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Weekend Getaway on the Cotai, Macau

An hour’s ferry ride from Hong Kong is the ex-Portuguese colony of Macau.  Although small in area, it is now home to the some of the largest casinos in the world.  Having lived in Hong Kong for six years, I have watched the exponential development in the growth of Macau.  When I first visited, the Venetian had just been finished and the Cotai Strip was (and still is to an extent) a huge building site.

Macau Development

Visitors to Macau now have a huge amount of choice on where to stay whether it’s in a traditional Portuguese Pousada in the Old Town or in a glittering new hotel on the Cotai strip.  If you live in Hong Kong, the easy one hour ferry is a great alternative to catching a plane overseas.  If you’re looking for Vegas, manage your expectations.  Macau doesn’t quite reach the fun glitz & glamour of its Nevada counterpart.  The majority of Macau’s clientele are there to gamble.  Hard.  And with Macau’s gambling revenue at five times that of Las Vegas, there’s no real reason why they need to up their game.

Getting to Macau

Unless you’re splashing the cash and hopping on the helicopter, the best way to get to Macau is by ferry.  There are frequent ferry services on the TurboJET (HKG/Kowloon/HIA – Macau).  However, if you’re staying on the Cotai strip, take the Cotai Water Jet which is only a 10 minute bus ride to the hotels.

If you are travelling with kids, its best to be organised and reserve your outbound ferry tickets in advance.  If you have a return ticket, you can use this to catch an earlier ferry although you might be stuck in a standby queue if it’s busy.  We avoided the standby queue by not having a ticket in advance and just purchasing from the ticket office as we got to the ferry terminal (no queue!).

Immigration

You will need your passports and ID cards to get into Macau.  They also appear to have done away with the Arrival cards which makes for a speedier immigration process.  However, I would advise you to rush off the ferry on both sides to be first in line.

Where to stay

If you want to stay on the strip, you have your pick of hotel choices from European opulence at the Venetian, poolside fun at the Hard Rock to a wave machine and beach at the Galaxy.  We stayed at the largest hotel in Macau, the Sheraton with its 3,896 rooms!  The largesse of the hotel compounded by the noise of the casino can make your arrival at reception intimidating.  Luckily a member of staff spotted me with my kids in tow and sent us up to the Club floor to check in (despite not having a club room) which was very considerate.

If you are bringing the kids, their Family Suite includes a children’s theme room with bunk beds.  As we had the mother accompanying us, we opted for two interconnecting Deluxe Rooms (the cheapest available).  Rooms are clean, spacious with a huge bathroom.  I had also requested a travel cot in advance which was waiting for us in the room.
Sheraton Family Suite

Facilities

We were blessed with glorious weather and spent the entire weekend by the pool.  The Sheraton has two main pool areas; the more family friendly ‘Sala’ which is made up of numerous small pools with shallow ledges perfect for toddlers and ‘Jaya’ which has more of an adult vibe with a DJ, pool bar and cabanas.  The Sala pool also has 8 Dreamworks themed cabanas e.g. Shrek with couches, fans and tables – the perfect respite from the midday heat.
Sheraton Family Pool 2Sheraton Family Pool 1

I didn’t visit the gym (just popped in there to help myself to bottled water & fruit!) but it looked vast with a multitude of fancy looking equipment.

Kids Club

There’s no official ‘Kids Club’ but the Sheraton does run a programme of kids activities that you can sign up for (some at extra cost).  They held a family movie by the pool on Saturday night with beanbags, popcorn and even a visit from a real life Shrek!

Shrek at the Sheraton

Sheraton Family Movie Night

If the kids need something more active, you can walk through the connecting underground mall to the Venetian’s Qube where a 9,000 square foot children’s playground awaits.  There’s also Kid’s City within the City of Dreams complex.

Dining

Unfortunately I found the food at the Sheraton to be below par.  Despite offering a Kids Menu as part of Room Service, this menu doesn’t seem to exist down by the pool and there were limited options on the main menu.  Additionally the food quality at the poolside BBQ and dinner buffet at Feast was average.  Book a table instead at Wave, the Hard Rock’s poolside BBQ which is only a 10 minute walk from the Sheraton.  Here delicious meats combined with good music make for a great afternoon.

If you’re looking for Macanese food (an incredible blend of African, Portuguese and Chinese cooking) get yourself down to the famous Fernandos or Litoral in the old city.

Shows

The Sheraton Macau is part of the Sands group which has a tie in to Dreamworks – think Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.  There’s a daily parade at 4pm within the Shoppes at Cotai Central and also various Meet & Greet opportunities.

If the kids have a short attention span, take them to the ten minute Dragon’s Treasure show within the City of Dreams complex.  Older kids will enjoy the over the top production, the House of Dancing Water.

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