Plantation Bay review: overview + first night experience

Plantation Bay resort in Cebu, the Philippines (Lapu Lapu City on Mactan Island to be exact) is great for couples and families that want an exclusive resort experience. Singles who want to unwind will enjoy not being bothered but are unlikely to meet any other singles. People looking to really experience Filipino culture won’t find much on the resort (though you can learn something from talking to employees and trying Filipino food). People looking for bargains should stay in a cheap hotel and eat on the street with Filipinos. To enjoy a stay at Plantation Bay you have to be willing to spend money.

That was the short version of my Plantation Bay review. The long version is included in the following Plantation Bay experience story. This is part 1, our first night:

I’ll write about Cebu Pacific Airways and Cebu’s airport in the future; for now we’ll just say that we passed through immigration and had our bags at 11:45. There was a fellow there holding a Plantation Bay sign and we went over to a little Plantation Bay gathering area to wait for other people from our flight who would also be taking the Plantation Bay shuttle.

The waiting area was pleasant enough. It was still in the restricted part of the airport so there were no crowds and the chairs were fairly comfortable although I didn’t feel like sitting (having just gotten off the plane).

We saw that we might have a long wait so we thought we’d look for an ATM (Plantation Bay doesn’t have an ATM although they can exchange currency at the resort). I suppose the rest of that story will be told later in my piece on Cebu’s airport.

By 12:15 they decided to leave without the others as they must have missed the flight. When we got in the van, however, we saw that they were already there. Apparently poor communication between the driver and the greeter meant that while we were waiting for them in the airport, they were waiting for us in the van. I’m sure the airport was more comfortable although the van was OK.

At 12:24 we found ourselves back at the airport to pick up some late arrivals. During the 17 minute ride to Plantation Bay, we saw a relatively impoverished Cebu. A few images that have stuck in my mind are the “buses” that look more like trucks. When room runs out inside people hang onto the back. We saw people selling cigarettes on the street. It looked like you could buy them one at a time which reminded me of my grandfather (when he was a kid in 1930s New York City his older brother would send him to buy cigarettes but not whole packs if I remember the story correctly). We saw many Korean restaurants (with signs written in Korean characters) and several KGVs (expensive bars where female companionship is available). We noticed that drivers turn their headlights on and off while they drive and that handmade signs on trees were common ads. We saw some dogs that might have been strays and my wife is certain she saw yellow goats.

Then at 12:41 we entered Plantation Bay. The first impression was an impressive one as everything went pretty smoothly. At check-in they went over a map of the resort with us and gave us a welcome mango juice (free). This was freshly squeezed mango juice, not the cheap stuff that comes out of a plastic bottle.

We went to pick up our bags but bell service insisted and I was glad for the no-tipping policy. Call me cheap, but I hate tipping someone for carrying a light bag that I’d prefer to carry myself anyway. We got in a little golf cart (where the no tipping policy was clearly stated on a large sign) kind of thing and they drove us all around the resort pointing out where things were. After getting a virtual tour with the map and then a real tour on the golf cart we felt fairly comfortable finding our way around the resort. It’s very big but you can’t really get lost (and I’m a master at getting lost).

As the guide / cart driver unlocked our door and brought our bags in, my wife asked if there were many mosquitoes. We were a bit worried when he said yes. Then he quickly added that they spray regularly. I hate mosquitoes, and they love me and my wife so I was expecting to be fighting them off all weekend. We each came home with one or two mosquito bites and no complaints on that account.

Our first impression of the Water’s Edge room was very positive. The room was clean and spacious, the balcony was a nice size and had steps descending into the very large salt water lagoon. I heard that this lagoon is the largest salt water pool in Asia; it certainly seemed huge to me.

The small, old TV looked out of place but I didn’t come to Plantation Bay to watch Filipino TV so I didn’t care. I did care about the bugs; we saw 3 in the first 5 minutes in our room. First my wife killed a mosquito. Then she called me to kill a cockroach on the bathroom wall and a millipede-type bug in our bathroom sink. Despite getting off to a bad start, we didn’t see another bug in our room until our last day so I actually have no complaints and seeing a few at the beginning of our stay.

We spent a few more minutes taking stock of the room. The lights and AC only come on when they key is in its little place by the door and it took us a minute to get that thing inserted properly. It also took us a minute to unlock the door leading to the balcony. Then I found a mosquito-repellent thing which I was desperate to plug in. It took me a minute to find the right kind of outlet — it was behind the TV. They give you flip-flops (tongs), an umbrella, a bit of dried mango candy, and 2 small bottles of water. My wife was hoping for a bathrobe but no luck there.

At 1:00 AM we walked into the water from our balcony. The water was warm, there were stars in the sky, and the bottom of the lagoon was slimy in parts. Some of the complaints I read online mentioned how “filthy” the lagoons were. While there was some moss on the bottom in parts, it didn’t bother me much. I figure people at Plantation Bay can do any of the following:

1. step on the moss. It’s not that bad.

2. swim past the moss. There are only a few areas where the bottom is slimy.

3. wear sandals in the water.

4. not go in the water, stay in your room, and dream about how much you can complain to people who don’t want to listen to you.

I chose options 1 through 3 at different points during my stay. Also not that the fresh water pools have no moss issues so if you can’t handle it just head for a different pool; stay out of the lagoon. One thing I liked about the lagoon was the wooden platform with hammock not far from our room. My favorite part was floating on my back looking up at the stars. Plantation Bay turns most of the lights out after midnight.

One thing about leaving your water’s edge room through the back door is that you won’t be locking it behind you. Make sure your valuables are in the safe. We left our room like this for hours and never worried about anyone swimming up to our back door, entering our room, and stealing our towels or whatever. All the good stuff was locked up. Also remember that the lagoon is salt water so if you kiss your wife on the shoulder, it’s going to taste pretty awful.

That’s it for our first night in Plantation Bay. Everything I talked about here happened in about 2-3 hours. After our 1:00 AM swim (which might have lasted an hour) we went to bed.

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  1. Joey says:

    PB may not actually be the hub of incoming tourists unless their marketing arm can deeply make immediate inquiry response.

    Considering pre election tours, it is ranked as locals. The 1st post election tours will definitely remain 90% local with inchings of a 7% foreign eavesdroppings from either beachcombers, or candidates questioning “what happened here.”

    PB, as what has been posted on the Travel blogs, will stay in the limelight, not only the normal mosquito headquarters, but also with rampaging cockroaches, not to count what next to come.

    With a difference on billeting price war, we can switch on from the bustling metropole of tourists from Germany, US, Japan and Korea, Bohol might just be the place to while your time, or the Fuente Osmena locale hotels where the hub of Cebu’s daily life are just there for experience.

    Try it and send it back people!

  2. James Trotta says:

    I’m not sure I follow all that Joey, especially the part about 90% local. This is from unofficial talks with staff, but it may be that at least 50% of PB visitors are Korean. Americans are more like 5-10% with Europeans more like 10-15%.

    Also as I mentioned we saw 1 cockraoch and one mosquito in 3 days. There were a couple mosquitoes we didn’t see, but for my wife and I to only get a bite or two each is pretty amazing and definitely says there was no mosquito problem.

  3. Jane says:

    My husband and I booked the Plantation Bay Honeymoon Package in January 2003. We stayed at the villa with a private pool and gazebo. We were supposed to be taken to the resort on a limousine but instead, a taxi with an air-conditioner that wasn’t functioning well took us to the resort from the airport. On our 3 days there, we killed a dozen or so of the black millipedes! We wanted to use the tub but I noticed that it wasn’t cleaned very well. I was also scared that a millipede would join us in the black tub without noticing it! And although it was nice to have a private pool right outside your room, I had second thoughts about using it because I saw some floating insects in it!

  4. Jane says:

    Our stay there wasn’t that bad though. Our best experience there was the dinner by candlelight on top of a rock with fireworks in the sky that came from another resort. The food served in the restaurants, especially the one by the pool, weren’t bad either. We also had a very good spa experience there but I didn’t like the products they used for the body scrub. I was expecting something “special” but I was disappointed to see a fruit-scented product that you probably can buy in any body & bath shop! On our second day, we hired a car and toured Mactan Island and Cebu City. That was fun too.

  5. I liked the rooms but I didn’t really like the pools in Plantation Bay.

    As for the insect and cockroaches… well, it’s a tropical country. Although, PB’s maintenance should have done something about that. Like using cockroach chalk or something else.

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