Returning to the Maldives never stops getting exciting for me. But when you actually return to the same hotel, because you really really loved it (namely when you have 100+ to choose from) it means something. And Velassaru Maldives, which is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World really has a special place in our hearts.
After an overnight flight with a quick stopover in Doha (with Qatar Airways, obviously because double BA tier points) – the flight times are actually coordinated so you leave in the evening and arrive to Male Airport, in the capital of the Maldives early morning – we arrived in under 12 hours. We were met by the local Sovereign concierge, who helped us with the luggage and the handover to the hotel boat team, who very quickly directed us to the appropriate pier just outside the airport. And in 30 minutes by speedboat… guess where we arrived?
Airport transfer to Velassaru Maldives
Arriving to a Maldivian hotel is always a special experience – as no one can turn up unannounced, there is always a little welcoming party which is a lovely touch. We were sharing the boat with another couple, who arrived on the same flight, and each of us had a dedicated person waiting for us and waiting to escort us to reception where, after a lovely and refreshing welcome drink, check-in took place.
Our Beach Pool Villa
Unlike in other trips, where we stayed mostly in overwater villas, I specifically asked Sovereign to select a beach villa for us. Why? Because they offer a very special experience – and completely different from a overwater villa – I thought, in the name of research, it would be useful for those considering a trip to the Maldives.
Interestingly, after the first trip, beach villas tend to be chosen by European guests because of the ‘private beach’ experience. I will explain what I mean very shortly, worry not!
Our beach villa with a pool was very spacious and lovely. From what I understood, the hotel is planning to refurbish the rooms – but as you will be able to see later, I begged them not to touch the bathrooms. Because they are quite something (and in tip top shape).
The bed and the bed linen was excellent and we felt very comfortable. There was plenty of storage room for all our suitcases and clothes and I liked the fact that the bed is in the middle of the room, which meant there was a desk for all the books, computers and our ‘tech station’ which really were not visible and messy. Just the way I like it.
Just outside the room, you have a day bed and chairs and outside you will also find your sun loungers (which are yours and yours only), your pool, outdoor shower and the ever important water bucket (so sand doesn’t come in the room).
And then… you have your beach. My only comment is that we had to move our sun loungers from the pool to the beach (and back if we wanted to use them by the pool), and I believe it would be better to have 2 sets per villa (which I suggested to the hotel at the weekly cocktail party for guests and they agreed it made some sense). Not a deal breaker, but it would add some extra comfort.
This bit of beach is yours – and each beach villa will have its own. Obviously, any hotel guest can walk around the island and go in the water, but we realised that most people kept to “their” area. There is a separate beach and pool area for those staying in overwater villas or inland villas without direct beach access.
In terms of service, you will have your dedicated (male) housekeeper which will, more often than not, try to clean your bedroom whilst you are at breakfast (which I found most impressive) and will figure out the best time for turndown, as we all have different times. Ours figured out that we were the ‘sunset-cocktails-in-beachwear-type-which-will-only-shower-for-dinner-after-the-first-round’ pretty quickly and I really appreciated that.
Technically the bathroom is part of the room, but if you have been reading this blog for a little while, you will know how much I love bathrooms, and this one deserves a whole ‘section’, as it was pretty special.
The bathroom is situated outdoors, with half of it covered in case it rains (and it does, believe me). It was really fantastic and we also took advantage of the outdoor shower, which is something I do not have at home in the UK, as you can imagine. There is an ‘indoor shower’.
Worth noting that it gets quite hot and after a couple of days we chose to keep expensive creams indoors (by the desk behind the bed), which worked quite well for us.
Eating & Drinking
One of the reasons why we chose to return to Velassaru was, indeed the food. We loved the fact that there are 5 restaurants and the island isn’t too small – and that means that you do not have to stick to the one place for dinner. Or lunch.
Breakfast was enjoyed daily at the buffet restaurant, which was refurbished since our last visit and I went back to my old favourite: made-to-order chocolate crepes and papaya. I am not a fan of Nutella and it is not every day that you find ‘dark chocolate’ as a filling, so that is exactly what I had. Everyday. No judging, please (it made me very happy).
When you book your room, it usually comes with breakfast included. However, there is something quite interesting which the hotel offers, called the ‘Velassaru Indulgence Package’ which really means you can go around all restaurants and eat as you please (without it being a la carte) and it also includes most drinks. For some special dishes like lobster or steak there will be a supplement, and also for drinks (for example, if you wanted a Hendricks gin, the extra charge was $4). It is worth doing some math as depending on how much you want to eat and drink, it could really be worth it.
For lunch, you have 3 options, if you exclude room service. For the last 3 years, I have been thinking about the tandoori chicken quesadillas we enjoyed at Turquoise and I have to say, it was worth the wait. You can also eat at the pool bar and at Chill, which will always be referred to here as the ‘sunset bar’. The latter was interesting and it offers tapas, which made for a nice change.
Dinner was a more formal affair, but also very relaxed. We loved the Maldivian curry at Sand (as well as delicious grilled prawns), some fine dining at Ethesian and new for us was also the Teppanyaki, which was fantastic.
A curious episode that took place (which I mentioned in my ‘favourite customer experience stories‘) at Ethesian. The waiter, Ali Rasheed, remembered us from a previous trip – it could have been a coincidence, but I honestly don’t think it was. I loved that he asked if we had had the ‘Maldivian curry’ which we loved last time and when we said no, but that we would love to, the next morning we were surprised by his supervisor coming to find us at breakfast and say that he had gotten the message and the chef would be delighted to cook for us. The cost would be $50 per person, and if you go there, do ask for this, as it really was fantastic. See below!
We went off the ‘included menu’ for wines every day (as we have an obsession with Cloudy Bay in the Maldives for some reason – priced at $90). One thing worth noting – which I have never seen before, and would love to see again: if something cost $80, when you got the bill, that was the final price, including the local tax and service charge. $80 would be the total and then they would break down the bits and I have to applaud the hotel for this decision. Could this be the future? I honestly think so. Also note that all charges are in US Dollars.
What about the drinks? What about the drinks? One of the reasons I always loved Velassaru was because of its bars. It is all good being together as a couple 24/7 and very romantic, but I like seeing people, at least at the end of the day. And at Velassaru, the guests were more or less in the same frame of mind – and everyone was out enjoying a cocktail or three. The evening bar was always packed and had a great vibe (plus a great live band and a very good DJ).
But one place you cannot miss, is the Sunset Bar, which was gorgeous. And they didn’t even bat an eyelid as I asked for my $4 (extra) Hendricks to be served in a wine glass. And they remembered the following day. And all the others.
Worth saying that service at Velassaru was exceptional – everything was easy, everyone was smiling and it worked like clockwork.
What to do at Velassaru?
I almost called this section ‘Sports’, but you’d all think I would be joking. But believe it or not – I did indulge.
If you are worried about going to the Maldives and ‘having nothing to do’, I need to assure you of one thing: Maldives time goes extra fast, and if you throw in lunch and a spa appointment at say 5pm, there really isn’t a lot of time for sunbathing.
Snorkelling is of course on offer and we went every day – and that takes an hour. Then there is also SUP, which I discovered is my sport of choice and we went twice ($30 per person per hour). We actually went around the island which was challenging at times and we did rather well.
Mr. O was a SUP virgin and after a few tries he really was excellent. And interestingly, it is something we can do as a couple on holiday. I just need to figure out a way to include cocktails to this and we could have the best sport in the world as it also does wonders for your tan. How’s that for an idea?
We had some excursions planned – namely a sandbank picnic on our own, but it did not happen due to the weather conditions.
We had rain for a day and a bit, and I have to say, we did not do badly. Because napping also counts as an activity.
If you get bored with your own water or villa, there is also a main pool and beach if you fancy seeing others. We didn’t, but we noticed they were always full.
And ladies, do not wear heels. There is sand everywhere in the island – on the paths to restaurants, at reception, everywhere. So flat sandals only – or you will look pretty funny (and the other ladies will all laugh at you). I learned this lesson years ago and love the fact that I actually cannot wear heels here.
The Spa at Velassaru
Remember when I said it could rain? Worry not. The spa will be your safe place. On the picture above, it was actually pouring with rain – but as it was hot, I figured ‘why not?’. We actually went every day for massages as they were excellent and a perfect way to end the day. A 1-hour massage costs $100.
The jacuzzi is one of the most scenic parts of the hotel and can only be used if you book a treatment, which means it is quite quiet.
Other things worth noting:
- If you travel to the Maldives, you cannot take any alcohol with you into the country, so save any duty-free shopping for your return trip. Ironically, the duty-free at Male airport has a huge drinks section which I found ever so slightly offensive and out of principle did not buy anything. Male is a dry island and so is the business class lounge. You can drink alcohol at island hotels and it is reasonably priced, namely when compared to French Polynesia. The hotel gives you 2x 1.5l bottles of water a day.
- Make sure you pack enough books and magazines as you won’t be able to buy them anywhere. They cannot contain any offensive material (just in case you read naughty things).
- Ladies: pack flat shoes and sandals. Gentlemen: take shoes which can be easily wiped clean. Forget suede. Your housekeeper will clean them for you everyday. There is a dress code for the evening: collared shirts for men and tailored shorts or trousers. Amen.
- Sovereign has a 24/7 concierge but the service is limited. They can help getting you any items you may have forgotten from the main island (nappies and personal hygiene products seem to be extra popular), but it is unlikely you will find *that* special cream, so pack well, namely medicines.
- Wifi is free and worked pretty well around the island
We loved returning to Velassaru and are delighted that we did. The hotel is great and had everything we needed and more. Also, as it is close to Male, speedboat transfers are included for Sovereign guests and only takes 30 minutes or so.
Would we go back? Any day. I love how chic yet understated the island felt and how happy everyone that worked there seemed to be. And of course the other guests.
Until the next time
Disclaimer and Fact Box: I was a guest of Sovereign Luxury Holidays and Velassaru Maldives on this trip and I loved every minute of it. Opinions are my own.
Sovereign (+ 44 1293 765 003) is offering seven nights for the price of six in the Maldives staying at the five-star Velassaru in a Beach Villa with Pool, including airport security fast-track and private airport lounge access (where available) and speed boat transfers. Price quotes based on departures 5 December 2016.
- £2,459 per person on a B&B basis, including return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways
- £3,400 per person featuring the Velassaru Indulgence Package, including return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways
- £5,666 per person on a B&B basis, including Business Class return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways
- £6,608 per person featuring the Velassaru Indulgence Package, including Business Class return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways