Thursday, August 19, 2010

“Visiting” Plantation Bay? Here’s the “secret”!

Yes it’s a luxury resort, yes it is expensive. But unlike Shangri-la Mactan, no you do not have to be checked-in or availing of an equally expensive day-tour to see Plantation Bay Resort and Spa “legally” or “officially”. So there is no need to scheme for a gate-crash as you would have read from my blogs about Shang. And mind you, Plantation says they have been rated by Conde Nast Travel as one of the top 100 resorts in the world.

Why?
Now I am not so sure about my answer to that question as to why we folks want “to see” plantation bay even if many of us all know we cannot afford their regular rates. It probably is just about curiosity, like we want to see for ourselves why everyone is saying its one of the best, luxurious, resorts in the area etc etc. Probably too we want to see it for ourselves, get a feel of what it is and affirm to our families and friends that indeed its such a class of its own, to help them decide if they should go there. In my case, many relatives, friends and web contacts have booked there because of my stories. From 2009 to last month alone, my count would be 28 separate bookings. Anyway…

How?
What do you mean how? Don’t you know how to reserve for a room at a resort?!! Ah hehe, let us cover how to see the most of this grand resort without ever having to pay. Why? See above paragraph! Here I go…

Go to the place by car or cab. For those who are not very sure, make your way to 10°15'37"N 123°58'58"E. There is a gate usually manned by two guards who will naturally stop your vehicle to ask what business you have attempting to enter their facility. If you say “wala lang, gusto lang namin makita” they will immediately tell you “ah sorry ser, guest only”. Therefore say anything like “we want to inquire” or “we want to ask about the resort packages” and anything like that. As if there’s much of a difference, right?!

It is still some drive along a well paved road amidst rocky marsh and mangroves, probably two to three hundred meters before you reach the reception building. You won’t miss it as it is the only imposing thing with a foyer in the area. If you are driving though, then you first find a parking slot (which is ample) and walk to said foyer. Go up the few wooden steps to the spacious open-air lobby and head straight as that is reception. The ladies and gentlemen in that counter are one of the few folks in this country that I can consider as always cheerful, courteous and knowledgeable who don’t stereotype whoever you are as this or that. Believe me, I have tested them many times hehe!

Tell them what it is you want to do, and there is no need to lie about your purpose. Example: say, “we heard this is one of the best and we thought we’d just go a round to see it for ourselves”. You will notice the staff will automatically look to her right (a little back), then will probably say, "let's wait for a while ma'am until a car is available". What does that mean? They have trucksters – out-sized golf carts – that will take you around the facility. The downside here is that prior to your ride, front desk staff (even the handsome driver) will tell you that there will be no stopping much less you getting off for photo-ops. Don’t worry, the place where your ride starts and stops is the only area that non-checked-in guests are allowed to have their photo-ops, and indeed it is such a beautiful place. That’s just behind front desk btw.

Now now… you can of course ask front desk about rates and packages. Liar or not, you can tell them you intend to check-in next time or you are checking for a friend/family. The story ups a little bit! You will still ride the same truckster but it will stop at designated “available” rooms for you to see. Ah, this happened to me and some friends. An oldie asked for exactly the same thing, so when she was showed the rooms, we too were there with oohs and aahs admiring the suites hehe!

Take note, all of that is free with a courteous driver and front desk / sales staff to tour you around. Remember this though, any of the above services may not be immediately available if the staff are quite busy, so I discourage you doing this on a weekend. Ah no they won’t say the service is not available. You may just have to be asked to wait longer than you’d expect. Especially too if you arrived noontime where they’d all be busy with check-in and check-out of legit guests. And if you want to wait in style, why not have refreshments right at the lobby or even eat out at any of their restaurants! Its not free of course, but, at least it is allowed even if you’re not a checked-in guest.

Why not check-in after all?
My answer to that question is… WHY NOT?!! Plantation Bay is one of the best around. The rates are competitive to others in its class that do not have the fantastically landscaped wide compound with many waterbound activities and facilities. You wanna know more?

Foremost, as this is foremost to me, the staff are well trained, cordial and courteous. They don’t move stiffly nor military like as in other hotels. Well, except for the guards over at the far entrance gate though. Then again, those guards may have been trained to be so, if at all to discourage a battalion of onlookers hehe! But the crews from front desk all the way to housekeeping... outstanding, I must say. Was I just lucky? Probably not, since I have been to this resort many times and all of them consistently display the same attitude. Hey, as if guests, they even greet their colleagues with a smile as they meet – this facility is too wide they seldom see each other, that’s why the enthusiastic greetings even amongst them hehe!

The rooms. Those are not rooms! I consider everything is a suite. Just look at the pictures. But better if you’d see them live. These are the types where there are electrical sockets every few inches hehe! And good, so mobility in the big wide floor area with any gadget is easy. Yep, no worry even at the bath area, there is always somewhere to plug anything you need to – including their very own landline! Ah, they say wi-fi is available for free at designated public areas. But I discovered it is available at all rooms I or my friends and family have stayed in! There is also a wired broadband if you are dead serious about connections.

Service, or the human factor is probably the best thing that separates Plantation Bay from others. Well, they’re not alone in this anyway for Sumilon is at par or even better. But in plantation, the little surprises made me appreciate and remember them. Example: relatives flew in from Manila arriving at 7AM. I already booked them a room at Palermo area day prior, but we all know that check-in is at 12NN, right? That was a summer and the resort was almost full (save for the expensive suites and some lagoon-side rooms). I was still in the city and rushing to get them entertained for about 5 hours of waiting. I was thinking of taking them for some sightseeing while waiting for check-in time. Voila! I got a call… they were given a “temporary” room but they could already use all the amenities of the resort – and the children were already at some pool with waterfalls. I just said “good”! But when I arrived to meet them, no wonder one of the front desk crews who drove me to that room met me grinning. When I arrived, oh my, it was a bigger and more expensive room! Whoa! Just for a 5-hour use of my relatives!

The above case is not all just being too kind, I believe. It is a product of well-minded strategists who could perennially mix genuine service and business acumen. How? Hear this, at noon, my nephew was begging his parents that they just stay in the “temporary” room for the whole duration of their stay. And without being asked for opinion, staff added that “it would be just fine too, sir”. Haha! He almost succeeded but I was paying so that meant additional expense. To the original booking they went hehehe! Mind you, nephew and niece and their parents had a choice if they wanted to bring anything from that “temporary” room to their original room. So they brought the toiletries and the fruits. On arrival at their new room, same were there waiting for them. And here is another mind you… boy is 13, girl is 14 and the room was given to me at the regular rate for two adults (and 2 free children below 12 years old)! See?!

Another story. Friend who lives abroad with foreigner husband arrived directly at Plantation Bay without even peeping at Manila. Yep they just transited at NAIA and I helped them book two rooms. Husband loves the place. Wife, being Pinay thinks its too expensive, so on check-in she was asking for a discount on the two rooms I booked for them (some family were coming to join them). Front desk said, "no can do". BUT, since it was lean season, they instead gave an extra room. Whoa! What else, I got the free room for myself, we called some other friends in the city to join us. It was a sudden hilarious party! Here’s where the “acumen” gets in. I asked one of the managers why the generosity of the extra room. The reply? Simple… whether or not rooms are filled, their crews are around anyway, and they have to get paid for that. Thus, better if they’re tending to more rooms than staying idle lest they be used to it! Plus, she whispered, “your eating at our restaurants was good business, since all of a sudden there was a big group instead of just the couple”! See?!

Ah, I have other similar stories on Plantation Bay. But let’s just wait for it to happen to you! Why not, right?! Btw, am not in anyway related to anyone in that resort nor does anyone of them know me other than the “familiar face” kind of relationship as I am often there. Like? Some weekends ago, the front desk girl said to me “you again!” we all laughed. I was touring 4 of my friends from Manila. Then I retorted with “I told you last time, you should already be speaking bisaya when I come back”! Her reply “risod, sir” I corrected that as “lisod”! She is Sunny, a cheerful K-girl, hired to attend to the K-market but also eagerly serves natives like me (because at first she thought I was a K-dude whaaahehehe)!

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