While riding the Cotai Ferry, which runs from Hong Kong to the Taipa area of Macau, I was bombarded with the luxury of Macau. The television screens offered advertisements about what to do in Macau. The first offered a glimpse of what it is like to be David Beckham at the Venetian in Macau. Tuxedos, cocktails, sexy lighting, Carnevale style parties. In the end, he kicks a soccer ball clear across the hotel while flashing his trademark style. It’s all glitz and glamor. I suddenly started to think about our arrival at Galaxy Macau, and how we would fit in.
Even the Cotai Ferry has an economy class and a first class seating area. The upper levels allow for priority exit from the ferry. I think they serve a snack. We were happy in the economy section. It’s only a 70 minute ride. Instead of organizing a private Mercedes to pick us up and whisk us off to the Galaxy Macau, we took the complimentary shuttle bus. We may be luxury travel bloggers, but we are still travel bloggers. I wondered how our travel blogger status would fit into the luxury experience we were about to have.
Arriving at the Galaxy Macau
The shuttle bus pulled up outside the JW Marriott at the Galaxy Macau. We’ve stayed at other JW Marriott properties, but this one in Macau is one of the biggest in Asia, and one of the newest. And, it represents the luxury of Macau. I suddenly felt underdressed, even though I dressed up a bit for the arrival. I knew as soon as I walked into the massive lobby, with a stunningly wide staircase as its centerpiece, that my jeans and Birkenstocks wouldn’t cut it in Macau.
I would be shelving the Birks for the rest of the stay. I was ready for the transition. But, remembering the images of Beckham in his tux, celebrating the glitz and glam of Macau, I remembered also that Eric doesn’t even own a tux. How is he going to fit in with the Beckham like celebrities and high rollers? At least I have my trusty Louis Vuitton. We were as ready as we would ever be to experience the luxury of Macau.
Macau Versus Las Vegas
I couldn’t help but think about the comparison between Macau and Las Vegas. When you walk into any hotel in Las Vegas, you can almost always hear the clinking of the slot machines. Scantily clad cocktail waitressed parade by encouraging consumption. It is a party atmosphere.
The whole “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” just doesn’t seem to apply in Macau. Yes, there is gambling. But, I am not sure it is the biggest draw to Macau. Until I watched the infomercials on the ferry, I totally forgot about gambling in Macau. It was never my favorite part of visiting Las Vegas anyway.
I expected that the Galaxy Macau would be very Vegas-esque. That to experience the Portuguese side of Macau, we would take a trip into the old part of the city, or into nearby Taipa. Otherwise, it would be glitz and glamour. Fine dining. Perhaps wandering the shopping arcades, peering in the windows of Chanel and Tiffany. The Galaxy Macau was anything but the Las Vegas scene. And, I was thankful for it.
JW Marriott at the Galaxy Macau
The Galaxy Macau is an enormous complex in Taipa, across the bridge from the center part of Hong Kong. It’s only minutes by the free shuttles from the Cotai Ferry, which runs directly into Taipa. Each of the buildings in the complex looks identical to the other, gold and shiny.
Inside the complex are a series of hotels, a gambling complex, a theater, dining, and of course shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. The JW Marriott Macau was one of these hotels. It is attached to the Ritz-Carlton and shares a pool complex with some of the nearby hotels. The complex itself is unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Our room was huge. I could have held a yoga class in there. We had a gorgeous view over the pool complex, and could see downtown Macau in the distance.
The service was what I would expect from a JW Marriott. We dined at Man Ho, their luxury Cantonese restaurant. We tested out their tea sommelier. We spent time working in the executive lounge. Even without a view over the city like most of the executive lounges in Asia, it was elegant. The lounge felt more like an executive dining room than a typical hotel lounge.
Breakfast involved made to order eggs and some of the most amazingly crisp hash browns on this side of the world. Happy hours involved champagne and fresh cooked Chinese dishes. Sipping on champagne in the lounge, perhaps I felt a little more like Beckham.
Ritz-Carlton at the Galaxy Macau
I was not entirely convinced that we were receiving the same experience as promised on the ferry infomercial. There were no parades welcoming us when we walked in the door of the Galaxy Macau, like the Venetian ad promised.
But, our experience became slightly more Beckham-esque when we stepped through the double doors of the JW Marriott, and entered the glam of the brand new Ritz-Carlton Macau. Although we didn’t stay at the Ritz-Carlton, we had a few dining and drinking experiences there. Each of which was memorable in its own way.
But, what was truly memorable was the design of the hotel. The mix of Chinese and Portuguese elements. The marble hallway that stretched as far as the eye could see. The brightly colored floral arrangements that adorned the hallway. I don’t even want to know what the flower budget is for the Ritz-Carlton Macau.
Okay, maybe I do want to know.
The luxury extended to the restaurants as well. The attention to detail in the design of their Cantonese restaurant Lai Heen. The table side Crepes Suzette service at their French inspired Ritz Cafe.
Before dinner one night, we sat at the Ritz-Carlton Bar on the 51st floor, peering through an enormous circular window with a view over the city. We indulged on a few gin and tonics. Bar Manager Teresa wheeled over a gin and tonic cart. Now, we had a luxury gin and tonic experience at the Four Seasons in Lisbon, but the gin and tonic cart took things to a new level. We explained to Teresa what we liked, and what we were in the mood for, and she created the perfect cocktail experience for us, with luxury gins, specialty tonics, and botanicals to match. I felt pampered indeed.
The Verdict on the Galaxy Macau
In the end, we never stepped foot onto a gaming floor. While walking through the shopping arcade, we could peer inside and see some slot machines. The entrance beckoned us to enter and gamble. We did not.
The entire experience at Galaxy Macau was so unlike Vegas that it honestly shocked me. I appreciated it for what it is. It’s a retreat from Hong Kong. A place to be pampered with tax free shopping, spa treatments, and luxury dining. The pool complex is a destination in and of itself during the summer months. Sure, it’s probably possible to host a bachelor party Vegas style in Macau. But, it’s just not the focus. It’s a pampered retreat.
Even if the infomercial perhaps oversold the Beckham glitz and glam of Macau, it’s certainly a luxury destination.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.