Return to the Maldives: Male – Kaadedhdhoo, Maldivian and Transfer to the Park Hyatt

Trip Report Index:

  1. Introducing and Strategy
  2. New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Etihad First Class
  3. Park Hyatt Dubai
  4. Touring the Burj al Arab
  5. Tea at the Burj al Arab
  6. Abu Dhabi – Male, Etihad Business Class
  7. Male – Kaadedhdhoo, Maldivian and Transfer to the Park Hyatt
  8. Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives
  9. Kooddoo-Male-Abu Dhabi, Maldivian and Etihad Business Class
  10. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
  11. Abu Dhabi – Dusseldorf – London, Etihad First Class and British Airways Club Europe
  12. London Heathrow – San Francisco, British Airways New First Class

We picked up our bags off the belt upon arrival in Male and then took them through customs. The customs process requires you to submit all of your luggage (including hand baggage) to an x-ray screening. The Maldives is a dry country outside of the resorts, which are exempt from most Islamic laws — ostensibly because they are on ‘uninhabited islands’ but also because tourism is a huge industry, representing the bulk of the economy of the country, and also because the resorts themselves are owned by regime insiders. The ones who write the laws often write them to not disadvantage themselves…

You can’t bring alcohol into the country, you can buy the alcohol at resorts, and that even serves to cause folks not to be able to have an alternative but to buy their drinks from the resorts.

Islamic law in the Maldives functions, for tourists, like a movie theatre’s prohibition on bringing in outside food and drinks (if movie theatres made you x-ray your bags on the way in the door, and could administer their no food and drink rule under color of law).

Once out of the customs hall there’s a sea of resort desks, mostly unmanned. The better resorts all have staff members to greet you and escort you to the next leg of the journey. The Park Hyatt is no exception, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. But no one was there from the Park Hyatt to meet us. One of the other hotel reps noticed me looking around, guessed my hotel rep wasn’t there, and asked me what hotel? When I told him Park Hyatt he rang his buddy on his cell phone and let me know that I’d be met in just a few minutes.

The Park Hyatt, like other resorts in the Maldives, books your domestic transfers for you. You let them know your arrival details, and then the rest is up to them. Their default, even, is to not tell you much about your transfers before you arrive in Male. This is both part of a ‘we take care of you’ ethos and also, it seems, Maldivian schedules change somewhat on a day-by-day basis.

You can get a general sense of Maldivian’s schedules on their website but some flights won’t go off as scheduled, others will be timed half an hour off of what’s published, and apparently sometimes additional flights will be added on demand.

The Park Hyatt used to be served by the Kaadedhdhoo which is an hour flight and then still an hour away by boat. Several months ago a new airport opened at Kooddoo, and the resort primarily utilizes that since the boat road is no more than half an hour (the flight time is about the same). Total travel time is reduced, and expense of the boat to the resort is reduced, although the resort doesn’t charge any less for the transfer (roundtrip air and boat transfer was $486 per person all-in).

But flights to Kooddoo may or may not be most conveniently timed for each arrival. There are two factors — one is flight time (you may find yourself waiting in the lounge longer for the flight, so travel to Kooddoo doesn’t actually save time) and Maldivian operates both non-stop flights and island hoppers that require you to land on another island first, offload some passengers, then take off again and continue to your destination.

I communicated with the General Manager of the Park Hyatt in advance and made clear that I had a strong preference for a non-stop flight, not a stop on another island first, and if that meant flying to Kaadedhdhoo instead I’d greatly appreciate that even though it was a longer boat ride to the hotel. This was acknowledged.

However, when our Park Hyatt rep finally met us and escorted us over to the lounge in the domestic terminal (used primarily by the resorts, but it’s also a Priority Pass lounge), we learned that we were booked on the one-stop flight to the new airport Kooddoo. I told the hotel rep that that’s not what was agreed to, and that there was a non-stop to Kaadedhdhoo leaving at the same time.

He contacted the hotel, worked with the Maldivian folks at the ticket counter, and then brought us boarding passes for the flight to Kaadedhdhoo instead and assured us that the hotel was sending a boat to pick us up there.

He also tagged our bags, which were left in the lounge, not only with our flight information but also our villa information on-property at the Hyatt. That’s when we saw we were being assigned to Villa 51, the overwater villa the farthest out at the end of the walkway at the resort (and therefore the most private). It’s the villa I had last year, and I had requested it again (they had told me they would try but of course could not commit – they weren’t going to leave the villa empty in advance of my stay, so it required a little bit of luck in terms of how bookings worked out). That’s when I really began to smile.

Last time we flew domestically in the Maldives we were required to go to the ticket counter ourselves, in order to be weighed. It’s a practice I found odd, but the Maldivian website still says that all passengers must be weighed. Only they didn’t do it this time.

During my time in the lounge I had a look at the buffet, but there’s really not anything there that interested me.

The seating is comfortable, the lounge is air conditioned, and there’s internet. But I had a difficult time connecting to it, and they restarted it. I managed to link up by bringing my laptop to the front of the lounge, grabbing the signal, and then maintained it once I was back at my seat. Interestingly a code is required to get onto the internet, and it’s generated at the desk and valid for a few hours only. These are unique codes and not just a static password.

Our flight was called about 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure, so we walked out of the lounge. The security checkpoint is right there, and only a couple of people in line we were through in a minute or two tops.

I hadn’t recalled there being any services airside, but there’s a Swensons — I thought it a bit odd, and I hadn’t seen one of those ice cream shops since I was kid growing up on Long Island. But ice cream is a good choice since the terminal isn’t air conditioned!

We didn’t actually board the flight until the scheduled departure time, but boarding was done quickly. Since no one had bags to store in overheads, it doesn’t take long to walk directly onto the tarmac and get on the flight.

Each Maldivian aircraft I’ve been on has had a different seating configuration. I was in seat 2A. The best seat on this aircraft would have been 1B with the bulkhead. Oddly on the right side of the aircraft there were 4 seats designated as being in row 1, with 2 seats at the bulkhead facing backward such that those passengers were looking directly ahead at the other two passengers in row 1. It felt like a Southwest flight circa 1990.

The flight was uneventful and short enough, I read or half an hour and enjoyed the scenery, and soon enough we had landed on the island.

Once off the flight we were met by a hotel representative who would be taking us on the boat to the resort. He waited for our luggage (these were tagged to the Park Hyatt so he knew which bags they were). And then he and his colleagues from the boat walked us and our bags (in a luggage cart) out to the water.

Last time on arrival they had a golf cart for us, but I imagine that wasn’t arranged this time since the resort doesn’t operate on this farther away island nearly as much as when all passengers passed through there.

Once on the boat we had an hour-long ride that began at sunset ahead of us.

We were given waters on the boat, the lack of which I had commented on negatively in my review of the resort transfers last time. (Oddly we were not given any waters on the return boat trip when heading to the closer airport, so this apparently still an area of inconsistency — but I think it’s important. You’ve flown for an hour without much liquid, Maldivian gives you a tiny cup of juice, and then you’re on the water in the heat for an hour, water is helpful.)

Halfway through the boat ride it had become quite dark, but there wasn’t any difficulty navigating and we found ourselves pulling up to the boat dock at the Park Hyatt.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary,

    Stunning report! I’m in the process of planning a visit to the Maldives right now. I’m LAX based and wondering which flight option do you think is the best for me. SQ (via NRT, SIN) or AA/EY(via JFK/AUH) or a combination of the two. The trip will be in F.

    If you were going to combine the two Would you prefer to travel east or west?

    Many thanks,

    MEOW

  2. @MEOW – From the West Coast it might be a wash and determiend solely based on availability. The EY schedule does require an overnight in AUH in both directions. SQ availability is achievable with SQ miles but not with partners

  3. Thanks Gary, I’m sitting on a ton of AA miles and MR points (SQ transfer). Planning to do a three night stop in SIN and a two night stop in AUH.

    Do you think a non-diver would get bored at the Park Hyatt for 7 nights?

  4. With all the transfers required, at what point in terms of long haul flights, possible overnight in Male, waiting around the lounge and shot island hopper, and boat transfer is getting to your Maldives resort not worth the hassle of an OWB?

  5. @MEOW – Park Hyatt section is up next! It depends on whether you get bored at any other beach resort with good service, good food, a good spa and beautiful surroundings? Some people stay 10+ nights without diving apparently, that seems way too long for me. I think 7 nights would be stretching it, personally. But it’s entirely dependent on your travel style.

  6. @john – depends on how much you value being there! I think if you’re a diver it’s absolutely worth it. For the average person looking for a beach getaway, compare it to Bali for instance.. I found it worthwhile, because I just absolutely LOVE the vibe of the place. But very much a YMMV situation and a reasonable question

  7. Gary, as usual great report. Nice attention to detail. I read you virtually every day so please don’t take this the wrong way, but it seems that transit to and fro the Maldives is a giant PITA.
    Unless one has a relatively long vacation planned this appears to be a minimum of ten day to two-week excursion, no?
    Is there anyplace closer to the States that could rival the Maldives in experience? I’d love to go, but given the logistics it seems to be perhaps the most difficult place to get to on Earth(Antarctica, PRK, Iran etc.. excepted for other reasons).
    In any event, thanks for allowing a guy to dream. Keep up the excellent work.

  8. Hi Gary;

    Great report!! I can’t wait for the next section as I started booking my trip right before your first installment! 5 nights at the PH and 7 nights at the Conrad on Rangali island (I had a ton of HH points).

    According to the current schedule, the only non-stop from MLE to Kooddoo is at 7:30 am. All the later flights are non-stops. The one-stop is listed at 45 minutes longer. Was it your love of boat rides that had you insist on the longer boat ride via Kaadedhdhoo? Maybe the planes are less comfortable? Seems like only a small difference in time (or is 1:45 duration for the one stop inaccurate)?

    While I love boat rides, those puddle jumpers provide once in a lifetime views, so I don’t have a strong preference.

    Thanks to your prior trip report, I knew to check USAIR for the SQ flights so got two RTs SIN-MLE on SQ up front for 30k miles each (vs. 80k using United miles!).

    In your next segment, can you opine on which other over water villas might be best? (I’m only Platinum there, so I don’t think I’ll get the very best one, so want to request a couple of others as well).

  9. @beachfan – if you ENJOY the short hop prop planes between the islands, then by all means! I just really don’t enjoy the Maldivian fights, and wanted off as quickly as possible, elbow room is pretty tight and pitch isn’t great either 🙂

    As far as which water villa is best, my own preference is that farther out is better (since my judgment is based on privacy, fewer people walking by in such as way that they would see you on your deck)

  10. @Geoff, you can certainly do overwater bungalows in French Polynesia — 8 hours to Papeete from Los Angeles, but you still have a domestic flight (there ARE water villas on the main island of Tahiti but you really do want off Tahiti proper as soon as possible)

    This is certainly not less than a full week plus weekends on either side, for sure.

    Part of the POINT of this place is how remote it is 🙂

  11. Papeete was my first thought as well. Thanks and keep the tour going. It’s likely as close as ill ever get:)

  12. Hi Gary! So glad you got to go back.

    Did they have the Bose headphones with the awesome music on the boat ride to get you in the “vacation mindset”? I loved the music so much I emailed the hotel for a copy of it. 🙂

    Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

  13. They offered me an ipod on my return to the airport last year. That makes me 1 for 4 boat tripa with music. 🙂

  14. Thanks Gary!

    I understand the privacy angle, but I’m a snorkler (and diver) and the quality of the reef right off the OWV is a consideration. Even more than the reef, is the water deep enough for swimming at all the water villas?

    Any comments on bringing your dive equipment vs. renting? It seems like my baggage would be overweight, but might be cheaper to pay the overweight than the rental fees.

  15. @jim – that’s in the next segment! Flight + boat roundtrip (it’s charged as one price) $486pp roundtrip currently

  16. Can you use bank points (like Thank You points)to pay for the hotel transfer costs? Could be a good use for them if possible.

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