was shielded from the outside you know China the same everyone shielded as you’re not allowed to talk to foreigners you’re not allowed to talk you’re not even allowed to use a VPN so you can’t really use the Internet so people are not really pushing back because they’re simply scared and they know they’re going to go to a labor camp if they say the wrong thing if they speak too much English if they don’t have a good explanation for that and you know they basically say well let’s take the freedom we have which there is a certain economic freedom not for the small scale entrepreneurs but there is money to be made if you you know for Foxconn then to make a couple hundred dollars a month which is a decent amount of money given how cheap local services are in China so you take that freedom and I don’t blame them but it’s it’s I feel it’s it’s sad right you you could do so much better but you know they they’re probably it’s a lot of brainwashing going on a lot of people don’t really see it that way they don’t have you don’t think back to the Roman Empire or they don’t think back really where China used to be it’s always been a little more authoritarian authoritarian than other other regions of the world so you know it’s it’s it’s they’ll probably suffer less from this than we think but I don’t know if this day will ever come in our lifetime that we’re gonna see a major change in China their policy we had and just building more commerce and making people richer will lead to more freedom that definitely didn’t work if anything it probably went the other way surprisingly because of the Soviet Union countries have kind of worked that way interesting very interesting so let’s I really want to talk to you about Las Vegas especially you know we ran the service that that finds cheap hotel rates that’s what mighty travels premium does and we always find it hard to find good deals in Vegas unless it’s like in the summer season and the bigger trouble that the we often phases that room rates go down in the 30s for some of the nice resorts but then the resort fee is another fifty or sixty dollars and yeah so you have to figure on the resort fee which is typically actually between thirty five to forty five is the range for most resort fees so I’m look when I’m in Vegas I read about Vegas a lot and I talk about it a lot and I’m always looking for a great hotel values and so what what I look at are I inspect properties that have just been recently renovated and so you know Las Vegas they they renovate their rooms a little more often than in cities in other parts of the country or on other resort areas just because of the sheer number of people coming in and out of the city and and it’s a competitive thing and so I look for whole towers that have just been renovated and so recently I was at valleys and Paris which are right next to each other you know right right across from Bellagio and Caesars and Paris has a room category called Burgundy rooms which are all new like completely new furnishings draperies linen bed it’s like a new hotel room and next door at valleys their resort tower was just refurbished and those rooms are also brand new and I’ve seen both of those I look on the you know the rate calendar on their website starting you know midweek Sunday through Thursday which is the best time to go to Vegas by the way Sunday through Thursday I’ve seen them as low as a hundred a night and that includes the resort fee so that’s kind of my marker when I look for great values look for just refurbished recently refurbished rooms that are selling at what I consider to be a good value or a discount and with Vegas it’s typically Sunday through Thursday except for big convention periods because on weekends Southern Californians invade Vegas on weekends and it’s like the detail invasion except in greater numbers and so that drives up you know tell rates restaurants are unavailable shows are full so Sunday through Thursday and right now those are two of the properties valleys and Paris specifically those room types the burgundy rooms at Paris and the resort tower rooms at valleys that are I think a great value right now and can you lock in this specific tower when you make a booking because that’s often an issue and with a lot of hotels you you can only book you know a certain room designation with a king bad or double queen and then you end up in one of the towers but they’re very different they’re like 40 years right in terms of construction date so you can’t walk it in a lot of times on the website if you’re booking directly on the websites you’ll see those particular room types on that tower so what you don’t want to accept is just a run of the house room they call it ROH or run of the house and you know and that tell it just to sign you anything but but yes you can absolutely lock in certain towers you know especially at these properties I’ve looked at those are certain room types so that’s what a good value is and I think another great value right now is the park MGM most people haven’t even heard of it so this was now this was the Monte Carlo resort which is completely completely transformed by the owner MGM resorts into what they call Park MGM so this was a complete refresh done over the course of about two years and Park MGM is this beautiful new hotel great room product more on the luxury side and great values there too because a lot of people haven’t heard of it yet so that’s a good place to check also for Sunday through Thursday I’ve seen rates just a little over a hundred for those rooms and that’s more of a on the luxury ladder up farther up the luxury ladder than valleys of Paris this is Park MGM the luxury level is I’d say you know on a par with maybe the mirage something like that middle what I call mid level luxury yeah okay I mean I was in Vegas just two years ago with my children and obviously that’s a very different kind of trip you know it’s not a bunch of guys or bachelors parties so we had very different ideas about that trip and the we sit at the SLS that was brand new at the time we’re going to wonderful deal so I can really not complain but you know the pool was adults only Friday Saturday Saturday Sunday so that was a bummer we didn’t know about that and there was no other pool there was only one main pool right and there’s a lot of smoke in the hotels which I’ve done like in the first place I’m really harmful for children and the whole atmosphere made at the SLS and you know we walked through a couple of places up and down the strip we felt the whole atmosphere is just not good for children and what I you know I we had enough time to venture beyond that and I think Vegas is a great family friendly destination if you go to Radlock so outside into the National Park really beautiful views towards the city and like a desert park and there’s a lot of places that you know they’re a little more suburban they look a bit more like Phoenix so we kind of escaped to there we had a hard time making Vegas and work for us as a real family destination there’s places like the pool at the Caesars I think that’s one would have been a wonderful place we walked by there but yeah do you have other tips obviously if you go outside of this typical you know girls or guys night out it gets a little tricky to find what you want in Vegas it does it does but yeah for families especially so you’re right in looking off strip for families so there’s Red Rock Resort there’s Green Valley these are off strip properties that you right feel more like a resort than Scottsdale or Phoenix I also like the Em Resort which is another off strip property not as well known only about 10 minutes from the strip called the Em Resort I think it’s very nice also spread out like a Scottsdale resort but as far as excuse me as far as on the strip with families so you know there certainly are a lot of family appropriate activities you know their afternoon magic shows dancing fountains wildlife habitats there are plenty of things that people can do with their kids but why I don’t call Vegas family friendly is because parents can’t turn off the adult stimulation that’s in their kids faces all over right you saw that you know like these giant billboards cruising down the street advertising strip clubs guys handing out fires for escort services and giving you a card right on the street so parents can’t turn that off for their kids and unless they’re they’re willing to answer some very uncomfortable questions like what was that daddy let’s parents are willing to answer those questions or just ignore them it’s not a family friendly destination and you know Vegas what it’s conceived for it was designed for and built for for adults it’s an adult play lamp right and people bring their kids but at their own risk so I certainly wouldn’t call it family friendly it can be family appropriate if you can make if a parent can make it that way but it’s hard to do if you’re staying and playing on the strip to make it that way yeah I mean I there’s interesting places that you know it’s it is very price competitive that’s something I like it’s there’s a lot of big brands but it’s still you find a lot of really price competitive places there’s lots of arcades for kids at some some of the hotels they have the major pool areas which you know my kids love and so I think the potential is there it’s just you need to look a little harder why I think the awesome terms of food finding you know kid friendly food that’s somewhat healthy that’s a bit of a challenge you run into the fast food chains right that can happen anywhere but I’m it’ll make it just has a lot of you know big brands that came in over the last 20 years very big international brands too yeah as well as in terms of cuisine also but they’re typically price higher and they’re not a great unless you really know where you need to go I found it a little harder than I expected but yeah yeah I didn’t I didn’t feel we went to Sin City or maybe that’s just me or them you know I grew up in Europe maybe that’s the way I look at things I that never bothered me too much you know if you’re done most European cities there they if you have that angle they’re full of sin I mean there’s couple of blocks and you’re like okay maybe they don’t do as much advertising that’s true you’re right they don’t do as much advertising right yeah maybe they are not like well actually now as far as as far as hotel value goes so I think it’s the best in Las Vegas actually and so you know it’s common wisdom that US hotel rooms are the best hotel value in the world that’s kind of thought that way and I pretty much agree with that that you can get more for your money in a US hotel room than you can in terms of size and quality than other places in the world other major you know tourism destinations but but that’s not true with the room rates anymore because the room rates in the US last three for European you know off the charts that even like Singapore Hong Kong is not cheaper than LA or San Francisco well so I’m talking about rooms in terms of quality for I’m not talking about really high end say let’s just say for the value you get say at a residence in you know at a mid scale at a mid scale select service hotel like a residence in you can get that for you know 125 a night in some cities and and with a large room big enough for three people in a living room you know you can’t touch that in Europe right you can’t get anything like that in Europe that’s high that price through more and higher price so but I think Las Vegas does it even better and some of these hotel rooms in Vegas even on the luxury side like I’ve seen rooms that win at Bellagio under $200 a night including the resort fee on some nights and you can’t touch a room of that caliber in any other city in the US for under $300 or $400 so you know some of these rooms are equivalent to like a four seasons room or a Ritz Carlton room and so Vegas is a great value you just have to know where to look and get in on the promotions I invite people just to sign up on the hotel websites and that you’ll get email promotions with better promos and options than you would see otherwise advertised and there’s some great values you just have to dig a little bit yeah I stayed at the palms I think that’s what it was called that’s a bit off strip like a couple of blocks that was fantastic values in the middle of winter and I think a couple years ago that was like $50 including the resort fee brand in your room a beautiful view obviously you had to drive to the strip or take a walk or take an Uber but that was that was certainly a great memory but it took a while and that this place yeah yeah and that’s still a great value so actually they just redid that property they spent 700 the owner spent $700 million to completely redo that property in the last year and it’s beautiful now and it’s still a great value it’s still a great value so great it’s a little bit off strip you need a car or take an Uber but that’s a good option if people don’t want to pay prices you know strip prices it’s the palms it’s a good option but what do you think I always wonder about this going to Vegas in terms of revenue split how much and also profit split how much subsidized how so the the common thing is that the rooms basically just subsidized a subsidized from the gambling and at gambling is a much bigger business the casinos bring in the money and the profits and it’s good enough to just break even in the room rate is that still true but what are what are the sizes size differences so say there’s a billion dollar room rates and another billion dollars out of the casinos just making these numbers it’s changed a lot it’s changed a lot Torsten so you know it used to be that gambling gaming revenue drove everything else in Vegas now it’s actually about 40% of the revenue pie is from gaming so all of these other areas are expected to to be their own revenue generators and be and make money hotel rooms dining shows spas shopping all of these revenue centers are now expected to pull their own weight because they’re not subsidized by gaming anymore so they’re there and they all do you know have a significant piece of the revenue pie for these casino resorts so so the calculus has certainly changed gaming is is deemphasized it’s still a large portion of course 40% is still you know a good chunk but it’s deemphasized you know you you don’t have to come to Vegas and gamble there’s so much else to do you know the nightclubs the pool parties the restaurants the the great celebrity chefs there the Cirque du Soleil shows and the other shows so all of these all these other revenue centers are are are clicking and and doing a great job and and thus the game gaming and the revenue from gaming is is deemphasized is it still very profitable or is it becoming more competitive gambling because it was it was very it still is yeah it still is very profitable I mean the house has a built in advantage mathematically on every game in the casino you know it can’t help be profitable except when except occasionally when when they get dented by you know one of these whales these high rollers that come in even from China and play a lot of Baccarat some heavy gambling and high stakes and then that can put a dent in in the casino revenue but in general for just standard everyday players like you and me very that the mathematical advantage of the way every game is built is a sure thing from the house for the house you know well you can have a losing streak for a while but I know I agree so it’s directly related to revenue for a while in China D&D of the big incentive to gamble especially in places outside of China was you could bring money and even if you lose a certain percentage whatever winnings you’d have even if it’s a loss but you have some money that casino pays out that is money that you could export without any restrictions from China and you probably remember that for a couple of years that Macau started out of nowhere and then became the biggest gambling destination in the world within two or three years surpassing Las Vegas and the way it was basically like going to a bank or sending a wire transfer that’s why people went to Macau because you could it doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as that the bank or whoever runs the casino or hotel would give you a payout check at the end that money was tax free and it was also exported without the restrictions from China but it seems to be a big clamp down on this so I don’t think a lot of Chinese veils are showing up in the same numbers anymore. That’s true and so in both in Macau and in Las Vegas the Chinese clamped down on the big money leaving the country so that was a big downer for the casinos of course and so now they’re trying to cater more to the middle class, the newly mobile Chinese middle class who are traveling more and more and it’s those customers that they’re focusing on more now. Yeah, that can really work, I can see that happening, they really love organized travel and they’re really, they’re not suggestible as long as you give them a concept around it, they’re very suggestible travelers and while gambling isn’t my favorite pastime as you can probably tell, I can see that being a great market for the numbers of now mobile Chinese middle class. Before I let you go, I know you’re restricted on time, I really wanted to learn about this big show business like Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, how it came upon and for me it always seemed like this is a commodity show and it’s certainly entertaining, I actually went to two Cirque du Soleil show and I liked it, I wasn’t my favorite I’d say but I definitely liked it. I always felt amazing how they pulled off such a big business out of nowhere, maybe you can tell me a little bit more about the short history of that major entertainment show business that started in Vegas over the last 34 years. Yeah, yeah, so it is an amazing, what Cirque du Soleil has become in Las Vegas especially is pretty incredible, so I guess a little over 20 years ago they started with their first show on the strip Miss Dare which is at Treasure Island and they built a special theater just for this show and that was successful and that model, they built out that model to other properties on the strip, mostly in MGM resorts, almost all in MGM resorts properties, Treasure Island used to belong to MGM resorts, it’s now independent but all the other Cirque shows are in MGM resorts properties on the strip because that was their business arrangement with MGM and what people don’t realize if they haven’t seen a Cirque show in Las Vegas is you may have seen Cirque shows, touring shows around the country where they set up the big tents and those are great shows but they can’t match the sophistication or the scale of the shows that Cirque puts on in Las Vegas, specifically because they build these theaters just for the shows, so The Beatles Love at the Mirage was built for that show, Ka at the MGM Grand was built for that show and the shows are over the top spectacular, you can’t see a show like this, I can pretty confidently say you can’t see a show of this scale and sophistication anywhere else in the world, just because of the way Cirque has constructed the theaters and the cast and the shows, they’re just great, there are these large spectacular that can’t be reproduced anywhere else and the great shows artistically and so for that reason they become this incredible success and people go to Vegas and they say which Cirque show did you see, because yeah it’s a thing, it’s a thing but sometimes the ticket prices are pretty high and it’s not exactly like a football franchise where the branding is enormous and there’s long standing tradition and seeing the best in the sport, with movies we have that it swings back and forth from theaters to a private show like on your TV or on devices and then it goes back to movie theaters but it remains a scalable digital product, I’m amazed at the live performance, for a very specific and it’s a very unique event but making it such an enormous must do, I still don’t know how to pull it off, I understand it’s a unique product and it is an appealing product but people go to like five of these shows a year and it’s a little repetitive and it’s a hundred bucks per ticket. Right, it’s an average of about a hundred dollars per ticket and you’re right, people try to see all of them and they’re all great but I think one of the reasons why Cirque is so successful in Las Vegas, not only because they’ve got this spectacular over the top product, just because of the sheer number of people coming in and out of the city, so 40 million people visited Las Vegas last year and these shows run two shows a night in each of these showrooms, sometimes they have one night when they’re off but with the revenue potential is enormous and just because of the number of people coming into Las Vegas every year they can kind of keep up with these shows and they’re scaled up like everything else in Vegas is scaled up bigger, bigger more over the top. Same thing with the Cirque shows and same thing with the other entertainment and the restaurants and the hotels, it’s a resort destination like no other just because of the number of people that come in and out and for short visits, typically two or three days and the amount of money that’s dropped in those short visits is pretty incredible and so they find a way to take advantage of that and they do a good job. Yeah, I wonder if it can be duplicated, somewhere else, obviously Cirque de Soleil has found that already but if someone else could break into that business and create something similar maybe in Vegas, maybe in other cities, so this business always fascinated me but I haven’t really looked into it any deeper but that’s one of the questions I always have because it seems too expensive, too much live performance instead of something that you watch on a TV, I watch on YouTube compared to how other live performances have developed over the time. So they definitely have something going for them, I just don’t really figure out what it is. They do, it’s creativity, frankly I think it’s creativity. Their shows are so creative and artistic and beautiful and nobody else has been able to match that level of creativity and artistic ability with the acrobatics, with the shows, with the music, nobody else has been able to put anything together on all those levels that click so well than Cirque and until they do, till somebody else does, I think Cirque is going to be at the pinnacle of that spectacular. Yeah I’m amazed by it too. So I’m always looking, that’s one of the big observations I’m trying to make when going to different places, going to different countries, not just like a hobby anthropologist, I’m looking at how a country behaves differently, how different cultural norms shape people, shape people’s thinking, definitely being an entrepreneur and I’ve done about half a dozen startups, that seeing other business opportunities and seeing how they scale up is extremely interesting. To see, to follow the path, sometimes you can, there’s learnings in it, figuring out why seemingly similar businesses have succeeded and some didn’t go anywhere, for instance in some countries that’s a very, very easy to follow mechanism is, Starbucks has been around for a long time and has been relatively aggressive from the beginning in international expansion. In certain countries, everybody realized that coffee shops are a good business or a decent business, definitely a hands on competition and in some countries, Starbucks has basically has been rolling over their competition, bought a couple of them, it’s just a predominant force and nobody else is still around with the real market share and there’s other countries where Starbucks has been around for 20 years, but a number of 14 in terms of market size and I find that fascinating if there’s a way to predict that, if there’s certain countries that tend towards adopting bigger brands quickly, others who are not, it’s definitely the industry. It is, it is. Well, that was really great, thanks for being on our podcast, David, thanks for taking the time and thanks for being here and I learned a ton about not just Cruises and Vegas, but a lot of things behind this reality, so I really appreciate you coming on. Sure, sure, Tarsten, I enjoyed talking to you too, it was fun. Thanks a lot. Hope to talk to you soon. I hope to talk soon, thanks. If you like this podcast, why don’t you check out David’s websites, The Vegas Guru and Ocean Cruise Guru, Guru is the top level domain name, that is know.com, or check them out on Twitter, The Vegas Guru with an underscore, The Vegas Guru with an underscore, or The Cruise Guru with an underscore, that’s David on social media, check it out.

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