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Amanpulo, Singapore Airlines, Manila Pen and Shangri-La Trip Report

Amanpulo, Singapore Airlines, Manila Pen and Shangri-La Trip Report

Dec 15th, 2004, 06:03 PM
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Amanpulo, Singapore Airlines, Manila Pen and Shangri-La Trip Report

FLIGHTS
We started our trip in Raffles (business) Class on the Singapore Airlines nonstop Leadership from Los Angeles to Singapore. The 17 hrs. simply flew by as every moment on this plane was superior – the service, the food, the hundreds of movies, TV shows, music CDs and games available on demand. Best of all, all of the Raffles Class crew members knew our names (even when we were out of our seats!) For one leg of our trip, we chose to “book the cook” ahead of time, which was fun due to the many menu selections, but in our opinion, it did not provide any better quality food than was available through the regular menu.

LOUNGES
At LAX, we spent time in the SQ Raffles Class lounge. This was a huge disappointment due to the fact that this lounge had been merged with Asiana’s. It was small, poorly stocked, barely serviced, crowded and poorly ventilated.

In Singapore, we were able to spend time in both the Raffles and First Class lounges (long story) and both were tremendous with high-end food and liquor, marble showers, private sleeper rooms, computers with Internet access and massage chairs. We especially enjoyed the salt water aquariums located throughout both lounges, but it was the First Class lounge that reigned supreme with unlimited Krug champagne (sells for $150/bottle) and exceptionally beautiful tropical fish.

Manila’s Raffles Class lounge was adequate, but had terribly dingy bathrooms with toilet paper everywhere but on the rolls.

MANILA HOTELS
We spent our first night in Manila at the Peninsula. This was a lovely hotel with very good service and traditional décor. We stayed in a junior suite that was quite large if just a little outdated. The same could be said for the Mercedes S-Class that took us to/from the airport. But everything was beautifully maintained and this hotel often runs very competitive packages. If you are a business traveler or like things just a little bit newer, you may prefer the Makati Shangri-La. We spent our last night at this hotel in an Executive Suite on the Horizon Club level. The suite was much smaller than the one at the Peninsula but cost about $100 more per night. This hotel was also better suited for business travelers than the Peninsula. The rooms and public areas have a clean and modern décor that we found appealing. They use a brand new BMW 7-Series (the one with all the gadgets) for airport transfers. The Horizon Club lounge was excellent with its offering of hot and cold foods and Australian wines.

Sadly, we did not have time to see much of Manila since Amanpulo was able to get us on an earlier charter flight.

AMANPULO
Amanpulo is part of the luxury Aman Resort group on the private island of Pamilican in the Cuyos. Our time spent at Amanpulo was consistent with every aspect of the typical Aman Experience in that the resort maintained the highest level of service, design, and atmosphere. We learned that Amanpulo staffs 220 people, and as is typical with Amans, they are rarely ever booked to capacity. In the time that we were there, we calculated 5.5 -12 staff members for every guest, hence the excellent service.

Our previous experience with Aman Resorts prepared us for the fact that the staff on the island would know our names, but this was the first time that we really learned all of their names and began to develop personal relationships (Shout out to GMs Shane and Karen, Chef Craig, Guest Assistant Romy, Sailorman Peter and Snorkeling Guru Jerry!)

As for the resort itself, what you see in the brochures is real – these are not retouched photos. The water was very clear in several shades of blue and green. The beach was the best sand we have ever experienced and can only be described as powdered sugar. And then there were the sunset views to the neighboring island of Manamoc. But what the brochures and website can’t show you are the sounds – there were various birds singing and geckos chirping at all times, as well as the sound of the light surf, the wind rustling through the trees and guinea hens scratching in the woods.

When we first arrived at the Amanpulo charter lounge in Manila, we were asked to weigh in (could not exceed more than 20kg of luggage per person). The charter flight was just over an hour and we especially enjoyed the welcome booklet that explained our flight path and gave us a brief intro to the resort. We landed on a gravel runway (exciting!) and stepped off of the plane onto a red carpet, where we were greeted by the General Manager and the Guest Assistant who was assigned to us for the length of our stay. Our golf cart was waiting for us (each casita has one) and our GA took us for a brief tour of the property before taking us to our casita for private check-in. A pitcher of Calamansi juice (a local beverage like lemonade) was waiting for us along with various Philippino tea treats. Our room included a bottle of Taittinger, but given the morning hour, room service wisely decided not to deliver it until later in the day.

We stayed in Casita #40 which we had chosen for its fabulous 260 degree ocean view and because it offered the most privacy. There were no other dwellings in site and our casita looked over the undeveloped southern tip of the island and had views to the ocean both east and west. Despite the fact that the casitas were over 11 years old, they showed no signs of wear and had been impeccably maintained. The casitas were spacious and the décor and architecture were timeless featuring teak, granite, marble, coconut, Philippino ceramics, mood and spot lighting and orchids grown in a hothouse on the island. There were no signs of scratches or wear on the teak floors/surfaces. And, at night, the friendly geckos eliminated bugs at our entryway - my husband liked to watch them “hunt”.

We spent most of our time driving around the island in our golf cart, in one of the pool salas and at the beach club sipping Amanpulo ice teas with guava juice. But our favorite activity was the snorkeling/diving. While you can snorkel right off the beach, the snorkeling cruise was the best way to see the good reefs and fishes. These reefs are only a few minutes boat ride from the shore and were some of the best snorkeling/diving north of the Great Barrier Reef, though maybe not quite as good as sister property Hotel Bora Bora. Divers will appreciate the small dive shop’s first-rate reef diving equipment and reasonable per dive cost.

Our massages were very good, especially due to the massage sala’s garden setting. Where other resorts have to play a CD of tranquil bird and surf sounds, Amanpulo allows you hear those sounds for real.

Something called a Wedding Blessing ceremony was included in our package. Since we were already married, we didn’t think much of it, but this turned out to be one of the most charming parts of our stay. We were picked up by our GA “chauffer” in an elaborately decorated (flowers, wedding net) stretch golf cart and driven to a spot on the beach for the sunset ceremony. There, we were greeted by a half dozen staff members and walked down a palm frond decorated aisle. Staff members engaged us with sweet readings and a (staff) Priest led us through the exchanging of vows. Amanpulo had provided us with an orchid bouquet, a white wedding cake and yet another bottle of Taittinger Brut. After the ceremony, we were given a locally crafted book to remember the words we had just spoken to each other. Perhaps the funniest moment came when my husband insisted the staff share the champagne with us – it was a wedding after all. They all stammered for a moment – torn between their duties to not drink on the job and the desire to please the guests at all times. It turns out there were only two glasses at the beach, so fate made the decision for them. When we returned to the chauffered golf cart, we found a Just Married sign and a handful of tin cans tied to the back of the cart. Yep, you guessed it, our GA drove us past the clubhouse with tin cans clanking away and all of the staff stepped out to wave.

After the ceremony, we had a private beach barbeque under the amazing starlight. This is an Aman tradition and it turned out to be every bit as lovely as the one we had at Amankila.

Other activities at Amanpulo included windsurfing, water skiing, kayaks, sailing, and trips to neighboring islands. One particularly windy day, we asked to take out a Hobie Cat and one of the beach attendants wisely offered to accompany us. This turned out to be a very good thing as we were not skilled enough sailors on our own. When a piece of equipment on the main mast failed and our sail ended up in the water, we were promptly rescued by the beach staff and given numerous apologies while our “captain” remained with the “ship”.

The food was both Western and Asian with an emphasis on local recipes and seafood. Despite everything being flown in, all food items were of the highest quality. We were given a sneak preview of the new beach club Oyster Bar with selections from around the globe. And the GM takes pride in the wine list, which is small, but excellent.

AMANPULO: THE DOWNSIDE
Amanpulo is home to many sand flies that bite at dawn and dusk. The resort rakes for eggs, sprays daily and traps, but still, the little buggers make an appearance. Use the repellant Amanpulo provides and you won’t have any trouble. By the way, we did not see a single mosquito while on the island, so don’t worry about malaria meds.

While we were there, the December trade winds were very strong at 23-25 knots. These winds only last for a short time, but they can affect what activities you are able to do - one side of the island was inaccessible to small boats and foot traffic and the wind stirred sand up onto our beach barbeque. Casita #40 was particularly windy when we stood out on our terrace, but on a positive note, the wind also kept things cool.

Finally, the service around the pool wasn’t quite up to Aman standards. Water glasses did not get refilled and one day our lunch tray was not cleared for 2 hours. We spent a lot of time in the very private salas, which were divine, but hid us from the staff and left us forgotten. Service at all other areas of the resort was Aman(phen)nominal.

We had a truly wonderful time and would recommend this trip to anyone. Feel free to reply with any questions.
Ericka is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 06:20 PM
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Thanks so much for a great report!
Kathie is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 06:46 PM
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sounds like a good trip....look forward to more..
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 04:23 AM
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What did you pay at the resort?
BillT is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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Very funny rhkkmk! I know it's a long trip report. You're welcome to stop reading at any time.

As for the Amanpulo cost, we booked the Romance Pkg and upgraded to a Deluxe Hillside. The package is still available on their website. I don't remember what it turned out to be per night, but the package was completely inclusive and we didn't end up booking anything outside of the package.
Ericka is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 07:01 AM
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erika---don't understand your comment...i liked the report and hope there is more to come???
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 08:15 AM
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OK I'll check the website then go for a second mortage to fund it!
BillT is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 08:23 AM
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Ericka, given the length of rhkkmk's reports he thought your report was short and is hoping for more details!!
Kathie is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 08:48 AM
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Oh my gosh - I thought I was rambling on!
Ericka is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 07:14 PM
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Hi Ericka! Thanks so much for the report. We are taking off tomorrow afternoon via Cathay Pacific First Class and will be at Amanpulo from the 19th onwards. Cannot wait after reading all your great comments! Nancy - PassportControl
PassportControl is offline  
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