PetStay Program at Harrah’s Atlantic City: Hype vs. Reality

Thinking of staying at Harrah’s in Atlantic City and bringing your dog for their PetStay Program? The hype differs somewhat from the reality, and the hotel itself is a massive disappointment. Perhaps this post will help inform your Atlantic City travel plans. (For quick info, scroll down and read the section headers in bold.)

petstay1My spouse and I recently found ourselves desperate for a restful escape from an emotionally trying winter. Unfortunately, jetting off to a warm destination wasn’t possible.

But then we read about Harrah’s Atlantic City — a little over an hour’s drive from our home — where an indoor pool is encased within a balmy dome complete with lounge chairs, cabanas, waitress service, umbrella drinks, pool floats and a hot tub.  The pool is just across the corridor from an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, too. But best of all, we learned that Harrah’s AC offers a “PetStay Program“, which their website describes this way:

Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City rolls out the red carpet for traveling dogs, with the our PetStay Program for dogs. Guests participating in the PetStay program are greeted by several canine in-room amenities including food and water bowls, pet treat and biodegradable waste bags. Harrah’s Resort features designated PetStay rooms within the hotel, as well as an outdoor relief areas and dog walking routes. Additional information about dog-friendly items for purchase and nearby dog services (such as grooming, walking and veterinary care) is available upon check-in.

We were thrilled. You see, we have a special needs dog. Without boring you with too many details, our pup has two health conditions which require her to be carefully watched, and even more carefully fed.

It makes travel difficult for my spouse and I, because even though we can (and have) left our dog in the care of a boarding facility, they’re not as familiar with the nuances of her feeding procedure as we are — and if done incorrectly, she could easily choke to death. So every getaway without our dog is overshadowed by a degree of worry about her.

But Harrah’s AC made it sound like our furbaby would be treated like Queen Elizabeth’s corgis.

And meanwhile, we could get our troubles rubbed away from behind the Red Door, then cast off any remaining woes at Harrah’s serene poolside oasis, lazily meandering through our books with wet fingertips and letting the page corners warp where they may.

But here’s what our weekend was really like.

No In-Room Doggy Amenities

“Guests participating in the PetStay program are greeted by several canine in-room amenities including food and water bowls, pet treat and biodegradable waste bags.

Nope. Didn’t happen. There was not a single doggy amenity anywhere in our room.

Extra Fees for Shabby, Poorly Kept Rooms

However, we did find the evidence of past canine guests, like where some frustrated pooch was probably locked cruelly in the bathroom and chewed the decorative molding off the back of the door.

Instead of repairing the molding, Harrah’s haphazardly dabbed some paint over the rough, damaged surface.

The sofa was covered in dog hair, and upon removing one of the cushions, a big spreading urine stain became evident.

So housekeeping in the doggy palace? Not so good.

And frankly, for the astronomical amount of money we paid for the room, we expected more attention to detail. (In addition to paying more for the designated PetStay room, you also have to pay an extra per-night fee of $50 when staying with a dog, and then an additional $50 for housekeeping.)

There were other things about the room that were disappointing, too, like a non-working coffee machine, movie rental service that didn’t work, and a shower that groaned like the building was coming down every time we tried to use hot water.

Get Cancer and Enjoy Sore Paws in the Relief Area

petstay2Here’s more from the Harrah’s hype: “Harrah’s Resort features…outdoor relief areas and dog walking routes.”

Upon check-in, we asked about these.

First of all, we were made aware of only one outdoor “relief area” — singular, not plural. It’s a tiny fenced area completely covered in large, sharp-edged rocks. Not gravel — rocks. Our dog was uncomfortable walking on them, so she wouldn’t use the area at all.

Secondly, the “relief area” and the smoking area are one and the same.

Right alongside the dispenser of poop bags you’ll find three cigarette disposal towers and three benches. So if you want to utilize the relief area, you and your pet must also endure a wafting cloud of cigarette smoke. Distinctly unpleasant. (All weekend I kept saying, “Why the hell does my shirt smell like cigarettes?” Then I’d remember.)

Even if your dog doesn’t want to relieve herself there, you may still have to go there to get poop bags because, if your experience is like ours, there won’t be poop bags in the room, as their marketing promises.

We asked about the “dog walking routes” too, expecting perhaps a handy map or something. The desk clerk waved a hand and said, “Anywhere outside.” Yeah. Thanks for nothing.

A Dog Crate is Completely Unnecessary

Here’s some other stuff Harrah’s posted on their PetStay web page:

  • Dogs must be in a crate/kennel when left unattended in the room.
  • Dogs must be kenneled or out of the room during housekeeping. (Housekeeping may be scheduled at your convenience, but housekeeping must be allowed to service your guest room at a minimum of every other day.)

We wanted to be rule-abiding guests, so we went out and spent a hundred bucks on a crate for our dog — one that we didn’t need after all.

The day of our arrival, I received an email giving me the option to “opt out” of housekeeping. So here I was thinking I needed to crate my dog for maid service, but it turned out I could shut the maid out completely.

And as we walked down the hall, we could hear the dogs of our absent neighbors sniffing at the cracks under the doors. So nobody was crating their dog while out of their room.

We hauled this big, clunky crate in and out of the hotel and it was completely unnecessary. I just hope I kept the receipt so I can return it. Thanks, Harrah’s!

You Might Actually Die Before They Let You Leave 

If you’re staying at Harrah’s Atlantic City, you’d better make sure you don’t have to leave in a hurry.

Don’t You Dare Touch That Luggage Trolley!

When it came time for us to check out, we were told we’d have to wait 30 minutes for a bell hop to bring a trolley for our luggage. (We could’ve handled the baggage on our own if it wasn’t for the behemoth DOG CRATE Harrah’s told us we absolutely had to bring.)

I understood that we were departing at a busy time. That’s why I was willing to go downstairs, get a luggage trolley, and load my own bags.

Near the main entrance was a cluster of at least 20 luggage trolleys standing idly. When I tried to remove one, the attendant physically restrained me from taking it. He said guests were not allowed to use trolleys on their own under any circumstances. I felt like I was being held hostage.

petstay3Valet Service for Suckers and a Smart-Ass Employee

Next, when we went to retrieve our car from the valet, we waited in line another 30 minutes.

The same attendant who forbade me to take a trolley overheard me complaining about the wait to my spouse and butted in sarcastically, “I’m sorry. You’re a troubled soul.”

I promptly told him to go fuck himself. Seriously, how dare he say that to a guest?

So it took at least an hour just to get off the premises.

Sure, that’s annoying, even if all you’re doing is driving home and getting ready for work the next morning. But here’s where that could become a problem for a pet-owner.

A few times a year, no matter how careful we are, our dog inevitably has a life-threatening choking episode during which she has to be rushed to the 24-hour animal hospital near our home and given oxygen. It’s part of her esophageal condition. That’s why, before we went to Atlantic City, we mapped out the 24-hour emergency veterinary clinics closest to the hotel.

If we ever planned to go back to Harrah’s AC (which we don’t), we would know to avoid valet parking, because there’s no such thing as a quick getaway in an emergency, whether that emergency is canine or human. (And shouldn’t valet parking give a guest advantages over self-parking?)

Alone in a Strange Place

petstay8One thing that contributed to our crappy weekend wasn’t Harrah’s fault at all — and if you’ve never traveled to a hotel with your dog before, it’s something to consider.

Our dog isn’t exactly thrilled at being left alone at home. But in an unfamiliar hotel room, she was totally distressed.

For the first day of our stay, my spouse and I took turns staying with her. Each of us went out and explored the hotel and casino alone. We had very little quality time together.

The second day when our dog seemed a little more accustomed to her surroundings, we left her alone for a couple of hours at a time. But even that was difficult to do. She cried so mournfully. It hurt to get on the elevator. We heard dogs in other rooms doing the same.

We ate in our room the whole weekend just to keep our dog from freaking out.

We were dummies. We thought we’d be able to romp around untroubled and each time, come back to a happy-go-lucky dog, just risen from a long, blissful nap.

We didn’t anticipate how emotionally trying it would be for her. Now we believe she would’ve been happier being boarded in the facility she already knows.

No Such Thing as Relaxing By the Pool

petstay5The PetStay Program wasn’t the only disappointment.

We were foolish to assume that The Pool at Harrah’s Atlantic City would be a nerve tonic.

The fact is, I swallowed two Xanax with a six-dollar bottle of Fiji water just to get through it.

(Note: The Pool is strictly for humans – not pets.)

After dark, The Pool becomes a nightclub. But what Harrah’s fails to mention is that The Pool is a nightclub before dark, too.

All day. All night. Unrelenting house music with an unmistakable meat market feel.

At the risk of sounding like a cranky old woman, the music was turned up uncomfortably loud. It reverberated off the glass domed ceiling and thumped up from beneath the floor.

I tore up a tissue and stuffed the rolled-up bits into my ears. My spouse and I communicated exclusively with hand signals.

We stayed for a while because I wanted to “relax” (ha ha) in the hot tub, but it was overcrowded with young singles drunkenly volleying a Ketel One beach ball across the bridge of my nose.

And that DJ wouldn’t shut the hell up. He provided running commentary on the poolside games (Limbo and the like), which was fine. But did he have to keep bleating out random verses along with the music?

If we both hadn’t already been feeling beat down by some of the tougher crap going on in our lives, we might’ve laughed at it.

Instead, we went back to our room and our dog and cried in frustration.

Don’t expect to read a book or feel restored at The Pool at Harrah’s Atlantic City. But if you want to party wet in the daylight, this is the spot.

Kudos for Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa

petstay6The one place within Harrah’s where I did feel restored was at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa.

I can’t help wondering if it’s separately managed from Harrah’s itself, because where Harrah’s was Customer Service Hell, Red Door was superbly managed.

(Note: The spa is strictly for humans – not pets.)

Every employee was gracious and accommodating. Every inch was sparkling clean and welcoming. Attendants circulated constantly through the spa to pick up discarded paper cups and flip-flops, helping to maintain the sense of having escaped into a cloud of serene perfection.

Thank you, Red Door. But please get your hot tub repaired soon. 

In summary:

  • The PetStay Program at Harrah’s Atlantic City does not live up to its marketing.
  • Harrah’s is not the best-managed casino hotel in Atlantic City. In fact, it’s kind of a clusterfuck.
  • The Pool at Harrah’s Atlantic City is a party destination, day or night. It’s not for quiet unwinding.
  • Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Salon and Spa is lovely, but if you’re going to visit, don’t stay at Harrah’s.


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