Earlier this year, my besties (10 years and counting, yo!) bought tickets to Cebu in the Philippines for our travel party of four on Tiger Airways. At just S$180 per passenger, and this includes 40kg luggage between us four, it was a fantastic deal that we just couldn’t miss.
We had never traveled together prior to this trip, or at least not all four of us, and this trip would be our very first vacay together! It’s quite timely too, since it’s like our ten year anniversary of sorts of being friends. It’s a real milestone. (Most relationships or marriages wouldn’t last half that amount of time.)
We really took the time to shop around for a resort that would give us the pampering we so badly needed and desperately wanted. That said, we had really different ways of relaxing. SL and I were going to do a dive on one of the days while our other two friends, Hemma and Clara, would likely be just enjoying their time in the resort with a nice spa treatment, no fuss and no rush. So, with this in mind, we were definitely not going to scrimp on the resort we picked. We needed some place that was going to blow us away and make paying extras for meals and exorbitant mini-bar items worth every cent.
We all did a look through TripAdvisor and analysed reviews, weighing the good comments against the bad ones and finally shortlisted only two resorts we would even consider staying at. It was between Crimson Resort and Spa and Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu. Both were excellent choices, but being a neurotic traveller (what’s new), I trawled the web for blog reviews (here, here and here) and finally after my blow-by-blow analysis via a group chat in Whatsapp, we chose Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu. It was just newer, looked very modern and felt a lot more fresh. Plus the reviews balanced out and most importantly even the worst-taken photos by travellers looked pretty good.
We booked our hotel through Agoda and had a heart-attack because of a credit card issue which resulted in our 2-bedroom suite being released from the system just less than a week before we were due to stay. I’ll touch on this topic in another post, I promise. But we eventually managed to book ourselves two deluxe ocean-front rooms instead as the 2-bedroom suites were sold out. The two rooms definitely cost us more than our 2-bedroom suite as we were forced to re-book at the last minute, but we were just relieved we could still enjoy our holiday at Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu.
Entrance of the resort
Private chartered transportation, coined Mövenpick “Jeepneys” by the hotel
Plenty of villas and beach resorts in Cebu boast a distinctively Asian aesthetic. In fact, many of them incorporate Balinese design elements and have an earthy colour palette of brown and green. Mövenpick, however, is just different from the crowd with a very Mediterranean approach. It had such playful splashes of colour (zesty lime and aquamarines) against a refreshing white-washed backdrop. Very modern indeed. Apparently, it went through P500million reno-works and is elegantly furnished by world-class Filipino designers, Manny Samson, Almario Sisters, and Fred and Butch Valdes. What a transformation!
We landed at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, got ourselves organised and cleared immigration, and hopped onto an airport taxi and reached the hotel in 15 minutes. We thought location was perfect as we didn’t intend to travel out to the city when on a beach holiday. We were prepared to be thoroughly lazy and just stick to staying in the resort for the 4D3N there.
Check-in waiting area
Mövenpick is so very stylish from the furnishing to the uniforms on the staff. The lovely palette adopted by the hotel is even in the little details of the staff uniforms – by far one of the most fashionable uniforms I’ve seen.
While I’ve read so much about the resort being a real gem with top-notch service even when it’s bustling almost everyday, we got off on a rough start.
The resort was running on high occupancy and was practically full when we arrived two hours before check-in time. We thought we’d just handle our check-in procedure first and head to the Lobby Lounge (which caught our eye when we first stepped in) for a cuppa while we waited for our rooms to be ready at 3:00pm (official check-in time). There was a snaking queue at all counters which, honestly, we fully anticipated. All went well as we inched closer to the check-in counter bit by bit over fifteen minutes or so.When I finally leaned over the counter and waited for someone to serve us at the check-in counter, that was when things got a little disconcerting.
The officer at the front desk was busy crouched over and settling what I assumed was the paperwork for the previous guest who had just checked-in. When he was done, he nodded at us with a smile and then walked off. We thought, “Okay, no biggie. This will take awhile, we’ll wait.” Ten minutes passed and we saw him walking around, talking to another staff and then disappear again. “Okay, maybe its a tough process.” Another ten minutes passed again bringing waiting time to 20 minutes. That same staff returned to the desk, busying himself, and without acknowledging us or apologising for the wait, he zoomed off again. All this time the queue was moving on both sides of us, only our queue had stopped for the longest time. We shot each other quizzical looks and I tried to catch the attention of one of the staff at the next counter. She was busy too, and apologised, though understandably in a rather brisk way and then told us that we needed to wait. We saw someone line up behind us (the queue on the other two counters had almost cleared, leaving us) and out of kindness and concern that he would be stuck waiting for a check-in that would take forever, advised him to try the other two queues. He moved over and true enough got service faster than we did even with someone else in the line before him.
We gave it another five minutes before we thought it was getting a little too much, 25 minutes at the counter with not even an explanation on whether the queue was closed (the counter was practically unmanned) or if we should move to another queue because it would take awhile. Nada, no communication.
We saw a supervisor (she was not in the same uniform and seemed senior to the rest, giving them instructions) and SL walked over to her and made our case. She apologised and told us she would get someone to serve us. Another five minutes of no service occurred and then we spotted one staff at the next counter who was finally available. At the 30 minute mark, we were getting restless and upset. It is one thing to be told you would have to wait 30 minutes because of a full house situation, and another to be indefinitely waiting for 30 minutes while everyone else is being served. We caught her attention and she was so sweet and apologetic. She quickly availed herself and helped us with our check-in. We had requested for connecting rooms, but we were unable to get them because the hotel was full and had them on two different floors. At this point, we didn’t even want to kick up a fuss because we were already quite unhappy and we didn’t want our mood to sour even further. We also wanted to be considerate to the staff member who so kindly rushed to our help the moment she was available with a sincere apology when none of her colleagues had the decency to even pop over for two minutes to explain what was going on to us despite knowing we were so confused and flustered, let alone sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.
The supervisor we spotted earlier on came over and saw that we had service and apologised again and made contact to say she understood we were already being served by the time she came back with someone to help us. We decided to let it slide with just a few minor comments on my own social media channels. Our check-in was finally completed after 45 minutes. We were definitely off on the wrong foot.
Deluxe Ocean-front Room (Twin and King configuration available)
Lifts do not require your key card to access the different floors, so having both rooms on different floors wasn’t as bad as it could potentially have been. Still, kind of a pity we couldn’t get even adjoining rooms, let alone connecting rooms.
I have to be fair here and say that service after that little hump in the road was excellent at the hotel. The bell-boy who assisted us was nothing but smiles and so eager to help us and practically everywhere we went in the hotel, we were acknowledged and given a warm smile throughout our four days there. It was just unfortunate that we started off on such a negative note during check-in.
It was hard, though, to stay upset the moment our rooms were presented to us. The cheery tones of lime green and blues definitely helped lift our spirits. Our Deluxe Ocean-front Room was a twin just as we requested. The room was spacious at 35sqm and the bathroom came with a separate large bathtub and shower (note that it’s a hand-shower, not rain shower). Plus there were Chopard toiletries provided for the first day (subsequently it was replenished with a different set), which I have to admit was very impressive. We also had a little balcony overlooking the gorgeous view of the ocean and pool. Yep, it’s hard to stay mad.
Also, as a thoughtful little extra, the resort offers free WiFi throughout the hotel. The only catch is you’ll need to login every hour which can be a little troublesome. The internet connection is also a basic one. You’re free to top up for premium internet with faster speeds. I decided against it even though I had work to complete while I was away and decided to just enjoy my beach holiday with whatever internet signal I could get. It couldn’t load mails very well (took forever), but was enough to tweet, instagram and post on Facebook. Definitely couldn’t surf the internet much though.
Smiling, friendly hostesses at The Sails, Jul and Charissa
Moving on to the most important meal of the day – breakfast! Breakfast is served daily from 6:30am to 10:30am at The Sails Restaurant, the resort’s all-day dining restaurant.
The breakfast at The Sails was by far one of the best I’ve experienced. They serve an international buffet spread with a pretty satisfying array of hot dishes, live stations and baked items. There were also Asian and Filipino items on the line.
Dining there on the last day of our stay at Mövenpick was a real treat. My favourite item was the waffles. I still remember vividly the rich eggy flavour, fluffy texture and crisp finish. It was amazing! It was so good, I had two of it at a go. They also serve rosti (how interesting) and had Eggs Benedict available in the chaffers. I found the selection quite generous, as advertised on their website, and had a great mix of starch, meat and bakery items.
I’m glad we decided to go for breakfast. Breakfast cost us P1,200nett (S$34.15) per person, which is a decent price for hotel breakfast.
Service was consistently prompt and warm, which I appreciate very much. Come on, having to face a Mr or Ms Grumpy in the morning while you’re trying to get a kick start to your day can really be a bummer, so having such great service first thing in the morning is such a fantastic feeling. I highly recommend having breakfast at The Sails at least one morning if you’re staying here.
One of the most impressive things about Mövenpick is their Lobby Lounge. The first thing you’ll catch sight of when you walk into the lobby is the Lobby Lounge.
What’s special here? You can order signature Mövenpick ice creams here or indulge in the finest Mövenpick coffee brewed using that copper machine in the centre of the Lobby Lounge island bar counter. By the way, that “machine” is actually a functioning Venus Coffee Machine by Victoria Arduino which doubles as an elegant art piece that was handcrafted by master artisans and metal sculptors in the small village of Macerata in Southeastern Italy.
The coffees here are really quite good and they come with a little Mövenpick chocolate squares too. Definitely THE SPOT in the hotel to live la dolce vita, quite literally.
Approachable Adonis, handing out some chocolate brownies during “Chocolate Hour”
We discovered that the resort also has “Chocolate Hour” from 3:00pm to 4:00pm. Little bite-sized chocolates are handed out to guests – complimentary of course – during the hour. I felt that was a really nice touch. I understand that the sweet chocolate treats do change from day to day and on the day we arrived, squares of creamy chocolate brownies greeted us at tea time.
There’s also a game room to the left of the lobby lounge dining area. There you’ll find a pool table, chess board, foosball table and even an XBOX Kinect to keep you entertained when you’re not frolicking at the pool or beach! We didn’t really have time during our stay to use the games room (which was more like an open-air area), but I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed by the thoughtful facilities here.
Oh wow, what can I say? The pool was really what tipped the scales in their favour during the hotel selection process. It is as beautiful in person as it is in the multitude of photographs I saw during my research on blogs, on TripAdvisor and on their official website. The water is crystal clear, the pool is large, and the deck chairs so welcoming. There’s a small kids pool (which two European guests had jokingly called “the pee pool”) and a larger, deeper pool for the adults.
If you get peckish while having fun at the pool, there is a convenient cafe serving the pool called The Forum which has a range of beverage and light bites. The cafe has both an al fresco dining area and an indoor seating area with plush homely furniture.
We had such a fun time lounging at the pool and just doing nothing at all other than chat and splash around. The palm trees around the pool really added to the tropical resort ambience. There were quite a lot of people there all the time (mostly families and couples), but the pool was big enough so that everyone can comfortably enjoy it (and take nice uncluttered photos).
Towels are also available for loan (no limit on the number of towels loaned) so you don’t have to carry your towel down from your room!
I don’t have photos of the pool at night, but it is so different but equally charming. The pool lights up and turns from a light clear blue to a deep cerulean blue (thanks to the lighting as well). It’s very enchanting to enjoy an evening or night there although it can get a little cold.
If you thought the pool was pretty, wait till you see the private beach that’s accessible from the pool. The beach isn’t exactly as sandy white as that in Boracay, but it is clean and the water is clear. The view is totally stunning and you can take a stroll over to Ibiza Beach Club (that very interesting building) in the distance just five minutes away.
The skies and water were so blue, it was such a joy to look at and photograph. Being at a resort location, what really matters at the end of the day is the beach and the pool, so I was really pleased with how much time we could spend at these two lovely areas at the resort to truly soak up the sun and enjoy ourselves.
If like me, you like to keep active even when on holiday, you’ll also love the gym facilities available here as well. I didn’t get any pictures of the gym, but trust me when I say that they have really extensive gym equipment. They’ve got a seriously well-equipped gym and I’m not just talking about the regular combination of some weights, a couple of machines and treadmills most hotel or resort fitness centres offer. You even get usage of steam rooms. I think not many people have used the gym because everything is really spanking new. If you need a bit of push, there are classes offered daily (mostly from morning till afternoon) as well. By the way, did I mention that it’s open 24-hours! (WHOOPPEE!)
On a whole, the experience at Mövenpick was incredible. Great facilities, fabulous rooms, interesting and unique dining options, and (minus a bad check-in experience), service was superb. A 4D3N stay was a great way to enjoy what the hotel had to offer and get me recharged.
How much did it cost us to experience such an indulgent getaway in Cebu? P62,111.50 inclusive of taxes (approximately S$1.768. That’s for two deluxe ocean-front rooms for three nights each between the four of us (S$442 each). We were lucky we managed to get ourselves a flash deal rate which offered up to 50% off but came without any inclusions and required pre-payment.
We definitely could have gotten a 2-bedroom suite at a significantly lower rate than what we paid for the two rooms at the last minute by just booking one to two months out. So just a tip for all you folks out there, always book early, and ensure any pre-paid rate is charged IMMEDIATELY to your card avoid any last minute anxiety attacks caused by a spate of Murphy’s Law. This gives you ample time to sort out any issues (if any crop up) on your credit card.
Hope you found my post on Mövenpick Hotel Cebu Mactan Island helpful! Cheers!