I guess when Galaxy was allocating the signboard money in 2006 for their two new casinos, they decided to go all in on the Rio signboard and leave the President signboard looking ... well looking like it does, like something out of 1955. If that's the case, then at least they got it right with the Rio's outdoor marker, because that mother is one mean looking piece of business, especially when lit up at night. There's no doubt it's the best looking one in the city. The strong visuals continue inside the hotel as well, with the theme being an Italian palace, and boy did they nail it, especially in the casino section. The lobby is pretty darn nice too. When you add it all up, the Rio is Galaxy's most beautiful property on Macau island by a fairly wide margin.
The Rio is located one street north of Avenue D'Amizade, on the corner of Alameda Dr. Carlos d'Assumpcao and Rua de Luis Gonzaga Gomes. The Comendador Ho Yin Gardens, a small park, is right beside it. The Rio is very close to the Landmark, one block away to the northeast.
Wow. Another one of a kind casino in Macau and for all the right reasons. The Rio is a rousing rendition of Renaissance Italy, supremely decorated with a lot of gorgeous artwork, exquisite chandeliers and elaborately done up walls and ceilings. The main bit of excellence is the majestic stairwell that leads up to the first floor. Classic Christian frescoes and highly intricate carvings adorn the ceiling, while the walls are lined with arches and paintings of old Italian buildings. It's very reminiscent of the lobby inside the Venetian, if you've been there.
Mass gaming rules the day on the ground and first floors, with most of the action on the latter floor. In all, that section holds 27 tables with minimums $100 to $300. Five tables in a high limit section are the floor's most expensive, with lows of $500 to $2,000. The ground floor is currently undergoing renovations, with most of the work directed toward upgrading the side door, so table numbers are down from 12 to 8, while all of the slots have been removed. (There had been 25 machines.) After the renovation is complete, I'm told they will return.
The second floor slot room is also going through repairs, so their seventy one 5¢ to $1 machines are also unavailable for use. Have no fear though, because the room is set to reopen by the fall.
The rest of the second floor is all VIP gaming featuring 16 tables with minimums of $1,000 or $10,000. The decoration on the second floor is a lot more low key, making the Rio one of the few casinos with a clearly worse looking VIP section.
If you get hungry, one small corner on the first floor serves food. Rice, beef and fried chicken are all $28, while noodles and congee both go for $18 apiece.
There's a decent selection of games available at the Rio.
Player Card — The Rio Card is for VIP players only and they won't give them out unless you join the program, which requires an initial buy in of at least $10,000. Needless to say, I don't have one. What I do have, however, is information on how the program works. Players can either accumulate points according to their buy in, get cash back, or be comped with things outright if their buy in is large enough. A buy in of $10,000, for example, will net the player 100 pts on their card, or 0.8% cash back ($80). If the player chooses the points, here are some of the things available for redemption:
|Rio Point Program|
|Free car to China:||120|
|Economy class ferry ticket:||250|
|First class ferry ticket:||350|
|Premium class ferry ticket:||450|
|Free entry into the 18 Sauna:||500|
|Shanghai massage (1 hr)||600|
|Shanghai massage (2 hrs)||800|
Alternatively, the player may also choose to get the following comps outright.
|Rio Buy-In Program|
|Free dinner buffet (Monday to Friday)||$6,000|
|Free dinner buffet (Saturday and Sunday)||$10,000|
|Free entry into the Sauna||$25,000|
|Free standard room (Sunday to Thursday)||$30,000|
|Free Shanghai massage||$35,000|
|Free deluxe room (Sunday to Thursday)||$50,000|
|Free standard room (Friday and Saturday)||$50,000|
|Free deluxe room (Friday and Saturday)||$70,000|
The best value can be had from taking the comps outright. A Saturday room runs $1600 for example, which is a 3.2% return on a buy in of $50000. If the player chooses to take the cash then he or she only receives $400.
The Rio's rates are some of the best deals in town. You can stack them up against all of the similarly sized hotels in the near vicinity — Rocks, Waldo, Golden Dragon, Casa Real and Lan Kwai Fong — and none of them touch the Rio's Sunday to Friday prices. Saturday rates are more in line with the others but everyone has to pay more on the weekend. It's like a Macau rule.
The hotel has 449 rooms in all, including 65 suites. Guest accomodation is on the 6th to 22nd floors. Due to the unlucky connotation of the number four in Chinese (sounding like death), there is no 4th floor. Room rates are as follows with tax and service charges included:
|Rio Room Rates|
|Standard Double Room||$1,041||$1,279||$1,397||$1,871|
|Deluxe Twin Room||$1,279||$1,516||$1,641||$2,047|
|Deluxe Double Room||$1,279||$1,516||$1,641||$2,047|
|Deluxe Double Suite||$4,595||$4,595||$4,595||$4,595|
The Rio pool is kind of reminiscent of the pool at Landmark: both are inside, not very big, but well decorated. I like the continuous flow of water into the pool via ducts on the left hand side as well as the glass walls on the roof and along the side. Looking out into Macau from the 23rd floor affords some very excellent views as well. Pool hours are from 10 am to 3 pm, and again from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Rio's three restaurants can all be found on the third floor, at prices a little more expensive than comparably sized hotels. I had a bad experience at Rio Coffee Shop with some 45 year old Asian server who told me to F myself after I refused to pay for water. Yes... water. Obviously doing these reviews I go to a lot of restaurants and this is the first time someone has demanded I pay for water. I didn't even ask for the water, he just gave it to me after I sat down and started to look at the menu. After perusing the prices for three minutes or so I said thanks and left, but not before helping myself to a drink from the glass. After I started to leave that's when he started to go ape. "What?? You're not going to order?? Pay for the water! I served you water!" I obviously wasn't going to pay for something that's free and I told him as much. After that, well let's just say, he let the expletives fly.
Fu Ho Ah Yung — Cantonese fare at prices just a little over standard, with simple rice and noodle dishes $100 and above. Specialty dishes are in the $100 to $200 range while Canton delicacies like abalone, bird's nest and shark's fin are between $400 and $1000. Hours Monday to Friday are from 11 am to 11:30 pm while on the weekend, the restaurant opens an hour earlier in the morning at 10 am.
Rio Coffee Shop — Rio Coffee Shop does international buffet at reasonable rates. Evening buffet is $158 for adults and $98 for children, while lunch is an even $75 for both. In the first two weeks of the month, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine highlight the evening buffet, while in the last two weeks, Singapore and Malaysian dishes take over. Rio Coffee Shop also has an a la carte menu, which is a mix of Chinese and Western fare. Rice, fried noodles and Macaunese dishes are $55 to $138, while Western meals like lamb, pork chops and steak range from $88 to $238. Take it easy on the free water though, as drinking that might get a little expensive.
IIDA Japanese Restaurant — This Japanese joint doesn't break the bank either with set meals as low as $268. Sushi and most main dishes manage to stay under $100 as well. As is the case with most Japanese restaurants, menu prices can be quite varied, so those with deeper pockets may want to sample some of the delicacies priced over $500 or some of the set meals that are as high as $838. IIDA Japansese restaurant is open from noon to 3 in the afternoon, then again from 6 to 11 pm in the evening.
Some of these hotels need to stop advertising a gym when all their gym has is two cardio machines and three bench type things that have little to no practical use. That's all the Rio gym is, and I won't propagate the lie any further and call it a gym in this review, when it clearly isn't. Instead I'll speak the truth, and the truth is that the Rio has no gym. It has an exercise mat. Move on people, there's nothing to see here.
The fifth floor Rio Spa is independently owned and thus Rio guests need to pay to use the facilities. I was quoted an insanely high price of $488 just to get in, which is double the going rate at other hotel saunas. All is not lost however if you want a private session with a sizzling spa masseuse, because those prices are all around market, costing somewhere between $1,600 to $2,340.
The Rio Spa is open 24 hours.
The Rio Night Club rules the Rio basement with its tastefully done up KTV rooms and even more tastefully made up Karoake girls. Mama San quoted a price of $2,300 for one hour in the KTV room and two hours in the hotel, which is almost the same deal as at the Grand Emperor. I got to admit, one of the women in their posters outside the club made me think twice, but no, she doesn't work there. I kind of wish she did though. Rio Night Club Hours are from 3 pm to 4 am.
The old Rio Lobby Bar had my full approval. I thought it looked more like a godfather's den than a drinking establishment, with its somber wooden walls and dark heavy bar. Cosy and dimly lit, there was a large painting of Sicily on the wall. Unfortunately, that joint sleeps with the fishes now and the new Rio Lobby Bar has been redecorated into something so plain I've forgotten what it looks like already. Prices remain as they were before though, with beers $32 and cocktails $42. Scotch and other spirits are $32 to $42.
Rio Lobby Bar hours are from 4 pm to 1 am.
Shopping at the Rio now amounts to one store found in the lobby and another shop by the casino entrance on the first floor. The Wine Cellar is now closed, having been replaced by the revamped Rio Lobby Bar.
Delight House — Located beside the Rio Lobby Bar, Delight House deals in goods mostly found in duty free. That's to say, there's a lot of chocolate, smokes, bottles, pastries and small knick knack souvenirs on sale. They also have a decent wine selection as well, since that's where the now defunct Wine Cellar's wine ended up.
Rio Jewellery — Almost every single jewellery shop in Macau looks the same, and Rio Jewellery is no different. It seems to be a rule that wherever rings, watches and necklaces are sold, identical signage, store layout and color scheme must be used. And quite honestly, the way these shops look doesn't inspire a lot of confidence that the goods are real and legit. I know I'd never buy anything there, let alone expensive jewellery. Caveat emptor my friends.
Like most four star hotel casinos in Macau there are things to like and things to dislike about the Rio. It's all a matter of what you're looking for. If you want great prices and a good location along with the comfort of a newer hotel, then the Rio might be for you. It doesn't hurt either that most of the place looks pretty good and there's a very nice pool on the 24th floor. But if you're more of a spa person who likes to work out and maybe do some shopping, then look elsewhere.
As for the casino, non-VIP gamers really aren't given a whole lot of incentive to choose the Rio, and even high rollers should take a pass. The cash return just isn't high enough while the other deals related to the player card are just middle of the road. Although it's true the casino is gorgeous and they hit a home run with the delightful design and decor, periphery aesthetics never won anyone a Baccarat bet. And they never will.