There are two things that can make or break a vacation—service and food. The ambiance, décor, landscape, and even the fantastic view, are mere bonuses.
Nothing comes close to feeling pampered than a warm smile upon arriving in a new place, and a gastronomic adventure that delights the palate.
Far from the noisy metropolis of Cebu is Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, one of the largest, privately owned waterways in the world.
It is located in a sprawling 11.4-hectare property in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan Island, and built like a tropical village with many trees including coconut, bamboo, and a solitary cherry blossom tree. This man-made environment is a playground with seawater lagoons and freshwater swimming pools and a host of toys.
What Plantation Bay lacks in open-sea beachfront—it has only 88 meters compared to the standard 200-m beachfront in most resorts—it makes up in luxuriously designed lagoons, including Mogambo Falls and its elevated pools where you can slide all the way down to one of its main pools. We learned the pools and lagoons are drained and cleaned regularly.
Close to the shore, where a diving wall is located, is now home to some living reefs.
Going around the resort can be a grueling experience, especially under the blistering summer sun. But it can be a pleasant walk early in the morning and at dusk.
If walking gets to be tiring, there are 10- to 14-seater golf carts available to guests. You can also opt to rent a bike, single or tandem, at the Game Room.
Lots of activities
Despite the massive size of the property, guests won’t get lost here. All destinations, including hotel room names and amenities, are arranged in alphabetical order. If you’re staying at the Havana House, for instance, and you need to get to friends over to the Xanadu House, you’d know that’s about 16 “houses” away.
There are pathways that cross the lagoons, too, a short cut to many points in the resorts.
The adventurous can also opt to use the Segway personal transporter for a fee. The resort provides lessons on how to operate this battery-powered vehicle, in case you’re not used to driving it or have not ridden one yet.
There are lots of activities you can engage in: Archery; an indoor firing-range with a decent variety of ammo to choose from (pistols, shotguns and ArmaLites); banana boat rides; Hobie Cat; kayaking; parasailing; diving; kalesa rides; billiards, air hockey, table tennis and more at the Game Room; fishing; pitch and putt; volleyball; wakeboarding; wall climbing; water roller; and tennis at the only ITF-certified tennis court in Cebu (Plantation Bay has been the host of the Davis Cup since 2011).
You can get your nails done at the Nail Salon; you can opt for nail art and choose organic nail paint which is safe for pregnant women.
You can also customize your flip-flops, or learn how to prepare the perfect summer dessert, halo-halo.
For ultimate pampering, there’s the Mogambo Springs, the spa that has won several citations including Asia Spa magazine’s top seven spas in Asia in March 2010. Designed like Japan’s 18th century Tokugawa village, it features hot pools with Jacuzzi, steam room, dry sauna, Thalassic pool and cascading waterfalls massage, classic massage, body scrub, reflexology, aromatherapy, or foot spa.
Cap the day with a memorable meal at Fiji Restaurant. Overlooking the beach, it serves fresh, Pacific Rim cuisine. Try the Kissing Cousins—fresh, succulent prawns and lobster chunks. Group diners might want to try the Salo-Salo, a platter of grilled prawns, lobster, clams, mussels, skewered fish, salted egg, tomatoes, green mango and bagoong. For meat lovers, there’s the bestseller Polynesian Spareribs.
Other worthwhile treats can be savored at the Palermo Tapas and Pasta Café Bar. The Mediterranean-inspired restaurant offers light breakfast and good coffee, plus delicious hot and spicy gambas, a variety of Spanish tapas, and Italian pastas for dinner. It also has a good selection of red and white wines.
If you’re craving for fast food fare, there’s the Savannah Grill near the Savannah pool and tennis court. A children’s favorite nook in the resort, for obvious reasons, it serves the juicy Powerhouse Burger with fries on the side. Or, better yet, try the Hungarian Sausage topped with chili con carne and served with fries.
The Kilimanjaro Kafe, right smack in the middle of one of the freshwater lagoons, is open 24 hours. It offers international cuisine—from steaks to vegetarian dishes—and offers what is dubbed the “world-famous breakfast buffet.” Indeed, most guests have brekky in this restaurant. What’s not to like, with a spread that offers Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Brazilian and Western dishes, including Old Virginia Eggs Benedict and whole-wheat pancakes? It now also offers themed breakfasts, with Brazilian breakfast of conxihas con farosa and seafood salad, Milanese pork piccata, and Italian salata caprese, poached egg with pesto and anchovies.
Food is great, but the service is even better. We learned from one of the staff that an employee was fired for accepting a tip from a persistent guest. With the resort’s strict no-tip policy, guests are always assured excellent service. Equal personal attention is a priority, with most of the staff going the extra mile to accommodate your request.
Founded 17 years ago, Plantation Bay has, by now, taught its staff the art of service. It is, in fact, one of few—if not the only one we know—that has a Satisfaction Guaranteed policy. If guests are not happy, they can choose to check out within four hours of checking in and not pay for room charges. If advance payment has been made, even at peak or blackout periods, you get a full refund—in cash. The staff will help you book a room at another hotel in the metropolis, and even provide you free, chauffeur-driven transportation to your chosen hotel. Even food is refunded, provided you haven’t consumed more than 25 percent of it.