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Old Feb 17, 15, 12:55 pm
  #181  
BA97
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Programs: BA Gold
Posts: 2,041
BACKGROUND

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma with my wife and 18 month-old son for six nights in February 2015. We opted to go fully a la carte and pay for all food and drinks, predominantly eating from Room Service, at the special evening events or at the 'Bokkura Coffee Club' (aka. poolside restaurant). We did not eat at the higher-end restaurant ('The Kitchen') or at the buffet ('Kandooma Cafe'). We also did not go on any excursions, even the free snorkeling trip in the morning as we were having a thoroughly lazy holiday!

ACCOMODATION

The stay was booked using IHG Rewards Points - 210,000 for six nights in a 'Garden Villa'. For reference the cheapest room only rate during our stay was US$380++/night so I consider this excellent value for the points used.

I contacted the hotel in advance via email and arranged an upsell to a Garden View Beach House for US$50++ per night despite being an IHG Platinum member, as given the nature of the resort and comments online I did not expect a complimentary upgrade and with my family travelling I was keen for predictability and ease wherever possible! In hindsight I would say this was worth it as we did use the extra outside space downstairs to hang out in the shade during the hottest times, but I wouldn't pay more than that. We stayed in No. 46 which was perfect - far enough from the communal facilities not to get any noise, 1 minutes from the peaceful West Beach but not so far I couldn't carry my son up to the main facilities area.

http://holidayinnmaldives.com/villas/ does a good job of describing the different room options available. If you like background noise from the sea then the East side of the Island where all the Beach Villas (nos. 76-125 I think, though note they're set back behind a good 20 yards of trees from the beach itself) and Sea View Beach Houses (nos. 125-160) are located as the sea is rougher on that side. You're also furthest from the communal facilities there and get the sun in your front windows during the morning in the Beach Houses.

The room was fine - it could have done with being a bit bigger (32sqm in total + outside space) but there was a balcony we sat out on most nights whilst our son slept and as mentioned above the outside area downstairs was useful for us. The semi-outside shower was a little quirky but worked well, and as posted elsewhere we did have a big can of 'bug spray' in the room but had barely any issue with ants in the room itself (just a few in the bathroom one morning).

FOOD & DRINK

We opted to eat & drink fully a la carte which was the correct decision for our circumstances. I'm not a fan of buffets and we generally eat lighter at breakfast in hot climates. If we'd been travelling child-free we probably would have indulged in enough cocktails to make the 'stay spirited' package (aka. basic all-inclusive drinks) break even at US$89++ per night (bearing in mind cocktails individually are around the US$12++ mark) but as we weren't drinking too much we didn't bother.

Breakfast - We had room service breakfast every day (other than the first when we slept until 10.30 because of the time difference), sharing a single breakfast between the three (well, two-and-a-half) of us. US$25++ for the basic option (fresh juice, cereal, fruit plate, bread/pastry basket) or US$32++ to add a smoothie and eggs to order. No additional tray/delivery charges. This compares with US$38++ per person in the buffet. It worked very easily for us just calling when we all woke and got delivery every day within 20-25 minutes.

Lunch - We ate every day at the poolside cafe. They offer sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, salads and a variety of standard Asian dishes cooked to order. You order by filling in a form choosing options for your chosen lunch (eg. choose bread/protein/salad contents for your sandwich, protein/vegetable/sauce options for your pizza etc...). We ordered from the kids menu for our son most days and were not charged for this, and either shared a pizza between my wife and I or ordered a dish each based on how hungry we were.

Dinner - We ate either at the poolside cafe, from room service or at any special event that was on (eg. seafood barbecue on a Sunday, beach barbecue on a Monday). Worth noting that the basic all-inclusive food package does not cover these events (though you get something like a US$20 discount on the US$90-100 price). We really enjoyed them, particularly the seafood barbecue where I made short work of a couple of dozen prawns, several pieces of tuna and marlin and a pile of calamari as well as the cooked-to-order noodles/rice that was on offer. Room service is from the poolside cafe menu (and at the same prices) which we ordered one night when our son fell asleep early and ate downstairs in our villa. The cafe offers a full menu in the evenings which includes pizza/pasta/sandwiches/salads as per lunchtime but also a large variety of Western, Asian and Indian dishes, and grilled steaks/fish. We had both the meat and vegetable thali offerings on different nights which we particularly enjoyed.

Wine/Drinks - I don't know whether the 'Seasonal Offer' on bottles of wine was actually an offer or just regular prices, but we had a bottle of white with dinner on two nights for around US$50++ (with several bottles for US$65++ or less on offer), and one night bought and extra bottle to take back to the room and keep in the minibar (as the minibar wine was US$52++ per bottle and not great). There's a reasonable range - maybe a dozen bottles of each colour including covering all the common grapes. I mostly stuck to bottles of Tiger beer (US$7++) and my wife to wine by the glass with meals (all US$11/12++) but we had the odd cocktail here and there and a bottle of Sri Lankan Lion Stout with an Indian meal that moderated the spices and packed a punch at nearly 9% ABV!

FACILITIES

Pool area was nice, with the large pool subdivided into several areas of different depths (deepest about 5ft) that made it perfectly usable for all even with snorkeling practice going on! Never had a problem getting a pair of sunbeds around there late morning despite the resort being busy, though mostly in the shade (which is what we were looking for with our son really). West Beach quieter and no problem finding sunbeds there any time, though it gets less of a breeze and was pretty hot. Played with my son on the pool area beach every day, no litter on land or in the sea that I saw and one day a 5ft Manta Ray swam right up to us whilst we were paddling!

I did some snorkeling around the island and there is really not a lot of marine life (compared to our last stay on Moofushi where the whole place was surrounded by reef). I can't speak for the offshore snorkeling trip as I didn't do it, I assume there's more to see out there. Sea a lovely temperature for swimming in February.

New pool in the kids' club still not finished, and our son was a little small to leave in there so we didn't use it.

You can walk around the whole island at a leisurely pace in 20-25 minutes.

I'd recommend a sunset drink on 'The Terrace' (ie. on top of The Kitchen restaurant). We went up a couple of times and had the place to ourselves.

STAFF

Universally good - all were particularly friendly and played with my son whilst we were eating at the poolside cafe (kudos particularly to Daisy and Dasantha, thank you!). Preferences for food and drink remembered by the third day, little extras for our son offered pro-actively (eg. room service delivery chap offered and went back to base to get us some extra milk one morning, barman gave us a little cup of apple juice when we ordered cocktails at sunset). Check-in/out very efficient and 3.30pm late checkout offered pro-actively as we were on a 4pm boat.

COSTS

Arriving at noon on a Saturday and leaving at 4pm the following Friday (so six nights, lunch-to-lunch) we spent US$2600 in total:
  • $400 on room upgrade ($50++ per night)
  • $400 on return boat transfers for two adults
  • $1800 (ie. $300 per night) on food & drink

The Maldives is not a cheap destination; I consider $2600+points a very good deal for a week all-in.

SUMMARY

Would I return? If I had a stash of IHG points to burn and there was availability at peak times I absolutely would, or if looking to go off peak there are some great rates (down to US$180++/night I have seen). I had moderate expectations for the stay and they were all surpassed. However, the overwater villas are a significant premium and had we paid cash for one of them all-in we would have been paying pretty much the same as the going rate for all-inclusive at Constance Moofushi where we stayed on our honeymoon (points earning an attractive extra in this case, overall experience/F&B/facilities/accomodation not quite as good though).
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