Advent has arrived and with it the arrival of yuletide holiday greetings. Greetings are a big deal in the Maldives with each resort often providing their own little touches and twists. Sheraton Full Moon’s welcome centre is as grand and elaborate as many resort receptions (Full Moon also has a full reception further in the island). The facility comes with a air conditioned waiting area and other amenities.
As with other resorts, many of the staff come out to greet the guest both coming a leaving. A lovely gesture, but we were particularly impressed when about a haf dozen staff came out at 5:00 in the morning (we had an early seaplane to catch) simply to wave good-bye to us.
Another natural aphrodisiac and a romantic way to start any date is chocolate. And Sheraton Full Moon has concocted an elaborate confection with a sub-aquatic theme. The picture above says it all.
“Only made with chocolates…Created by our Pastry Chef for one of our loyal divers at Euro-Divers”
I reminded me of one of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes at the world famous Fat Duck restaurant called ‘Sound of the Sea’ (“[eaten] while listening to to waves crash through an ipod located in a giant sea shell. The dish was presented on a two tier wooden and glass board and was topped with sashimi of brilliantly fresh tuna, halibut and mackerel on top of ‘sand’ made out of spiced tapioca and a shellfish foam”). The Full Moon has confined itself to one main ingredient – chocolate!
Landaa’s Manta isn’t the only artistic artificial aquatic feature found on land. Sheraton Full Moon’s waterfall is the biggest in the Maldives. A towering drop with a little foot bridge over the subsequent stream that then trickles down a few other levels further. There is a shaded bench you can sit on as a lovely spot to sit and take in the ambience of a different sort for water lovers to enjoy.
Both the waterfall and the manta are examples of the latest new category that I have added to the ‘Best of Maldives’ (Infrastructure) page – ‘Art’ (including various forms of Décor).
Now that I have your attention! (you know, sometimes titles just write themselves…though ‘Polypamory’ was a really close runner-up).
The Maldives is renowned for newly betrothed couples consummating their nuptials with a honeymoon celebration. But the very microscopic creatures who built the Maldives over millennia, coral polyps, will be celebrating a honeymoon of their own this week in rather distinctive style. Their rather exotic ‘bedroom’ habits certainly put the ‘moon’ in the ‘honeymoon’. That is according to this month’s Scientific American featuring a piece about Coral Polyp reproduction…
“It is hard to court the opposite sex when you are cemented in place, which explains why polyps—the tiny creatures whose exoskeletons form corals—do not reproduce by mating. Instead they cast millions of sperm and eggs into the sea, where they drift up to the ocean surface, collide, form larvae and float away to form new coral reefs. Polyps may not be picky about their “mates,” but they are sticklers for timing. The polyps in a coral reef will “blow” their eggs and sperm simultaneously in quick frenzies for just one, or maybe a few, consecutive nights a year—and they usually do so shortly after sunset on evenings closely following a full moon…A reef generally picks one day during a full moon in summer to blow, for 20 minutes or so, during the twilight hours.”
I guess if we were going to grant a ‘Best of’ accolade for ‘Reef Romance’ it would have to go to none other than the to Sheraton’s eponymous ‘Full Moon’ resort.
As it happens, this June’s Full Moon offers a special treat as well of an ‘extra long Lunar Eclipse. MSNBC reports “This month’s full moon will pass almost directly through the center of Earth’s shadow on Wednesday in what will be an unusually long total eclipse of the moon, 100 minutes. The next total lunar eclipse of exceptional length will be July 27, 2018, and will last 106 minutes.”
The Full Moon this week rises at 8:14 pm on Wednesday 15th June. It promises to be quite the eventful evening from sea to sky.
In honour of Italy’s National ‘Republic Day’ holiday today, I pay tribute to the finest execution of one of my favourite Italian treats – Gazpacho.
Probably because it is a refreshing cold soup, it is served at every resort that I have been to. I happen to be a soup lover and gazpacho is right up their at the top of my list of favourite styles. I shy away from awarding ‘Best Of’ distinctions on food because (a) there is so much fine cuisine in the Maldives now that it seems unfair to do so without sampling everything, and (b) a supremely well done dish is hard to distinguish from another supremely well done dish.
I break the protocol through for Sheraton Full Moon’s ‘Trio of Gazpacho’ at its Sand Coast restaurant. Most of all, it is not just one gazpacho, but three gazpacho treats. The first is a delightful traditional recipe. The second is made from green tomatoes (after years of visiting the American South it is encouraging to learn that there is something you can do with green tomatoes besides fry them…the South’s answer to everything culinary). The third was an almond base with grapes and apples.
It wasn’t just the stand out execution that struck me. The whole ‘gazpacho experience’ was excellent. Sand Coast is set in a grove of coconut trees on the sand by the water. This set up is certainly not unique in the Maldives (we ate almost everyone of our Coco Palm Dhuni Kolu meals in a restaurant they had like this), but we are always surprised how hard it is to get toes-in-the-sand-water’s-edge eating in the Maldives. The restaurant played soothing ambient music with a local twist. And the price was very reasonable and less than what you would pay for a similar dish in a London establishment (it also spoils the appetite a bit looking at stupid prices in menus especially at the higher end resorts).
Kudos to Chef Garth Welsh (see below) who has really set up an operation of lots of gustatory delights at Sheraton Full Moon.
Chef Garth Welsh
When I first started working for the big corporation of Microsoft many years ago, one of my sales guys proposed that we do some corporate hospitality with some of our customers. When I asked him what he proposed, he suggested the classic big sporting event packages that many hospitality companies provide – Wimbledon, rugby, Henley. Sounded interesting, so I asked the price. The answer came back of ‘£800’ per person. My response exclaimed in shock, “I could take these guys to the Maldives for week for that kind of money!! [I had just priced my latest trip there.] I think they would have a bit more memorable time than a catered chicken lunch and some strawberries and cream.” That incident led to me becoming a bit of a pioneer with innovative and inspired hospitality and team building. I was always looking for truly unique activities and venues.
Now it looks like taking your team or customers to the Maldives is not that far fetched an idea. In fact, a number of resorts have geared up a bit for the corporate segment. But Sheraton Full Moon’s programme really stands out for the degree of forethought and attention they have given this area. They have crafted a range of offering that offers a wide assortment of classic activities for a team building session…
- Introductory Games – name games, ice breakers
- Fun Olympics – water bucket relay, obstacle course, ball games, canoe, tug-of-war
- Trust Games – blind obstacles
- Tournaments – tennis, ping pong, billards, beach volleyball
Talking with their Senior Sales Manager Mohamed Nuaas, Sheraton has really developed a sophisticated understanding of what makes these events productive and successful. Combined with an extensive 5-star infrastructure Sheraton Full Moon appears ready to cater to any corporate quirk or whim which is critical to get such an important (and costly) event just right.
Sheraton has run a number of these programmes now and their experience is valuable. It means that not only do they have the concepts and infrastructure (meeting rooms, audio-visual), but they also have staff knowledgeable in this facilitation. Sometimes team building companies in the UK will charge so much for the organisation and facilitation of a team building event that the cost does become comparable to sending everyone to the Maldives.
If Kuda Hura is a story of regeneration, then Full Moon is one of reinvention.
Kuda took a distinctive property and made it better; Sheraton took a weak property and shifted gears entirely. While Kuda moved up the league ranking, Sheraton changed leagues with a promotion to the Premiership.
Similar to Kuda Hura, I had always shied away from Full Moon because it was a larger island situated on a broad table reef (can limit snorkelling). I was always tempted by some of the juicy offers from its 3-star days when the big size often meant lots of unsold inventory. But, I always decided that there is no value if there is no quality. Sheraton has come along and recast the resort as a player that can stand proudly shoulder to shoulder with any of the other many 5-stars.
With all of the resorts asserting 5-star status, it made me reflect on what really determined that 5th star. First of all, you have to get the fundamentals down. No obvious gaps or weaknesses. But really that’s just 4-stars and table stakes for playing in the 5-star big leagues. 5-stars calls for something exceptional. Something beyond the expected. It may not be best in class in everything, but it has to be in something. And, of course, the big driver to my visit this week has been to do research for Maldives Complete, especially the increasingly popular ‘Best Of’ section which showcases just these sorts of distinctives.
And Sheraton Full Moon didn’t disappoint as I came away with 6 ‘Best of the Maldives’ candidates (stay tuned for special postings on these). That is on top of the ‘Best for Kids Club’ and ‘Best for Bartending’ that have already been posted. I can now personally attest to the bartending kudos as I was served the best pina coladas I have ever had. And I always get pina coladas in the Maldives (a few years ago we had to put time and quantity limits on my pina colada consumption since I was starting at lunch and not being able to stand by dinnertime).
Other highlights were impressive but maybe not unique. They hold a weekly beach party with a DJ every Thursday night (lots of resorts have regular discos inside, but I love the notion of a regular dancing on the sand). The Euro Divers dive instructor Chris was the most fun, warm and engaging dive master I have met. Although I am an advanced diver, I am still a bit apprehensive especially with troubles I have equalizing. Chris was so supportive and attentive, it really put me at ease as evidenced by my longest underwater time ever (47 minutes) indicating how relaxed I was.
All in all, the best thing I can say about Sheraton Full Moon is that it thoroughly exceeded my big league expectations. That is quite a tall order for a resort asserting 5-star status and me being quite picky.
Using the new ‘Children Welcome’ filter to the ‘Resort Finder’ page allows people to dial up their child friendliness from ‘kids play free’ right down to ‘kid free’. As it turns out, the Maldives resorts vary in their embrace of children as widely as public sentiment. Some have invested in elaborate ‘kids clubs’ like Sheraton Full Moon and Conrad Maldives Rangali, both of which I have post on. Others like Baros, Meeru, Komandoo and W Retreat also have restrictions. But the most restrictive child policy is Dhoni Island which does not allow anyone under 16. So if you are one of those put off by peals of laughter and splashing about, then Dhoni Island is the best of the Maldives for you.
Speaking of the kiddies, many resorts now feature ‘kids clubs’ with a range of activities and child minding to tend to the specific interests of the younger set for families who want to come to this paradise all together, but have slightly different sentiments as to what makes a great vacation day.
Full Moon resort has recently completely a major renovation under the new auspices of its Sheraton owner which includes a big investment on an ‘Adventure Club’ for children. Anyone who was familiar with the old resort and especially anyone with children should check out the new refurb…
“The launch of the Sheraton Adventure Club further proves that Sheraton Maldives is the ideal location for families. Parents can enroll children, ages 4-12, free of charge. There, the children have a fun-filled day of activities including beach games, scavenger hunts, coconut bowling and more! The Sheraton Adventure Club also teaches the children about the local Maldivian culture through traditional music & dance or mini lessons on Dhivehi, the Maldivian language. Children can also entertain themselves by climbing the jungle gym, discovering the hidden cave, or playing sports games on the Nintendo Wii. There are various schedules from 09.00 – 17.00 daily, so parents can rest assured that their children are in the caring hands of the fully trained staff.”
Somehow a pina colada never tastes quite so good as on the deck overlooking the tropical waters. But if you fancy a bit more variety, the Sheraton Full Moon has the bartending expertise to deliver the finest concoctions to complement the perfect sunset or evening repose.
“Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is proud to announce that two of their associates have received the top honours at the SIMDI – Bacardi/ Marie Brizzard Classical and Flair Bartender of the Year Cocktail Competition on Tuesday, 6 October 2009. Both Rajandra Joshi and Argus Setiawan, won first place in the Classical & Flair categories respectively. Ruwan Dinesh also received an Honorable Mention in the Classical Category.”
- Rajandra Joshi – Cinnamon Sunrise, winning cocktail of classical category (Cinnamon stick, Bacardi Gold, Apricod Brandy, Martini Rosso)
- Argus Setiawan – Lady Pick, winning cocktail of flair category (Bacardi, Gallino, Blue Curacao, Fresh Orange Juice) Juggled, tossed, twirled and even danced his way to the top.
- Ruwan Dinesh – Blue Horizon (Bacardi, Blue Curacao, Southern Comfort, Fresh Orange & Honey Melon Juice)
“Rajendra and Argus will receive sponsorship to participate in the John White Elite Bar Management course in Singapore, which is conducted by the International Bartender Association. They will also be given an opportunity to take part in the annual Classical & Flair Bartender of the Year (Asia Pacific Region) competition in Singapore.”