Visiting The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas last February, I was struck by the lovely juxtaposition of the Mediterranean-style architecture — clay tile roofs, arched doorways, and a three-arch bridge over the water that resembles the Ponte Vecchio in Florence — with the red-rock, high-desert surroundings. The hotel, opened in February 2003, is part of MonteLago Village, a picturesque lakefront retail complex. You'd never guess that one of the charming pastel buildings houses a 40,000-square-foot casino — and that the Las Vegas strip is just 17 miles away.

The 349-room Ritz-Carlton was purpose-built for meetings — it is said to have the most extensive per-guest room meeting space in the Ritz-Carlton portfolio. It can accommodate up to 1,000 people in nearly 33,000 square feet of function space that includes an 11,841-square-foot ballroom. There are two championship golf courses: The Falls Golf Club designed by Tom Weiskopf and the golf course at Reflection Bay, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. The 30,000-square-foot Spa Vita di Lago, with 24 treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center, is a destination unto itself, with a staff that will personalize spa services for large groups.

Service is a big part of the Ritz-Carlton equation, and this property also has Conference Concierges, a Creative Event Services department, and a Group Activities department that works with planners on everything from satellite check-in to a day of wilderness survival training and competition.

Our small group of meeting industry editors and meeting planners enjoyed a sampling of the impeccable service, gourmet cuisine, and customized events that the hotel offers. Among the highlights were a welcome dinner at the Falls Golf Club with stargazing from one of the resort's six Meade GPS telescopes; a sugar decorating demonstration by 2003 National Pastry Champion Patric Caillot in his pastry kitchen; and a breakfast cruise on Lake Las Vegas in the swanky La Contessa yacht. The pièce-de-resistance took place on our final evening. Boats transported us to a nearby helipad, where three helicopters were waiting to whisk us away to the Las Vegas strip. It was a short, breathtaking journey from the starlit desert to the glittering cityscape, where we enjoyed dinner at The House of Blues and a performance of Cirque du Soleil's water spectacle, “O.”