As an American in Hong Kong, there are few things I miss more than jumping in the car for a quick weekend getaway — one that doesn’t involve catching a flight or packing with precision. I’ve found the closest thing we have to a road trip is the ferry to Macau. When you have Hong-Kong-island-fever and need a change of scenery, a weekend in Macau is about as easy as it gets. So, last October, I had nothing planned for fall break and I suddenly came down with a bad case of I-need-to-go-somewhere. Suddenly, Macau wasn’t looking too bad. I threw a few swimsuits in bag, wrangled up my four kids, had my husband swap his suit for shorts, and we were off to the ferry terminal.
When it comes to this other “special administrative region”, it’s hard to keep up with all of the new hotels — each one trying to out-gimmick the next. For our trip, the priority was pool time (not gambling!) so I picked the JW Marriott hotel for its ideal access to an array of kid-crazy waterpark-like options. The JW is set within the Galaxy Macau and has entrée to the hotel’s Grand Resort Deck — an aqua extravaganza, boasting over 75,000 square meters (!) of amazing activities including a “lazy” river (moms will love this), winding water slides, a wave pool, beach lagoons, geysers and a kids-zone, of course, for the wee ones. It is a mind-boggling assortment of kiddie amusements.
We took an early boat out on a Saturday morning and tried (with no luck) to check in early. However, we were able to change into our swim gear and enter the the Grand Resort Deck while we waited for our room to be ready. It is easy to pass the day lounging in a deck chair or letting loose with the endless activity options. I went snap-happy trying to get a perfect picture of my kids barreling down the transparent waterslide.
It was refreshing to see lifeguards stationed all around the lazy river — who were not only friendly but also actually paying attention! The only negative is that the pools are shaded early in the morning and can feel cold until mid-day (perhaps this is not as much of an issue in the summer).
If the weather is not cooperating or everyone has had too much sun, there is also the world’s largest JW Kids’ Club (open from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm). We didn’t have time this trip but from a quick peek, it looked impressive.
After wearing ourselves out in the waterpark, next on the agenda was the House of Dancing Water show. If you haven’t seen it already, you absolutely should. And if you’ve done it, do again! It is just as impressive the second time around. Admittedly, the storyline still eludes me but the extraordinary visual effects make up for any confusion.
The only disappointing aspect of the trip was the uninspired family dining options — we settled for the usual hotel fare.
A major highlight was “Shrekfast”. Every Saturday and Sunday morning at 10 am, the nearby Sheraton hotel hosts a breakfast with the characters from DreamWorks movies (think Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and Shrek). It is actually really well done with an extensive buffet breakfast and a lot of photo-ops with the stuffed “movie stars” who float around from table-to-table. It’s probably best suited for the under-10 crowd unless you have a passionate fan.
A gondola ride at Venetian Grand Canal was on the to-do list, but the 11:00 am start time was too late for us — we were ready to catch a 12:30 ferry back to Hong Kong.
We narrowly missed the grand opening of Studio City, another mega hotel. But the much-hyped figure-eight Ferris wheel gives us something to look forward to for the next trip! Have you been yet? What did you think?
My Top Tips:
- Book an early ferry (reserve online since the morning ferries often sell out)
- Tell your kids to dash off the ferry to hold a space at the front of the long immigration queue
- Pack swimsuits and sunscreen in a separate bag so you can hit the pools right away if your room is not ready
- Even the cheap seats are good at The House of Dancing Water
- There is no intermission so stock up on popcorn before the show starts
- The shopping is surprisingly good – it’s not just high end designer stores anymore. See if you can sneak away for a couple of hours in peace.
- Email the Sheraton to reserve and pay-in-advance for Shrekfast tickets