Like how all great stories begin, the tale behind the Cotai Strip, Macau's famous gambling central comes, with somewhat of a whimsical anecdote. "I saw it in a dream," said tycoon and chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Sands China Ltd Sheldon G Alderson.
And while his dream of creating an Asian Las Vegas might not be quite as noble as a certain Dr. Luther King's, it was no less ambitious. But a mere six years and billions of dollars later, the former muddy swamplands of Macau has been transformed to a dazzling centre of massive casinos and enticing hotels, whispering promises of great wealth and endless luxury. Alderson's dream has indeed, taken off in a way no one could have imagined.
Sheraton Macao Hotel, Contai Central
His newest, the Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central, is the latest to join the integrated resort of Cotai Strip (after Conrad and Holiday Inn), opening just last week in an appropriately flashy grand opening display of fireworks, cultural performances and an appearance by Chinese celebrity Zhang Ziyi. It might have been a little overwrought and dramatic, but if there's anything that warrants the theatrics, it's the opening of the world's largest Sheraton hotel; Sheraton Macao's room count stands at a jaw-dropping 3,896 rooms over two sleek towers, the second of which, the Sheraton Earth Tower will open early next year.
As with all other casino-themed hotels, Sheraton Macao is not spared from the di rigeur ostentatious furnishings and occasionally gaudy decor. But it's a world of difference the moment you step out of the gold-plated and mirrored lifts and past the corridors (in a surprisingly muted shade of dove grey) into the rooms. The deluxe room we were put up at is done up in tasteful earth tones with splashes of warm reds, and furnished most comfortably with all the necessities (42-inch flat-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities and iPod docking station) you could ask for for a lovely stay. Kudos to the exceedingly comfortable bed, Sheraton's signature Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, which is a dream to lie on. Just the thing you need after a hard day at the tables.
Dining at Sheraton Macao
Sheraton Macao's five restaurants/bars run the gamut from serving trattoria-style cuisine (Bene) and international buffet spreads (the family-friendly Feast), to cocktails (the lush, Pacific-themed Palms). While quality standards across the various establishments were all surprisingly consistent (Bene, in particular, serves a mean spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli that's pleasingly savoury yet light on the palate) despite being newly opened, it's the Asian-themed seafood and hotpot restaurant Xin that had our resounding approval. Round up the folks and sit down for the signature hotpot buffet -- the variety on offer is generous, and goes most marvelously with the delicious soup bases. We especially adored the laksa and Vietnamese prawn ones.
Other Facilities and Amenities
Despite all appearances, Sheraton Macao's key selling proposition is its 160,000 square feet of meeting space and team of professionals, dedicated to positioning the hotel as a leading MICE destination in Asia. At the heart of the 160,000 square feet of meeting space is Sheraton's pride and joy, the pillar-less Kashgar Grand Ballroom, which can accomodate over 5,000 guests, theatre-style. But of course, a hotel of Sheraton Macao's stature and size would be accordingly furnished with all the necessary facilities to keep business and leisure travelers happy.
A humongous Shine Spa (also the largest of its kind in Asia Pacific) spans 15 treatment rooms and offers an array of Eastern and Western-influenced treatments. The well-equipped Sheraton Fitness gym comes complimentary to all hotel guests, and is accessible 24 hours in case you're hit with a sudden attack of guilt from one too many holiday mojitos. If you're a sun worshipper, the hotel's three beautiful outdoor pools complete with private cabanas and day beds are just the places to be to work on your tan.
Upgrade your room to a Club Room and you enjoy access to the luxurious Club Lounge, with access to full buffet breakfasts, all-day snacks, drinks and afternoon hors d’oeuvres. It's a much-welcomed sanctuary away from the otherwise-bustling hotel grounds.
Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central, Cotai Strip, Taipa, Macau SAR, +853 2880 2000, www.sheraton.com/macao