Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Male to Dubai via Colombo: Emirates First Class


It was time to leave paradise. We were driven from our water bungalow to the seaplane jetty on a buggy by our island host where our seaplane was already waiting for us. The seaplane crew was however no way to be seen (probably having a late lunch). It would be another ten minutes before the crew showed up and it was not a big deal since there was an air-conditioned room to wait in that had water and coffee.

Our flight back to Male was operated by the "Conrad" seaplane. The seats seem newer than the "normal" seaplane and there was air-condition on but overall, there was not much difference. We would be the only two hotel guest on the ride back to Male with another hotel employee who looked to be leaving Conrad for good also joining us. Things get slightly hairy before we took off as we overheard the captain complaining that some of the navigation didn't seem to work and he had to make several calls trying to resolve them. We did get on our way but I honestly wasn't sure if the original issues were resolved.

We safely arrived in Male thirty minutes later where a Conrad rep was again waiting for us. He escorted us to the bus that would take us to the main terminal where he handed us over to another rep who helped us with our bags to the Emirates check-in counter. There were no lines at the Emirates counter and the agent manning the first class counter was able to quickly to check us in with bags checked all the way to Paris in spite having two separate tickets - one for the Male to Colombo flight and the second for the Colombo to Dubai to Paris ticket.

We spent the rest of the time at the Plaza Premium Lounge that Emirates uses. The lounge is nicely furnished with views of the tarmac and has a pretty good selection of food. As with all other lounges in Male, there's no alcohol available and with the ice machine broken when we were, we had semi-cold coke instead.

We decided that it was not worth the extra cash for business or first class on the short hour or so Male to Colombo flight. We were seated in the bulk head seats that had plenty of leg room. I spent the time through the flight finishing up a book while enjoying music on Emirates' extensive IFE.


Cold Snack Plate

On arrival in Colombo, we browsed the airside shops looking for massages but there were more expensive than what we would pay. We then proceeded to the Emirates lounge where we took a shower, caught up on email and had a light snack.

We were back on the same plane that took us from Male to Colombo hours earlier but this time we would be at the front of the plane. We were delighted to find out that the plane was equipped with suites in first class. More often than not, Emirates operates the Colombo/Male flight with the "old" first class.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Routine in Paradise


Our days in paradise starts of with a morning walk/run before breakfast at one of the three available locations. There's the large buffet at Atoll market which we stop going after the first day since it seemed rather chaotic. We also gave up on breakfast at the Mandhoo after the first try even though it was less chaotic but the food selection was limited and was "too healthy" for us. Our favorite option was breakfast at Vilu on the water villa island. It was serene enjoying a late breakfast of good food accompanied with sparkling wine and good coffee overlooking the crystal clear blue water. We particularly enjoyed the daily changing curry of the day for breakfast.

Atoll Market

View from Mandhoo

Breakfast Selection at Mandhoo

The rest of the day was spent the way we like it with multiple trips to the house reef with breaks by lazing around the beach or one of the two pools at the Conrad. Having been to two other Maldives resorts with their own house reef, the house reef at the Conrad was our favorite due to size of house reef itself and the amazing sea life. We saw plenty of fishes including sharks and a couple of manta ray.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Beach Villa and Water Villa at Conrad Maldives


With six nights at the Conrad, we split our half our stay at a beach villa for the first three nights with the last three nights at a water villa for $150USD on top of the Hilton points we were paying. We beach villa was located on the main island, facing the house reef which allowed us to quickly hop in the water to meet our underwater friends everyday. The room itself was HUGE with plenty of room. We were welcomed to the room with some Christmas cookies and a bottle of red wine thanks to my Hilton Hhonor status. The unique feature of the beach villa was the outdoor shower and the humongous bath tub that we only used once since it did take almost 45 minutes to fill it up and being environmentally friendly, I wasn't too happy on wasting all that water.

Welcome Gift

Outdoor Shower

Humongous Bathtub

The water villa we were staying in was located on the second island where most of the water villas are located. The water villa was equally as spacious as the beach villa. The main difference was deck equipped with our own private small plunge pool and direct access to the sea.

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Seaplane Transfer to Conrad Maldives


I didn't sleep too well probably due to the excitement of finally being back in the Maldives and heading to Conrad. I got out of bed around six and woke up a grumpy wife before heading for a nice morning walk around Male. We strolled along the water heading to the fish market hoping to see some tuna but was disappointed by the lack of bustle at the market. Maybe we were too early?

Fishing boats
A Conrad rep picked us up from our hotel at the pre-arranged time and helped us with the luggage and transfer to the seaplane terminal. Again, we really didn't need this service and there was no charge from Conrad for this but the help with the luggage was much appreciated and we left the rep a nice tip.

Trans Maldivian Seaplane Check-In counter
After check-in, we had to wait a couple of minutes before being driven to the seaplane terminal and escorted to the Conrad lounge to await our flight. The lounge was perfectly air-conditioned and we got some breakfast.  Conrad also offers a 15 minute complimentary back massage (I presume to entice folks to sign up for a Spa package) which we enjoyed so much that we did pay for an hour long massage once we got to the Conrad. The massage therapist also provided us with a 20% discount for use on our first few days once we got to the island.

I spotted the "Conrad seaplane" from the lounge and was hoping we were going to getting on that plane since it was supposed to be more exclusive.

To save time when reaching the island, most of the check-in formalities like credit card authorization was completed in the lounge itself.

Outdoor Smoking Patio

45 minutes or so after, a lounge attendant came around when it was time for boarding and we were herded to another waiting room where we had to wait for the rest of the passengers who were getting on the same seaplane. The seaplane today was making 2 stops with the first stop at the Conrad.

Basic Seaplane Waiting Room

I was slightly disappointed to find out that we would not be taking the "Conrad seaplane". There's no assigned seating and being the last to board, I was surprised that what I found to be the best seats on the plane, i.e. right behind the pilots, to still be available.

8Q-TMI taking us to the Conrad

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Bangkok to Male via Singapore


We arrived at the airport about 3 hours before our noon flight to Singapore and proceeded directly to the Royal Silk/Business Class check in area. I've flow through and from Bangkok numerous times before but this would be our first time flying out of Bangkok on Thai's business class. Thai has a pretty neat setup for their business class check in counters with beach umbrellas and stools giving the check-in area a "beach look".

Our agent quickly checked us in and tagged our bags all the way to Male. I tried to get the first class seats on the Airbus 346 operating flight today but was told that section was closed. (I did notice  some VIP looking folks in that section when we deplaned in Singapore). Before heading airside, we got ourselves an hour long foot reflexology. There are the same shop airside but 30% more expensive!

Thai Royal Silk Check-In Counters

By the time we got done with the foot reflexology and cleared immigration and security, it was only thirty minutes before departure. Since we were on a gate on the opposite side of the Thai Spa lounge, we decided to just skip the complimentary 30 minute massages provided to Thai business class passengers and head to a nearby Royal Orchid lounge for some drinks instead.

The Airbus 346 taking us to Singapore
We were seated in the second business class section and for a moment we thought we would be the only ones in that section.

We once again went with the Asian options for lunch on this flight. I opted for a Thai red curry while Lydia decided on a fried rice and fish dish.

We had a five hour layover in Singapore. We could have gone into town but decided to stay at the airport since we didn't want to deal with the heat and humidity. Instead we headed to one of my favorite secrets at Changi Airport - the worker's food court/canteen for some Singaporean food at much lower prices than the other shops at the airport.  Each of the three terminals has this food court and is actually meant for the workers at Changi airport but will serve the public. We chose the one at Terminal 2 this time since they were the only ones with fried hokkien mee. In addition, I ordered a yummy creamy Singaporean Laksa.