Once again the Shangri-la’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa has won the TripAdvisor award for being the #1 spot for families. After a three night baby vacay on the island I will make a repeat visit. Here’s why I will stay again at the Mactan Shangri-la for my next baby vacay.
1. Tropical paradise? Check! √
Shangri-la’s Mactan Resort and Spa is located on over 16 hectares of lush greenery on the quiet northeast tip of Mactan Island, a small islet connected by bridge to Cebu. The white sand beach extends more than three football pitches, and waiters patrol its length to take orders for fresh coconuts and tropical cocktails.
Offshore lies a six-hectare marine sanctuary for snorkeling safaris.While baby napped in the cabana, I took a brief dip and found myself surrounded by a swirling school of angelfish.
2. It’s so easy to get here…
Direct flights to Cebu head your way in 2016
When traveling with baby it is best to cut down on the number of transit stops. I learned this lesson the hard way: on a recent trip to see Grandma we endured two stops and 27 hours in transit. The worst part of the trip was not flight time, but lugging baby’s stuff between gates across terminals, and ensuring she was comfortable .
Good thing Mactan Cebu International Airport continues to increase the number of direct flights to cities near you. There already exist a number of direct flights to Asian capitals. And in 2016 Emirates and Qatar Airways will offer direct flights from the Gulf. Philippine Airlines flies direct from Los Angeles.
The Shangri-la is a short 25 minutes car transfer away from Mactan Cebu International Airport.
3. Baby amenities-you need it, they’ve got it
As baby and I entered the Ocean Club of the Mactan Shangri-la to check in, we passed a Korean family of four. Between mom, dad a baby and a toddler they had one suitcase. One.
In addition to cribs and cots, the Shangri-la will also provide child bathrobes, bathtubs, terry slippers, high chairs, potties and step stools. Strollers for rent are available at Php 500.00 (around US$10) per day.
The Shang is also one of the only hotels around that provides bottle sterilizers. The hotel also provides baby food warmers, special soap, shampoo, baby powder, and changing mats.
4. Nanny service
The hotel provides experienced babysitting for babies. Simply call housekeeping to set up the service, which should be done a day ahead. Babysitting charges are Php 300.00/ hour (around US $7). The same rate applies for parents who wish to arrange a whole day of care.
I didn’t use the service as I was there, as I brought my Uppa Baby Vista and she slept in her bassinet. By the pool. By the beach. By our table at the restaurant.
Although there were times when we had to head up to the room for nap time as she could not get comfortable. Were it not for the fact we had stayed for such a short time I would have scheduled nanny time.
5. Service in general
Good service is important for both maman and bébé.
At the Mactan Shangri-la staff consistently and courteously did their jobs and went beyond their job description, true to the high standards of service espoused by the Shangri-la chain.
The Shang consistently earns the TripAdvisor award for family friendliness. This no surprise to me. To earn the most family-friendly designation for a resort in Cebu is a feat, especially in the Philippines, where staff consistently jump at the opportunity to assist.
The staff at the Ocean Club lounge–more on that later!–came to my rescue when I wasn’t able to do online check-in baby on a Philippine Airlines flight. While I headed to the beach, one of the employees contacted the local Philippine Airlines office, found my ticket number, and checked us in. When I popped back up to the lounge after some time in the sun, they handed me an envelope with our boarding passes and ticket confirmation. Smooth sailing!
6. The quiet privacy of the Ocean Wing
I am training baby to sleep in whatever circumstances. Yet it is still nice to go to bed in quiet, with only the sounds of the waves filling the room. The Ocean Club wing is a hotel within a hotel, as it is the closest block of the hotel to the sea and has a separate lobby, pool and restaurants. Club rooms feature access to the Ocean Club Lounge, which offers a more private breakfast experience and evening cocktails, including decent maki.
TIP: The Club Lounge cocktail hour is a great venue for watching sunsets. If staying during high season or the weekend, arrive for evening cocktails before 5 PM so you can get a table next to the windows.
Ocean Wing guests also enjoy exclusive benefits such as express check-out and premium toiletries, like the La Prairie rejuvenating cream I slathered on my sunkissed face for my bedtime skincare routine.
7. The Food
I should say all of the restaurants at the Shang are good. They probably are. But after having the lasagna and amatriciana at Acqua, I was hooked and kept coming back for more. An Italian chef runs the restaurant and the service is just right.
On Saturday night we had the antipasto buffet, which was good value at 6oo pesos (around US$15) and a meal in itself. It featured salads, cheeses, antipasti and pizza.
Tides, the international buffet restaurant located in the main wing, also features international cuisine and is run by a Korean chef. In addition to offering western breakfast fare, you can get your sushi fix often and early for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
But the best thing I had in Cebu was the fresh fruit…
8. Specifically, the mangoes
Cebu is known to have the best mangoes in the world. The local variety, the “Guadalupe Carabao,” is known for having very low fibrous content, making it pure sweetness. The ever present sunshine in Cebu also helps.
9. There’s so much to do in Cebu
Cebu city is over 800 years old, making it one of the the oldest cities in the Philippines. Visit Fort San Pedro, a Spanish fortification, tour a 17th century house and soak up the atmosphere inside the white stone walls of the Spanish-designed Santo Nino Basilica. The area is rich with history, including the Lapu-Lapu square right next to the Shang, named for the local chieftain whose soldiers killed Magellan at that very spot.
Just a tad north of Cebu lies some of the best diving in the world on Malapascua Island. Babies can get their dive certifications, right?