Posted by James K.
May 31, 2010

INTRODUCTION

I'm sure most of you have stayed in a Holiday Inn at some point in your life, so this hotel almost needs no introduction. Clean, affordable, and family friendly, Macau's Holiday Inn stays true to the tenets of the company brand, with the only difference being it also has a casino. Operated by SJM, the five-floor Diamond Casino is one of Macau's oldest.

Macau will soon have a new Holiday Inn, also tied to a casino, down on the Cotai Strip. The Sands Cotai, currently in construction beside the City of Dreams, will house the world's largest Holiday Inn when it opens in early 2012.

 

LOCATION

The hotel is located on Rua de Pequim, which is one block north of Avenida D'Amizade. To get to it, find the Fortuna first (between Kampek and the President), then proceed north along Rua de Cantao. That road will eventually curve into Rua De Pequim, then continue straight. Holiday Inn will soon appear on the right. If you continue further down Rua De Pequim in the same direction you'll eventually come to the Rio and Lan Kwai Fong.

 

Image Gallery

CASINO

I'm going to come right out and say it, and laugh at me if you want, but I love the way Diamond casino looks. The place has really grown on me, to the point where I'd rank it one of the prettiest casinos in all of Macau. If you want to say it's trite and tasteless and borderline over the top, then you wouldn't be wrong, but I don't care. With its plush red walls, crystal chandeliers and assortment of paintings, Diamond resembles a 1980's luxury suite. And while I doubt it's real crystal and the paintings probably aren't worth a dime, and nobody uses plush red walls anymore, the room is still very warm in a nostalgic kind of way. The big tree on the 2nd floor that's always superbly adorned and the row of bright potted flowers counterbalance some of the power trip, greed is good 1980's style, and even the ashtrays look great, made to resemble miniature versions of the stout pillars that line the floor.

Although five floors of gaming sounds like a lot, it's anything but. There are only 44 tables in the whole casino, including the 9 VIP tables on the 4th and 5th floors. Almost all of Diamond's tables are baccarat, with minimums of $100 or $200 on floors 1 and 2, and $300, $500 and $1000 on floors 3 through 5. Sic Bo, blackjack, and pai gow are the only other games available, with lows of $20, $100, and $200 respectively.

Due to its standing as an old boy SJM casino, Diamond doesn't offer much in the way of drink service, non-smoking areas, or player comps and comfort. What you see is what you get, and outside of the delightfully dated decor, it isn't much. The end of the SJM monopoly in 2003 was probably the best thing to ever happen for the player in Macau. It's sad to think casinos like this and Jai Alai and even the Lisboa were all Macau ever was back then. While they all still retain a certain amount of charm today (mostly because they're old) benefits for players who game in these establishments are next to none.

GAMES

Diamond Casino offers Macau's most popular three games as well as Pai Gow:

  • Baccarat
  • Blackjack — Minimum bet is $100.
  • Pai Gow — Players can't bank. Play is conducted at all times versus the Dealer. Minimum bet is $200.
  • Sic Bo — 5 different bets are available. Big/Small minimum bet is $20.

PROMOTIONS

There are no casino promotions of any kind at Diamond, nor is there a Player Card. The only thing going is a very underwhelming dead chip program offering 0.7% on buy ins of over $10,000. Players need to claim rebates on the 2nd of every month. Alternatively, immediate settlement is available but only at a rate of 0.5%. The counter for this program in located on the 3rd floor.

Diamond's 4th and 5th floors belong to three independant junket clubs. All three places offer the same deal and it's almost as pathetic as Diamonds, except they give 0.6% immediate cash settlement instead of 0.5%.

 

HOTEL

Don't expect too much from the rooms at Holiday Inn rooms for two reasons. One, they're Holiday Inn rooms and two, they're old Holiday Inn Rooms. The hotel has been around a long time, since the heavy heady days of 1993, when the Portuguese still ran things, and Macau casino revenues didn't even break 2 billion US a year. Fast forward to 2011, and they're pulling a record 33.5 billion, which just goes to show what foreign investment and a much richer China can do. To put that figure into perspective, Macau makes more in three months than Vegas does in a year.

All told, the hotel has 323 guest rooms, with guest lodgings located on floors 10 to 28. The Executive Club Lounge on the 1st floor is for Executive Room guests only, and includes free breakfast, snacks, and all day coffee and tea. Certain business centre services are also available there.

Unlike most other hotels in Macau, rooms on the weekend are easy to get.

Prices are as follows, listed in HK dollars. Add another 15% for tax and service fees.

 

Holiday Inn rooms Rates
Room Type Sun-Thu Fri-Sat Fri-Sat *
Superior Room $1020 $1700 $1810
Deluxe Room $1232 $1912 $2023
Executive Club $1462 $2040 $2150
Executive Suite $1802 $2167 $2278
Superior Suite $1802 $2167 $2278

Note: * Includes breakfast.

Compared to similarly sized hotels in the area (like the Rio, Golden Dragon etc), Holiday Inn is a little overpriced.

 

POOL

Diamond's little pool is located on the 9th floor. For some strange reason a wall partition divides the pool in half, which makes little sense to me. There's also a hot and cold tub deckside, if you want to alternate between pleasure and pain. Much like the pool, however, they're both too small.

Pool hours are from 7 am to 10 pm daily.

 

RESTAURANTS

I wouldn't call the dining a highlight of this hotel. Frascati Cafe — Based on visuals alone, I'd never eat at Frascati. Frascati Cafe specializes in Chinese and Western buffet dining but the selection is very underwhelming, like something you'd find in a three star mainland hotel. At least it isn't expensive, with breakfast $148, lunch $78 and dinner $148 for adults and $118 for children.

An a la carte menu serves mostly Western fare with appetizers $38 to $88, soup $28, sandwiches $48 to $68 and main course meat selections $48 to $158. Asian eats meanwhile go from $36 to $58 and seafood is $58 to $138.

Frascati Cafe is located on the 1st floor and is open from 7 am to 11 pm.

Holiday Inn Chinese Restaurant — Managed by a private operator, Holiday Inn Chinese Restaurant picks up the slack a little with an improved setting and larger menu. Most common fish, meat and noodle meals are $60 to $120, while seafood is a pricier $138 to $650. Bird nest, meanwhile, hovers around $380. For vegetarians, they can dine for a very respectable $28 to $60.

Chinese Restaurant can be found on floors 7 and 8 and is open from 11 am to 3 pm in the afternoon and again from 6 pm to 11 pm in the evening.

 

HEALTH CLUB/SPA

Holiday Inn's gym comes up aces in the cardio department but leaves a little to be desired when it's time to lift. The treadmills, bikes, and steppers outnumber the heavy duty weight machines five to one. I think I only saw two in total and one of them was out of order. You may have to hit the free weights hard instead.

Located on the 9th floor beside the pool, the fitness centre hours are from 7 am to 10 pm daily.

Tree Top Spa, also located on the 9th floor, offers completely legit massage and beauty services. Most of the treatments are all under $1,000, and hotel guests get an additional 30% off. One rule you need to be aware of is that treatments don't also entitle guests to make free use of the facilities afterwards. If you pay for a foot massage for example you can't hang around afterwards and help yourself to the steam room or sauna. Once the massage is up, you're out. Of course you can always pay another $121 for a half hour in their VIP suite to enjoy the said facilities, but that deal is a bit of a rip off. For $200 you can go to almost any spa in Macau and use all the amenities inside for at least 12 hours.

Tree Top Spa is open daily from 3 pm to 2 am.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

Holiday Inn hotels, as far as I know, have never offered any entertainment and probably never will. Diamond Casino doesn't do anything either, so you'll be left to your own devices. If it were me, I'd head to the Cotai Strip for their Las Vegas type shows and performances. To get there, walk ten minutes to Starworld, then take their free shuttle to Galaxy. From there the City of Dreams and the Venetian will be at your fingertips.

 

BARS

There's one bar in the lobby. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but the red cushioned chairs are identical to the plush red walls in the casino.

Oskar's Bar — Oskar's Bar has pretty decent wine list, with labels from all over the world. Bottles are $128 to $988 while glasses of house wine go for a mere $38. Drinks are all around average with beers ($43-48), cocktails ($46-$58) and hard stuff ($43-$48).

Set meals are also available for $48, and come with free coffee, tea or soft drinks. Most of the food is standard pub fare like hamburgers or chicken wings. A second menu features lighter snack fare like onion rings ($28), cold pigeon with sauce ($28), cheese sausage ($48), roasted potato skins ($48), and beef quesadillas ($48).

Oskar's Bar is located in the lobby and keeps hours daily from 1 pm to 12 am.

 

SHOPPING

Holiday Inn is located in a great shopping area. Lines and lines of stores in and around the hotel mostly sell electronics, jewelry, and traditional Portuguese sweets and snacks. Be warned though, there isn't much in the way of clothes or beauty accessories. Closely jammed together with a lot of oversized signs, these streets are the only part of Macau that look a little like Hong Kong.

 

SUMMARY

I personally wouldn't go to Macau and stay in a Holiday Inn. That's no indictment of the hotel itself, just that it lacks a certain amount of imagination, like going to Paris and eating in a McDonalds. As it is, the hotel does provide all the standard features you'd expect (a pool, gym, spa) and is situated in a good location, just one block north of the Amizade strip. If it weren't a little bit overpriced then I think I could almost recommend it to you. Instead any of the Rio, Golden Dragon or Casa Real are probably better options.

Diamond Casino is interesting only because of its age. If you want a taste of Macau gaming circa 1970 to 1995, then I recommend an evening tour of the Lisboa, Diamond and Jai Alai. Those three old haunts were SJM staples back in the day, and serve as pretty stark contrasts to newer SJM casinos like the Grand Lisboa, Lan Kwai Fong and Ponte 16. Really, the difference between the two is like going from the darkness to the light (and to space, and to player comps and to smoke free rooms and did I say to space?)

 

QUICK FACTS

 

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