For donating a pint of blood, United Blood Services sent me a voucher for a free mid-day sightseeing cruise on Lake Mead Cruises. Although I grew up in Vegas and have collectively lived here for over 20 years of my life, I have never really spent time at this lake that’s only about 1 hour from west Vegas – other than the occasional picnic or hike – and I’d never actually been on the lake.
Interestingly, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the 5th most visited unit within the entire U.S. National Park System. It’s even more popular than the Lincoln Memorial or the Grand Canyon. So why all the hype for a man-made lake? It’s smart fundraising in my opinion, as with over 7 million visitors annually, the $10 per car visitor fee quickly adds up – but I’m happy to support our parks.
Lake Mead Cruises has daily 90-minute sightseeing cruises at 12 pm and 2 pm aboard the Desert Princess – an old-fashioned paddlewheeler. These cruises run at $24 for adults and $12 for children. They also have a Sunday brunch cruise and dinner cruises Sunday thru Thursdays.
The best part of the Desert Princess, in my opinion, is the full bar. I’m a sucker for special deals and signature drinks, so I had to try their featured 20-ounce Bloody Mary. They also have a snack bar for those who prefer their meals to be solid food.
During our cruise, you could see just how bad the rising population of Las Vegas plus recent droughts has impacted the level of the lake.
As entertainment aboard the cruise, they had a taped narrator as our guide, who spoke in a complete monotone (super exciting!). We much preferred the hit songs from 1993 that were played when the narrator was taking a ‘break.’ The climax of our trip (and also the boat’s turning around point) is the engineering spectacle of Hoover Dam. It was pretty cool seeing it from this angle.
Our overall assessment of the cruise was that it’s worth the 2-for-1 price we paid after using my voucher, but we probably wouldn’t have paid $48 for the both of us to go. But it was awfully nice of United Blood Service and Lake Mead Cruises to offer the free voucher, and as the weather today was gorgeous, it beat sitting around our apartment playing on our computer all day.
After our excursion, we headed to our favorite nearby hotel & casino for an early dinner. The Hacienda Hotel & Casino is located off the US-93, just a few miles south of the Boulder City entrance to Lake Mead. We like it for the ‘Old Nevada’ feel that Las Vegas used to possess before it became overrun with superficiality.
The Hacienda Steakhouse has ‘early bird’ dinner specials if you dine Wed-Fri or Sunday between 4 pm – 6 pm. I was tempted by the fried shrimp dinner with all the fixins’ for $10.95, but was more swayed by the $18.95 ahi tuna steak with mango salsa (their daily special). All meals come with soup or salad (my husband says their lobster bisque is the BEST), choice of starch, and our favorite item: the veggie tray you get as soon as you sit down.
After dinner we played 25-cent roulette – another deal you won’t find in Vegas. I’m a pretty conservative gambler, so I cashed out as soon as my lucky 31 hit and went home $7 richer.