This was my first visit to Manila. Due to my disability and health special needs, it is always difficult to find suitable accommodation with the furniture configuration I need. It usually involves email or telephone discussions with a prospective hotel prior to booking and for a hotel often to make some special arrangements for my needs.
That is where my experience with H2O Hotel Manila begins. I had an email exchange with the hotel, discussing my needs. Herein is the first (of very few) negative comments I can make about this otherwise outstanding hotel. They were quite slow to reply to emails. In the circumstances, I'll forgive them for that. After all, I commenced my enquiries well before my trip to ensure all went smoothly and I had time to look elsewhere if the need arose. Besides, despite the slowness of their replies, I was highly impressed by the service and attention I was given by "Roselle", including sending me photos of room interiors and the furniture so that I could better assess their suitability for my needs. Top marks to you, Roselle. Thank you indeed.
On Roselle's advice, I booked a "Bayview" room as the Aqua & Park View rooms were unable to fit a special sofa that I needed, which they were prepared to swap into my room from elsewhere.
Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had not been given a "Bayview" room after all, but had been given a free upgrade to a more spacious Premium Room (with Bay views and a magnificent city skyline panoramic view). Thank you once again for this nice surprise, Roselle. :)
The H2O is only a couple of years old and is still in near pristine condition. It has a number of unique and novel features. One is that it is a single-level hotel. For a hotel with so many rooms, placing them all on a single floor means that some of the rooms become a long walk from the lobby. - maybe the length of a football field. Given my disability & health status and my room being probably about the furthest away possible from the lobby, I was at first somewhat apprehensive about the distance. After walking it a couple of times, though, the apprehension vanished. I was never in a hurry, anyway. I could take my time. The housekeepers in the hallways were always friendly and I could stop for a bit of a chat along the way. Additionally, there are a couple of spots along the corridor walk with floor-to-ceiling windows (or glass walls) positioned perfectly to capture Manila's world famous sunsets. It all added up to making a daunting walk (considering my condition) a rather enjoyable experience.
The other notable unique feature is the location. The H2O Hotel is actually an integral, built-in part of the Manila Ocean Park. It isn't merely nearby or next door - it is *in* the theme park. Accordingly, proximity to all the features and components of Manila Ocean Park, ranging from the (very touristy) shopping, the food court, the oceanarium, the penguin show, the birds of prey exhibit and a dozen other water-themed exhibits are just a floor or two down via the lift from the floor on which the H2O is situated. Most of your entertainment needs are at your fingertips, and other than being world class, they are also very educational.
Of course, this also has its drawbacks. When you are living on the premises in the Hotel for a week, you start to find that there is very little left to do after about 8:00pm. All exhibits and almost all shops & restaurants are closed. It is not as if the complex is in the most high foot-traffic location in Manila, either, so you can't just step outside and go for walk to something down the street. It'll take a taxi ride to go anywhere. Even by day, you'll find you'll need to take a taxi if you need to buy anything more than basic convenience store items. Need something pharmaceutical? That'll take a taxi ride to somewhere else. Not walking distance from H2O.
On the topic of taxi rides, they are easy enough to get. Taxis do service the Manila Ocean Park entrance around the clock, but be sure to bargain for the price. Many cab drivers are only too willing to overcharge you severely. The Hotel also provides its own transportation, too. Although their vehicles are larger (people-mover style) and more comfortable than a normal cab, the prices are out of this world. My advice is just don't accept an offer of the Hotel transport. The cost is prohibitive and makes even the most rogue of taxi drivers look like bargains. (For example, Hotel transport quoted me 720 pesos for a one way trip to the Mall of Asia. I declined and went by normal taxi for 120 pesos.)
Like most good hotels these days, the free internet was available by either Ethernet of WiFi. It was stable and high speed - after the first twenty four hours, anyway. It is just a little thing, but I was booked in here at the H2O Hotel for a week, but the password I was given for the internet access expired after just 24 hours. When I complained about that, they quickly issued me with a 7 day password. Maybe it was just a tiny little oversight in the first place on their part, but I hope they have learnt from it and in future issue passwords with a lifespan commensurate with the length of the booking.
The room I had the pleasure of enjoying for my week was very spacious and very comfortable. It had wonderful Manila Bay and city panoramic views. The furniture was comfortable with a number of extra touches that showed a great deal of thought. There was one rather weird aspect to the floor layout, though. The only thing that separated the toilet & shower from the sofa/living area was a flimsy thin plastic shower screen on a rail. In other words, privacy was almost non-existent. Have a shower or even sit on the loo and your silhouette shows up on that shower curtain very clearly. Unless you are staying here solo, you'd want to be sure that whoever else is in your room with you is someone with whom you are comfortable with being very intimate and that both of you are totally uninhibited. Surely, H2O, you can add a concertina-style folding door to petition the bathroom area more appropriately!
So far, it probably is starting to sound like I am a bit negative about H2O Hotel, but this certainly is not the case. I am well travelled internationally and I really do rate H2O as being among the best Hotel experiences I have encountered anywhere. The quality and standard is excellent. The staff are highly efficient and full of surprises. (See my uploaded photos of the 'little man with headphones' and also the 'elephant' that the housekeepers very skilfully & craftily made and left sitting up on my bed for a couple of examples.) On the topic of housekeeping, I have never, anywhere, ever, come across a team more on the ball than here at H2O. The moment you step out of your room in the morning, maybe for breakfast at Makan Makan restaurant on the level below, the housekeeping are in the door and cleaning & preparing your room again. You never have to wait. They just seem to know when the room is vacant and get on with the job immediately. I couldn't be more impressed. In fact, I've never been more impressed by the housekeeping service anywhere, ever.
Having mentioned the Makan Makan restaurant, I must say more. It is both a part of the H2O Hotel as well as the Manila Ocean Park. Although A la Carte is available, it is predominantly a buffet-style restaurant, particularly for mornings. The food quality is excellent and with much variety with daily changes. The location has good views over Manila Bay. The service levels are of the highest order - or they became that way after my second visit. I did have a serious issue with he manner of service at the dinner on the evening I arrived and breakfast next morning. I was in the company of the three ladies for the dinner and two accompanied me for breakfast. Personally, I was flattered, almost overwhelmed by the attentiveness of the waiters towards me, constantly topping up my fruit juice drinks and hot chocolate, offering to get me other items from the buffet to save me having to leave the table to serve myself, asking whether I would like a custom made omelette or other egg dish from their egg bar, and so forth.. On one hand, it was wonderful service and attention, while on the other I found it extremely embarrassing. Why was *I* getting all this attention while my female guests sharing my table were being ignored and not being offered anything? I still do not understand whether this is some sort of a 'cultural' thing or what it was, but frankly I found it to be unacceptable. There was a 'comments card' on the table, so I stated my viewpoint very firmly, that in future I expect my female gusts to be treated and accorded with the same service and respect as I was receiving. I am thankful to be able to say that, for the rest of the week, my position was obviously taken seriously and my guests treated with equal dignity and respect as myself. I just wonder if that change was only for me and only for the tenure of my stay because of my strongly worded comment, or whether other visitors to Makan Makan are going to find the males favoured and female patrons all but ignored. If your, dear reader, notice that your female companions or guests are receiving a lesser standard of service than yourself when you come to Makan Makan restaurant, please don't be silent about it. Speak up.
No hotel is perfect. This one has a few minuses, but the pluses outweigh them a hundred-fold. If TripAdvisor would allow me to rate it at 4 1/2, then I would, but as I cannot award a "half" rating, and as it wasn't quite a perfect five, I have decided to settle for a four.
Overall, the H2O Hotel was an experience well worth experiencing and it comes with my strong commendation.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel H2O is the first and only marine-themed urban resort hotel in the Philippines. Opened on April 10, 2010, the hotel is part of the Manila Ocean Park complex in the Philippine capital’s historic Rizal Park. It has been designated as the official residence for guests and patrons of Manila Ocean Park.Every part of Hotel H2O has a connection to its namesake element, water – from its next-door proximity to Manila Ocean Park; to its location on the edge of Manila Bay; to its signature aquarium wall that adorns the inner guest rooms and grand ballroom; to the seafood specialties of its main F&B outlet, Makan Makan Asian Food Village; to the healing, negative-ion treatments of its wellness center, Zenyu Eco Spa. All these make Hotel H2O perhaps the most visually distinctive urban property in the country today. ... more less
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