Goldstrike Hotel and Casino, Tunica, MS
My friend, who lives in Mississipi, had a great idea. Her husband had to go to a conference so she would be alone for a few days. Why didn't we take a "Mama's Holiday" for a couple of nights at one of the casino hotels in and around Tunica? I jumped at the chance, partly because I hadn't seen my friend in six months, and partly because I relished the idea of sitting in front of a slot machine until the wee hours with no responsibilities except to shower and eat.
We chose the Gold Strike because at 31 stories it is the tallest building in the state of Mississippi, we wanted a nice view, the price was right, and it was purported to be the most luxurious hotel in the area.
My friend had been in the lobby of the hotel and proclaimed it "absolutely beautiful." We made our plans.
I flew into Memphis, Tennessee, the closest airport, about 30 miles away. My friend drove to the hotel, checked in, and continued on to pick me up for our two nights of carefree abandon in a luxurious hotel with a glorious view, multiple restaurants, and hundreds of slot machines. She brought wine. We both brought our laptops.
This friend travels rarely and certainly does not have the passion for accommodation that I do. When she picked me up, I asked about our room and view. "Well," she said, "the room's OK, but the phone is between the beds instead of at the work desk, so it's hard to go online." No problem, we would use a long phone cord and just drag it across the room. Messy, but not a major issue. "The view!" I said. "Tell me about the view! What floor are we on?"
"Well," she said, "we're on the fourth floor."
"Fourth!" I exclaimed. "I can't imagine that there is much of a view from the fourth floor!"
"No," she said. "We actually look into the parking garage."
"Ooooh, no, that won't DO!" I spluttered. "We have to have a view!"
My friend looked unhappy. "I'm unpacked now and I don't want to change," she said.
OK, I could deal with no view. "Tell me about the 'separate dressing area' that the website for the hotel talks about," I said.
"Oh," said my friend, "there isn't one. Unless they mean the closet... there isn't one."
"Well, ok, tell me about the room. Is it great?" I asked. "It's OK," she said. "Not great."
It didn't matter. I was with my friend and ready for a couple of nights of casino fun, the kind that graying middle-aged women have when they arrive with their rolls of quarters, no spouses, kids, or pets to worry about, and the possibility of AARP discounts at the buffet.
The lobby of the Gold Strike is indeed beautiful, with vast expanses of marble floor (no lobby furniture in this huge space, but the casino is just off the lobby, which explains it.) Behind the enormous check-in counter is a series of water sculptures: Flat panels with water cascading through screens, creating a mesmerizing bubbling effect. I loved it and was hopeful about our accommodation.
We found the elevator, ascended to the fourth floor, entered our room.
It was night time. My first impression as we entered was of the yellow lights of the parking garage probably less than 30 feet from our window. In the morning I would learn that our "view" consisted of an ever-changing array of vehicle grilles. The first day it was a Chevy Prizm, a Ford Explorer and a Honda Accord. I stopped looking after that, but did manage to shoot some venomous glances at my friend from time to time. (This room selection by the front desk was shocking, considering that the hotel was nearly empty. It is doubtful that even 200 of the hotel's 1,200 rooms were occupied on the nights we were there.)
There IS a marble bathroom, which is spacious. The lighting is atrocious, however: REALLY purple fluorescent rays that make aging mamas who stay up all night look much worse than actuality. There IS a coffee pot, but the coffee provided, or the water at the hotel, or something, made the coffee so bad that my friend actually gagged on it. It tasted like metal shavings, or like sucking on an old quarter.
There is no "separate dressing area" as promised in the hotel web pages.
The "deluxe" room's furnishings ("a testament to understated elegance" according to the web site) were reminiscent of the kind of furniture you get when you purchase a mobile home, or the stuff you see advertised as "COMPLETE BEDROOM SUITE, ONLY $79.00!" I had to laugh... one of my pillowcases was put on inside out, and the other had a nice big rip in it. There were burn holes on the furniture and on the carpet. Our room wasn't made up on the second day, our first full day at the hotel. The air system didn't work... it was hot and hotter. The lock on the door was broken. The shower barely spit at you. (Let it be known that the maintenance person who came to repair these things for us was wonderful; just about the only person in the hotel who was genuinely nice, considerate, and professional. Most of the casino staff was nice too.)
After dropping my stuff in the room, we went down to play at the casino. We didn't have much luck and the cocktail waitresses never appeared, so we went next door to the Horseshoe, where we had better luck and drinks arrived regularly. We wandered back to the Gold Strike in the wee hours, wanting to get some food. The 24-hour buffet was closed for renovations while we were there, but the Hotel Directory indicated that there was 24-hour room service so we settled in, put on our nighties, made our choice from the menu, and called to order. Oooops. Twenty-four hour room service had been discontinued several months earlier; the phone receptionist was awfully sorry that those pages hadn't been changed in our book...
And so it went at the Gold Strike. It was a dreadful experience in so far as accommodation goes. It was so gross that I didn't even take a single photo of the room or the hotel.
On the other hand, notwithstanding the hotel stay, I had a wonderful time with my friend and can't wait to do it again. This time, though, *I* will check us in, and we will choose Bally's, or Fitzgeralds, or The Horseshoe or ANY hotel that isn't the Gold Strike.