Aria’s Sky Suites are the top of Vegas luxury, but are they worth the steep cost?
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Want to live like a VIP for a few days? You can do it in Las Vegas — for the right price.
With about 150,000 hotel rooms, countless nightclubs and tons of entertainment options, there are plenty of ways to live large in Sin City.
On a recent trip, I decided to stay at the Aria, an MGM property located in the heart of The Strip. Instead of a regular room, though, I was tasked with splurging for the exclusive Sky Suites section, a hotel-within-a-hotel that’s reserved for the Aria’s nicest suites and highest paying guests.
With nightly rates for the Sky Suites section starting at more than $600 during a slow Monday night, this cost more than four times the price of a standard 520-square-foot king-bedded room. But was the one-bedroom Strip-view penthouse really worth the splurge? Read on to find out.
Booking strategically to be extra VIP
If you’re going to splurge, you might as well do it the right way.
For me, that started with booking the Sky Suites through the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program (FHR), which I can access on account of holding The Platinum Card® from American Express.
The nightly rates matched those of booking directly with the hotel, but I’d enjoy some valuable additional benefits, including:
- Room upgrade subject to availability
- Free breakfast, up to $30 per person, for the first two guests
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
- Noon check-in, when available
- $100 food and beverage credit
That was not a bad way to enhance my Sky Suites experience at no additional cost.
Several other Las Vegas properties participate in the Amex FHR program, though the “regular” Aria does not.
If you do end up staying at the non-suite Aria, you should consider booking through Chase’s Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection (LHRC). You’ll enjoy many of the benefits listed above just by making the reservation through Chase’s portal. For more about LHRC, read our detailed guide.
The concierge didn’t deliver
When booking Sky Suites, you’re promised some pretty lofty perks such as “effortless access to some of the city’s most enticing offerings” and “preferred dining reservations.” It sounds a lot like they’re rolling out the red carpet for you.
Well, given the hype, I was particularly disappointed with the concierge.
In the weeks leading up to my stay, the hotel reached out and asked if I needed help planning activities and dining reservations.
I’d responded with a list of things to do — think seeing Mystère by Cirque du Soleil and eating at either é by José André or Nobu — just to see what magic the Sky Suites concierge could create. Everything I asked about was already sold out online.
Aside from snagging a prime-time reservation at Catch, one of the Aria’s seafood restaurants, the concierge wasn’t able to get me into any of the other activities or restaurants I’d asked about.
A bit of a tease, I thought, but I had already prepared for that answer. What was particularly frustrating was that I couldn’t reach a concierge by phone without waiting for nearly an hour. Getting a response to my emails took nearly a day.
That left me wondering whether I’d receive a different response had I chosen the Skylofts at the MGM Grand, which includes a dedicated 24/7 butler service and concierge. Suites there start at $800, just a couple of bucks more than the $750 I paid for the one-bedroom strip view penthouse suite at the Aria Sky Suites.
The grand entrance
It wasn’t all a disappointment, though. The VIP experience really began once I landed in Vegas. Waiting for me at the bottom of the airport terminal escalator was a chauffeur with my last name on her tablet.
Aria Sky Suites guests are entitled to complimentary, round-trip luxury airport transfers. Just note that they need to be arranged before arriving in Vegas.
Once I identified myself and took the obligatory pictures, I was escorted to the waiting Cadillac Escalade, aptly called 37MLIFE, a nod to MGM’s loyalty program named M Life.
The ride from the airport took mere minutes — but I was grateful that I didn’t need to wait for a rideshare or stand in the long taxi lane in the 110-degree heat.
The fun continued once we pulled up to the Aria. The driver buzzed a guard stationed at the gated side entrance, and moments later, the gate opened to a private driveway for Sky Suites guests.
Talk about a grand entrance that makes you feel special.
Another perk of staying in the Aria Sky Suites is access to the lobby lounge.
After being whisked from the car to the (long) check-in line, I was told that I’d have complimentary access to the lobby lounge.
Here you’ll find an assortment of bottled soft drinks, including Pellegrino, as well as coffee and tea machines.
For nosh, there was a rotating selection of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, including cheese tarts and salami toasts.
Though the selection was a bit limited, I really appreciated this perk, especially as someone who likes to stay hydrated. Unless you’re gambling, getting a bottle of water or cup of coffee for under $5 at the Aria is seemingly impossible.
Unsurprisingly, the highlight of my Aria Sky Suites stay was the room itself.
The 1,050-square-foot penthouse was decked out with three individual rooms: a large living room, a four-person dining table with a wet bar and an inviting bedroom with an en-suite bathroom.
I particularly appreciated the furnishings — nothing felt too cheesy or too opulent, which isn’t ever a guarantee in Vegas.
There was a half bathroom right next to the entrance, which came in handy when I had guests over.
Another feature I appreciated was the desk with a reclining chair — as more and more hotels abandon desks for more “useful” space, I’m reminded of how much I appreciate those that continue to offer this amenity.
My top-of-the-line suite included a top-shelf minibar. It’s just too bad the prices were well above my budget. (Think over $10 for a bag of almonds.)
As a tech-forward traveler, I found the two in-room tablets quite useful. I could control the shades and lights, as well as order room service and make dining reservations using the tablet.
But above all else, the highlight was definitely the views of The Strip. Though I was “just” on the 37th floor, I had great panoramic views of nearby buildings, including my personal Las Vegas favorite, the airport.
In addition to the dedicated lobby lounge and private entrance, Sky Suites guests are invited to use a dedicated Sky Pool.
Accessing the pool required flashing a room key, and I was welcomed with a towel and bottle of ice-cold water in no time.
The pool itself was quite crowded during my late-June stay, and I’d expect it to fill up during peak times on warm days.
Finding a place to sit was nearly impossible since so many of the chaise loungers had already been reserved with towels and other personal belongings.
Of course, Sky Suites guests can use the three other Aria pools, but note that the chaise loungers are much more padded at the Sky Pool.
Everything else is shared with Aria
Beyond that, don’t expect much else outside the norm as a Sky Suites guest.
Other than the separate pool, the remaining amenities are shared with the Aria. That includes both the gym and spa.
Of course, the Aria is one of the MGM’s top properties, so even the gym is well equipped and the spa looks quite nice.
It’s just important to note that you shouldn’t expect a totally exclusive and separate experience as a Sky Suites guest.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, I’d recommend either the Waldorf Astoria or the Four Seasons, neither of which has a casino in the hotel.
Carbone hits the spot
There are plenty of ways to “do” Vegas. One of my personal favorites is to check out all the top restaurants.
Carbone, one of New York City’s most popular Italian restaurants, has an outpost in the Aria, so I couldn’t help but inquire about last-minute availability.
There was a seat left at the bar, so I snagged it. Both my stomach and my wallet were happy about the choice.
The spicy rigatoni vodka ($32) was as heavenly as I remembered, and the entire meal totaled $94, just a few dollars short of my $100 allotment from Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts benefit.
Where’s the special service?
Vegas is back, and so are the crowds.
Though you might be able to avoid them elsewhere, prepare to wait at the Sky Suites.
It took nearly 30 minutes to reach a check-in agent, and even though I arrived at 2 p.m. — just an hour before the promised check-in time — my suite wasn’t ready yet. Aria knew what time I was arriving. After all, the hotel did send a limo to pick me up.
I ultimately received my room key over an hour later, but only after I waited in a long line once again. (The promised text notification never came through.)
Other service lapses included being woken up by housekeeping on my checkout day. Their manifest said that I’d already vacated the room, despite specifically asking the front desk agent to program my key until the guaranteed 4 p.m. checkout time available via FHR.
And then there was the mystery bagel.
At 1:10 p.m., my doorbell rang and room service had a giant shopping bag. Inside was a $20 bagel. And some jam. OK, it was really an $8 bagel, but the random fees brought it up to $20.
The catch: I never ordered a bagel. Or anything else, for that matter.
Why would a New Yorker ever order a bagel in Las Vegas? Let alone put jam on a bagel? But that’s beside the point. There was a warm bagel, jam, cream cheese, all for the cost of one hand of blackjack.
Too bad I can’t report back on how it tasted. I left it in the room, waiting for the next VIP guest to enjoy.
So, was it worth it?
The next time I’m looking to splurge in Vegas, I’m going to stay elsewhere.
Sure, the “hard product,” as it’s called in airline parlance, is great. The suites are well designed, the limo service is a time saver and the private entrance makes you feel special.
But where the Sky Suites underdelivered was with the so-called VIP service. I still waited in plenty of lines, and working with the concierge wasn’t nearly as “effortless” as promised.
Of course, the Aria could work on these kinks — especially as hotels on The Strip (and nationwide) deal with staffing shortages — but until then, I’ll save the cash and bet bigger at the blackjack table.
All photos by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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