The Golden Dragon Hotel opened in 2005 and is owned by a Mr. Chan, the same man who owns Hotel Taipa Square down on Taipa Island. With not much separating it in the looks department from nearby office and apartment buildings in this part of Macau, his hotel just blends into the background. That's more than an apt marker of things to come, because neither the Golden Dragon casino nor hotel do anything of real merit, despite what you might read on their website.
SJM is in charge of the casino, their fourteenth venture into the Macau island gaming market.
There's a cluster of medium-sized mid-range hotels right around Golden Dragon, with Jai Alai, Casa Real, Lan Kwai Fong and the Waldo all operating in the general area. Why you ask? Well the answer is easy, it's for all of the Hong Kong money coming in by boat or helicopter via the Macau ferry terminal, located a short walk away from Golden Dragon.
Or to put it another way, to find Golden Dragon, just find Fisherman's Wharf, because the gate to the amusement park is situated just across the street.
I was looking forward to reviewing the Golden Dragon casino due to its energetic portrayal on the hotel website. It describes a casino based on a carnival motif, inspired by celebrations from all over the world, which include "lively and colorful settings" and decorations such as masks, sculpture and a Spanish firework lighting effect on the ceiling. In addition, there are six VIP rooms each designed with a particular festival in mind, with examples being a Caribbean festival in Trinidad, a Bohemian celebration in Paris and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, among others. I was thinking a good part of this casino section would have to be spent on the visuals alone, as they sounded invigorating and intense.
And then what happened? I went there and saw... absolutely nothing... but a boring bland casino floor I've seen repeated in Macau so many times before. It was pathetic. There are no Bohemian celebrations or world festivals or masks or anything that the website says there's supposed to be. Instead, the Golden Dragon designers decided on a bunch of red lights, red pillars and red chandeliers, and called it a day. The whole thing doesn't look like it took anyone more than two hours to put together. I'm pretty confident that whoever wrote with the fiction on the website used a lot more imagination than anyone who designed it did. In other words, the casino visuals are easily some of Macau's worst.
As for the actual gaming, the casino takes up three floors, with most of the tables found on the second floor. 40 tables make up this area with six found in a high limit area. Minimums are lower now than they were in January. At that time, the high limit area had $300, $500, and $1,000 tables, but now they're all $200. Other tables on the floor are mostly $100 or $200, while a few are $300 and $500. There used to be a slots section behind the stairs at the back of the room, holding 55 machines with 5¢ to 20¢ minimums, but they've been since moved out and now that room is empty.
The third floor has two VIP clubs and a little bit more mass gaming. 15 baccarat tables, with minimums of $300, $500 and $1,000, belong to Golden Dragon while Sun City VIP and Sun VIP operate the rest. Cash back returns at the two clubs are similar with Sun VIP returning 1.2% and Sun City VIP giving 1.15%, but Sun City requires a much higher buy in ($500,000) than Sun VIP ($10,000). As for how they look, Sun City VIP definitely takes the cake. Done up in regal white with a lot of short square pillars and nice looking chairs, it's the best looking place in the whole casino. Sun City is home to nine tables ($1,000 to $5,000) while Sun VIP has seven baccarat tables all at $2,000.
The first floor is now home to another VIP club, named Lucky Star, which just opened this July. Requiring only a $1,000 buy in, its 1.1% rate of return is the lowest in the casino (1% cash back and 0.1% complimentary allowance.) Seven tables take up this VIP section with minimums of $1,000, $2,000 and $10,000.
Boring selection of games for a boring casino. There aren't even any slots anymore, with that section currently closed down and void of machines. When or if they'll return is anyone's guess.
Player Card — The Golden Dragon player card is for VIP players only who join the cash buy in program. The card is primarily used to keep a running record of points available to be redeemed in the hotel's food, beverage, and entertainment outlets. Golden Dragon's membership desk had several brochures describing the following programs:
All in all, these deals are pretty good. 1.1% is higher than what you get from many other casinos who usually stay in the 0.7% to 0.9% range. The prices for the free room are at market as well, except for the Saturday price of $80,000. That's a bit out of line. A price of $60,000 for both Friday and Saturday is a much fairer number.
If you're looking for any general promotions related to non VIP gambling, there aren't any.
Golden Dragon is a pretty big hotel, with 483 guest rooms in all. To put that into perspective, it has more rooms than Ponte 16 (408), the Grand Lisboa (430), and Landmark (460), three hotels which certainly look much larger. Rooms in the main building can be found on floors 5 to 17 while sleeping quarters in the tower section are on the 12th to 18th floors. Visually speaking, the inside of the hotel in both parts lacks a whole lot of character.
Tracking down the room rates was not an easy task. Usually there's a booking service on the hotel website that lists current prices quickly and conveniently, but the Golden Dragon website doesn't offer that courtesy. All they do is generically list room rates, but those numbers are always wrong. For some reason, no matter what hotel you're in Macau, a brochure from the front desk or a general list of rates on the website will always be overpriced by about 1,000 patacas. A standard room at Golden Dragon, for example, is quoted online at $1,880, but on weekdays the same room is only $1,081. Quite what business sense that makes I don't know.
So I've been forced to consult agoda.com here. The rates might not be exactly right, but they'll be close enough. Taxes and service charges already included.
|Golden Dragon Room Prices|
|Room||Sun - Thur||Fri||Sat|
|Standard Room (harbor view)||$1,287||$1,750||$2,193|
The Sunday to Thursday standard room rate is just about as low as you can get for casino hotels in this part of Macau (excluding the President and Fortuna.) Only the Rio undercuts it, by a slim 40 patacas.
I saw the pool in its offseason state, completely drained of water and covered up with a net like tarp. Staff told me it closes three months of the year, from January to March. Imagining what it might look like when it's opened, I think the outside patio setup will more than suffice, nicely aided by the row of plants you see on the right. The only problem might be with the size. At only 6 by 14 meters, the pool may be too small to be able to stand up to peak summer demand.
Pool hours are from 8 AM to 7 PM, and is accessible through the main building's Fitness Center.
Golden Dragon's two restaurants do Cantonese and International fare. There used to be a Japanese restaurant, but it closed for good.
Dragon Palace — Great views from Fisherman's Wharf from this fourth floor Cantonese restaurant. Abalone and shark's fin are the most expensive things on the menu, going for $200 to $500, while most other main dishes fall nicely into the $58 to $68 range. Around 15 VIP rooms equipped with plasma TV's are also available for groups who want a little privacy. In total, the restaurant seats 286. Opening hours Monday to Saturday are from 11 am to 3 PM and 6 PM to 11 PM. On Sundays and public holidays doors open an hour earlier at 10 am.
Villa Picasso — Villa Picasso does international buffet at very decent rates. Breakfast is a super low $65 for both children and adults, while lunch runs $78 for adults and $48 for children. Dinner prices, on the other hand, fluctuate according to the day of the week. From Monday to Thursday they're $168 for adults and $128 for children, while from Friday to Sunday, adults and children are charged $20 more. Keep in mind, there's still a 10% service charge.
Villa Picasso also has an a la carte menu, which is a mix of Western and Chinese. Pasta and sandwiches are $55 to $62 while Chinese noodle and rice dishes go for $58 to $72. Alcoholic beverages are quite affordable as well with beers costing between $30 to $40 and cocktails a very acceptable $36 to $38.
Nice Lounge is Villa Picasso's bar section, where you can enjoy a few drinks post meal. Drink prices are the same as at Villa Picasso. Villa Picasso and Nice Lounge hold 220 and 30 people respectively and are open 7 AM to 12 AM daily. Located on the first floor.
The Golden Dragon fitness center is made up of a paltry five machines: two treadmills, a bike, a step machine and one larger one that works chest and legs. There's also a rack of dumbbells in the corner. In other words, if you plan to keep pumping iron on the road, then try staying at another hotel. Casa Real and Lan Kwai Fong are other options in the neighborhood that offer excellent fitness facilities.
It makes me wonder what kind of shape the hotel owner Mr. Chan is in. That's only because his other hotel, Taipa Square, has an even worse gym than the one at Golden Dragon. That one is maybe six feet by six feet and consists of three machines in total. Maybe Mr. Chan ought to move the stepper from the Golden Dragon to Taipa Square so both places will have an equal number of machines and be equally pathetic.
Gym hours are from 8 AM to 7 PM, or the same as the pool. It can be found on the fourth floor of the man building.
In terms of the spa, the only show in town the Eighteen Sauna, located on the 6th Floor in the Tower wing. That means guest access to sauna, Jacuzzi, hot and cold tub facilities are only available with a price. Of course those aren't the only things available at the Eighteen Sauna and I was duly rebuked by staff for snapping a pic of their poster by the elevator doors. It was definitely one of the better ones I've seen, featuring a bare breasted Asian babe sucking down a bottle of beer looking like she's ready to roll. Too bad I was forced to delete it under threat of police intervention.
The Eighteen Sauna doors stay open 24 hours.
The Crazy Happy Show — I got to hand it to whoever wrote the pamphlets advertising the "Crazy Happy Show." They have a flair for the dramatic to their words that I almost believe, before I remember this is the same casino that outright lied about the amazing design of their ordinary casino. Anyway, there are two types of performances at the Crazy Happy Show, "European Style Table Dance" and "Super Erotic Dance". I had assumed the table dance is your private show while the Super Erotic Dance is put on for the house, but I was way wrong. It turns out the table dance is your typical strip club deal featuring a girl on stage, while the Super Erotic show is a no holds barred, real sex performance featuring multiple performers. To have a show like this in Macau literally blew my mind. Maybe I ought to get out more.
I'll turn it over to the pamphlet now. The Super Erotic Show "is not just any ordinary erotic dancing acts you find anywhere." It's "specially choreographed and supported by state of the art lighting and specially designed props." It's "the most erotic and sensual performance you've ever seen."
It costs $300 to get into the Table Dance, while $400 gets you into both. If you pay for the table dance but then get bored and want to check out the Super Erotic Show, then you have to pay an extra $150.
Five different performances happen nightly from 6:30 PM to midnight on the 10th floor of the Tower wing. Each performance takes about 45 minutes and patrons get a free cup of tea with their door pass.
The Golden Dragon Night Club is a "karoake bar," open from 3 PM to 4 AM daily, on the 8th floor. Don't go there expecting to cut some tile or pick up some beauty sitting next to you at the bar, because it's just rooms and rooms of KTV. Female companionship in the way of a "thorough relaxation," as the Chinese like to say, runs around two grand.
Golden Dragon has two shops on the ground floor of the tower wing.
Casa de Penhor Color Dragon — What's a Macau hotel without a jewelry shop? Rings, watches, necklaces, bracelets and pendants are all for sale at Casa de Penhor. Prices go from $1,000 into the $100,000's. More of their jewelry is on sale across from the gift shop but it's cheaper stuff, with prices maxing out at $25,000.
Golden Dragon Gift Shop — I'd say it's better termed a corner store than a gift shop with the items they have on sale. Beer, smokes, snacks and cake along with shampoo and soap are on display, at prices well over market. For example, I saw it was $7 for a Sprite and $20 for a small bag of chips. Anyone with any common sense would take a walk outside to get a fair deal.
In the same way you sometimes just automatically "like" a place, you can just as easily have the reverse feeling. For some reason the vibes from Golden Dragon have never sat right with me. Maybe it's because I just sense a whole lot of mediocrity in the property from top to bottom. And believe me, living in my skin, mediocrity is something I know all too well.
In short I don't see any reason to choose the Golden Dragon as a living or gambling option. Quite simply nothing the hotel does is noteworthy. The 1.1% cash back from the casino is no doubt its strongest attribute, but just like everything else about the Golden Dragon, better value can be found elsewhere.