W Maldives

100   Recommended

Room 223 , Fabulous Overwater Oasis
January 28, 2019 by
Share
Save
Liked:
Location
 
Service
 
Food
 
Amenities
 
Room
 

{{ oRightNav.heading }}


Save

Share

Room 223

Fabulous Overwater Oasis

Liked:
Location
Service
Food
Amenities
Room

Stats
Room
Fabulous Overwater Oasis

Sorry for the long post but wanted to share all my thoughts since there aren’t many detailed reviews of this property on FT. Some of this will repeat stuff I’ve already shared in other recent posts, but hope this is useful for anyone else visiting soon or considering this property.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the W Maldives, but I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon. This is less about the W and more about the Maldives as a destination, which was always something of a bucket list target for me, but having been, I’m just as happy to take future Asian beach vacations in more cost-effective places like Thailand. (IMO, the food also tends to be better in Thailand, but tastes and levels of importance attributed to that may vary.)

 

I should say up front that I booked my stay at a no-longer-available points price of 80K points per night for an overwater villa, which was a great deal relative to the cash price of that room and a great opportunity to check off the “overwater villa” part of the bucket list Maldives experience. If the overwater upgrade deal on points hadn’t been available, I probably would have paid the few hundred dollars cash per night to upgrade, because it seemed like something I had to try.

It was my first time in the Maldives, so I can’t compare directly to other properties, but I did read a number of detailed St. Regis Maldives trip reports when deciding where to stay on this trip, so I feel like I have some idea. When I was choosing where to stay, I ended up with the W primarily because of the attractive points booking rate vs. spending ~$1500+ on a cash overwater villa upgrade for my 5-night stay. The other costs of the W, like food and seaplane transfers, are also a bit cheaper than the St. Regis, but those differences are somewhat smaller by comparison.


 

So all that said, if I were going to go back to the Maldives, I would probably go for a land-based villa at the St. Regis if I could find points availability (definitely if booking now at 60K points/night, and probably even if it was in the near future at 85-100K points/night).

St. Regis because it just appears somewhat more polished and luxurious, with bigger/nicer villas and a much more lavish breakfast offering.

And land-based because, while I was glad to have checked it off the bucket list, I came away feeling like the overwater villa was something of a gimmick that didn’t add a lot of value for me. Especially so since the sand at the W (and I assume at most Maldives resorts) is really lovely, so having direct access to that would also be pretty cool. A villa upgrade could be worth it if you were looking at a resort where the base room had much more limited features like lacking a private pool (as is the case at the Sheraton, and as I believe is the case at the new Westin for example), but all the base villas at both the W and St. Regis seem pretty well-appointed.

 

Check In

The process of transferring to and from the property was remarkably easy, and was a big part (more in the Service section below) of the sensation of this being run more like a true 5-star resort than you might necessarily expect for the typically 4-star-ish W brand.

Upon exiting customs at Male Airport, a representative with a W sign was standing by, although if they’re not there, you can also walk over to counter 28 nearby. From the point we met the W representative, everything was pretty much seamless -- a W rep walks you over to the seaplane check-in area and they take your bags and you don’t see them again until they appear in your villa, and you’re escorted every step along the way.

IMG_0928.jpg
W Hotel Van Male Airport

In my earlier post I mentioned that I was able to bring substantially more luggage than the 20-25kg stated allowance. I had thought there was only one seaplane operator so thought it strange the W rep said something about switching, but it turns out there are in fact two and the W has switched from red-liveried Trans-Maldivian (which AFAIK the St. Regis still uses) to the smaller blue-liveried Maldivian. For now, at least, Maldivian does not charge overweight baggage fees within reason (we had around 35-40kg each), though we were told there was a risk our bags might have to take the next flight if the plane was overweight.

Otherwise the service was was very similar to what you may see in Trans-Maldivian trip reports; they use the same type of seaplane and the cabin appeared basically identical to pictures I’ve seen of Trans-Maldivian planes. The Maldivian seaplane terminal at MLE seemed smaller than what I’ve seen of pictures of the Trans-Maldivian terminal, which makes sense given it’s a much smaller operation, and the W lounge in the terminal seemed a bit shabby and makeshift, but that may be because they’ve only recently changed over, though if so there was no mention of another lounge coming in the future or anything.

IMG_0930.jpg
W Seaplane Lounge snacks

IMG_0931.jpg
W Seaplane lounge

IMG_0932.jpg
W Seaplane lounge

There seemed to be roughly 3 flights most days to/from the W, staggered throughout daylight hours, and it’s highly recommended to arrive in MLE in the morning or early afternoon and depart from MLE in the afternoon or early evening for the smoothest transfer experience without needing to spend lots of time or an overnight near MLE. Our flight arrived into MLE at around 1pm and we got lucky that we had only a very short wait in the lounge before we were brought to the plane.

IMG_0938.jpg
Maldivian seaplanes

IMG_0940.jpg
Seaplane boarding area

IMG_0942.jpg
Seaplane boarding

Our seaplane flight departing the W ended up being at 2:30pm while our flight out of MLE was at 8:45pm. Apparently as a rule, check-in counters for international flights at MLE open 3 hours before departure, so we had a few hours to kill before we could check in. The hotel rep at the airport explains a few options for you in that case: you can take a tour of Male city, which I’ve heard isn’t too exciting and which we did not bother with; you can hang out in the public area of the airport, a lot of which is open-air and stifling; or there’s a Priority Pass lounge in the public area of the airport.

We spent our time at the lounge, which worked out pretty well as it was empty when we got there. They limit PP visits to 2 hours, which for us ended up being about the perfect amount of time until check-in opened for our flight. That said, it’s a very small and unexciting lounge, so mainly has value for the air conditioning and clean toilets; they also gave us wifi codes but the wifi was unusably slow. They also have a limited number of seats available and got crowded later in our stay, so they were turning people away. So if you were on a later seaplane flight in and were waiting for check-in to open on any of the numerous late evening flights, you might not be able to count on getting in to the PP lounge. We didn’t explore but I believe the lounge has some paid spa services.

There’s only one lounge airside at the international terminal, which is not open to Priority Pass, though all airlines at the airport seem to give access to it for elites and premium cabin passengers. It is not terribly exciting, but it was much bigger and offered decently fast wifi.

 

Just a few other notes about the MLE experience:

  • The one odd thing in the whole arrival experience was that while we were being checked in at the W lounge at the seaplane terminal, the W rep asked to see our room confirmation and to re-confirm my SPG number. Both were satisfied by showing him the relevant information in the SPG app on my phone, but it was just a strange request especially at a hotel like this one. I guess it’s possible it could be a local regulation or something.

  • As I mentioned in my previous post, a $2.50 Blizzard from DQ in the arrivals area of the airport (which is also right outside the doors to the check-in hall) was by far the best food deal I had during my entire time in the Maldives. There was a Burger King in the same area where value meals were $10 and up. The area around those restaurants also seems to be the only public air-conditioned landside space at the airport, so if you are killing time upon departure and can’t get into the PP lounge, I’d definitely try to stake out space in the food court. There’s also a DQ in the airside area of the airport when you depart, but -- gasp! -- its Blizzard prices are 50 cents higher.

  • There are actually 2 seaplane “arrival gates” at the hotel -- one right at the island as you’d expect, which we used when we arrived at the hotel, and a second at a floating platform a short distance north of the hotel, near the hotel’s private Gaathafushi Island. It seems that they used the floating platform when the water was too rough near the hotel for landing, and/or if they were going to have two flights at the same time -- when we departed, there were two flights at the same time, both of which were stopping at the W to pick up a few last pax en route from somewhere else. We ended up departing from the floating platform which I was a little apprehensive about the logistics of (for reasons which will become clear in the next section), but of course the hotel made everything easy -- they load you into a nice speedboat and bring you to the floating platform in just a few minutes, then handle all of the transferring of bags from boat to plane, and then help you up out of the boat and onto the plane and you’re on your way. But given the choice -- you won’t be given the choice, but if you were -- the attached arrival gate is still easier.

A cautionary tale about my arrival experience

As you might have noticed from the pictures above, boarding a seaplane is somewhat more precarious than boarding a regular airplane. In general this isn’t a big deal because you’re not carrying your own luggage or anything and there are lots of people around to help you, but it’s an unusual experience. There also aren’t any overhead bins or much under-seat storage space onboard the seaplane, so if you have a backpack, larger purse, or similar, they may offer to take it from you as you board the seaplane and store it with the luggage, which sits in an open area in the back of the cabin.

I had also read that the seaplane cabin is very loud in flight (which it is), so when they offered to take my backpack after I stepped onto the seaplane, I had the presence of mind to think to take my noise-cancelling headphones out of my backpack, which I did while standing in front of the luggage in the back of the plane, right in front of the open boarding door.

Also relevant to this story is that I have two phones, a personal phone and a work phone, and had happened to stash my personal phone in my backpack on the flight into MLE because I wasn’t using it. In particular I stashed it right next to the headphones, and when I grabbed the headphones, the phone slipped out of my bag, went right out the door, bounced off the seaplane boarding steps, and plopped into the ocean.

The seaplane boarding attendants, who have probably seen this before, realized what was happening and grabbed for the phone as it was falling with no luck; I didn’t even realize what was happening until they told me.

Fortunately, the rest of the story is a happy one, and reflects well on the airline and the hotel. For one thing, I still had the other phone to use while in the Maldives.

And as for the lost phone, first, the first officer of the flight (who also assists with the boarding) proactively promised me before we departed that after our plane moved out of the way, the staff would try to fish my phone out of the water and would send it along if they found it. By the time we got to the hotel a half-hour or so later, the staff there had all already heard what had happened and expressed their sympathy, and had arranged to have a bowl of dry rice put in our room, which was already there when we got to the room.

(For those who are cavalier with their electronics and offended by the prices of food at the resort, perhaps this is a lifehack -- you could cook the rice in the tea kettle provided in the room for a discount meal.)

They did manage to find the phone, which is at once not so surprising because the water isn’t all that deep in the seaplane boarding area, but was also uncertain because apparently the ocean floor around there is very muddy and it sounded like other dropped items have not necessarily been retrieved. It was sent to the hotel on the next seaplane flight a few hours later and promptly brought to our room by the hotel staff.

The phone went into the rice overnight and was tested the next day, to find that it did manage to power up but not actually boot, and the screen glowed bright green at that, presumably due to some combination of the bouncing off the seaplane stairs, the time immersed in the water and the depth of the water, and/or the corrosive salt water.

IMG_1166.jpg
Bricked iPhone

But, fortunately, I had paid for AppleCare+ coverage on the phone, which would have been no use if it had been lost, but which does cover accidental damage due to drops or water immersion (or I guess in this case, both), so with the phone having been retrieved I was able to get it replaced by Apple with no trouble. Even better, apparently Apple can’t / doesn’t charge the usual $99 AppleCare+ deductible for US members at Apple Stores abroad, so I was able to get it replaced at the Apple Store at our next stop in Hong Kong for free.
 

So anyway as it turns out, the Maldives is a good 30% opportunities to drop things in the ocean. I didn’t manage to lose anything else, but we did see a woman drop a bag into the water when sitting at one of the waterside tables at Fish restaurant -- and impressively one of the staff jumped into the water fully clothed and swum out to retrieve it. We also saw a few other bits of detritus off the sides of the railingless walkways leading out to the overwater villas. So, moral of the story is, hold onto your stuff.

 

Property

A map of the property was provided in the room:

IMG_1077.jpg
W Maldives map

It’s a small island so it doesn’t take long to get situated, and a simple tour riding on a golf cart is provided to everyone upon arrival. We walked around the island on the beach one morning and it didn’t take any longer than 15 minutes going at a very leisurely pace and stopping to look around a bit as we went. The west side of the island is the main hub of activity with the arrival pier on the north end, the “lobby” below that (which, since check-in is handled at the seaplane terminal lounge, is only used for settling the bill at check-out and any questions or needs that may arise), followed by Kitchen, the pool area and Wet bar, with the gym overhead, then Fire restaurant, and finally Sip bar and Fish restaurant protruding on another jetty off the south side of the island. The rest of the perimeter of the island is guest rooms, except for the spa which juts off from the east side of the island.

The main recommended snorkeling area is on the east side of the island around the spa, so the land-based villas actually have pretty good access to snorkeling. And the hotel actually asked people to limit snorkeling around the overwater villas for benefit of other guests’ privacy, which would somewhat seem to defeat a main benefit of an overwater villa, though we did do a bit of snorkeling around the base of our villa, and saw others doing the same.

We booked a Fabulous Overwater Oasis and were assigned the second-to-last such room on the north side of the jetty. The privacy was nice, but it was definitely an annoyingly long walk to and from the island, maybe 5 minutes or so walking at a decent pace. The hotel will send a golf cart to pick you up if you ask. Most of the time we didn’t bother, though they also made a point to stop and ask if you wanted a ride if they drove by empty while you were walking, and we took them up on the offer a number of times. Some of the staff used bikes, but there were none available for guests.

 

I am still not clear what the advantage of the Spectacular Lagoon Oasis rooms was supposed to be, though it may be moot now as the hotel’s website appears to have dropped that category. At one point the hotel appeared to market better reef access from those rooms, but there was reef all around pretty much all of the overwater villas; not sure if the reef might be better / more exciting in that area.

All of the rooms on the south side of the jetty are also more exposed to the main beach area and the view from Sip, so would be less private than those on the north side. South side rooms probably have a better sunset view, though I never saw that sunset views were marketed as a benefit of the spectacular rooms.

The north side villas do have a great view of the seaplane when it’s landing at and taking off from the closer arrival “gate”, which may be either a feature or a bug depending on your perspective :) . Other than that and the occasional boat passing by, the north side villas are very private. And unlike at the St. Regis, where the pools are close to the room and thus end up in the shade for the north-facing rooms, the W pools are up farther out on the the deck and thus get good sun throughout the day, though the water in the pool was still decidedly on the chilly side.

 

There are little W-esque touches here and there -- the golf carts play loungey music after dark; once a week or so there is a DJ by the pool in the afternoon; music plays along the jetty out to the overwater villas; and there are several statues of the W logo which make great picture-taking opportunities. But overall the property is relatively chill compared to the standards of a lot of city Ws. (There is no elevator, but they do still find a spot for the W’s signature “Good Morning/Good Afternoon/Good Evening” elevator carpets, on the steps in front of the lobby area.)

IMG_1253.jpg
W statues around the property

We didn’t encounter any mosquitos during the stay, even without using any bug spray, which was nice. (A small bottle of bug spray was offered in the room, though, if you did need it.) There were a few little gnats and other insects on occasion while on the island, but not much. I suspect you’d have a higher risk of bugs, lizards, etc., around and possibly in your room at a beach villa than at the overwater villas.

Service

I was generally very impressed by the service throughout the stay. The W brand has something of a spotty reputation for service, but there was no sign of that here: everyone was very warm and welcoming to us and, as far as I could tell, to all the guests, who covered a very wide range of nationalities. Various staff members would stop by to say hello at meals and were happy to chat at length if you wanted.

I was also impressed that many of the staff members knew who we were without us having to introduce ourselves, both in terms of stopping by to chat as well as on more practical occasions like seating us for our dinner reservations. (I’m not sure how much of that might have been because some of them had clearly heard the story about my phone going for a swim.)

Also unlike the typical city W, there was a certain sense of generosity and lack of nickel-and-diming, from the glass of bubbly upon arrival to snacks available throughout the day (more on that below) to the occasional small treat left in the room in the afternoon.

There were a few very small service lapses that might not have happened at the St. Regis, like an order for eggs at breakfast going missing one morning, or an apparently unaddressed maintenance request for the room -- but those were truly minor and even the best hotels aren’t perfect. So I definitely wouldn’t let any potential bad past experiences at city Ws be a reason to choose away from this hotel.

 

Room

The room was nicely appointed and we overall quite enjoyed it, though I can’t help but note that from pictures the St. Regis standard overwater villas do seem a bit bigger. They seem to be wider with more of a living room space, which the W villas don’t really have, though I think maybe the W villas are also somewhat deeper than the standard St. Regis ones.

Inside, there is a standard and delightful W bed, a large couch / daybed, and a few style-before-comfort chairs. There’s also a glass floor area through which you can sometimes see fish swimming by, particularly after dark when the spotlight from the glass floor seems to attract their attention.

IMG_1039.jpg
Bed area

IMG_1037.jpg
Glass floor

There is also a handy audio setup that lets you play your own music over the nice speaker system in the room; in theory there are also speakers on the deck but we couldn’t get them to work in our room, which from the neighbors’ perspective might be the better outcome anyway. With the doors open to the deck, the inside speakers were plenty loud enough to be heard on the deck, and possibly by the neighbors, not sure. Other than the speaker system glitches, the room was in a good state of repair considering the hotel is over a decade old now.

Wifi is not nearly as fast as you’d expect in a non-Maldives setting, but it was usable, and just barely fast enough to stream moderate-quality video with some occasional starts and stops. (Surprisingly, Netflix has an offering in the Maldives which seemed to be similar to its lineup in other Asian countries.)

Air conditioning was satisfactory and could keep the room cool even during the midday heat, as long as the deck doors were kept shut.

Bathroom is nice and modern, and offers the larger-sized Bliss toiletries that many Ws offer in their suites. Nice rainfall shower. As I mentioned in my previous post, the main annoyance was that the toilet stall offered essentially no privacy, with a pattern on the glass door that didn’t really hide anything. (I didn’t get a picture, but did get a picture of the same pattern on the shower door below.) On top of that, there’s no door between the bathroom and bedroom at all, and while there is a curtain that can be closed over the external bathroom windows, it doesn’t necessarily provide a lot of privacy, especially if the bathroom lights are on inside while it’s dark outside.

IMG_1042.jpg
Bathroom

IMG_1045.jpg
Shower exterior (with toilet door on left side of frame)

IMG_1046.jpg
Shower interior

The deck area is sizeable with a couple of lounge chairs, a simple table, and a large round lounging thing which, in classic W style, may or may not really be all that practical but does look cool. Especially so after dark when the table in the middle of the circular lounger lights up, or for us did the first night at least; we couldn’t figure out how to relight it from the second night onward and a call to maintenance seemed to go unanswered.

IMG_1047.jpg
Villa deck

The infinity pool on the deck is a decent size, but I did have two complaints (in addition to the water running a little cold, as I mentioned above). One, the walls and floor of the pool were a rough-finished material which I tend to associate with pools at older resorts and which I’ve occasionally scraped a knee or otherwise injured myself on. And two, there was a shallow lounging area at the top of the pool with some jacuzzi jets you could turn on, but the jets were ridiculously overpowered and were in no way relaxing or pleasant. There was in-pool lighting which looked really cool after dark but the water wasn’t warm enough to want to swim after dark.

When we first got to the room the hotel had set up a nice welcome gift for us including a complimentary bottle of sparkling rosé, two small bottles of Evian, two coconuts, and some snacks. Not sure how much of that is standard vs. specifically for Platinum members, though I’ve seen other reviews mention the bottle of bubbly.

IMG_1035.jpg
Welcome amenity

IMG_1054.jpg
Welcome bottle of bubbles

The minibar in the room is fairly extensively stocked as you would expect, and there is a separate wine fridge in addition to the main mini-fridge -- more thoughts on all of that in the economizing food/drink spend section below. To my surprise, the soft drinks in the minibar were complimentary, including Coke, Sprite, tonic water, and a couple of juice options.

IMG_1102.jpg
Minibar pricing

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the hotel provides drinking water in a reusable glass bottles at both daily housekeeping services, though the tap water is also drinkable according to the hotel. Not sure if the water in the glass bottles is any different from what comes out of the tap. We kept cycling the reusable bottles into the fridge as housekeeping would bring them, which didn’t seem to be a problem (thankfully it was not one of those weight-triggered automatic minibar fridges or anything). There are also a few bottles of Evian and a similar sparkling water available for purchase in the minibar. The same reusable glass bottles are on offer at the gym.

Room also offers a tea kettle and Nespresso machine, both with supplies offered and refilled daily for free.

 

Beach and pool

As I mentioned above, the beaches in the Maldives (or at least at the W) really are something special, and really do look like the platonic ideal of a perfect beach from some swimwear ad in a high-end magazine. So, you can get some great Instagram shots if nothing else. Be ready for some adorable and apparently harmless little reef sharks to be swimming around you, even in very shallow water.

There is one main pool which I suppose is somewhat underwhelming in design compared to the “pool campuses” you’d see at many larger beach resorts, but it was also never anywhere close to crowded, presumably because people were hanging out in their villas. There’s a covered area with whirlpool jets but otherwise no special features. I’m not sure if the water was heated or just had better sun exposure, but it did seem somewhat warmer than the villa pool.

The pool does have a few swim-up barstools which I always love, though they didn’t seem to get much use. There aren’t a huge number of lounger chairs but it was also never tough to find one, and drink and food service was available to your lounger. A 30SPF suncreen lotion dispenser was available for free by the pool as well as by the main beach area nearby. There were also some loungers by the beach though they seemed to get less use.

IMG_1281.jpg
Beach

Activities

We booked a Gaathafushi Island excursion for sunset and dinner, but the day we were booked for ended up being rainy and windy all day so the hotel cancelled, which was a shame but did end up saving us a fair amount of money at least. It also ended up being the night of the Maldivian theme dinner (more on that below), which we ended up enjoying and would otherwise have missed. We passed close to Gaathafushi on the boat out to the floating seaplane platform when we left, and it did look pretty cool, and featured yet another W statue.

IMG_1557.jpg
Gaathafushi Island (at a distance passing on a speedboat)

The weather was warm and clear the other days of our stay as would be expected in January, although it was consistently ranged from breezy to very windy for pretty much our entire stay. No idea how common that is or if we were just unlucky.

The hotel loans snorkeling equipment -- mask, snorkel, and flippers -- for free, and has a few other types of basic water sports equipment available for free like standard kayaks. Motorized and more advanced equipment (like glass-bottomed kayaks or scuba gear) are rentable for a fee, and likewise any activities requiring a guide are chargeable other than scheduled daily (land-based) fitness sessions.

Spa

The spa is relatively small, so I would definitely recommend booking any treatments in advance to make sure you can get in. I had a massage which I was happy with. Note that there isn’t a lot by way of traditional spa facilities -- no central locker room with saunas and fancy showers and such; instead each treatment villa has just its own simple outdoor shower and a steam room. It appeared that all of the villas were set up for couples, which makes sense given the setting.

There is also a discount, 15% IIRC, for Platinums at the spa. It does not apply to spa packages, which might make some of the packages less appealing than they otherwise would be. Not sure about discounts for other membership levels.

Gym

The gym is small but well-equipped, with a variety of cardio and weight machines and a fairly extensive selection of free weights. It didn’t seem to ever get crowded while we were there, though I guess that’s probably highly variable depending on the crowd in house at any given time.

The gym offers the same reusable glass water bottles that housekeeping stocks in the rooms, as well as green apples, like at other W gyms.

Breakfast

As I posted previously, I was somewhat disappointed by breakfast, which may have less to do with this hotel and more to do with having seen pictures of the St. Regis Maldives breakfast spread, and having stayed immediately before Maldives at the St. Regis Bangkok which has an excellent breakfast, and having my previous W stay at the W Amsterdam, which raises the bar with its Platinum breakfast offering.

All that said, I did eat enough of the breakfast to skip lunch every day of our stay, so I guess it can’t have been too bad. They did a good job of checking off all the categories (US/UK standards, congee, dim sum, curry, salad, cheese charcuterie and smoked fish, bread and pastry, fruit and yogurt), though the selection within each category was not huge -- they would have only one curry each day for example, which would rotate from day to day. Another poster reported that they would also make you things from other days on the rotation if you asked, though we never did. All eggs were also prepared made-to-order, and there was a small menu of other made-to-order items which we didn’t try.

Sparkling wine and Bloody Marys were available for no additional charge at breakfast, as was bottled water, but you had to order water from the waiters along with your coffee.

As I understand it, most if not all cash rates at this property include breakfast. Platinums staying on points can choose it in lieu of the 1,000 point amenity, which is a no-brainer. Breakfast runs until 10:30am every day.

And they did have Beurre d’Isigny butter which I do enjoy, and a truly dazzling selection of jams and jellies (I recommend the papaya lime). It's a shame that the toaster seemed to have only two settings, bread sushi or charcoal.

IMG_1081.jpg
Breakfast made to order options

IMG_1082.jpg
Bloody Mary station (not self-serve, despite our attempts)

IMG_1084.jpg
Juice / smoothie station

IMG_1085.jpg
Fruit and yogurt section

IMG_1086.jpg
Salad, Mediterranean, and Chinese section

IMG_1088.jpg
Curry and western breakfast standards

IMG_1089.jpg
Pork carving station

I failed to get a picture of the last section of the breakfast area, which included breads, pastries, cheese, charcuterie and smoked fish. And a small chocolate fondue station.

Lunch (and snacks!)

Without even making too much of an effort, we managed to skip lunch every day of our stay, which saved us quite a bit of money; it seemed like most others were probably doing the same as I usually saw very few people sitting at Kitchen around lunchtime. We would get breakfast late-ish, around 9:30, and then have an early dinner at around 6:30, and didn’t feel like we were depriving ourselves.

A big help with that plan was the limited free snacks that are available: apples and house-made granola bars at the snack stations throughout the resort, and house-made fruit popsicles and Magnum-style ice cream bars at the pool from 1pm(ish) and 4pm(ish) onward respectively. Don't miss the ice cream bars. Sometimes they aren't ready promptly at 4pm ... don't be afraid to wait ...

There also weren’t any particularly good deals available for lunch, unlike for example at the St. Regis where many reviewers have suggested the pizza restaurant is a relatively decent value at $30-40 for a pizza that can serve 2. At the W, lunch options included Kitchen, which I believe offered the same menu as dinner, Wet, which had a limited menu similar to Kitchen (burger for $40 for example), and on some days Fish, which did have a different lunch menu but it wasn’t by any means cheap.

 

Dinner

I should say, I’m something of a foodie, so as I mentioned above I enjoy beach destinations like Thailand where you can also get great food alongside your relaxation. The food at this property wasn’t bad by any means, but for the most part it wasn’t thrilling, which is consistent with most reviews I've read of all Maldives properties.

As discussed extensively in this thread, Platinums currently get 20% off at the hotel’s restaurants and bars under the Members Dine More program. I was very pleasantly surprised with how easy this was; going in I assumed I’d need to constantly remind the staff of the discount when getting the bill (and that they might not know what I was talking about and I’d have to go through a whole thing...), and/or that I’d have to go through a big reconciliation at check-out. As it turned out, it couldn’t have been simpler -- the staff would ask for your room number when you sat down at a restaurant or bar (or, in many cases, wouldn’t even do that as they’d already know who you were without you needing to introduce yourself), and when the check came the discount would already be applied.

The discount was taken off the subtotal, included food and all soft and alcoholic drinks (whether at a meal or just getting a drink at other times of day), and the 22% markup for service charge and tax was applied to the post-discount amount, so the net price as a Platinum was a bit less than the prices listed on the menu.

It hasn’t been discussed as much on this thread, but very much worth noting that Members Dine More also gives Gold members 15% off and general members 10% off, so there’s actually no reason anyone should be paying full price for their meals here. Perhaps that’s part of the reason the quoted menu prices are so high.

 

During our 5-night stay, we had dinner once at Fire, which is an outdoor steakhouse, twice at Fish, the seafood restaurant, and twice at Kitchen, once for its standard eclectic international menu and once for the special Maldivian buffet. Fish was our favorite of the three regular menus, though the Maldivian night was probably our favorite meal overall. Fish also came the closest to being priced in a way that felt reasonable by outside world standards, perhaps because seafood may be easier to come by in the Maldives than other ingredients.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, despite the hotel tap water being safe to drink, it was never proactively offered at meals and we never got around to asking for it, so we bought a $12 750mL Evian bottle with each dinner -- two of them with the very spicy Maldivian theme dinner.

 

A few pictures of some of our meals:

Dinner at Fire -- apologies for the quality, the candlelight setting on the beach was lovely but not ideal for photos:

IMG_1065.jpg
Complimentary bread and amuse bouche -- didn't get a picture of the appetizer salad which was very small

IMG_1069.jpg
Steaks and sides (the mashed potatoes were actually worth the price)

 

Dinner at Kitchen from standard menu:

IMG_1247.jpg
Complimentary bread

IMG_1249.jpg
Pork and crab wonton parcels

IMG_1252.jpg
Can't remember what the top dish was, kung pao chicken or something like that; bottom dish is Maldivian tuna curry, which was very good and also offered some days at breakfast
 

Dinner at Fish:

IMG_1293.jpg
Complimentary bread and amuse bouche

IMG_1295.jpg
Some sort of appetizer, don't remember what

IMG_1305.jpg
Main course, some sort of fish

IMG_1306 (1).jpg
Main course, some other type of fish


 

Dinner at Kitchen, Maldivian night -- a buffet was set up in the same area as breakfast, and probably I should have taken pictures of that, but I took pictures of my own plates instead. Regardless, the offerings were very seafood-heavy, as you might guess, with basically all of the appetizers and main dishes including fish in some way other than one meat curry. There was also a station with a variety of fish and lobster available to be grilled to order, either “plain” or with a spicy Maldivian seasoning. Overall it was very good, and very spicy.

IMG_1366.jpg
Appetizers

IMG_1367.jpg
Grilled-to-order seafood

IMG_1369.jpg
Curries and soup

IMG_1370.jpg
Desserts (not my favorite, if I'm honest ... I would have gone for an ice cream station)

 

Dinner at Fish the second time:

IMG_1498.jpg
Sushi platter as an appetizer, which is priced more like a main course and as it turned out was enough food for one, too

IMG_1499.jpg
Another appetizer

IMG_1500.jpg
Fish main course

IMG_1501.jpg
Another Fish main course

 

A couple of other notes on dinners:

  • Attire is pretty much up to you. Flip flops are perfectly acceptable (as is kicking them off under the table), and while we generally wore collared shirts and nice shorts, I don’t think you would feel terribly out of place in a t-shirt either.

  • As another poster mentioned, there is a weekly restaurant schedule that seems to be published somewhat intermittently; one was dropped off in our room on our third or so day on property but we hadn’t seen one before that. Worth trying to seek one out upon arrival (they seem to have them at the front desk if you don’t get one) as usually only two of the three restaurants are open each night, so between that and various theme nights you’ll want to plan your dining schedule more than one night at a time.

IMG_1328.jpg
Sample weekly calendar -- apologies if it's hard to read, but you get the idea

  • Reservations are recommended; I suspect this is a bigger deal at Fire and Fish which have fewer tables than Kitchen. I don’t know if you’d ever not be able to get in to a restaurant, but we didn’t get our first choice of time when we made a reservation at Fire for our first evening upon arrival. I’d suggest trying to get the weekly schedule when you arrive if it’s available and making a plan.

  • We didn’t do the half/full board package, and as far as I can tell it seems like a fairly bad deal, especially if you have breakfast included as a Platinum. Maybe the costs when you get it included on a cash room rate are better, but the prices being quoted to add it to a points stay made no sense. Notably, if I was understanding correctly, the menu at Fish said that merely eating there attracts a $40 supplement for HB/FB guests, and some of the more luxe items on the menu had further supplements on top. Fire was even more expensive than Fish so I didn’t notice but I assume it has at least as big a base supplement. And the theme nights all have hefty HB/FB supplements. So HB/FB would seem to mean you’d just be eating at Kitchen for every meal unless you wanted to pay extra.

Drinks

There are two bars: Sip, which is perfect for sunset (though even still was never crowded during our stay), and Wet, by the pool. Specialty cocktails at either one ran $19-25; tastes will vary but I was disappointed by most of the ones I tried and had better luck just asking them to make a classic piña colada. Among the hotel’s cocktail creations, anything including Malibu was a relatively safe bet, which as much as you may hate to admit it is a fairly good life rule in general.

IMG_1220.jpg
Cocktails and sunset

Despite what older reviews may say, it seems that the W’s underground (literally) nightclub has closed.

 

Tips for economizing food/drink spend

We actually ended up spending less on food than I had imagined going in, but as I started to realize how expensive the Maldives were, I might have overshot with expectations. I feel like at one point I read a post on this thread or the St. Regis thread suggesting that $1K was a plausible daily food budget, and it could be if you didn’t have breakfast included, had no 10-20% F&B discount, ate multi-course meals for both lunch and dinner, and had a good amount of alcohol. But as it turned out, we came in far below that, without feeling like we’d deprived ourselves.

Our dinners typically included 1-2 alcoholic drinks each and the totals for 2 ranged around $180-300 net, inclusive of 20% platinum discount, service charge, and tax. We also sometimes shared starters or desserts, generally stuck to cheaper booze options, and steered away from the more lavish dishes (caviar and lobster at Fish, Wagyu beef at Fire), so you could easily spend more. (Honestly -- and I don’t really intend for this to sound as mean as maybe it does -- I don’t think their preparations of most of the dishes were good enough to bother splurging on the super high-end ingredients.)

To each their own, but personally I’d say that if the W’s food prices make you so anxious that you’re considering bringing instant noodles with you on your trip, maybe you should just find somewhere else to go -- a good deal on points does not make it worthwhile to have a stressful time on what should be a relaxing vacation. Notably, the food prices at the new Westin look much lower than those at the W.

That said, we did manage some cost savings without going too far out of our way and while still having a good time and enjoying our meals, so a few thoughts if they’re of use to anyone:

  • Skip lunch and make use of the free snacks (see lunch section above).

  • Grab a few of the packaged snack mixes at the W lounge at the seaplane terminal and stuff them into your bag should you need an extra midday snack.

  • All of the restaurants give some sort of tasty free bread offering at the start of the meal, and it seems to be policy to offer exactly one refill. Why not take them up on it? :)

  • As you might be able to tell from the photos above, appetizers seemed to be a fairly bad value / amount of food for the money relative to main courses, sides, and desserts. Especially so at Fire and Kitchen, maybe a bit less so at Fish.

  • Fire is notably more expensive than the other two restaurants, and feels particularly pricey relative to Fish, when you think about what a nice steak dinner would cost vs. what a nice seafood restaurant would cost elsewhere in the world. That may just be a product of seafood being easier to get in the Maldives than meat.

  • Theme nights seem to be quite expensive and arguably overpriced -- we did the Maldivian night for $135++/person and there is a lobster night which we did not do for something like $180++/person; not sure about all such nights but for the Maldivian night the price excludes all drinks, even bottled water. I suppose if you want to really eat a lot, and/or if you compare to the price of lobster on the regular menus (there was also lobster available at the Maldivian night) they don’t look quite as bad. And we did enjoy the Maldivian night, and with only 3 restaurants on site, the theme nights give some opportunity to avoid too much monotony if you’re staying for a while. But, try to get a copy of the weekly dining schedule and plan out your meals to avoid the pricier theme nights if you want to save money. We did get the 20% discount off the $135++ price of the Maldivian night as well.

  • The 375mL bottles of spirits in the minibar for around $50 are actually a very reasonable price, all things considered (enough for 10ish standard single drinks), and complimentary minibar soft drinks means free mixers -- though do have a think about the selection of mixers on offer when choosing which liquor to open. Housekeeping usually filled the ice bucket at both daily services, and/or there are ice machines at the snack stations.

  • Make sure you get the 10-20% discount on all your food and drink, which is easy enough to do and mainly just means avoiding room service and excursions. If you want a bottle of wine in the room, rather than grabbing one from the minibar or ordering from room service, buy it to go at dinner and the discount applies. I didn’t test it but I don’t think there’s a way to buy a bottle of spirits with the discount, so that’s one situation where skipping the discount still makes sense.

  • You get a tray of chips and nuts alongside drinks at Sip and at the bar at Wet (including the swim-up bar, though not -- or not automatically at least-- if brought to your pool lounger at Wet).

  • Avoid beer, which to me felt overpriced at $15++ for a standard bottle at either restaurants or in the minibar, especially when wine by the glass (not great wines, but still) is available for cheaper than that, and the wine by the glass pours were generously sized.

  • I’ve shared my thoughts on the hotel’s $70++ per person drink package in a few other posts, but I’ll just summarize to say that I don’t think it’s worth it unless you are determined to drink a lot and are willing to align your drinking with the package’s specific schedule and limited selection of drink options -- notably, the package does not include any mid-afternoon drinks, like by the pool, nor after-dinner drinks (though I imagine you could linger at the dinner table for a while with your unlimited drinks at dinner). And if you plan to skip lunch you’d miss out on the free drink included then, plus the drink package markets the sparkling wine and Bloody Marys at breakfast which are actually included for everyone. Ironically the drink package is probably the most useful if you really want beer, as I think it’s the most expensive of the available package drink options. And I don’t believe the 10-20% off applies to the package, while it would for buying the equivalent drinks a la carte.

902 Comments

This review lives in the W Maldives [Master Thread] thread.
902 comments and Y review

Hotels you may also be interested in