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It took a global pandemic and the relative proximity of a visit to Singapore to convince my wife to give the Maldives a try. The distance from the US and the ‘will the food be good?’ (to her preferences) have been top of mind.
We are not sun or beach people. Much more for us cities and eats. This report is to be taken as our experience in isolation, not having the reference of visiting multiple Maldives resorts. My own prior visit to the Maldives was cut short due to flight and business matters, only staying around the airport on Hulhumalé Island and commuting over to Malé.
Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa
Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is our best Marriott points redemption ever. We worked through 8 35k/night certs and are adding a 5th-night award for 140k points to extend our stay. It feels great to relieve the mental pressure of two years of certs backlog on an incredible resort.
My wife has never before fallen in love with a beach holiday. That she readily agreed to my propaganda push to extend the stay is our highest compliment. Thank you, Australian ribeye steaks.
New Resort, A Deal on Points
In May 2021, word spread among points travelers of a new Maldives resort opening in September with a relative bargain rate of 35k Marriott points/night (30k off-peak, 40k peak). The next Marriott option in the Maldives is 50k/night.
Frequent Miler has done foundational reporting on this resort. Greg and Nick visited it shortly after opening. See their review, along with their first impressions, and villa selection discussion. I’ve been steadily adding comments to their posts and decided to consolidate them in a dedicated post of my own.
This is a work in progress post that will be updated throughout our stay and from reader discussion in the comments. I am taking this approach because otherwise it will another trip that I’ll get to blogging when I return home, at which point I’ll get too busy and this will add to my trip backlog running t0 2013.
Resort Hopping Plan Nixed
“I’ve never seen you work so hard to plan a trip just to use certs,” she said.
The original plan resort hopping of 4 nights and Le Méridien Maldives and 4 nights at SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, unless Conrad or Waldorf Astoria opened up last minute availability (Conrad did 5 days out, under their standard 7-day cancelation deadline, Waldorf Astoria didn’t).
SAii Lagoon is not highly reviewed, though does have the advantages of (1) boat transfer instead of seaplane and (2) ready standard award availability for Hilton free night certificates.
We arrived Malé at 11:50 am on Singapore Airlines. Our estimated 2-hour wait for the seaplane transfer stretched to 4 hours due to winds and flight congestion. Le Méridien Maldives arranges for its guests to use one of the 4 ‘VIP’ lounges at the seaplane terminal. Unfortunately, so, too, did the resort receiving the large family of maskless Russians with child wrestlers.
By spousal decree, there would be no extra seaplane transfers, thus eliminating Conrad. It was a lesson for us that resort hopping, unless both resorts happen to be on the same flight route, will consume most of the day. To hop resorts, your resorts need to liaise and current Maldivian regulations are that you need to receive a negative COVID-19 test before switching resorts, adding to the cost of the transfer.
By sumptuous breakfast the next morning, there would be no SAii Lagoon, either. Those expiring Hilton cert will need to find another use.
Maldives Practicalities (as of November 2021)
The pandemic-related requirements are:
- Negative PCR test sampled with 96 hours of your flight schedule departure time
- Electronic health declaration submitted within 24 hours of arrival to Maldives (as you may already be traveling at that point, this can be frustrating with quirks such as uploading the test result you need small resolution photo that can reject the phone picture option, so allow time for this process, it will be checked at your departure airport)
- Another electronic health declaration submitted within 24 hours of departure from Maldives
- Resorts all have PCR testing available to meet destination requirements, with typical next day turnaround
The visa regime for Madlvies is flexible for many nationalities. Have your stay booked and departing flight booked in case that is requested.
Le Méridien Maldives makes the seaplane arrangements. You can charge the flights to your room folio to use Marriott gift cards, a nice you if you have acquired some at a discount.
The seaplanes only operate in daylight hours. International flight arrivals after 15:30 need to overnight and take the seaplane the next morning.
Prices are roundtrip:
- $420 for adults
- $210 for children age 2-11
- Free for children under 2
- 20k checked, 5 kg carry-on, per person age 2 and over
- $5 per kg for excess baggage, which can be charged to your room
- Malé airport main terminal has baggage storage at $6-$12 per day per piece of luggage, the price varying by size and weight
My wife is very cautious and my biggest concern was that she would not feel safe and want to bolt.
At Le Méridien Maldives:
- There is an on-site clinic with a resident doctor
- On-site PCR testing is $120++ (such as for departure destination requirement)
- Staff wear masks at all times
- Guests are required to wear masks in the breakfast buffet area
- Many of the guests wear masks coming and going at the dining venues, etc, which to us is a mutual show of respect and a relief
- Those incapable of showing decency to fellow humans appear to have self-selected out of staying here
The dining is excellent, far surpassing our expectations. It only took the first breakfast to sell us on a longer stay.
The dining outlets are:
- Turquoise (breakfast and dinner)
- Velaa Bar + Brill (lunch and dinner)
- Tabemasu (dinner, closed Wednesday)
- Riviera (adults-only bar by the adults-only pool, with a $45 meat and seafood sampler during happy hour 17:30-19:00)
- Latitude Coffee Shop
- Waves Cafe
(This section is a work in progress as we eat more, and when I have time to upload more pictures)
Wide range of options, with a point of pride that options change by day to mix things up.
I love that there are daily Maldivean options to have a local taste.
The East Asian noodle station’s highlight has been the lamb bone soup. The daily dim sum falls short.
The Indian station the various dosa, papadam, paratha, etc are paired with dishes such as the lamb keema we hope appears for an encore.
The crepe, pancake, and waffle station does their thing.
The eggs are a wide variety. I snooped on another table that introduced me to shakshuka.
For fruits the secret is to buddy up to the staff and request the good stuff they keep in the back or only irregularly appear, such as longan, mango, passion fruit, and papaya.
The barista makes a variety of drinks, including today’s special a milk late with apricot juice.
Free flow sparkling wine appears some days.
We have had two dinners are Turqiose.
The first night a la carte pasta and butter chicken in large portions. As noted in the experience of others, this is the one place at the resort that charges for water, a $5 per table charge added.
The second dinner we were then on a half-board meal plan with 3-course dinner. Pictures to come!
Velaa’s meats are outstanding. We keep returning to the Australian ribeye.
My favorite starter is the reef lobster and tuna tartare.
The lamb chops come out a bit salty.
There is a massive meat platter if you are famished.
The grilled catch of the day, red snapper, was a bit tough, so I will try again with papilotte method, which I am told is a fancy way say it is steamed.
The desserts are all tasty. After so many calories the first nights, I am reducing to a scoop each of basil ice cream and raspberry sorbet.
Pictures to come!
We haven’t tried the other mealtimes or outlets. We’ll see.
There are now 3 meal plan options.
Marriott Platinum or Titanium that select breakfast as their welcome amenity (and should) get a $30 discount on all:
- Half-board = breakfast + 3-course dinner at Turquoise or Velaa, no complimentary drinks other than water, $65 for Marriott Platinum or Titanium
- Full-board = the above + 2-course lunch at Velaa, plus a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, $120 for Marriot Platinum 0r Titanium
- All-Inclusive = the above plus the other dining outlets, $200 for Marriot Platinum 0r Titanium
- Minimum 4-day commitment for meal plans (shorter stays excepted), though I expect they would play ball on this
We started a la carte. Upon enjoying the food, we went up to half-board. We are not drinkers so the higher options are of little value to us.
I”ll get more info on these plans uploaded.
My wife expressly wanted a beach bungalow nestled in the tress and cool in the day.
I plan to ask resort staff for a peek at other room types to compare, then will fill out this section.
A view that will make you want to hit the treadmill. I have been daily, prior to my evening snorkel.
I’ve walked by it daily. That’s all I know!
It has been too windy these days Nov-Dec are the windy months) to go to the main spot north of the island. Instead, I was directed near the spa and have had excellent two-a-day sessions. I keep forgetting I have a waterproof camera. I will fill out a map of the spots and get some pictures.
Paddleboards and glass-bottom kayaks are free to rent. It has been too windy to use them.
An incredible team. Above and beyond, A-list staff across the board. More to say, can’t say enough. This group has launched this resort with a camaraderie and skill that is a joy.
If you have been on the fence about the Maldives, Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is a great points travelers sweet spot. Go for it!