When I first visited Shangri-La Mactan almost two decades ago it had just opened. There was no Ocean Wing, there was no fish sanctuary, and the view of the sea was unobstructed. But that first experience nonetheless remains unforgettable.
Today the view has changed a little—when you look out towards the ocean, the once uncluttered view now resembles a lush island getaway with tall palm trees and crystal blue pools resembling a lagoon. There seems to be more things to do around the property like mini golf, tennis and even fish feeding.
Even the rooms have changed. Shangri-La Mactan has just finished renovating 198 rooms. The makeover is part of the resort’s P718-million improvement plan.
The renovation involved a lot of old deluxe rooms in the main wing, but it also included two new suite categories, the Veranda and Casa, which are indeed welcome additions to the hotel’s amazing line of suites.
Fortunately one thing that has not changed is the experience.
At the main lobby you are greeted politely and led to the reception for registration, which so far is still quick and painless. I always say the first impression sets the tone for your stay, and Shangri-La Mactan has never failed me in that regard.
Food to die for
Of course, food is still always something to look forward to at Shangri-La. The resort has nine food and beverage outlets. You can also request for a private candlelit dinner in one of the secluded locations around the property.
One of my favorites is still Cowrie Cove, which has expanded to include a bigger al fresco dining, and a bar that overlooks the ocean. Nothing beats fresh seafood grilled to your liking and served as you heed the sound of waves splashing against the rocks. One thing I miss though is their seafood buffet.
If you are looking for authentic Chinese cuisine, there’s the Tea of Spring on the lower level across from Tides. Let Chef Boon Bun Hoe serve you his delectable creations. I recommend the Dim Sum and the golden bean curd with pork floss, also the Dong Bo Braised Pork Belly, stewed and served with broccoli and oyster sauce. What makes it so amazing is how the pork belly cubes simply melt in your mouth like butter on hot bread, and release a burst of flavors that is both sweet and spicy.
For pasta lovers, nothing beats the risotto and pasta creations of chef Marco at Acqua, especially the thin-crust pizzas that come out of his brick oven.
The Milanese chef really enjoys creating interesting Mediterranean-inspired dishes using the freshest ingredients. Desserts are also not bad if you still have room after the main course.
Then there’s Tides that offers a little of everything from around the world. My kids actually love this because they get, as my daughter would say, “the best salmon sashimi ever.” I like it because kids below 12 eat for free.
Refreshing new design
One thing I have always loved about Shangri-La Mactan are its luxurious accommodations. But in my last few visits before this, apart from the Ocean Wing, the rooms have pretty much stayed the same since the resort opened. Don’t get me wrong, the old rooms were very nice but I was happy to see the change—and just in time for Christmas.
All rooms have been given a makeover, following an “Ocean-to-Shore” concept, which according to Mildred Amos, director for Communications, “will give guests that immediate connection to Shangri-La Mactan’s beach front location when they enter the room.”
The concept follows a two-tone color theme—golden brown and turquoise, which should give guest the feeling of being on the beach, close to the crystal blue waters of Mactan Channel.
Of course each room has the high-end amenities such as flat screen TVs, including one in front of the bathtub, plush soft pillows and L’Occitaine soap and shampoo. There is also a pretty cool espresso machine, which makes drinking coffee an experience on its own.
They say amenities are what makes a destination and Shangri-La Mactan in not short on them. From tennis to golf to parasailing to snorkeling in the marine sanctuary, there is something for everyone.
For the kids, a new Kiddie Water Park, complete with slides and water fountains and sprinklers, has been added to the pool area, and if it’s too hot they can always head to the large indoor play area with inflatable slides, similar to those at Fun Ranch.
There’s even a large game room with pool tables, Xbox 360s, Wii’s and a video arcade.
But for me nothing beats a good hard massage at Chi Spa after a long day under the sun. The traditional Philippine Hilot definitely is a must. The warm coconut oil and banana leaves combined with the strong healing hands of the therapist will definitely rid you of those blockages and pains.
Amos said tourists from Korea and Japan are still among the top markets of Shangri-La. However, the domestic market has grown, especially on weekends.
The face of Mactan has dramatically changed in the last 15 years with a number of 5-star resorts now lining the coast, alongside Shangri-La.
But Shangri-La Mactan remains a cut above the rest by successfully keeping a balance between the requirements of a demanding market and maintaining the quality of service. I was happy to see that while my experience was now indeed a little different, it was still a memorable one, as always.
To find out more about Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa’s exciting offer please visit their website at www.shangri-la.com/cebu/mactanresort