Where to go for family fun in Macau
Macau's expanding entertainment options offer more bang for your buck
It always pays to look on the bright side. The headlines might have been blazing for more than 12 months now about hard times in Macau, that revenue in the world's gaming capital has been falling at an alarming rate - 37 per cent in May alone - and that visitor numbers have also been on the decline, so far this year falling at 2.7 per cent.
The cause for all this has been the austerity drive being enforced by the Special Administrative Region's overlords up north, after they laid down the dictum that the city must expand its horizons by looking less towards games of chance and more towards increasing their entertainment options when it comes to generating the city's tourism cash flow.
But the good news to emerge from all the doom and gloom is that Macau is actually reading Beijing's message loud and clear, and we're the ones who are benefiting as the city's major players invest heavily into the realms of sport, entertainment and leisure.
The Venetian has long led the way in the first two of those categories and the next month will see its Cotai Arena hosting the "Victory at The Venetian" fight card on July 18, which pits China's I.K. Yang against Argentina's Cesar Cuenca for the IBF junior welterweight world championship, while Mando-pop star Stefanie Sun (also known as Stefanie Sun Yanzi) will grace the venue's stage on July 11. The arrival of the Broadway Theatre on the scene as part of the second stage of the Galaxy complex has meant more gigs for Canto-pop stars this summer - including the star-stacked I Want Women Power (July 11) and M Power (July 18) concerts - while Disney's Beauty and the Beast and our old favourite The House of Dancing Water continue to drag in crowds at The Venetian Theatre and City of Dreams' Dancing Water Theatre, respectively.
The major change to the Macau landscape this year has been in terms of leisure facilities - and in options for families who visit the enclave. Galaxy Macau has been at the forefront in this regard with the opening on May 27 of its US$5.5 billion second stage, which includes Broadway Macau and its 320-room hotel as well as The Ritz-Carlton with more than 250 suites and a JW Marriot Hotel with more than 1,000 rooms.
It was the first major resort opening in the enclave since 2012 and Galaxy's Grand Resort Deck has been the scene-stealer. It now spans 75,000 square metres and has been designed, they say, to offer guests "a tropical holiday in Macau". That's certainly how things looked during a recent midweek visit that saw families and couples staving off summer's heat in the Skytop Adventure Rapids river ride which stretches 575 metres and was taking them through white water rapids and under waterfalls. The ride takes people through transparent tubes at one stage which gives passers-by an interesting view of proceedings.
There's also the Skytop Waterslide, which features three nine-metre high slides built within a mock mountain, and a 300 square metre Kidz Island with an assortment of aqua games. The developments mean Galaxy and Broadway now boast 13 pools between them, including the Skytop Wave Pool that came with the first stage of the resort, and they have been surrounded by gardens, lawns and beaches as well as private cabanas if you want to try to feel like you have the place all to yourself.
As well as the 3,000-seat Broadway Theatre, the resort has opened The Broadway entertainment and dining/market street which features street entertainers and local and Asian dining options - including outlets of the Michelin-starred Hung's Delicacies. The resort also features the 10-screen UA Galaxy Cinemas 3D Cineplex.
City of Dreams is meanwhile celebrating the fifth anniversary of The House of Dancing Water this summer and has launched a programme that allows audience members to virtually become part of the show. The two-day Underwater Discoveries package includes a backstage tour, a guided orientation dive in the theatre pool and VIP seats for a performance, followed the next day by a dive during an actual show. There are also backstage discovery tours and make-up and costume workshops.
City of Dreams, The Venetian and Galaxy all have designated game and activity zones for kids - the Kids City, Qube and JW Marriott Hotel Macau's JW Kids Club - with staff on hand for supervision and guidance (if needed).
Options for children is the focus at the Sands resorts along the Cotai Strip over the next few months, and if you've ever stumbled into their Shrekfast Character Breakfast still dusty after a rather long night you'll know what to expect.
That concept - characters from Shrek and various DreamWorks productions, Shrek-themed food, and packs of children going completely bonkers - has been expanded to take in lunches offered for non-guests at the resorts over summer. So daytrippers can now include the Penguins of Madagascar Summer Feast with the DreamWorks Gang in their plans, with performances from those penguins, a lot of mingling, and lots of food.
The Sheraton Macao Hotel has opened up its DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda Academy, with the great Po himself among those passing on martial arts secrets as children are put through their paces with tests both physical and mental. They get to learn basic kung fu moves, work on their balance and strength - and on their patience.
Sheraton Macao has also extended its Junior Hotelier programme until the end of September. The two-day course sets the young ones off on four tasks covering skills needed to be a junior chef (which means they'll be making chocolate chip cookies), a junior barman (mocktails), junior housekeepers (messing up and then making a bed) and junior service agents (where's they'll learn greetings in various languages, write greeting cards for guests and learn how to fold towels into animals).
Hot tickets and upcoming attractions in Macau
Coming soon …
Word is that the US$3.2 billion Studio City — the next major development in Macau — will be fully operational by the year's fourth quarter.
So far management has brought out the big guns for their promos. Using Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt and Martin Scorsese, and they've started handing out some tantalising snippets of information about what we can expect inside.
Among the major attractions will be The House of Magic — billed as the "world's first multi-theatre, immersive victory magic experience" — as well as a "figure of eight" gondola ride that rises 130 metres into the air. As befitting the property's cinematic theme, the Batman Dark Flight promises a flight simulation ride based on the Caped Crusader franchise, while the 40,000 sq ft Warner Bros. Fun Zone will be restricted to those aged 14 and under and will feature interactive zones with themes based on Warner Bros. and DC Comics characters. The property will also unveil a 5,000-seater entertainment centre, a TV studio and a nightclub.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Until July 26, Tues-Fri 8pm; Sat and Sun 2pm and 8pm. The Venetian Theatre, HK$280-HK$680
The House of Dancing Water. Sun-Mon and Thurs-Sat. Dancing Water Theatre, City of Dreams, HK$406-HK$1,480
On the way
July 11, 8pm: Yanzi Kepler 2015 World Tour. Cotai Arena, HK$380-HK$1,580
July 11, 8pm: I Want Women Power featuring Elva Hsiao, A-Lin, Jess Lee and Penny Tai. Broadway Theatre, HK$380-HK$1,280
July 18, 5.30pm: Victory at The Venetian. Cotai Arena, HK$180-HK$4,680
July 18, 8pm: M Power featuring Alex To, Gary Chaw, A Niu and Victor Wong. Broadway Theatre, HK$280-HK$1,080
July 22, 11.30pm: deadmau5. Club Cubic, City of Dreams, HK$380
August 7-15: Masters in Paintings — Works of Contemporary Watercolour. The Venetian Ballroom, free
August 22, 8pm: EEG 15th Anniversary Glamorous Concert in Macao. Cotai Arena, HK$280-HK$1,28