No, I am not going to evaluate hotels, although one could do worse to vacation at the Jumeirah Vitavelli in the Maldives.
Instead, I want to provide some advice to aid anyone’s trip from things I learned on my trip to the Maldives. I am not going to recommend hotels (although I did in the first sentence) or airlines. You’re on your own. I will only suggest to research carefully using the hotel internet sites, blogs, and Google Earth (especially the photos). You might check the weather, because the rain might be warm during the rainy season, but one does need sunshine for turquoise waters, which the brochures use to lure tourists.
One should read up on restrictions, so that you are not surprised upon arrival. All hand luggage is x-rayed to root out pork products (hotels serve beef or turkey bacon; nice try, but it’s not the same), alcohol (all hotels serve alcohol, probably because of tax revenue bonanza), religious idols (non-Muslim), and spear guns (fishing is another profit center). This country is more worried about pigs and alcohol than terrorists, which makes arrival rather relaxing (unlike some countries I could mention). So, don’t stock up at duty free, hoping to save money on drinks, and get your fill of good bacon at home.
I have three bits of additional advice to make your vacation more enjoyable.
3. But, one does need what Germans call Badeschuhe. Perhaps these are known as surfer shoes: rubber soles with a mess top. Maldives are basically coral, and coral is very sharp. Even sandy beaches have coral lurking underneath. These were the wisest item we had in our luggage and prevent painful gashes. If you bring nothing else, bring these.
I am not depressed...but I have every right to be.
The photo below is what I saw last week:
And, as way of explaining my excuse for depression, if and when I decide to be depressed, I offer a photo taken yesterday (today is not much better). In truth, the weather was worse than the photo shows...
The color of the sky is enough to show the difference, but one must understand the temperature range. The former photo weighs in a 85 degrees F/30 degrees C, while the latter one barely rises above 32 degrees F/0 degrees C.
I do not expect sympathy, especially from those having suffered through a polar vortex, winter storms, heat waves, and flooding. I'm only saying...
The claim of a former Heineken beer commercial used to be "We reach the parts of the body other beers do not". Well, my view of the Maldives reaches parts tourist brochures and websites do not. I could have turned a blind eye and left my camera lens on, but I did not.
Unfortunately, human are want to defile the nature wherever they stumble across it. At least the large hotel chains in the Maldives, either by choice or by edict, do their best to maintain the natural beauty and clean up their guests' messes. (It is a fact of life that humans, who pay for a hotel room, feel that they have the right to waste resources.) Concern for nature cannot be found on outlying islands and the behaviour of all natives and/or visitors is not above reproach. Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.
Things are different in non-US and non-European countries. Some might consider certain practices to be lax, but they seem to work.
The international airport at Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is small. Land is limited, so the runway is made from reclaimed land. The is no taxiway, so planes are forced to taxi to the end of the runway after landing or before takeoff to turn around. There are no jetways, so passengers climb down stairs at departure and walk the short distance to the terminal. For departure, the process is reversed.
Walking to the plane is not a problem. I was only surprised that we walked by refuelling airplanes. And, passengers remained on the plane during refuelling, as our plane had originated in Sri Lanka. None of this would have been allowed in the US or Europe. I found the experience interesting, because one saw what happens on the tarmac of a busy airport.
Like at Cheers, everyone knows your name at the Jumeirah Vittavelli. Some people like this, because recognition boosts his or her ego. But, some might find this a bit scary, if you think about it. When greeted by someone, who you have never seen before, you wonder how he or she knows your name. I believe that the hotel forces staff to memorize faces and names from the welcome photo taken upon arrival. And, they learn your room number and departure date.
Then again, living in the age of NSA surveillance, something as simple as a hotel trying to make a guest feel welcome is seemingly harmless. This is evident, when the manager and his staff show up to wave you off on the boat trip to Malé to catch your flight, even at night.
Or are waiting at the airport dock to carry your bags and escort you to the check-in counter.
One leaves with pleasant memories of the resort and its staff. What more could one want from a vacation?
Upon arrival, I was surprised to learn that the hotel has a doctor in residence. I hoped that I would not need his service. I also learned that a photographer is in residence, something I knew that I would not need. I take my own photos.
During our stay, I have noticed that the photographer is kept busy, mostly by guests of Asian origins. I smirk when I see the contortions families go through at the command of the photographer.
I also notice that young girls, seemingly of slavic descent letting themselves be snapped.
If you want to see fish in all shapes, colors, and sizes, they fly to the Maldives, find a mask, and stick your face in the water. Of course, most fish hang out around reefs, but they also range far and wide.
Each day, many come to the hotel for a daily feeding. If you think fish are dumb animals, think again. Fish and manta rays return each day to the same spot to get free food...just like some humans.
Tonight, we had dinner at a restaurant over the water. Under water lights revealed fish passing our table as we ate. I decided not to order fish...or crab.
The Fool on the deck of the bar a few feet above sea level sees the sun going down over the Indian Ocean...
I have had beach vacations in the United States (Florida, California, Cape Hatteras, Cape Cod), Bahamas, Caribbean, Bali, Thailand, Seychelles, Spain, Italy, France, and Dubai. Without a doubt, the best place for sun (depending upon the time of year), water, and relaxation is the Maldives. Of course, you will not find MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, Sushi Samba, etc. There are no shopping malls or cinemas. You cannot rent a car and drive around. You are forced to relax and enjoy sun, clean water, and, if you choose, water sport. Hotels offer varying levels of quality, food, and service. All are more expensive than comparable properties in other countries, but this nation lives from tourism and is at the far end of the supply chain, with cost added at each step.
Despite the expense, I feel that the cost is worth it...and my feet do also...
All guests at this resort have travelled some distance and any number of time zones.
Restaurant discrimination at this resort is not by race, creed, or tax bracket. Breakfast is served from 7:00 to 10:30, and seating is all about time zone
The first to arrive are people haling from countries to the east. Jet lag causes them to wake early. The latest to arrive are those having trouble getting out of bed, because their bodies are still in some time zone to the west of the Maldives. We arrive around opening time, so we see the gradual filling to the tables. Despite being jet lagged (we should have stayed in bed), we do not want to miss any of the daylight. Being close to the equator, the sun rises around 6 and sets around 6: there are only so many hours of light.
We usually have breakfast with Japanese, Chinese, and Australians. We finish in time to avoid the Russians and Germans. We want an early start to enjoy this....
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.