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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Series 2013: Boracay Adventures

This summer, the family was busy traveling.  We started our summer with a trip to Boracay in March, stayed in Manila for April then headed to Davao and Cebu in May then will be ending with a trip to Hong Kong in June.  I will attempt (operative word: attempt) to write a post about one aspect of our summer travels for this summer series :)

The last time I was in Boracay was almost 10 years ago when I was a fun-loving singleton.  I have stayed in resorts from Stations 1, 2, 3 and beyond (Diniwid) - luxury and budget.  Stan and I had been to Boracay together before but that was when we were more mobile, out to have a good time and party.  This trip is the first for both kids - our first trip as a family.  

Thanks to a friend, we were able to get discounted vouchers to Shangri-La's Boracay Resort.  Since the vouchers were good only for 2 nights, we booked 2 more nights at a family-friendly resort in Station 1 - Sur.    Staying in Station 2 would have actually been more convenient since it was closer to restaurants.  However, because Boracay was getting more and more crowded, I wouldn't recommend it if you are with young kids.  

happy hour at Sur
I felt that Station 2 didn't have a relaxing vibe and while strolling, we were constantly on the lookout so that the kids won't get bumped.  Plus, pounding music was on full blast at night - so I'm sure you could hear it in your hotel room if you were in Station 2.

Sur was clean and basic. The lobby personnel were friendly.  Edison shared how they have families that visit them year after year and thus they (Sur employees) see the children grow up.  What I didn't like about Sur was the food - not good.  Luckily, Two Seasons was just next door (with excellent cheese pizza!).

Because Stan wanted a very relaxing vacation, we also brought our yayas to also allow them to see Boracay.  The yayas were booked at Boracay Breeze near the church.  According to the yayas, the hotel was clean although it was not immediately accessible from the main road.  It was both of our yayas first time to visit Boracay and they walked up and down the White Beach.
outside Mabuhay Lounge in Caticlan

We moved to Shangri-La Boracay after 2 nights in Sur and I was blown away by the service and amenities. Shangri-La service starts as soon as you get off the airplane from Manila (even though we first checked in Sur).  They had porters to assist you in claiming your luggage and drive you to the Mabuhay Lounge.  After a cool drink and towel, we were off to Boracay island in Shangri-La's speedboat.
everyone who visits has THIS photo!

Meanwhile, the yayas were checked in at Boracay Ecovillage.  We normally share rooms with our yayas when we bring them to trips.  However, for Boracay, since hotels, inns and guesthouses abound, we decide to book them in their own quarters.  This also gave them the freedom to still go out and explore the island plus more privacy for us and for them.  

For families staying in Shangri-La, Ecovillage is a good place for your yayas to stay.  For one, the hotel has shuttles to bring your yayas up to Shangri-La's gate.  From there, they called the lobby to avail of the courtesy shuttle to the resort.  Shangri-La also had a shuttle to drop them off their hotel every night.  
Shangri-La Boracay was very lovely and an excellent place for the kids.  N and E especially loved the Adventure Zone.  

The Adventure Zone was more than a playroom for kids.  There were daily activities scheduled - about 4 activities per day.  You can choose to join one or all of the activities.  N was there from Day 1 - tree planting to guitar painting to treasure hunting to fish feeding etc. etc.  What I also liked about the playroom was that there were toys available for kids from 0 and up.  They had musical instruments, play kitchens and slides.  If you don't have a yaya, you can leave your child (5 and up) but would need to pay extra for a babysitter if your child is below 5.

I also loved their room amenities.  Instead of giving out bottled water in plastic, each room had 2 liters of water bottled by the resort in glass bottles.  The empty bottles were changed every day and I was happy NOT to contribute to the amount of garbage that Boracay tourists were leaving in the island.  Also, instead of giving out small bottles for the toiletries, the resort had refillable containers in the shower.
Q - Shangri-La's point person in Kalibo

Service was also a big plus for Shangri-La Boracay.  Since we were flying back to Manila from Kalibo, we needed to take a shuttle from Caticlan.  The shuttle from Shangri-La costs P3,000.  Although we had free speedboat transfers to Caticlan, our yayas did not so they would be charged P1,500 per person.  I made some inquiries and found Southwest Tours who charged me P3,000 for our one-way Kalibo transfer AND point-to-point transfers of my 2 yayas.

Southwest picked us up from the Mabuhay Lounge in Caticlan and I thought it was good-bye Shangri-La.  To our pleasant surprise, when the Southwest van arrived at the Kalibo airport, Shangri-La's Q (I cannot remember his complete name!) opened the van door and assisted as all the way - from carrying our bags to checking in to lining up for terminal fees.  I was simply blown away by the excellent service.
Uncooked batter at Sirena restaurant

If there was one thing that I was unhappy about Shangri-La Boracay it was the food.  Buffet breakfasts were included but the rest of the meals were not and they were really expensive.  Since S and I were in the mood to celebrate, we had dinner in their seafood restaurant - Sirena.  I was really disappointed in the meal.  We ordered their seafood platter - assorted seafood good for two.  It was not cheap and I was dismayed to find uncooked batter on my crab!  I returned it to the kitchen to have it cooked again.  The waiter served the SAME crab which they refried but still had uncooked batter.  See photo of the refried crab - still with uncooked batter.  There was no apology from the chef and to make matters worse, when the waiter first took my plate, I had a piece of unfinished seabass which they threw out :(.  I was really disappointed and our Sirena experience was the only sour note in our whole Shangri-La stay.

Would I still stay at Shangri-La Boracay? For the service and amenities, definitely yes!! But except for the buffet breakfast (if included in the accommodations), I would not eat at any of their restaurants.

Here's the rest of our Boracay adventures in pictures:
heading to the D'Mall
S and I were having a night cap.
E wanted to join us!
I bet the kids enjoyed their room service dinner
more than S and I enjoyed our Sirena dinner
Requisite photo at Willy's Rock
Kids and their yayas heading to the beach

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