It’s easy to get lost in the dizzying lights of Macau’s nightlife but there’s no other way to experience this vibrant island off China’s coast. It’s like Batman’s Gotham City, with its lit-up skyscrapers, architecture (one building even looks like a super villain lair) and long bridges connecting the different islands. And the casinos, psychedelically red and pink, fittingly give this place its popular name, Asia’s Las Vegas.
But we’re here for the opening of Macau’s Sheraton Hotel, the largest Sheraton property in the world. In the heart of Macau’s Cotai Sands Strip and just opposite The Venetian are the two Sheraton towers, Sky and Earth, which together have almost 4,000 rooms and suites with the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, LCD TVs, refreshment centre, Wi-Fi and other facilities.
It takes us about an hour-and-a-half to just look at the main features of the hotel. The Kashgar Grand Ballroom is our first stop, pillar-less and spacious, along with six junior ballrooms that offer about 1,60,000 sq. ft of meeting space.
The dining has Asian, Italian and all-day options. Weather it’s authentic ‘mama’ style Italian food at Bene, or Asian seafood at Xin or even a mix of all cuisines at Feast, there’s something for everyone. We go on a tasting spree at all three restaurants. While the Italian and Chinese menu is mostly non-vegetarian (after much egging, we do get a vegetarian lasagne), the Indian food and desserts section (a room full of sinful cupcakes, fountains, chocolates, cakes and more) are right up our lane.
We tour the suites in the Sky Tower next, which has Executive, Deluxe, Family, Ambassador and Presidential options, each with its own 24-hour butler service, media centre and other facilities like spa and access to the Club Lounge. The suites have elegant interiors, two bedrooms, a living area, dining area and spacious bathrooms. The Presidential Suite even comes with its own massage room. An additional 2,067 rooms is planned for the Earth Tower next year.
Next comes a short visit to the spa and fitness centre, with the aerobics rooms and gym complimentary for hotel guests. Sheraton Fitness, along with Core Performance, offers training programmes and fitness instructors to guide guests. Sheraton has three outdoor pools, with private cabanas, poolside cafes, lounge and other options. We spend one evening dancing by Jaya Pool, cocktails in hand, bidding our first day at Sheraton a hearty farewell. The second night, we’re back by the poolside again, lounging on the deck of Sala pool, munching on appetisers, and lazily indulging in light chatter. The fact that both pools are on the fourth floor lends a certain calm, with absolutely no noise and a mild breeze that makes the ambience light and comfortable.
The hotel is so large that it’s often like a maze, turning around corners, walking through endless corridors and trying to reach your room. The interiors are bold, glitzy and make a statement. The Himalaya Casino opens to a full house, with twinkling lights, busy baccarat tables, rattles of slot machines and peoples’ whoops and sighs.
Apart from this, the Palms Lounge is a laidback cocktail bar between tall palm trees near the reception. The Paradise Garden is a five-minute walk away, in a large clearing between Holiday Inn and Sheraton. They’re all integrated hotels here, Sheraton, Conrad and Holiday Inn, a part of Cotai Sands Central (part of Las Vegas Sands Corporation).
Macau is now the world’s biggest earner in gambling revenues. And in the midst of what seems primarily a gambling destination, Sheraton hopes to cater to a wider kind of crowd — families, corporate guests and tourists. Then again, one can always just be fascinated by the city, its colours and Portuguese heritage. What Macau is, is probably best described by the name of a hotel that I can see from my room window, ‘City of Dreams’.
(The writer was at the resort on invitation)