Old Nov 2, 19, 3:26 pm
  #2584  
escape4
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Waldorf Astoria Maldives = Great Hardware and Potential

Introduction Waldorf Astoria Maldives opened a few months ago and we were keen on trying this new property. We stayed 6 nights at St.Regis followed by 6 nights at WA so we can easily compare the two. The high level summary is that the overwater villa at WA is several levels superior to the one at StR in terms of hardware, breakfast at WA leaves a bit to be desired for a luxury hotel of this caliber while StR’s breakfast is fantastic, and service at WA is still work in progress as can be expected from a new hotel so a more fair comparison can only be done be once WA has hit its cruising altitude perhaps in a few months’ time. Yacht Transfer Upon arriving at the sea plane terminal in Malé from St.Regis, the StR staff drove us to the main airplane terminal where the WA yacht was waiting for us so we had a very smooth transfer between the two resorts. We did not have exactly the same yacht on the way to the resort than the one we had after check-out, but both of them were quite nice in fact I wish the ride was somewhat longer than 30-45 minutes. We could enjoy a glass of champagne en route and there were a few nibbles as well. The yacht had seating space on the top for people who wanted to enjoy some fresh air, the view, and some sun, or you could sit inside in air conditioning. There are also two bedrooms in the lower deck, each with their toilet which I was quite surprised for such a short ride because there would not be enough time to sleep anyway. The bedrooms would seem more useful if the yacht ride was several hours long and guests wanted to rest after a flight. It is my understanding that they use this yacht for day trips from the resort so the bedrooms might be more useful for that purpose. Room Upon arrival at the resort we were welcomed by staff and driven to our overwater villa. At St.Regis there are several categories of OWVs including the standard OWV, the sunset OWV, and the St.Regis Suite which is a larger version. At WA even the standard OWV is far bigger than even the StR Suite (let alone the Grand OWV at WA). Not only is the OWV at WA far bigger, but the finishes are also to a higher standard. OWVs in exotic resorts are nicer when you have glass floors to see marine life right under you and WA ticks the box in that regard; a portion of the floor between the bedroom and the bathroom was made of glass, which is something I wish StR had as well. In addition, the ceiling at WA is very high and gives a grandiose feeling to the villa. The shower at WA and the bathroom in general is much larger than StR, and there is a Japanese style toilet in WA such that the lid opens up by itself when you walk in and there is a light inside the toilet bowl itself which turns itself on automatically. There is even a second shower outside the villa for people who want to take their shower under the sun, which is another a nice feature. The patio in front of the villa is also significantly larger at WA than at StR and it’s not even close. There are 7 or 8 seating areas on the patio at WA compared to 3 or 4 at StR and it’s more convenient to eat outside for villa dining at WA than at StR. There are two swings to enjoy the view, one in the shadow and one in the sun. The pool at WA is large enough to swim unlike the pool at StR which is more like a plunge pool. I estimate that the area of the pool at WA is about 3-4 times bigger than the one at StR. Like most comparisons it is rarely entirely one-sided however. While the villa at WA was visually private and neighbors could not see us, regarding the sound level it is less private. The main problem at WA is that villas are too close to each other so we could hear our neighbors far more than at StR which are quite far away, and in addition at WA the villas are too close to the bridge so you can hear buggies riding on the bridge behind the villa when you are in the bedroom. At StR the villas are somewhat distant from the bridge so we rarely heard traffic on the bridge there. I guess to mitigate this issue at WA I would recommend staying in a villa at the far end of the bridge because there will be less traffic there. We had villa 708 which is about half way to the end; I think even numbered villas 720 to 730 would be best. The other OWVs on the other side of the resort (100 series) only have villas on one side of the bridge so that probably helps too, and they have better sunset views in 100s than from where we were. While 100s are better for sunsets, the main advantage of OWVs 700s is that snorkeling is better. In fact for such a new resort, I was positively surprised at how much marine life there was right in front of our villa if you swim far enough to reach the area where water starts to get deep. There were a few minor issues with our villa which will be resolved over time, for example the TV is still not setup to connect with an iPad or iPhone; only Android. Also when we attempted to use our coffee pot, a fuse jumped several times and made us lose power at all electrical outlets in our villa and we had to call a technician a couple of times and we ended up just asking for a new coffee pot to avoid the problem occurring again. Dining Breakfast at Tasting Table was good but for a hotel of this level I think they have room to improve. The buffet was fine and included a couple different curries which changed every day, for example chicken, vegetarian, etc. They have a noodle station but you must fill your bowl with condiments yourself and hand it to the cook, whereas at StR they do it for you. Strangely enough there was no rice in the buffet but when we asked they brought us a bowl to our table. Similar thing for fruits: the choice was ok but not fantastic at the buffet, but when I asked for mangoes they brought them to us. The main way WA can improve breakfast is with the a la carte menu. Right now it’s quite basic because it’s standard eggs and omelets only, whereas StR has several pages on the menu and it includes lots of luxury options such as eggs benedict with tuna and crab tempura, lobster omelet with caviar, several freshly prepared salads, etc. At StR they even have an ice cream station which WA does not have and I thought it would have been a good fit for WA since they seem to target young families given they have a kids club which seemed to be great. At least we could enjoy champagne every morning at WA like at StR, and the food on offer was of decent quality. Fortunately they are clearly receptive to feedback and willing to improve; we had several friendly chats with the executive sous-chef Hidayat who was appreciative to hear our thoughts regarding the comparison with StR. One other minor issue we noticed which is a sign of a new resort still trying to find its groove is that one some mornings they were out of one item and they expected a delivery for the next day, for example on different days they ran out of mangoes, cucumbers, or mangosteens. WA offers free happy hour from 4pm to 5pm for Diamond members including snacks and desserts and a choice of alcoholic drinks. We went there once and the venue is quite nice and relaxing, however it was hard to pull ourselves out of the comfort of our villa to attend happy hour multiple times. That said it’s definitely a good perk for the resort to offer and some Diamonds will definitely value it so it’s worth mentioning. Service No knock on WA, however service at StR Maldives is absolutely fantastic in many ways, possibly the best we have observed anywhere in the world, so the bar was quite high for WA to beat. At WA I did not expect the same level of service anyway, in part because it would be unfair given how new the resort is. Many little hiccups I observed are easy fixes which should be ironed out in a few months and nothing to make me worried or hesitant to return to WA. But for the sake of transparent disclosure, some of the issues were for example when we called to have housekeeping come to our room as we left to go to breakfast, on two mornings when we came back 2 hours later they were not finished, and one morning they were barely starting. Also housekeeping occasionally forgot to refill one or more items, either soap, mouthwash, etc. Service in the restaurant was good, not only Hidayat meeting our needs but also other staff who were friendly and helpful. Our butler Ella was excellent as well; the resort was smart enough to assign us a butler who used to work at St.Regis since they knew we would be coming from there. Children As I mentioned above WA seems to cater to young families more than StR and in fact for people with young children I believe WA would be a strong choice. There seemed to be a greater variety in the type of guests at WA for example we saw some larger families with 3 generations (grand-parents included), some singles, a mother+nanny+ child, some elderly couples, etc. At StR the crowds are a bit more uniform consisting of younger couples (25-50 years old) most likely on honeymoon or anniversary. Depending what you are looking for this can be positive or negative, but we have heard children crying most days at WA either at breakfast or near our villa. Nothing major or overly disturbing but it was in contrast with StR which was more quiet all around. Bicycles There are bicycles available for guests to bike around the island and the bicycles are better quality than those from StR, adequately reflecting the fact that you have longer distances to ride in WA. The bicycles have gears to change speeds whereas those from StR are basic. WA is still in the process of making the “license plates” with villa numbers but it is not complete yet; other guests had their villa number marked on their bike but we did not. One morning after breakfast our bikes were taken by other guests and we had to get new ones. Gym The resort has a bright and airy gym which was unoccupied when we stopped by and training staff available to help. Location Regarding the location of the resort, I would personally give the edge to StR for first timers in the Maldives. There is something to be said to arrive by seaplane and land on the resort in the middle of nowhere. For repeat travelers to the Maldives then WA is somewhat more convenient to access from MLE airport by yacht than having to take the seaplane after a long flight, but once on the island you can see a building in Malé from WA which somewhat takes away from the “remote island” feeling. In addition the vegetation at WA is not fully grown like in StR where everything is more natural but WA was better than I expected and they have done a fairly good job with planting. Overall Resorts in the Maldives are at liberty to improve dining (breakfast) and service if they make it a priority, but hardware is there for a long time and harder to change. WA has laid a very good foundation to be the crown jewel of all Hilton group hotels anywhere in the world with fantastic villas. I am confident that they will improve breakfast and service in a few months and we will definitely be back.
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