There are several ways to get from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas to your luxury hotel, but none of them are like this one. Awaiting my arrival at curbside was one of the most elegant and refined vehicles on the planet, the majestic Rolls-Royce Phantom.
You see, Rolls-Royce and the Wynn Hotel have teamed up to provide their devoted patrons with unparalleled “White Glove” service, and they brought me to Vegas to experience it firsthand and to learn the stringent level of devotion that is required to be a Rolls-Royce chauffeur.
Andi McCann is the personal driver for Rolls’ CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös and the company’s lead trainer. He’s been dispatched to Las Vegas along with two other British colleagues, David Hughes and Jamie Clouston — both ex-racing drivers turned automotive Jeeves — to teach the chauffeurs at the Wynn Hotel how to drive the Rolls-Royce way. Motoring’s most luxurious marque has just sold the equally prestigious Wynn a fleet of 12 Phantoms, and this hefty transaction includes seminars on how to serve and protect celebrities and the rest of the one percent. As an example, thanks to the expert umbrella maneuvers Andi demonstrated, no paparazzi will ever get potentially embarrassing shots of a woman exiting the Phantom in a short dress.
In order to provide the full Rolls-Royce experience, the Wynn put me up in one of their elegant Tower Suites. To paraphrase a line from Pretty Woman, my spacious Executive Suite had not one, but two bathrooms bigger than The Blue Banana. And, thanks to a handy device even James Bond would appreciate, I could remotely open the curtains at the touch of a button to reveal a dazzling view of Vegas.
Throughout my stay, they treated me like royalty, including meals fit for a king. Executive Chef David Walzog of the resort’s Lakeside and SW Steakhouse restaurants introduced us to his acclaimed “Oceanto-Table” program that enables him to serve the finest Hawaiian fish within 24 hours of being harvested from the Pacific. We also grazed on Kobe beef at the exceptional SW Steakhouse and sipped and swirled right along with Sommelier Mark Thomas at Sinatra, a dining venue that puts a modern spin on traditional Italian dishes, including many of its namesake’s personal favorites. Our host then graciously invited us to select a vintage to be added to the restaurant’s wine cellar in 2016.
I was also dotingly chauffeured up and down the Vegas Strip, but one morning we took a drive out to the desert, which, one suspects, is filled with casino-dug holes (“A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes.” Casino, 1995). I moved from the back of the Phantom to the front — anything but the trunk.
In the age of Uber, anyone with a four-door can turn their hand to chauffeuring, but at this white glove level, it’s an art form. Jamie showed me around a Phantom where he indicated about a dozen things that were wrong about the interior presentation, among them air vents at different angles, a twisted seat belt, head rests at different heights, the rear armrest down. It needs to be reset to the factory setting; it needs to be perfect.
Two things were news to me: firstly, you must never park a Roller headfirst into a space. The rear must be to the curb and the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine to the front. “Never box the lady in,” warns Jamie. Secondly, the chauffeur must never walk around the front of the car; always go round the back out of respect to the winged hood ornament. Also, when collecting your paymasters from their Gulfstream, their luggage gets in the car before they do, regardless of whether it’s 90 degrees in Vegas or minus 15 in Moscow. This comes as a surprise, but it comes down to the clients’ peace of mind. No one wants their bags — possibly crammed with diamonds and state secrets — getting swiped from the curb while you’ve busied yourself opening the coach doors for them.
There’s a dress code, too: black suit, white shirt pressed to within an inch of its life, black silk tie with a double-Windsor, black leathersoled shoes. The word David keeps using is “sharp.” Everything must look “sharp.” Never greet your guests wearing sunglasses. As you open the door, you bow your head a little and slightly lift the ball of the foot closest to the car — the subtleties of impeccable service.
The “master” client is seated behind the passenger seat. Once on board, you make eye-contact with them in the rear view mirror to check that they’re at ease and ready to roll, and then you flip the mirror for their privacy.
The Phantom wafts so smoothly and precisely, you simply turn it with your fingertips and cruise with your hands steady at 8 and 4, rather than 9 and 3, to make it look all the more effortless. Smooth driving is key. Anticipate everything. No lurching, no rocking, early on the brakes, light on the throttle. The tick-tick-tick of the indicator can be disturbing, so never signal for more than three ticks. And always maintain space between the cars around, for, as Jamie is keen to impart, this car is always on stage. Every journey must be perfect and majestic.
Driving a big car like this is surprisingly relaxing and satisfying. Steering the Spirit of Ecstasy into the apex of a corner is like taking a drag on a Cuban cigar and chasing a single malt. It stirs the soul, and for all the reclining seats and lacquered picnic tables in the back, one senses the passengers are missing out on the best part. However, what will make the experience more than just another drive in a quarter-million-dollar car for these high rollers is a really great chauffeur. And Ol’ Blue Eyes himself provides the perfect sound track in each of the Wynn’s Phantoms.