Introduction: A Hop to the Maldives
Review: Park Hyatt New York
Review: Emirates Lounge JFK
Review: Emirates First Class A380 JFK-DXB
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Review: Emirates First Class 777 DXB-MLE
Getting to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa
Review: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Review: Etihad Business A330 MLE-AUH
Review: Etihad First Class Lounge
Review: Etihad First Class A380 AUH-JFK
Review: American Business A321T JFK-LAX
After a short hop in Emirates First Class on a 777, we finally landed in Male, the capital of the Maldives. We were exhausted, running on a little more than an hour of sleep after our middle-of-the-night trip from Dubai, but adrenaline is even more powerful than caffeine. I was pumped, and super excited to get to the Park Hyatt already.
We still had a ways to go though.
The Maldives are a massive chain of atolls stretching hundreds of miles from below the equator to slightly southwest of the tip of India. The capital, Male, is where the international airport is located. Our resort, the Park Hyatt Hadahaa is down near the equator.
Transfer arrangements to and from the international airport are arranged by the hotel for every guest, and require a fee of $520 per guest. This fee is required regardless of how you are paying for your room. Even travel hackers like ourselves who enjoyed the resort for a week for free (on points) still had to cough up the money for these transfers.
The resort books flights on Maldivian Airlines, and confirms the timing of your flight 24 hours prior. I was nervous knowing no specifics about our flights from Male to Hadahaa before leaving the US. I did all I could and confirmed, and then reconfirmed our international arrival information with the Park Hyatt in advance, and was assured that we would be met by a resort representative upon our arrival in Male. I trusted that the resort knows what it’s doing. Even so, the idea of showing up in the middle of the Indian Ocean and just trusting that my travel arrangements would be awaiting me was a little disconcerting.
The night before, sure enough, I received an email confirming our tickets on Maldivian Airlines. Our flight to Kooddoo, the airport closest to the Park Hyatt, would depart only an hour after we arrived in Male – a huge win. The Park Hyatt guarantees a layover of up to 4 hours.
Upon landing into a grey, misty Male, a Park Hyatt representative greeted us immediately after retrieving our bags, and he escorted us from the international terminal to the domestic terminal for our flight.
The word “terminal” here is generous. We were departing out of Gate 7, which is in the same room as Gate 8. That’s the whole terminal. What happened to gates one through six I do not know.
A few minutes past our posted boarding time, the gate (door) opened and we walked out to the plane, a Dash-8 with 50 seats.
We had two rear-facing seats in the front row, not the most comfortable spot, but for an hour long flight completely manageable. It seemed that the front of the plane was filled entirely with tourists, while “locals” were seated further back on the plane.
Within minutes, boarding was complete. The door was closed and we started our short taxi to the end of the runway. The flight attendant gave a safety demonstration, then played the Muslim traveler’s prayer over the intercom. Next thing I new we were rolling down the runway taking off.
The views in the air were extravagant, even with the gloomy weather.
As we headed south, the weather got ever more sour. Traveling through rain clouds in such a small aircraft made for a bumpy ride, which was hardly enjoyable. I tried to focus on my exhaustion and force myself to sleep. In total, the trip was about an hour before we landed in Kooddoo.
There, we were met by another Park Hyatt representative, who helped us load our bags on a gold cart which drove us through the airport to a nearby dock. Our chariot, a speed boat, was waiting for us and the half-dozen other resort-goers headed to the Park Hyatt there.
We were offered cold towels, water and juice, as well as a small snack and given life vests. The crew welcomed us onboard, offered dramamine to those who get sea sick, and we were on our way.
Given the inclement weather, the ride was choppy as we headed out from Kooddoo. Twenty minutes into our forty five minute ride, a crew member leaned over and told us that we were leaving the proximity of the atoll, and things were about to get rough.
That was a huge understatement.
Within minutes, the ride went from “choppy” to “roller coaster”. I have been on many boats, speed boats like this one even, but never have I experienced or even imagined a boat ride like this one. With every passing wave we went up into the air 5-10 feet then nosedived back down afterward, thumping into the water at the bottom. Women and men alike were screaming each time we went up, and hitting bottom came with a hard thud. The fall in between felt like the drop on Splash Mountain. Anything (or any one) not strapped down or holding on tight flew around the boat. It was awful.
The crew on board seemed to find this fun, but we did not.
The roller coaster ride was, for me, sickening, with no end seemingly in sight. Hadahaa was nowhere to be seen, and the crew did not slow down the boat despite the high seas. For Danielle, who has a bad back (three back surgeries, multiple fusions), this was more than merely scary or uncomfortable, but actually a horrifying, painful experience.
As the ride first got rough, she tried to brace herself from the large slams at the bottom. By the time we exited to boat, her arms would already be covered in bruises from impact. Eventually, that got to be too much, and she instead stood in the center of the boat, hanging from a bar on the ceiling to avoid being thrust into the ground and having her spine hurt further with each fall. This ride was excruciating for her; she spent the next day in bed, and most of our trip in immense pain because of it.
This lasted a good (bad) half hour until, finally, the island was in sight and the waters calmed down. Needless to say, we were very happy to get off the boat.
With that, finally, we had arrived in paradise.
On the dock, we spoke immediately with the resort manager Mariano, who was deeply apologetic for the experience and the pain caused to Danielle. The island doctor was brought out and we were escorted to our villa by an entourage of doting staff. The doctor checked Danielle out, offering a heating pack and anti-inflammatories. Mariano offered to cover the cost of massages to help alleviate Danielle’s discomfort, for which I am very grateful. So that was that.
What do I make of this experience?
Clearly the Park Hyatt and its staff has no control over the weather and ocean conditions, and I do not blame them for a rainy and windy day. However, they do have the responsibility, in my opinion, to warn guests of the potential for extremely rocky waters. Given the day’s weather, they were fully aware of just how stormy the waters could be expected to be. They should have warned us, giving us the ability to opt out.
Additionally, the severity of the turbulence felt on the boat ride was a direct result of the speed at which our boat was racing from wave to wave. The crew should have slowed down our boat considerably in such waters, even if the cost was a longer ride for guests to the resort.
Over the course of our week on the island, we would come to learn that our experience was not unique. In the days leading up to our arrival, many guests had extremely turbulent and uncomfortable boat rides to the island. The Park Hyatt staff’s behavior leading up to and during this boat ride was extremely disappointing, left Danielle in serious pain for the first few days of our trip and started our vacation off on the wrong foot.
I commend Mariano and his team for paying meticulous attention to Danielle and her wellbeing after our arrival. They were very concerned about her injuries and checked in on us every few hours. A week later, they would arrange a larger, slower boat to get us off the island, just to be safe (our own private romantic cruise!). But these were bandaids to a problem that could have been easily prevented. I would strongly encourage anyone with a sensitive back, or any pregnant women or elderly to consider speaking with the Park Hyatt Maldives about alternative transportation arrangements in the case of inclement weather before visiting this resort.
There’s no easy way to get to the Maldives, and the Park Hyatt is an especially arduous journey, as it is at the southern end of the atolls, requiring a long flight and boat ride after finally reaching the island nation. That’s part of the allure of this resort – getting as far away from everything as possible – but far is far.
Even with our stopover in Dubai – highly recommended! – there was no way to gloss over the extraordinary distance we had to travel to get to this island. Our return home would take even longer, begging the question:
Are the Maldives worth it?
Coming up: A week in paradise, and my review of the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.