The Maven Meter: Studio City Casino & Hotel
(Last updated: November 13, 2023)
Lights, camera, action!
Melco Resorts much anticipated sequel to the City of Dreams debuted on October 27, 2015 with appearances by Hollywood A-listers Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, along with a concert by 90’s diva Mariah Carey. The property expanded on April 6, 2023, with the unveiling of the 338 suite Epic Tower and Indoor/Outdoor Water Park, that comes complete with state-of-the-art water slides, rapids, surfing simulator, and wave pools. A second hotel tower named W Macau is currently under construction and looks just about finished, with a projected soft opening in September 2023.
Branded as Asia’s Entertainment Capital, Studio City flaunts the same passion, moxie, energy and youth as the City of Dreams, but only on a much larger scale. The building itself is an attempt to portray what would happen if a meteor crashed through it, while the same over the top movie magic is re-created indoors, with various replications of Gotham City, Beverly Hills and Times Square.
Undoubtedly the best place to stay in Macau if you have children, they’ll be occupied all day running between the Water Park and the Super Fun Zone, Golden Reel and Legend Heroes Park.
It’s all right here, right now. Studio City turns fantasy into reality, and ordinary people into stars. Have a glamorous day!
STUDIO CITY PHOTO GALLERY
STUDIO CITY CASINO
Studio City’s casino is one God awful attempt at something and I don’t know what it is. Red and raging, it’s got no style or substance whatsoever and needs to be toned down immediately. At least the hideous collection of golden teapots and coffeepots have been taken away, so perhaps there’s some hope for it yet.
Regardless, let’s just say that the City of Dreams casino definitely executed its excess in a much more pleasing and proper manner.
As for the nuts and bolts, the main casino floor is divided in two, with 160 tables on one side and 768 slots on the other, with most minimums $300. For electronic gamers, there’s $10 Big Wheel, $10 Roulette and $10 Sic Bo, along with $50 to $300 Live Gaming Baccarat.
If you ask me, Studio City’s casino doesn’t do offer anything you can’t get at City of Dreams, making it rather redundant. It would only be useful for guests staying at the hotel, which as you’ll see later on, I don’t think anyone should do.
STUDIO CITY GAMES
The games at Studio City are exactly the same as what’s offered at the City of Dreams, except they also have Three Card Baccarat.
Baccarat – Minimum bet is $3000, only available in the Signature Club.
Commission Free Baccarat – Players win only 50% on a won Banker bet that totals 6. Minimum bet is only $500, a bargain in Cotai.
Blackjack – Minimum bet is $300. All Melco casinos offer an inferior Blackjack game, as players lose both bets when doubling on 11 versus a Dealer Blackjack. This disadvantageous rule increases the house edge by a disgusting 0.08%.
Also has a side bet called Over, Under 13 where you bet on the sum of your first two cards. Aces count as 1. I don’t recommend this bet, but bet the over if you play it.
Caribbean Stud Poker – Minimum bet is $300, the lowest in town.
Craps – With a minimum pass line bet of only $300 and 5 times odds, Studio City offers the best Craps in Macau.
The Big 6, Big 8 bets are rip offs, always go for Place 6 and Place 8 instead. The 4-1 Any Hard Way bet wins if any hard way is rolled before an easy way or a 7, for a house edge of 9.09%.
Roulette – Minimum bets of $100 Inside and $500 Outside.
Sic Bo – Big/Small minimums are a pricy $300
Slot Machines – Around 900 slot machines, with lows from 5 cents to $10. Live Gaming Baccarat is on for $50 to $300, while electronic games consist of Big Wheel ($10), Roulette ($10) and Sic Bo ($10).
Three Card Baccarat – Minimum bet is $300.
Three Card Poker – $300 minimums.
STUDIO CITY PROMOTIONS
The worst thing about writing these casino reviews are the casino promotions, because they always change and most of them really don’t apply to the recreational gamer who’s in Macau for only a couple of days.
As for Studio City’s dead chip program, it returns the same rates as the one at the City of Dreams.
Their one for foreign players is slightly higher, plus 0.05% at every level.
STUDIO CITY HOTEL
The majority of Studio City’s 1,938 rooms are located in either the Celebrity Tower (1,000) or Star Tower (600). As part of their Phase Two development, the Epic Tower opened in April 2023 and offers 338 suites, which is definitely the trend in Cotai now. If any hotel is adding or refurbishing rooms, they’re not making them small and cheap anymore.
Rates for the Celebrity Tower are in Macau Mops and include all taxes and service charges.
The Star Tower is the much more luxurious digs, and the preferred option for solo visitors.
As for the Epic Tower, it’s currently sold out over the summer, and an email to the hotel revealed zero details about how much rooms cost. The front desk does not exactly scream lavish luxury either.
Neither does the lobby section, which is extremely pedestrian as well.
STAR TOWER HOTEL ROOM
I stayed at Studio City a month after it opened and was pretty disappointed with the whole experience. It started at check in which is either done at the Celebrity Tower or Star Tower, but I didn’t know which desk to go to. For group bookings or those who went through travel agencies, you should try the Celebrity Tower desk, while all others should be in the Star Tower.
I didn’t know that at the time though and went to the Celebrity Tower first, since I’d booked the cheapest room online and the Star Tower sounded far too posh for a $1480 Mop a night room. After waiting for about 25 minutes in a ridiculously long line at the Celebrity Tower, I finally got to the front desk and was politely informed that I was in the wrong place. The gentleman behind the desk said I could still check in there though so we got straight to it.
I had booked online using a credit card which the hotel did not charge until I got there. The problem with that is that I can’t make purchases in Macau with a credit card because the correct pass code that I input is always rejected. The general situation with booking rooms in Macau is that when you do it online the purchase goes through automatically so it’s already paid for by the time you get to the desk.
At Studio City however this isn’t the case and I ended up very short of cash. I asked him to just charge the room to my card on the computer without using the pass code but he said it wasn’t possible. That led me to having to pay both the room and deposit with all the money I had left and it was barely enough. I paid the deposit first which was $1000 and the room fee of $1487 with my last three $1000 bills. And then for some reason the man at the desk didn’t want to give me back any change!
Now I had serious business that night with my friend Wang Ping Ping who I was taking to dinner and I needed every Pataca back to show her a good time. He said that he wanted to retain the balance in case I made purchases later on inside my room. To that I replied, leaning in over the desk, in a not so friendly tone, then what was the $1000 deposit for? Why was I paying twice? Why won’t you give me my change?
Another co-worker came over and sorted it out rather quickly but I thought the situation was completely ridiculous from the outset. The checkout procedure the following day was also very slow and one of the doormen said it was because the cleaning crew was understaffed and so both check in and check out usually take a long time.
After check in I proceeded to my room on the 16th floor. Maybe some of the “Ritz Effect” was in play here because I didn’t think much of it at all. (By that I mean that when the last hotel you stayed in was the Ritz Carlton Macau, then the next hotel you stay in is going to seem far far worse no matter how good it is.)
For one, they call it a suite and it’s not a suite. It’s one room and one room only, with none of the luxury or flash appeal that typical suites should have. At least it wasn’t priced like a suite, but why are they even calling it in the first place?
The biggest problem with the room is that half of it is a bathroom and I don’t know anyone who would need one that big.
There’s also a stand-up shower in there, although it’s not clear from the photos.
The bed is also separated from the TV by a couch which I didn’t get at all, nor did I like the dark heavy colour scheme, which made the room seem a lot older than it actually was. It honestly looked five years old when it was closer to five weeks old.
I also heard a strange mechanical sound coming into my room which too which I attributed to the giant Golden Reel attraction outside, like a part was stuck somewhere and not getting enough grease. Of all the things to happen when I already didn’t like the room, that was the icing on the cake.
All in all, I didn’t think much of my stay at Studio City and wouldn’t recommend it as a living option. The room just wasn’t that much better than the ones at the old Holiday Inn at Sands Cotai Central that were $500 cheaper.
STUDIO CITY POOL
After the Galaxy’s fantastic Grand Resort Deck, not many pools in Macau will impress and that is also the case at Studio City.
One outdoor pool for a 2000 room hotel is math that just doesn’t add up.
In a new development, non guests can also pay to get in, with the magic number $380 for adults. At first I thought that was a tad expensive, but it also gives access to the gym and sauna facilities at Zensa spa.
Cabana is Studio City’s pool bar and it’s got to be the largest one in town. The food menu is worthy of a restaurant, with snacks $30 to $60, salad $60 or $70, and grilled favourites $40 to $140. Combo sets run $130 or $140, while those off the grill are pricier, costing $110 to $550. Much needed ice cream in Macau’s sweltering summers will set you back $40 for a cup, and $50 for a cone.
The drink menu is no slouch either, featuring beer ($50 to $60), wine ($30 to $50), spirits ($70 to $90), and plain old juice ($50). Full bottles of wine are also available for $150 to $1180.
For Star Tower guests, they can also make use of an indoor pool that’s located on the 3rd floor.
The Epic Tower also has an indoor pool, but they wouldn’t let me in to take pictures. I was able to get a look at their state of the art sauna and steam room though in the change room. The sauna is actually an Infrared Room with Himalayan Salt, which roughly means it could be good for you somehow. There was also a decently sized vitality pool (aka hot tub).
Unlike Star Tower guests, these facilities are all free of charge for those staying in the Epic Tower.
Studio City has three fitness centres, one for each of the hotel towers. The Celebrity Tower gym is an embarrassment with very little to no heavy lifting equipment. It’s basically all cardio, so you can’t say now that celebrities never get the shaft.
The Star Tower and Epic Tower gyms, on the other hand, are both very comprehensive and worthy of actually being called fitness centres. Both are open 24 hours, just bring your room key to get in.
As for spas, there are now three of them, after the Spa at Epic Tower opened up in 2023.
Zensa Spa – Studio City’s main spa now only uses one rate for weekends and weekdays.
210 to 240 Wellness Journeys are the most expensive treatments available, running $3280 to $3580, while 2 to 3 hour Quintessence Packages cost $1980 to $2980. Massage either goes for $1280 (60 minutes) or $1580 (90 minutes), while 90 minute body treatments are $1580. One hour Natura bisse facials run $1580 to $2680, while 60 to 90 minute Margy’s Monte Carlo skin care is a pricier $1980 to $3680. There are also less expensive 60 to 90 minute facials for $1180 to $1980.
30 minute add ons also cost $680, whether that’s for facials, skin treatment, or body exfoliation.
Studio City guests get no free access to spa facilities and must pay a $180 door fee to get in, while the price for walk in visitors is $380. That allows access to a vitality pool, sauna, steam room and snow room.
Zensa Spa is located on the 3rd floor and keeps hours from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm daily.
The Spa at Epic Tower – The Spa at Epic Tower is currently using the same menu as Zensa Spa. I’d imagine they keep identical hours as well.
Vinca Spa – Up on the second level beside Legend Heroes Park, there’s a small massage place that opened sometime in late 2019. Owned by a third party operator, the menu is quite small, limited to just 60 or 90 minute foot massage ($338 or $498), 60 minute massage ($698), 90 minute massage ($998), and 30 minute add ons like head massage, manicures, and pedicures ($198).
Closed on Tuesdays, Vinca spa keeps hours daily from 1:00 pm to midnight.
STUDIO CITY RESTAURANTS
A property branded for the stars needs celebrity chefs and Studio City initially boasted an impressive roster of industry giants, none of whom ever bothered to show up. Rather, the amazing Alain Ducasse, owner of 19 Michelin stars worldwide, and Chef Patissier Pierre Herme, AKA the “Picasso of Pastry”, opened their restaurants in the Morpheus Tower instead. As for Alan Wong, the world renowned master of Hawaiian cuisine, I have no idea what happened to him.
Here’s what’s left of their signature eateries, which mostly remain very anonymous.
Pearl Dragon – Much celebrated Executive Chef Tam Kwok Fung fled for Wynn Palace in 2018. Regardless, Pearl Dragon still retains their Michelin star, for reasons unknown. Serving southern Chinese fare, appetizers run $88 to $888, while barbecue specialties are $328 to $1388, and soup $128 to $1388. Seafood breaks the bank, whether that’s the dry variety ($468 to $4288) or wet ($128 to $5388), while poultry is $138 to $888, and main meat favourites $168 to $1388. For cheaper options, just stick to the rice ($108 to $1688) and vegetables ($168 to $298) and you should be alright.
Dim sum takes over at lunch with most selections $20 to $128. There’s also a 6 course Signature Lunch Tasting Menu for $588.
At night, a Premium Tasting Menu is available for $1488 (6 courses), or $1788 (8 courses).
For a review of my dinner there, please follow the link: Pearl Dragon
Hours daily are from 12:00 pm and 2:30 pm in the afternoon, and from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm at night.
Rossi Trattoria – Formerly known as Trattoria Il Mulino, that iteration went over like a lead zeppelin; hence the name change. I doubt this Rossi version will be any better. The menu is short and sweet, limited to anti-pasta ($85 to $265), pasta ($120 to $395), and mains ($265 to $570). Dessert is also available for $45 to $95.
They also run a 2 hour free flow drink promotion for $150, with beer, red wine, and white wine on offer. If you prefer Prosecco instead, the price jumps up to $188.
Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Rossi is otherwise open daily from 12:00 to 2:30 pm, and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Rossi Pizza – Small, small menu at Rossi Pizza consisting of 8 different tiny 30 cm pizzas that range in price from $145 to $180. Word to the wise, you might have to order three to finally feel full. They also serve salad and snacks for $65 to $165.
Rossi Pizza also offers the same 2 hour Free Flow Drink Promotion as Rossi Trattoria.
Hours are from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily.
Spotlight – Studio City’s buffet restaurant is located on Level 2 in the Celebrity Tower. Rates for children and adults are as follows:
Buffet times are from 7:00 am to 10:30 am (breakfast), 12:00 am to 3:00 pm (lunch) an 6 pm to 10:00 pm (dinner).
Spice Road – Spice Road serves regional Asian favourites at okay prices. Southeast Asian favourites run $128 to $138, while local specialties are $148 to $498. Barbecue favourites stay in the $128 to $218 range, while soup is $58 to $158 and snacks $68 to $88. The rest of the menu is composed of vegetables ($78 to $98), rice ($128 to 488), and noodles ($98 to $198).
Located on Level 1, Spice Road keeps hours from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm in the afternoon, and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm in the evening.
Kiku Ramen – Ramen restaurant are really taking off in Cotai, with almost every large resort offering at least one of them. Fantastic development for me, as the menus are always super small. Ramen runs $98 to $168, while snacks are $25 to $55, and dessert $30 to $40.
Hours are from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on weekdays. On weekends, it opens straight through from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
Joyride Diner – Awesome visuals at Joyride Diner that bring you straight back to the American 1950’s. I wish the prices were from that era too, but burgers run $80 to $120, while classic snacks like cheesesteak , chilli dogs , spaghetti, and tacos are $70 to $120. Desserts are also available for $30 to $70.
It’s open for breakfast too, with their morning menu $70 to $130.
Joyride Diner is open from 11:00 to 9:00 pm on weekdays, and 8:00 am to 10:00 pm on the weekends.
For more casual dining, Studio City has a ton of smaller restaurants located on Level Two in the Macau Gourmet Walk.
STUDIO CITY ENTERTAINMENT
The House of Magic was a signature Studio City attraction, but it sadly bit the dust in 2017. The Batman Dark Knight Ride followed suit sometime during Covid. “Asia’s entertainment capital” probably needs to add a few more attractions ASAP, at least for adults anyway. Children, on the other hand, continue to have it made.
Water Park – The Studio City Water Park is not something you usually see attached to a hotel. They’ve got 16 different attractions split between their Outdoor and Indoor Areas, including seven water slides, two wave pools, one extreme water roller coaster and even an indoor surfing simulator. If you’re afraid of heights, this is one attraction to avoid as some of the water slides are hundreds of feet in the air, looking very intimidating as they tower above the outdoor swimming pool on Level 3.
I got to hand it to their marketing team who should get paid double after naming some of the attractions “Lightspeed Shuttle”, “Launch Tower”, “Blackhole Slingshot”, and “Martian Waves”. There’s also a 246 meter rapid ride that whisks you past waterfalls and water curtains, as well as a 3.7 meter diving pool that’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
Mostly made for children (obviously), some of the rides have height restrictions attached to them, with those taller than 1.1 or 1.2 metres usually good to go. Seeing as I’m a strapping 1.83, I will not be denied anywhere, and we may need some medical staff on hand to deal with some crushed, mutilated and/or deformed children who stepped on the wrong ride at the wrong time with the wrong guy.
All jokes aside, this Water Park appears to be a world class facility and I will make a full report on it, once I return to Macau in September. Judging from the website, it truly has the potential to be a game changer and maybe even a must visit, particularly if you have kids.
On weekdays, adult prices are $520 while children cost $320. On weekends, the rates get upped to $580 and $350 respectively.
Starting from September, the Water Park closes one day a week, on Tuesdays. Apart from that it’s open daily from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
Legend Heroes Park – With games, games, and more games (around 60 and all), Legend Heroes Park is a virtual arcade for the 21st Century, featuring cutting edge VR, Projection Mapping, Holograms, Motion Tracking, and Sportainment. If you’re not quite hip to the times, there’s also old school arcade games, car racing and bowling lanes, as well as a 4D movie theatre showing two flicks a day in English and Mandarin.
Unlimited access to all games and experiences costs $430 for 2 hours, while it’s $215 for every additional hour after that. If you just want to play individual games, they’re a pricey $80 per pop. Be forewarned the vertigo and motion sickness are on the house, because that’s how I usually feel after strapping one of those contraptions onto my head.
What could be of more interest are the escape rooms, with Legend Heroes Park the only venue in Macau to offer them. Requiring 3 to 6 people, the price is $250 per head and is something I’ve always wanted to try.
Legend Park is open from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily, with only Mondays off.
Super Fun Zone – Remember those wretched wooden playgrounds kids got stuck playing on in the early 80’s? Where it felt like half of the bolts supporting the entire structure were loose and any swinging tire was actually just a second urinal? Where you’d brave walking “the beam” and grievously fall six feet into a hospital stretcher? Yes, those were fun times indeed, but children nowadays have it so, so much better.
Allow me to introduce the Super Fun Zone, which is Macau’s biggest and best play area by a country mile. Spanning four levels and taking up more than 29,600 square feet, it puts all of the the other Kid Zones in town to shame, so much so that it’s hard to fathom why anyone goes there at all. Divided into five distinct zones, there’s obstacle courses, drop zones, climbing ropes, rock walls, tree houses, raceways, ball pits and even some sort of zero gravity simulator.
Prices are amazing as well, considering the entry pass has no time restriction, and almost every other play area in Macau charges more money after 2 hours.
There’s also a small diner inside selling finger food and snacks to get you fuelled back up for all that fun.
Hours are daily from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Unless it’s the summer, it closes on Wednesdays. Please note that reservations are recommended in advance.
Golden Reel – Golden Reel looks pretty boss from the outside and is a key feature of Studio’s City’s unique design, but the Ferris Wheel ride itself isn’t that interesting. The problem is that there isn’t much to see as you make your way up and down, just a bleak view of Zhuhai on one side, and an empty piece of Cotai land on the other.
Perhaps it gets a lot better at night when some the Cotai Strip is all lit up, but even then, I’d take a pass. Wait until the area around it gets properly built up so there’s actually something to see.
If you book a room through the Studio City website now, tickets for the Golden Reel usually come free as part of the package. Otherwise they’re $100 for adults and children alike.
Hours are from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm Thursdays to Mondays.
STUDIO CITY BARS
Showhouse used to be the hottest nightclub in town, but it bit the dust during Covid. If they’re smart, they’ll bring it back ASAP. With the lobby bars at Star and Celebrity Towers both closed as well, that only leaves the Lobby Cafe at Epic Tower. Truth be told, it’s probably closer to a restaurant than a bar, but I want to put something here.
Lobby Cafe at Epic Tower – Appetizers and salad run $108 to $168, while soup is $78 to $368, and Chinese specialties $118 to $368. Mains can get pricey, starting at $268 and ending at $1388, while sandwiches and burgers are $88 to $228 and noodles and pasta $158 to $228. There’s also rice dishes for $168 to $488.
If you’re looking for afternoon tea, it’s a very decent $388 for 2 people.
Located in the Epic Tower lobby, hours daily are from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.
STUDIO CITY SHOPPING
The shopping quarter at Studio City might be the coolest one in town. There’s Times Square and Beverly Hills, not to mention a ton of cameras overhead that make you feel like you’re on a movie set.
Regardless of whether you’ve come to shop or not, it’s definitely worth checking out.
THE LAST WORD
Studio City won’t get my return patronage as a hotel guest, simply because there’s little incentive to stay there. The rooms aren’t good enough, nor is the service or amenities. The dining is still a work in progress while the casino is just a repeated version of what’s already been done in Macau a million times before.
I’d call Studio City an epic bust but for its groundbreaking architecture, fun movie star vibes and amazing array of children activities. Make no mistake about it, it’s definitely the hotel to choose in Cotai if you’re travelling in a family.
Here’s hoping they add a little more for adults to do as the property continues to develop under its Phase 2 expansion. To me, Studio City feels like that star in the making, who’s just one big break away.
Situated across the road from the Parisian Macao, Studio City is the southernmost hotel on the Cotai Strip.