Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Misibis Bay FAIL - Definitely not a Small Luxury Hotel

The weekend before my Christmas Holidays started, I went for a long weekend with friends to Misibis Bay. I couldn't remember at first where we were going. I just remember my best friend asking me if I wanted to go on vacation to some posh resort, because we bought discounted deal vouchers for Php35,000 good for 4 pax (Child goes free - so Sofia was free). I remember checking the calendar and since it was workable with the leaves I had left I just said yes, without realizing what I was saying yes to.

In fact when people asked where we were going, I think I kept on answering Bellaroca. Hahaha, I also don't know where Bellaroca is, but I remember someone telling me that Bellaroca was so expensive, people only went when there was a discount voucher available. That's why I thought we were going there. In hindsight, we should have gone there instead.

Since Misibis Bay is accessible through Legazpi, my friends planned to go swimming with the whalesharks or butandings in Donsol, around an hour away, as well as do a Mayon Volcano and Legazpi City Tour. It was only when we were planning our logistics did I realize that Misibis Bay seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. In fact, transfers from Legazpi City an hour or so away were not included in our vouchers and costs Php750 for a return trip per person. Given that information, we planned to do the whalesharks as soon as we arrived (Hello Red Eye Flight!) with the option to do the city tour which I wasn't really keen on, on the day we were leaving.

For this post, let me just focus on why I will never go back to Misibis Bay, and why they are definitely NOT a Small Luxury Hotel that they claim to be. I will blog about our Donsol experience and surprise Legazpi layover separately.

The ride to Misibis Bay is through zig zag roads, so mobile signal is non-
existent, but seeing the water beside the green hills is beautiful.
Please excuse my blurry photos taken through the window of the bus.
For perspective, the photos were taken on our way back, around 6am.
Our arrival at Misibis Bay seemed promising enough.
They even had a welcoming performance of dancers
in tribal costumes.
You're also welcomed with a welcome drink and fish coconut leaves necklace.
Quite Cheap - but good effort.
This sign actually thrilled me, until I realized,
it's just a sign. It just raises your expectations -
and sets them up to FAIL! But let me tell you why I think so.

While we were waiting to check in, there was a lady approaching the kids and asking them if they wanted to attend the Arts and Crafts Christmas Ornament Making Workshop. Points for them - I thought it was just like the Kid's Club at a cruise, but we decided to go to the room to freshen up first.

It just went downhill from there. In fact, looking back, it wasn't really anything specific. There was just so many little things that you would definitely not expect from a Small Luxury Hotel, or any hotel charging what they were charging since they are located in the middle of nowhere with nothing really special to offer.

Our home for the next 3 days or so was Villa 46
We were welcomed with a nice letter, sweets (banana chips and tamarind)
that were so sweet, the ants were there ahead of us. Totally unacceptable!
What's even more unacceptable is the ants were all coming from the ceiling, so our kitchenette counter had it, I think I complained three times in the afternoon we arrived, and the service was so good, they'd send someone immediately to wipe it away... until in came back after 30 minutes. I just couldn't get why we weren't just given a new room instead. I even asked them, do all you rooms have ants? and I was answered "No, Ma'am." So can you just transfer us? and I think we got a reply that someone will be sent to clean it, or they'll send pest control etc. Need less to say, we had to live with it. I even asked them for airtight containers to put our food in, but they just gave us giant plastic bags (seriously?!? Plastic Bag???) so I asked them to lend us scissors and tape - which they even asked us to sign for. Do we really look like people who want to steal your scissors? Not yet two hours in and I was already asking myself what I signed up for. Anyway, let me just share, that the most effective way (not to mention therapeutic too) of killing the ants is not just spraying them with alcohol or wiping them away with a wet cloth, both of which we did, the most effective way is sticking them to the counter with packaging tape and leaving it there! Hahaha, so much pent up aggression I was venting.

The voucher we got was a 1 Bedroom Villa for 4. But someone joined us at the last moment, so we had to make arrangements with the hotel for an extra bed which they agreed to for an extra Php750 per night. What I don't understand is why our villa was only set up for 4 when they knew there were 5 adults and they were charging us for the fifth adult. Again, totally unacceptable.
There's a big master's bedroom with a queen sized bed.
The bedroom would have been comfortable enough, if only they had curtains that block out the sun. Can you imagine going to this so called posh place in the middle of nowhere to take a break from your hectic life, only to be woken up everyday at 8am because the sun is shining in your eyes because your oh so expensive hotel doesn't have curtains that block out the sun. WTF right?

The bathroom is very big with an entrance from the living room and bed room.
Our living room was converted to 2 day beds that's why they say it's good for 4.
One thing I liked about our villa was our back door led to Cocoon Cafe,
with access to the lagoon pool.
It was a bit irritating though that the coffee for sale at Cocoon Cafe was Nespresso, when other hotel's I've stayed in (not even luxury hotels mind you) have Nespresso for free in the room.

The weather was really bad when we arrived, so while the rest were killing ants and freshening up in the villa, Sofia and I decided to check out the Arts and Crafts and kids activity areas.
When we arrived, there were no more kids at the workshop, but the
instructor was very helpful with Sofia.
She made a snowman ornament. BTW, this is the kids pool and we thought it
looked sad. In the three days we were there, I never saw any kids in it.
They also had indoor activities like Foosball and
Ping Pong.
They also had a playroom with a coloring table,
but we said we'd just come back because it was too busy.
This is the main pool of the resort. They call it the infinity pool, but I don't
really get it. it's too low for it to look like it extends into infinity, or atlest
into the beach. The makers of this place just don't seem to get it.
Another view of the infinity pool that looks just like a normal pool to me.
Sofia walking back to the villa.
It would have been nice if I had time to relax on this
hammock. Sadly, there will never be another chance,
because you can't pay me enough to come back.

Another problem with Misibis Bay is the food options. Our voucher did not come with breakfast, so we arrived with provisions. However, provisions can only get you so far. We were at the mercy of the hotel's only restaurant which had a very limited menu, with a third of the things you order out of stock, and the other third served with missing ingredients because they ran out. Seriously.

This is the extent of their 1 page menu, back to back. They really encourage the guests to do the buffet, (Breakfast Php750net, Lunch Php880net, Dinner Php950net) which we checked out at almost every meal, but the food looked really unappetizing. In fact, I'd probably describe it as equal to the buffets catered by the canteen in workshops held at the office. Seriously. An example would be their Chicken Cacciatore - the chafing dish we saw was a mess of chicken with bones in red sauce. In fact, one of the things in the menu I wanted to try was Bicol Express (Php650 on the menu), but Ivan pointed out to me that it was available in the buffet that day, it looked so bad, I backed out and ordered something else instead.

Don't get me wrong. While pricey food is to be expected, you sort of expect it not too suck if you're a Small Luxury Hotel, or if you're any other expensive hotel hoping for repeat customers. I really don't mind paying an arm and a leg for food, but please make sure I get to enjoy the calories.

Here are some of our top picks, but you can't go three days ordering just these things. Hahaha. Believe us, we tried.
Sofia's attempt at Food Photography
Lechon Kawali (Php650+12% Resort Fee)
Photo by Sofia
Chicken Quesadillas - Not Recommended.
Did they pan fry it to well doneness?
Photo by Sofia
Laing Lasagna (Php390 + 12% Resort Fee)
This one I really loved, but you need to share it because it's nakakaumay.
However, when I tried to order it again, it was out of stock. Seriously.
Another favorite is the Fried Chicken (Php585 +12% RF) 
Just ask for sauce on the side, otherwise, your chicken will be drenched in
honey. The order is big enough to share.
Fried Chicken Skin with honey. Sooo good.
Sof liked the fried chicken so much, she ordered it again
for dinner. Notice anything different?
They ran out of wedges but they serve the chicken anyway, hoping you won't
know any better. Seriously. Kakaiba. Then a plate of nachos followed
to compensate.
I ordered the Mayon Lava Burger (Php650 + 12% RF). It came with nachos too.
I guess that's because they ran out of wedges and didn't tell me?
Pano na if I order it the next day expecting nachos???
At least the burger was also good. It comes with caramelized onions and
cream cheese with chili.
I'm just not sure if Ivan's burger is better.
Sof and Ivan doing wacky burger shots.
Consistency seems to be a problem with their kitchen, but sometimes it
works in your favor. I ordered Lechon Kawali for one of the meals and the skin
was cooked so well, it was just like Chicharon, which Tim said he never got.
If you think that's where my food rant ends, you're wrong. I've saved the really best ones for last. I'm trying to think which one would be worse, but I'd say it's a tie.
Jem and Ivan ordered the "SINIGANG NA BABOY RAMO (good for 2)"
direct quote from the menu. Php980 + 12% RS rice not included...
and all they got for the price was this. 1 chunk of meat for more than Php1000!
I really thought they made a mistake. How can 1 small piece of wild boar cost so much? So we asked the someone, and it was the F&B Operations Manager who approached us. I remember asking him if the Sinigang was really good for 2 and he said yes, and when i asked why there was only 1 piece of meat his immediate answer after looking at it (we scooped it up, just like how it's pictured) was "Oh, sorry, we forgot to cut it!" as in seriously! I think he saw the shock on all our faces at such a ridiculous answer... because before I even complained or bothered to return it, he changed his answer into, let me get you 1 more piece. Then off he goes into the kitchen, then he comes back saying, we're cooking another piece for you. So yes, seriously, if you go and order the Sinigang, you're going to get 1 piece of meat (which may or may not be cut into to) for your Php1000 pesos. Mag-instant noodles ka nalang!
In fairness to the F&B manager, he brought out sausages for Sofia,
because she had no wedges, and he brought out squid and steak from the
buffet for us while we were waiting for the Sinigang, but the standards
of this hotel really leave a lot to be desired.
When Jem and Ivan's second piece of Sinigang finally arrived.
My other unacceptable buffet nightmare was on our last night, when I could no longer eat any more Lechon Kawali and Fried Chicken, I asked to order Laing Lasagna again, but it was no longer available. Sofia also wanted to order fish and chips from the kids menu but it never was available (even if they had fish fingers in the buffet... go figure!), so finally, after looking around the buffet table where nothing was of interest, we decided to go for the buffet because at least they had a Salpicao Station where they prepare the Salpicao right in front of you.

To put things in the proper context, we went for dinner around 7:00pm, so I probably decided to go for the buffet around 7:10pm at the latest. The first thing I got from the buffet was some fish sticks and some inahaw na baboy (grilled pork) fresh from the grilling station so I could check which one Sofia preferred. I also got some watered down cream of something soup and while I was eating this, Jem and Ivan were having some salad. Jem was able to get the last plate of Beef Salpicao, and she said she ordered 2 more servings for us, but due to some chaos with too many people, they were preparing this in the kitchen.

After I finished my soup, I went to check out the salad and I was quite surprised Jem and Ivan were able to find something from there because everything looked wither wilted, or leftovers that have been picked at from some other meal. In other words, at 7:15pm, there was nothing I could salvage from it, so I decided I would just go straight to the Salpicao Station instead. So imagine my surprise when I got there and I saw only 1 man at the grilling station and no one at the Salpicao Station, plus there was only some meat (either Chicken or Pork Salpicao) on a serving dish. When I asked if I could order Beef Salpicao, imagine my shock when I was told - Sorry, Ma'am but we've run out! Really??!!! They have a BUFFET DINNER that costs Php950 net, with nothing to show for it except for the Salpicao Station and they run out of Beef Salpicao at 7:15pm?! Where's the camera? It really felt like someone was playing a really bad joke on us. Just when I was about to look for my friend, the F&B Manager again, some sort of wait staff supervisor went to me and said he was going to check with the kitchen and after a few minutes, they agreed to prepare more Beef Salpicao. It still took ages of course! In fact, when I followed it up after 15 minutes or so, they were just bringing out the freshly chopped beef. I was totally willing to wait in front of them while they cooked it, lest someone run away with my hard fought for Beef Salpicao but the supervisor volunteered to watch my food for me. Such a disappointing experience. Just when you see people trying to make up for something, they just do something really stupid - because that's the way they do things that really strengthen my already low opinion of them.
This is the Beef Salpicao that I really had to fight for.
According to Jem who had a serving of the last batch. The beef was much
better quality, so they probably ran out of the cheap beef they wanted to use.
Every night, when they do the turn down service, they leave us 2 pieces of
local delicacies. I'm not really a fan, but I don't get it.
Why leave 2 when the Villa is for 4?

Enough about the food. We know it sucks. But here is another reason why I won't come back. There's just nothing special about the place to compensate for it being in the middle of nowhere.
They only have a small stretch of beach and it's not to nice at that.
Small, means I can walk it end to end, no sweat.
It looks nicer in vivid, but while it looks nice, I didn't see anyone actually
swim in it. You can do water sports, but you'll need to pay extra for that.
Me and Jem in our PJs after the stupid curtains woke us up.
Photo by Sofia
Sofia by the beach
Classic Sofia by the Beach "Mom, there's sand on my feet!!!"
Sofia enjoyed the Lagoon Pool, but any self respecting resort has a good
pool. You don't even need to be a luxury hotel to have one.
Sof loves picking up these tropical flowers.
Good thing Sofia is such a water baby so at least someone enjoyed our vacation.

When the others opted to do a Mayon Volcano and City Tour,
we chose to spend the day by the pool instead.
We ordered lunch from the restaurant, and asked them to just call us
from the pool when our food was ready.
This little girl was very sleepy but she wanted to
swim some more.
We settled for coloring at the Kids Area instead.
Here's another classic Misibis Bay Fail example.
Points for making regionally relevant coloring pages for kids.
This was a hit.
But I totally don't get why all the coloring pencils could not be used because
they needed sharpening. Clincher is that when I asked for a sharpener, the one
they gave me, labeled with "RECREATIONAL AREA" did not work.
But since they were really ok on service, they told us to give them the
colors we needed, and they sharpened it manually using a cutter instead.
WHY??? Why don't they just use crayons??? Sharpening not required. Even broken crayons write. Or why can't they just buy a decent sharpener. I'm pretty sure the 12% resort fee from all the over-priced food we've been ordering can cover the cost of a decent sharpener. Where are the Small Luxury Hotels standards here? Or are there even any standards?

A friend who owns a resort once told us, Conde Nast offered to do a feature on them to include them on one of their "Best Lists"... but that comes with a price tag. I'm pretty sure, this resort is expensive because they probably need to pay for the Small Luxury Hotels membership fees, so they're passing it on to paying guests and cutting every corner they can, at the expense of their quality and at the expense of Customer Satisfaction.

For reference, this is the playground, but it's more for
smaller kids. They also have video games, but that
was always crowded.
I made Sofia nap but as soon as she woke up,
she dragged me back to the pool.
The pool is open 24 hours, but the lifeguard is only
on duty until a certain time.
Instant sunburn after 1 day

The key to surviving Misibis Bay, if you've already booked and it's too late to back out, even after reading this is to make sure you have food and provisions for a good breakfast and snacks.
On our second or third day there, we had to wait for housekeeping to clean our
coffee maker because they failed to clean it the day before.
Seriously. Who does that? Where are the standards?!
Photo by Sofia
We tried to make sure Sofia doesn't get anymore sunburned. Hahaha.

I napped for a bit by the beach, but really, I can nap anywhere.
I think their building sea-facing rooms here.

The most interesting thing on the beach was the driftwood that we used for photos.
Sofia's favorite photo is the one of Ninang Jem falling.

Sofia and I were also able to take some photos, especially since we were wearing our matchy-matchy dresses. She just had board shorts under hers.
Sof attempting to build Mayon Volcano with Ninong Tim.

Good thing the guys went on the city tour on our second day. They were able to get more provisions for us because we realized by then how bad our food options were.
Our favorite Bicol Snack was Pili Nuts with Cheetos
Sofia brought her own cereal and I had coffee capsules so fresh milk
came in handy. No need to buy overpriced Nespresso. Hahaha.
The guys even did a good job of preparing the afternoon snacks for our last day,
when we were trying to finish all our food so we wouldn't need to carry it back.
Sofia enjoying her mango.

The last I saw of the resort at 5:45am.

The only thing I can say is this vacation was really more trouble than it was worth. I wouldn't go back again. The thing I enjoyed most was spending time with my friends - but we could easily have planned to do that elsewhere. 

Now, if only I can find a way for this post to reach Misibis Bay Management and the Small Luxury Hotels group, it would be worth the effort it took to write this. just saying.

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