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TPG Miles and Points Editor Peter Rothbart hit up Las Vegas last week and stayed at The Cromwell (A Caesars Property). Here’s his take on the small, boutique hotel.
Las Vegas is not known for its self restraint. Most of the resort casinos on the Strip – with their towering facades, gargantuan water features, and bacchanalian excesses – are emblematic of the “go big or go home” mantra that Sin City has espoused for years. Ten of the fifteen largest hotels in the world are found on this four-mile stretch of desert boulevard. It’s intriguing, then, that this March saw the opening of a relatively tiny new boutique hotel right in the midst of these Goliaths. It’s called The Cromwell, and what it lacks in size, it makes up for in pizzazz.
I had the opportunity to visit The Cromwell on my most recent trip to Vegas; read on to see what I found.
The Cromwell is a 188-room property in the pulsing epicenter of the Las Vegas Strip. Situated on the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, the Cromwell shares an intersection with the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and Bally’s, and is in walking distance of every property from Mandalay Bay to The Riviera. I can’t overstate the convenience; in my opinion, The Cromwell’s location is the best on the Strip.
The hotel is owned by Caesars Entertainment, which runs the Total Rewards program. Thanks to the recently formed partnership between Total Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, you’ll earn Starpoints for staying at The Cromwell, and can likewise use Starpoints to book rooms there. Like most hotels in Vegas, the cash price varies wildly based on when you visit, and the redemption rate varies with it.
I booked a double queen room to share with a friend who met me in town for a few days of poker and general mayhem. We stayed for two nights (Sunday-Tuesday) for $229/night plus a $28/night resort fee. The stay would have cost 29,000 Starpoints, which is a mediocre redemption value of about 1.58 cents per point (well below The Points Guy’s most recent monthly valuation). While booking through Starwood isn’t a terrible option, it’s certainly not a steal, and I was content to instead earn Starpoints and Total Rewards for my paid stay.
Check-in, Hospitality and Accommodations
One of the unfortunate hallmarks of hotels on the Vegas Strip is the often exhausting wait to check in. Since many of the larger properties have thousands of rooms, the line can be over an hour long if you can’t bypass it by way of elite status. Thankfully, The Cromwell bucks this trend. After catching a cab from McCarran Airport (for about $20 after tip) I found my way to the front desk, where there was no line whatsoever.
Check-in took just a few minutes, and would have been much faster if I hadn’t been trying to charm the staff into giving us a room with a view (which they did, but probably more because they were nice than because I was charming). The agent who checked us in guided us to the guest elevators, which are attended 24/7 by hotel security. Throughout our stay there was rarely any wait for the elevators, which made me repeatedly appreciative of The Cromwell’s boutique scale.
We made our way up to the 5th floor, where we found the beverage service that’s offered in the elevator lobby on each level (with coffee and tea in the morning, and fruit-infused water and iced tea in the afternoon and evening). Down the long, dimly lit hallway – on plush carpets inscribed with hokey, you-only-live-once style phrases in alternating English and French – we found our room. The key card only has to be held up to the door (rather than swiped), simplifying entry for guests who have their hands full or are laboriously drunk.
The room was undeniably chic. Similar to much of the hotel, it was styled like a nouveau bordello, with deep red, buttoned leather headboards topping lacy pink wallpaper trim. Two large framed prints of mostly dressed showgirls appeared on the walls. It was clear that two dudes in town to play poker was not the target demographic.
Across a narrow walkway from the beds was a large chest of drawers with a wall-mounted, flat-screen HDTV above. The drawers housed most of the add-on amenities of the room, such as the stocked refrigerator, liquor cabinet, and snacks, along with a safe. Farther along was an awkwardly placed loveseat and a tall mirror.
Promptly after we arrived, there was a knock at the door and a steward popped in bearing a bottle of iced prosecco and a box with cured meat, cheeses, crackers, and other snacks. This service was never mentioned during booking, but seems to be standard procedure (as we saw other guests receive similar items). It made for a very nice touch.
We downed prosecco and snacked as we explored the rest of the room.
At the far end of the room was an armoire, and an amply lit vanity and chair. The armoire was annoyingly bulky and yet somehow too small; despite dominating the middle of the room, it had neither enough space for both of our luggage, nor enough drawers for us to both unpack. My friend ended up just keeping his bag on the floor by his bed.
Next to the vanity, a modest window looked out onto a great view of the Vegas Strip. I was grateful to the front desk staff, since windows on the other side of the hotel appear to look out on a blank wall.
The shower was perhaps the most glamorous part of the room. At 6’3″, I lust over shower heads that are tall enough for me to stand under without ducking. This one was a full 2 feet above my head, and felt like showering under a waterfall. The towels were big and soft, and there were two stately bath robes. The hotel provided fruit-scented shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion by Muk.
The rest of the bathroom was unremarkable, but fairly spacious. How spacious? Enough that when my friend’s snoring kept me awake one night, I fashioned the loveseat cushions and extra pillows into a makeshift bed on the bathroom floor (where I was able to stretch out and sleep quite comfortably).
Overall the room was well manicured, but at 360 square feet it felt cramped, especially considering that Bally’s across the street has rooms that are 25% larger at roughly one third of the price. The room was also poorly lit; even with the shades open in the middle of the day, the place felt like a vampire den. Our room at The Cromwell just wasn’t a space I wanted to hang out in, which rendered its fine trappings somewhat moot.
Dining, Pool, and Nightclub
The Cromwell is host to Giada, the first restaurant from Emmy Award winning, daytime TV chef Giada De Laurentiis, and currently one of the toughest tables to get in Vegas. When I visited on a Monday afternoon (naively hoping to make reservations for that same evening), I was informed that there was only one table available for the remainder of the week. The menu sounds pretty appetizing, and the staff I spoke with seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their experiences there. Just be warned that if you plan to visit, you must book far in advance.
Apart from Giada, The Cromwell sports two full service bars: Bound, an upscale lobby bar near the front desk that seemed to only be open later in the day, and the Interlude, a posh lounge in the middle of the casino surrounded on three sides by the gaming floor. The vibe in Bound is pretty chichi, but they do serve some intriguing cocktails drafted by mixologist Salvatore Calabrese. If you’re a fan of sweet drinks (like I am), try the breakfast martini: gin mixed with orange marmalade.
The Interlude is a cushy, softly lit sprawl palace that offers guests a reprieve from the rigors of gambling. The space oozes swank, and is private enough to make anyone feel like a VIP. The bar is actually double-sided, with service available both from the main casino thoroughfare and from the lounge. At night the casino side can get rambunctious, but the lounge seemed fairly subdued at all times – a nice place to have a drink and a conversation.
Interlude also hosts the hotel’s daily 7-10 am breakfast buffet, which features an assortment of hot dishes, an omelette station, pastries, juice, fruit, and other morning fare. The buffet is free for guests, though it wasn’t clear whether others could pay their way in. The bacon tasted a bit off, but the croissants, Portugese sausage, and breakfast potatoes were all excellent. I had no room for an omelette, but the ingredients looked fresh and the finished product smelled great.
The apparent crown jewel of The Cromwell is the rooftop beach/night club Drai’s – a massive, 65,000 square foot Mecca of swimming and sunbathing during the day, and a blitzkrieg of MTV spring break-style dancing and attempted socializing at night. Technically the club and hotel are separate entities, but Cromwell guests get free entry (normally $50) and VIP access to both the beach club and night club.
My friend and I checked out the beach club (which is accessed through separate elevators on the main floor) as it opened one morning at 10 am. Almost no one was around except a few lifeguards and the staff working the bar, so we had the run of the place.
The main pool is divided into several sections, and is ringed with lavish deck furniture. A line of cabanas (equipped with large flat-screen TVs and private cold tubs) runs along one side of the pool level, and the upper level has more cabanas and a large tub with a roughly 270 degree panorama of Vegas and the mountains beyond.
I have to say, it was pretty awesome. The view was spectacular, the water was cool and clean (and not overly chlorinated), and I couldn’t help feeling a bit like a high roller. The next morning, however, when we returned with the plan of alternating between a cold tub and the second half of a World Cup game, one of the staff shooed us away from the cabanas, remarking that they had to be rented (according to him, for the laughably ridiculous sum of $1,000 a day). That abruptly quashed my buzz of champagne wishes and caviar dreams, but the steerage deck of the beach club was still nothing to sneer at.
At night Drai’s is transformed. Thursday through Sunday (10 pm – 5 am) the pool closes and the nightclub goes supernova. Drai’s hosts a revolving cast of celebrity DJs, and from what I could tell, the place is packed every night (the line to get in appeared to be at least 30 minutes long). The dress code is strictly enforced: nice shoes, and no shorts, caps or shirts with aggressive/offensive graphics. I tried to get in late on a Sunday night to snap photos, but since I hadn’t brought long pants with me to Vegas, I was categorically denied.
Fortunately, on Tuesdays Drai’s hosts the Yacht Club night swim party, which is basically just evening pool hours with dance music. The dress code is relaxed, as is the atmosphere. A few people were swimming and dancing, but mostly the complexion was that of any pool party, just in more fashionable surroundings.
The Cromwell is, of course, a casino. The main floor features 40,000 square feet of finely crafted house edge, with a bounty of assorted slot machines and about 60 gaming tables (including blackjack, roulette, craps, pai gow, and some other trendy options). The table games have bet sizes in line with the other upscale properties on the Strip, though there are some penny slots for those who like to get bled more slowly.
Being only a few months old, the casino has a very crisp, shiny feel to it. Unlike the labyrinthine layouts of the larger resort casinos, The Cromwell has just one main corridor that runs the entire length of the hotel, so it’s easy to find your way around. Either the air filtration system is top notch or there’s good natural airflow, because the ubiquitous Vegas haze of cigarette smoke was faint or sometimes undetectable. The seats were comfortable, and the cocktail service was punctual. There’s no poker room, which meant that I didn’t spend much time in the casino, but for those who like slots and table games, The Cromwell is a quality venue.
There’s an unspectacular but adequate exercise room on the main floor near the front desk, with treadmills, ellipticals, and various weight training equipment. A half wall of windows looks out onto Flamingo Road, so there’s plenty of natural light, and the room is isolated enough from the gaming floor to be tranquil. The individual televisions on the exercise machines weren’t working when I visited, though they did have internet access.
The Cromwell gets a lot of things right. The location is impeccable, the staff are on top of their game, and the ambience is sterling. My criticisms of the room are mostly circumstantial; the hotel would be great for a romantic getaway, or for those who want to experience the Vegas nightlife at Drai’s. The price is acceptable for what you get, especially if you’re visiting the beach club and nightclub regularly. Personally, I prefer the drab but spacious functionality of Bally’s across the street, but if you’re headed to Sin City and want to make a splash, The Cromwell is a nice, high diving board to jump from.