By Michael Matthews
August 25, 2011 -- I am sometimes asked what is the most profitable item at a hotel. I usually answer the wine. But now I will correct my answer and say that it's the lowly egg.

I just returned from Las Vegas where the price for one boiled egg--no toast, coffee or juice--was an astounding $6. Add tax and service and it came to almost $8. Since an egg costs about a dime, I make that a 5,900 percent markup! Astounding. I won't mention the $7.00 for a cup of coffee!

Your faithful columnist has just returned from a trip to Sin City. I know I'm not supposed to tell you about it--it's the "what happens in Vegas" rule--but I will.

We drove seven hours from Tucson and checked into the truly fabulous Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which has no casino. Rajesh Jhingon, the general manager, gave us a break on the room rate. And thank god he did because the hotel is at the top end of the Vegas financial scale.

The service was superb. The staff somehow miraculously called me by my name wherever we were. Their uniforms were immaculate. The housekeeping was spotless throughout. The bathrooms and amenities are top-notch. The décor is conservative, oozing with class. There's a small, but great, pool and a highly rated spa.

If there is a nit to pick, it's the technology. You need a degree from MIT to work everything in the bedroom. It's probably great for under-30 guests, but it's tough to handle for old farts like me. I mean, when you open the door, the curtains automatically open, too. How do you find out how and where to close them? You get up in the middle of the night to take care of some business, hit the wrong button and POOF! You have a light display that beats the one that illuminates the façade of Caesars Palace. I eventually learned that everything is worked off the television screen by touch. As I said, great if you can work an Xbox. For the rest of us? Not so much.

But my problem with Vegas has nothing to do with high-tech hostelry. It's what I think I learned about that line, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." I think they mean that your money stays in Vegas because everything that happens there is damned expensive.

These days, Las Vegas is at least as expensive as, if not more expensive than, Manhattan. When you go, bring money. Lots of money.

Two tickets to The Beatles show LOVE, by Cirque du Soleil, cost me $300. For that price, it needs more acrobats. Parking your car at City Center development dings you for $30 a day. If you jump in a cab, the flag drop on the meter starts at $3.90. That means you're looking at a ten spot just to move up or down the Strip. Head downtown and you're looking at $25. Buy a drink at any hotel bar on the Strip and it's $12 to $18 each.

The big-name chefs all have restaurants in Las Vegas now--and they are out-of-the-box expensive. One night we headed over to the Mandalay Bay Resort and found ourselves at Stripsteak, fronted by Michael Mina, who made his bones in San Francisco. Stripsteak is so minimalist that the tables and chairs look more suited to a cafeteria. The service was good, but it was brusque. They seemed to want you to know that there were people waiting for your table, so you shouldn't tarry. One medium sirloin, lamb chops, a couple of sides and the least-expensive bottle of wine on the menu came to a whopping $230. No starters, no desserts, no coffee.

Around midnight, we went for a couple of Scotches at the Mandarin Bar. Fifty bucks including tip. That's a pricey tipple to enjoy the bar's admittedly wonderful view and listen to a much-too-loud jazz band.

I guess Vegas is a hoot if money's no object. At the amazing new Aria Resort & Casino, a Saudi prince lost $26 million playing baccarat for $750,000 a hand. At the nearby Crystals shopping center, I checked out The Porsche Design shop. (As a new owner of a Porsche, I felt it incumbent to do so.) They had jeans starting at $550 a pair, so I didn't bother ducking my head into Harry Winston, Van Cleef and Arpels or even "lowly" Tiffany's. But I did have lunch at the Todd English P.U.B. It was fun and it features more than 80 draft beers--as long as you're willing to part with $14 a pint.

Of course, I didn't find Elvis on this trip, so I guess I'll have to return to Las Vegas. But next time, I bring my own chicken.

ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

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