To ensure that you know that we know what the heck we’re talking about, we send our own intrepid explorers to far off lands to report back. Our brave adventurers will encounter the gaping crevasse of a conveniently placed plunge pool, the paralysing hospitality of a friendly concierge, and the predatory talons of a deep tissue masseuse. Needless to say, few are expected to return home.
A few, however, dared to volunteer their free time for the greater good. These are their stories.
Kenwood’s Senior Sales Executive Lai Yap, Luxury Worldwide Consultant Stuart Clark, and Business Development Manager Dipshaa Patel visited the Maldives and Sultanate of Oman.
“The Maldives is unbelievable – my new favourite destination,” says Lai, having just returned from a round trip that included hotels on the idyllic Indian Ocean islands, and Oman.
Lai explains she’s normally the Caribbean type for her breaks:
“It’s Le Sport in Saint Lucia for my own holiday, and for a family holiday – I’d probably do Tamarind in Barbados.”
The Maldives, however, offered that totally tropical taste with a bit of a twist. Being an avid underwater fan, she was remiss not to go diving every day. She mentions that while the Angsana Ihuru had overall the best looking reef and Constance Halaveli the longest pier in the island chain, the family-friendly water villas of the Lux were a particular highlight:
“There are lots of activities like feeding stingrays and baby sharks. I managed to go snorkelling at the Lux and saw turtles, sharks. Unfortunately I missed it this time but they do guarantee a snorkelling trip to see whale sharks.”
“The hotel and restaurant are on this beautiful beach full of shells, and the dinner was fabulous – South African tribal barbeque.”
Luxury Worldwide Consultant Stuart Clark was an immediate fan: “They served every kind of meat imaginable – marinated and cooked to perfection using traditional techniques – particularly liked the fact that you can go up and speak to the chef and taste the produce before you order.”
And it seems eating is not the only pastime to receive the al fresco treatment at Niyama.
“Our beachfront villa had an outside bathroom,” adds Lai.
Niyama was Stuart’s favourite of the Maldives hotels, the nightlife holding particular draw. Indeed its impressive rooftop bar is a highlight soon to be somewhat dimmed by Niyama’s underwater nightclub, which opens in August:
“I would recommend Niyama for couples and friends, people who want the Maldives experience with a bit of socialising and top end dining options. The manager is waiting on a delivery of remote control powerboats for guests to play with.”
Interestingly islands in the Maldives are on their own island time zone, an hour ahead of capital Male. The result is more daylight whilst on the island, drawn-out evening sun for the ultimate social atmosphere, and a more relaxed journey to reach your connecting flight upon departure.
“Good memories of the Maldives are the seaplanes, and their very relaxed pilots. They fly the planes bare foot!” chirps Stuart.
To Oman now and the order of the day was culture over coral.
“An amazing experience,” explains Stuart. “I would say the most authentic Middle Eastern country I have been to. The Omanis are very friendly, and the city doesn’t build over a certain height. There’s no skyscrapers like in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
“In fact, Muscat the capital has just completed the building of its opera house – the first and only in the Middle East. They have an amazing schedule for the upcoming September – April season. World class acts in town.”
The Shangri-La Al Bandar seemed the family-friendly choice. Lai reckons its sister hotel – Al Husn – is more then ticket for honeymooners for example.
“Al Bandar was basic but functional,” she explains. “Great kids facilities and customers will get a great rate on family interconnecting rooms. Lots of restaurants too. The traditional Moroccan meals had amazing starters. And lots of tagine!”
The alternative hotel, the Al Bustan Palace, served a quality buffet with a good choice. Though both Lai and Stuart agree the real Oman highlight was The Chedi.
Lai labels The Chedi’s: “The best lunch I’ve ever had.”
“The food is incredible! Sashimi, mezze, lots of fining dining available. And save some space for the outstanding selection of desserts.”
Lastly the trip to Oman gave our troupe a chance to test Oman Air’s recently awarded ‘Best Business Class Seats’ (World Airline Awards 2012) against their weary feet. So, should we believe the hype?
“Absolutely,” says Dipshaa emphatically. “Definitely a well-deserved award. There’s an extensive menu choice and you can order when you want. And it’s all served in bone china and crystal glass.”
As anyone with a history of flying will tell you, the biggest grumbles are invariably the airline food, and legroom. As Oman Air’s accolade specifically refers to the seat, the real question is how did this stack up?
“It folds out to 180 degrees,” explains Dipshaa. “It becomes a flatbed.”
Enough said, really.