Build it bigger, build it better, build it bolder – all of these apply to Macao’s new hotels, which over the past year or so have opened to tremendous fanfare and a veritable blizzard of bling. And it’s not just on the main casino strip of Cotai where the new palatial accommodations have been opening. The Macau Roosevelt took up a grandstand view next to Macao’s racecourse, while the Legend Palace added further lustre to the entertainment zone of Fisherman’s Wharf.
What’s more, many observers would say that the best is yet to come: waiting in the wings are what is promised to be one of the priciest hotels in the world; two more resorts designed by Versace and Lagerfeld, no less; and the fifth tower in the City of Dreams with an eye-catching design by architectural legend Zaha Hadid.
The next phase of openings marks a new chapter in the history of Macau’s accommodation. For many years the city’s hotels were respectable yet unremarkable, with a couple of boutique gems like the Bela Vista and Pousada de Sao Tiago, both of which have since closed their doors.
Then came the Las Vegas invasion, spearheaded by the 3,000-room Venetian and closely followed by heavy hitters like Ritz-Carlton and Banyan Tree.
Clever gimmicks like a scaled-down Eiffel Tower or a cable car have characterised more recent openings, but now Macao is moving into the realms of the designer superstars.
As far as bed and board (and bling) is concerned, the future is going to be fabulous.
Wynn Palace Macao
Leading the charge of hotel openings in 2016, Wynn Palace is casino mogul Steve Wynn’s second property in Macao, and it’s bedecked with the sort of artworks (Jeff Koons, Qing Dynasty vases, et al) that are dear to his heart, and fronted with a cable car that guests can ride direct to check-in if a limo or shuttle bus seems a little bit humdrum.
There are just over 1,700 rooms and suites and – by invitation only and containing just about every possible amenity – five garden villas.
The colourful regular rooms are the biggest in the city, with plenty of space to move around the king-sized bed and its 500-threadcount sheets which are embroidered with a delicate cloud pattern.
There’s lots to enjoy: the TV screen in the bathroom mirror, the eight-strong pillow menu, the complimentary gilt razor and hairbrush, and the bedside speakers which sync with iPhones.
Rooms facing west get the Performance Lake and up-and-coming neighbouring hotels, while it’s the airport runway and the South China Sea to the east.
And nobody is likely to go hungry here; take your pick of a dozen restaurants (and one bar) whose menus range from top-notch Cantonese at Wing Lei to exactly what you might expect at Sweets.
The steak and seafood at SW are truly superb, while Michelin-starred Yuki Onishi sorted the ramen menu at Hanami. Tiered seating at Café Fontana grants an extra fillip to breakfast, as does the view of the lake.
Naturally, wherever you are in the resort, you are never more than a few steps away from the casino.
Killer App: Arriving at the hotel by cable car after buzzing over the performance lake.
Just over a month after Wynn opened – zut alors – The Parisian was preparing to welcome its first guests.
Alter ego to The Venetian at the other end of the Cotai Strip, the 3,000-room resort is the new darling of tycoon Sheldon Adelson, and the only property in Macao with a scaled-down Eiffel Tower by its front door.
Like many new casino resorts in Macao, this place is all about razzmatazz (and gambling) but it would be hard to come here and fail to enjoy what is to all intents a very well executed architectural facsimile.
Naturally, the style throughout is Gallic with a capital G, especially in the rooms, and there’s lots of entertainment to be had around the resort.
The 162-metre Eiffel Tower is an obvious excursion, and the pool deck is likely to be packed on warmer days.
Retail fanatics should find plenty to amuse themselves and their credit card companies at the 170 boutiques in the mall, and the 1,200-seat theatre hosts international acts on a regular basis.
Best of all, with The Parisian being part of the Strip, guests can stroll via air-conditioned walkways to neighbouring resorts and malls.
Killer App: It’s not just Gustave Eiffel’s eponymous erection that’s jaw-dropping – check out the painted ceilings and the replica Fontaine de Mers in the lobby.
The beginning of 2017 saw another step in the rejuvenation of Fisherman’s Wharf, the shopping, dining and entertainment strip right next to Macao’s main ferry terminal.
Joining the Rocks and the Harbourview [sic] hotels, the Legend Palace rose on the site of what had previously been, believe it or not, a volcano theme park.
The décor is modelled on “grande luxe” – no modernist minimalism here – and each and every room has a really splendid balcony.
Overall, it’s a very comfortable property, but it should not be viewed in isolation, as the Fisherman’s Wharf convention centre and attractions such as an ersatz Roman Amphitheatre are right next door.
Within the hotel, a casino stands on one side of the main lobby, and a shopping arcade the other. The 18-metre outdoor pool is a pleasant oasis, while guests can get stuck into a good workout at the adjacent fitness room.
Opportunities to eat and drink are limited, but uniformly good, from the all-embracing Brasserie de Paris, to the rather special Grand Palace, which prides itself on its Cantonese fare. The Gallery, intimate and well stocked, is one of the neatest hotel bars in Macao.
Killer App: Whichever way your room’s facing, there’s a roomy balcony and easy chairs to recline on.
Next up, the Roosevelt is twinned with the hotel of the same name in Hollywood, but the stars at the Macao edition are horses and jockeys, as the property stands right next to the city’s race course. Understandably, it gets heavily booked on days when the horses are running.
Built for a reported US$2-billion, the 12-storey Macau [sic] Roosevelt stands out as there are no other hotels nearby, and there’s a definite emphasis on a thought-provoking hip design which was dreamed up Iceland-born, Los Angeles-based architect Gulla Jónsdóttir, who takes a certain pride in being classed as a “Glamazon”.
Starting with the artificial garden that’s etched into the wall and ceiling of the lobby – this is a hotel that, like its sister property in California, fairly crackles with brio.
The best of the Roosevelt’s 368 rooms and suites face the race course, while the interiors are spiced up with ebony-lacquered burnt-wood floors, burnished bronze, and carved Italian marble.
The hotel’s focal point, so to speak, is the pool deck, which overlooks the gardens and racecourse, and is right next to the sunny, breezy space that is the bar and all-day dining restaurant, Casa Roosevelt.
The hotel opened in the summer and is expected to be fully complete (penthouse suite, Japanese restaurant, signature boutiques) by the end of the year.
Killer App: Horses for courses – and this hotel is the ultimate grandstand.
Waiting in the wings, the MGM Cotai is another “second edition” as it will complement the existing downtown MGM property once it opens this October .
Designed as the “jewellery box” of Cotai, it will contain 1,400 rooms and suites, a high-end spa, and a vast array of retail offerings and food and beverage outlets.
More importantly, it will showcase the first international Mansion at MGM, aimed at the very top end of the accommodation market, as well as a dynamic theatre.
Best hotels opening in 2018
Macao is expecting to see some really amazing new hotels in 2018.
While the mass market provides a significant revenue for Macanese hotels, it looks like next year will be mainly about the luxury sector, as The 13, containing 200 “villas”, and Lisboa Palace make abundantly clear.
The 13, pet project of Hong Kong billionaire Stephen Hung, has already garnered a great deal of attention with the delivery of its limousine fleet – 30 red, extended wheelbase Rolls-Royce Phantoms helmed by specially trained chauffeurs; the bevy of chefs imported from Paris’s multi-starred L’Ambroisie; and the prospect of an invitation-only atelier stocking one-of-a-kind products from the world’s foremost brands.
Mr Hung has modestly gone on record to say he is “striving to establish a new standard for luxury hotels by seeking to recapture the values of a golden age when all luxury was bespoke, artisanal and personalised.”
Macau’s wealthier visitors will also find much to interest them not too far from The 13 at the Lisboa Palace, which will contain two boutique properties conjured up by celebrated international designers, as well as Macao’s third Lisboa property – part of Stanley Ho’s empire – after the Lisboa and Grand Lisboa which are located by the Grand Prix circuit.
Palazzo Versace will be the third edition – following on from Dubai and the Gold Coast – of the Donatella Versace-inspired hotel, while its sibling will be the world’s first hotel entirely designed by the octogenarian Karl Lagerfeld. Altogether the three hotels represent approximately 2,000 keys – a significant amount of top-tier accommodation.
Finally, Morpheus the wittily named property that will shortly be added to the Cotai Strip, is promising to be as intriguing inside as it is outside.
On top of 780 luxury rooms, six duplex villas and three super-luxury villas with a private indoor pool, the hotel will include a host of premium restaurants serving international cuisines, two of which will be located on the hotel’s sky bridges.
Spectacle will be a key ingredient at Morpheus, with high-speed observation lifts in the atrium and an infinity pool on the 40th floor 130 metres above the ground.
It looks like it’s going to be an exciting year for Macao’s hotels.
Ed Peters is a freelance writer who lives in Hong Kong.
Macao has a range of hotels and resorts for all budgets. If you’re looking for a luxe stay there are plenty of choices. But if you’re on a budget, there are also lots of reasonably priced hotels in Macao.
One of the highlights of visiting Macao is that Macao is compact and easy to get around. The former Portuguese enclave has plenty of rich pockets of history. Not far from the glamorous Cotai Strip, explore Coloane Island and Taipa Island.
For a a super exciting experience, AJ Hacket Macau brings you thrills in the sky.
Where to stay in Macau? Try one of these unique boutiques.
For a real treat and views of the Eiffel Tower, book yourself into the Parisian Macao.