It was our first visit to Macau (my 40th or 45th country depending on whom you ask and what they consider a country). Naturally, it was also our first stay in the Grand Hyatt Macau.
The drive up is impressive and the lobby even more so. It was decked out for Christmas featuring electric trees, in the signature Grand Hyatt ruby red. Within the lobby which shares space with a premium mall, there was a coffee shop, a patisserie, and a lounge or bar that featured a tyical scene in this part of the world: a bad band singing American hits and a handful of inebriated locals ordering bottle service. The hotel had a very high finish to it, and service was quite good from check-in.
The hotel is comprised of two towers that are mostly separate with the exception of a few floors where you can pass between both. I was hoping to be able to report back on the differences between the two towers but time was short and I did not have an opportunity to visit both. The building is distinct from the cab ride in and has a Vegas feel. The towers are opposite a new construction project that looks a year or two away from finsihing (the Wynn I believe) and the airport which has grown by leaps and bounds. A few years ago we couldn’t find a flight when we tried to get their from Bangkok, now the parking spaces were all taken and the airport was very busy.
There is also an above ground rail system currently being built. It looks a lot like the BTS in Bangkok, or a monorail as opposed to Chicago’s “L” train, but we won’t be able to have a good look until it’s finished. I prefer to have mass transit in a city we visit, because it can make the whole city more manageable, cost effective and faster to navigate.
Spa and Gym
The spa and the gym are on the 3rd floor with views over the pool. This is also the easiest floor to switch between towers. The gym (which I actually used for once) has a fairly impressive setup and an attendant available with towels, guidance for using the machines and bottles of water. It’s the kind of gym that I could imagine locals would pay to join as their regular gym if they lived in a condo nearby. The tall ceilings were about 20 ft tall, the machines were all new and there were plenty of free weights as well. I looked at those, but decided against embarassing myself enough to lift them.
The running machines (treadmills, elipticals, etc.) were all facing the pool and yet another new construction site nearby. The pool looked stunning, though we were in Macau for too short a visit to enjoy it. It is the kind of pool where you would sit there on a hot afternoon in a cabana and order a series of cocktails until you fall asleep, and then wake up hours later with a terrible sun burn and sign your tab to the room.
I set my pace to “aggravated walking” and tore off on the treadmill. There were massive LCDs mounted on the treadmills showing Bloomberg or whatever you wanted on their cable system. I opted for my headphones.
Our Diamond Suite Upgrade
Diamond Status in the Hyatt program is really very important to both the Sherpstress and myself. It’s harder for us to complete the required stays because often Hyatts are not located in places I have to go for business, they are in places we want to go on vacation. This makes it difficult to complete every single year (I would fly through Hilton’s requirements if I liked their program) but so much more worth it at the end. We never seem to be able to use our Diamond Suite upgrades, however, because they are viewed as so valuable to us. Each of the four Diamond Suite Upgrades (DIAX) are good to upgrade from any room to a first level suite for up to six consecutive nights, confirmed at the time of reservation. That’s 24 nights in suites per year for the price of a regular room.
Therefore, it’s really hard to justify spending one of these very valuable upgrades at a property where we won’t be there for the full six nights. It’s still harder for us to justify leaving them in our account to rot. In the past we have made speculative bookings for the future and applied them to those nights. From last year’s DIAX we had two left over, we put them both on speculative reservations, one of which came to fruition and one that did not. This year we decided to spend them on unique stays like Macau and we were glad we did.
Walking into the room on the 28th floor, was impressive and spacious from the start. To our right was a quasi-kitchenette with their deluxe in-room coffee option, a sink, a mini-fridge, and a pantry with some snacks available for purchase and plates with folded linens. Opposite that was a large meeting/dining table with seats for four. It was elevated and could have been a great work desk or dining table when ordering in with colleagues or family.
Continuing into the open plan living room space there was a large TV flat against the wall, a pair of great couches and small table (Sherpita size) with waiting fresh fruit. We chose the amenity this time and it was a bottle of wine, which was fine, but not as good as some other Hyatts where we would never consider the points. The Sherpita got to try some of the fruit we cut for her. Then she helped herself to whatever she could grab since the table was low enough and we occasionally turn our backs.
The staff at this hotel outside of the lobby was outstanding. Check in was fine, nothing great, nothing horrible, jus standard. Once we got upstairs however, everything got better. From the gym to the lounge and everything in between, the staff was world class. More than that, it was clear that the staff liked each other and worked well together. Jimmy Chan (who I will discuss shortly) mentioned this later. Many of his staff have been with him at this property or another for many years. That may be one of the reasons why they excel with each other and guest interaction. Though I am a Diamond member, and we do have some requirements, we try not to be too precious. Good staff like those at the Grand Hyatt Macau make a good experience standard and it lets us leave our princess attitudes behind.
Best Breakfast in Asia
Full service hotels in Asia just tend to be amazing. For those traveling to Europe frequently, you know the kind of mixed bag you can receive. Sometimes it’s just cold cuts on a table near the lobby, other times there is a premium coffee and white linen service.
In Asia the standards are higher. Hotel brands like Hyatt and SPG have elaborate breakfasts even in the lounge and cocktail hour in the evening. There is a full noodle station with 3-5 chefs at any point in time and tons of hot items as well as cold selections. If a full table of pastries, fresh made to order dumplings, or congee aren’t for you, there are still breakfast menu items (limited to two or three) usually with one Asian and one western option. You can get a custom omlette, bacon and sausage off the hot buffet, doughnuts, croissants, and fresh squeezed juice with all of the regular favorites (orange, apple) and a new twist: watermelon.
It’s not just for the completeness of the offering that this is the best breakfast in Asia, it’s the service and setting too. Situated high up, there are great views 180 degrees around, and even accomodation for well behaved babies.
We were there on Christmas morning and the food and beverage manager came by with a little gift for the Sherpita. It was a tiny toy Santa Claus, a thoughtful and unnecessary gesture, that made us feel like bringing a baby to the lounge was not only ok, but they had planned for it.
If I did not have access to this lounge for breakfast because I was not a Diamond member, I would pay at least a $25/day surcharge (if there’s two of us $50 seems fair) for a club room to guarantee access. It was worth it and far exceeded many $50 brunches we have had.
Close to Airport, Close to Everything
The property was across the street from the airport, so if you are just carrying on for your next trip to Macau and you always liked playing Frogger, you could just walk to the hotel. The airport MFM has really grown over time. A few years ago we tried to buy flights into Macau and it was expensive and next to impossible. From our room I had a very clear view of the terminal and the runway and the airport was packed. It also looked like they were building in additional capacity, but for the time being, flights I imagine would be full.
We took the ferry over which was actually not so nice. The ferry itself had poor times down to it being Christmas Eve (I wouldn’t have thought the holiday factored in to a reduction of service but it did. We waited for the next ferry for two hours and while normally we would have headed to the lounge, it seemed difficult to get to the departure area from the arrival floor. We also had run out of diapers with a sick baby, rookie move we know, but it was our first 16 hour flight with our little girl, so cut us some slack. We thought that even if we found the lounge we would have felt out of place given our disheveled nature. The ferry ride was rough as well, and after I found a backup diaper you can’t imagine the reality of changing a baby with no changing table on a rocking boat at 60 knots when everyone feels rubbish. Mike, the UPGRD boss if you will, has asked for more detail in our posts to give our readers a better picture of what we are seeing, feeling, smelling. In this case, however, I am going to be willfully disobedient and just say it was “unpleasant”. You’re welcome.
The ferry terminal is about 10 minutes away, but if you can arrange transportation prior to your arrival, I highly recommend it. We waited in a taxi rank, with the baby and our bags for nearly an hour. It was raining, it was Christmas eve, but next time I will use the hotel’s expensive but reliable and luxurious black car service. On offer was a black Mercedes for about $50. If we did it all over again, it would have been worth it to not be waiting for what seemed like forever.
Connected Luxury Mall
Feeding into the lobby is a luxury mall, like seemingly all the shopping in HK and Macau are. The normal brands are all there, Burberry and others like Burberry (I guess we are partial and nothing else particularly stuck out). There is also a high end bakery nearby, and the casino is accessed through this mall. On the note of the casino, I am not a huge fan of these generally, but much like Vegas, where even a non-gambler like myself might throw $5 on black just to do it, I thought I would do the same in Macau, now a larger gambling venue than Sin City. The smallest table I could find was $30USD and I could not have been less interested in flushing a perfectly good $200HKD (Macau has their own currency but it can only be spent in Macau, Hong Kong dollars can be spent in either territory and they carry the same exchange rate). I also was not bothered enough to try and find a lower entry point.
The real story here is about Mr. Chan. I became acquainted with him in advance of my trip, I emailed the hotel to ask about anything special they might suggest I see, though I did not receive any special treatment for my visit. Mr. Chan was working Christmas morning and offered to meet me after breakfast in the lounge. What an affable gentleman. He grew up in the UK and has found his way through a variety of Hyatt hotels, but coincidentally he opened the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin in Hong Kong – a personal favorite property.
He discussed some of the nuances of Macau when compared with Hong Kong. I asked about why there was such a disparity in the populations of the two. Hong Kong is certainly a larger physical terriorty, but it’s six million plus population is outsized when compared to the 400,000 that reside in Macau on a similar usable land mass. Both of the territories contain some rocky and tropical areas that are unusable for buildings and cosmopolitan development, but HK is nowhere near 15 times the size.
Jimmy said that after working in Hong Kong and working in Macau, there was a notable difference in approach, they are two different people. Macau has more of an island attitude, things will happen when they happen. Hong Kong is focused on business, relishing the role as a financial hub and hustle and bustle is part of it’s charm. While Jimmy didn’t say it, I also wondered whether or not the fact that Macau was under Portuguese rule and Hong Kong under British rule contributed to their approaches to life as a special economic area of China.
We talked a lot about hotels in Asia too. We have been to some of the same, and then he mentioned some that I needed to get to as well. What I thought was so intriguing about Jimmy and others with whom I conversed on my holiday tour of Asia is that he and several others had all bounced around some of the same hotels. I also found that if Jimmy and some other key people in the organization had managed at this hotel or that, they tended to have better service. I can’t help but think that the Hyatt Asian hotels have a particular group of key managers that are close knit and treat their employees well. At least in the case of Macau it would seem that everyone knew everyone else personally and they all had an attitude of hospitality that is sometimes missing from US chain hotels.
Jimmy was not the GM of the Grand Hyatt Macau but I have a feeling that big things are coming his way. He’s young, he’s enthusastic and it was clear in multiple instances that his staff respects him. They treat him like family, but perhaps the patriarch. For Hyatt fans, Jimmy Chan hotels will be ones not to miss.
There was a lot we did not see in Macau and did not do. I don’t know that I am racing back there as a destination, but I would for the hotel. The staff was amazing, and I will go there long after Jimmy Chan has moved on to his next great venture, but if you have the chance before another hotel steals him away, I would put this property on the short list.