Best of the Maldives: Battle of the Luxury AI

All Inclusive Maldives comparison table

In the traditional travel market, the term “all inclusive” often connotes a bit of a down market, budget holiday with white-label booze and tired buffets. I often get enquiries that are concerned about the quality of a resort because it has all-inclusive offer. As with so many aspects of luxury, the Maldives destination re-writes the conventional wisdom and the “AI” package is in many cases a cornucopia of luxury.

All-inclusive got its reputation catering to budget travellers who had saved up precisely a certain amount for their vacation and not a penny more. They couldn’t chance facing some big check-out bill of extra charges and still hope to pay the rent the next month. To some degree, the same dynamic takes place in the Maldives…but at an entirely elevated level. For many, a trip to the Maldives is a trip of a lifetime. Celebrating a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary or milestone, people splash out their life savings for this bucket list adventure. Despite spending thousands, they too want some bounds on just how much the trip will set them back. So a number of the finest resorts offer AI packages to help plan and contain their expenditure.

And it’s not just about financial planning. It’s also a handy convenience. Write your cheque and then don’t worry about prices or money or signing things at all for your entire holiday. Just let the resort pamper you with all they have on offer.

What is on offer is becoming a bit of an escalating arms race in its own right. When I visited the World Travel Market in London this year, I go around to the resorts exhibiting and ask about their distinctive features and offers. Two properties – Centara Grand and OZEN – claimed to have the “most luxurious” AI package in all the Maldives. And that’s no small claim given some of the extravagant packages on offer including a previous Best of the Maldives post on Lily Beach as well as an impressive rival I uncovered at Kandolhu this summer.

As the various inclusions are a bit of an apple-to-orange comparison, I’ve decided to assemble the summary table above to let you all figure out which opulent omneity best suits your tastes. I haven’t included the pretty standard stuff that many if not most resorts provide FOC to all guests like snorkelling equipment, wifi and use of non-motorised sports facilities.

I’ve also now added the Tag “All Inclusive” to track all of the best AI offers.

Best of the Maldives: Semi-Submersible – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - semi submersible

As spectacular as the turquoise mottled Maldivian seascape is, the main event is still really under the surface. As the world’s best snorkelling destination, a mask and fins is the most popular way to explore this aquatic wonderland. But for those guests who prefer a drier approach, Lily Beach’s new semi-submersible provides a more than a peak at the underwater world. Particularly effective for those apprehensive about the confinement of a full-fledged submarine, it’s sort of a hybrid between a glass-bottomed boat and a submarine…

“Why let the scuba divers and snorkellers have all the fun? It’s now possible to explore the stunning reefs of the Maldives without even getting wet. Seated below the water level in our new semi-submarine you can watch the amazing marine life in air-conditioned comfort…Choose between a dive during daylight hours or at night, or simply take both and see how the reef changes depending on the time of day. 30 and 60 minute excursions are available both daytime and nightime trips. It’s also possible to book a private 60 minute excursion with the Penguin semi-submarine.”

With the fleet of submersible’s growing in the Maldives, I have add a new “submarine” tag here to help you all keep track of them.

Best of the Maldives: Kids Buffet – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - kids buffet

International Childrens Day today is the time to cater to the needs and interests of our younger generation. And Lily Beach does this literally every day with its special “Kids Buffet. (thanks Paola) Lily Beach has one of the more sumptuous buffets of the resorts we have visited. And most fine buffets will have plenty of selection for the spaghetti-and-hot-dog set, but Lily’s lay out is the first we’ve seen where an entire section is devoted to the puerile palate.  Items include such kiddie classics as chicken nuggets, french fries, mini sandwiches, pasta, and sweet donuts.  .

Best of the Maldives: Bird Nest Chairs – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - birds nest seat

I’m always intrigued by the inviting perches found on Maldives resorts for sitting and chilling in the warm ocean breezes. The most classic is the ‘hammock’ which has even found its way out to the middle of the lagoon. Swings off more elaborate styles and designs are a regular feature.

I was particular taken by the stylish ‘birds nest’ seats on Lily Beach. Dangling from a single line, gives is a 360 degree motion (versus conventional swings and hammocks that a limited to side-to-side action). Crammed with soft pillows, the seat swing was a place I could definitely spend hours on end.

The ‘bird’ modelling here is the gracious sales manager Agata Sobczak who welcomed me on our visit.

Best of the Maldives: Room Telescope – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - telescope

The Leonids are back!

Our favourite astronomical event. We love to be in remote places with little air pollution or light pollution which provide ideal viewing. Just lie on the ground and star at the heavens waiting for the staffs to fall.

If you want to be a bit more pro-active with your personal star gazing, then Lily Beach offers the most powerful personal telescope we have found in the Maldives. A number of resorts offer a high powered device for group star gazing and Soneva Fushi even has its own observatory. But for more private viewing, Lily Beach offers Celestron Power Seeker 80EQ in its water suite which includes “3x Barlow lens triples the magnifying power of each eyepiece…[and] ‘The SkyX – First Light Edition’ astronomy software with a 10,000 object database, printable sky maps and 75 enhanced images.”

Star struck!

Best of the Maldives: Junior Hoopsters – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - junior hoops

Let the hoops commence. The NBA starts today with Celtics vs. Heat and Lakers vs. Mavericks. For aspiring hoopsters or young fans, the resort of the day is Lily Beach. An increasing number of resorts have basketball courts (perhaps as the sport grows increasingly international), but only Lily Beach has a junior hoop at its kids activity centre.


Best of the Maldives: Digital Breakfast – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - ipads at breakfast


As Apple announced today, sometimes you just need a little iPad.

Even sequested on an exotic ‘no shoes, no news’ island. Some people do miss their daily news tidbits, sports scores, and Facebook cat pictures over coffee in the morning. Lily Beach has its own offering for people who need a little iPad fix with their ‘iPads at Breakfast’ offering. They keep a selection of iPads at the restaurant that guests can borrow and use in the dining area in the wifi hot spot.

Thinking different!

Best of the Maldives: Closest House Reef Entry – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - drop off

For those who want the ‘unda da sea’ experience, house reef proximity is a big consideration for many Maldive aficionados. Being opposite Vilamendoo, the current holder of the ‘Closest House Reef’ crown, Lily Beach literally mirrors Vila’s underwater spectacle. Vila is perhaps slightly closer to the water’s edge on average around the island, but Lily’s groynes provide an entry to the house reef where you can literally jump into the drop off. Maybe not the closest all around (literally…or should I say ‘litorally’), but for those who want the absolute quickest entry into the underwater world of delights, then look to Lily.

Last one in…