Best of the Maldives: Pillows – Adaaran Hudhuranfushi / Vadoo

Adaaran Pillows

Need a rest after all that clubbing?…that pillow just the right hardness from your throbbing head?

Goldilocks wouldn’t have any problems finding a pillow ‘just right’ at Adaaran’s Prestige resorts – Vadoo and Hudhuranfushi. Both offer a Pillow Service delivered to your villa by a butler with a choice of 7 different types…

  1. Cotton Fiber
  2. Hollow Fiber
  3. Latex
  4. Feather
  5. Goose Down
  6. Comfort Gel
  7. Microsoft Gel

I was particularly taken by the last one. After 15 years working at Microsoft, here was a product that I had never encountered.

Best of the Maldives: Apprenticeships – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Sir Alan Sugar The Apprentice

“You’re hired!”

Sir Alan is not the only one appointing new apprentices.  Four Seasons, both Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa properties, sponsor an ambitious programme of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) certified apprenticeships

39 Maldivians are enrolled in the Class of 2011 aged 16-20 years with O-Level certifications. The programme was founded in in 2009 by Armando Kraenzlin, GM Landa Giraavaru who commented…

“Apprentices are paid a stipend and given room and board while in the programme. Instructors come from the management team, as well as from out side the resort. For instance, the Boat Mechanics module is taught by someone from Maritime College in Colombo, and is intense hand-on course. Other topics outside of operations include English and Math. Regular resort employees are mixed in with the apprentices so that the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration so critical to Four Seasons has an opportunity to flourish and grow. The programme works: one 2003 graduate is now an assistant department head, a position that would have seemed unattainable at one time.”

When I visited in November, a number of staff at both resorts proudly commented about the programme unsolicited.  My wife and I remember that when we first came over a decade ago, many staff at resorts were from far away countries and only got to see their families a few times a year.  But, the folks we spoke to in November recounted going home nearly every week on their days off and spending time with family having picnics, and playing beach football with friends.   But to top it off, Landaa Giraavaru also sponsors a couple of work experience student/researchers in marine biology and its top class research and visitor centre.

Four Seasons Apprenticeship programme

Best of the Maldives: Service – Huvafen Fushi

Huvafenfushi Service

‘Boxing Day’ is not the traditional day for an annual pugilistic derby in the UK and elsewhere that celebrates it today.  It is the day when gifts were traditionally given to servants and tradesmen.  Often ‘Christmas boxes’ of gifts or money.

So it seemed like an appropriate day to celebrate the outstanding service legend across the Maldives.  Especially, the super premium Maldives resorts have set higher and higher bars for outstanding service with many now providing personalised butler services.  We were introduced to these services during our stays at Adaaran Vadoo and Adaaran Hudhuranfushi.  But the resort to best, from my research, is Huvafenfushi.  A common highlight of the various reviews is the impeccable service there.  But perhaps what tilts it for me is their impressive recognition for ‘Best Service’ on Conde Nast’s elite ‘Gold List’ a few years back in 2007 which when it was last awarded.

Best of the Maldives: Luxury – Angsana Ihuru

Top 10 Luxury Hotels

While Diva secured the ‘TripAdvisor’ Top Choice award for the most romantic, the resort coming out on top in the ‘Luxury’ for all the Maldives (and #2 for all of Asia) was Angsana Ihuru.

This TA review below from Suzanne Shepherdess is pretty representative of the gushing feedback the review seems to get regularly. Two of my friends went on their honeymoon there last year and they were euphoric about the place.

This is our fifth visit to this resort and our seventh to the Maldives and this resort never disappoints. The rooms are on the small side but provide everything you need for a visit to the Maldives. They are not super luxurious but are very comfortable and perfectly formed. The reef is better than that many islands (we have visited 4 others) and the proximity of the reef to the island is a big plus – just a few metres from the shore. As you might expect, the spa is excellent too, under the management of the Banyan Tree. Food is good but not exceptional. The resort whilst luxurious does not provide many of the features that are now provided (at great expense) in the Maldives. From our viewpoint many of these features seem to add little to this type of holiday (eg espresso machines, flat screen TV and surround sound, plunge pools and swimming pools – why would you want these with the perfect ocean around the shores?……). For us, this is the best resort for all round ambience, value, location, reef, spa etc.”

Best of the Maldives: Employer – W Resort

W Resort

A common refrain in the chorus of praises sung about the Maldives spotlight the wonderful warm people that welcome them and make the stay delightful. A great resort is a one which nurtures this natural resource of human warmth and hospitality by treating its resort employees as respectfully as the guests would hope to be treated. The resort which stands out in this regard according to the Maldives jobs website Jobs Maldives is the W Resort

“’Talents’ are what the W Hotels call their employees. This not only encompasses the skill set needed to work at a luxury hotel, but it also speaks of the individual personalities that portray the “Warmth of Cool”…Though the island is small there are several opportunities provided for the talent: W Lifestyle and Language training, Talent-of-the-Month award ceremonies, Trips to Male, Cultural excursions, fishing trips, BBQs, sport competitions with other islands, monthly birthday parties and a newly finished sport court for soccer, basketball, badminton and volleyball. Says guest Gina Johnson from Dubai, ‘You can just tell how happy, genuine and informed the staff are. You see that they take a lot of pride in their work.’”

Maldives Kurumba Visit – Day 7: Kurumba wrap

Kurumba staff

Well, we say goodbye to our now beloved Maldives and our new dear friend, Kurumba. I started the week with a ‘first impressions’ post and thought that I would finish with a wrap up review. As the week went on I certainly began to appreciate more and more about the resort, though a few things did start to irritate me.

The irritations first. I’ve already mentioned in my ‘Meal Plan’ post my frustrations with dining locations so I won’t belabour that point. One of our favourite locations was the ocean side bar. Great room, drinks, service. The only thing to fault it was the tiresome and repetitive muzac. Our kids played a game to bet when the next playing of Kanye West’s ‘American Boy’ was coming around again. Seriously, for a place this classy, it deserves classy music to set the atmosphere (they had a live band mid week which was excellent actually). I recommend something simple and acoustic like a gentle jazz piano or Spanish acoustic guitar.

Now, the extra good stuff. First and foremost has to be the extra good staff (two of which are Operations Manager Ankush and Guest Relations Eilidh in the photo above) . And the Maldives generally has a superior standard of service anyway. Certainly, everyone was very friendly and attentive. In fact, we met a couple from Wales who had been to Kurumba several times and always come back because they are convinced that the resort has the best staff in the Maldives. That is a pretty tall and subjective claim, but I have no specific argument against it. But above and the call of duty examples included Myat Su who lent us her personal memory stick to help us fix a computer problem. The games they have stocked for use included Scrabble and Chinese Checkers (two of our family favourites) that were a real godsend (and directly boosted bar sales for two nights).

Also deserving of special mention is the landscaping. The more time I spent and explored, the more I appreciated the landscaping. Really impeccable and colourful. I liked that the foliage between the beach villas and the water was just enough to provide colour, shade and visual interest, but not so dense as to actually obstruct the view (a problem that I often bemoan with other resorts). They even have a nursery where they cultivate tons of orchids and other flowers for use on the resort that you can go into an explore. Also, the design feature of the numerous, rectangular pools was a lovely touch.

Finally, the Aquum spa was excellent. I am a bit of a Thai massage connoisseur and therapist Dinny executed several complex moves that I had never before had. Our daughter doesn’t dive so we treat her to a spa treatment instead and she reported that therapist Lyle gave one of the best massages that she had ever had. They also had very good spa music.

All and all, I would highly recommend Kurumba without reservation as a value for money, top quality resort. Be aware of the impact its proximity to Male and the prevalence of concrete walkways and dining areas has. A couple types of visitor that I think would find Kurumba especially appealing would be mobility constrained and larger groups. The concrete actually works in favour of people with mobility issues and Kurumba has ramp access nearly everywhere. Also, I think groups (extended families, corporate team/groups) would work well at Kurumba because there is such a range of offerings and choices that there is something satisfying for everyone. Some of the more boutique resorts in the Maldives are amazing in certain special ways, but sometimes those ‘ways’ are not everyone’s cup of tea.

If you like lots of choice, great food, great service, great gardens, convenience to Male, then Kurumba could very well be a top choice for you.

Best of the Maldives: Food Safety – Kanuhuraa

Food Safety Asia

Despite being an exotic locale, the Maldives food is as high, as clean, and as safe a standard as you will find anywhere. The only food problem I have encountered in our many trips was friend who suffered an allergic reaction to the fresh pineapple.

But if you are particularly fussy about such considerations, then according to the Food Safety Asia organisation, Kanuhuraa is the resort for you.

“Kanuhura, Madives was awarded as ‘Full FSA recommendation’ by the Food Safety Asia Ltd, officials from the resort have said. According to a press release issued by the resort ‘Kanuhura is the first resort in Maldives among 22 resorts audited by the FSA, testing and rating all 5 Star resorts on Food Safety and Food Quality throughout the year on a monthly basis.’ “

Best of the Maldives: Seasonings – Anatara

Nasrulla Fuddan Anantara

If you want a change from vanilla fare for your savory snacks, then you need to be gingerly cumin on down to the the Fuddan Restaurant at Anantara, the epice-ntre of allspices. Fuddan features a seasoning expert – Nasrulla (pictured above) to assist with just the right final touch to your cuisine.

The Times Online has a fun review of the seasoned expert…

“Rubbing salt into the wound…Water sommeliers are so last Thursday week. The latest thing is, drum roll, the salt sommelier. Oooh, yes. With no hint of irony, Anantara, in the Maldives, presents Nasrulla, who will guide you around 11 types, including Cyprus black lava flake, Bali coconut and lime-smoked sea salt. “We’re quite serious,” the hotel says. “Don’t take it with a pinch of salt.” Oh, please. Mindful of the dignity of Nasrulla’s calling, we don’t stoop to puns ourselves. Except in headlines.”

The Eye of Dubai has a detailed report including details of some of the salt varieties on offer (“Smoked Salish salt from Washington State (Nasrulla’s favourite) goes well with grilled food, especially red meats, while smoked salt from Bali is recommended to enhance the taste of tuna prepared with coconut and kaffir lime”)

Best of the Maldives: Mini-Bar – W Retreat

W Resort

What amenities do you need at a Maldivian resort…and then what are those things that really take a bit of creative consideration on behalf of the management to deliver an amazing stay. W Retreat is renowned for its attention to detail and special amenities. Its W Resort in the Maldives snared the #2 spot for Askmen.com’s survey of the Best Hotel Minibars in the world.

“As a haven for super-skinny fashionistas looking to cram their size-zero bodies into something suitably small for the beach, it’s hardly surprising that the W Retreat & Spa has stocked its minibars with an unusual item — a bikini by luxury beachwear label Heidi Klein. In most hotels, guests are expected to bring their own beachwear, but apparently not here. Crafted in W’s signature purple, the bikini is a limited edition sold only on-site and comes with stunning silver hammered-chrome detailing. Oh yeah, and there’s booze and food stocked alongside it.  Best part: If the bikini provided doesn’t fit, then a “Bikini Butler” is on-hand to measure your girl up for something more her size.”

Best of the Maldives: Bed Decoration – Meeru

Meeru Bed

‘Turning down the bed’ takes on an elaborately resplendent meaning at many tropical resorts and with so much colourful flora at their disposal, the Maldivians take this pre-slumber ceremony very seriously. Maldives Complete has assembled a collection of the most stunning examples it has come across, and in a tightly contested decision, we would give the rosette of repose to Meeru for the example displayed above. The sheer volume of petals in the heart combined with the distinctive touch of the palm leaf origami in the corners at the foot make it a real masterpiece.  Admire the other contenders here