The special administrative region of Macau, situated on China’s southern coast, beckons with the glitz of Michelin-starred dining, retail malls, themed attractions, and casinos befitting Asia’s gaming capital.
In a move to diversify Macau’s appeal beyond gambling, hotel and casino operators are competing to introduce unparalleled facilities under one roof – including sizeable spas – with the reclaimed land that forms the area of Cotai proving the location for most of the new resorts.
Unveiled last August, the US$4.2bn (€3.6bn, £3.2bn) Wynn Palace has been a labour of love – six years in the making – for owner Steve Wynn. This, his second luxury resort in Macau, seeks to set the bar in terms of experience and surroundings.
The 4,497sq m (48,405sq ft) spa, designed by TAL Studio and the Wynn Design & Development team, occupies its own floor and includes a salon, swimming pool, café, fitness centre and boutique.
As a 45-year-plus hospitality veteran, Wynn has spoken about creating a destination that makes guests feel joyful. By the time I arrive at Wynn Palace, well into a 10-day tour of Macau hotels, I’ve inspected several properties, walked for miles and I’m feeling a little jaded. Yet I find myself re-energised within minutes of wandering the public spaces, marvelling at the fearless use of colour, the art collections, which are worth more than US$125m (€112m, £98m), and the intricate layering that forms the basis of an exuberant design, which has been inspired by the tradition of chinoiserie.
There are crowds milling around the two entrance atriums taking pictures of floral sculptures which have been installed by designer Preston Bailey. These include a carousel whose display alone contains more than 83,000 flowers (see image below).
Across the hotel, there’s a visual conversation between East and West, with Chinese-influenced decorative arts taking pride of place. This theme flows down to the spa, where hand-painted murals by Paul Montgomery, depicting life in Chinese royal residences, decorate the entrance corridors. As a small example of the way Wynn has looked to inject luxury at every turn, the hallways are eight feet wide instead of the typical five, rooms feel deeper and ceilings higher. Since the entrance hallway leads to several amenities, the design team has installed an arresting Foucault pendulum directly in front of the entrance to the spa. Executive director of spa Jennifer Simms explains that this calming feature encourages people to stop using their phones, taking time instead to watch the brass pendulum.
Both times I visit, reception staff are on standby to explain the layout and how to use the facilities. Since this is such a big spa, I worry I might feel overwhelmed, but the central corridor around which the treatment suites are arranged is on an axial grid, giving a sense of proportion and navigational flow. This said, the team of 62 is well-versed in giving directions and equipped with radios to ensure there’s a member of staff ready to escort guests between the changing rooms, wet areas and treatment zones at any time.
Echoing the spa’s theme, guardian lions known as ‘Shi’ – symbols associated with the Chinese imperial court – flank the same corridor, the males holding an embroidered ball and the females carrying a cub, in a representation of yin and yang. A sculptural peacock provides a focal point, with silk floral friezes adding adornment. The whole effect is stunning, but TAL Studio has tempered these grand areas with more sedate treatment zones, in which Etimoe Veneer, a warm and multidimensional wood, is used alongside fabrics that glisten with a subtle sheen, tasteful art and a well-judged colour palette that appeals to both sexes. It’s glamorous yet more restrained than other parts of the hotel, ensuring the environment is suited to relaxation.
Depending on the treatments selected, guests are either shown to single or couple’s suites, the latter more than 200sq ft (18.5sq m) in size. Of the 22 treatment rooms, eight have their own private changing facilities with steamroom, spa bath and experience shower. Simms explains that guests never see therapists clearing away equipment or used linens because each suite has its own private door to the back-of-house area.
Water & heat therapies
All those who’ve booked treatments are invited to enjoy water and heat experiences, provided in both male and female areas, to be taken before or after – or both. I’ve asked the receptionist when things are quietest, so at 7.30pm on a Saturday, I’m sharing a whirlpool with multiple airbeds, plunge pools, steamroom, Finnish sauna, experience showers and tepidariums with just one other guest. The area is immaculate, the customised scent of mandarin and lily is appealing, and I enjoy sampling the Natura Bissé products in the makeup area, along with fragrances at the perfume bar. There is a lounge – luxurious and residential – in which to leaf through magazines and enjoy the spa’s signature teas and healthy snacks.
Effective scheduling is a priority for Simms’ team, who aim to stagger appointments and take advantage of all their treatment suites to ensure none of the facilities become overcrowded. For guests who wish to use the heat and water experiences without booking a treatment, a day pass is available at MOP500 (US$62, €55, £49) to ensure they are serious, and no external membership scheme is offered. “We would never want external traffic to overwhelm in-house guests,” Simms says.
The spa is open between 9am and 10.30pm, but the team also offers 24-hour in-room services, as some of the hotel’s VIP suites are equipped with massage rooms – it’s not unusual for Chinese guests to finish gambling in the early hours and request massages.
I’m intrigued by the provision of LED light therapy masks, but opt to have a short session on the Oxyvital oxygen machine, a system designed for those concerned about air pollution. When I ask for assistance on the machine, the only hitch in my visit occurs: the attendant is unsure of how to apply the equipment to my face, but rectifies this quickly by seeking assistance from a colleague who is adept at showing me how it works.