Marco Polo in Ortigas, Manila was recently awarded a five-star rating by Forbes Travel Guide for the second consecutive year, which initially made me take note of the hotel and eventually, book a room accommodation. (I also saw last week the Italian film A Five Star Life, about a luxury hotels critic, which made me even more critical of my room at the Marco Polo.)
I booked on a weekend and so I expected more patrons than usual as this is considered a family hotel by most of the reviews I read on social media and websites. Before arriving, I called in to ask if they could accommodate us for an early check in at 1pm as we had finished lunch at 12nn and were already in the area. The staff at the front desk said yes. After doing a quick grocery, we arrived 30 minutes later at their parking garage, which was bright, clean, and well-maintained, though the entry/exit slot and corners are tight—it took some maneuvering to get the parking ticket at the machine slot. It would be great if the staff at the nearby exit booth could also help hand out the ticket if they see people struggling at the machine.
The check-in counter is found on the 24th floor, which we only found out after getting off on the ground floor, after having entered on the 4th floor from the parking lot. The security guy who inspected our bags before entering the building could have informed us beforehand which side of the elevator to take and on which floor to get off to have avoided this hassle. This would also mark the start of the frustrating elevator rides.
Checking in was a breeze—there weren’t as many people as I expected. I was asked if I’d like newspaper to be delivered in the morning, which I thought was a classy touch as most hotels I’ve been to no longer do that. On the right is a view of the Sierra Madre mountain range, which was framed to perfection by the grand floor-to-ceiling all-glass window: it was a view which you will not get in Makati. “I’ve booked you on a room with the same view,” Stephanie, the front desk staff, said. She did warn me about the “minimal” noise from the nearby hang-out spot, Metrowalk, but up on the 39th floor, we heard nary a peep from the restaurants and bars down below.
The room was well furnished and tastefully decorated, though I dislike the huge painting that hangs above the bed—I think the green color takes away from the warm design of the rest of the place; otherwise, I love the old-school elegance of the room: the gleaming cutlery, the hair dryer with its own cabinet drawer, the welcome fruit (three oranges), the tub with Kohler fixtures, bathroom speaker with volume control, fluffy bathrobes that keep me warm even at 16C temperature—these were hotel standards that I took for granted in the ‘90s and early 2000s and which I rarely see in superior rooms now. And there are modern conveniences as well, such as an A/V panel with USB charger and a Nespresso machine with three complimentary coffee capsules, which was a great brand introduction to me. (Their coffee is strong and filled the room with its rich aroma!) There were also a lot of sockets 😍. With all our gadgets, there are never enough sockets these days. WiFi was fast and easy to connect to, but we were warned that we only have 8 hours’ worth of free Internet (though we actually still had connection the next day). LTE signal from Globe came to about two to three bars of signal, which was not super fast, but still okay for regular surfing.
The bathroom is spacious for two, though the tub only fits one and even barely at that. I brought Lush bath bombs with me, though toilet amenities included a sachet of bath salts (but no hand lotion, which was weird—or was this a housekeeping miss?). The rain shower was fantastic and probably the best I’ve tried: water pressure was strong and the temperature remained consistent throughout my shower.
As for the view, I’m rarely in the area, so the panorama was indeed a treat: way out in the background are the aforementioned Sierra Madre mountain range on the left and Laguna de Bay on the right. Antipolo, San Mateo, Angono, Cainta, and Taytay remain relatively flat, so you get unobstructed views of the land. At night, the view is “still and quiet” and provided an elegant backdrop to our nightcap.
The pool, gym, and spa are all on the 22nd floor. We only got to look at the pool, which is indoor and heated. Because it is enclosed and there is not much room for people to go around, I can imagine how noisy and crowded it would be during peak hours. I like the amenities though, including the sauna, locker rooms, and grooming stations at the men’s room. As I noted in my Instagram, I brought gym clothes and was supposed to work out because I read that the facilities were nice, but I just couldn’t bring myself to sweat when I could relax all day and night long. No regrets.
When I woke up the next day, I checked the outside door handle expecting my paper—there was none; in fact, it would never arrive. We then took breakfast at the supposedly peak hour of 9 a.m. (as the infographic at the restaurant entrance showed) and we were able to get seats quickly, though upon entering the restaurant, we knew it won’t be able to accommodate twice the size of the crowd that morning. The passageway along the buffet line is tight and susceptible to traffic and I don’t think I was able to walk along the length of food stations without ever stopping and waiting /allowing for other people to pass. There are also chairs placed along this path and I imagine it would be a horrible dining experience to be placed on any of the said chairs.
The food itself is mostly limited to breakfast fare, which I suppose is fair enough, though other hotels offer variety that span the length of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. For a Hong Kong brand, the hotel had weak Chinese cuisine offering: there was only the noodle station, but there were no dimsum. For soup, there was only miso. No breakfast sausages, not even hotdog, if we are going to be ultra basic here. Nothing exciting; this is the first time I limited myself to bacon (there were two trays separating medium and crispy—a huge plus!) and hash browns at a buffet. It wasn’t a disappointing experience at all, but there is definitely a lot of improvement here. There is another breakfast option for Continental Club guests on a higher floor, but I read it is smaller and offers fewer breakfast varieties.
As for other dining or shopping options in the area, there are few choices in the immediate vicinity, unless you cross over to Metrowalk (5 minutes), or drive to Robinson’s Galleria (5 minutes) or farther still, Shangri-La Mall (10 minutes), which we did not do. Instead, we hopped over to Sapphire Bloc, which I’ve never been to before, and dined at Japanese restaurant Shinshen, among the other handful of restaurants and bars on the block.
Moving about the hotel could be a little taxing though—there are two groups of lifts which only serve select floors. From the ground and parking floors up, none service the room floors, so you have to get off on the 24th floor to transfer to another lift. Each one is small—if you are a family of four with two heavy luggage and other smaller pieces, you’re probably all it could fit. I noted there were attendants on the ground and 24th floors not only to greet the guests and push the buttons, but possibly, to also control the very probable scenario of a huge crowd waiting to get on the elevator. The ride itself is extremely fast though, and we get from the 39th floor to the 24th in a matter of seconds.
Staff members are all pleasant, if not intimidatingly beautiful: seriously, this is the best-looking hotel staff I’ve seen in a while and I don’t know if I should even make that comment in the age of #MeToo. We didn’t make any exceptional requests—in fact, we hardly made any request at all—save for a glass water at the breakfast buffet and request for a late check out, both of which we didn’t get. We did check in an hour early as I’ve mentioned.
Pros: Luxury amenities—props to the rain shower and Nespresso machine; beautiful and courteous staff; the pool and gym seem worth trying, even if I didn’t get to (so make sure you do!); management seems keen on making the extra effort and improving its service—it responds to feedback on TripAdvisor and Facebook; this is more an excellent business hotel than a family hotel to me; good for solo travelers and couples as well
Cons: Unless it improves its menu, I’d rather opt out of the breakfast buffet, save money, and order out instead; this is probably not a hotel you’d book during peak seasons.
Tip: Booking through Agoda is cheaper.