George is back with another trip report from Macau, this time to the Grand Waldo.
Continue reading after the jump for all your SAR goodness.
Photos are posted here:
It has been a while since my last report, and so I have to include two visits. The last two are somewhat of a milestone; I finally stayed at a Hotel/Casino in Macau over my usual hotel I rested my head at only.
Last month was a stay at the Venetian. I paid too much for it on many levels. The review over at Macautripping.com pretty much says it all. The highlight was the pool. Great place to relax and great service. The only draw back was all the construction going on. Looming above me were workmen constructing the Four Seasons, and other Venetian add-ons. The work done by men who likely get paid less by the hour (if not per day) than what I paid for the pina colada I was sipping certainly made a contrast.
I could give a list of less than positive observations about the Venetian (I got screwed over by a casino host), however I will focus more on general things that will affect anybody. The most important thing to say about the place is really, really, really think and prepare before you decide to go anywhere in the hotel. Leaving your room is not quick jaunt, it's an expedition of almost epic proportions. Nothing infuriated me more than forgetting, or finding I need, something in my room.
A random thought, the Venetian did not give breakfast as part of the room. This may be a perk in the US, but in Asia it is pretty much de rigure among hotels, especially at the prices Venetian charged me. This makes me wonder more about a detail, Asia's expectations for a hotel room costing over US$200. Just across the bridge there is a Mandarin Oriental (with a casino mind you) charging about the same, and you get a much better level of service there.
After the Venetian and the Grand Waldo poker room, which I will talk about later, I took off to take photos of some of the lesser-discussed places in Macau as requested. I hope Hunter can post them near here.
The thoughts of last month's trip would not be complete without a talking about Air Macau. I have flown it four times, and those small things are really beginning to bug me. They have always been no frills, yet the prices never quite matched the quality. As prices for every airline have risen the past few months though, I got fed up on this trip (I took Cathay Pacific for my next trip). Saving a few hours of ferry time and paying 20% less to sleep in a seat that reclines like a bus seat is OK. Saving a few hours, saving no money, and flying overnight in that same seat is insane.
Anyway, with the tale above it should be no surprise that the rumor in the SAR is Air Macau is on its deathbed. This has quite a few casinos worrying since Air Macau has many flights to the Mainland to bring in the gamblers. It is turning into another source of worry for casinos dealing with visa restrictions and local animosity over the hiring of so many foreign workers.
How did I do at the tables? I must preface this that it may degenerate into a personal gripe over a review, however it's necessary to tell the story for those interested. Move on if you want to read about it. At first I did very well at the Venetian craps table, and then I went to the poker room at the Grand Waldo and did even better. I woke up the next morning with a handsome gain for the trip, about US$4000. I ate breakfast, (a marginal attempt at Eggs Benedict BTW. I do not share Macautripping.com's generous opinion of the Venetian's room service), and I thought "Well this room is supposed to be comped based on my play. I am pretty sure I have played enough to justify the comp and then some. However being a new rated player I might as well close out my playing here." So I went down to the craps table and promptly lost $3000 of my gain.
Here comes the gripe. I checked-out, dejected but happy for still having some money. As I said, my room was supposed to be comped so I just expected to checkout and go. The desk had a different idea. They charged me close to the rack rate for the room, not even the casino rate, and my "host" was nowhere to be found to sort out the situation. I was so infuriated for being encouraged to stay here on false pretenses I slammed down the cash (the rest of my winnings) and ran out so my violent streak would not rear its head. Result: I broke even on the trip, but learned a lesson more valuable than money. Never trust a Venetian Macau casino host.
On that trip I was really impressed with the new Poker Room at the Grand Waldo, and the hotel lobby I accidentally walked into. So when I found out the Grand Waldo was not that much more than the cheap place I normally stayed, I jumped at the chance to stay there. Since there has been no proper review of the place from the information circle here, excuse me as I go into some detail.
The casino is located in Taipa, on a street parallel to the Cotai Strip and the strait separating Macau from the mainland. It is also adjacent to the back part of the soon to be completed Mega-resort project, another Galaxy property. Right now the area is a definition of "sleepy", but I think that will change once the Mega-resort opens.
The Grand Waldo property itself has a layout that is a little odd. It is two basic buildings, the hotel/spa complex and a separate casino building connected by a second floor concourse. I wish I knew why.
I arrived via the free shuttle from the ferry terminal (all the different free casino shuttles are quickly becoming part of the public transit system for the SAR). Check-in was a little slow, but they spoke English well and were very courteous. The room was wonderful as you can see from the pictures. Understated, but just a good as some other properties.
I think I got upgraded to a "Harbor View" room. That is a bit of an overstatement, since it's really just the salt marsh and the fields around Zuhai on the mainland (odd to think I was literally a stones throw from China). The cheaper "City View" room was likely the reclaimed land and Mega-resort construction. In other words, do not expect a view here.
While I did not go, I heard from multiple places that the Spa at the Grand Waldo is must visit. From what I can tell it is more of an Asian style Spa/bathhouse. For about US$25 you get to soak and lounge all day. They serve free food and drinks, and you can buy massages, manicures, etc. I am unsure if the massages offered there include "special services" as the other massage parlors in Macau, more on that tact later.
The casino proper is as sleepy as the area around it. It is only about half full of things, and less so of people. About 40% was slots and 10% table games. What about the other 50%? It was a roped off Poker competition area and blank space. They did have one craps table that provided the bulk of my luck for the trip. As you can tell though, the place is promoting itself as a poker focused casino.
The actual poker room I think is a converted VIP room. It's all nicely run with a dedicated bar/snack bar. Dealers are professional, and the staff was great. It's all Texas Hold-em however. Apparently the licensing is done by game, not by concept. The games going were (converting and approximating) US$1-2, 3-6, 7-13, and 15-30. They also have tournaments during the day.
As already mentioned in the news, the room has some tie-in with the Pokerstars website. I was not bothered enough to find out the details of that. They were promoting an upcoming visit by some famous player that I forget (At the risk of sounding arrogant, I play the game not follow the "sport".). One of the players had some sort of Pokerstars coin/medallion that I guess means something. Something I should research on a later trip.
Additionally, there is poker at the Grand Lisboa. Judging from all the foreign help they have running that room, I think they have big plans for the game as well on that property. That room is not as nice (really just a roped of area), however there was some construction going on around it, so perhaps they plan to open something more dedicated later.
Early in my trip I was dinning with a good friend down there, and he got a call. Apparently somebody had tickets to the new Cirque de Soilei show at the Venetian, "Zaia", to give away. We leaped at the tickets. It was my first Cirque show actually, and impressive from that standpoint. My friend however said it seemed to be more of compilation of all the Vegas shows rather than something themed or specific. Given the lack of an identifiable story line I believed him. Despite that detail, an amazing show and the highlight of my trip.
Speaking of entertainment, I guess I should mention what some of you may be interested in, gentlemen's entertainment. First, the south west corner of the Venetian has been named by some of the staff there as "Hooker Island". As I had to pass by that area multiple times to get to my room, and assure you the name fits. The more interesting place however was at the Grand Waldo again.
Generally speaking, such entertainment in Asia is done a differently than the US. Also you have to keep in mind Macau competes with places a short and cheap plane ride away. Therefore, the Papaya Topless Bar at the Waldo is both novel, and yet expected. Prices for ladies drinks and private dances are reasonable. They also have an all you can drink happy hour early in the evening. If you have sharp eyes outside the bar you may able to get a smile from the shuttle bus the bar offers that, likely inadvertently, gives a phone number with the notice "Free Pick-ups".
My table time on this trip was more profitable, and without nasty surprises. Craps was very generous to me. The poker was not. On my last trip I found multiple fish at the tables. This time I was the fish. Regardless, I ended up on the trip. And while not luck related, but I must say the Grand Lisboa has some of the cutest dealers and croupiers in the SAR.
That pretty much covers everything. If you have any questions please ask, or email them so Hunter can forward them along. Stay tune for another report next month. Then I will also have some pictures and thoughts about the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore as well as the new Ponte 16 in Macau. If anybody is in the area in mid-September, I would not mind sharing a drink and comparing notes.