Las Vegas is a city of superlatives. The biggest this, the most expensive that, the brightest, shiniest, most outlandish whatever. So it comes as no surprise then that the biggest shock on The Strip is actually showing restraint. Enter The Cromwell, the only standalone boutique hotel along the famous stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard.
I’ve been curious about The Cromwell since it opened its doors in early 2014. So after three nights at the kitschy and fun Flamingo, Zoe and I strolled literally next door to the sleek and sexy for one last blowout weekend in Sin City. And the best part? We pretty much didn’t leave again until check-out.
The experience was different from the moment we entered reception. Instead of long, roped off lines and rows of impatient people, we were greeted by two smiling concierges who checked us in with no wait — literally unheard of in Vegas — and a thorough explanation of the hotel’s various amenities. It was a long list for a hotel with just 188 rooms — again, literally unheard of in Vegas, at least on The Strip.
Our room was dotted with thoughtful details, from a coffee-table-turned-branded-backgammon-board to a separate vanity outside the bathroom, perfect for two people getting ready at once. The art in the room was Cosmopolitan-esque, and considering I’ve always listed The Cosmo as my spirit hotel, The Cromwell and I were off to a good start. My only complaint, and one shared by most reviews I’ve read? It’s too darn dark! As someone who loves bright light, I struggled with the intentionally dim lighting in The Cromwell rooms, especially when it was time to pack up and leave and I felt like I was doing so in the middle of a power outage.
My favorite aspect, however, was the bold and beautifully designed bathroom. With a powerful rainhead shower, a luxurious set of bath products and the highest wattage lighting in the hotel, I could have spent all day in there.
I’m one of the new breed of Vegas goers who doesn’t come to gamble — my one attempt on this trip was throwing a few coins into slot machines downtown — but I always enjoyed strolling through The Cromwell’s compact and classy casino. Like in most of the new or newly renovated casinos, the air filtration system was magical and there wasn’t even the faintest hint of smoke.
Other amenities at The Cromwell included Curios, a super chic boutique and sundry shop, complementary coffee and tea by the guest elevators, a gym, two bars, and one restaurant. There is no spa onsite, (though guests may use the spa at sister properties including Caesar’s, from what I understand), and the pool and nightclub situation is a unique one — but more on that in a minute.
The Cromwell’s casino bar, Interlude, is your standard casino-bar-amongst-the-blackjack-tables. The lobby bar Bound, however, is really something special. You’ll often find it on lists of the best places to score craft cocktails in Vegas, thanks to the Salvatore Calabrese-designed drink menu. (Don’t know who that is? Neither did I, but turns out he’s one of the world’s most esteemed mixologists — in other words, a true global hero.)
After checking in Friday afternoon, Zoe and I made sure — for research purposes, obviously — to sample a wide selection from the endless cocktail list. My favorite? The Bunny Bubbles, a champagne-based drink graced with raspberry puree and fresh pomegranate and named for “the most iconic centerfold models.” We sipped to the sounds of the elegant lounge singer, one of many musicians filling the bar’s roster for nightly live music.
In one of my favorite Cromwell touches, the hotel hosts a welcome reception here every Friday and Saturday from 5-6pm with complementary Moet and Chandon champagne. Cheers to that!
The Cromwell’s one restaurant is also a standout — and even that might be an understatement. Giada is one of the hottest restaurants on The Strip right now, and we had a table for four on a Friday night.
Our hot dates? Angie and her sister Rachel, who’d flown in about an hour before our reservation time. Theirs was a fairly spontaneous, last-minute trip and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get to be a part of not just one but two of Angie’s well-deserved bachelorette celebrations.
We clapped with happiness when we were led to our horse-shoe shaped booth, in which each of us had a front-row seat over The Strip and most notably, the gorgeous Bellagio fountain show. Our eyes were pretty quickly directed to the table, however, where we ordered a decadent multi-course meal and toasted to our reunion with a round of hand-crafted, Giada-approved cocktails.
My favorites? The orzo meatballs with parmesan pomodoro were a delicious kick-off, followed by a colorful salad of roasted beets, port wine poached pear, goat cheese, hazelnut pesto, and watercress. For my main course I indulged in pasta papardelle with pork ragout and parmigiano reggiano — and at this point, was grateful for the restrained portion sizes. Bonus? Our waiter was hilarious, personable, and made great suggestions.
Many of our fellow diners were clearly at the beginning of what would be long and wild Vegas nights. For us, this was the main event, which was a good thing — I’m not sure if I could have fit so many courses into one mini-dress. We did have one final laugh on the way out though in the free Giada-branded photo booth — photos upload directly to Facebook and Twitter, or you can print out a souvenir strip (look for ours at the end of this post!)
I admit I wasn’t too fussed with the whole Giada experience before our arrival. I don’t really get the buzz around celebrity chefs, and I kind of assumed that the experience would be lost on me if I wasn’t a frothing Giada De Laurentiis fan. Wrong. Regardless of whether you’ve ever tuned into one of De Laurentiis’s cooking shows or cracked open one of her cookbooks, she shot to fame for a reason — her food is fantastic!
As the only restaurant at The Cromwell, Giada serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and room service. The restaurant is super accommodating to all, including vegetarians, vegans and those who do not eat gluten or dairy. Oh, and for those Giada super fans among us? She’s often seen doing the rounds at her first restaurant, schmoozing with guests and posing for iPhone snaps.
Saturday and Sunday we had big plans — to not leave the pool. The good news? The Cromwell is home to the Drai’s triple entertainment threat of nightclub, beach club, and after hours club. All three iterations are on the must-do list for any self-respecting desert party devotee.
The good news? Cromwell guests get free admission to all three! And they get a free towel at and early access to Drai’s Beachclub, which is how we nabbed these idyllic pictures of the empty space becore the madness started — hotel access opens at 10am, while everyone else has to wait until 11.
The bad news? Drai’s is a tenant of The Cromwell’s, not a partner. I was gobsmacked to learn that Friday through Sunday, hotel guests have nowhere to sit by the pool unless they fork over the hundreds or thousands it costs to reserve a daybed or cabana. Monday through Thursday, guests may luck into a place to sit if reservations are thin, but staff will look at you like a criminal if you ask to charge something to your room, and I read complaints that poolside snoozes are forbidden — as technically the pool is a dayclub, security cannot allow guests to close their eyes for fear they may be “passed out.”
So basically, if you’re looking for a wild weekend pool party, you’re in luck! You’ve got a front row free ticket to the hottest one in town. If you’re looking to sunbathe, fall asleep reading your book or have a girl chat over a low-key pitcher of mango moijtos, then hopefully it’s a Wednesday and there are no high-rollers in town hogging all the daybeds.
At most five star hotels along The Strip, there’s a “club pool” where the atmosphere is rowdy and the majority of seating is paid for as well as a “hotel pool” where things are a little more relaxed and all guests can take their chances at nabbing a lounger. While The Cromwell does try to offer guests use of the pools at any other Ceaser’s properties as a consolation prize for the situation at Drai’s, I hope that they are at least flirting with plans to open a small hotel pool where guests can lounge, read, and relax when they need a break from the dayclub scene. If that were to happen, The Cromwell would truly have the best of both worlds!
After a day of fun in the sun, we retreated to our room for a disco nap. The fun we’d had at Drai’s Beachclub inspired us to go for gold and try to hit all three Drai’s properties in one day, a feat that a bouncer had told us was near impossible. We needed strength for this mission, and it arrived at our doorstep in the form of our favorite fellow Strip sisters, just back and fired up from seeing the Princess of Pop herself.
After a hilarious concert recap in our room, we flounced through the VIP line back upstairs to the open air Drai’s Nightclub — complete with palm trees, disco balls, ad the same glittering pool we’d sat by all day.
The club was heaving. I loved feeling partially outdoors and cheered loudly when live music came on — even if I hadn’t a clue who was on the mic. But things were a tad crowded for comfort and eventually we fled down to what I consider the jewel in Drai’s crown, Drai’s Afterhours. But here’s the secret: don’t stop at the first room. Keep going till you hit the second equally sized space dedicated to hip hop — this is where the party is at.
By the time we hit this room I’d been on my feet in stilettos for most of the day and I was pretty sure my legs were about to snap off below my ankles. But damn if I didn’t keep going till the sun came up, fueled by my favorite party music, a great dance-floor camaraderie, hilarious conversations in line at the bar, and of course, Angie’s unforgettable dance moves.
It was the perfect end to another amazing trip to Vegas. After an intensely-scheduled, very busy few days of running around we were looking forward to a relatively unplanned weekend in which we left The Cromwell property as little as possible. And we nailed it!
My reservations about the lack of room lighting and dedicated hotel pool aside, The Cromwell now competes with Cosmopolitan for title of my favorite spot on The Strip. It’s simply offers a personalized, boutique experience you cannot get anywhere else, and quality over quantity certainly works here — the lobby bar, the hotel restaurant, and the onsite dayclub and nightclub are all the hottest thing in each category in Vegas right now. We loved being in the middle of it and rarely having to leave a hotel where the staff called us by name — not something I ever thought possible on South Las Vegas Boulevard.
I had my hesitations, but we survived a full week in Las Vegas. Were we ready to go by the time we pulled away Monday morning on our road trip through Nevada, Arizona and Utah? Heck yeah — and stay tuned for posts about it. But did we have a great time wearing ourselves out? Hell yes. Vegas, as usual — I’ll be back. We didn’t just survive the desert. I’d go so far as to say we thrived.
Would you go boutique along the big Strip?
Many thanks to The Cromwell for hosting me in Las Vegas. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.