Hotel Reviews

The Island Stay Hotel

I’m a meticulous planner when I travel. I am strangely organized when I make my travel plans, doing a copious amount of research online by reading blogs, crowdsourcing recommendations via social media, and analyzing every review, map, and photo of the hotel pool.

The Island Stay HotelOnce I book my flight (with the luggage upgrade to make sure I don’t go over, of course), have hotel reservations, visa and return flight requirements checked off, and the like, I take images of them all and email it to my phone before putting it in a special travel photo.

Then, inevitably, everything gets screwed up.

For instance, today I was supposed to take the bus with a friend to Moalboal in Cebu, where we were going to hang out on the beach for a couple of days, and then I’d head to the city to catch a flight elsewhere. However, it was raining cats and dogs when we woke up, so we hesitantly (but smartly) canceled the trip. No worries – the hotels were only $25 a night, and we were going to take the bus, not the plane, so it wasn’t a crushing financial loss.

Instead, I made a last minute airline booking to get to Cebu that same night, so I didn’t die of rainy-season boredom. I also had to book a hotel on the fly, and in Mactan (the man-made island portion of Cebu City where the airport is located), hotels are in short supply, which means that they’re always sold out, and they’re also really expensive.

So, I jumped on the Island Stay Hotel, which was going for the reasonable rate of $27/night and only one mile from the airport. I’d actually driven past the Island Stay Hotel probably scores of times, and its design of large, bright orange and green circles was recognizable.

Getting on their website and looking at the photos and their rooms, it clicked what they were trying to do. Similar to the Red Planet, they were a discount hotel but not a hostel or cheap pension house. Instead, they were a Spartan but modern, squeaky clean but hi-tech accommodation for travelers coming through just for a night or two. Those kinds of hotels serve a great purpose as they’re predictable, clean, have plenty of amenities, and good customer service, although not flashy or fancy.

I thought that was the Island Stay Hotel, too, judging by its price, branding, and the photos.

But when I arrived late at night, I saw that not to be true. It’s actually pretty run down, with that sparkling white paint yellowing, cracking, patches with holes in the ceiling, and insane asylum-style tile lining the rooms. The gal checking me in was super nice as she delivered some crippling news: the Wi-Fi was down.

Not only am I constantly tethered to the WWW because of work, but I thought I’d have a 48-hour work marathon as there’s nothing much else to do in Cebu.

In fact, she said the wi-fi wasn’t working “because of the weather,” and she even had a laminated form that apologized to hotel patrons (so it had been going on a while). When I noted that the weather had been clear all day after the overnight rains, she smiled it off and gave me my key.

I was going to try to make this awkward marriage work, but I quickly saw that the room sucks and I even found a dead baby iguana in the bed.

I got on my phone and immediately booked a new hotel for today, as well as emailed’s customer service to complain and ask for a refund for the remaining nights.

So, today I’ll probably be paying for three hotels – the one in Moalboal, the Island Stay, and my new hotel here!

Like I said, things always get screwed up!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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