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Maldives Recs for 2019 trip

Maldives Recs for 2019 trip

Old Jun 27, 18, 9:29 pm
  #61  
 
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Originally Posted by MikeFromTokyo View Post
^ MacMyDay , I am completely sold on visiting both resorts after reading your extremely helpful and, as always, very entertaining review. I really cannot wait for both resorts. On one hand you have Gathy design at CB and excellent Teppanyaki - definitely reason enough for me to go! - but on the other hand Velaa sounds like a blast (quite literally if one uses the “jetpacks”)!!

Many hotels and resorts can fall short in some areas, but completely delight me in others. So I can live with enjoying the positive aspects, and then moving on to another resort that gets the other things right.

I’m so glad you had such a fantastic trip. The two resorts are so contasting that they might be a perfect pairing for that exact reason. Appreciating the differences through comparison might heighten the enjoyment of both.

And I’ll remember to see the dolphins while at CB and probably pass on that $2,000 activity at Velaa!
Pleased to help, Mike. My main advice is don't book the base room category at Velaa as there's no separate living area and the the bedroom feels cramped. As I said, the rooms are easily the biggest disappointment at Velaa. It took me a few hours of being grumpy before I went outside and then realised how amazing the private area is, so got over it. Probably best doing Velaa first, so Cheval wows even more. At Cheval all the rooms are exactly the same, it's just what you have outside that alters. You could have any room category at Cheval and love it, but Velaa I think you'd want at least a Deluxe Beach or over water.

We actually booked the dolphin cruise at CB, but the weather turned against us; no worries, we said, we'll just do it at Velaa....

Originally Posted by bhrubin View Post
It sounds like you didn’t have negative issues with Velaa like so many others. What gives?

AIR CON? All well and good...but how is the air con in the villas and any of the indoor restaurants at either? Do the OW villas have air con that cool as well as those on land? These are critical questions of importance to those of us who are hot-blooded.
Velaa is not perfect; Cheval Blanc is not perfect, but I think overall you would find less fault with Cheval Blanc. However, for your good self, Velaa is just a no go, as they do not have AC in most of their restaurants as they're open plan, so you would be forced to spend your entire holiday in their wine cellar, counting all $2.5m of it until you go crazy and start shouting "red rum".

I recently criticised the strangeness of Il Sereno and the GM not coming from the industry, but that would not have been an issue if he hadn't acted the way he did. The GM at Velaa is the brother of the owner, who also has no experience in the industry, but I never had any issue with any service to complain. In fact, the way they tailored things for me is quite incredible, so clearly there is a good team behind him. For example, I send my usual stay list which mentions things I do/don't like, and for the fine fining menu they completely altered ingredients for me without even asking, right down to specific types of chocolate. I've never had that before anywhere.

I'm now in Soneva Fushi and can see that clearly the elements do not bother the handsome MikeFromTokyo. We were going to go to Soneva Jani, but they have shut half their villas for maintenance and the other half had a buy out, so we came to Fushi instead. The style is not my thing, but the implementation is really cool, and the new "Out of the Blue" that is inspired by the Jani design is really amazing - I'll try and get some photos later, as it only opened a few months ago. It has the now mandatory-at-all-Maldivian-properties Japanese restaurant within it.

Free ice cream, chocolate and cheese shops - it's like they're targeting me and just me. The major downside, of course: freaking mosquitos. Quite astonishingly, I never got attacked once at Cheval or Velaa, most likely as Cheval is all man-made and they killed every living thing, whereas at Velaa I've no idea what wizardry they're up to as actual animals exist on the islands. It took less than 15 minutes at Soneva Fushi.
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Old Jun 28, 18, 1:36 am
  #62  
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Did you have a chance to see the overwater villas at Velaa?

While the design isn't as spectacular as at CBR, due to the layout, I do find the privacy at Velaa's overwater villas a lot better than (especially some room numbers) at CBR.

Also, CBR stays quite standard within the rooms in terms of additions to the rooms, whereas Velaa's are quite different (e.g. the 2-bedroom, the 'honeymoon' overwater villa etc).
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Old Jun 28, 18, 4:02 am
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We went to see all the rooms at Velaa except for the Romantic Villa, as it was occupied and for some unfathomable reasons me being there wouldn't increase the romance. We were actually staying in a 2 bedroom because the Deluxe Beach were all under maintenance, so they upgraded us. It's the same as a Deluxe, just with a double pool, gazebo, and naturally a second bedroom.

I saw a lot of people mentioning that at Cheval you should take room 46 or 47 due to the extra privacy, but perhaps it was due to low reason and therefore low occupancy, I never had any issue with it - we swapped rooms, so tried both an Island Villa and Water Garden Villa. I would not consider any of the rooms at either resort entirely private though (except maybe the Villa's Owner on Cheval), whereas at Soneva Fushi our room definitely is.
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Old Jun 28, 18, 1:16 pm
  #64  
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soneva keeps hosting michelin chefs, including lower seasons
soneva.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Festival-of-colour-Brochure.pdf

hear anything about cheval building residences?
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Old Jun 28, 18, 6:24 pm
  #65  
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Originally Posted by MacMyDay View Post
My main advice is don't book the base room category at Velaa as there's no separate living area and the the bedroom feels cramped. As I said, the rooms are easily the biggest disappointment at Velaa. It took me a few hours of being grumpy before I went outside and then realised how amazing the private area is, so got over it.

You could have any room category at Cheval and love it, but Velaa I think you'd want at least a Deluxe Beach or over water.
So assuming one has the deluxe beach villa at Velaa with separate bedroom and living room, what made you still like the Cheval Blanc villa better? Did the air con in the villa work well? :-)

Velaa is not perfect; Cheval Blanc is not perfect, but I think overall you would find less fault with Cheval Blanc. However, for your good self, Velaa is just a no go, as they do not have AC in most of their restaurants as they're open plan, so you would be forced to spend your entire holiday in their wine cellar, counting all $2.5m of it until you go crazy and start shouting "red rum".
Other than the restaurants at Velaa being open air, and presumably the CBR restaurants all being inside with excellent air con, why would you think I'd find less fault with CBR? The restaurants at StR Bora Bora were almost all open air, too...and I still loved it. (I just didn't wear a shirt sometimes and played white trash. And enticed many a straight man,. I'm sure. Especially those honeymooners. So not a complete loss.)

The GM at Velaa is the brother of the owner, who also has no experience in the industry, but I never had any issue with any service to complain. In fact, the way they tailored things for me is quite incredible, so clearly there is a good team behind him. For example, I send my usual stay list which mentions things I do/don't like, and for the fine fining menu they completely altered ingredients for me without even asking, right down to specific types of chocolate. I've never had that before anywhere.
That's pretty high praise coming from you. Akin to me saying it was almost too cold. So I'm a little surprised would you think I'd like CBR more?
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Old Jun 29, 18, 9:33 pm
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Originally Posted by MacMyDay View Post
Velaa is not perfect; Cheval Blanc is not perfect, but I think overall you would find less fault with Cheval Blanc.
I meant "you" in the universal sense of people, not as in you in particular. The lack of air con is the reason I thought you wouldn't be interested, but I did not account for your love of all things white trash. My apologies.

Originally Posted by bhrubin View Post
So assuming one has the deluxe beach villa at Velaa with separate bedroom and living room, what made you still like the Cheval Blanc villa better? Did the air con in the villa work well? :-)
The amount of space, layout, natural light, colours, style, technology, bed, plus added kitchen area, guest toilet, private outdoor dining area and of course my favourite: free minibar. In the Island Villas all of the glass can be opened, so you can be indoors, yet enjoy outdoors. For someone who loves going to hot environments, I don't actually like being in the sun - I go full blown lobster in about 15 minutes from my pasty Irish/English skin.

I would rate Cheval Blanc's rooms amongst the best I've ever stayed in: up there with Saffire, The Brando, North Island (more the space than the actual villa design), Iniala and Miavana. The interesting thing with that list is, excluding Saffire, every one of those properties base room types are amazing and what I'm referring to. It's rare to be able to stay in any room and know it's great.

For such a luxurious resort that clearly cared little about money during development, and actually puts all their profits back into improvements every year, I feel Velaa could have done a lot better with the rooms.
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Old Jul 1, 18, 1:55 pm
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And here's my full review of Cheval Blanc: Review: Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives
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Old Jul 2, 18, 4:32 am
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Originally Posted by MacMyDay View Post
And here's my full review of Cheval Blanc: Review: Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives
edited.

Last edited by Pausanias; Jul 2, 18 at 6:03 am
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Old Jul 5, 18, 11:45 am
  #69  
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My wife just did an article on her favorite hotel in the Maldives. It is also posted with pictures Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru


I love the ocean, endless sunny days walking white silky sand beaches, snorkeling & discovering colorful reefs, swimming with mantas and turtles, hanging with family, having a massage over the ocean looking through a glass floor gazing at the tropical fish, a power nap before dinner in a hammock, eating local fresh grilled seafood with great wine in the moonlight with your bare feet in the sand listening to the waves lap, doing yoga outside on a deck overlooking the ocean as the sun rises, and staying at a secluded, resort with a limited number of pavilions. That is why I love the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. (Note the Four Seasons have a second property in the Maldives which is closer to the airport. I have been there too, it’s great but I prefer the Landaa Giraavaru Resort).

The vacation started before we even went to the airport. The Four Seasons sent a questionnaire asking what were our favorite things from fruit (mango or dragon fruit), music (classical, jazz, rock, etc), water (still or sparkling), pillows (firm, soft, feather or foam), any allergies, books, magazines…They probably know me better then most of my friends.

The British Airways First Lounge at London Heathrow is a great way to slowly unwind and begin to transition into vacation mode with some pre-flight champagne. A massage in their Elemis Spa and you are ready to take off. A couple of magazines and movies, more champagne and we landed in Male, a tiny airport in the Maldives (warning: do not bring any alcohol with you, they scan all luggage & take any alcohol, wine, champagne, etcfrom you, not to worry the resort is fully stocked). We were escorted to the Four Seasons lounge. They offered tropical drinks and snacks while they took a copy of our passports. Then we were off on a spectacular flight to the resort. Viewing miles of atolls from the air is one of the most stunning sights you could ever imagine.

We soon landed at the Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru. We were greeted by smiling & happy staff. They greeted us by name (the passports had been forwarded to the staff while we were in flight so they knew were able to match names with faces and had organized our favorite things for each already which was brilliant). They offered to take care of our shoes as we wouldn’t be needing them, the whole atoll was soft white sand. This was heaven for me. A couple of the staff took our son under their wings, gave him a fresh mango smoothie (they knew his favorite fruit was mango) and off they went to explore the atoll. Our luggage just disappeared, I didn’t even notice their discreet bell hops. Quickly I was whisked away in a golf cart to our pavilion on the ocean. I was greeted with a glass of champagne while we completed the registration documents, was shown where things were and how they worked.

The pavilion was heavenly. Simple, yet so elegant and huge (over 800 square feet) Outside the door, there was a large planter style container filled with fresh water and a coconut ladle to rinse your feet. As you entered, it felt light and airy with very high ceilings. There was a relaxing sofa and chairs which looked out the floor to ceiling windows to one of the outdoor pools, an open-air bale (traditional thatched hut) and beyond to our private beach and the ocean. Furnishing were contemporary, and elegant. The living area was complete with a coffee table with our favorite magazines and books a cabinet housing a Nespresso machine & a mini bar already stocked with our favorite things. The king bed was covered with tons of plump pillows. Behind, there was an expansive walk-in closet on each side opening in the center to the bathroom with our luggage was already delivered and unpacked. There was both an indoor and outdoor shower, an eight-foot bath tub with large sinks on both sides. There must have been 10 towels folded perfectly on an extended ladder which were replaced several times a day. The amenities were all organic and smelled heavenly, some how they were always kept full. We did have a tour of some of the accommodations over the water. While stunning, we preferred our pavilion on the beach

You might be wondering what on earth do you do all day on a tiny atoll? The Four Seasons has everything you could imagine to do: there is not 1, but 4 pools to choose from; beaches surround the perimeter of the atoll, the south shore calm, the north shore breezy; snorkeling along the beach or join a snorkeling trip to see the spectacular reefs, tropical fish, and sea turtles. There are excursions to go swim with the manta rays which was incredible cool, their mouths are so big you could almost swim in, kayaking to local atolls or around the Four Season’s property, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving at one of the world’s greatest diving destinations (its SSO’s favorite place to dive, don’t forget to pack your PADI card, if you don’t know how to dive, they have a PADI Five-Star IDC Centre to teach you). There is an interactive and educational Marine Discovery and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, flood-lit outdoor tennis, a 24-hour gym and fitness center (helpful when jet lagged!), a young kids club (kids 4 – 12 years old), a young adults center (kids 13 – 18 years old) for the older children. There are also full Spa facilities and a Resort Clinic if anyone needs a Doctor, which we did one night

You might think the food would be like the Caribbean, very average and grossly overpriced. To the contrary, the Four Seasons brings so much of the world to your plate. There are 4 restaurants and 4 lounges plus in-room dining and private dining on the beach. Clearly you need to stay at least 4 nights just to enjoy the different dining options.

Breakfast is at the Café Landaa, three thatched-roofed pavilions separated by reflecting ponds overlooking one of the pools and the ocean. There is something for everyone’s pallet: smoked salmon and bagels, pancakes and waffles with real maple syrup, eggs every way you can imagine including crab benedict and frittatas, along with Asian specialties from miso soup to tempura. Without asking, they brought a huge plate of fresh mango and a fresh mango smoothie for our son and a double expresso for me. What a way to start the day.

Lunch was unbelievable. We almost always went to Blu, located at the western end of the island overlooking a mile-long lagoon, it embraces the essence of the Maldives as the place where the ocean meets the sky. Blu served light antipasti, pizza and pasta during the day followed by fine Italian cuisine in the evening. The pizza on its own deserved three Michelin Stars. They knew we loved fresh tuna, so what did they do? They made a pizza with fresh sushi grade tuna on top. One day the chef came over and said they just had a shipment of fresh Italian Burrata cheese arrive and would we want to try some? It was the food highlight of the trip. He prepared it with fresh heirloom tomatoes and homemade fresh pesto sauce The ambiance was perfect, a white ‘tarp’ overhead to break the heat of the sun, a cooling ocean breeze, and our bare feet in the sand.

Dinners were equally spectacular. We rotated nights among all four restaurants. The first night we had to go back to Blu. They had the fresh pesto sauce waiting for us. The pasta was on par with the best we had enjoyed in Italy. Equally spectacular is the Fuego Grill, located adjacent to the seawater pool and overlooking the eastern coast of the island. They have a wooden ‘boat’ filled with ice displaying all their fresh fish caught that day. The teak tables and chairs are set in the sand facing the sea. We had the freshest tuna we had ever eaten. The Al Barakat Restaurant showcases the regional specialties of Lebanon, Morocco and Armenia. It is built overwater, off the main jetty and even has a shisha bar. It was fun sharing the hot and cold Mezze. Café Landaa transformed itself at dinner to an Indian sun-continent and South East Asia specialty restaurant. We clearly had to go twice to experience each of the two cuisines.

One night after a long day in the sun, snorkeling, kayaking and swimming with the mantas we were at dinner at the Fuego Grill. Our son started to feel cold, freezing actually. I grabbed towels from the adjacent pool to warm him up. Spotting what I was doing, the General Manger came over to understand what was wrong and he immediately he called the Doctor. We took our son back to his pavilion, with the Doctor who could not have been more caring and supportive. He took vitals and gave us some Tylenol for the fever and left a thermometer to monitor him through the night. The Doctor came back in the morning to check on his condition. Fortunately it was just sun stroke and he was fine by the next day. We expected a huge bill on check-out for the medical services on check out. Turned out it was fully complimentary.

We hated to leave paradise. The Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru consistenly deliveres a perfect guest experience. We will be back and I very highly recommend it to all our friends.
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Last edited by SSO; Nov 12, 18 at 5:36 pm
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Old Jul 6, 18, 10:43 am
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Originally Posted by SSO View Post
My wife just did an article on her favorite hotel in the Maldives. It is posted Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru
Headed to Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Landa Giraavaru in a week. Hopefully I will like it as much as your wife.
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Old Jul 6, 18, 10:49 am
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Has anyone done 3, 4, or 7 nights on the FS Explorer? Any details to share?
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Old Jul 6, 18, 10:52 am
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Originally Posted by sportsguymichael View Post
Headed to Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Landa Giraavaru in a week. Hopefully I will like it as much as your wife.
Enjoy. Be interested to hear how you compare the two FS Resorts.
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Old Jul 6, 18, 4:08 pm
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So, Soneva Fushi. It is definitely not in the league of Cheval Blanc or Velaa, and I do not mean that due to the obvious difference in styles - it was everything, but most notably the service and food; both quite dreadful. I was expecting to come to Soneva and be wowed with their service, as their focus is not on modern design and gold swan faucets, but being natural to the environment. The style of the property is not to my liking, but that is the same as North Island and I can appreciate it. I can appreciate the skill that went into even conceiving some of the ideas on the island, let alone implementing them. Yet it's still very rustic and feels very basic. Ultimately, the service had to be spot on, and it was anything but, with constant communication breakdowns, staff nowhere to be found and when you did find them, everything took an age to be done. The food, often inedible and the first property I've been to in a long time where I had no desire to eat anything.

It felt low-end, with nothing better to highlight this than the fact that every morning during breakfast, a masseur would come over and offer discounts to people if they booked a massage that day; then someone from the water sports would come over and offer discounts for the day; and then and then and then. It was only a matter of time before someone came over with a trench coat and tried to sell us stolen property.

The room has probably the most impressive bathroom I've ever seen, but it's on an island completely infested with mosquitos, so why they decided to include an entire water feature for mosquitos to gather around, we may never know. I actually liked the room overall, mostly due to the privacy and space, even if we did only use the bedroom and lounge area. We were in a 3 bedroom so there was a lot more available if required. It never felt luxurious, but that's not the purpose. I just wish everything else around it managed to.

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Old Jul 6, 18, 6:32 pm
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MacMyDay , I am sorry to hear that you had such a disappointing experience at Soneva Fushi.

I am sure it was objectively disappointing on this occasion, but could it also be that you ended up staying at these resorts in the “wrong” order as you mentioned before? Perhaps an ascending order or Soneva Fushi, Velaa, and finally Cheval Blanc would have lessened the feeling of disappointment? Starting with the very best and then going “down” to properties that are not quite at the same level, on the other hand, would make you even more acutely aware of their shortcomings.

There is absolutely no excuse for the second rate experience you had, but another thing that occurs to me is that seasonality is a bigger factor at Fushi than it likely is at CB or Velaa. The latter price themselves at the very top, and apparently the service experience is consistent throughout the year.

Staying at the same resorts in the reverse order may have been very different. Fushi may not have been perfect, but it still would have made one appreciate being in the Maldives. Then the excitement of Velaa (which I am now looking forward to), followed by the perfection of CB would have probably felt somewhat different.

And what the hell happened re F&B? This is extremely unusual. Based on your review, I think they may owe you substantial service recovery, and a chance to regain your confidence on a future stay so they can get it right.

Last edited by MikeFromTokyo; Jul 6, 18 at 6:38 pm
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Old Jul 7, 18, 4:31 am
  #75  
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Originally Posted by MacMyDay View Post
So, Soneva Fushi. It is definitely not in the league of Cheval Blanc or Velaa, and I do not mean that due to the obvious difference in styles - it was everything, but most notably the service and food; both quite dreadful. I was expecting to come to Soneva and be wowed with their service, as their focus is not on modern design and gold swan faucets, but being natural to the environment. The style of the property is not to my liking, but that is the same as North Island and I can appreciate it. I can appreciate the skill that went into even conceiving some of the ideas on the island, let alone implementing them. Yet it's still very rustic and feels very basic. Ultimately, the service had to be spot on, and it was anything but, with constant communication breakdowns, staff nowhere to be found and when you did find them, everything took an age to be done. The food, often inedible and the first property I've been to in a long time where I had no desire to eat anything.

It felt low-end, with nothing better to highlight this than the fact that every morning during breakfast, a masseur would come over and offer discounts to people if they booked a massage that day; then someone from the water sports would come over and offer discounts for the day; and then and then and then. It was only a matter of time before someone came over with a trench coat and tried to sell us stolen property.

The room has probably the most impressive bathroom I've ever seen, but it's on an island completely infested with mosquitos, so why they decided to include an entire water feature for mosquitos to gather around, we may never know. I actually liked the room overall, mostly due to the privacy and space, even if we did only use the bedroom and lounge area. We were in a 3 bedroom so there was a lot more available if required. It never felt luxurious, but that's not the purpose. I just wish everything else around it managed to.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/132880...57695329579532
Two things:
1. There may be several comments here and other places about great/excellent service at Soneva, but quite a few people I know haven't had this same feedback. Something is always off, even if it's simple stuff. Which if you're not into the whole rustic no shoes, no news vibe, things will go south very fast.
2. Not luxe, but we spent the final night at Le Meridien in Koh Samui, which had an outdoor bathroom. Look, the concept of outdoor baths are great, I'd love to enjoy one - in a temperate environment. Why anyone decided to build outdoor bathrooms in tropical, hot and humid Southeast Asia is anyone's guess.
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