MORPHEUS the God of Dreams
By Terence Ronson, Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor
Just a few short weeks ago, the latest jewel in the crown for Macau's City of Dreams (COD), threw open its doors with all the glamour and glitz one would expect from this Zaha Hadid - designed superstructure - named MORPHEUS.
This 700 room Hotel is a testament to wealth and yet another example of what one can do, when budgets simply don't exist, and your single objective is to create the best - being one-up over your perceived competitors, and attracting thrill-seeking high rollers waiting for the right place to drop their wads of cash, and take a chance at the roll of a dice or the turn of a card.
MORPHEUS has to be seen to be enjoyed - pictures don't do it justice. It's akin to a modern living and breathing exhibition, and that in itself is a legacy to Zaha Hadid who sadly passed away in March 2016 and, therefore, prior to completion. Her memory will live on in this unique creation adorning the Macau skyline.
I was fortunate enough to spend a night in MORPHEUS having been in Macau for the previous two nights attending the excellent HTNG Asia Conference, where I took a short cab ride to my new lodgings. Somehow, the folks knew I was coming most probably tipped off by an industry colleague because when I alighted from my cab - I was greeted by name. Not my first time for this to happen (some may recall a blog I wrote a few years back "where everyone knows your name") but it was nonetheless a pleasant surprise. I was then whisked through the lobby and up in a red doored bubble lift to my waiting room - Tower 1 - 35050. Just in case you are curious, I made my own booking via the Hotel's website, and paid for the stay myself.
At first glance, the room had the appearance I may have been the first person to have actually stayed in it. Later during my detailed inspection, this suspicion may have proved to be correct.
The room was spacious - I would estimate 45sqm, and had a great view of the city, although the only views I was interested in was the room itself, and rest of the Hotel. So, after the registration formalities were completed - like signing a registration card with a very special MORPHEUS pen, being handed my key in the most "designed" key holder I've seen, shown the room facilities, to include the in-house-engineered control center Tablet, Bluetooth ceiling speaker, mini-bar and secret door to the walk-in closet and a wish for a pleasant stay, I was finally left alone.
First on the agenda, after kicking off my shoes and walking on the deep tufted rugs, was to explore and photograph every centimeter of the room. That in itself was to be a mammoth task, since I did not want to leave without turning over every proverbial stone and to see what lay beneath. I was not disappointed...
From a tech perspective, the room is a candy store - it has nearly all the gadgets you'd want to play with, centered around a room management system that I understand was engineered in-house. A strange thing to do, since there is only one other (Hong Kong -based) Hotel group that I know of who has done this using a LAB full of white-coated engineers - but then again, when you have access to funding and the drive and ego to do this, why not? Well, there are numerous reasons why one should not do this - but that obviously did not deter the COD Tech Team from making this dream come true. After all, this IS the City of Dreams...
On the Desk (if one can call it that), and at the bedside are full-sized tablets that allow you to customize the room features: Lights, temperature, sheer curtains, black out blinds and TV. One can also order Room Service and some amenities - like extra soap, towels and tea. Sadly omitted was coffee for the Nespresso machine. But never mind, I had my own back-up supplies just in case. These Tablets sit on charging cradles at a 70-degree angle (just a guess its 70 - I did not measure but they look remarkably like one sees in an Apple store - and they are set at 70 degrees) and simply swop between Chinese and English. Unfortunately, the telephone handset located just beside it, was only in Chinese, and I could not find the way to swop language. So, unlike the Tablet, I did not take that for a test drive.
The tablet was intuitive, but not necessarily responsive. Some commands had to be repeatedly pressed e.g. curtain actions, or light settings for these to happen. I don't think it was a signal issue, but more of program response. I put it down to teething troubles. There is also a neat feature of pairing your Bluetooth device to a ceiling speaker, but you may find the option a tad elusive since it's hidden under INFO, and I almost had to call the helpdesk to find out how to do this - after being briefly shown during the registration process. This pairs your device to a ceiling speaker - which is kind of centered into the room ceiling - however, it's always in "pairing mode" and the identifying blue flashing light can be seen at night when the room lights are turned off. It's not disturbing - just something which may be annoying to some folks - especially since its nestled behind the smoke detector, which in turn has its own flashing white light and there is a light reflection on the pole of the table lamp behind the sofa. These need to be looked into - and I just wonder if anyone took this room type for a test run during design phase.
The tablet is accompanied with various wall mounted control panels. I counted seven in my room, which includes a DND button next to the auto-flushing toilet, and a thermostat outside of the bathroom, and one to control the TV over the bathtub. These are monochrome and can be slightly confusing as you scroll through the modes and try to fathom out what is actually activated or not. I believe color panels would have been more intuitive - but that's just my two cents.
The auto WC, as is often quite standard these days, has a TOTO logo, and a hand-held control which has printed instructions (hidden behind the unit) in both Chinese and English. I'm not a lover of these, call me old school, but I have no problem lifting or closing the respective lids "to do my thing" and pressing or pulling a flusher afterwards. Yes, I know it has all the wash and wipe functions and can give you the cleanest tush in town, but what to do when it fails, as it did in my case? There's no lid at the back to open and yank a chain - you need to either embarrassingly call tech services or leave an apology note for housekeeping - I opted for the latter upon checkout.
The WC cubicle also has a wall recessed phone unit - looking similar to an intercom system. Nice design, but I wonder how often this is used! I suppose it's more hygienic, since it accompanies an auto loo - hmm - food for thought. But let me tell you one thing that really made me smile. In the loo was the MORPHEUS embossed toilet roll, very discreetly and stylishly embedded on the first sheet. Blink, or blindly yank and you will miss it. This makes for an interesting CSR policy. If one sheet is used, the roll will, I assume, be replaced. What then happens to the used rolls?
On each side of the comfy bed (I may have been the first to sleep in this), are Remedios-designed night stands. Inside each drawer are more touch panels (Master and Night light), as well as charging cables for your gadgets, including Apple, USB-C and micro-USB. And just in case you need it, there are two USB power sockets (5V 2400mA) and a universal power socket. Nice touch!
Missing from the room is an ironing board and iron - but these are available on demand. I assume, because the guests who stay here, will simply call housekeeping to have their designer label clothes pressed. Inside the walk-in closet is an electronic safe with a power socket and USB port to charge whatever you may opt to deposit. Adjacent to it is the obligatory emergency flashlight and the wardrobe has plenty of hangers and an umbrella. The mini bar has a selection of booze, some of which I've never heard of before, and the customary own-brand snacks. I'm tempted to say overpriced, but I suspect the high-rolling crowd get all these comp'd, so it's irrelevant. I liked the fruit plate on the desk - complete with some kiwis and cherry tomatoes. Those unfamiliar with Chinese culture may not realize tomato is classified as a fruit, and the small size make it delicate enough (for the petite ladies) to be bite-sized.
The Samsung TV is appropriately sized at 65", and this is primarily controlled by the tablet (there is a remote) but is also connected to a jack pack (HDMI / power etc.) elegantly hidden in a unit behind the desk, which raises and recedes at the press of illuminated buttons. Very nice touch! It's most unfortunate that when I pulled the TV out on the swing bracket, the heavy cover protecting the cable management system and conduits, fell off onto the floor - just missing my shoeless toes, but slightly damaging the table beneath it. The locking keys were still inside the unit, and obviously the installers overlooked the locking function and removal of the keys. Such things happen during openings, and I hope all rooms will now be checked.
At the best of times, I'm a light sleeper (hence I have now started to use Bose Sleep buds) - with the slightest sound waking me up, and at 4am when some of my neighbors returned to their rooms (perhaps from the casino) they woke me up as their loud voices channeled itself from the corridor into my room. On the bright side - that afforded me another opportunity to continue my research into the workings of the room rather than stare at the ceiling and counting sheep...
The bathroom is very spacious and had two circular deep wash basins - one of which had a drawer beneath it housing the Dyson hairdryer (another nice touch), and the other had various amenities. On the vanity itself as in other areas of the room were small bottles of Evian water. I was very happy with this since it's my drink of choice. The selection of amenities was good, and I do like it when there is a real bar of soap and also a little bottle of mouthwash. Towels were fluffy (new of course) and two bathrobes (L & M) were hung on the outer wall of the shower. I did not use the tub, but the rain shower was excellent - nice temperature and full pressure. Definitely no flow restrictor device used here. There was a telescopic make-up mirror, and a stool to sit in for those who need cosmetic engineering. And I would say, for once, the lighting levels were correct. Just a shame there were no other hooks in the bathroom.
The bathroom is separated from the bedroom via a heavy looking sliding door - but in reality, a gentle tug sees it close/open on its own and should something like a child get in the path during motion, a light sensor stops it in its tracks. A nicely thought-out idea - and probably one of the many costly items in the room.
Well, what else can I say about the room? It was comfortable - but not one I'd use for a business trip. There was no desk per se, but it was light, comfy and well-appointed. It also had plenty of power sockets and toys to play with. There are definitely some teething issues, and it will need a second look over, if only just to remove the protective covers on some of the chair legs, and transparent plastic protective covers on the power socket under the vanity.
As to the rest of the Hotel - there is a lot to see! There is an impressive pool area, perfect as a background for Instagram moments. There is also a very fancy looking discreet Chinese restaurant complete with its own Art Space, and yet to open Cigar Lounge (put me on the invite list when it does - hint hint).
Celebrity Chef Alain Ducasse has two outlets in MORPHEUS and along with two HTNG colleagues, we tried out Voyages for dinner - the more casual of the two. This was a great experience. The staff, who incidentally wear trainers, were well trained, and each dish was well prepared and tasty. It's a fusion-type fare, with sharing plates and reasonable prices for what you get. Table water is Badoit (would have preferred Evian) and this is served in a designer-glass with an embedded colored marble attached to the base.
The menu included an amuse bouche and some homemade chocolates to round off the meal - giving a welcome sugar rush to help you segue into the casino for a late-night session. One of my fellow diners ordered a Negroni and this was prepared table-side from a cart with all the flair you would expect from such a place. The drinks included a huge ball of ice - and my other fellow diner was so intrigued with this that he requested one for his water. Apart from the fact all desserts include ice cream or sorbet, I'd recommend a visit to Voyages. It's not overly pretentious and it has just the right amount of casualness for me and the food was memorable.
If you are a high roller aka Whale, its likely you will be treated to a stay in one of their forty duplex villas which I had the unique opportunity to tour. This suite is HUGE - it has a couple of bedrooms, a karaoke room (hopefully sound proofed), giant 4-tile TV in the living space, dining area and a bar complete with cigar humidor, cutter and torch, but sans cigars. There is a Chinese tea ceremony set, kitchen, gym and massage room including his and hers massage tables. I understand the Villa has a private gaming room - but sadly, I did not have the opportunity to see that. To help you get up and down the stairs, there's an elevator - and although the travelling distance is around 30 feet - the journey time is over 1-minute. Views from the villas are as you would expect - sensational, and the Butler will take care of all your needs. I was told a few even have their own internal jacuzzi pool.
Whichever way you look at it - MORPHEUS is a dream - for both COD and Zaha Hadid. Together, they've done a great job in making this dream come true. It still needs some polish and refinement (that undoubtedly will happen over time), and the Macau community should be proud to add this to their already glitzy stock of Hotels.
Terence Ronson is the Managing Director of Pertlink Limited. Now residing in Manila after almost two decades in Hong Kong, Terence launched his diversified hospitality career as a chef, later holding various general management positions with well-known hotels in the UK and Asia. In the mid-80s he developed his penchant for technology, and in 2000 started Pertlink Ltd.More from Terence Ronson