Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with something? Maybe you love your new haircut, but you hate all the maintenance required to keep it looking like it did when you walked out of the salon. Or maybe you love cooking, but you hate that it takes one hour to cook something devoured in five minutes. For others, they may love the destination but hate the journey to get there. For us, our love-hate relationship is with our resort in the Maldives. We love the Maldives, but our resort left something to be desired.
It is hard to hate a place with such a picturesque background, amazing marine life, and the friendliest staff in existence. The Maldives was paradise. But the resort tested us, so much so that we spent over two hours at the front desk one afternoon.
I separated today’s post into two different sections. Click the accordion to read “the bad,” and enjoy “the good”.
I told the front desk we weren’t leaving until it got resolved. We spent more time at the front desk of this resort than any other vacation combined. Our expectations weren’t unrealistic, and we are low maintenance travelers. For a five star resort, we expected better customer service.
The issues all stem from the front desk—the happiest, friendliest, but unfortunately not helpful staff.
It started with small things.
Remember, we emailed the resort every day before arrival to confirm our seaplane transfer but never heard a response. No big deal, we still made it to the resort without any problems. But the fact that they never responded was annoying.
Then, we were required to make reservations each night at the restaurants. But the front desk kept booking us at restaurants that were closed, so the staff had to track us down multiple times to change it. Again, not a big deal, but still annoying.
Next, our all-inclusive plan clearly stated we could eat at the bar for dinner instead of eating at a restaurant that required reservations. The bar had burgers and fries, and we were craving something simple. The front desk looked at us like we were asking them to perform a root canal on us! It became this massive deal for the front desk, even though our package included it. In the end, we got our burgers and fries.
We had to go through the front desk for other things, and it was equally as annoying of an experience. Simple things, like booking excursions included in our plan, should have been simple tasks. But each time, the front desk made it seem like we were asking them to move mountains.
It’s hard to be mad at someone when they are so lovely. But the front desk staff’s incompetence outweighed their friendly faces.
The icing on the cake brings us to why we were at the front desk for two hours. We were on the way to enjoy a mojito at the pool but quickly got derailed. As part of our all-inclusive package, we received a $400 spa credit to use during our stay. The website clearly said that we could substitute the spa credit for scuba diving instead. Perfect, right? Not so fast.
When we inquired about using the spa credit for scuba diving, the resort told us they changed the policy “last year.” They would not honor what we read online. Ok, fine. But we only started researching the Maldives a week ago, so it did not get changed “last year.”
Go ahead and call us “Karen,” but we asked to speak to the front desk manager after a little bit of back and forth. The “manager” (housekeeping manager) came over and said, “so you have a problem with my colleague”? Whoa, whoa whoa. The housekeeping manager walked over with such an ego. He then asked to see a screenshot of the website to prove what we had read. What? I didn’t realize we would have to prove their policy existed.
Clearly, this wasn’t going anywhere. We asked to speak to someone who could help us, and the housekeeping manager hopped on a golf cart and rode off in the sunset. He was nowhere to be found thirty minutes later.
After we made it clear we weren’t leaving until it got resolved, the front desk finally caved and honored what we had read on the website. The kicker is, another couple who we met while scuba diving had the same experience as us! The front desk told them a similar story about how the policy changed sometime last year. But, they were quick to grab a screenshot on their phone because the information about the dive credit was still available. The resort changed their website after they had inquired about it, which was a day before us. That explains why we weren’t able to find the information online!
The lesson to be learned is that if it seems too good to be true online, screenshot it and save it! These five-star resorts won’t just take your word for it. That would be too easy!
The resort was a warm tropical paradise, a welcome change in scenery from Lyon’s gray and gloomy skies. Palm trees gently swayed in the slight breeze. The teal water was an inviting 80 degrees Fahrenheit while the white sand was soft to the touch.
A wooden boardwalk invited us back to our room. Our villa was located over the water. It was 110 square meters large – double the size of our first apartment in France! It wouldn’t have been so bad to be in lockdown in this room. A large patio was attached to our room with two large lounge chairs and a hammock hoisted over the sea. A perfect breeze always welcomed us on our deck. Steps lead down to the water, an ideal snorkeling starting point.
Each resort in the Maldives has something called the “house reef.” The reef surrounds the island and is full of life in the water. Our resort gave us snorkeling gear when we checked in that we could keep our entire stay.
We spent most afternoons snorkeling on the edge of the house reef. One day, we even snorkeled around the entire island! It took about two hours to swim entirely around the island. We could have finished our trip quicker, but we spotted two sea turtles! It was one of the most magical moments. We had seen a sea turtle from afar when scuba diving in St Lucia, but seeing them two feet away was a brand new experience! We stuck with the two turtles for about thirty minutes and watched as they went about their day. One turtle was throwing coral to the side with his mouth in search of food. At one point, we watched it bat away a fish with its flipper!
On another snorkeling trip around the resort, we spotted large nurse sharks sleeping in the sand. One shark was hiding inside a small cave, and we could watch it try and burrow itself in further. Jordan said it was adorable and wanted a closer look. Even though we had been snorkeling and diving with sharks all week, I didn’t want to push it. I know, I know, they wouldn’t bother me. But I had enough!
The boardwalk was our favorite spot to walk down at the resort. Not because we had to walk on it every day to get anywhere, but because of what we saw! There were always colorful fish swimming in the water below. We even saw an eagle ray on our last day. But the best thing was all the baby blacktip sharks swimming on either side of the boardwalk in the shallow water. Sometimes there were over ten just swimming around! It was something we looked forward to seeing every day. They were so cute!
Our all-inclusive package included three different excursions. We could choose between regular snorkeling, whale shark snorkeling, sunset fishing, and a sunset cruise. Since we had easy access to snorkeling at the resort, we decided on the latter three on the list.
The first excursion was a sunset fishing trip on Christmas Eve. The resort would take us on a traditional Maldivian boat and teach us fishing methods used for generations in the area. The boat was called a dhoni, a uniquely shaped boat with the ship’s bow curved and extended upwards. This shape is said to be inspired by ancient Arab sailing vessels. Initially, fisherman carved traditional dhonis from a single log. Today, dhonis are handcrafted from coconut palm tree timber using traditional Maldivian methods.
On our way to the fishing spot, the guide taught us about traditional hand fishing. No rod required! We only needed a hand reel, line, weight, hook and bait to get started. The hand reels were large, lightweight, and easy to hold. After a thirty-minute ride, we arrived at the fishing spot just before sunset. The guide put the bait on the hook for us, and we were ready to get started! Jordan and I moved to the bow of the boat to try our luck. We dropped our lines in the water and let them extend down until it reached the bottom of the seafloor. Then, we loosely held the line with our hand and waited for a bite.
I felt a few tugs on my line and reeled it back in. The hook and bait were gone! Something had cleanly bit off the line. The guide fashioned another hook with bait on for me, and I tried my luck again. At this point, Jordan felt a large tug! Something was on his line, and it was big. Excitement rose on the front of the ship as he was slowly bringing in his line. After a few minutes, nothing. Whatever it was, it had gotten away. Soon after Jordan put his new line in the water, he had a catch! He reeled in a ten-inch red snapper. Not soon after Jordan caught his fish, I felt a tug on my line. But this time, there was something there! I reeled my line in and looked eye to eye with a foot-long grouper.
We had the option to keep the fish we caught to be prepared by the resort restaurant the next day. I chose to keep my fish and hoped to enjoy it on Christmas day for lunch. But unfortunately, something got lost in translation, and I didn’t get to eat it for lunch (file this under the “hate” section of this post).
All-in-all, Jordan and I caught one fish each. We lost more hooks than we caught fish! Jordan caught coral twice, and my line got cleanly bit off a second time. The guide thought the culprits might be hungry barracudas with their sharp teeth. Other guests on the boat caught snappers, grouper, and a barracuda!
Christmas morning started with a light breakfast before we went on our whale shark snorkeling experience. We all know that I get seasick, and I did not want to get on with an empty stomach! Funnily enough, on the days I took Dramamine, I felt ill. On the days I didn’t, I was fine. On Christmas Eve, we had scheduled a unique scuba diving trip to see whale sharks but unfortunately had not spotted any on either of our dives. The excursion would be our last chance to try and spot the large, elusive whale shark.
Our boat left around 8:00 am and was destined for outside of the atoll. Boats most commonly spotted whale sharks around two areas, and ours would go to both. After spending about two hours in the boat, our guides had caught word that a whale shark was spotted nearby. The boat drove full speed ahead to the destination! Although, “full speed ahead” for this boat was lackluster. Other ships with tourists had also gotten word of the whale shark sighting and headed to the area. Speed boats left and right quickly passed us. We were the tortoise in this race. But in true tortoise fashion, our boat got there just in time.
The boat positioned us in front of the whale shark. About 50-60 other snorkelers were already in the water. The guides directed us to stay three to four meters away from the whale shark. And to absolutely, under all circumstances, not touch it. They were protected animals in the area and were also shy! Any interference and the whale shark would dive back to the depths of the water.
When the boat stopped, our guide directed us to jump in the water quickly. The guide instructed us to swim in the same direction as the whale shark. Jordan and I jumped in the water with our masks and fins and experienced the three most chaotic minutes. I spotted the whale shark first and yelled to Jordan where it was. We immediately turned to swim in the same direction it was heading and got separated from each other. Fins and arms from other swimmers batted our heads. People were swimming on top of each other. It felt like we were in the open water swim of a triathlon! And none of us had life jackets on, not even the small children from our boat.
I was a little distracted from the other people to appreciate what we were experiencing fully. And as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. Some idiot from a different resort couldn’t resist the temptation to touch the whale shark and had scared it off.
Check out the chaotic video captured of the experience.
Our third excursion was on the last night of our trip. We took a gamble and booked the sunset cruise, hoping the weather would cooperate. And it turned out to be in our favor! There was only one other family on the boat with us this evening. We were back on the traditional Maldivian dhoni to watch the sunset. The dhoni also had a sun deck on top, which our guide recommended we go to enjoy the evening. We were required to take off our shoes and were welcomed with plush blue cushions along the boat’s edge to sit on. Our guide surprised us with a choice between different wines.
We relaxed with sparkling wine as we talked to the guide about his life in the Maldives. He told us about how difficult it was to visit home, how the virus has been in the Maldives, and what life is like living at the resort. It was a wonderful evening and a great excursion to end our spontaneous trip to the Maldives.
In the evenings, the resort hosted different activities. One night, we played BINGO, but not in the traditional sense as you would think. We played with a deck of playing cards instead. I was only one card off from BINGO; I just needed the two of diamonds to win! Another night, there was hermit crab racing. Jordan and I were most excited about this. We finished dinner early and headed to the bar to make sure we were there on time.
Several hermit crabs were waiting for us to choose from in individual cups. I decided on hermit crab number two, an enthusiastic and active hermit crab. It was running circles in its cup, ready to be released. Jordan decided on hermit crab number sixteen, also the number for Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, aka “Lord Trevor”. Lord Trevor was a quiet and reserved hermit crab. Jordan said it was saving his energy for the main event.
The hermit crab racing was completed in four rounds. My hermit crab raced in round one. While it was active in the cup, it had a lackluster performance once it was on the racing mat. I didn’t win my match and, therefore, would not be advancing to the final round. Jordan competed in round four. One of his competitors was a fierce-looking two-year-old, ready to win. But Lord Trevor would persevere and easily won the match.
Lord Trevor would be heading to the final round! One of Lord Trevor’s opponents was a hermit crab three times his size. It looked to be a tough matchup.
The competitors flipped the final four cups, and the first hermit crab to cross the finish line would win it all. The large hermit crab three times Lord Trevor’s size was off to a quick start. It sprinted to the edge, and the competition looked to be over; Lord Trevor would take second place. But suddenly, the opponent stopped cold. The large hermit crab had never crossed the finish line! With that, Lord Trevor saw an opportunity and took the win. It was a triumphant moment for number sixteen and, more importantly, Jordan.
Jordan and I spent most evenings having a mojito and watching the sunset at our resort. One bar at the resort had a perfect vantage point to watch the changing colors of the sky. There were western facing inviting, comfy seats, waiting to enjoy with a cold drink. By the end of our trip, our resort was out of mint! I’m not saying we directly impacted their mint stock with our mojitos, but I’m not saying we didn’t, either.
We also enjoyed relaxing by the infinity pool in the afternoons. As the days started to wind down, a crane would come by and patiently wait on a rock. And for a good reason! It was almost feeding time. The resort staff would throw small pieces of scrap fish in the water. Out of nowhere, large nurse sharks that were eight to ten feet long came to enjoy a snack. A stingray usually went into the area, but one night we saw an eagle ray instead. The crane, named Harry, would also try and enjoy some bites!
Enjoy some photos from our trip!
Our last morning at the resort was an early one. After a 6:00 am wakeup call, the resort had scheduled us to be on a seaplane the next hour. We weren’t sure why; our flight to Paris wasn’t expected to leave until 1:00 pm. We think the resort was ready to get rid of us! After the resort scheduled our seaplane transfer, we received an email from Air France that our flight had a new departure time. Not a delay, but a departure time two hours later. This change in flights meant we would not make it on the last train back to Lyon.
We couldn’t do anything about the early flight and set off on our seaplane to the Male airport. With seven hours to spend until our flight, we found solace in the air-conditioned food court. There were only four restaurants, a cafe, a Thai restaurant, a Burger King, and… a Dairy Queen! France does not have Dairy Queen, and it was a pleasant sight for our eyes! We rarely eat at Dairy Queen when we lived in the United States, but anything familiar was welcome. We waited until an acceptable hour and ordered kid’s size blizzards as a treat.
Our week long trip to paradise had come to an end. We had a wonderful trip and made fantastic memories with each other. While we would not stay at the same resort, we would absolutely revisit the Maldives!