If you follow TLFL on social media you will know that both Roving Reporter and I were in Vegas during last Sunday’s horrific mass shooting. I thought I would share our experience with you and look at what Vegas is like at the moment, as I know a few of my readers have trips planned imminently.
The night of the shootings
Roving Reporter (RR) and I were staying at the Four Seasons which is on the top 5 floors of the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shootings took place. Our rooms were only 3 floors above that of the shooter and RR’s directly overlooked that room and the concert grounds. Very fortunately, we had gone to a show at Caesars Palace that night. If it had been the following night we would have been in the hotel at that time.
The show we saw was Absinthe which is held in a tent outside Caesars Palace. The show is very unique and I can only describe it as a cross between a Jimmy Carr live show and Britain’s Got Talent. It is certainly not one for the easily offended. The show went ahead as normal but as soon as it ended we were told that we were not allowed to leave the tent as Caesars security were requesting we stay put. At this point, we had no idea what had happened. After a little while with no further information, everyone started to look on their phones and we soon had an idea of why were we stuck there. At this point, the news was showing that there were 2 shooters and we assumed that it was a terror attack.
Being stuck in a giant tent on the strip did not feel a very safe place to be when we thought there was a second shooter on the loose. There was no information from the show staff which I thought was a mistake. People had obviously been drinking before the show and some started to get aggressive which was very unsettling as well in a small space. There were also no toilets in the tent so the only option was to pee in a waste bin they had set up. One poor girl had to resort to using her ice bucket.
Fortunately, my Vegas expert friend, Michael from Travel Zork was on line and kept us up to date with what was going on via the Vegas police reports. I’d like to say a big thank you to Michael as this was a great help. We later found out that the police has managed to clear the entire strip in under 20 minutes which is quite remarkable. All the hotels were now on lockdown with no one allowed in or out.
Once the full horror of the number of people killed or injured began to emerge we realised that there was no chance of getting back to our hotel that night. Unfortunately, my anti-rejection medication for my kidney transplant was back in my hotel room which presented a major problem depending on how long it was until we could return.
After a few hours we were allowed to leave at around 1.30am but told that we still could not go inside Caesars Palace. It was pretty cold in Vegas that night so we began to wonder if we would be wondering around all night outside as everywhere was locked down. Fortunately the Cosmopolitan was allowing people inside providing they could find their way to the back entrance. The staff at the Cosmo were amazingly helpful, especially Pauda on the front desk. She phoned the Four Seasons to see if they had any idea of when it would reopen. At that point the FS staff were still barricaded in with the hotel on lockdown. We later found out that the English wedding party at the hotel had spent most of their wedding night hiding in a stairwell for safety. Pauda also came up with lots of solutions to get my medication replaced if it came to it. We decided to get a room and were given care packages with water and toiletries. I hadn’t realised how much it had all effected to me until I finally fell asleep and had nightmares about hiding from a shooter.
Around 8am the manager of the Four Seasons phoned to say they had reopened so we worked out that we would see if we could get as far as the Luxor hotel round the back of the strip and walk back from there since the strip was closed around the hotel. Once in the Luxor we had almost reached the exit for Mandalay Bay when a group of people ran past us. We didn’t know what was going on but a few moments later the security guard told us to leave the building immediately. The Luxor staff also started running out as well and we began to feel frightened and started running too. We never did find out what was going on but it was obviously a false alarm.
Once away from the building we decided to head towards the Mandalay Bay/Four Seasons anyway by road. We eventually got back to the hotel at 9am where the staff were serving a complimentary breakfast. Many of the hotel services were not operating that day such as housekeeping due to lack of staff and understandably the hotel was very quiet. The staff were all incredibly helpful and did the best they could when I am sure looking after guests was the last thing on their mind. Gradually the hotels and strip have been returning to normal operations over the last few days.
So now that it is a few days after the shooting is it safe to return and what is the mood like?
Is it safe to visit Vegas now?
Security has been stepped in all the hotels with room keys having to be shown before going up to your room in the lift. The Wynn has also installed metal detectors which is leading to some delays entering the building. There is a big police presence along the strip and shows are using metal detectors and bag searches. All this makes you feel pretty safe and from this point of view you shouldn’t feel the need to cancel as it is probably the safest time to visit the strip.
There are still lanes closed around the festival site and traffic is bad around the Mandalay Bay end of the strip. The Mandalay Bay is still closed to traffic and the front is cordoned off but you can access it through the Luxor or the Delano hotels. As of Friday all the shows and restaurants should be operating normally here.
The mood was understandably very sombre to start but now people’s attitude is very much we need to get back to normal. Billy Idol dedicated his show to the victims and urged that we shouldn’t let this make us live in fear and let the shooter win, which summed up the mood here very well. All the billboards are showing the hastag #VegasStrong. I think that if you have a trip planned you should still come.