This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of World Gaming magazine.
I have always found there to be something very special about the Grand Waldo. I’m an adventurous Dragon, and I like people who take a risk and try something new. That’s exactly what the owners of the Grand Waldo did when they opened their doors. Forevermore in the history of Macau, the Grand Waldo will always be famous for a very special reason: it was the first ever casino to open in Cotai, the area that represents the ‘new Macau’. Much like the magazine you hold in your hand now, the Grand Waldo is a business that took a pioneering attitude and opened ahead of the curve, in anticipation of the market growing into it over time.
Maybe it’s because I feel good when I walk in there, or maybe there is something special about the feng shui, but Grand Waldo has always been a happy hunting ground for me. We all have our ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ casinos, and I just seem to always win there! I’ve certainly taken much more money out of the place than I have ever left behind.
I like playing in a place where everyone knows my name. GW recently moved its casino games into what used to be part of the hotel, and now the floor feels luxurious and cozy. Over time, I’ve got to know GW’s General Manager, Mr Harold Tsakmaklis. Everybody just calls him ‘H’. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him at the Grand Waldo. I was on a hot streak like you wouldn’t believe.
Some bosses in this situation are grumpy and scowl at their players, but not H. He just had a broad grin on his face and was willing me on to win even more – now that’s the kind of casino boss I like to see!
I recently bumped into H at the GW coffee shop, and he was eager to tell me about their spa. The GW has always been famous for having one of the biggest and best spa facilities in Macau, and I told H this was old news. “No, you don’t understand Dragon, we just spent HK$90 million on a completely new spa. I’m really excited about it and what it’s got to offer. It’s definitely the best in Macau.”
Whenever somebody claims something is ‘the best’ I’m always skeptical. It’s true I was feeling tired, and a session in the spa could be just what the doctor ordered. “Ok H, I’ll try your spa out – let’s see if it’s really the best!” And so I embarked upon what can only be described as a journey of indulgent relaxation.
Upon entering the men’s locker room I noticed this was not a small facility! Being a numbers Dragon, I couldn’t help myself, I counted 278 locker s in all. Then I noticed a VIP locker room, this was something new! The locker room is huge which is good because The Dragon does not like to bump his tail into those around him! The surroundings are all luxurious, with classy stone surfaces, enormously high ceilings and a general 5 star feel.
The showers are enormous, almost double the normal size – and every style of showering option is available. As well as the more usual style, there are nine Japanese sit-down style stations, and even a full table shower in its own dedicated room!
After showering I safely depositing my iPhone in the small phone lockers by the pool, and sipped some healthy tea while deciding what to do next. I was spoilt for choice. There are six spa pools: an enormous warm pool that would literally fit a hundred people or more, a hot pool, a cold pool, and three backups to use during the cleaning of the main pools.
Then it was time for a steam. This is no ordinary steam room – the steam emanates from a cauldron full of hot rocks in the middle of the generously sized hexagonal room. Plenty of glass walls give it an open feeling. On top of the rocks are huge chunks of ginger wood creating a delightful fragrance and no doubt this is also good for the body.
Next on the agenda was the dry sauna. There is nothing worse than being in a cramped sauna full of men desperately trying not to graze each other’s legs. There is no chance of that happening here, this sauna is huge! Just like the steam room a good section of the wall is floor to ceiling glass with a view out over the spa pool and to the garden beyond.
I grabbed a banana and a cold towel from the fridge (hot towels are also available), and lounged around on one of five cane lounges overlooking the enormous pool to a large flat screen TV beyond.
For the masochists amongst you there’s even an ice-cold ‘cold room’ and two ice-cold waterfall showers. The perfect compromise has been created between smokers and non-smokers. A lovely smokers garden, with high walls and lots of greenery sits on the other side of an enormous glass wall. The smokers still feel part of the action, but their smoke doesn’t disturb the non-smokers.
The staff were there when I needed them, and even more importantly they weren’t there when I didn’t. I spent well over an hour in the wet areas before finally moving on. After changing into a comfortable robe it was time to catch the elevator up to the main lounge room, where the area is for both male and female customers. On the way I even noticed three hair stylist stations! The GW offers a full range of hair salon services.
Striking but tasteful blue lights decorate the walls throughout, and this blue walled theme is continued upstairs in the main lounge, with tasteful and modern décor.
Once finally inside the main lounge room I was immediately guided to the lounge chairs. The GW has a lucky 88 of these lounge chairs and the first thing you notice is they are enormous – they’re more like a bed! GW has cleverly divided the rows of chairs into different sections at different angles using low dividing walls. The result – even though the main lounge room is probably some 10,000 square feet, you feel in your own cosy little section. It’s incredibly private.
The chairs are amazingly comfortable, and each sports its own large flat screen TV. I decided to settle in and watch some TV with a coffee. It’s hard to get good coffee in Macau, but this delicacy of the West is starting to become more appreciated and the coffee at GW is perfectly serviceable. That’s more than I can say for most spas around town.
Everything at the GW Spa has a hint of healthy clean living about it. There is a food menu to select from, with mainly healthy options such as freshly squeezed juices.
Over the next few hours I indulged completely – a pedicure, a manicure, an hour long foot massage and my favourite, the ear clean. All of these were carried out with a quiet efficiency that afforded maximum relaxation.
I must confess I dozed off to sleep for some hours. It was wonderful to just take a break from life and when I awoke to have no idea what time it was!
I strolled over to the magazine rack and made a selection from a wide range of titles. Then it was time to check out the dining facilities. The spa has a dining room of about 5,000 sq ft with 22 generously spaced large dining tables, and a gorgeous view over Hengqian island.
There’s a bar with beer on tap and spirits available, and of course there’s plenty of food on the menu. The dining area is surrounded by large flat screen TVs and a set of four enormous round tables that could accommodate a dozen or more people. There is certainly no shortage of room at the GW Spa!
The next thing I noticed was the Japanese beauty area. Yes ladies, this spa has five specially equipped treatment rooms setup for specialist Japanese beauty therapies. A beauty products desk just outside these rooms has staff waiting to answer your every question about their range of products imported from our neighbours to the east. While this Dragon has no interest in having nail polish applied to his claws, I’m sure every type of nail treatment, facial and other ladies’ therapy or procedure is available.
In addition to the five ladies treatment rooms crammed full of expensive looking machinery, there are 36 massage rooms for those of us that enjoy a good stretch of the muscles. All in all there must be over 20,000 square feet of space on this level of the spa.
Massage time. For 90 minutes this Dragon’s muscles were mercilessly kneaded, poked and prodded and while there were moments of pain, the massage certainly passed the test. The sign of good massage is not how you feel during the massage, but how you feel afterwards. After this massage I felt as relaxed and limp as a rag doll, which is exactly the desired result. Of course there are various styles of massage on the menu, just pick whichever grabs your fancy.
GW Spa’s modest entry fee grants 12 hours access, and it was time to make the decision as to whether I was going to leave this happy place or roll through for another 12 hours. It was at this point that I learned of yet another offering at GW spa. It turns out that above the spa there are four floors of beautifully appointed resting facilities, more than 150 rooms in total. While the entire spa itself could not be described as anything other than a place to rest, sometimes you feel like enjoying the extra privacy and peace and quiet that only your own room can bring. These resting rooms, which include a bed and bathroom, are the next best thing to a hotel room and start from as little as MOP$450 overnight!
I really needed to catch up on some emails, but then I suddenly remembered the GW spa facility has superb high-speed internet, and they will supply their guests with a small laptop! This was all the excuse I needed to enjoy the facilities for just that little bit longer.
Naturally GW has all the usual shaving and hair care products one expects of any spa, and when I finally emerged back into the ‘real world’, I felt like a new Dragon. When it came time to settle the bill, I was astonished at the value. So is this the best family spa in Macau? If anyone knows of another place that’s better, this Dragon would certainly like to hear about it! The GW spa is one of life’s little luxuries and a big step above any spa I’ve come across in Macau of remotely comparable price.