Review: A weekend full of surprises in Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa

Rhex and I have always loved the Shangri-La whenever we go to Boracay. We choose it over Discovery for the same reason that most people do not like it for: it is far, isolated from the main beach’s craziness and massive throngs of people. We don’t mean to be snobbish — we only love our privacy and quiet time each chance we get to enjoy it in Boracay and there has never been a better place but Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa.

What we have always loved about Shangri-La Boracay, aside from its isolation from the main beach, is the superior level of attention to detail the resort puts in making your stay memorable and hassle free. After all, it is the little details that make a stay wonderful. From booking to transfers from the airport to the resort, to check-in, to the daily turndown service to check-out. After four stays each with a minimum of three nights, we could truly say, Shangri-La Boracay is one of the finest in the country, and definitely better than Discovery Shores and the best choice when in Boracay.

To spend my birthday weekend as well as attend our friend’s wedding in Boracay, we booked our stay in Shangri-La Boracay for June 26-29. We reached out to the resort’s General Manager, Amit Oberoi, as we always did when we were booking to stay with them but we found out that he has already transferred to another property and no longer manages Shangri-La in Boracay. Our booking was then handled by somebody else — no problem at all.

We advised the reservations manager through email that we would be arriving earlier than  the usual check-in time. She promised we would be prioritized for an early check-in. Anything before 2PM would be great, of course.

When we arrived at the resort and have gone through what seems to be an irregular way to check-in as we have always been used to doing the check-in “process” in our room, we asked Tatiana, the lady handling our check-in, if we could do an early check-in as promised by the reservations manager. Much to our surprise, Tatiana said she will check but cannot guarantee it because she can’t do anything about it. Of course we understand that she cannot guarantee it, but to say that she can’t do anything about it was surprising for us.

We found our interaction with Tatiana very cold — way different from our past check-in experiences where the front of house staff were very welcoming and accommodating. I am not sure if this is because she did not have the “Filipino touch” or was not trained to have it.

Anyway, we went straight to the private beach to hang out whilst waiting for our room to be ready. Tatiana offered to let us know through the bar staff when we can pick up our room key. After a little over an hour, we were informed that our room was ready, although we let the bar staff inform Tatiana that we would stay at the beach as we were already there enjoying the much needed sun. At around 3PM, we went to main lobby to get our room key from Tatiana. Again, much to our surprise, Tatiana had a sharp quip on well, the room has been ready for hours! I said, well we decided to stay in the sun since we were there already and had no time to spare just doing nothing. I thought again that was cold and strange for her to say like it was the guest’s fault to not have gotten the room earlier.

At this point, it already felt like we were going to have quite a different experience in Shangri-La Boracay.

We went to our room and the welcome fruit platter, as expected, has been laid out with a Golden Circle card welcoming us back to the resort. Just a little surprised though that there was no birthday greeting whatsoever (not that I was being anal about it, and maybe we just got spoiled by Amit and his team before!), but that was alright.

On our second night, after attending our friend’s wedding at Discovery Shores, we went back to our room to retire for the night. This is when I get a little bit more anal about the little details — the turndown service should be impeccably executed. And this means, water should have been replenished, curtains drawn, the room fixed, the bed in its turndown form. I noticed so many misses in the turndown service of the room this night:

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The hotel binder which I used the night before for in-room dining was still on the daybed in the balcony.

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The ironing board we used to press our clothes for the wedding was left there. Untouched almost like to room was not put in order for turndown.

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All the fruits taken away from the fruit platter yet they found a reason to keep the utensils there. If fruits are not going to be replenished at least take the utensils away.

We called in-room dining for a midnight meal — we were somehow still hungry after feasting at the wedding. Perhaps it was all the dancing and the booze. Rhex also asked in-room dining for a slice of cake and a candle since it was already my birthday, it was midnight of June 28.

We were surprised again, however, that little or no effort was put in the in-room dining food that was brought to us. For adobo with rice at P800, one would not expect to see rice presented just this way (with one weird slice of tomato and cucumber):

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And if someone asked (ordered, and paying for it!) for cake with a candle, it means that somebody might be celebrating his birthday and one wouldn’t expect to see his cake this sad or depressing (like no one cares about you):

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So having seen all these — bad in-room dining experience and turndown service — I called the guest services hotline to complain and asked if the manager on duty could come to our room to talk.

The manager, Jeszreel, came to our room and got it from me. I enumerated all the misses in the turndown service, showed him pictures of the in-room food we just got and asked him what was going on as this no longer seemed the same Shangri-La Boracay we knew.  I asked him if water should have been replenished, the fruit plate taken away but the utensils kept, the hotel info book left in the balcony, the ironing board left out of the closet, the room not being in order at all. And to each, he said, no this is not it is supposed to be.

I said, we love Shangri-La Boracay and we choose Shangri-La over other options all the time but things seem to have changed by a lot since Amit has left the property. We thanked him for coming to our room to hear our complaint and asked him to kindly relay our feedback to their management and the divisions handling in-room dining and housekeeping. He promised he would and took his leave.

The following morning after breakfast, we were greeted by numerous staff a good morning and I a happy birthday. Staff seems to have been briefed and perhaps reminded of the kind of service and experience only Shangri-La could give. When we got back to our room after breakfast, the room was already in order with some surprises to come with it.

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Room put in order with a personal note from housekeeping saying that they noticed we have a lot of used clothes on the tub and they suggest having them laundered (promo rate of P999 for one laundry bag)

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All our personal effects have been organised and laid out on crisp white linen in the bathroom, by the bedside and even on the writing desk.

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All our personal effects have been organised and laid out on crisp white linen in the bathroom, by the bedside and even on the writing desk.

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All our personal effects have been organised and laid out on crisp white linen in the bathroom, by the bedside and even on the writing desk.

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And fruit platter replenished, water bottles refilled and utensils cleaned and put in order as well.

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And a surprise cake — now no longer expected but still appreciated — from the staff.

Here I saw the hotel is making the effort to set things right by bringing back these same elements and attention to detail and personal touch we have always loved about Shangri-La Boracay.

On our way back to the private beach for some sun, we were greeted by Keith, one of the senior leaders of the resort, who checked in with us on how things are and once again apologised for the misses that we saw and thanked us for giving them feedback. He asked us what we had planned for the night to celebrate my birthday, we said we didn’t have plans for the day except to take it slow and easy by just relaxing the whole day. He then invited us to dinner and asked if he could arrange for it at Rima at around 7PM. We accepted and thought it might be a good way to cap our weekend in Shangri-La Boracay.

We went to Rima and were welcomed by the staff there who walked us through the tasting menu for the night and informed us that Keith has put our dinner on the house as a treat. Now this was a lovely surprise — we didn’t expect this gesture to truly set the record right on how a Shangri-La experience should be.

We were treated to a five-course dinner complete with some amuse bouche and sparkling wine to open the night. View from the Rima is outstanding as you get a sweeping panorama of the sea from a high vantage point. Service was excellent, and the food was equally outstanding. Everything fell into the right places at Rima.

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Rhex and I preparing for Rima

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Time for sparkling — to celebrate

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Rhex and I at Rima 

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Yellow fin tuna tartar, caviar, avocado, clear tomato jelly

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Caramelized pear, Foie gras and raspberry sauce

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Homemade ravioli with liquid parmesan, zucchini and capsicum sauce

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Slow cooked suckling pig for 16 hours, red cabbage, shallots and mustard demiglace sauce

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Enjoying my birthday with Rhex at Rima

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Hazelnut praline mousse, black sesame sponge with yoghurt ice cream

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And another surprise cake from Rima!

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I asked for the menu card for the night — they gave us a menu signed by the chef himself who also came out to talk to us and made sure we were having a good time and introduced the main course 

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Rhex and I having a good time at Rima

There are two things I learned from this experience:

One,

An excellent stay is always a collaboration between guest and the resort/hotel. Topnotch services thrive in good feedback from their most loyal customers. If we do not give feedback, how can service improve to exceed our expectations? If we truly care about our experiences, shouldn’t we go out of our way to build it together with those who work so hard to provide it?

Two,

What sets the mediocre apart from the best is the ability to turn things around and set the record right. This requires agility to respond fast, the leadership and will to exceed expectations. The ability to correct what was wrong and go beyond simply meeting expectations and leave a lasting impression that it has done well in doing so — that’s what sets the benchmark high that only a few can do.

Shangri-La Boracay has turned this around on its head making sure there is no such indelible bad experience it will leave behind, uncorrected.

We thank Shangri-La (Keith, Jeszreel in particular) for caring so much to turn feedback into action and for exceeding expectation when it corrected what was wrong, an authentic move to admit fault and set the record right.

The dinner was a bonus, a delighter that sealed the weekend off in a truly memorable, surprising fashion only a Shangri-La could provide.

Till next time.