Our last stop in the Maldives was the Westin, another hotel where we used points. They gave us a room all the way at the end of a boardwalk. 10 villas were between us and the next villa with guests (The hotel was doing renovations.) so we could have had a wild party and no one would have heard us! The staff was great and we learned a few tidbits about the hospitality industry in the Maldives:
60% of resort employees have to be Maldivian citizens
$519 is minimum monthly wage; working over 8 hours per day requires OT pay
The 10% mandatory service charge is pooled together and shared by all employees at the resort except for management.
The Westin has their own desalination and filtration plant for water so we could drink the water if we wanted – we did!
Singapore was the next stop – flew there on Christmas Eve. Singapore goes all out for Christmas with decorations everywhere – streets, shops, hotels. We even got a short visit with Ana who we met in Split during our RTW trip.
We flew to French Polynesia via Frankfurt and NYC and San Francisco. Susan’s bucket list included flying Singapore Air first class one time and this was it. Mark’s research found their “best” first class are suites on the A380 and that routing to the U.S. only goes to NYC. Since we were going to fly through NYC, Susan suggested we stay for New Year’s Eve – why not? We didn’t spend any travel money in 2022!
We spent the second week in the Maldives at the St. Regis Hotel paid with hotel points, not cash! It’s lovely but certainly has a different vibe than the Hard Rock Hotel. We met a lady from Iowa – surprise! They live in Chicago area now and threw in a stop here because they have tickets to the World Cup finals in Doha so will stop there on the way home. Fun!
We now know how the “other half” lives. This hotel is a bit over the top. We have our own “butler” to help with our stay – as if we need any help! He will give us a buggy ride whenever we want – we walk! The worker bees rake the sand path to our villa every day. We think it’s so the housekeepers know if we’ve gone out as they can see our footprints in the sand.
The guests really don’t interact with each other. A player from the Netherlands National Soccer team was here after the Netherlands got eliminated from the World Cup. His girlfriend is a model and you can tell! One really nice waitress in the bar says that lots of the guests here are “posh” – British for entitled.
We flew on a seaplane from Male here which was about an hour long and not bad at all. TransMaldivian Airlines has its own terminal and no security to clear. The St Regis rep met us when we got off the Hard Rock Boat at the International Terminal and walked us everywhere to check in, weigh our bags and backpacks, check our passports, get the St. Regis car to the sea plane terminal (other side of the airport island), and take us to the business lounge to wait for the flight to be called. Then he took us to the boarding location. The pilot checked our names off his printed list when we got to the pier for the plane.
Mark actually fit in the plane seats – not assigned – just pick a seat! The flight had 2 pilots and one of them flew in his bare feet!
A little tidbit about the Maldives … most of the resorts in the atolls that are not near Male go on “island time” – one hour later than the real time of GMT +5. It’s a made up ti e zone. This gives people more beach time later in the day but doesn’t help people with jet lag. Plus this makes the World Cup start later. The semi-finals started at 1 AM here so you can guess who !did not watch! We will watch the finals tonight.
We also learned how the resorts get their alcohol since this is a Muslim country and alcohol can only be served in the resorts. The beer, wine, spirits all come to a big warehouse where it clears customs (We don’t know how much paperwork is involved with that.) Then it is put on a boat to ONE resort. The boat can only go to one resort and it is tracked on its trip to make sure the boat doesn’t stop along the way. This is what one employee told us when we asked.
Now we’re off to The Westin resort again using points.
Our first week is almost over and it’s a grey, windy day with some rain thrown in BUT it is warm! We’ve been at the Hard Rock Hotel all week. It’s the closest resort to the airport, only requiring a speed boat ride. We did half board which included a large breakfast buffet and dinner (appetizer, main, and dessert each) from a number of different restaurants – Mexican, Indian, Thai, Maldivian, International, seafood, Japanese, Hard Rock Café – so we never got bored.
The staff here is very international although most are Maldivian. We’ve met people from Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, India, Italy. They’ve tried teaching us some Maldivian language not too successfully, but they are very polite when we butcher it! Every evening at sunset there are canapes and drinks with different staff members wandering around to get feedback from guests and this is when we’ve learned the most about the country and the staff.
The guests come from all over the world with a strong contingent from Brazil, Russia, and Europe. Dubai is only a 4 hour flight so lots of expats come here for a break. We met a lovely Scottish family who live in Dubai and shared a few beers by the pool with them. For those of you who don’t travel because “we have children”, the Scots were here with their 6 year old and 7 week old!
We’ve seen/heard a few Americans, but we are definitely in the minority. When we are asked where we are from, we reply “Where do you think?” and the UK is the normal guess!
Next stop is the Maldives on this adventure. If you’re wondering where these islands are that Mark picked for his birthday celebration, find India, go all the way south, and look to the west. You’ll find this tiny country of about 550,000 people made up of about 1000 islands.
We flew Turkish Air from Munich with a 5 hour stopover in Istanbul followed by an 8 hour flight leaving at 00:40 – as in 40 minutes after midnight – and arriving about 10:30 AM in Male, capital city. Flight went well after we survived the totally unGerman-chaos of checking in and boarding. Turkish Air had flights leaving at 1:30 and 2:30 with 3 hour in advance check-in. Lines were everywhere with no one and no signs to direct traffic. It took us about an hour to get checked in but the security line was short although inconsistent. Mark had to take off his Nikes but Susan didn’t.
Then there was boarding lack of organization, mainly caused by being in the old terminal 1 which has some issues with space to wait and line up. Again, some people giving directions would have helped.
Arriving in the Maldives was WAY easier than we expected after reading the country’s tourist website. Every tourist has to have a paid reservation at a hotel, enough money to pay for accommodations and food while we are here, proof of onward passage, and a Travel Declaration “card” (electronically done either 72 hours or 96 hours ahead of time, depending on which website you read). We had proof of all this printed out and on our phones but would we have cell reception? Since Susan never trusts phone reception, she had the paper forms.
Were we asked for any of this??? Just in Munich did we have to show the Travel Declaration and hotel confirmation before we got our boarding passes In Male, the immigration guy just wanted to see a passport and we were good to go.
Our luggage showed up – yeah! – since the trackers in the suitcases showed the bags still in Istanbul and Munich, causing a momentary panic! When we exited customs into the open air terminal, hotel and resort greeters were lined up holding boards with the names of the tourists they were meeting. If your hotel was not there, you get to go to a large greeting area (open air) full of hotel and resort stalls and search for your hotel greeter there. It’s all very organized. We found our Hard Rock Hotel stall with a little help from a nice Maldivian.
We’re staying the first week at the Hard Rock Hotel which is just a 15 minute boat ride across the lagoon from Male. We waited about 45 minutes for some other arriving passengers before we boarded the boat and whisked our way to the Hard Rock Island.
BTW … my hair is growing back after I “shed” some during chemo and it’s coming in a bit curly. The humidity here makes it even more curly or fuzzy.