A strong spine is literally the backbone of healthy living. My interest is in sport and I am always struck by how (literally) central the importance of posture was for so many activities. I heard our ballroom dance teacher giving me the exact same tips about “shoulders down and back, pelvis forward, back straight”, that I gave my rowing students. Of course, back pain seems to be the most common affliction of aging which again all boils down to the spine. Ritz Carlton Maldives hosted Lorelei “Yoyi” Bulan who is a spine health expert during our stay. She walked me through a number of demonstrations and exercises (see videos) to gently activate, limber and strengthen my spine. Relieving stress discomfort at the literal “core”.
When we first started coming to the Maldives in the 1990s, most resorts didn’t have spas. A few 5-star properties we stay at had a therapist on staff who could do a treatment by appointment often in some jury-rigged, tucked away part of the island. But now, spas are don’t just offer relaxing massages, but rather an array of treatments as extensive as a typical breakfast buffet. And to help navigate this bewildering set of options at Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi is the Maldives first “wellness concierge”:
- “Aqua Wellness Centre, featuring a brand-new Hydrotherapy Pool, Maldives first-ever wellness concierge as well as unique spa treatments, all surrounded by a lush botanical garden facing the Indian Ocean. The brand new 7,735 square-foot elaborate Aqua Wellness Centre features a custom-built Hydrotherapy Pool, ice fountain, steam room and sauna. Set atop the crystal Maldivian waters, the 2,906 square-foot outdoor pool is designed in zones, where each station of the pool targets a different part of the body. The zones – which include jet bath, air jets, shower jets, and massage lounger.”
When I first started Maldives Complete (2009), many resorts barely had websites. When I mentioned that mine had a “blog”, most people asked “what’s that?” TripAdvisor was still in its nascent stages with the beginnings of crowd-sourced content with reviews and chat forums. Many people came to Maldives Complete because there simply weren’t many alternatives. The majority of destination research was done through paper travel brochures provided by operators and agents (which was a big source of material at the outset of the website).
As the web presence grew (as well as the number of resorts), the website was visited more for its comprehensiveness of practical information as well as ease of use in an increasingly cluttered digital landscape. The most recent stage of online evolution has been social media which has flooded the web with both casual crowd sourced material as well as more “professional” content that has shifted the online dynamics again (especially in crowding out Maldives Complete discoverability into the cut-throat search space with big budget SEO muscling to the top – fortunately, operators and agents remain long-standing, active and enthusiastic supporters of the site).
We are now standing at the dawn on the next major transformation in how online users get information from the web – AI. You’d be hard pressed to have missed the stories written (hopefully by humans) on the heels of the landmark release of ChatGPT. Perhaps Sam Harris’ podcast this week with Paul Bloom described the current developments best saying, “In one of our conversations a couple of years ago, if you’d asked when will we have a system capable of having a perfectly normal conversation saying intelligent things, I’d say, ‘I don’t know…20 years? 50 years? Maybe never.’ And yet here we are.”
I have been playing around with OpenAI and ChatGPT for a few weeks now, and I must say that I am truly gobsmacked by what it can do. It is not perfect, but that doesn’t matter. The same is true in the early days of any technology. It’s the “dancing bear” metaphor…it’s not that the bear dances like the Bolshoi, it’s just amazing that the bear dances at all.
Amidst all of the experimentation and commentary about ChatGPT, the consensus is that the dancing bear’s most nimble party piece is answering complex but fairly specific questions with information drawn from the Internet. So, I thought I would pit the engine against my Mastermind specialty subject – Maldives resort recommendations.
The three most common types of questions asked about Maldives resorts are the following:
- RESORT RECOMMENDATIONS – “Here are my requirements, what do you recommend?”
- RESORT CHOICES – “Which resort would you choose between these options?”
- GENERAL QUESTIONS – “How is the weather in September?”
I went to TripAdvisor Forum to get several IRL examples of such queries and see how ChatGPT performed. The results are below. And those results echo what most commentators are saying about the AI – B+ results. They aren’t prefect but, (a) they are darn good, and (b) they seem human-like (nb. Turing Test). In my decade plus of contributing to the TripAdvisor Forum about the Maldives, I would place these responses as certainly par for the vast majority of human contributions and better than many of them. This technology is inflecting so watch this space!
- RESORT RECOMMENDATIONS – We are heading to the Maledives late July with our two kids. We are looking (preferably) for a resort on a private island with kids club, pool and good house reef with snorkeling trips to see Mantas and/or Whalesharks. Is this realistic with a budget of approximately 500 USD including at least half board or should we look for cheaper accomodation on an inhabitate island?
- A budget of approximately 500 USD per night for a family of four on a private island resort in the Maldives with half board included may be a bit limiting. However, it’s not impossible to find some options that fit your criteria. Private island resorts tend to be more expensive than those on inhabited islands, but they offer a more luxurious and secluded experience. If you’re set on staying on a private island, you may have to compromise on some amenities or activities to stay within your budget. To find a resort that fits your criteria, you can search online travel websites like Expedia, Booking.com, or TripAdvisor, and use their filters to narrow down your options. Look for resorts that have a kids club, a pool, and a good house reef. You can also check the resort’s website or contact them directly to ask about their snorkeling trips to see Mantas and/or Whalesharks. If you’re open to staying on an inhabited island, you may be able to find cheaper accommodation options that still offer great snorkeling opportunities. Inhabited islands are more affordable because they offer a more local experience and don’t have the same level of luxury amenities as private island resorts. However, they can still offer good snorkeling opportunities and a chance to experience local culture. Ultimately, whether you choose to stay on a private island or an inhabited island will depend on your preferences and budget. Keep in mind that the Maldives is a beautiful destination with many options for families, and with a little research, you can find a resort that meets your needs and budget.
- RESORT CHOICES – We are planning a trip in early August. I have narrowed our resort to Anatara and Amila based on my previous question looking for luxury and good snorkeling from the beach. I would really appreciate feedback from people that have been to both. One of my concerns is the extra expense for drinks at AK. Amilla has a package that includes drinks for $170 pp per night. I have read that drinks run around $30++ which could add up quickly. I like the rooms much better at AK.
As an AI language model, I don’t have personal experience of visiting these resorts, but I can offer some general guidance based on my knowledge of the hospitality industry and online reviews. Both Anatara Kihavah and Amilla Fushi are highly rated luxury resorts in the Maldives, and each has its own unique selling points. Anatara Kihavah is known for its stunning villas and underwater restaurant, while Amilla Fushi has a more laid-back atmosphere and a wider range of activities for families and couples. In terms of snorkeling from the beach, both resorts are located in areas with good coral reefs and marine life. Anatara Kihavah has a coral reef surrounding the island that can be accessed from the beach, while Amilla Fushi has a house reef that can be explored by snorkeling or diving. Some reviewers have noted that the reef at Amilla Fushi is closer to the shore, making it easier to access. Regarding the expense of drinks, it’s worth considering the package offered by Amilla Fushi, which includes drinks for a fixed price per person per night. This can be a good option if you plan to consume a lot of drinks during your stay, as the cost can add up quickly at luxury resorts. However, if you don’t plan to drink much alcohol, or if you prefer to order drinks a la carte, then the extra expense of drinks at Anatara Kihavah may not be a significant concern. Ultimately, the choice between these two resorts may come down to personal preferences and priorities. It’s a good idea to read online reviews from other travelers, compare the rates and packages offered by each resort, and consider any specific needs or preferences you have for your trip.
- GENERAL QUESTIONS – Is 10 1/2 months before to early to book? Last year I left it and prices went up and up and I was only saved by booking direct (I think they made a mistake with the price). OH wants the same hotel, flights and dates so can’t look for offers. I have a price about 16% up on pre pandemic price which is a price match by a ABTA / ATOL agent. I want to book tomorrow for 3/3/24. I worried for months last year as the price rocketed. Is this a bad idea?????????????
Booking 10 1/2 months in advance is not too early, especially if you have a specific hotel, flight, and date in mind. In fact, booking early can sometimes result in better prices and more availability. It’s understandable to be concerned about prices going up, as this can happen in the travel industry, especially during peak seasons. If you have found a price that is 16% higher than the pre-pandemic price and it is a price match from an ABTA / ATOL agent, that could be a good deal. However, it’s always a good idea to do your own research and compare prices from different sources to ensure you are getting the best deal possible. Ultimately, the decision to book now or wait is up to you. If you are worried about prices going up, booking now could give you peace of mind and ensure that you secure your desired hotel, flights, and dates. However, if you are willing to take the risk and wait, you may be able to find a better deal in the future.
Cora Cora’s star-gazing tower lends a Swiss Family Robinson natural vibe to getting closer to the stars.
The main event in the Maldives is the ocean view. Bering such a tiny plot of sand in the middle of the vast ocean (or if you are underwater!), the aquatic vistas surround our and consume you. Whenever I am in an area of outstanding natural beauty, I always am bemused by buildings with small windows. Why don’t they make as expansive a window as possible to enjoy such a distinctive sight? One resort that has gotten this right to the extreme, pretty much bringing the entire outdoors right into the bedroom, is Ritz Carlton Maldives. Absolutely the biggest villa “window” on the water that we have seen in the Maldives.
Maldives is defined by its intimacy with the water, and resorts have become renowned for underwater and overwater facilities to put guest as close as possible to this main event. The glass floor has become one of the iconic elements to extend this aquatic vista even further. OZEN Maadhoo starts every visitor off with this perspective featuring a prominent one right on their arrival jetty. One of the first things you do when you arrive in the Maldives (even after two decades, I can attest) is to look down to see the myriad sea life frolicking below as you walk along the arrival jetty, but at Maadhoo this thrilling sight started as soon as we had our welcome drink in hand.
An electric buggy to take you from the arrival jetty to your villa as well as to and from your villa to various parts of the island is standard fare in all but the smallest of islands. But Soneva Jani uses a speedboat “buggy” to take you to your water villa, and it can be summoned to take you from the villa to the central part of the island (with the main restaurant, shops, dive centre, etc.). the transfer is 2 minutes in choppy water and 90 seconds on smooth (we timed it), versus the alternative of a 15 minute buggy transfer over land.
Happy Easter! If you especially appreciate the traditional flowers of this holiday, then you will be particularly grateful for the floral greeting by Cora Cora’s own mini lei with a tropical flower on a palm leaf necklace to adorn your welcome.
We love all things coconutty and Amilla Maldives features another item for our basket of tropically inspired items:
- “Our soaps are hand-made in Amilla Fushi with home-made pure coconut oil, powdered herbs handpicked from our gardens and natural essential oils”
You can lather yourself with the essence of Amilla for weeks after your return.