China Travel Hotels: The Venetian Macau

Culture | by Stephan Larose
Posted: May 19th, 2009 | Updated: April 19th, 2011 | Comments
Venetian Macau Stephan Larose hits the Venetian Macau to learn how the world's largest casino resort keeps winning even as the global economy goes bust. Stephan spent a weekend at the Venetian, talking to staff and guests, gorging on Fatburgers and checking out the expansive resort and its environs. Skip to the bottom of the piece for photo posts of the hotel's rooms, dining outlets, facilities and more. A Gilded Entrance Once used by Venetian ship captains to navigate their way to the riches of the East, the Venetian Macau Resort Hotel's resplendent lobby isn't so much about navigation, but about arrival. Once through the threshold, an entryway colonnade whose vaulted ceilings are crowded with reproductions of Renaissance art, I'm conducted directly to the hotel's heart—its casino floors. At 550,000 square feet, the casino is the world's biggest, four times the size of its sister casino, the Venetian Las Vegas. The Casino The Party in Beijing bet that they could turn Macau into the new gaming center of the Universe (or gambling center if you prefer, though the industry would prefer if you didn't). So far, they appear to have bet on a winner. Macau is the only place where China's 1.3 billion historically gambling-crazed people can go splash their cash on a chance to win big without actually leaving sovereign PRC territory. Another 2 billion are within a five-hour flight. Thanks to this, the casino floors are filled with people, and it's not exactly peak season. While the global economic casino collapses like a house of cards. the Venetian casino is dealing aces. However, the casino occupies a surprisingly small share of the hotel's space. The Venetian Hotel is a sprawling structure so large that even after a one-hour tour with the Venetian's Public Relations head, Sonia Lei, I've barely scratched the surface. The Venetian is more than just the world's biggest casino, it's a mega-mall, a foodie heaven, a luxury spa, and it even has an abundance of facilities for the kids.
Family Entertainment If you're lucky, you might catch an event in the hotel's 15,000-seat stadium (might Manny Pacquaio, who pummeled Ricky Hatton at the Sands on May 2, score some knock-outs here in the future?). Over in the CotaiArena stage, performances by big-name acts like John Legend, Avril Lavigne and The Police are putting Macau on the concert circuit map. The Venetian has gone to great lengths to cater to families. For starters, the hotel has a rooftop 18-hole mini golf course. If playing around dusk, it's a great place to catch spectacular views of the sunset. Children can climb rope netting, scurry through networks of tunnels, jump into ball pools and test their balance walking across padded beams (don't worry, they're encased in netting too, just in case…) or play a number of multiplayer video games in the Qube, a sort of designer playground that looks like a cross between a level in Crash Bandicoot and the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
The Venetian's palm and statue-studded pool is another area families can enjoy. More often than not, kids rule the place like a sort of aquatic Neverland while adults retreat to their cordoned-off area to enjoy cocktails and some reprieve from youthful hyperactivity. In the Manchester United Experience shop, a sort of interactive museum doubling as a souvenir shop, football fans test their skills against an assortment of simulators. You can practice taking shots at a bull's-eye, try to stop Wayne Rooney from scoring on the goalkeeping wall, and test your dribbling and passing skills.
If you've called a little too much attention to yourself by accidentally body-slamming yourself into one of the simulations, there’s a video wall you can slink off to where you can lick your wounds and wait for the embarrassment to pass.
Cirque du Soleil does a show here too. As with all Cirque du Soleil performances, the vibrant colors and jaw-dropping acrobatics of Zaia are more than enough to captivate spectators of all ages. Beyond the Venetian If, after all of this, the kids still want more, Macau's tiny size ensures that all other options are within easy reach of the hotel. The Fisherman's Wharf features a man-made volcano which doubles as a learning center, an "Aladdin's Fort," featuring bumper cars and Arabian-themed amusement park rides, as well as a huge underground video arcade with all the latest games. For those looking for something a little more adrenal, the War Games Arena has target practice and paintball—a good place, perhaps, to let older kids run themselves out of steam. You might notice that the "arena" (shown on the right) bears an uncanny resemblance to Iraq. Though staging live Hong Kong Disneyland. No guns there and everything's cute and cuddly. A little closer to the hotel, Coloane Island's Hac Sa beach has long stretches of sand, playground areas, a basketball court, a BBQ area, and if you fancy a little hike, trails leading from the beach up the mountain (just a big hill really) to a waterfall and eventually to the summit where a statue of A-ma, goddess of mercy, stands watch over Macau. It's easily the best place for views of the Cotai strip and Macau. Treating Yourself Right
Of course, parents need pampering too, so after a full day spent running around for the kids, the V spa is the place to go for massages, hairdressing and other treatments. The V spa will soon transition into the far more expansive Malo Clinic SPA, an integrative wellness center that aims to be Asia's premier medical tourism destination. The Malo's prerogative will be "holistic healthcare" with an emphasis on life-long wellness, preventative medicine and holistic health management, which means that they'll do far more than just seaweed wraps and pedicures. They'll do everything from breast implants, to dental work to facials. Once freshened up, it might be time to head to the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes to take advantage of Macau's fixed exchange rate. Pegged at 3% under the HK dollar, visitors automatically save 3% at any one of the 330 boutiques housed in the commercial plaza. Coming from the mainland with its stronger Yuan that discount approaches 10%, which means shoppers in the Venetian get some of the best value on name brand items in China. Dads wanting to catch the latest developments in the sports world are advised to hit either World Wide Wings or McSorleys. If you're looking for a good pint of Guiness, Guiness pie, or one of 16 other brews poured to enjoy before sports on flatscreen TVs, McSorleys is the place for you.
Eating and Drinking The Venetian also houses a wealth of culinary options. There's fine dining galore. Fogo Samba's is a Brazilian-style buffet with a great salad bar. Vegetarians take note, the salad bar is a menu item in of itself; order that alone and you're set.
But you don't need to hit the jackpot to pay the restaurant bill. The Venetian's affordable 1,000-seat food court has everything from smoothies to Japanese. You'll also find a Fatburger franchise there, word of caution: it's crazy addictive. Of course, with the largest casino in the world at your fingertips, the urge to at least try on of the thousands of games on the casino floor will be pretty hard to resist. To earn a few high-fives from the Chinese, play Baccarat, 007's game of choice in the Dr. No, Thunderball and Goldeneye films. Once you've won big, you can buy your new friends a round of martinis (or my favorite, Manhattans) in the Bellini lounge. Bellini's resident, DJ Kill, Shanghai's erstwhile "King of Krunk," alternates with various live musical acts. Their eclectic musical selections are fittingly analogous to the eclectic Venetian. If you sit down to watch the masses, you're sure to see an extremely diverse crowd here to take advantage of a truly multifaceted hotel.
How to Get There
The Macau International Airport (MFM) is served by daily flights between major regional destinations; see the Ctrip Hong Kong (Hong Kong flight arrival schedule); passengers coming from Hong Kong arrive at the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal. The most direct water service is the round-the-clock CotaiJet service, which links to a complementary Venetian shuttle bus which requires only five minutes' travel time to bring you to the Venetian. From 7am, there are half-hourly departures from the Hong Kong-Macao ferry terminal in Sheung Wan and hourly departures after 7pm. The CotaiJet arrives in Macau at the Taipa Ferry Terminal where the shuttle bus awaits. If you are traveling to Macao from Shenzhen, take a ferry from the Fu Yong Terminal near Shenzhen's Bao'an International Airport (SZX) (Shenzhen flight arrival schedule).
Venetian Macau More on the Venetian Macau: In photos: The Venetian Macau - the hotel In photos: The Venetian Macau - dining outlets In photos: The Venetian Macau - the activities In photos: The Venetian Macau - the suites In photos: The Venetian Macau - around Macau, the Fisherman's Wharf
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