The Westin Macau is tucked away on the side of a quite hill facing the South China Sea. Twenty minutes from the hustle and bustle of the Cotai Strip (the Las Vegas of China) the Westin feels a bit, quite and tired. I chose to stay there for 3 reasons: 1) it’s the only SPG property in Macau currently open, 2) it was my last few days to earn triple points in SPGs Nice Choice Promo and 3) I got a pretty good rate by booking early (~$140 USD/night). I actually looked last week to see if I could get a Starpick rate or a better deal and rooms were actually going for upwards of $300 USD/night.
From Hong Kong, there are two ways to get to Macau. Ferry or Helicopter. For those who aren’t high-rollers, I suggest taking the ferry. A ticket is very inexpensive. Premier class (which includes free checked bag, beverages on-board, a meal and first on/first off boarding) round trip costs about $80 USD (depending on time and season.) Coach tickets cost around $44 round trip. The ferry ride is about 1 hour from Hong Kong Island’s Shun Tak Center. The ferry also goes between Kowloon and Macau.
For a long weekend, Macau is an easy get-away – if you like what Macau has to offer. (More on that in my upcoming trip report)
Arrival and Hotel Shuttle
Once you arrive in Macau, you can breeze through customs (at least I did) because about 90% of the people were in the Hong
Kong/China passports lines or using the express lanes. After customs you can exit and cross under the street – yes, I said under the street – to find the hotel bus depot. There you will see tons of signs and staff from all of the hotels except the Westin. Even though there is no signage or staff, the Westin does in fact have a shuttle – it’s just not easy to find. After walking back and forth in 97 degree heat I started asking other hotel staff where the Westin bus was. One person told me all the way to the right. I walked all the way to the right and then asked another person where the Westin bus was. He said all the way to the left. I doubled back and still, no sign. I started walking back again and asked another person who finally told me just to wait around the general area because the Westin has no assigned parking space and will just park where ever it can. He said the Westin staff person would be there around 5 minutes before the bus arrived. He was right. For anyone going to the Westin Macau, when you come up the escalators to the bus center turn right and walk about 1/2 way down (you’ll see the signs for the Sands/Conrad/Sheraton) just wait around there until you see either a Westin staff person wandering around or until the Westin bus pulls up. It’s a white bus with the Westin logo on the front. The bus only comes to the ferry terminal every 30 minutes and it doesn’t wait around – so board quickly.
Once you’re finally onboard the bus to the Westin it’s about a 25 – 30 minute ride to the hotel. There is a ton of construction and several 2-lane roads that have been cut down to a single lane of alternating traffic, so travel times can vary. The hotel bell staff was very helpful with my bags once I arrived. They took my bag off the bus and brought them inside for me.
Check-in was easy. I asked about an upgrade and was told that no suites were free (the hotel was at full capacity this weekend) but I was upgraded to an Ocean View Room. As a Platinum member of SPG program, I was told breakfast & internet were free and that I could choose between the 500 points or local gift as my amenity. I went with points. Breakfast, I was told, ran from 10:30 – 11:30 on Saturday, 7:30 – 11:30 on Sunday and 7:30 – 10:30 on Monday. I couldn’t quite figure out the Saturday breakfast (maybe it was that I could barely understand the woman who checked me in, maybe it was all the special events occurring that weekend, who knows…but I figured I’d sleep in anyway and just have lunch.)
I headed to my room on the 8th floor – the top floor for guest rooms – and down a long hall. The hallway was incredibly hot – I don’t think they have air in the halls. I made it to 808 and noticed that the door and walls around the room were pretty scuffed up and in need of some paint. The hotel is obviously old, and the rooms are starting to show that age. The carpets are stained and snagged. The furniture looked like it had been in the room for the past 20 years and was in need of some updating.
I did like the TV cabinet – which also housed the mini bar – because it was a traditional Asian style cabinet. When I opened it up, I almost fell over at the sight of the TV. It held an old-school TV! I had to laugh – I haven’t seen a TV that old in, well, I can’t remember the last time I have seen a TV like that. The room was a good size and had a nice large patio that looked over the pool and supposedly the South China Sea. It was so smoggy that most days I could barely see the pool let alone the sea. Clearly the fact that it was smoggy is not the hotels fault – it’s China’s fault for not doing more to protect the environment.
The room had a working desk with 1 plug – yes, just one – and in fact, other than 1 plug in the bathroom, it was the only plug in the room (Unless there was another one hidden behind the bed or TV cabinet. I did move the bedside tables and there were no plugs. All of the lights, phone, internet modem, etc…had cords that fed through the wall and must have been plugged in somewhere behind the scenes.) There was an electronic control panel next to the bed that turned on and off all the lights, activated the do not disturb sign, controlled the AC and TV. Pretty nifty.
The bathroom looked nice at first glance. I’m guessing it was re-done at some point in time because it was modern and bright where the room was drab. There was a very large tub, a shower, sink with large vanity area and toilet. There was no bathmat or any type of towel for the floor, so I used a bath towel so that I didn’t slip on the marble. There was no shampoo, conditioner or hand lotion, but there was a shower cap, vanity kit and two toothbrushes.
Nothing really bothered me until I looked up-close at the shower. It looked like no one had cleaned the bottom quarter of the glass door or walls in years – maybe ever. The amount of soap scum and build up on the door was gross. I tried to take pictures and they don’t do it justice. Inside the shower there was mildew around the edges. While I’m sure housekeeping did some type of perfunctory cleaning in the shower, the lack of attention to the detail made me question how clean other things really were. I’m sure they do clean, but do they do a deep cleaning, ever? Based on the shower, I’d say no.
The hotel boasts Westin Heavenly Beds – and while I’m sure at one point in time the bed was heavenly, it has since come down to earth. I usually sleep extremely well at Westin Hotels and typically love the bed and pillows. However, the bed here felt like it was starting to sink the middle and the pillows weren’t too comfy.
There are two restaurants in the hotel. Panorama, which serves a buffet for breakfast and dinner and Kwun Hoi Heen which serves dim sum at lunch and Cantonese fare for dinner. At one time, there must have been a Japanese restaurant at the hotel because some signage still exits, but the restaurant no longer does. I tried the hotel restaurant for lunch and enjoyed some dim sum. They don’t have a huge selection, but what I did try, I liked. I did make it to breakfast on Sunday and the buffet was small, but very good. A typical breakfast buffet not really worth commenting on.
One thing that is worth commenting on is that the Westin Macau serves Shark Fin Soup. Even the Chinese government has said they will not allow Shark Fin Soup to be served at official state banquets and events. But yet, the Westin Macau continues the practice. For those who don’t know, the practice of shark finning is inhumane. Sharks are caught and the fins removed while the shark is alive. The shark is then tossed back into the ocean to drown. It’s an unsustainable practice – the shark population where live finning takes place has depleted by up to 90% and in my own opinion the practice of live finning is just wrong. Serving Shark Fin soup – not acceptable – especially by a hotel chain who touts its “greenness” with its Make the Green Choice Program, every email from Starwood employees has the “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail” tag, they’ve even gone so far as to create a green brand with Element by Westin. You can even see Starwood’s commitment to environment sustainablity on its website. This is why I’m so shocked and saddened that a Westin property, the Westin Macau, continues to serve Shark Fin Soup.
Update: The Westin Macau responds to Shark Fin concerns read update here.
The hotel has a few gift shops, but most were closed. If you wanted to buy, you just had to ask the front desk for assistance. The Chinese herbal shop was open on Sunday morning and busy.
The hotel spa was closed for renovations. The hotel also published a note and posted it in the hotel and in the rooms alerting guests that mosquito fumigation would take place between 5:30 and 6:30 pm and guests should stay away from the poolside, gardens, lawns, hotel entrance and tennis courts during that time. Nice to see a hotel doing something about mosquitoes.
The hotel is nice, but as I’ve said, getting old. It offers a complimentary shuttle to the Cotai Strip (the same that goes to the Ferry) and they recommend advanced booking for the “first come, first served shuttle.” On Saturday, I went to the service express desk around 10:45 hoping to catch the 11am shuttle. I was told by the staff at service express that the 11am shuttle was fully booked and there was a wait list. I asked about the 11:30 and was told it was also booked w/a wait list. The next shuttle with an open spot? The 1pm shuttle. I could either kill 2 hours in the hotel or take a taxi into town. I opted for the taxi which took 30 minutes to arrive and cost me $45 HKD. So in the end, it’s really not a first come, first served shuttle, it’s more of a… you really need to make reservations shuttle. But it is free and that’s very nice.
Having learned from Saturday afternoon, I made a reservation on Saturday night for a Sunday morning shuttle. I wanted to be at the MGM before noon for a spa appointment. I was advised that I should take the 10:30 shuttle – but oh, wait – it was booked. So I got on the 11am shuttle and just hoped I’d make it in time for the appointment. I took the Westin shuttle to the Macau ferry terminal and then switched to an MGM shuttle bus. I arrived at 11:50am. Perfect timing.
The hotel is isolated – which can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s not easy to get around due to the popularity of the free shuttle – you have to plan your day out and can’t be spontaneous. Even getting a taxi takes time. On the other hand, you’re away from the crazy and crowded Cotai Strip. The hotel is family oriented and hosts a lot of events – two weddings this weekend alone. Depending on the weather – and smog factor- you may or may not be able to enjoy the pool. The beach is nothing special in my opinion – not somewhere you’d actually lie out for some sun.
The hotel is old and showing its age. It seems they have started renovations on the amenities, like the spa, but no one could tell me of any plans to update the rooms – which really need it! I suspect the Westin will have to renovate if it plans to compete with the new Sheraton being built.
The staff is very friendly and helpful. Christian at service express was extremely kind and willing to help w/anything. He’s the type of employee you want a resort like the Westin. The majority of the staff is Filipino and speak decent English. The only exception I found were some of the restaurant servers. Communicating with them was challenging. The Chinese staff are much harder to understand and some of them speak almost no English.
If I ever return to Macau – and I doubt I would choose to come back (see upcoming trip report to learn why) – I would absolutely not stay at the Westin again for two reasons: 1) I will not knowingly return to a hotel that serves Shark Fin Soup and 2) the Sheraton Macau Cotai strip opens in September 2012. It will be a brand new SPG property close to all the other hotels (connected to the Conrad, Sands and Holiday Inn) and with much easier access to the casinos, shopping, restaurants, etc…
- The hotel staff is very friendly and welcoming
- The pool is nice – if you can get out and enjoy it
- The hotel is tucked away from the Cotai Strip
- The hotel is tucked away from the Cotai Strip
- The hotel is old and showing its age
- The shower was not as clean as it should have been – which made me doubt everything else
- Westin Macau Entry