Trip Report Index:
- Introducing and Strategy
- New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Etihad First Class
- Park Hyatt Dubai
- Touring the Burj al Arab
- Tea at the Burj al Arab
- Abu Dhabi – Male, Etihad Business Class
- Male – Kaadedhdhoo, Maldivian and Transfer to the Park Hyatt
- Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives
- Kooddoo-Male-Abu Dhabi, Maldivian and Etihad Business Class
- Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi – Dusseldorf – London, Etihad First Class and British Airways Club Europe
- London Heathrow – San Francisco, British Airways New First Class
It’s the only resort I’ve been to that while I was leaving I was talking about wanting to return, and where I made plans to do so not long after making it back home. I rarely stay at the same resort outside the United States twice, since there are so many places in the world to go and even once there so many different properties to experience (and report on!). But this is one I wanted to go back to, and the experience was – on the whole – even better in 2013 than it was in 2012. I’m already talking about going back in 2014!
But since I’ve already covered the hotel, and the overall look of the place is mostly the same, I won’t be writing a three part series this time. I’ll try to keep everything much more brief and focus on what was special, what was different, and what I might improve instead.
On arrival of our boat from the airport we were met by the hotel’s General Manager Pierre Lang and by the Food and Beverage director. The GM was the same that was on property on our previous visit and he’s always been quite active, we could see him most days on-property inspecting the hotel and ensuring the maintenance and tasks were being performed, as well as talking with guests. This time he let us know that he wouldn’t be around during our stay, since he was heading to Bangkok the next day to do some shopping. But he introduced us to the F&B director, Jean-Pierre Joncas, the next most senior person at the hotel (who was new, only at the hotel a few weeks).
I asked Mr. Lang what was changed since we had been to the property, and he explained the completed capital projects — the “Dhoni” had been under renovation the year before but had been completed and turned into a reception area. That’s where we were met and welcomed. It also served as a place that some guests would come and read and relax during the day.
Lighting at the resort and been redone. The restaurant “Battuta” had been renovated and was now the Island Grille, which I’ll discuss in some detail later in the review.
We also learned that the dedicated butler concept had been replaced by a concierge team. Last year there was one point of contact for arranging anything you needed on the island. There was still supposedly one person primarily responsible for you, but we only saw the person assigned to us (Shaheen) at dinner on our first night and as we departed the island. We didn’t have any worse service as a result, in fact I found overall the service had improved year-over-year. Everyone at the resort was friendly and engaging. I’ve seen some people write, though, that they really enjoy connecting with that one person and that’s no longer the standard.
From the Dhoni reception we were taken to our villa, and it really was almost identical but with some fixes Holes in the door and gaps in the wall have been repaired, all villas have had the counter space redone. But otherwise everything is nearly identical, even the broken top to the bath gel was the same as last time (which was endearing).
Internet in the villas worked well — most of the stay. Last year internet was glitch, I found myself unplugging and restarting the router in the villa about once a day. This time it simply kept working — after the first morning, at least. When I woke up after the first night I found that while internet worked for most sites, a few seemed blocked. Including my blog! I was very frustrated, quite concerned, but figured out that I could post to the blog if I logged into my work VPN and then used a terminal server connection to boot up the blog on a server in Arlington, Virginia and type into that. It would have been a very frustrating time, keeping up with my blog, but by the time I returned from breakfast that first morning everything was working just fine.
Air conditioning in the villas isn’t that good. It was a concern when I stayed on property last year, something I had understood they were planning to work on, but the a/c just doesn’t keep the villa especially cold. It helps if you keep the blackout doors shut during the day so that the sun doesn’t heat up the room quite as much. But with the air running all day long it gets down to about 70 degrees by morning, but the temperature gradually increases during the day to the high 70s with little to be done.
One new thing this year is that each room has an iPad. That lists all of the information about the resort and about the villa — activities, room service menu, maps, etc. It’s a nice way to navigate the property.
Once we got settled it was after 8pm, and the end of a long day that began with a car pickup at 6am in Dubai, so while tired we decided to walk over to the main restaurant for some dinner. The menu has changed a bit, with many of my favorite items on offer for lunch only (like Nasi Goreng, a seafood pad thai that’s also on the room service menu but no longer baked inside of an omelette) and in general seemed a bit pricier. Appetizers are nearly as expensive as entrees and far less food. I think one can expect to spend about $175 per person per day on food here without taking extreme measures, although a bit of savings could be had without loss of anything interesting by splitting a main course as an appetizer and then ordering separate mains (which would be lower price and more food).
We went back to our room and were a bit disappointed not to find treats there. We had been given a welcome bottle, a prosecco. But each evening on our stay last year there were complimentary sweets delivered in the evening. Nothing like that was delivered to us this time until our 5th day on property.
Waking up the next morning, it was a pleasure to saunter over from the end of the walkway from the overwater villas back to the center of the resort for breakfast in the all-day dining restaurant.
Last year the understanding was that you could pick any three items from the menu, plus coffee or tea and juices (at least that’s what I had been told). I think I probably exceeded that one time last year but there was never a hint of a bill. This time I was simply told you could order whatever you wished, as much as you wanted, from the breakfast menu.
You can see pages of the breakfast menu here:
In addition to the items you can order they bring you a three-tiered tower with fruit, breads, and a local tuna with roshi bread (“Mushuni Roshi”).
The pastries were delicious, I especially liked ordering the Maldivian tuna curry and the noodle soup with prawns and egg. I never got bored of the selection, which surprised me somewhat since I was trying three things a day and the menu isn’t all that extensive.
Coffee at the hotel is excellent, and I’m very picky about my coffee. They also learned my preference for real cream quickly. And last year I had let them know that my wife has a preference for soy milk for her coffee. They had promised that they would have some, but didn’t until the third day of our stay (I imagine they didn’t look at the note again until the day of our arrival). This time, without my even asking, they proactively ensured they had some — and not just at the main restaurant, but in their dinner only restaurant as well.
Dinner the second night we tried the Island Grille. I was a bit concerned about the transition of the restaurant from the previous concept, Battuta, which I liked quite a lot — the restaurant had been an informal affair featuring Maldivian curries that were spicey and flavorful. The name Island Grille conjured, for me, the idea of a bit of a homogenized product, something that could just as easily exist in the Caribbean. In fact, it wasn’t that at all — the redo of the restaurant with an open kitchen and interesting lighting is gorgeous, and the menu (while a bit pricier than Battuta was) is interesting and delicious — various meats, sauces, from the grill and appetizers that they suggest ordering several and mixing and matching.
The food and beverage manager Mr. Joncas was very visible in the evenings and came by our table that evening. We asked whether they had plans for dinners besides at the two hotel restaurants (and room service). They do a beach seafood buffet as well. Specifically, though, last year during our stay they had an all you can eat sushi night out on ‘Drift’ (the bar area midway out on the overwater villa walkway) with all you could drink champagne. It was fresh fish with your own sushi chef, and really quite good (and a great value at $75 per person, considering the amount of sushi and Piper Heidsieck champagne I consumed). We were hopeful that was a regular thing.
He said it wasn’t — but knew that they were getting their big food delivery the next day. Later on in the evening he came back by the table, having spoken to the chef, and he’d learned about the fish that was coming in with their delivery and thought we might set up a private dinner out on the jetty at the end of the resort… they’d do a five course dinner, including a few courses of sushi. I thought the idea sounded spectacular! (I was curious — though did not ask — the price. It turned out to be less than $200 per person, an expensive meal of course but not considering the amount of food, the fresh fish, a wagyu beef course, and that we had our own dedicated waiter for the evening). That wound up as our plan for the next evening and it was an absolutely special experience. They even brought out the resort’s telescope for us to use. The food was excellent and really creative, as well – our sashimi was presented inside a dome of ice. A really memorable night.
The hotel will be happy to create customized experiences, dining anywhere you wish on the island, of course at a premium.
Most things here on the island are expensive. The priciest things tend to be excursions, anything that involves boats and fuel. But not everything takes money. Just lounging at the gorgeous pool, or on the deck of an overwater villa, comes at no extra charge.
And the spa — offering some of the best treatments I’ve had, anywhere — Is surprisingly reasonable. They were offering a three day package of treatments, two hours apiece, that averaged out to $61 per person per hour. That’s reasonably by resort standards in Thailand (the Westin Siray Bay outside of Phuket was over $70). And relative to everything else on property, a downright value. And I don’t remember the last time I found myself fading in and out of a restful state during a massage, something I did at least once all three days that I visited the spa.
The hotel bottles its own filtered water (both sparkling and still) and defaults to bringing a couple bottles of each every day, though we had requested and they quickly learned to provide a good deal more water to us. This learning happened quickly, and was handled consistently each day (with water also refreshed along with the second servicing of the room in the evening). Water is complimentary in your room, and at breakfast, though if I recall correctly they will charge $4.50 per person for water in the restaurants.
Probably my favorite moment of each day was sunset. The only diamond benefit here — since all rooms are villas there’s really no upgrade possible (although some people report lucking into a one-category upgrade when the resort isn’t full) and both breakfast and internet is free for everyone already — is a “sundowner.” Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond members receive an evening cocktail and canapés served in the bar or on the beach around sunset each evening, to be taken between 6pm and 8pm. This is something that isn’t consistently mentioned, but everyone at the bar seems to know about the ‘sundowner’. On my first day I had to ask about it there, but from then on they knew that was something to provide to us.
Each evening we would wander over to the beach, sit down for a drink and a snack, and watch the sun set — over the water, with the water villas in the background. It was absolutely peaceful and gorgeous. Then around 7:45pm we would head over to dinner.
I stayed six nights on this trip, after spending 5 nights last year. I haven’t stayed anywhere for more than 5 nights since July 2007. I simply get bored and am ready to move on usually. But I would have been unhappy if I had stayed only 5 nights. I thought my 6th made it perfect, not as rushed. Because while the property was operating at 100% capacity during our stay (compared to just 50% last year), it never felt busy. We’d see a few people at breakfast, more at dinner, and that’s about it. A few people would be scattered around the island during the day. But mostly, and with only 50 rooms for the entire island, it remains a secluded and peaceful hideaway — with good food, great service, and fantastic facilities and gorgeous views. In other words, for me, perfection.
Last year when I was leaving the resort I began thinking about coming back, and I planned a return trip right away. Now, having stayed there two years in a row, I’m already contemplating a trip back in 2014. I have a nice hefty Gold Passport point balance and can’t think of a better way to use them, though I’ll again redeem for a standard villa and willingly pay to confirm an upgrade to water villa in advance.