We stayed 6 nights with 4 kids in a Two Bedroom Suite in early July 2013. Having read nothing but glowing reviews on TripAdvisor we had very high expectations but were tremendously disappointed with our stay. Overall we felt it was, at best, a 4-star experience with a 5-star price tag. Service quality left a lot to be desired. Some things put us off right away.
Two people from the resort picked us up at Mactan-Cebu Airport yet our luggage was put in the van by a complete stranger (whom I had to supervise and who demanded a tip for his unsolicited assistance). No leg room in the minivan made the lengthy airport transfer a very uncomfortable ride. The outside air was filled with smoke when we arrived and on several other days during our stay. It was very unpleasant and seemed to result from people burning things in the surrounding areas. In-room check-in would have been great considering how uncomfortably hot it was in the lobby (we had lost the race to the check-in counter to a couple who did not have kids and were told by the receptionist that she was busy when we approached her).
We had made the reservation directly with the resort over the phone. Initially we planned to stay 4 nights but extended our stay to 6 nights when being offered the last 2 nights for free. However, we were not informed at the time of the booking that breakfast was not included in this deal. We were upset to learn about this only upon our arrival (as we had never gotten a formal booking confirmation). In the end, the amount we would have had to pay for the breakfast buffet for 6 people every day exceeded the nightly rate for our rooms. In other words, having to pay for breakfast meant we were going to spend money equaling a stay for 5 nights and not – as we had expected - for 4 nights. 20% discount on food offered during the first few days was insignificant considering the inflated food prices at the resort. We felt that the marketing practices of the resort were misleading. Also, quoting rates in US$ on the website and invoicing charges in Philippine Pesos is not helpful for guests.
When we got to our rooms we noticed that the A/C was not working in the master bedroom. Engineers got it running, but the A/C would perform erratically. On Day 3 the resort suggested that we move to a different room because of the A/C problem. Moving rooms would have been a big inconvenience to our family of 6 with all the packing and unpacking, so we would have expected the resort to compensate us accordingly in the form of an upgrade or perhaps with the charges for a night taken off the bill. Instead we were offered a complementary boat ride or a Filipino dinner, both of which we were not interested in. We vacated our rooms for 4 hours to allow A/C repair work to be done but we never got any feedback afterwards as to whether repair work had been completed successfully. It probably had not been the case, for the A/C continued to perform erratically. When readdressing the issue front desk staff responded that there was a remote control for the A/C (thus implying that all of this was our fault really). We felt that they just wanted the issue to go away and thus not having to deal with any compensation requests. Generally, front desk staff seemed to get annoyed with complaints and appeared to be interested only in a pat on the back but not with suggestions for improvement.
Available documentation in the room was unsatisfactory, e.g. apparently there was room service but no menu to choose from. Items from the mini bar were not replaced despite relevant requests. Wi-Fi in the rooms did not work for two (2) full days after a power outage. Some of the lagoons were drained for emergency works during our stay, thus making parts of the resort look and smell like a construction site. The grounds were not well manicured. Some ponds (e.g. in the spa) in which you would expect koi fish just looked like puddles filled with dried leaves.
The bathrooms were definitely not worthy of a resort of this price category. There was no bidet and no shower hose (thus making it difficult to wash certain body parts if you must know). Towels were old, stained and felt rough on the skin. Toothbrushes and bath robes were not provided. When returning from a day trip to Bohol we noticed that housekeeping had not even bothered to replace the soap in the kids’ bathroom. Exasperated (and increasingly dissatisfied with the whole experience) we addressed the issue and were pretty much told that toiletries would be made available only upon request. We felt that guests should not be put in a position of constantly having to request basic things in a resort of this price category. We felt that the resort was trying to cut corners in every possible way instead of going out of its way to make guests feel comfortable. As a guest you would basically have to manage the staff and tell them what to do since even basic things would only be done only upon request.
It became blatantly obvious to us that the resort would use every opportunity to burden guests with extra charges instead of choosing a more generous approach that would focus on customer satisfaction and thus increase the likelihood of guests returning (charging customers 100 Pesos for opening a plastic bag with plastic slippers is just downright silly). Staff at the lower end of the corporate ladder was genuinely friendly. Front desk staff, however, seemed to bask in the glory of the resorts’ TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice ® 2013 Winner Award and genuinely not care about providing good customer service (especially if there was no money to be made for the resort). They were not helpful when asked to arrange a taxi from outside of the resort. Instead we were encouraged to use the same uncomfortable van (that was used for the airport transfer) to go to Ayala Mall in Cebu, for which we paid more than US$ 60 for a return trip. There was another incident when we asked front desk staff for help with the introduction of 2 people in the lobby, who only knew each other’s names but not looks. Both people approached the front desk but were not brought together. When asked later why they were not brought together, front desk staff simply replied that they had forgotten to do so (maybe because they could not charge us for this service).
From the resort it takes about 1 hour by car to reach some of the Malls in Cebu City that offer much needed dining alternatives. The resort uses its isolated location to its advantage by overcharging guests for food and beverages. Since the coffee in Kilimanjaro restaurant was of average quality, I ordered a double espresso in the Italian restaurant one morning and was shocked to find out that it cost almost US$ 8 (which was 3 times the price of a double espresso in a Starbucks in Hong Kong). This is when I started to feel that we were getting ripped off. We began to arrange ground transportation in and around Cebu as well as daytrips to Bohol and Oslob without the help of the resort at a much more reasonable cost.
The only redeeming qualities of the resort were the many activities for kids, very comfortable beds, spacious rooms with high ceilings as well as a big terrace between our rooms, which was however useless due to the lack of mosquito protection (a big mosquito net similar to the one used to protect Kilimanjaro restaurant would have been very useful).
We love the Philippines. As a matter of fact my spouse is a Tourism Ambassador of the Philippines. We have stayed in resorts in the Philippines and all over Asia, fully loving some of our experiences from the very first minute to the last, always eager to repeat it and not bothering to go on record with minor issues. Never before did we feel the need to go through the trouble of writing such an extensive review but did it now in order to raise awareness. We are not difficult customers. We are just asking for value for money and are tremendously disappointed not to have gotten it at Plantation Bay. We will not return to Plantation Bay and we will not recommend this resort to anybody.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dear TripAdvisor Reader,
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The heart of this review is this sentence: "Moving rooms would have been a big inconvenience to our family of 6 with all the packing and unpacking, so we would have expected the resort to compensate us accordingly in the form of an upgrade or perhaps with the charges for a night taken off the bill."
The proliferation of social media sites has created a new class of hotel guest, who go on holiday bent on looking for things to complain about, in the hope that they can then bully the hotel into a free room-night or other compensation for trivial flaws, always with the spoken or unspoken threat of airing their gripes on TripAdvisor.
Plantation Bay's policy is NOT to appease these guests. We have a solid clientele of discerning travelers, and we give freebies and other compensation when justified, but not otherwise. We respect the power of social media, but will not be intimidated by professional gripers.
This person arrived pretending not to know that breakfast is not included in our room rate, even though we make this fact extremely clear on our website, and indeed on TripAdvisor (which this person claims to have consulted extensively before choosing us). The rate she was granted for a 2-bedroom suite (135 square meters in area, with a beach view) was $285++, and she claims to have been surprised that $90 worth of breakfast was not included in this price.
(Personally I have stayed at over a dozen 4 and 5 star hotels in the past year, in Europe, North America, and Asia, and in not a single one of them was the room rate habitually quoted as inclusive of breakfast. This person's claim that we deliberately attempted to mislead her is not credible to anyone who travels regularly. Every time I book at a hotel, I ask if breakfast is included, and am usually told that it is not, or that it can be but at a certain higher price. I am sure all you readers do the same.)
When her attempt to bully us into giving her free breakfasts for six people for six days (the length of her stay) failed, she capitalized on an AC malfunction to try to get a room upgrade, or a free night, as she herself wrote.
When we fixed the AC, she then claimed that it was "erratic", and on her third day called the Front Desk now claiming it was "too cold". Since there are individual thermostat controls in every room (which we later verified were working fine), this naturally perplexed the person who answered.
Then, on a day when she and her entire family were out touring, she told two acquaintances of hers, who didn't know each other, to meet in our lobby. Leaving behind no description, she expected our lobby staff to recognize these two people and then introduce them to each other. Why this had to take place in her absence, or why they couldn't introduce themselves to each other by texting each other what they were wearing, is not clear. Nonetheless, what is clear is that this reviewer was pleased to have found yet another failure to complain about. Her claim that our staff "forgot" is not true. This was an arrangement that was doomed to fail. It is inappropriate to blame the staff for it.
Astute TripAdvisor readers will note that there is not a single mention of the 4 children who were in the party, or of their SIX DAYS spent at Plantation Bay. Clearly, these children had a great time here, but the reviewer doesn't want to mention that, preferring instead to focus on what are, to any experienced traveler, trivialities like an AC malfunction (that was fixed), and a coffee that costs $3.50 (gasp!).
The only one who did not have a great time was the reviewer, who had set her heart on intimidating the hotel, and failed to achieve her heart's desire.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.