Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sheridan Beach Resort, a disappointment in Palawan

I booked our stay in this hotel two months in advance. I was offered a 900/pax rate for the underground river tour. So, I said yes and gave them the names of the people in our party who would avail of the tour. I got a confirmation email from their staff, John Jay Sotero, and began to look forward to what would be one of the most disappointing vacations of all time.

Email confirmation from Sheridan's staff.

First of all, the real reason we were in Palawan was because we really wanted to see the subterranean river, which recently became one of the New7Wonders of Nature. We picked Sheridan Beach Resort because of its proximity to the underground river, even though it's around two hours away from the airport in Puerto Princesa. 

When we arrived for check-in, I immediately requested the front desk to schedule the underground river tour that afternoon. But the personnel said that he would have to ask for the copies of our IDs first and will get back to us in a short while. The short while turned to NEVER. We had to make several follow ups but only got vague replies about permits that they would still need to process. I asked them why they're only doing it now when we booked this tour two months in advance. The front desk personnel was clueless and when I asked to speak to Mr. John Jay Sotero (the staff who confirmed our underground river tour booking), I was told he was busy with another guest. When we approached their tour reservations desk, we were told by their staff, Cleo, that they are already processing our permits but that it would expedite things if we go to the underground river office at Sabang Port and make a personal appearance due to a visitor quota per resort being imposed by the local government.

I truly find this absurd for we booked this tour months in advance. But because we were desperate, we woke up early the next day and went to Sabang Port only to be told that our names were not in the passenger manifest and that they would be needing a certification from Sheridan that we had stayed there overnight, a copy of our IDs and a copy of our flight itinerary just so they can squeeze us in as walk-in passengers. 

It's becoming clearer and clearer that Sheridan failed to arrange the tour that they offered and confirmed. What's worse was that they wasted one day and did nothing. They were saying that they were already processing our permit, when in fact, the underground river office received nothing.

We spent our second day in Palawan, the day we were supposed to devote to our Puerto Princesa city tour, stressed out and trying to process our underground river tour permit on our own at the last minute. Turns out Sheridan couldn't or just "wouldn't" do anything about it. For when I was finally able to talk to John Jay Sotero about the matter, all I heard was more lies. Mr. Sotero said that he admits his failure to arrange our tour but when confronted why he didn't tell us sooner, he said that he didn't call us the day before our stay because he was worried about ruining our trip. A fact he's no longer worried about when our stay in the resort had already commenced which left us at their mercy. And when I asked him why they told us that our permit is already under way when nothing was being filed on our behalf, he tried to reason his way out of the mess. We never even got a single "sorry" or word of apology. This is the worst customer treatment ever!

After lunch, my husband queued for two hours and finally managed to secure our permits for the underground river tour scheduled on our third and last day. No thanks to Sheridan, we're finally going to see what we came to Palawan for. I seriously thought this will end the issue with this resort. But no, you have not heard the last of this sad review.

The Palawan Subterranean River Tour Office at Sabang Port.

Guests, in line, while applying for a permit for the tour. Some, if not most, are foreigners.

The dock where motorized boats to the underground river are waiting.

We were early the next day at Sabang Port because we were on the first trip. After paying 175/pax and 700 for the motorized boat, a guy wearing a Sheridan uniform with bold letters spelling TOUR GUIDE on his back and his name MARIO printed on his chest, helped us into the boat and snapped a couple of our pictures. He, then, boarded our boat. All the while, we thought that Sheridan puts a personnel at the dock to assist hotel guests as a courtesy. But as soon as the boatman stopped the engine, this MARIO guy told us that he would be asking for 900/pax which is Sheridan's underground river tour rate. We told him that we are guests at Sheridan but that we didn't avail of this tour via Sheridan and processed and paid for our own permits. He temporarily stopped bugging us when we arrived at the underground river. 

Early at the dock.

Just before MARIO suddenly appeared.

MARIO, in action.

Just before MARIO announced the reason he's riding our boat and ruined my day.

At the underground river entrance.

The picture that MARIO snapped for 500 bucks. Lucky guy didn't even have to print it. 

The ride that saved our vacation. If my husband did not pull out all the stops to make this tour happen, our Palawan trip would have been totally ruined.

But as soon as we finished the tour, Mario reappeared and handed us a hand-written receipt stating that we had to pay him 2300+, the remaining balance from Sheridan's 900/pax rate after he supposedly deducted what we paid the underground river office.

This, seriously, set me off. If I wasn't worried about ruining this experience for my parents-in-law, I would have really made a scene. The guy was trying to con us and even got a free ride on our boat. But my father-in-law, who is a kind man, decided to give this Mario 500 bucks just to get him out of our way. 

I didn't consider approaching the front desk anymore about this con man moonlighting as a tour guide for Sheridan resort. I spotted this guy while wearing the same uniform in orange the day before, having a conversation with the tour reservations personnel of the resort and then again, with a couple of guests at the pool. I also heard the people at the dock call him "tour guide ng mayayaman" (tour guide to the rich). Obviously, this Mario is really affiliated with the resort or he wouldn't be able to enter its premises while wearing the resort's personnel uniform and even talk to its staff and guests.

I really hope this post reaches the proper channels. It would make a world of difference if the management of Sheridan would do something about their incompetent and dishonest staff. I am not speaking about everyone as we had been treated in a friendly manner by most of their hotel and restaurant personnels. 

In retrospect, I can say that our hotel room was beautiful and has a great view of the pool.

Our Deluxe Pool View Room (PHP 8500/night). However, we booked ours using a voucher from a coupon site. My husband would have taken a better picture if not for the tiny human being throwing a tantrum on the floor.:)

The bathroom was spacious and neat.

The restaurant food was fairly priced and not bad, albeit the poor quality (fatty) meat they serve. I even heard a foreigner complaining during checkout about the Crispy Pata (Deep-Fried Pork Knuckles) that was "all bones and no meat". 

The South Sea Soup (PHP 140++) was flavorful and was the highlight of our first meal.

Stuffed Squid (PHP 228++).  Amazingly tender and delicious but not always available.  

Blackened Yellowfin Tuna in Pesto Pasta (PHP 328++) The Pesto Pasta was great but the fish could use a little more flavor. The plating, however, was impeccable.

Fish and Chips (PHP 268++) Their fries was one of the worst. Even my son, who's a french fry monster,  didn't have his usual fill. It lacked crispiness and tasted like starch.

Grilled Pork Belly (PHP 228++). More like pork fat in barbecue sauce. I got four strips of fat and one of meat.

Calamares (PHP 204++)  Not much for its worth. Looks like the chef ran out of squid again.
The Southsea Restaurant has a small air conditioned room for functions which they let us use for dinner. Notice the collection of wine in the background. Guests can just enter this room and take their pick of vintage.

The buffet breakfast was ample and comes with a great view of the beach. 

The omelette and pancake station.

The breakfast buffet was mostly of native dishes with salad, fruits and local pastries. The powdered juices were too sweet, though.

The view of the beach was so spectacular and made this breakfast, one great experience. Daily buffet breakfast is included in the room rate and so is the roundtrip airport transfers.

The huge pool was the best part of the deal and was a really nice place for the kids to play and families to converge. This is by far better than the Shangri-La Hotel pools I had been to.

The convenience of staying at a Deluxe Pool View Room was that the pool is just outside your sliding doors.  Easy access coupled with an attractive view. My little boy, when he's not busy with his puzzles, was always taking a peek of the endless  blue waters.

The best time we had at the resort.

The small playhouse was also a nice addition to keep the kids entertained. 

Puzzles, shape sorters and coloring stuff provide a wonderful diversion for the kids.

A little disappointed with my spa experience, though, My masseuse cut my massage short when I dozed off. I was surprised to find myself alone in the massage room. My therapist didn't even bother to wake me up. I realized why when I got back to our room and got a hold of my watch. I had only been gone for 40 minutes including the time I slept. Quite short for a "so-called" 1-hour massage.

The spa would benefit from using an aromatherapy scent dispenser to make guests feel more relaxed. I can still remember the remarkable scent of fabric softener which gave me the impression that I was entering a laundromat.

Sheridan, the resort, is not so bad. But an establishment can not live by its facilities alone. At the end of the day, what I remember is the agonizing experience and poor customer treatment that turned what could have been a beautiful vacation into such a DISAPPOINTMENT.

Still, we make do with what we have and appreciate the priceless time we got to spend with family.  But this trip could definitely have been better. Maybe...some other time, some other place, some other resort.

Sabang Beach, Puerto Princesa City
Palawan, Philippines

Manila Sales Office
(63) 2.376.69.68
Palawan Sales Office
(63) 48.434.1449
Cebu Sales Office


Shashi and Beij said...

Hope you enjoyed the beauty of the Underground River despite what happened to your booking.

Btw, just followed your blog. Hope u could follow ours as well. :)

Cheryl Ann Lei Reyes said...

@Shashi and Beij-We did. In fact, seeing the Underground River was truly worth all the trouble. Thanks for following my blog. What's the name of yours?

Anonymous said...

we really enjoyed our stay there! we had fun! thank so much! FULFILLING :)

Cheryl Ann Lei Reyes said...

@Anonymous-Glad you enjoyed your stay. God bless.:)

jeanette de guzman said...

Hello! We will be having our honeymoon at Sheridan on aug 19-20, but their underground river tour is too expensive. What can you suggest po for this?thank u!

Cheryl Ann Lei Reyes said...

Hi Jeanette! Congratulations on your wedding! My experience with Sheridan with regards to the Underground River tour was in 2012. So, I am not sure anymore what the case is at the moment. I suggest that you call them. If they can guarantee that their Underground River tour offer is legit this time, then I suggest that you take that instead. The process we went through when they failed to make good with the tour was hellish. It was surely cheaper but as honeymooners, you wouldn't want to go through that stress to save a few hundreds. Have fun!

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