Philippines is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and beaches in the world. While Boracay and Palawan often come to minds of people who dream of perfect beach vacations, Cebu should be right there too - alongside delicious Cebuano cuisine like the lip-smacking lechon. There are a number of direct flights from Singapore to Cebu each day of the week and if you are looking for a good deal on a budget airline, I highly recommend checking Tigerair and Cebu Pacific out.
Similar to some of the Shangri-La Hotels that I have been to (e.g. the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore and the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang), the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu has two main wings that offer a slightly different experience - Main Wing and Ocean Wing. The entire resort comprises of 530 beautifully-appointed guest rooms and suites (some of which have undergone refurbishment in recent years) with 354 rooms and suites sitting in the Main Wing. The Ocean Wing offers a more private and inclusive (in terms of F&B) experience as compared to the Main Wing, making it the preferred choice for business travellers generally.
During my visit to Cebu a number of months back, I stayed in a Ocean Wing Panorama Room at the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu. The Panorama Room is one tier below the entry-level suites in the Ocean Wing and it offers 36sqm of living space. While the decor of the room does not seem to differ much from the entry-level Premier room in the same wing, what you really get is a panoramic view of the amazing ocean (see photo below!). If you look beyond the view and the room, you also get to enjoy a number of perks for being a guest of the Ocean Wing (more to be covered later!).
Imagine my surprise when I walked into this room with a view of the endless ocean and the expansive horizon - this is exactly the view from the balcony of my Panorama Room! Seriously, this has got to be one of the most photogenic resort destinations that I have ever been to - those images on postcards are real!
Since I was lucky enough to be on the fifth floor, I had a pretty great view of the swimming pool and the ocean from the balcony - do note that the Panorama Rooms on the lower floors may not enjoy such an unobstructed view so do try to get to ask for higher floors where possible. The beach is also highly accessible from Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu - it is literally right at your doorstep!
The rooms may not be as large as I would have liked them to be (I think the Garden Wing in the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore offers a much better-sized room) but the view from here is simply unbeatable. The private balcony with a coffee table and two chairs is perfect for watching the sunrise and the sunset (that's right, you will actually get to see both from the comfort of your own room) but just take note that the air-conditioning shuts off when you leave the balcony door open - make sure you close it if you want to return to a cool room after taking in what nature has to offer.
Most of the lightings in the room can be controlled by the bed so you do not have to worry about having to climb out of that comfortable bed at night to switch off the lights. The TV is also stocked with a number of local and international satellite-TV channels so in case you wish to stay in (or if you are simply struck with bad weather), entertainment is actually pretty good! There is also a large working desk in the Panorama Room for business and over-committed travellers to catch up on work - WiFi works perfectly without a hitch!
An iron and ironing-board can also be found in the room. While I am not sure how many of you find this important, I personally do find it rather frustrating when an iron isn't provided in the room. While ironing is generally taken care of by the butler in high-end luxury resorts (case in point: The St. Regis Bali Resort), I prefer to have the flexibility to iron my own clothes whenever I need them - I don't plan what to wear in advance! There is also a minibar alongside instant coffee and teabags in the room - what this room needs is a Nespresso machine for the early birds!
The bathroom of the Panorama Room comes with a single sink and a 'shub' (remember I have mentioned this a number of times: shub = shower + tub). Would I have preferred a separate shower and bathtub? Of course! However, as I have mentioned earlier before, the Panorama Rooms are only 36 sqm in size so every bit of space utilisation counts. Bath amenities were in-house branded and mint-scented. However, I actually received Jasmin & Bergamote bath amenities from L'Occitane en Provence (the same one they use in the Valley Wing of the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore and the Rasa Wing of the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang) on one night so that was a little bit strange to me.
While shubs are definitely not my kind of thing, the water pressure was great and the tub filled up really quickly - it also never seem to run out of hot water (a real problem I have encountered at a number of hotels) so that's great news for all you tub-lovers.
One experience not to be missed at the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu is having a meal (or two!) at Cowrie Cove. Headed by Chef Daniel who has worked in renowned kitchens (including Michelin-starred restaurants) around the world, Cowrie Cove serves up delicious food that is centered around fresh and quality seafood.
I headed back to the room after dinner at Cowrie Cove and while enjoying the peaceful night view from the balcony, I noticed that rain clouds were already starting to form - bad news since I was already planning to head out to sea to snorkel the next morning. Still, staying indoors and safe from the seemingly-imminent storm proved to be comforting. Enjoying the breeze, the sound of waves crashing into the shore and the dance of lightning from afar was definitely one of the most relaxing things I have done in a while.
Guests of the Ocean Wing at Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu have the option of a full buffet breakfast at Tides (the resort's main all-day dining restaurant), at Acqua or have a small selection but a more private experience at the Ocean Club - that's right, you get to choose from three different locations! Since I was going to be headed out to the sea for the whole morning, I decided to check out the spread at Tides instead. Breakfast runs from 6:00AM to 10:30AM so make sure you get up early - the restaurant even has a crowd forecast sheet that basically tells you which hours to avoid if you do not wish to queue (avoid 9:00AM like the plague!).
There was a pretty huge selection of food during breakfast and if you are traveling with family, there is even a special section for kids only where the selection is more kid-friendly and the placement of these food items are lower (so they can reach!).
You will also notice that there is a section in the breakfast buffet spread that offers Korean cuisine - this is always a useful way to tell who the main international clienteles are. I took the opportunity to try some local delicacies and while I do not seem to remember entirely what they are called (apart from the chicken adobo), I do remember some of them to be quite delicious.
Of course, no breakfast is complete without crispy hashbrowns and an omelette - the egg station was relatively quiet at around 7:00AM in the morning but I can imagine it to be extremely busy at 9:00AM so do yourself a favour, have an early night and wake up earlier for breakfast.
Since it was still pretty early, I decided to take a walk around the resort compound and finally found myself at the Main Lobby of the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu. Guests staying in the Ocean Wing are received in a separate and private lobby at the Ocean Wing itself so this was the first time I was seeing this beautiful space - I am envious that guests from the Main Wing get to experience this as their first contact with the resort!
The main lobby is truly beautiful - I mean look at that carpet! There is also plenty of natural lighting and space (which is quite the opposite for the Ocean Wing). With that being said, the main wing seems to attract a number of international group travellers so it might get quite crowded during certain hours of the day.
I spent most of the later morning and afternoon checking out the beautiful Nalusuan Island which is a 30-45 minutes ride from the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu - check out Scotty's Dive Center (located within the resort) for all your sea-sport needs! I will probably cover this in a separate post altogether since it deviates from the resort quite a bit.
After four to five hours out in the sun, I (or at least my skin) decided that I was done with the sun and it is time to head indoors. I mean the beach was definitely tempting and I really wanted to take a dip in the swimming pools but I had to give my sunburnt skin a rest - also I really needed a shower and a good soak in the tub.
After washing up, I decided to go check out CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La at the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu. Tucked away in a corner of the resort, the spa reminded me a lot of the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang. The spa here features a number of well-being massages and treatments that draws inspiration from the natural plants, herbs and botanical products from the Philippines.
Since I could not seem to find a Balinese massage on the menu (yes, I am conservative like that) and I wanted to check out Cebu City in the afternoon, I decided to forego a spa experience here (something that I will definitely be back for in the near future!) during this visit.
After returning from Cebu City at night, I decided that it would be a great time to head to the beach (not to swim of course) and enjoy the sound of waves - also because my sunburnt skin could not take in anymore UV rays for the moment. I love how peaceful it is at the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu in the evening particularly since most children and their accompanying parents have already retired to their rooms (or suites!).
I woke up early again the next morning with the intention to catch the sunrise from my balcony but 5:00AM proved to be impossible for me. I decided then to head to Acqua instead for an early breakfast - remember you do get a choice of three different breakfast locations when you stay in the Ocean Wing. Acqua is an Italian restaurant during lunch and dinner service but it is seasonally open for breakfast between the hours of 6:00AM and 10:30AM - perfect treat for yourself if you managed to catch the sunrise.
Unlike Tides where I had my breakfast the previous morning, Acqua was a lot more controlled, quiet and peaceful. It overlooks the Ocean Wing Pool which is only accessible by guests of the Ocean Wing (sorry Main Wing travellers!) and it is typically more quiet as compared to the main pool. I love how much natural light this whole place enjoys in the morning - if you hate the sun (what are you doing in a resort?!), avoid this place during the morning or opt for a table in the shade. The only drawback is that the breakfast selection is a lot less extensive as compared to Tides but it is definitely still sufficient for a grown man.
Since it was my final morning in Cebu before catching a flight out in the afternoon (I was only there for a short weekend which proved to be insufficient), I decided to drop by the Ocean Club (reserved only for guests of the Ocean Wing) for my second breakfast. I have not actually mentioned this in the article but if you are staying in the Ocean Wing, you will have access to this exclusive Ocean Club which serves a buffet breakfast from 6:30AM to 10:30AM from Monday to Friday (up to 12:00PM on weekends). Evening cocktails (yes alcoholic beverages!) are also served between the hours of 4:30PM to 8:30PM - the first two hours cater towards a family crowd (so expect more kid-friendly food) and the last two hours are for adults only.
Guests of the Ocean Wing will also get to enjoy 20% off laundry services (except dry cleaning) and adults will receive complimentary access to the Water Pavilions of CHI, The Spa even when you are not doing a spa treatment on that day. The Ocean Club is definitely the most private breakfast location out of the three. While the buffet spread is pretty much continental, there is an a la carte menu that you may choose to order from - the views from the club are also pretty impressive so if you are looking for a quieter and more private alternative to an otherwise rowdy breakfast location (e.g. Tides from 9:00AM), you can't go wrong with the Ocean Club.
I love how beautifully plated the dishes were as opposed to the egg station at Tides - the coffee here is also a lot better and you do get a more balanced staff-to-guest ratio here. The a la carte menu consisted of a number of egg items (including Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine) as well as other heavier dishes like the Corned Beef Hash, Grilled Salmon and Waffle while I was there.
I paid one last visit to the amazing beach and enjoyed the waters at the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu before preparing to leave this little slice of paradise. I also ordered a Pina Colada while I was there and while it was delicious, it felt like a mocktail since I could not seem to taste any trace of white rum in the beverage. The was also some kind of weird flag system (which in my opinion wasn't quite working) where you put up a flag if you wish to order and another one if you do not wish to be disturbed - the problem I encountered while I was there however was that the flags were missing and there was no way to do so.
If I had to summarise my trip to Cebu and more importantly the Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Cebu, it has been nothing short of amazing. The resort itself is truly a destination on its own and if you intend to stay in, there is no better resort in the whole island of Cebu. If you tend to enjoy an evening beverage or two and if you do prefer a quieter environment, the Ocean Wing is an obvious choice - you get access to the Ocean Club where complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails are served. The private beach is beautiful and there is even a marine sanctuary where you can snorkel and enjoy the beautiful corals and marine life without venturing too far out into the ocean. If you are based in Singapore and you want an alternative to Bali and Phuket, I simply cannot recommend Cebu enough - especially since there are now more direct flights there than ever.
This was a hosted media stay, though all views expressed are my own.