Looking at the “better half” issues at the halfway point of International Women’s Month. Some women find their satisfaction in the workplace and some find it in the household. Some women find it from both. And for some, the home is the workplace. Such is the case with resort spouses. Juggling the two spaces can be a real challenge. Not to mention juggling the roles of worker and wife. Mind you, increasing numbers of men also face these dilemmas, but historically, it has been the women who were more torn between both. Amilla Maldives Victoria Kruse’s own juggling of so many roles, managing the blurred lines of home and work on a resort, and pioneering initiatives in the Maldives make her a role model for women looking at resort careers or co-careers with their husbands.
My father was a clergyman and so I observed the role that my mother played as “Minister’s Wife” which was also a “job” in its own right even though she did have her own career. The congregation had certain expectations about the presence and contribution of the minister’s spouse. So I grew up with a first-hand view of this informal business-marriage partnership.
The resort couple I have known the longest in the Maldives is Jason and Victoria Kruse. They are (along with atoll neighbours Sonu and Eva Shivdasani) one of the most prominent resort leadership couples in the Maldives. I’ve already profiled Jason’s extensive and distinguished career in the Maldives, but I have long wanted to do a similar profile on Victoria. Her contributions at Kurumba and then Amilla have been noteworthy and growing in prominence with every year of her service. When we last visited Amilla, we noticed that Victoria’s activity and role was beyond full-time and pervasively wearing so many hats. So she was happy to share an exclusive Maldives Complete interview about this experience:
How did you and Jason meet? Jason and I were introduced through mutual friends at a BBQ in Bali. Jason was a managing a hotel there and I had a fashion label back then. We each tell a different version of the story of course!
How did you decide to take an active resort role at the resort? It depends how you define active role really. At Casa del Mar in Langkawi I interacted with the guests but that was all. At Kurumba, Jason asked me to “help out” with the resort boutique as it was in bad shape. From that I started a retail consultancy business for resorts and was involved in the Kurumba boutique plus I also helped out with design things. At Six Senses Fiji, I was a consultant to the owners for the wellness area and store and as happens during opening I was called on to help with other things. In fact, Amilla is the first property I have had an official role working for the resort itself!
What is your current role at Amilla? Director of Sustainability and Wellness (also responsible for Events) – however over the past three years I have acted as the F&B manager, Executive Chef and Director of Sales not to mention purchasing and more. It is hard to define exactly as I also welcome and farewell guests and spend time speaking to guests at each meal period.
What is a biggest challenge to couples working together on a resort? Honestly it is the attitude of owners and management companies that do not accept that management couples can work. Most big companies and many traditional owners are very against it or ban it completely. For me it makes sense in a remote destination.
What would be one tip you would give to couples working together at a resort? Define responsibilities with yourselves and then everyone else.
How do you keep a boundary between resort life and home life? Umm we don’t!
What resort initiative that you led are you most pleased with? Wellness Your Way. This was a hard one to get everyone onside with, especially the previous culinary team. Winning Wellness Cuisines of the Year in 2021 with Destination Deluxe was a vindication enough but now seeing so many guests booking Amilla because of the WYW menus is amazing.
If you have one piece of advice for a woman who wants to succeed in resort leadership, what would it be? Don’t lose your femininity to fit in with the “boys” but use it to connect with people.
If you have one piece of advice for a woman who wants to join their husband on a resort posting, what would it be? Have clearly defined roles and try to set up your house as a non-work environment (just to be clear I have totally failed on this one).
What if anything do you wish you had done differently ten years ago or more? Stood up for myself and secured a clear job.
Ten years from now, what do you think you will regret doing too much of or too little of? Allowing too much working stress and too little do things outside of work.
I caught up with him and he shared a bit about his background:
“I have started room decorations as I began my career as a villa Attendant. Since then I have learned and improving my skills. I’m a self taught decorative. During this journey of a villa Attendant, I have met many creative colleagues in room decorating. I get ideas from my friends and through the internet. Mostly I love doing different types of leaf decorations. Room decoration is an important element of Housekeeping service, to demonstrate my skills and give our guests a little gesture of that we care them.”
His Instagram feed is the most diverse collection of works and I highly recommend following him for your own daily dose of decorating.
The Netflix series “Our Planet” is the latest in the David Attenborough wildlife adventures with an increasing emphasis on its fragility and need for preservation. Soneva Fushi introduces a slate of its own budding guides to the natural world of its own little plot of sand in the middle of the ocean with its Change-Maker series and the efforts they are undertaking to preserve this little corner of our planet…
“Films that highlight how we’re recognising and tackling some of the issues greater than ourselves; told by the Change-Makers of Soneva. These amazing individuals represent everything we stand for – recognising that it’s their role to be part of the positive change we want our planet to see. From Ellie Butler, Soneva Jani’s Marine Biologist tackling ocean plastic to Chef Kevin Fawkes, who creates dishes beyond our wildest imagination with ingredients from our organic garden.”
When Soneva Fushi announced their recruitment for a “Barefoot Bookseller” it was one of those fantasy jobs right up there with “Professional Cuddler” and “Ben & Jerry’s Flavour Guru” as one of the best jobs on the planet. The lucky bibliomerchant is Aimée Johnston. Her bio reads…
She studied History and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and was part of the University of Tokyo’s AIKOM programme. Since graduating she has worked in the publicity department of Penguin Random House Ireland, managing campaigns for Irish and international authors including Tara Westover, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Aoife Abbey and most recently, TwistedDoodles. She loves open water swimming, travelling and factor 50 sunscreen.”
Maldives Complete was able to catch up with Aimee for an interview about her life as a Laccadive lady of leisure literature…
What prompted Soneva Fushi to open a bookstore on their resort? Soneva has always been a great innovator in the field of luxury travel, always pre-empting the needs and desires of guests and always willing to test an unchartered terrain, like their very own bookshop! For a lot of people leading busy lives, the only time they can sit back, relax and read for pleasure is when they are on holidays, so how brilliant to have a carefully curated bookshop on the island.
Where are you from? I’m from Antrim in Ireland but I moved to Dublin for college and fell in love with the city. I had been living there for seven years before moving to the Maldives.
What is your previous experience with books?
I adore reading and always have. I loved literature so much that I decided to study it in college and when I left, I knew I wanted to get a job in the publishing industry. I’ve been lucky enough to work in the publicity department of Penguin Random House Ireland for three years. It’s a brilliant job. You get to work with fantastically talented authors, promoting their writing as far and as wide as possible.
Do people come into browse or are they more looking for recommendations?
Both! Sometimes people come in with a blank slate, willing to be inspired by what they see on our shelves. Other times people can be unsure about what to read and I love nothing more than chatting to them, establishing their reading tastes and interests and finding the perfect book for them. It’s an amazing feeling, to know someone is walking away with a book that they’ll love.
What is the most popular genre? It really varies. Soneva Fushi guests have such a wonderful range of interests that every visitor to the bookshop is different. Generally though, our non-fiction piques a lot of interest. Guests want to feel informed, whether that’s by Peter Frankopan’s The New Silk Roads or Rudie Kuiter’s Fishes of the Maldives. Often our visitors are thrilled to see such an impressive collection of books on wildlife and sea-life that speak to their immediate environment.
What are you doing more of than you expected on the island? I’m doing a lot more eating than I imagined! Our staff canteen is simply amazing, and our chefs are brilliant. They can whip up a mean omelette that’s worth waking up early for!
What are you doing less of than you expected on the island? I’ll admit that there is a little less sunbathing than I naively fantasized about! There is so much to do on the island that I find I’m a lot busier than I was expecting, trying to do as much as I possibly can. It has been a lot of fun.
What book are you reading now? I’ve just finished reading Not Working by Lisa Owens. It follows Claire Flannery just as she’s quit her job in the hope that by taking some time out she’ll figure out what the ‘perfect’ job for her really looks like. I loved it. It has all the heart and humour of Bridget Jones but so totally original in its story. Claire’s quest for her ‘dream’ job was the ‘will they won’t they’ romance I didn’t know I needed! Next up on my reading list is The Woman in the Window by controversial author A.J. Finn, which is our first reading choice in the Barefoot Book Club.
I wasn’t quite sure what to call this recognition, but I knew I need to call out Kuramathi’s exceptional touches to old fashioned relaxation. Kuramathi was the first resort that I ever posted for its distinctive bed-art marking. They have clearly made it a resort trademark, in fact taking it up a notch with the latest generation of bedroom artistes.
All of the creations shown here are the work of 24 year old room attendant Adam Naseer. Kuramathi shared these details about his work…
“Adam has been working in another resort for about two years after he found out about Kuramathi on the internet and from some friends (who also work here) and decided to work for Kuramathi, this is now one year ago. He works at the Thundi area of the island and takes care of about 4 to 5 villas per day. His favourite part is decorating the bed or even the bath with towel art including flowers. It is his passion to make the guests happy and to see their smile on their face as he always receives a grateful feedback and the guests always want to have a picture with Adam and his designs. Mostly he likes to make heart shaped or honeymoon designs.”
My favourite is his birthday greeting complete with towel birthday cake (see photo at top).
“What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing. You wouldn’t be an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought.” – David Hockney
At most resorts, the staff give at bit of themselves every day to make the visit by the guests memorable and distinctive. At Amilla Fushi, this investment is expressed indelibly in a unique exhibition of creativity and personality.
The Mystique Garden is a chef’s garden where you can enjoy special meals prepared and served for you al fresco. But your nook is more than the lush greenery of an equatorial paradise. It accented by a collection of striking art works suspended in the tropical canopy. These pieces are the works and gifts of the resort staff themselves.
When the property was near completion and the new team of staff being assembled, the management got everyone together and presented them with a challenge to design and produce pieces of sculpture to adorn the Mystique Garden. The resort provided any tools and materials that they needed. The staff were assembled into department teams as the project was a way to bring the group close together prior to the opening with a focus on thrilling the impeding guests with something out of the ordinary. The teams worked for over a month and the top pieces were selected for inclusion in this open air gallery. The pieces featured and the teams that created them are…
Chandelier by Management
Morovian Star by Engineering
Peace Sign by the Spa
Dodecahedron by the Front Office
Silver Mobile by Recreation
I’ve been to lots of chef gardens in the Maldives (in fact, with this post, I am adding a new tag for them “Chef Garden”, but Amilla’s is a bit extra-magical, surrounded not just by the natural beauty of the location, but also by these inspired pieces which offer a personal welcome from the hearts, minds and souls of the resort team to their guests.
World Sea Turtle Day today. And there are few better friends to the sea turtles’ in the Maldives than the Coco resorts Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. They have been long-time supporters of the Oliver Ridley Project with fund raising and public outreach, but this past year brought a pioneering, first ever in the Maldives “marine veterinarian”. Marine Biologist Dr. Claire Petros (from the Oliver Ridley Project) was appointed to operate turtle rescue centres at the resorts. Coco resort described their work in the blog…
“Guests of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu and Coco Bodu Hithi have been incredibly generous in their efforts to support the project by donating funds directly and by purchasing signature Olive Ridley turtle toys at the resorts. In May 2016, we received the target of the funds required to start construction of the first rescue centre at Coco Palm….As planned, [the centre includes] a dedicated veterinary surgeon has joined our team to look after the rescue centre!”
She provides treatment and ever surgery to ill and injured turtles at the resort turtle rescue centres. Hotellier Maldives also did a profile on her work focusing on her clinic…
“’My main role is to care for the injured turtles that we find around the country with the intention of being able to release them when recovered as quickly as possible.’ Injured sea turtles are not a rare sight in the Maldives waters. Though turtles are a protected species in the Maldives, their foes range from abandoned fishing nets, and people, who are hungry for their meat, eggs, and shells. Ghost nets are nets that have been discarded, abandoned or lost in the ocean. They can continue to entangle endangered and vulnerable animals such as marine turtles, birds, sharks, rays, dolphins and whales, long after they have been discarded, abandoned or lost. ‘Turtles are very attracted to ghost gear as it often contains an easy meal, but unfortunately during the process of trying to eat the fish entrapped in the nets, the turtles themselves become entangled,’ she explained. ‘Sadly, the effort to escape is so great by the animal that it exerts enough force to break its own bones and the extent of the injuries suggests that turtles may suffer for weeks before dying, or hopefully be rescued’.”
We caught up with Christopher to tap into a few of his tips and insights into playing in paradise…
How did you find yourself on a Maldives resort? I work for TROON golf who operate the Academy here Velaa. When I was asked by them if I was interested I practically bit their hand off at the opportunity.
What was the most luxurious course you have played prior to Velaa? Many courses, what I classify as my second home would be Praia Del Rey in Portugal where I spent 6 years as the Professional.
What is your favourite caddie tip for people playing the Velaa course? Be conservative with your approach shots, if you take on shots and don’t play them to perfection you will be punished.
What’s your best score playing the course? When we have low handicapped players in residence we play a very tough formation my best score around that formation was -2.
What are people most surprised about playing the Velaa course? The quality of the playing surfaces and the beautiful landscape
It’s not just the aroma of the soup, it’s the atmosphere. And one of my most enjoyable bowls was served at Coco Bodu Hithi’s “Aqua” fusion restaurant because of its garnish of sea sounds and sights.
For starters (literally), it and the rest of the meal was served on our own private deck. Such a set up was something I mused about way back in 2011. It makes meal time a sort of microcosm of the whole tiny island experience – dining nestled in an intimate nook surrounded by water (and there were these particularly peculiar fish circling the platform which had us reaching for our fish guides, though we still couldn’t figure out what they were).
Aqua has 360 degree water for 4 decks and then another 5 decks for 2 couples each with a 90 degree corner seat. An overwater restaurant tables are table stakes for a 5-star in the Maldives and most 4 stars have them too. But the broader platform designs mean that on a few early birds secure the coveted front row waterside seats.
The soup in question was an exquisite chilled fruit soup and seafood chowder. The Indonesian Chef Nyoman (possibly the only female head chef in the Maldives and certainly the first one I had met) had us try her special tuna Carpaccio which is prepared differently than you normally get it in Europe. But the highlight was Indonesian prawn dish, “Udanag Balado”.
Aqua is also one of the fewer places which request smart casual dress. It’s the first time I’ve had to wear long trousers to a meal in the Maldives, but it does lend an air of sophistication to the evening.
For some down island funk, JA Manafaru staff will inspire you with their home-grown boduberu. Most boduberu troupes are professional groups that tour various resorts. But Manafaru’s drummers are all staff at the resort. They perform weekly for the guests as well as enter a number of festivals and competitions. Seeing familiar faces (folks you have interacted with around the resort) performing lent a more intimate and welcome feel to the whole evening and seemed to be more effective in getting guests up and participating.