The Grand Waldo is, for all intents and purposes, the forgotten hotel of the Cotai Strip. I'm not even sure if the people who built it — Galaxy Entertainment — remember it's still there, because they haven't done much with it since it opened in 2006. Originally conceived of as a large self-contained entertainment complex, (i.e. the future of Macau gaming on the Cotai strip), the Grand Waldo still doesn't have any entertainment. Six years in, the huge shopping quarter, the carnival like bar street, the multi purpose theatre, the E-game centre, the tennis court in the sky — they're all pie in the sky, as far as I'm concerned. Who knows when or if they'll ever appear.
Turning to the casino, I kind of suspect it's a failed venture as well. Taking up only one floor in all, there's no junket presence whatsoever.
The first hotel to open on the Cotai Strip, Grand Waldo now sits far away from the heart of the action. Located beside the gorgeous Galaxy, it's about a twenty minute walk to the Venetian and the City of the Dreams, which is also where the new Sands is going up. For those who have never been to the Cotai Strip, it's really in the middle of nowhere. There are no buildings, no shops, no businesses, nothing there at all except massive hotels and empty lots.
The Waldo and the Grand Waldo casinos don't have much in common at all, except their names and sizes. Both are very small, with table numbers at both places under 40. The casino at Grand Waldo had been a lot bigger before, but it got reduced in half at the end of 2009, after relocating into the hotel section of the complex. The new layout is an uneasy mix of Islamic type arches, broad circular pillars and dark panelled walls, outfitted with strips of yellow and blue light. The pillars don't mesh with the arches nor do they properly divide the room, instead its a 30-70 split, which looks downright weird. The yellow and blue lights conflict with the predominantly brown and grey casino floor, which is par for the course at Grand Waldo. It's almost as if the designers threw a bunch of things on the wall to see what would stick, and whatever did, they just went ahead with and used.
Very tiny, the one floor Grand Waldo casino holds 38 tables in all, which includes the VIP section. Baccarat, Commission Free Baccarat, Blackjack, Roulette and Sic Bo are all available for play at very low minimums, with most games starting at $100. The six Baccarat tables in the high limit section are the casino's most expensive, going for $500 or $1000, while the nine in the VIP area are either $1,000 or $10,000. Slots number an even 125 and range from 5¢ to $1, while electronic versions of Baccarat, Roulette and Sic Bo go for $30 apiece. If you're looking for Caribbean Stud Poker, Grand Waldo had it before, but it's gone now.
Drink service at the Grand Waldo is very fast (mostly because there's never a lot of people), but all you get is either free Coke or coffee. If you want orange juice, you have to pay $42 for it, and the waitresses get it from the small restaurant located at the back of the casino. The food menu there is surprisingly large, with Chinese breakfast $22, Western breakfast $35 and main dishes like soup, noodles, sandwiches, curry and barbecue $28 to $45. The drink selection is very big as well, with prices the same as at the Lobby bar.
No part of the Grand Waldo casino, unfortunately, is smoke free.
Familiar friends make up the Grand Waldo's game selection.
This is probably the most pathetic My Own Gambling story to ever grace a Wizard of Odds casino review, but I'll tell it anyway. I had $2,000 to play with before coming to Macau and had the itch to throw some dice, but with Galaxy's 5-times odds Craps table having a minimum pass line bet of $100, that really wasn't a viable option. So I decided first I'd play some Blackjack and if I won a grand or two I could take it to the Craps table.
And then of course me being me my plans evaporated in the blink of an eye. When I was walking around the Galaxy casino polishing things up for that review I noticed the Craps table was empty. Even though I only had enough money to make three lousy bets, ($100 pass line plus taking the full odds); I played anyway. Twenty five minutes later, as I'm sure you could imagine, I was out of cash and couldn't make another bet, only having $80 left. I walked away a little peeved at myself for betting like an idiot, finished my review work, and then crossed the road to my next stop of the evening, the Grand Waldo.
I figured I could make a few Sic Bo bets and lose my remaining $80 fast but was perturbed to see that while the table was lit up, no dealer was present. Not having a lot of other choices, I thought I'd try out a game I'd never played before — Roulette. I only had a vague notion of all the bets available, never having really taken interest in a game I know carries a house advantage of 2.7%. The female dealer (are they still called "dealers" in Roulette?) was around 40 and very nice though, and she walked me through the different options, explaining the difference between a Corner and a Column, a Street and a Split. Even though she couldn't speak English the table had a card displaying the different bets and odds which made learning a breeze. Minimum bets from Straight Up to Six Line were all $10, and were the only ones I had enough money to bet on. I decided to bet $10 on Corners and another $10 on Splits every time. Beginners luck was with me and within 7 or 8 rolls I hit a couple Corners here and there and had my bankroll up to $100.
Now with enough money for a minimum Baccarat bet, I sought out a $100 table to make my big run. The Baccarat dealer was another friendly lady who seemed a little amused to have a foreigner at the table with such strange customs and weak card flipping skills. First she found it odd that I was blowing on the card before I turned it over, and then that I was taking such a long time to flip it over, all the while saying "no gong, no gong, no gong" in Chinese (not a face). She playfully said, "Of course it isn't, you'd know by now", since I had so much of the card turned over already. She was right, it wasn't and I won the first hand, but lost the second, meaning I only had $95 left. I had forgotten about the stupid $5 commission. Since I couldn't make another Baccarat bet it was back to the Roulette table. On the fourth roll I hit a big one, a Split and I suddenly had a whopping $215. I decided it was time for Blackjack, since I knew I could make a double down or split if I had to.
And that's what happened, the first hand I had an 11 vs. a 7. I doubled, got a 3 and the dealer pulled a 5 and 6, for 18. I was busted. I went back to the Roulette table with $15, made an all or nothing 35-1 $10 bet on lucky number 7 and lost. I gave the dealer my last $5 chip as a tip.
Well what to glean for this pathetic and ridiculous story? First, that the dealers at Grand Waldo were all super nice, easy going and liked to smile. There wasn't one brick wall among them. I don't think any could speak English, but that didn't matter. You could tell they were all very nice people. And as for me, even though I was betting $1.50 US a roll sometimes playing Roulette, I had a lot of fun doing it. In fact, I had a lot more fun at the Grand Waldo than I did at Galaxy making $600 HKD craps bets. While playing craps was a lot more exciting, because every roll of the dice mattered for me, I took no enjoyment from losing $1920 in twenty minutes.
And that got me to thinking, maybe there's a lesson to be learned from all of this. Maybe gambling is a lot more enjoyable when you do bet small, when you don't care if you win or lose. Forget all that nonsense about the house always winning — the player always wins too if he can afford to lose and still has fun when doing it. In fact, I think that's the only way a player can win. I mean, if you're anything like me, then you're gambling for all the wrong reasons. I gamble for the excitement, I gamble to win, I get angry when I lose and I chase losses. Sure the wins feel great, but after awhile, only big ones will do, and while you're chasing those, you're just getting hit with more and more losses, making the mountain higher and higher to climb. It's a vicious cycle, one from which very few players, if any, can ever emerge on top from. I think this is something the Wizard has known for some time, and he's even got it written down as his Third Commandent:
3. Thou shalt expect to lose.
But if you ask me he should add another one:
11. Thou shalt not chase thy losses.
Grand Waldo runs a surprising amount of promotions, most of them tied to dead chips in some way. Their player card also has a rolling component.
Player Card Grand Waldo offers a grey, gold and black player card. Benefits related to them are rather thin.
The dead chip returns the same for both the Gold and Black card, 1.1% cash back, or 1.2% in hotel coupons, which they call a lifestyle allowance. The lifestyle allowance can be used to buy rooms in the Grand Waldo as well as goods and services in all of the complex's retail shops, entertainment and relaxation outlets, with one point equalling one Pataca.
For non members, Grand Waldo will give an immediate settlement of 1%, for buy ins over $10,000.
If you prefer slots instead, you can also accumulate points which can be turned into cash and/or hotel coupons. For every $50 bet, players accumulate one point, while every 500 points accumulated is good for $50. I'm no Wizard, but I think that means players need to bet $25,000 just to get $50 back, which is terrible. What is that? Zero point two percent???
Dead Chip Buy in Promotions
They currently have 7 deals.
Here's one I like. Present your taxi receipt at Grand Waldo before you play and be rewarded with a $50 HKD Match Play Voucher. Even if your cab ride only cost you $15 you can still claim it.
The problem with the Grand Waldo hotel has nothing to do with the hotel itself, if that makes any sense. The problem instead is where the hotel is located, in the middle of a huge unfinished complex. Getting around the Grand Waldo sometimes takes forever and it's a wonder why Galaxy made the place so big, if they're not going to use the space. It's no exaggeration to say that the property is three times the size it needs to be.
On the plus side, rates at the Grand Waldo are very low, by far the cheapest on the Cotai Strip. With no serious junket action, rooms are readily available, so don't sweat about staying there on the weekend. Assuming you book through the hotel website, all rooms come with free breakfast, free internet, free Macau Piggy Bun, and free Portuguese Egg Tart. To my knowledge, they're the only casino hotel in Macau that includes complimentary breakfast with the room.
In addition to the above perks, Executive Room and Suite guests receive a lot more comps, including free daily mini bar with selected beverages, free daily Candlelight Dinner at Le Cafe, free one way Limousine transfer on check out, free local calls, and one free room for every five nights stayed during a six month period. Wow! For as low as $1,512 a night, the Executive Room/Suite package is an excellent deal. Remember, you have to book online through the website first.
Grand Waldo's five star hotel has 340 rooms in all, with guest lodgings found on floors 3 to 10.
Rates including all taxes and service fees are as follows:
|Grand Waldo Room Rates
|Harbour View Room
Grand Waldo's pool does not compare favorably to the others on the Cotai Strip, lacking both in size and character, but it's still not too bad. The views might be the most disappointing thing about it, what with the stone cold facade of the hotel on one side and the uninspiring look of two bridges on the other.
Closed in winter, the pool is good to go from April until November, with hours from 8 am to 8 pm daily.
Grand Waldo has no high-brow dining establishments, instead all of the restaurants are rather ordinary. Most of them are located on the first floor of the vast empty Entertainment Block.
Grand Waldo Restaurant — Buffet is only thing going at Grand Waldo restaurant, with both Western and Chinese available. Rates are low, with breakfast $108, lunch $118, and supper $198. They often have a lot of deals on the go too, so ask about them before you eat. Last time I was there they had these three:
Grand Waldo restaurant opens from 7 am to 11 pm.
Golden Island — Cantonese fare available at Golden Island, with set meals for four people $388, 6 people $588, 10 people $768, and 12 people $1,088. There's also a small a la carte menu, with some rather interesting selections. I'll leave it up to you to try the pork cheek ($58), steamed pig knuckle ($58), fish ball ($38), and beef organ ($58). Other main Cantonese dishes go for $58 to $78, while vegetarian is $42, and dim sum $18 to $30.
Golden Island is open from 11 am to 2:30 pm in the afternoon and from 6 pm to 10:30 pm at night.
La Mian — Small little fast food stall near Grand Waldo restaurant sells Japanese type soup for $45.
Le Cafe — Mostly Western eats at Le Cafe with soup $28 to $55, sandwiches and burgers $40 to $58, and main course lamb, beef, and rib eye steak $98 to $138. Chinese fare on the other hand goes for $18 to $70, which includes rice for $48 to $63.
Le Cafe is located opposite the front desk and is open from 10 am to 11 pm daily.
Hai Dao — Another fast food type place, noodles are $32, salad $16 to $26, and rice $32 to $42. Barbecue meats are the most expensive, running $56 to $68 while a daily lunch special is a mere $38.
Hai Dao is open from 7:30 am to 12 am.
Top Hunan Gourmet — Grand Waldo's most expensive restaurant has Cantonese delicacies like abalone, shark's fin, bird's nest for $288 to $988. Vegetarian dishes are $68 to $98, while meat dishes start around $100.
Hours are Top Hunan are from 10 am to 3:30 pm in the afternoon and from 5:30 to 11:30 at night.
Rain Restaurant — Grand Waldo's newest restaurant is also its nicest. Half restaurant and half bar, Rain Restaurant has a semi lunch buffet that goes for $98 to $168 depending on which main course you choose, which includes spaghetti, steak, pork or seafood. The buffet that comes with it is not large, only composed of entrees and seafood. At night, the menu expands coniderably though, with appetizers $98 to $138, pasta $108 to $138, seafood $128 to $168 and grilled meat $128 to $398. Dessert finally is $48 to $128.
For drinks, rates are a little over average with beers $45/$58, hard stuff $48 to $98, and cocktails $58. Shooters, which include sex on the beach, are also $58. A rather large wine menu has bottles of champagne for $980 to $3180, sparkling for $328 to $528, and white wine $288 to $2980. Most of the wine list is dominated by red wine however with prices $289 and $2980.
Rain Restaurant opens daily from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm in the afternoon and again from 6 pm to 2 am at night. (Hours get extended to 3 am on Friday and Saturday).
For all the space they have at Grand Waldo, you'd think they'd give a little more of it to the gym. While the fitness centre is certainly comprehensive, featuring a lot of machines and equipment, there just isn't enough room. If it were double the size that would help a great deal.
The gym is located on the ground floor close to the pool and keeps hours from 7 am to 9:30 pm daily.
The Grand Waldo spa, on the other hand, is a mean tease for hotel guests. It's no doubt the best one found in any Macau hotel, but it's not free for guests to use. They have to pay the $250 entry fee like everyone else, which is good for 12 hours of use. And you just might need the whole 12 hours to experience all the spa has to offer because it has everything. The roll call is a long one so bear with me: there are six spa pools, a gigantic warm pool, a dry sauna, a hot pool, a cold pool, and even three back up pools when the main ones are being cleaned. For braver souls there's also a cold room and two ice-cold waterfall showers, which aren't my idea of a good time, but to each his own.
After you've refreshed in the water you can kick it in a main lounge room that has 88 lounge chairs, each absolutely huge and equipped with its own flat screen TV. The spa also has a fitness centre, a dining room, a bar, free wireless and even small laptops for guests to use so they go online. And perhaps best of all, there are resting rooms upstairs which double as sleeping quarters, and can be stayed in for as little as $450 a night. If you ask me the only thing missing from the spa is a craps table and blackjack. In terms of large self-contained entertainment complexes, I'd say The Grand Waldo spa has the Grand Waldo beat in that department, hands down!
Aside from that, there are also the usual assortment of beauty, massage and spa treatments, at prices a lot less expensive than other hotels. Standard massage, for example, tops out at $380 while most beauty treatments stay under $100. The most expensive services are the four different facials which are all $380.
For those interested in a more risque spa experience, look no further than the Golden Way Sauna, located beside the Grand Waldo spa in the Entertainment Block. Six months ago, I was able to get to the entrance of this Sauna from inside the hotel, but the last time I tried to, I couldn't find the way. Instead I had to take the elevator down to Grand Waldo spa, walk outside and then enter from their outdoor entrance. Prices run the gamut, with Southeastern Asian ladies $1488, European girls $1888 and sweet Japanese sisters $3200. If you pay $888, you get a surprise Phillipine or Vietnamese companion, meaning you can't pick her out, nor can you refuse.
If you just want the basic steam and sauna service, the door pass is $438, which is good for 24 hours.
The Grand Waldo finally has entertainment! The newly opened Rain Restaurant has a live band playing rock music from 9 pm nightly.
Grand Waldo has two main places to enjoy a hot or cold beverage.
Grand Waldo Bar — Nicely priced drinking establishment with beers $28 or $30, hard stuff $38 to $45, cognac $45 to $78, and most glasses of wine under $100. For full bottles of cognac they run $800 while bottles of wine are $180 to $1800. Soft drinks, coffee and juice meanwhile are $18 to $48. Current special is buy 1 get 1 free from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Grand Waldo Bar is located in the hotel lobby and opens from 10 am to 1 pm daily.
Club De Noble — KTV joint offers local girls at standard rates, which are around $2,000 all inclusive. Korean girls, on the other hand, are a whole different story. They run $2,000 just to be in the room with you, and if you want full service outside, be ready to drop $10,000.
For that price, gentlemen, it's cheaper just to go to Korea.
Club de Noble is located in the Entertainment Block beside its partner in crime, the Golden Way Sauna.
Are we on the Cotai Strip? You wouldn't know it by the amount of shops at Grand Waldo. They only have a few stores here and there, including a convenience shop, a wine shop, a watch and jewellery shop (of course) and a Gift Shop too, which was closed up and deserted when I saw it. No Gifts for you!
The Grand Waldo is, without a doubt, the one property on the Cotai Strip that doesn't belong. For the life of me, I can't figure out what Galaxy is trying to do with it. At the onset, they obviously had great intentions, but they never actually followed through with the plans. They never actually managed to fill the Entertainment Block up with any entertainment. While it's certainly safe to call much of the Grand Waldo a waste of space and resource, that doesn't mean there's no value in staying there. The opposite is in fact true, there's tremendous value in choosing the Grand Waldo, seeing as it's the cheapest place on the Cotai Strip. When you factor in that the worst parts of the Grand Waldo — the casino, the restaurants, the shopping, the lack of things to do overall — can all be easily satisfied across the road at Galaxy, then the property suddenly starts looking a lot more useful overall. I, for one, wouldn't hesitate in staying there at all, especially with their generous online deals.