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Kids’ luxury heaven, with shopping too, at a Mactan Island hotel

Pirates wall at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu

Families are rushing to Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu, and you can see why.  First, it is only 15 minutes’ drive from the airport (who wants to spend a coupla-hours getting from plane to sand when you are going on a beach holiday?).

Last night the 530-room luxury hotel hosted a thousand adults – one of whom was the gal – and 200 kids, of all ages.  Eighteen per cent of families come back again and again, attracted by such humorous delights as a pirates wall  that makes even grumpy granddad smile. This is the ideal family hotel.

Kids' waiting area at check-in

While families check-in, there is a special play area for the smaller kids, to work off some of the energy cooped up during, say, the hour-long flight from Manila, or even longer direct from Seoul or Tokyo or wherever.

There are obviously some Russians here, and lots of European expats.  Checked in, families head for the bedroom, and carefully lock the minibar. They look out on the balcony, and down over some of the 30 acres of this beautiful resort, and determine that the balcony’s rail is high enough to be safe.

Adventure Zone's drop slide

Time for serious exercise.  The football field is coming (January 2013) but there is plenty of work-out opportunity in the three-floor Adventure Zone indoor playground, with a 90-degree drop slide.  An older teenager may head to the E-Zone with such arcade games as Xbox 360. Mum is eyeing the two karaoke rooms which have over 12,000 songs.

Choose Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean or, of course, Filipino.  Dad is reading about the six-hole golf park, with holes named for such Philippine landmarks as Paoay Church, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Looking down at kids' dinner time

The kids can have dinner at low-set tables near the pirates wall.  Older ones are going to enjoy tonight’s Filipino cultural show, with national dances and a Filipino buffet.  Parents might put up with that too, or go Italian at Acqua, or go romantic at Cowrie Cove.

Dining in the room?  No problem, the room service menu includes an In-room Dining Kids Menu section, with not only Catalan salad and a banana smoothie, Mactan hot dog with vegetable sticks, and Spaghetti with meat balls but the ultra-healthy Steamed fish fillet with broccoli and steamed rice, and Fresh fruit cubes with marshmallows topped with vanilla ice cream.

An extremely shallow pool

Alternatively, of course, you head for the outdoors, where it is light by 0530 and activities start at 0600. Water sports include parasailing, snorkelling, Hobie cat, catamarans, jetskis, wind surfing, kayaking and PADI scuba diving.

All non-motor water sports are free for Ocean Club guests – which is a darned good reason for buying-up, into a Club-level room (a favourite is 7006, the end two-room suite that is closest to the beach).  The club lounge, on the eighth floor, also allows one access per stay per kid to the above-mentioned Adventure Zone, by the way.

A sign says you need to be three feet tall

As well as the two big curvilinear swimming pools, there are shallow pool areas and kids’ splash pools. Under three feet tall, Houston?  You have a problem.  You are not allowed near the water chutes.

This is a real pity as there are three of them, a low single-chute, a low double-chute for you to go down hand in hand with your brother, sister or new best-friend, and a higher one where watchers can almost hear the breath intake of brave kids just about to let go.

One of three highly popular water chutes

There are so many reasons to come here. The retail includes a gallery where Lino Venzal will undertake portraits, there is a Bacchus Wine Shop in case you cannot find the key to the minibar that you have personally locked and now you need something to drink. Travel Club has extra gear-for-the-road.

The JM Lhuillier store has the handbag that you just need to complement your wardrobe. London-born Joanna Maitland-Smith Lhuillier makes the most covetable accessories, right here in Cebu – she has JM Lhuillier stores in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Saudi – and London, Toronto and outlets across the USA.

Sand castle time....

After that it is a must to book an Amu’in Aromatherapy session in the spa. Some of the 18 percent who come back are attracted by the warm staff (although nobody is going to be able to say hello to all 950 of them), and some by the facilities.  And for many of the repeating kids, nothing beats building sandcastles.

Some of them are so good they should go and give competition to the sandcastle builders along Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach – come out of the Copa Palace, and turn right, as if heading for the Sofitel at the far end of the beach.

.. and time to say goodbye, Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, in white, and Reto Klauser

And with that helpful bit of information useful only to sandcastle fanatics, the gal headed on, farewelled by Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, about to head on, himself, for Hainan Island, and Reto Klauser, returning to his base in Manila.