06 Jan2011

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A good hotel often has a “soul” besides the bricks and mortar, the many interior details, and the service provided by hundreds of staff members. It’s hard to explain, but I often find that hotels I take a liking to (whether large or small, economy or deluxe) have this quality about them. It would be particularly difficult for a brand new property opened just weeks before a first visit to possess this desirable quality. Some of the hotels that seem to stick in my mind are the small properties of the Amanhotels group at the most luxurious end, along with the Mandarin Orientals in Hong Kong and Bangkok, The Danieli in Venice, The Pierre in New York, The Raffles in Singapore or some small “hole in the wall” pensionne in some tiny provincial destination like Sagada, Pagudpud or Coron. So it seems a highly unlikely thing to declare that an international chain hotel in Cebu has suddenly caught my attention, but the new Radisson Blu hotel definitely has. I have stayed there three times in the past 6 weeks and it is rapidly becoming a personal favorite.

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But let me not mislead. This is a large hotel which has hundreds of rooms. The building is new, the interiors slick and modern. The rooms very comfortable and well appointed. It is more a business or tourist hotel than a wannabe “charming” property. And as a newcomer, their rates are relatively attractive vis-a-vis the competition. Situated beside the SM Mall, some would say a bit out of the way, near the waterfront, but not more than 5-10 minutes further than any other hotel I have stayed in in Cebu. And a very quick ride to the airport. The SM mall assures a huge selection of dining options at a reasonable price, while the hotel offers views of the harbor and bay nearby. In other words, you could look at this as any other four-star (though nearly 5 star in my opinion) facilities chain operation and leave it at that. But sometimes, the oomph is in the details. Up top, a sample of the clean, sparse and simple but FRESH flower arrangements throughout the hotel. They don’t have the budget Jeff Leatham has at the Four Season George V in Paris (over a million pesos a week for flowers!), but at least they captured the spirit of the concept. And how many top hotels have decent floral arrangements in the Philippines these days? Having said this, the arrangements will have to evolve and not stay static, as they will eventually get repetitive. At the entryway, a nice fountain, with blue lights, presumably to emphasize the brand name of the hotel. A nice touch, and simply presented, unlike some way over the top fountains are other places.

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The lobby has a 3 or 4 storey tall ceiling, unusually grand in this day and age, and lots of public spaces designed precisely to host conventions, parties, gatherings of all sizes. The lobby is actually almost too big, but I suspect it fills up when the hotel is host to several events. The design is quite streamlined, though there are clear touches of local materials, furniture, etc.

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Near the banquet halls, they have these amazing mother of pearl sections of the wall that are beautiful backdrops for photos. There aren’t too many displays such as this, but its nice to see pockets of luxury, done with locally sourced materials…

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But what really matters in a hotel are the rooms. Mrs. MM and I go to Cebu on business often. We don’t keep an apartment or home in Cebu despite the very frequent trips because we figured out its simpler to stay in hotels — same cost if not less, and no hassles for the most part. So the rooms at the hotels we stay in are a critical factor — and I think these have to be the best rooms in Cebu City at the moment (I don’t include the luxury hotel properties in Mactan as they are in an all-together different price range and impractical for folks doing business in the city). I was introduced to the GM of the Radisson along with some of their senior management team over a year ago when they were just setting up the hotel. They had dropped by our lechonan for an outdoor lunch and so we were acquainted then. Recently, Zubuchon hosted a lunch for one of the hotel’s PR campaigns when they opened late last year. So it was only natural that I would check in to see what the hotel had to offer…

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On my first visit to the hotel, a standard double room was upgraded to an executive suite, not a standard practice I am sure, but a courtesy from folks I had plied with crispy lechon skin, and at least I got to see the whole range of rooms on offer. Furnishings were modern, soothing and extremely comfortable. Nothing fancy or superfluous. Nice big flat screen televisions, ipod docks, great lighting and good soundproofing. Great bed, good quality sheets, comforters and pillows.

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The bathroom in the executive suite was the best I have seen in Cebu. Large mirrors, good lighting, a bath tub (not a big fan of these) separate shower, toilet rooms and an incredible dressing room to boot. Good toilet paper too. Nothing like having the trappings of luxury only to sandpaper your butt after a dump. I DISLIKE hotels with rough toilet paper. The Radisson passes the TP test. :)

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On another stay, I got a standard double room, and it was just as comfortable, only smaller. Compared with other doubles in Cebu, I thought it felt more spacious and had the nicest bathroom for the money paid. In the photo above is the room from my third stay in the hotel, a corner executive suite with a large living area with space for a roll-out bed and its own small kitchen/dining area, couch, desk and television. Rates vary based on say your company affiliation, whether you have an SM Advantage Card, how good your travel agent is, or how well you negotiate I suppose. Suffice it to say rooms in the first couple of months would probably range from PHP4,000 and up.

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The corner bedroom had a wonderful view of the harbor and piers and Mactan island across the channel.

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The bathroom was also extremely nice, with the added feature of being able to take a bath (don’t like bath tubs) with a great view of the city. I left the blinds up the whole time as a view is a real luxury from the bathroom. The room was located on the 18th floor, so not many folks outside could look in, and besides, would they really WANT to look in? It’s one of the few times I have been able to sit on the “john” with a tremendous early morning view of Cebu City, pre-dawn, with streetlights and vehicles going about their business. Off topic, but my favorite “john with a view” has to be from a hotel in Wyoming that had floor to ceiling glass windows with a stunning view of the snow-capped grand teton mountain range in the distance. Probably the only time you would wish for constipation…hahaha. I’m kidding, of course.

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For a brand new hotel, service at the Radisson Blu Cebu was extremely good, with only two glitches that were understandable — a room that wasn’t cleaned one day out of confusion whether I was in the room or the one next door, and getting chased by a waiter who tried to charge me for breakfast when it was included in the room rate. In both instances, corrective measures were instantaneous. But I would like to point out some of the tiniest of details that have really made an impression… Every day a small offering of freshly made chocolates iare left in your room. On my first stay, a blue luggage belt was also left as a gift.

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On the Club floor, a huge area is set aside for a library, meeting rooms, a bar and breakfast area…

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A simple but stunning white marble “bar” or daytime buffet table was the setting for a cold beer, on the house if you are staying on the club floor…

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…with pica-pica, and five kinds at that! Not just a bowl of peanuts. Several of the staff members at the Radisson have transferred from other Cebu hotels, and I think I recognized at least 3-4 people from my other stays in Cebu. The staff are new and eager, but more than that, they appear better trained than most.

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The coffee shop is an interior decorator’s dream, a bit over the top, but I suppose it’s a large public space and it’s meant to impress… What DID impress me is the incredible array of cooking equipment behind the expansive buffet, with to-die-for woks, salamanders, grills, chilled marble slabs, etc. It’s like a cook’s dream tool box. :) The coffee shop looks out on the large pool and newly planted garden; the foliage in both areas would benefit from a year of fertilizer and water… I got a glimpse of the gym (note, glimpse, not stint in) and the spa, the latter not fully operational for another couple of weeks…

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Everything was arranged or displayed with a good eye. Here, multi-colored chopsticks in a simple glass container.

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A nice bowl of noodle soup for breakfast one day…

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…and fried dried squid and danggit with two PERFECTLY cooked fried eggs in the club lounge the next day. And in the coffee shop, each table set with SUPERB salt and pepper grinders with Peugeot mechanisms, some of the best you can buy.

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And the icing on the cake in some of the rooms? Your own personal Nespresso machine complete with a selection of cartridges! In case you felt like an espresso or a nice cup of cofee at the beginning or the end of the day…

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Now that, is a class act. :)

The Radisson Blu Hotel
Cebu City

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Bubut says:

    wow! very elegant hotel and the price is still reasonable. I will be in Cebu for a vacation next week and will try to get a glimple of Radisson Blue, but will be at the sampaguita suites as i cant afford their rates. i love the photo at the reception area. it looks like you looked at the mirror and you have the face of a the lady. Thanks for sharing.

    Jan 6, 2011 | 3:00 pm

     
  2. Lissa says:

    Hi MM! Glad to hear you had a good experience in Radisson Blu. My brother-in-law who stayed there last month had a different opinion, though. Particularly regarding the size of the rooms and the accompanying room amenities. But I suppose, since you stayed in the higher-end rooms, then the amenities get bumped up significantly.

    Jan 6, 2011 | 3:04 pm

     
  3. Ley says:

    “Nothing like having the trappings of luxury only to sandpaper your butt after a dump.” Hahaha.. I had a good laugh at this one. Do you know that everytime I see Charmin I always remember you? No, make that everytime I go to the toilet paper section of grocery stores, I remember you MM.

    Jan 6, 2011 | 3:10 pm

     
  4. Marketman says:

    Lissa, in the past 8 years of frequent travel to Cebu, I have been a frequent guest at The Marriott, The Waterfront and The Marco Polo Cebu, spending hundreds of room nights in total over that period. And I am quite confident that the size of the Radisson’s typical double is probably among the largest if not in actual square feet, in feel. With huge flat screen televisions, there is no bulky cabinet with typical large ref and useless space for crackers or chips. The bathrooms have showers with glass enclosures so they seem more spacious as well. So while one could definitely head to The Shangrila Mactan, Abaca or Plantation Bay for more space at 2-4x the cost, I think the rooms at the Radisson were a pleasant surprise, even without upgrades… I am curious, did your brother-in-law have any other favorite hotels in the city that had larger rooms and better amenities that I should check out? :)

    Jan 6, 2011 | 3:11 pm

     
  5. Marketman says:

    Lissa, I was a bit concerned about your comment on room size being out of sync with my personal impressions, so I simply googled a comparison of rooms of the biggest or Top 4 hotels in Cebu City and here is what I found (or didn’t) for standard double rooms, the most common size:

    Marriott Guest Room – 30m2 (Marriott website)
    Marco Polo Hotel Standard Double – 32m2 (Marco Polo website)
    Radisson Deluxe Room – 35.4m2 (Radisson Blu website)

    So my impression and the reality regarding room sizes in Cebu are totally accurate based on this data. The Radisson Blu standard rooms are indeed comparatively bigger than all the other large hotels I have stayed at in Cebu city.

    It is possible that the Waterfront has similar or slightly bigger rooms than the Radisson, the only thing I could find on the internet were estimates at 35+m2; but the amenities and quality of rooms there are not comparable with the newer Radisson…

    Now as for comparisons with room sizes of hotels elsewhere in the country or world, that is another story altogether…

    Jan 6, 2011 | 3:47 pm

     
  6. ruth, Philippines says:

    Hi MM, this is actually an off topic, but Im curious where to source good beddings (pang hotel ba) here in the Phil? Thanks a lot

    Jan 6, 2011 | 5:19 pm

     
  7. Marketman says:

    ruth, sorry, I have no idea. I find most Filipino beds/mattresses to be an ODD and not international or standard size. I always thought it was a conspiracy so you could only buy sheets from particular manufacturers, but I really don’t know what the answer is… I think the best bet is to buy them wholesale in the U.S. or H.K. or China and ship them in…

    Jan 6, 2011 | 6:02 pm

     
  8. christine says:

    finally! a review of the radison blu in cebu. :) i was checking their website from time to time but of course, it’s still better to get comments from someone who actually stayed there. thanks MM! my mom is from cebu and i can’t wait to bring her back there and stay at this hotel. :) and finally be able to taste the zubuchon! hahaha!

    Jan 6, 2011 | 6:28 pm

     
  9. millet says:

    wow, something to look forward to in Cebu. Congratulations, Joan & co.!

    Jan 6, 2011 | 7:01 pm

     
  10. Betchay says:

    Hi MM! your description of the executive room and service of Radisson Blu reminded me of the Royal Plaza on Scotts hotel in Singapore. They have the same impeccable personalize service and also the nespresso machine! The club floor in Royal plaza also serves breakfast,afternoon tea and evening cocktails! A real deal! Hotels like Radisson Blu (Cebu)and Royal Plaza on Scotts(Singapore) are real gems.
    Ruth– the good bed linens have a thread count of 200 and up.Watch out for white sales at SnR

    Jan 6, 2011 | 8:29 pm

     
  11. tonceq says:

    Chocolates everyday? WOW!!! i don’t get to stay in hotels much because i don’t get to travel a lot but i can say this is one heck of a hotel! BTW, anyone ever tried the very expensive yet comprehensive buffet in sofitel spiral? :)

    Jan 6, 2011 | 9:03 pm

     
  12. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Can’t wait for your review on their food…

    Jan 6, 2011 | 10:06 pm

     
  13. Marketman says:

    Artisan, the breakfasts are good. But I have to say, I have only had dinner in the cafe twice and room service once (adobo and sinigang) so I don’t have a whole lot to write about yet on the food. :)

    Jan 7, 2011 | 6:42 am

     
  14. farida says:

    MM, this must be the building that had been sitting empty for so many years beside the SM. Every time I go home and pass by this bldg I sigh with dismay as to the wasted property. Am glad it is finally used or occupied.

    Jan 7, 2011 | 8:43 am

     
  15. Thel from Florida says:

    tonceg, open up the blog by a medical doctor (beyong toxicity) dated 23 Jul 09. He brought his family to eat at Spiral (Sofitel) and did a review.

    Jan 7, 2011 | 9:01 am

     
  16. bon igot says:

    We stayed there last December and availed of their promo to SM advantage card holders. Indeed, it’s good value for your money. I’m just wondering why I wasn’t given the chocolates.:(

    Jan 7, 2011 | 10:12 am

     
  17. chinachix says:

    the food and interiors look really nice, you especially had me at “your own personal Nespresso machine…” but i suspect “some of the rooms” = presidential suites and equivalent?

    Jan 7, 2011 | 10:28 am

     
  18. Marketman says:

    chinachix, they didn’t have Nespresso machines in the standard double, but they had them in the executive suites which are two room set-ups. :) I haven’t seen their Presidential suite… :)

    Jan 7, 2011 | 10:44 am

     
  19. farrah says:

    just read from a newspaper article that the Radisson is part of the SM owned companies. That explains the SM advantage benefit :)

    Jan 7, 2011 | 4:24 pm

     
  20. APM says:

    Hi Marketman.

    About 12 years ago I lived in the Marriott for 14 months. At that time it was the most convenient businessman’s hotel being beside Ayala Center Cebu. I also recall that there was a not yet opened hotel beside SM City Cebu (it was supposed to be a Sheraton) that remained shuttered for a long period of time. I don’t know what was the issue that kept that hotel closed but I guess that they finally opened it as the Radisson Blu.

    Glad to know that there are other options now in Cebu City.

    Jan 7, 2011 | 10:33 pm

     
  21. Marketman says:

    APM, yes, it was the building that was supposed to be the Sheraton, which stopped about 80% of the way to completion and was embroiled in something that prevented its opening for a decade or so… I think the SM people eventually bought it, and finished the hotel and brought in the Radisson folks to run it.

    Jan 7, 2011 | 10:57 pm

     
  22. akosistella says:

    Finally! Someone as anal as I am about TPs in hotel bathrooms, haha! I always bring my own TP wherever I go bec. some hotels despite their 4/5-star branding, have 1-star TP! Ugh. Thanks for the heads up on Radisson, MM. Will surely try this one next time I’m in Cebu. HNY!

    @Ruth: If for personal use, there’s a brand of linens available at the SM Home Section called Linens Direct or Hotel Direct, 500 thread count and up. Just ask the sales staff. I also get from Puregold at Clark, different US brands, 350 thread count and up, sometimes on sale. My experience w/ S&R bedsheets on sale are poor, sorry @Betchay. The stuff they put out on sale are often scratchy and stiff, bec. they have percale w/c may be practical to some, bec. you don’t need to iron, but really does not give the feel of hotel linen. Even the jersey cotton they sold paled in comparison to the kind I used to buy at Royal Subic and in Target. Anyhoo, just make sure to always ask the sales staff to open the bag so you can get a feel of the sheets before you buy. Hope this helps.

    Jan 8, 2011 | 9:52 am

     
  23. Mari says:

    Thanks MM! I just chatted with my cousin and he’s staying at the Radisson Blu…what a coincidence to read this today! Will definitely consider this when we finally get back to Cebu on our much awaited vacation.

    Jan 8, 2011 | 10:10 am

     
  24. rita says:

    nespresso machine to make your own espresso drink, at your very own convenience? and a very nice hotel to match – i’m sold! guess, need to make a visit and, soon! get away from the harsh winter, this year ;)

    Jan 8, 2011 | 11:14 pm

     
  25. nina says:

    some, if not all, sheraton hotels are now taken over by radisson. I’m glad that this old building is finally occupied. It has become an eye-sore for a long time.
    so the daily chocolate treats are not for all guests?

    Jan 9, 2011 | 1:02 pm

     
  26. eden claire says:

    the Nespresso reminded me of the Renaissance in Saigon :) Lovely for coffeeholics

    Jan 10, 2011 | 12:00 pm

     
  27. fried-neurons says:

    The hotel looks very nice, indeed. I have to say that I was indeed a wee bit surprised that you took a liking to a mega-chain hotel. I tend to like boutique hotels myself, like the Opus in Vancouver. (Or at least chains that enforce a strong unifying aesthetic across all locations, like the W Hotels group.) But, yeah, props to Radisson for their Cebu location!

    Jan 10, 2011 | 12:02 pm

     
  28. migs says:

    I used to see that white elephant every time I pass by that area when I was kid. My dad told me that hotel was suppose to open as a Sheraton but tragedy struck and the place felt desolate and haunted for quite a long time as felt by the locals. Good thing, SM and Radisson came to its rescue after all these years. Hats off to them!

    Jan 10, 2011 | 6:21 pm

     
  29. peanut says:

    Stayed at Radisson when we arrived.Loved the hotel although there was a few glitches with housekeeping.Their breakfast (buffet) was good…loved the danggit and fried dried squid with vinegar sawsaw!Best of all you just cross the road and you’re at SM! S&R is also very very close.Thanks MM for the info on S&R.I found a fair sized leg of lamb too at S&R.
    Radisson is also very good with their pricing ..they offer balikbayan rates.We have always stayed at Marco Polo but I think we’ll be staying at Radisson more often now.

    Jan 11, 2011 | 6:10 pm

     
  30. cess says:

    I wish I could visit this hotel sometime! I want to see the coffee shop myself! Nice job MM! :)

    Jan 16, 2011 | 1:30 pm

     
  31. Jake Speed says:

    a bit off topic, but let me share with you pics of the suite i stayed in Marina Bay Sands Singapore. we got upgraded to this unbelievable suite: http://cardiacdelight.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/straits-suite-marina-bay-sands-marina-bay-singapore/ … there was an espresso maker and fully automatic toilets :)

    Jan 17, 2011 | 6:09 pm

     
  32. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    MM, do you know the wife and I always look up to the 18th floor and give out a laugh everytime we now pass the Radisson? We imagine you in the John!!!! LOL

    Jan 21, 2011 | 7:15 pm

     
  33. julz says:

    Radisson blu have good reputation around Europe, I always stayed in this name when I am traveling around…Last month I stayed in Radisson Blu in Riga Latvia when we had international conferece, the hotel was beyond my expectations, Radisson`s hotels in Norway are also nice, and often we used this hotels when we have meetings and conferences, I can recommend the Club Carlson Hotel Reward Program, you will earn points here everytime you use one of their hotels specially Radisson Hotels,then you can use your points to stay free when you have enough points or have your room half price. I will surely try the this hotel next year.

    Nov 8, 2011 | 7:57 am

     
 

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